Designer spotlight: Bad sewing habits and other stories with Lisa Lam.

For those who don’t know, Lisa is the creative and successful U-Handbag author/designer. Accordingly with the lady herself, it all started as happy accident. She run a market stall while deciding what to do as a career, had a strong handmade background taught by her mother and a big passion for it. As all creatives, the desire to create and evolve move them to approach their talents in different directions. Today we are having a chit chat about all things new…
HOP:  Hi Lisa, welcome to HOP. 
 
Your bag expertise and knowledge is widely known and much loved. 
 
LL: Thanks! 
 
HOP: You mention previously that Mabel (your adorable daughter) was one of the reasons that turned you a new direction- far too much pink and girly-ness and not much choice for mums… 
 
How would you describe your design aesthetic? 
 
LL:My design asthenic…I’d say: it is largely unfussy (I don’t like large doses of frilly frou frou), it is versatile (I’m a painfully pragmatic person so I love most items in my life to perform well in as many situations as possible), I LOVE juxtaposition (I’m ra-ra skirts with chunky boots, or scruffy dungarees with delicate ballet pumps kind of girl.  
 
If I’m wearing pink I have to team it with charcoal grey.  And I’m never on trend, I don’t how to be on trend and (I think on an unconscious level) I prefer not to be? 
HOP: Many designers discover a niche by personal experience.  what did you learn from this new design experience as a designer and as a mother?  
 
LL:Very true Rachel, it’s the best way.  I’ve learned loads!  It was great learning experience that has really widened my horizons.  I mean, I have done dressmaking before, but I have never been as motivated to see dressmaking projects to fruition as I have for Mabel.  
 
Source: Lisa Lam
 
My experience as a designer (of bags) has given me a very useful problem solving mentality.  If I want to design something that is not immediately forthcoming I will stubbornly think it over and over (and over) until I can find a design solution.  
 
It was lovely and really interesting designing specifically for someone I love as opposed to an audience of people who may wear one of my bags.  I think a mother designer has to temper her wish to ‘design fabulous’ with the time it will take to create the item she has designed.  I’m sure the older her child/children become the more time she can spend (I hope!) 
 
Source: Lisa Lam
HOP: Can you tell my readers a little more about the design process? Your process, inspirations, studio day to day etc 
 
LL: The process usually starts outside of my workroom, I keep a little notebook me that I fill with scribbles and I snap pics.  For the dress patterns I gleaned lots of inspiration from chatting with other mums about what they’d wish was available in the shops. 
 
I approach most of my design work this way: so I begin the process by asking my customer/readers what they’d wish for. Often, I find that in the reader comments certain themes crop up again and again. So I then take the most recurring themes and use them as a basis on which to design whatever.  At the moment I really don’t have a typical design day.  As many mums will tell you I try to fit work around naps and nursery.  I don’t want to focus as much on my work whilst she is still so young – she is growing up way too fast as it is!  I still call her ‘Baby’. 
 
 Collage made with pictured from: Lisa Lam
HOP:Your new patterns (Happiness  halter Playsuit and Dance with me dress) look very versatile, allowing the dressmaker to create their own interpretation. What fabrics would you recommend them to try?   
 
LL: Thanks! Versatility is important.   I think that quilt weight cottons are a great combination of colour, pattern and durability.  Yes, it’s true that quilt weight isn’t the most delicate fabric on their skin, but is softens with washing and it does withstand play dates and nursery! 
 
Source: Lisa Lam
HOP:Your patterns show a lot of care and attention and I love the colour photographs over the instructions. You don’t assume people know stuff, which I think It’s great.
 
Do you think the experience you had designing bags influenced how you wanted this new product line?  
 
LL:Thanks again!  Yes absolutely. In my bag design I’ve found that provided the bag looks good and is potentially great to use, folks are happier to attempt a (rather involved) pattern if only the instructions are comprehensive.  
 
And I know that folks love accompanying instruction photos.  This is why I deliberately do not grade my patterns with a level of difficulty. Instead I try to make my instructions as complete as poss and make the photos as helpful as poss. I do this the hope that more folks will try my patterns (by not being deterred by a skill rating).   People are so happy with themselves after they see projects through to the end – and when they tell me how proud of themselves it give me a bit of a (maternal) buzz!  Hehe! 
HOP: I am curious to know what is like being part of the sewing community designer industry?
 
LL:Well, it’s really nice being asked this question!  It’s wonderful!!! The craft industry is unique in that it is populated by some of the nicest people you could hope to work for and with.   I guess I feel two things: firstly I feel incredibly lucky that folks like what I do.  I love my work and to have a warm, responsive audience for my work is really amazing; secondly, I am slightly uncomfortable with the ‘sewing designer’ title. I think I am ordinary mum person who along with thousands of others enjoys making her own contribution to the craftiverse.   
 
I’m a bit of wallflower at parties; it’s only at craft meets/book signings etc. I can be a mad party animal.  That said, I am ridiculously passionate about the craft movement, it’s brought so much positivity to my life that it is very much part of my identity – so if my being known as a Sewing Designer’ has the affect of encouraging folks to join the movement  (whilst at the same time keeping me in employment) than great, it’s all good!   
HOP:What’s your secret (or not-so secret) sewing bad habit ?
 
Errr, the WS of my work often looks like a dogs dinner!  Provided my seams aren’t going to unravel I’m not too worried about looking neat behind the scenes (of course with bags this doesn’t matter so much, with clothes it really does!) 
 
Editors note: That is great to know… how many of us do that!
 
HOP: What is next for you  professionally? 
 
I have to keep it a secret, but I will say it’s scarier than writing books.  But I am going to go for it anyway, I’m always telling my readers to give things a try and not be frightened of making mistakes – so it follows I should be willing to take my own advice!  
 
Source: Lisa Lam
 
Thank you so much Lisa, I wish you all the best in your new venture. I will keep you posted on the progress of Izzy’s closet. 
 
Lisa two new patterns booklets:Dance With Me Dress and  Happiness Halter Playsuit are out now.  
 
Editors note: I have recently became a godmother and cannot wait to fill my goddaughter (Izzy) wardrobe. I’m making the happiness halter playsuit- dress version. 
 
 
Sewing for kids can be addictive… I have made a few things for my nephews: Fox soft toy, Monster truck pillow, I spy tent and a baby bag.
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