above SHARON AND JUSTINE COWIE
Summer’s here and we’re coming in hot with our latest pattern – the Peppermint Bronte Bathers. This exclusive, fun-in-the-sun pattern was created for us in collaboration with the marvellous Sharon and Justine Cowie from Swim Style Patterns.
Making patterns for almost 40 years, Sharon has always shared the joys of sewing with her daughter, Justine, and together they launched Swim Style Patterns.
In the spirit of going behind the seams, we caught up with the mother-daughter duo to learn more about their label and to rack their brains for tips and tricks when creating the swimsuit.
above THE TAMARAMA SET SEWING PATTERN
Tell us about your journey in the sewing world…
Sharon: I started sewing at primary school along with the other girls in my class – probably eight years old. The headmaster’s wife would come in once a week and teach the girls to sew by hand. We made pillowcases and a nighty. She taught us to embroider also. The first thing I sewed by myself was a pair of flared shorts which had a single pleat on each side of the front section. I had this beautiful, bright Hawaiian print in jewel tones with hibiscus flowers.
My grandma, who was a gifted seamstress, passed down a Singer electric sewing machine to us. I kept sewing and when I went to high school, I learned about basic patternmaking. I can still remember the lovely teacher showing us how to draft a sleeve, and then slashing and spreading the pieces to create another style. I was fascinated with the process and realised it provided the freedom to create whatever you wanted. Out of all the processes of making clothes, patternmaking is my absolute favourite part of creating a new design.
Justine: I honestly can’t remember “starting” to sew because it has always been a part of my life. Since I was a baby, Mum was a wedding dressmaker so she had her studio in our house. She would always teach me and my sister little sewing tips.
I remember driving Justine to uni and saying to her, “What about Swim Style for a pattern brand name?”
When did you decide to start Swim Style Patterns?
S: I remember driving Justine to uni and saying to her, “What about Swim Style for a pattern brand name?” I had been in the process of making my sewing patterns for some time by this stage, but hadn’t had the courage to launch. I was focusing on swimwear in the early days as it’s a huge part of our lives and I couldn’t find any swim patterns I loved in the market.
Justine liked the name so I registered it that day. That was 10 years ago now. Justine has always helped me from the beginning with designs and just taking an interest. I worked on it myself for about six years while Justine completed her university degree in marketing. She then went on to work for some Australian fashion labels for quite a few years and then decided to come and work on Swim Style about three years ago which has just been so much fun! We work well together; we are both very passionate about Swim Style and have skill sets that merge perfectly.
above THE LARA LOUNGEWEAR SET SEWING PATTERN
What’s the best part of working in a mother-daughter team?
S: Sharing our passion for fashion together. Since Justine was a little girl, we’ve always bonded over fashion so it’s incredible we can work together now. Plus, after working solo for so many years, I appreciate the feeling that I’m not alone. Growing up, I was the odd one out growing up in my sailing and bike-riding family – I loved drawing and sewing. To have a daughter who shares the same thrills of seeing the latest trend and creating our own version is more than I could have wished for. Regardless to say, I don’t feel lonely now!
Since Justine was a little girl, we’ve always bonded over fashion so it’s incredible we can work together now.
What inspires your patterns?
J: It’s hard to put it down to one inspiration… Definitely the Australian lifestyle and landscape. We try to design for the Aussie lifestyle and growing up on the coast, the beach will always play into our designs. A huge influence is just our ongoing love of design and fashion. We’re always keeping up to date with emerging trends, both locally and overseas, and love to tackle unique and different sewing techniques to hopefully teach our customers something new.
above THE KARLA LOUNGEWEAR PATTERN
What do you love most about the sewing community?
S and J: Too many things to list. We feel so lucky to be a part of this community. Sewing can be a very isolated process, often you may be the only one in your family or friend circle who sews. Being able to reach out, chat with others and share fabulous makes is really remarkable. As makers, we all share that wonderful feeling of achievement of posting our latest makes. And when we see someone make one of our patterns their own, there really isn’t a better feeling than that!
What do you find special about sewing your own swimwear?
S: The sense of satisfaction you get from sewing something that may, originally, seem unachievable. Once you take your time and make your first swim piece, you learn so much and feel so accomplished. From there, it can become an addiction!
above THE LARA LOUNGEWEAR SET SEWING PATTERN
What advice do you have for those making swimwear for the very first time?
S: Begin by practising sewing on scraps of swimwear fabric. This will calm any nerves and you will begin to handle the fabric with confidence. Sewing swimwear is just the next step from sewing a stretch garment. It really does become easy after a little practice.
My practical tips would be: insert a ballpoint needle in your sewing machine and handle the fabric with care so you don’t stretch it while sewing.
Sewing can be a very isolated process, often you may be the only one in your family or friend circle who sews. Being able to reach out, chat with others and share fabulous makes is really remarkable.
Any tips and tricks for sewists when sewing the Bronte Bathers?
S: It’s important to follow the sewing instructions closely! Measure yourself and check the size chart before deciding which size to make. Do use a swimwear lining as it makes it easier to sew and will be more comfortable to wear. And have fun! Don’t put too much pressure on it – enjoy the process.