Bag Brag Tuesday Linking Party - Week Twenty One!
Bag Brag Tuesday Linking Party - Twenty Two!

Pattern Designer Interview - Jen Giddens

WOW...another week has flown by! It seems more like a month since the last Interview as I've had a really eventful week with my eldest daughter moving out of home and into her first flat! Helping her move and get settled into her new home has been quite an emotionally draining experience that she is settled, hopefully I will have more time for ME and my sewing? We shall see! LOLLLL Meanwhile...I would like to introduce to you a fabulous designer, Jen Giddens......over to you Jen:

Jen Giddens
When did you start designing patterns?

I started designing sewing patterns back in 2009 after selling handmade bags at craft fairs and online for a few years.  I was a full time student and also had another job, and keeping up with bag orders became difficult!  I didn’t want to abandon making bags entirely, so I shifted gears and created sewing patterns, which allowed me to have more flexibility in my schedule.

Now I work full time as an interior designer in a commercial architecture firm, and designing sewing patterns is a great way for me to have a creative outlet outside of work!

Starburst Sling
What training do you have or are you self taught?

I am self taught.  My mother taught me to sew when I was young, and I took a home economics class or two during grade school, but I primarily taught myself to sew using books, online tutorials, and good old fashioned experimentation!

I do hold a degree in interior design, which was very helpful to me in designing patterns because I learned a whole host of design software that I use to design my sewing patterns.  

Classic Messenger by Jen Giddens - A Messenger bag sewing pattern
Describe your process of designing a pattern?

I have a sketchbook where I keep all of my sketches related to sewing patterns. Not nearly all of the sketches turn into a pattern, but it’s a good place for me to record inspiration and ideas that might end up in future patterns.

When I’m ready to design a new pattern, I refer to my sketchbook and refine the design with more sketches.  Then I’ll usually draft the pattern pieces on the computer and make a mock-up bag.  Usually the proportions need work after this step, so I adjust the pattern pieces and try again. Once I’m pleased with the end product, I write the instructions.  I sew through the bag while following my own instructions to be sure everything is clear, and then I call on a group of pattern testers to sew the bag and help me refine my instructions.  My pattern testers are invaluable, I count on them to make sure everything is in order.  

Pattern Instructions - Jen Giddens
What do you find the hardest part about designing a pattern and bringing it to the public?

There are so many approaches you can take when sewing a bag, and sometimes it’s a challenge to figure out the best way to explain and illustrate the most user friendly way to put a bag together. There are often many ways to achieve a similar end result, and it is a challenge to find the best and most straightforward approach that is best communicated to the user.

  Button Flap Purse - Jen Giddens

Which one of your patterns is your favourite and why?

I really love the Sunburst Sling and Zippy Bag patterns because it is fun to experiment with different fabric combinations!  For a simple, easier sew I enjoy the Pleated Tote.

Zippy Bag - Jen Giddens

When you are not working on your own designs, do you like to sew other things? What and for whom?

Unfortunately, I don’t have a ton of leftover time to sew just for myself. When I do have time, lately I’ve been making simple garments and household items like pillows and curtains. 


Embroidery project for a nephew
An embroidery project for a nephew

Embroidery project for a nephew
Another embroidery project for a nephew

I’m also working on a simple baby quilt for a friend, and I have plans for a larger quilt for my own bed.


Downtown Wallet - Jen Giddens
Which do you prefer, the design process or the actual sewing and why?

I prefer the design process – it’s like a puzzle! It’s fun to try to figure out all of the bits and pieces that need to fit together to create a design.

Pleated Tote - Jen Giddens
Is there something you have learnt as a designer that you would like to share with other designers or newbie designers?

If you are interested in designing sewing patterns, just do it!  In my experience, designing patterns is very accessible.  It’s easy to get your work out there to an audience with an online store and/or a blog, especially with PDF patterns.  I also have found that this industry is incredibly welcoming to newcomers and willing to share resources.  I am always willing to talk to people who are interested in designing sewing patterns and will offer any assistance that I can.

Quilt - Jen Giddens
When do you work on your designs?

I usually work in spurts.  Designing patterns is by no means a full time job for me, so I tend to work most effectively when I can block out several hours of time to work.  Sometimes I’ll barely work for several weeks (other than keeping up with pattern orders and responding to emails), then I’ll work diligently every evening and weekend for a week or two at a time if I’m working on releasing a new pattern.

Pleated Clutch - Jen Giddens

Do you have a dedicated work area?

Yes, I am fortunate enough to have a dedicated sewing and work space.  I just moved into a new house, and I have a little 5’ x 10’ nook where I have a desk and storage for fabric and sewing supplies. If I need to spread out, I use my dining room table as an extra work surface.  It’s actually a good thing for me to have limited fabric storage space, so I can’t go too overboard!

Sewing Room - Jen Giddens
Do you have a favourite fabric type you prefer to work with?

I really love working with home decorator / upholstery weight because it is durable and has more body than quilting weight cottons.

Pocket Tote - Jen Giddens

Favourite Fabric Designer?

I have always loved Anna Maria Horner’s work, and I really enjoy Joel Dewberry’s collections.  I recently have been drawn to Leah Duncan’s designs.

I actually will be releasing my very first fabric collection with P&B Textiles in the spring of 2014! I am thrilled to have the opportunity to design fabric (a dream come true!), and I am excited about how this collection is coming together.  I am really looking forward to incorporating my own fabric designs into my patterns and projects!


Quilt market booth - Spring 2011
Quilt market booth - Spring 2011

What advice do you have for a beginner or someone interested in learning to sew bags?  

Don’t be afraid to dig in and just start sewing! There are so many resources out there to assist you – books, online tutorials, video clips, and local sewing classes. Don’t be hesitant to make mistakes, and keep your seam ripper close!


You can find out more about Jen here:


Thank you for a fun and interesting interview Jen!

Next week I have a Sewist interview with a fellow Aussie from Sydney whom is a passionate quilter and has an online store selling modern quilting fabrics and patterns.....but to find out more you will have to come back next week! ;)

Happy sewing,