“Where Were the People I Recognised as Sewists?”: Meet the Patternmaker

Sunny days are here to stay with our latest free pattern – the Peppermint Skye Shorts – a dashing pair of swinging swing shorts. This exclusive, highly wearable pattern was created in collaboration with the brilliant British patternmaker Mandi Bharij from Make With Mandi and is brought to you in partnership with our good friends at Spoonflower.

Founded in 2020, when disruption to daily life gave Mandi time to revisit her lifelong passions, Make With Mandi is focused on making sewing your own stylish wardrobe enjoyable and easy.

“I absolutely love pattern cutting and take great pleasure turning something from a 2D pattern into a 3D garment,” Mandi says. “Making your own clothes should be fun and the end result should give you a garment you want to wear again and again. I don’t believe in perfection, I believe in improvement.”

In the spirit of going behind the seams and to show the Skye Shorts the love they deserve, we caught up with Mandi to learn more about her label, diversity within the sewing community and to rack her brain for tips and tricks when creating the shorts.


Tell us about your journey into the sewing world…

I grew up with the sound of the sewing machine whirring in the background. My mum is a trained machinist and often worked from home. I didn’t realise how lucky I was to have been surrounded by this skill until I met other local sewists. I studied fashion at university and absolutely loved pattern cutting, so I decided to combine my skills and passion to create Make With Mandi sewing patterns.

What inspires your patterns? 

I love high street fashion but want to make more unique styles by using fabrics I love and incorporating design accents of my own. My patterns are ones that people want to make time and time again and I love how fabric choice can completely change the finished result of a pattern. For example, my Bolt Culotte Pattern can go from daywear in a lightweight denim to glamorous evening wear when made in a luxurious velvet

What do you love most about the sewing community?

It’s so supportive and full of lots of inspiring sewists with true passion for what they make. Every time a customer buys one of my patterns I get so excited and cannot wait to see how they interpret it.

You are a real advocate for diversity within the sewing community. Why is seeing sewists of different backgrounds, particularly Asian sewists, online so important to you?

I didn’t know there was such a presence of sewists on social media until I started creating my patterns. I had always grown up with sewing around me, but it wasn’t recognised as a highly prized skill to have. When mum used to sew our clothes, we craved what others had – RTW clothes bought from highstreet stores. We wanted to fit in.

When I joined Instagram as Make With Mandi, I was so surprised to see that the sewing community was dominated by white women making their own clothes and learning sewing skills. But where were the people I recognised as sewists? The people who worked day and night in our factories, who learned sewing because it was expected of them to be a good wife, the people who have created many wonderful garments for generations?

My mum learned to sew because she had to and she used those skills to put food on our table. She is one of the most skilled and talented sewists I know. When I talk to her about Make With Mandi it feels like we are talking two different languages. In her day, sewing wasn’t a career that you could be proud of – it wasn’t aspirational and it didn’t pay.

My mum learned to sew because she had to and she used those skills to put food on our table.

Culturally, fashion wasn’t a route my parents wanted me to follow – but I knew I needed to do something creative. (Side note, both my sisters are in finance!) Breaking out of the mould wasn’t easy and I reflect back that if I had had British Asian peers who were also following creative career paths, I may not have lacked confidence and struggled with my self belief.

This feeling still exists inside me and I see it throughout my work life and personal life. By creating Make With Mandi and breaking away from the mould, I hope to inspire other young Asian people to follow their heart and their dreams, even if it goes against the cultural grain.

My belief is that the more people see people that look like them, that they can relate to, the easier it will be for them to follow their paths.

I am enjoying listening to the Asian Sewist Collective podcast and was honoured to appear on their list of Asian-owned sewing related businesses. However, shockingly, at the time of writing this, in the UK there are only four businesses on their list. FOUR?! Isn’t that wild? My experience growing up tells me that there are loads of talented and passionate Asian sewists… hopefully by seeing me in the public domain, they too will have the courage to join me and represent their heritage by joining the wonderful online sewing community and making it even more awesome.

I am massively grateful to Peppermint for showing more racial diversity in our community. And I feel proud to be associated with such an organisation. 

We just adore the Peppermint Skye Shorts! Any tips and tricks for sewists when creating it?

You can choose to wear these shorts on your true waist or lower on your hips by adjusting the amount of elastic you use. The elastic and the wide legs make these a very comfortable short which are perfect for the warmer weather. You might also like to watch the sew-along video I created over on my YouTube channel!

Do you have any recommendations for fabric choice for those struggling to make a decision?

This short suits lighter weight fabrics with a good amount of drape – I have recently made myself a pair from a gorgeous red viscose from my local fabric shop,  Fabric Textile Central

Where do you plan on wearing the Skye Shorts?

It’s winter here in the UK, but I’ve already got plans to wear my Skye Shorts on my first post-pandemic holiday to Mauritius.

If you are interested in checking out more of Mandi’s patterns, head over to Make With Mandi and use the code peppermint20 at checkout for 20% off any one pattern of your choice.