Hop On Ya Bike to Meet the Patternmaker Behind the Peppermint Milton Pinafore
There’s a spring in our step right now and it has everything to do with the arrival of our latest free pattern – the Peppermint Milton Pinafore – a dreamy twist on the classic pinny. This exclusive, highly wearable pattern was created in collaboration with the lovely French patternmaker behind Just Patterns and is brought to you in partnership with our good friends at Spoonflower.
Founded in 2017 by Delphine Colbeau, Just Patterns focuses on creating comprehensive sewing patterns for an elevated handmade wardrobe.
“As a teen, I was obsessed with the idea of recreating the garments that I couldn’t afford. But unfortunately, at the time, I didn’t have the skills or access to the resources that would have allowed me to make my dream wardrobe come true,” Delphine says. “I quickly realised that the resources that would enable me to create the garments I was dreaming of were not available to home sewers. I would have to dig deeper. I believe in empowering makers to up their skills and improve their sewing with each project.”
In the spirit of going behind the seams and to show the Milton Pinafore the love it deserves, we caught up with Delphine to learn more about her label and to rack her brain for tips and tricks when creating the pattern.
Tell us about your journey into the sewing world?
I started sewing as a teenager because I wanted to recreate a friend’s dress that I had no money to buy. I come from a family of makers so there was a sewing machine in my house and the idea of using it came very naturally. My maternal grandmother is actually a seamstress, so she taught me how to use the machine and she helped me fix the mess I made with that first dress so that it would be wearable. After that, I never stopped sewing. I got into pattern drafting almost immediately as well. The early days of connecting with online sewing community through forums and blogs really fuelled my passion and my knowledge. Later, I was able to take evening classes at FIT in New York and at the Ecole Syndicale de la Couture in Paris, and those really helped me improve my skills.
When my daughter was born, I took the opportunity of my maternity leave to launch Just Patterns and since then I have managed to keep it going whenever my day job was slowing down. But since I became a freelancer in my day job a year ago, I gained some time and flexibility. It has allowed me to focus on revamping the project and releasing more patterns, which has been super fun and exciting.
What inspires your patterns?
My patterns are completely inspired by fashion and what I want to wear now. A pattern release is usually the result of an obsession with a particular style or garment. I was always a lover of fashion, peering through magazines and, later, online pictures of runway shows, peeking inside luxury garments at department stores and visiting exhibitions. I’m equally inspired by trends, classic styles and interesting construction techniques so this is the mix that I try to bring forward in each of my patterns. I like the insides of a garment to be as pretty as the outside.
What do you love most about the sewing community?
When I started sewing, the sewing community taught me so much or introduced me to the right resources. I could never quote all the blogs that taught me techniques and showed me that it was possible to aspire to professional finishes, even as a self-taught seamstress. I try to highlight that in the resource pages of my patterns where I curate tutorials from all around the web to show different ways of doing things.
Today, I turn more to the community for inspiration on what I want to sew and wear. I also get a lot of energy from it when I’m in a pattern-development phase. I love to document bringing a pattern to life mostly because I receive a lot of fun comments and encouragement in the process. Releasing patterns has given me a stronger incentive to connect actively with people instead of endless scrolling and I’ve made several new online friends in recent years.
You run Just Patterns in addition to a full-time job and motherhood… How do you find time to prioritise your passions and creative pursuits, such as sewing, within a busy life?
Sewing has been a part of my life for over 20 years now, without a real interruption, so it feels completely integrated. It has followed me from high school to being a student, to moving overseas for work. I always found a way to have a sewing machine with me. But since I’m always on the verge of being overwhelmed, I’m very intentional in not picking up a new hobby. Whenever I’m tempted to try knitting, or embroidery or anything else, I remind myself of all the patterns I want to draft and the sewing skills I want to acquire.
Right now, it really helps that my living room is my sewing studio. Everything is always ready to be used, and I can fit sewing at random times. For instance, I will sew a couple of seams while my daughter is getting ready for bed or playing on her own. She’s about to turn five and hasn’t yet noticed that sharing her living space with three sewing machines, dress forms, a cutting table and a pattern rack might not be such a common thing.
Sizing in fashion can be a bit of a minefield. How do you navigate the challenges of addressing the multitude of body sizes and shapes out there?
I always treated Just Patterns as an experiment or an evolving project so I do my best to try to listen to the community and adjust as I go, mindful that this is a one-person operation, and I would like to keep it this way. In the case of sizing, I made the very common mistake of starting with a very limited size range. It was actually a double mistake because I used French sizing standards (which are too limited, even in France) when my patterns were only available in English at the time, and I was almost exclusively active in the English-speaking sewing world! I have extended it twice already and I now offer on-demand grading.
I don’t think it’s possible to get everything right from the start because you don’t know what you don’t know. And also, our community is a very dynamic one that is constantly evolving. The most important part is to be actively listening and willing to change. I’ve been lucky to encounter a lot of patience and kindness, especially from my pattern testers! But, if there is anyone out there considering publishing sewing patterns, my advice is always to start with the widest size range possible from the very beginning. Updating older patterns is extremely time consuming and updated patterns never sell as well as a new release.
What differences have you noticed between the sewing community in France and internationally?
It might sound surprising, but I have never been very active in the French-speaking sewing community. There was almost nothing in French when I started sewing so I became a member of the English-speaking forums. When I started my blog and later releasing patterns, I was living in New York, so I continued down that path. But I moved back to France at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, and it has triggered me to start translating my patterns in French and my publications on Instagram as well.
What I find interesting is that the sewing trends in France and internationally can sometimes be quite different. From what I see, many French sewists love ruffles, open backs and cute prints on floaty fabrics.
We just adore the Peppermint Milton Pinafore! Any tips and tricks for sewists when creating it?
I think it’s an easy but interesting pattern and you can also play around with it. You could make only the skirt, for instance, for a classic A-line with a 70s vibe or you could switch the buttoned back to an invisible zipper for an even more minimalist look. If you have concerns about bulk in the garment or the ability of your machine to go over thick layers, it’s possible to use a thinner fabric to line the bodice and the straps, and you could use regular seams for the skirt side seams instead of the French ones.
Do you have any recommendations for fabric choice for those struggling to make a decision?
It’s a pattern that looks best in fabrics with body, and I personally love how natural fibres feel and age over time, so I would recommend mid-weight cotton, linen and wools. For instance, I think it would be very cute and versatile in a raw denim.
Where do you plan on wearing the Milton Pinafore?
I have a lot of plans to make the Milton Pinafore work hard in my wardrobe this fall and winter in Paris. While the weather is still nice, I want to wear it with my relaxed Tyra Tee and sneakers. But as soon as it cools down, I’m excited to wear it over a thin turtleneck with boots. I have a wool check version planned – I think it will have a strong retro feel and I am very excited about it!