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A look into our creative process, part 2

In part 1 of this series, I talked about how we set about learning more about the sewists who make our patterns and what they needed, and how we turned that into an overall direction for Colette (and for Seamwork).

Today, I’d like to share more specifics about how we use this information to create designs. I’m going to take you through the process with Rue as an example.

Refining an idea: How we developed Rue

Ok, now that we had an overall style and feeling in mind, it was time to plan some patterns!

First, I used the information I had from our customers and the indie shop owners we’d talked to to really think about what our customers wanted in terms of shapes and styles. We had a pretty good idea at this point of what we wanted to create at the larger level, but we needed concrete designs.

Anna is our designer. Part of Anna’s job is to do research, to study vintage garments sometimes, to sketch lots and lots of ideas for details and variations we could do on a particular design.



She and I start with a concept and collaborate to create a moodboard. The moodboards are meant to tell a visual story about the overall idea, including not just the design but also the way we might present it through fabric, models, photography.

Anna likes to work in an analog way at first, then move into digital sketches as the design gets more finalized.



For Rue, we were originally inspired by a waist yoke detail on a vintage dress I came across. She played around with that basic idea, introducing different types of construction and interesting details that might work.



We also kept seasonality in mind, for both hemispheres. For example, for Rue, we wanted to create something that would be appropriate for fall and would look beautiful styled with fall accessories like cardigans and tights, but could easily be made as a spring or summer garment too. Even though seasons are important for how we show off a new pattern, it’s also important that they feel timeless and adaptable for any time.

Anna sketched lots of ideas and variations until we decided on final concepts. Finally, I take all of this inspiration and refined it into an overall presentation to everyone else, including technical drawings, inspiration, possible fabric choices, and a color palette we could use to style and present the final patterns down the line.


All of the designs we have planned out went through this process, and we created posters for each design. We have these hung around the office to keep us inspired.

Creating the look

Once the patterns are done and fitted (which is a whole other process I won’t go into right now), Taylor uses the creative direction boards to plan our photo shoot.

She uses the information I’ve set out to pick fabrics and palette, to find the right model, to secure a location, and to work with our photographer. She might also plan out special graphics or ideas for editing the photos in a certain way.



For Rue, we wanted that very classic autumnal feel, so Taylor planned a photo shoot at a nearby orchard. We also wanted to use a model that exuded a happy and friendly vibe, who felt relatable.

Taylor also wanted to use some film photography along with digital, so we worked with two photographers: Evie McShane and Michael Bordelon. Our own Katie also took video, so people could get a little sense of how the design might move.

All of this came together in the final version of Rue that you guys get to see. Of course, there’s a lot that goes into the pattern between the creative design and the final presentation, but those parts of the process really bookend the whole thing, from concept to presentation.

What we’ve learned is that, without a clear understanding of the concept, nothing else works quite the same. As a growing team, it’s all about communication.

Do you have any thoughts or questions about the creative process? I wonder, do you have a process for refining your own creative ideas?

Sarai Mitnick


Sarai started Colette back in 2009. She believes the primary role of a business should be to help people. She loves good books, sewing with wool, her charming cats, working in her garden, and eating salsa.



September 9, 2016 #

Thank you for the insight of your creative process! I absolutely love what you are doing and I love this vintage feel of Rue!

Tina Bury

September 9, 2016 #

Thanks for sharing. I find these types of posts fascinating and exciting!


September 10, 2016 #

Sari, is there any chance of you remaking an old beautiful gorgeous pattern in a size 14 – 20, for us. The pattern is Simplicity 6096. It has asemmetrical strips across the front. It is a Vintage pattern. So so beautifully done in brown and white. Let me know your thoughts on this old drop dead gorgeous pattern. Sincerely, Doris S


September 10, 2016 #

Hi, thank you so much for showing the process/development of a pattern. I never knew how much love, talent, and work there really is to it.


September 10, 2016 #

I haven’t done a lot of visual arts (that’s one of the reasons why my return to sewing has been so exciting) but I’ve done volumes of writing and still do. When I’m thinking about writing an article for example I sit down and read some excerpts out a few of my favourite books and ponder/meditate and continue this process until a spark ignites bright enough to send me running to my computer. So it’s similar – but I love the idea of an idea board. I haven’t gone that far yet when considering what I want to sew next. That’s done somewhat more randomly. I see someone wearing something that grabs my eye, or I decide I need something because I don’t have any or enough in my closet…or I simply see something in a clothing shop that I ALMOST buy then stop myself and think, “I can make that!” and over the next while sort of plan to do that – “sort of” because it’s not that clear cut :)

SJ Kurtz

September 10, 2016 #

Its interesting to see how the bodice lines of the striped day dresses worked their way into the bodice of Rue.

Phyllis Chambliss

September 10, 2016 #

Thank you for sharing, i love the like of the Rue.

Paisley Poland

September 10, 2016 #

Thanks. Very inspiring post. Creating “great looking look” is always a challange :)

Sherry Reese

September 10, 2016 #

I love the Rue design and pattern. And it’s easy to love it so much more after learning the story of how you created it! Thank you for sharing your knowledge and your creative process with us.


September 10, 2016 #

This really adds a lot to the choosing a pattern for me. LOVE how your process is”inspired by” yet really translates to a fresh modern look and approach! I think there is a lot of not so good fashion out there today with quality materials becoming hard to find so it’s wonderful to actually believe we might just be able to create some wonderful pieces you’ve designed!

Cherry Heinrich

September 11, 2016 #

My first thought looking at Rue was ‘school uniform ‘ because mine in 1964 was that exact shade of green and white stripes. Then I read it’s vintage. Now I do feel old!! I like the fruity version but on a young body and not mine.

Le Papillon

September 12, 2016 #

Okay, first of all, Anna, you’ve got the best job in the entire world, EVER ! Those 2 posts were REALLY interesting, thank for sharing ! In my own (and very humble) creative process, I’m using the same technique : picking some drafting construction in vintage dresses, thinking about the fabric, the comfort I would like (drape ? not drape ? or a midweight fabric with some more structure ?), and finally sketching something that I could draft in my drafting pattern class., something quite simple on which I could add and sew some variations.


September 13, 2016 #

Thank you!! It sounds like you’re on your way to great things as well :)


September 12, 2016 #

I love these posts!

Also, I’m in love with the fabric in her top. Anna, wherever did you find it?


September 13, 2016 #

Thank you Tracy! I’m wearing the Violet Blouse pattern, and the fabric is part of the Lena Duncan Cloud 9 collection, you can see it here:
I bought the fabric from a pdx local fabric store


September 13, 2016 #

Thanks, Anna! I may have to pick up that and the Violet pattern — if you don’t mind a twin. :)

Patricia Davidson

September 13, 2016 #

I have the same question as Tracy! I love the top that Anna is wearing! Did you make it? The orange buttons are divine! If you did make it, which fabric is it?


September 13, 2016 #

Patricia, thank you as well! I’m wearing the Violet Blouse pattern, and the fabric is part of the Lena Duncan Cloud 9 collection, you can see it here:
I bought the fabric from a pdx local fabric store
I got the buttons at a thrift store :) – my favorite place to find vintage notions!