Five pros and cons working as a freelancer

I often get asked which is better to work as a freelancer or In House. Personally working as a freelancer is most suited to me, I love it's freedom it gives though it's not without it's perils. If you're lucky to be in position to be choosing one route or the other I've highlighted what I think are the high and lows of each path.

1. MONEY

There's no denying when I worked for a company I earned far far more than I do as a freelancer, at the peak of my earnings I was clearing 45K and that was with being a freelancer within that time as well. The main trouble I found hard when returning to work for a company was that my CV was viewed as that I didn't have much manger skills having worked by myself freelancing. Even though I know I can run teams of people have have done so in the past, I was up against people who had never left the industry to freelance so had consistent managerial experience. My first freelance job was in Thailand (which I never planned to get I had originally gone travelling) and I loved designing swimwear in the sunshine and the life I was living there, and on the plus side I didn't need much money. 

2. FREEDOM

The major plus side being a freelancer I think has to be the freedom, pre-children being a freelancer enabled me to travel whenever I wished, within reason. When a project finished I could book cheap flights and spend as long or as little time in whatever country I flew to. But again having the ability to have that freedom, is weighed by having the actual funds whilst freelancing. Nowadays it's all about having the freedom to look after young children whilst working at different times than the normal workforce (ie at night with lots of coffee).

pros and cons of working as a freelancer

3. TIME

With freelancing I think you have be great and time management, it can be easy to get caught up with social media. You have to find a schedule that works for you, I'm still working on this - sometimes I get up early to work and get loads don, other times (usually) it's at night. Also there's all the extras that you need to plan for, like accounts, filling in tax returns, looking for the next piece of work. Keeping up-to-date with everything current. Being a freelancer it's easy to feel like you are looking in on an industry rather than being involved and in the thick of it. If you like structure of a 9-5 (or there abouts) Then in house may be more suited to you, or you could get the best of both worlds and be a freelancer on contract - so you are based within a company but only for a set amount of time.

4. THE SOUL

Depending what type of company you work for - will depend on what you are given to design, I was very fortunate in my first job (designing for high street stores in a UK manufacturer) in that as well have been given design briefs from the buyer, I also presented new designs from the fabrics that I sourced. In another company it was all buyer led, I would be given samples bought from other brands and asked to replicate them, it was very soul destroying, and something I didn't agree with. Working as a freelancer people are coming for you, for either new ideas or the technical side of the design so your never ripping off (well you shouldn't be) other peoples designs.  That's what I love the most about freelancing is that if you have the opportunity to work with someone who is just starting out, they are very willing to push boundaries and design ideas.

5. CONSISTENCY  

This is a major one that often occurs, you can be mental busy for ages, then suddenly you find yourself with a free calendar wondering where the next job is coming from. At the start of my freelancing, I continued to do part time work, as I knew that eventually this is what I wanted to do full time, but didn't want the added pressure of the freelancing supporting me at the beginning, I wanted to build up a client base with good strong work. I've done bar work, shop-work and even worked as a TA in a primary school, then worked freelancing in my spare time and also wrote the books. With freelancing I've never worked regular hours, even when I had a full time job designing I was always building up 'Vanjonsson Design' and worked evenings and weekends. Now having children my working hours are even more erratic, and I often work late into the night. 

A friend texted to see how my day was going, this was my face after being greeted with 102 emails that morning at work.

A friend texted to see how my day was going, this was my face after being greeted with 102 emails that morning at work.

Working in a company, especially at the start, I gained so much knowledge from everyone, and I loved the fast pace of the fashion side of things, producing collections, seeing them through to manufacturing whilst balancing the next season ahead, but with like most jobs, the further you go up the chain of your profession, the more away you move away from it, and are managing other people to do the job you loved and set out to do. I have before come into a previous work to be met with 70+ emails on a daily basis, enquiries from manufacturers, changes in tech packs that needed to be confirmed and altered, costings that needed be changed and suggestions back and forth how to do so. Along with future work that needed to be secured, errors on deliveries or stock. So transitioning to freelance full time was a very natural step for me especially now, as the nearest lingerie company is a daily 2 hour commute each way which is not feasible with two young children.

If you get the chance to work for companies then I would recommend it, you learn so much and the support and structure is there for you. If you find yourself out of university or in-between jobs and can't find yourself work, then make your own, go freelance, approach companies, do it in your spare time, or intern, and keep updating your portfolio because if you're static you're not trying anything new and your designs and knowledge won't progress.

 

What to write onto Lingerie Patterns

I think we've all done it, drafted out a pattern, only to return back to it and not quite understand which one it was. Or perhaps your more meticulous and want to write all your information onto your pattern but don't know where to start or exactly what to put on it.

what to write on a lingerie pattern

There are usually six basic things you should write:

1. The company name: This is not always necessary if it's just you seeing your patterns, however it may be worth getting into the habit for the future, for when you're sending patterns out, this will save you time rather than going through them all again.

2. Name and/or style number: So, so important, you want to be able to know instantly what pattern you have in your hand.

3. What part is the pattern: What looks recognisable when you're drafting a pattern, may not be so when you get the pattern out again, or when you've cut it out of fabric.

4. How many to cut: Pretty much self explanatory. For bras it's usually 'cut one pair' rather than cut two.

5. The size: Again pretty much self explanatory, if your pattern is dual sizing just write all the sizes on e.g. 32C/34B/36A

6. Direction of Stretch: Usually this will be indicted by 'Grain line'; on the 'Vanjonsson Design' patterns it's stated by 'Direction of stretch' as the lingerie can be made in a number of stretch fabrics, and as I have no idea on the exact fabric you will be using, the 'direction of stretch' ensures that the main stretch of your fabric is going around your body.

(7.) Any extra information like if you need to put the pattern down the fold of the fabric, and seam allowances if you need them written down to remind you. I also when I first started out, would number the patterns, for example if there was four pattern pieces I would write 1/4, 2/4, 3/4, 4/4. Just so I knew I had every pattern piece before I started cutting the fabric, which when it comes to bras you may find yourself with a pile of patterns which may have a tendency to somehow float and fall off the table!  

Full image of information that needs to be written on a lingerie pattern.

Full image of information that needs to be written on a lingerie pattern.

Where it all began... with this soft bra

Where it all began.... I found this beauty amongst a pile of fabric the other day. It was from my first range of my label Vanjo, that was stocked by Topshop. It sold within a week on their website. 

The first ever soft bra to be stocked by them that went up to a FF cup. It was this style of bra that led me to launch my own label. Often labels come from seeing gaps in the market from personal experiences and mine was no different.

Whilst travelling I carried with me a pile of bikinis and two bras, both underwired, one which was padded. I longed for a soft bra, not a sports top, not a beige or white soft bra that was aimed at the older market. I wanted my lingerie to reflect who was, like my clothes did. I wanted to get on an aeroplane and sit in comfort, not to have to undo the bra half way into the flight. I was 30DD/E at the time and didn't really have the option of going braless.

What if I could find amazing printed fabric and make that soft bra I longed for, this was back in 2004 when small backs/bigger boobs didn't have such a market as it does today, and after many trials, I produced this design using Liberty fabric (red with black line drawings of unicorns).

where it all began USP of your lingerie brand

Your USP of your lingerie brand

I have spent the last few weeks tailoring up new designs to launch into patterns, and looking back at this piece, it evokes memories of what Vanjo stood for. To give women the freedom and choice to have a piece of lingerie which caters for them, for fit and function and for their lingerie to be fun, whether you were a C cup (which Vanjo started at) or a FF cup. It was my USP I suppose.

And sometimes when you get knee deep in patterns, with day to day running of a business you sometimes forget of what you once began and what your business stood for. 

So in full circle I'm bringing back this piece to be able, to buy as a pattern in cup sizes. At present it only goes up to FF cup, so let me know if you are interested for it to be available in bigger sizes. And more importantly if you're struggling with your designs - go back to the beginning. Back to why you wanted to start your lingerie brand. Get reacquainted with your passion and your USP.

What's stopping you move ahead?

As we near the end of March, I'm making more plans with what to add to the website and drafting out time to take on and work with new clients. 

But before I start to draft out blogs, books and new patterns, I want to ask a question to you.

"What's stopping you move forward?"

Whether you are an aspiring designer, a home sewer, a student or someone who just loves lingerie.

What do you need help with to move forward? What would you like to see on the blog? More information on sewing techniques? Grading? The basics? Advice on starting up?

How about patterns? What would you like to see? Bigger sizes? Underwire bras? Intricate lingerie patterns?

Are you looking for online courses in lingerie or videos?

Would love to hear your thoughts and give you your next step to help you to move forward with your work.

whats stopping you moving ahead with your lingerie label

A look into "how to become a lingerie designer" book

Each week we look briefly into what each chapter contains in the book

CHAPTER TWELVE: COSTING

This chapter covers the basic way to make a costing, it guides you through measuring elastics and fabrics to working out how much 1 meter of fabric will make. It also gives you an example of a broken-down cost sheet to look at. *Remember the bigger companies will always be able to compete on the costings - look for something else for you company to offer*

working out costings for lingerie

CHAPTER ELEVEN: SAMPLE SPEC SHEETS

This chapter covers what a sample spec sheet, and why it's important to use them for you, it also includes what to put on them. (the book image is from How to write a tech pack for a bra and brief).

how to become a lingerie designer sample sheets

CHAPTER TEN: GRADING 

This chapter covers what grading is, and using the information we gained from chapter nine (specification sheets) and shows you the basic way to grade on a brief pattern. It also covers cross grading - how a bra cup volume 32C can be the same cup volume as a 36A, and when to not use the standard grade.

how to become a lingerie designer - grading

CHAPTER NINE: SPECIFICATION SHEETS

This chapter covers 'what is a spec sheet' why to use them and what goes on them. It also shows you the industry measurements in which the sizes increase or decrease. A lot of people in the industry still manually enter the sizes, which if you then have to change the sample measurement, it takes an age to change the other sizes. This book shows you the formulas you can use on Excel to automatically fill in the sizes. This chapter covers measuring both briefs and bras.

how to write a specification sheet

 

CHAPTER EIGHT: BRA PATTERNS

This chapter  covers starting out with soft bras then looking at underwire bras, and explains the two type of bras, cradle or non cradle. It will also show you, how you can create different looks by just using one pattern. (When running Vanjo I only had one style bra for four years) .

Designing around the bras is the most important aspect of designing, and this chapter will show you the starting point of using your wire to start your pattern.

A look into making a bra pattern in how to become a lingerie designer

CHAPTER SEVEN: PATTERNS

This chapter covers where patterns began, and the joy of using the same pattern to create different looks.

It also looks at  the three methods usually used to create a lingerie pattern:

1. Flat-pattern Method

2. Drafting Method

3. Draping Method 

How to become a lingerie designer - a look at patterns

And all the information that you need to write on a pattern.

For those who need a place to start on pattern making then lingerie patterns can be bought from this website.


CHAPTER SIX: WORKING DRAWINGS

Unlike fashion drawings, working drawings are also known as 'technical drawings', always drawn flat and never from an angle. This chapter looks at basic working drawings, and ones with stitch lines and fabric representation. 

working drawings for lingerie

CHAPTER FIVE: FASHION DRAWINGS

The blog covered how to draw a fashion model, and it covers it in the book as well. This chapter covers the importance of fashion drawings and how they are relevant to the fashion industry today. 

fashions drawings from how to become a lingerie designer

CHAPTER FOUR: SKETCH BOOKS & MOOD BOARDS 

"SKETCH BOOKS ARE NOT ABOUT BEING A GREAT DESIGNER THEY ARE ABOUT BEING A GREAT THINKER" 

This chapter leads you through the importance of keeping a sketchbook. It also covers designing mood boards for lingerie and a list of internet sites to help you create your mood-board if you don't have access to Photoshop or Illustrator.

sketchbooks and moodboards (chapter four) in How to become a lingerie designer

CHAPTER THREE : TARGET MARKET

This chapter looks at analysing the market you're aiming for. It talks about Identifying your target market for your lingerie designs and who you are going to be making and designing for. Covering if you have trouble deciding who is your target market, because at some point I'm sure we've all been in the situation where we have 101 ideas going around in our head.

Three main points that are covered that I think important about the direction of your brand are:

1. Passion: Being passionate will carry you through when you are spending every working minute on your brand.

2. Niche: Designing for your target market means you cut out some of your competitors  

3. Style: A strong style brings recognition and trust from your customers.

Also this chapter covers how to keep on track season after season.

 

target market for my designs from how to become a lingerie designer

CHAPTER TWO : INSPIRATION FOR DESIGNING

This chapter takes a look at where to look for gaining for inspiration for your designs. Inspiration comes to us in many forms for designing, it could be images, photos from magazines, or fabrics. I recommend starting a private Pinterest board and over a course of a couple of weeks pin images that inspire you every day, and then take a look at the end and you should see a style emerging.

inspiration and designing from how to become a lingerie designer

 

Within this chapter is also the low down on copyright laws for your lingerie designs and a list of Lingerie Magazines and Fashion magazines which I've found helpful in the past for inspiration.


 

CHAPTER ONE: Lingerie - A brief History

This chapter takes a look at the lingerie through out history, including Warners buying 'Mary P Jacob' bra design patent, facts about that women were asked to stop wearing corsets and this freed up enough metal to apparently  build two battleships (for WW1).

lingerie a brief history from how to become a lingerie designer

It also looks at the change in shape through out the years that the bra took, with the advanced technology of fabrics and elastics. This chapter takes you through each decade with facts and how the changing shape of the bra and changed the attitude towards lingerie.

It also questions the bras place and function and how women are fitted still using the 4/5+ system. With the garter belt and stocking dying out will the bra follow place? Or do you think it's here to stay?

For those who are obsessed with Vintage lingerie - check out Under Pinnings online lingerie museum, which documents vintage lingerie.


When to give up on a design

Let's talk about quitting on a design, or shelving it for a later time. That design you've invested so much time to, the one which is about finished and if you just maybe work on it for a bit longer give it that final push you can move on to another design right?

Yes? No? Maybe?

This is always a hard one for me, there's the logical aspect of designing and timing then there's the designing which feels right, where you can lose time, get in the flow. I usually follow the second aspect though my head screams at me sometimes, just commit to this idea, it's nearly finished.

I'm there right now, the Harper soft bra, is a pattern I produced last year. I've spent hours on it, making it, fitting it, re-making it, re-fitting it. Changing the pattern so the seam which when into the apex now goes into the underarm for easy sewing. I've graded it, mapped out the pattern pack, and now just need to draw it up and lay it out. So the hours left to invest in this bra is less than the hours I've already committed to it. 

When should I give up on a design

Yet something isn't right. And I don't know what it is. I've even changed the named the name of this bra pattern, it started out as Hemmie, and now it's Harper - to see if it was that (I know right??)

So I'm pulling it. It's standing in my way of new things. Every time I start a new pattern, I keep thinking of the soft bra pattern that I haven't finished. Just get it out the way then I can move on my brain thinks. But every time I head back to it, every alteration is slow, every sewing procedure stalls.  

I've learnt through experience that when this happens, it's best to shelve it. Not get rid. Just put it away ready to head back to it if I so desire. It's by making this choice that I can embrace new patterns to make available, that my work can hopefully speed up to the level I like to work at. 

It's hard letting go of something you've invested so much time to, but once you make that decision, a whole lot of new opportunities become available.

Try it. What have you been stalling on?

Choosing the right needle to sew bras and briefs

You've probably never thought about it but choosing the right needle for sewing the lingerie your about to make is very important. Covered already in a previous post about why your stitches skip - choosing the right needle can equate to beautifully seen lingerie made with ease to, well, not so beautifully sewn lingerie.  

Let's start with the needle widths: different needles are different widths to use on different weights and types of your fabric.  There are two needle sizing systems: the European and the American. The European range from 60 to 120 and the American range from 8 to 20. You will usually see both sizes on the packet. Basically the larger the number the larger the blade  of the needle will be and the heavier the fabric you can sew.

choosing the right needle to sew lingerie

 

As well as all the speciality needles out there the three main types of needles that I use for the majority of my sewing are:

  • Universal needles: These have a slightly rounded tip, and I use this for general purpose sewing for wovens as well as some sturdy knits.
  • Jersey needles: These have a medium ballpoint tip, and I would use these  for knit fabrics. The needle slips between the knit fibres and does not break or damage the fabric while sewing.
  • Stretch needles: These often confused with Jersey needles, they also have a medium ballpoint tip, but these have a special eye (the hole in which you thread the needle)  and scarf (the indentation on the back of the needle - which allows the bobbin hook to grab the thread when it goes under the plate of the machine to create a stitch). These needles are designed for extremely stretchy fabrics and elastic, so applying elastic to lycra etc. It would be this needle that I would use the most.

A look at needle sizes

- 8/60, 9/65, 10/70 use on very fine fabrics such as fine silk, chiffon and fine lace.

- 11/75, 12/80 use on light weight fabrics such as cotton voile, silk and lycra.

- 14/90 use on medium weight fabrics such as cotton, velvet and jersey,

- 16/100 use on heavy fabrics such as denim and leather

You wouldn't really use the next two needles in lingerie but for information

-18/110 use on very heavy fabrics such as upholstery

-20/120 use on fabrics heavier than upholstery

Also remember to change your needle often, the average needle lasts roughly 6-8 hours of sewing use.

Specification sheets and tech sheets digital downloads

One of the common questions I get asked is how to set out a specification sheet, or a technical pack, and although some of you know what information to put in them, it's sometimes the lay out that seems to eat up your time. 

With that in mind you can now finally download a template for both sheets. 

The specification sheet pack consists of three sheets which includes a bra and briefs specification sheet. On one sheet is the 'Point of measurement' references which will guide you where you need to measure (ie centre front/waist relaxed etc) then the other sheets are blank for your own measurements if they differ from the ones given. 

Spec and tech sheets digital downloads

The technical pack sheets comprises of eight sheets and contains detailed bra and brief industry standard pages for you to use, and record your designs. As well as the construction page there is also a fabric page and packaging page for factory references. This pack is suitable if you are wanting to record and log your designs so you can come back for future reference. It's also laid out so it suitable for hand over to a manufacturer to get your garments made.

* Please note that both packs only contain the layouts of the specification sheet and technical pack, they do not contain how to write them or detailed information of what exactly to put on them. This information can be found in the following books:

How to Spec a bra and brief and How to write a Bra and Brief tech pack. which can be bought as a hard copy or as a digital down load.

 

 

Lingerie Pattern Information

For an over view of seeing all the lingerie patterns available in one place, they are as follows:

lingerie pattern information

The Betsy - is perfect for beginners, and for those who are skilled sewers then this brief is superb for playing around using stretch fabrics and trims. Comprising of just a front, back and gusset pattern the 'Betsy' lingerie pattern will be a treasured staple for you to design and make and sew a treasured lingerie staple, again and again.

The Harriet - This retro high waisted brief is inspired by the 1950s and offers a full coverage smoothing and accentuates curves. The Harriet lingerie pattern is a flattering panelled brief, which allows you to mix bolder and bigger prints of fabric to really make a statement in what lingerie you wear.

The Tippi - This is a classic 'Vanjo' lingerie pattern, for those who bought Vanjo lingerie in the past. This brief sits low and has all the detail in the back. The back lingerie pattern panel is split in two, with a centre bottom panel of the brief, so if you choose to use a contrasting mesh for this panel it creates a 'cheeky' window at the back of the brief. There are unlimited number of fabric options that can be used with this lingerie pattern, whether you are wanting a clean dynamic look, or a pretty delicate feel this brief can incorporate either look.