Interview with Nicole Mallalieu

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Today we have a fantastic interview with pattern designer and garment sewist  Nicole Mallalieu, who has written The Better Bag Maker. She also has a new book coming up in Fall 2017, all about how to make professional adjustments to your favorite clothing patterns. It's called The Savvy Seamstress—keep an eye out for it!

What was your favorite part of the book writing or production process?

I love it when I realize that there’s a better, clearer way of explaining something that I’d previously done a different way or when I discover a neat trick that makes a process easier. It often happens when I’m in the process of writing or testing what I’ve written. My geeky educator’s brain gets a huge kick out of it. Sometimes it means rewriting and reshooting whole sections of the book—and that part is a little dull—but when it’s done, I feel a bit clever and do a little happy dance.



What are your go-to colors?

I don’t think about it, but when I look at the things I’ve made en masse, there is an overwhelming presence of blues, greens, pinks, and oranges. There are also particular shades of red and blue that reoccur throughout the garments in my wardrobe. It’s just an intuitive attraction that I don’t plan and can’t explain.



What projects are you working on right now?

I’m going back through my back catalog of paper sewing patterns and converting them to PDFs. Because I’m an accuracy nerd, this means lots of very careful digital design work to tile the pattern so that it works across the range of paper sizes around the world and has registration marks to match the pages together. There’s a part of that process that is tedious repetition and a part of it that is meditative. Mostly it’s satisfying when each one is done, because it’s something that has been on the to-do list for a long time.
I’m also making samples for dressmaking classes next year. I’m tweaking designs from my pattern range to show how to use the techniques in the book I’ve just written, and I’m playing with a few new garment pattern ideas.
During the holidays between Christmas and New Year, I plan to start a new quilt. I’m not a regular quilter, but I occasionally dabble when I want a break from my everyday work. It’s a meditation, and I get a quilt at the end. Win-win.



How did you come up with the idea for your book or product?

My latest book was inspired by the lack of resources I could find for my fashion students. They are mostly beginners but need to know how to create professionally finished garments from scratch. I had to break down processes from advanced pattern-making and sewing books so that they could understand. Lightbulb moment… I realized that hobby dressmakers could use this information, too, to adapt the sewing patterns that they already have.


What is the one tool or notion you can’t live without?

A tailor's awl (stiletto) is like an extension of my hand when I’m sewing. Because I was trained in an industrial setting, I use very few pins. I match notches and hold the fabric with my hands. For finer detailed work, the awl acts as a moveable pin that I can use around the needle of the machine, to hold things exactly where I want to sew them.

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  • Nicole Mallalieu
  • interview
  • The Better Bag Maker
  • The Savvy Seamstress
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