With home sewing on the rise once again, one Nelson designer is filling the need for on-trend and beautifully styled sewing patterns with her online store.
Katie Brown of Nelson launched Papercut Patterns in 2010 and since then her business has gained strong international recognition along with a large customer base in the US.
When Katie initially left school, she chose to pursue graphic design. However, it was partway through this course that she decided to transfer to fashion instead.
“My Dad told me not to do it. That there is no money in fashion”, she laughs. It’s a good thing she is so determined and decided to do it anyway. The next 18 months, though, were intense as Katie juggled full time study and weekend work at a fabric store. “I really loved it. Being surrounded by creative people all the time, it was a great environment”.
Katie’s stunning designs don’t just stop at her patterns. Putting her graphic design skills to good use, she has created functional packaging that also doubles as a hanger for that workroom feel. She developed this look after her initial idea of placing the patterns inside a tube fell through when a supplier let her down.
Of the new design, she says “I woke up in the middle of the night with the idea and sketched it in a book that was next to the bed. Then the next day I started developing it”.
However, Katie hit further stumbling blocks when various printing agencies told her that her ideas were unachievable and impossible to do.
“It was dead ends everywhere I went … nobody thought outside the square. They just said “oh, no, we don’t do that”. Finally I found one print place who was really open minded and he said “Yup, I’ll send it to my die maker and find out”. It took ages, it was so frustrating”.
“It was the same with the printing of my patterns”, she continues. “I went into different places and they said “oh, no, we can’t do that”. I just wanted large format printing and I went to a drafting place that did large format printing and they just said they couldn’t print on tissue, but I didn’t want to print onto tissue. I wanted it on paper and they wouldn’t accept it”, she shrugs.
You can’t help but love her determination and drive. It’s this paired with her uncomprising vision that has made Papercut Patterns so unique and appealing worldwide.
Working by herself from her home-based studio, Katie designs, prints and packages all the patterns herself, although she may occasionally enlist the help of her daughter when there is a mountain of folding and packaging to be done. With a strong NZ made ethos, Katie also ensures all packaging is not only 100% recyclable, but made from recycled materials too.
Within her studio, you’ll find a large printer for the patterns which takes up an entire wall. Katie is about to install a folding machine that attaches onto it, to save her finger tips from being constantly sanded down when folding the patterns. It is the first folding machine of it’s kind in New Zealand and she’s understandably excited about adding it to her workforce.
With interest from the popular UK magazine Glamour, it seems publicity is finding Papercut Patterns rather than Katie having to go hunting for it. Although, after dabbling in advertising on blogs, Katie has found that a featured blog post will have more impact on sales than a sidebar advertisement will. While an advertisement does bring in visitors, the sales aren’t necessarily instant, so are harder to gauge. A feature blog post will tend to have a larger more traceable impact on sales.
Because it tends to be cold in the studio, most work days will start with a morning of computer work or printing, followed by an afternoon of studio work doing drafting and packaging before the kids return home and family life takes over. Although Katie admits “having a business is like having another baby”.
From a technical point of view, Katie has opted to use Shopify as the base for her website. “It has a good back-end. It can be expensive but it’s better than a professional e-commerce site.” She has found that paying a monthly fee is more achievable than a large upfront fee that you may get from a professionally made site. It also allows her to make any changes herself without needing to employ someone further.
With some big plans for the future, I get the feeling Katie is only just getting started. An up and coming collaboration with other fashion designers means we’ll soon have access to some rather enviable patterns. With New Zealand based fashion designer, Brooke Tyson, on board, it’ll be a venture any keen seamstress will want to keep an eye on for creating that designer look at home.
Katie has an inspiring vision and drive that is exciting to see. While already making waves internationally, there are plenty of good things ahead for this talented pattern maker.
Visit Papercut Patterns here.