First we will ask you to introduce yourself and tell folks how to find you.
You can find me on Instagram @stokxpatterns and my webpage is
When, how and why did you learn to sew?
I learnt to sew by hand as a child. I also watched my mother crawl around the floor cutting out patterns. We would go to department stores and look through the big books of patterns . She would buy a pattern and material and it would still be there years later. Although she did make the school uniforms on time.
Did you go to fashion school?
I did a certificate in dress design . It was a course of just over 2 years and I was finished before I was 20 years old. One of our teachers was an English lady- a couturier .We had a lesson with her about draping- I use this method to find my shapes to this day. Our design teacher was a maverick- she really encouraged us to think outside the box.
She gave us the task to imagine another planet- with a different type of society. This is still one of my design filters.
How did you start your pattern design process?
I have always been fascinated by shapes. Geometry was my favourite part of maths. My certificate in dress design gave me the basics. The reason you make a pattern is to be able to reproduce a shape.There is a logic to assembling shapes. What goes where is indicated by the pattern notches. There are a series of symbols my colleague and I have created for the patterns including a symbol to indicate when a
pattern piece is cut as a pair.
What do you do yourself and what do you contract out?
I make the patterns and sew the models myself. Some styles come together quickly- others knock around for years. The patterns are the same as the ones I use for the clothes in my shop. My shirtdress pattern has been in production since 2006. I skipped the testing process initially for this reason- because the pattern works. However what needed to be checked was how clear the instructions were- how the makers understand them and what can make the process more enjoyable. Next the patterns go to a clothing engineer who grades the patterns with me breathing down her neck. Then -This data is sent to a graphic designer who formats the patterns: the cutting lines,
seam lines, grain lines,text ,notches… layers. My colleague, Norea does the beautiful construction drawings . She is also a dress designer and we discuss the best construction methods.
What are the most rewarding parts of having your own pattern company?
It ticks so many boxes for me. Finally – every style, every colour, every size! No bricks and mortar shop is big enough for this. I love seeing what everyone is making. It is also important to me to document my work. With each pattern I am setting myself free. Letting go. I need this. The sewing community is multi talented and warm and funny. I have so much more in common with other makers than with the fashion industry.
The most difficult?
Technology is difficult for me – but I wont give up! And I need to accept that it is impossible to make everyone happy.
What to talk about on Punk Frockers.
“Design for Disability”
We could call this Design. With a capital D please. Should Design for Disability be only for those with disability or should suitable garments
already exist within the realm of inclusive design? The answer is probably … sometimes . Let’s just start the conversation.
What is disability?
long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder [a person’s] full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.
Disability can be visible or invisible – severe or minor. 15% of the world’s population can be considered disabled.
What is Design ?
Design is about making decisions. At best, informed decisions.
Start by informing yourself. Interview the person or persons you would like to design for.. Find out what is important to them.Do they need special equipment? How does a day in their life look? Ask how they have been sorting themselves out until now. Listen . Ask “what if” questions. Have an open mind. Don´t jump to a solution before you have been thoroughly briefed. In the perfect world the clothing will enhance and empower the wearer. This would be my goal and the method I have described is how I would begin to achieve this.
My design style could be described as pragmatic- but that is how I express my rugged individuality.
Here are some examples of clothing design rather than fashion design.
Classic workwear is a favourite source of inspiration for me. In Germany workwear has been perfected over generations. Carpenters wear flared trousers so sawdust doesn´t get into their shoes. Cooks´ Jackets have round buttons so the jacket can be removed quickly .
If the jacket is on fire or covered in hot sauce, you don’t want to be stuck inside it. Also, because classic cooks’ jackets are double breasted they can be re-buttoned to hide a dirty front and instead show a clean front when a cook is called into the restaurant. (this doesn´t work with snaps- another quick release method). Uniform design is especially interesting because it needs to be ergonomic and fit very large
and very small sizes- but this is an enormous subject we can talk about another time.
So getting back to specifics. Who?
We all know one size doesn´t fit all… except for maybe an earring.
It is the same with style. One style isn’t right for everybody. How we dress is a language. What does the person or persons want to say?
We all know that clothes are worn for more reasons than JUST keeping warm. Disability is a broad field. One thing we can all agree on is SAFETY. Imagine a wheelchair user would like to be married in a traditional style. I would discourage wearing a long train because it would be awful to have it caught up in the wheels, although
there is still enormous scope to create a memorable garment . But you know what ?- if a bride wanted to be wildly impractical- this is Ok too!
I have recently created costumes for a trapeze duo. I want to use them as an example because they have special criteria that need to be taken
into consideration. They are clowns and their characters need to appear as a conservative couple. The Lady wears a knee length skirt, but she has to be able to see when she is hanging upside down. The skirt has been secured at the high hip to keep her safe. Her gentleman friend has other problems. His shirt has to stay in his trousers when he is swinging on the trapeze. I have created sleeves so that his arm movement is unrestricted. The bottom of the shirt has been sewn onto dance briefs which can´t be seen because he wears trousers over them. Let me add that I have sewn 2cm wide webbing to the entire
inseam of his trousers because he uses them to swing from the trapeze as part of the act. The garments are worn during rehearsal. If something doesn´t work or even worse is through oversight, is potentially dangerous,I look for a new solution.
I have customers in all shapes and sizes. Over years we have established trust- They see my sewing machines and might mention that they wear a pump for diabetes. It is a quick fix to open the inside pocket seam so they can wear their pump. If I know this is the case I will suggest other things in the shop that would work for them.Another one of my customers has trouble with buttons so snaps are a good substitute.
I have a love hate relationship with Fashion – However sometimes it gets it so right! In 1999, the british designer Alexandra McQueen designed some exquisite wooden legs for Aimee Mullins, whose legs were amputated below the knee when she was one year old.
She opened the fashion show wearing her bespoke carved legs. The collective shock of this moment still resonates. On this occasion the boundaries between “able-bodied” and “disabled” took a second place to beauty. She started off as an athlete and wanted to run really fast. She could only achieve this with access to the newly developed special carbon fibre legs. A designer solved this problem for her.
Who the hell am I?
Hello, I have been a designer and maker for more than 30 years.
One of my first jobs was making costumes for a childrens´ theatre.
I made kings and Queens, Spanish renaissance dresses and a frock for Carmen Miranda. In Australia in the 80´s I wasn’t aware of dedicated costume making schools- I figured out how to make these things.
One of the strangest things I have made was a sequinned octopus with detachable legs. “Nautasophities “was made out of foam rubber covered in navy lycra. 6 lycra sheaths were attached to the rounded body of the octopus. 6 detachable legs were attached with velcro
inside the sheaths and the other 2 legs;in navy lycra tights ,belonged to the actor inside the suit. The octopus ,featured in a play called “The Water Babies.” The playful water babies would pull off the octopus`s legs every night.
The largest thing I have sewn wasn´t clothing, it was a collapsible darkroom for a pin prick camera. It was made of thick black cloth; the kind used backstage in theatres. The structure, at its largest, was 4m x 3m x 2m. It was commissioned by an artist who wanted to expose a sheet of photographic paper for a minute or so out of every room of a kilometre long building built on Germany´s coast. Each room had a view of the sea. The camera room had to be so big to get a sharp image on the sheet of photographic paper and be collapsible to get into the rooms.
I prefer to call myself a clothing designer rather than a fashion designer. Designing has a number of “enabling constraints”
The styles for my shop had to be adaptable for people of different heights and body shapes. Making everything in Germany, with a living wage, allows for no time consuming and extraneous snick snacks.
My use of patterned fabric has been limited to stripes or checks so that it made more sense to customers to purchase my clothes as investment pieces. Fashion tends to be about exclusivity- I am much more interested in inclusivity. I am embarrassed when someone comes into my shop and I have nothing that fits them.
The idea behind my pattern project started with the wish to have every size in every colour available. Over the years I have developed 150 styles.-If you multiply this by 13 sizes- A problem starts to emerge, you’ll get a number over one thousand, closer to 2000. Each colour
multiplies this number and you still only have one of eachSo many clothes don´t fit in my shop. However making styles available for people who want to sew for themselves or pay someone in their community to do it, is a creative solution. Each solution throws up more challenges- communication, tech-compatibility, copyright.
This is par for the course with implementing new systems. It has also been exciting to discover the activism in sewing communities. You can find discussions about body image. The LGBTQ community are seeking their own style. They can´t find styles that fit their
expectations , so they are making their own clothes as they like them.
In my view the Fashion gods on high have lost the plot. I love the sewing community- I am not getting back in my box. I have had a year of hanging out in the sewing community- unlike the rag trade ,I share their values and feel emboldened.