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Kelli Ward is the pattern designer and main gal behind the sewing pattern company True Bias. Having taken an interesting path toward establishing her business, she now designs thoughtful sewing patterns for home sewists. Her designs are modern, wearable and attainable for beginners and advanced sewists alike. Read on to discover the story and inspiration behind Kelli’s designs and business.
Can you describe the path you took to become a sewist and patternmaker? Tell us your story.
I have sewn and been interested in creating since I was small. My mother quilts and would make our Halloween costumes so I always had access to a sewing machine.
I did take a few lessons from my neighbor but am mostly self-taught. I think that I am lucky enough to have the kind of mind that understands construction. Through teaching sewing, I have noticed that this is not how everyone thinks, but because I always understood or was interested in how things go together, I took quickly to sewing my own clothing.
I never thought much about it being an actual career until I had gone to college and pursued photography. After working as a photographer for about 5 years I found that all of my free time was spent sewing.
I started a sewing blog, and then once my family and I decided to move to NYC, enrolled in patternmaking courses at FIT. The business came soon after that.
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Always an artist of some sort. I grew up in a conservative home, in a conservative part of the country where I really didn’t know any women who worked outside of the home. It never occurred to me that I might own my own business one day. Instead, I only visualized myself in more traditional roles like being an elementary art teacher. It has taken me a long time to work through some of these ideas and land where I am now.
Can you describe the workspace where the True Bias magic happens? Looks, smells, sounds…
I wish it was more magical, but I am so thankful for the space that I do have. In NYC I started True Bias on a table in my children’s bedroom.
We moved to Denver a couple of years ago and a huge priority was having space within our home for me to work. My children are still young, and although they are both in school full day, I really value having my workspace in our home so that I can be here when needed.
I have a room in our basement where True Bias lives. It’s not perfect, but it allows me to have the balance of life and work that I prioritize right now and I feel really thankful for that.
It’s pretty simple and a little industrial. It has white concrete floors, gray walls, a huge cutting table on one end, and my machines and patterns stacked against the outside walls. Currently, it is very functional, but getting the studio to be more visually appealing is high on the list for this year.
Where do you look to find inspiration for your patterns?
Getting inspiration has never been something I have had to consciously do. All my patterns are born out of something that I want in my wardrobe, but can’t find.
That being said, I have been known to take photos of someone on the street or at a restaurant when I want to remember a design detail. I also love Pinterest and often narrow down ideas there.
What is your personal favorite True Bias pattern?
This answer changes all of the time, but currently, I am Lander obsessed. I wear them almost daily. I like to pair them with a Nikko turtleneck and heeled booties right now because it’s cold and that is my perfect fall/winter outfit.
Is there an era of fashion that most inspires your work?
The 70s have always inspired me and they are really apparent in my current patterns. I love the high waists, long drapey fabrics, and oversized shapes. I can’t get enough of it.
What does the pattern launch process look like?
Pattern launches are a big part of my business. A pattern from start to finish is 3-4 months of work. It begins with me designing the pattern and tweaking it until it’s just right. Then I send it out to a grader to produce it into multiple sizes. During this time I work on the instructions.
Once that is all ready, it goes to testers to find any mistakes in the instructions and also to test fit on different sizes. Once I am confident in the product I will send the final pattern and instructions to another editor to check for any mistakes. I also need to photograph the garment on a model for the covers of my printed patterns.
At this point, the pattern is ready to go to print which takes 4-6 weeks time. Finally, I get the patterns in my hands and put it up for sale, after which I produce blog posts, sewalongs etc…
Wow, I am tired just typing this all out. It’s a lot of work, but I love the product and am really proud of what I have been able to produce.
Can you give a shout-out to another patternmaker we ought to know about?
Choosing one will be so difficult. There are hundreds of talented and successful independent patternmakers. If I had to say one that has influenced me the most, it would have to be Jen Beeman of Grainline Studio.
Jen’s Scout Tee pattern was the first indie pattern I ever tried. Watching her business from afar and sewing her beautifully drafted patterns helped give me the confidence to go back to school and start my company. She is such a boss and I really admire her.
The online community of sewists seems to be growing quickly. Why do you think this movement is gaining steam in today’s world?
The home sewing community really is growing quickly. I attribute it to two things. One is that with so much of our daily life, work, and social interactions being online and intangible, I think humans are turning back to the art of creating things with our hands. It’s almost a therapy in a way.
I also think that a lot of people want to distance themselves from the fashion industry in general. Whether for political or humanitarian reasons, creating clothing with your own hands helps you to appreciate and humanize the hands that create the clothing in our stores.
Sewing is generally not economically beneficial, but the act of sewing your own clothing really helps you to value the clothing in your closet.
Where can we find you online?
Website and Blog: True Bias
To hear more from Kelli, listen to a couple of podcast interviews she’s done with other rad gals in the sewing space:
♥ All photos are owned by Kelli Ward of True Bias. Please click on the photo of an item and you will be magically transported to the True Bias site. ♥