flat pack products to cut & sew

Pattern Matters & the Aesthetics of Joy

Sally CookeComment
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Reading about Fairtrade and sustainable fashion recently I came across some tips for designing more sustainably. They included using neutral materials that don’t date so quickly. This is very valid advice. It’s also been influential. You’ll have noticed a rise in the use of block colours and neutral tones, simple stripes and checks in recent years and there’s definitely a connection here. Of course, without taking other factors into account there’s no guarantee that these more ‘neutral’ fabrics are any ‘better’ than any others in terms of their production values, social and environmental impact, or durability. But still it made me think about the purpose of print pattern and it’s place in our lives.

 Recent research tells us that an item of clothing purchased in the UK lasts on average around two and a half years in a wardrobe. Sorting my own wardrobe recently, ahead of a long anticipated trip to the wonderful Leeds Community Clothes Exchange, I identified lots of thing that I’ve had four or more times that long. In most cases the reason I bought and still wear these clothes is not because they are cutting edge fashion (many of them were already second hand when I bought them) but because their patterns and colours bring me joy. My attachment to them could be described as a kind of emotional durability ie. the garments stick around longer because they add value in terms of the joy bring me. 

 People across cultures and over centuries have decorated their clothes for a whole variety of reasons - a means of expression, to signal status or social allegiances, or simply to express joy. And I realise that’s what pattern is about for me – an expression of joy and vibrancy. Joyful patterns put a smile on my face and a spring in my step and on a good day this can change the way I experience the world for the better. This all started to make sense when I read Ingrid Fetell Lee’s book Joyful. In this beautiful book Fetell Lee explores the aesthetics of joy. Through some extensive and varied research, she unearths the things people across cultures seem to find joyful. As she expands on ideas of colour, harmony and abundance etc. I started to get excited to see written down things that influence my own design practice. I am always looking for a balance between order and chaos in the patterns I design. I love multiples of similar but non-identical shapes in repeat. I also love organic, rough or wonky edges that show a sign of the human hand in the process. These are the things that spark joy for me and in Joyful Fetell Lee goes some way to explaining why. 

 The trick then, to designing for longevity, may be to focus on what is joyful and not just what’s ‘on trend’. I think you can see this in the enduring patterns of companies like Marimekko, whose Unikko and Kivet prints have been favourites over years (even decades!). I’d love to know what you think…

Top Five Sewing Tips...

Sally CookeComment
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Every flat pack kit we send out includes a Basic Guide to Hand and Machine Sewing in addition to the instructions for the kit itself. This basic guide covers things like useful stitches, seam finishing and pressing - all practical advice based on years of sewing and making mistakes. At the end I included my top five tips for getting good results, which are:

  • always use good sharp pair of scissors when cutting fabric

  • before sewing, double check you have the right sides of the fabric facing each other (unless the instructions say otherwise)

  • secure the beginning and end of every seam and cut off loose threads as you go

  • press each seam carefully with the tip of the iron once it is sewn

  • take your time - follow the instructions step by step and you should get good results

Of course the last one doesn’t work if you’re sewing for Patrick and Esme on The Great British Sewing Bee - it makes me sweat just watching them! I’m a slow fashion advocate and that includes a firm belief that sewing is definitely at it’s most pleasurable when taken at a relaxed pace.

I’ve recently been asking people what they would add to my list. So, I’d really like to know:

  • If you’re a practiced sewist, what’s the best advice you were ever given?

  • If you’re a beginner or just sew-curious (ie. yet to take the plunge), what kind of advice would most help you?

My first couple of responses where:

“Keep calm and cut carefully’” and “Use the notches’’ - both are excellent pieces of advice. The first is self-explanatory. The sewists version of the old home DIY/carpenter’s maxim '‘measure twice, cut once”. The second, requires a little bit of explanation for the uninitiated. Notches are marks round the edge of a pattern that you transfer to your fabric when cutting it out. They help you to line pieces up correctly before sewing them together and are vital to certain parts of a make, especially a well attached sleeve.

I can see this becoming a top 100 tips. What would yours be?

Fast Fashion is a Feminist Issue...

Sally CookeComment

In celebration of International Women’s Day 2019, which also falls at the end of #fairtradefortnight I thought I’d share some of my views on fast fashion and why it’s excesses prompted me to create sallysally flat-pack cut-and-sew products.

 One of my motivations for designing products that help people make their own clothes, is because for centuries people (and by people I mean predominantly women) have been exploited by the clothing industry. Often forced to work on low pay in dangerous and inhumane conditions. The argument often used to justify this is that working for clothing manufacturers gives women jobs they wouldn’t otherwise have. But the question is at what cost? And this isn’t just the case for workers in countries where wages and the cost of living in general are lower either, exploitation is alive and kicking in the UK too. The UK Parliament’s recent Environmental Audit Committee report Fixing Fashion: Clothing Consumption & Sustainabilityfound garment workers in the UK being paid less than half the National Minimum Wage.

 I’m not saying that all mainstream clothes brands are exploitative or that the alternative is that we all make our own clothes – there are many stories of past drudgery here too. But, I do know that lots of people gain real enjoyment from making clothes for themselves and that many more would if only they knew how. Once you know what it takes to make a garment it’s hard not to question who is really paying the price for our fast fashion purchases. And why would I want to line the pockets of the likes of Philip Green at the expense of wonderful talented women around the world anyway?

 Designing flat-pack clothing kits was just part of my response to all this. I definitely see fast fashion is a feminist issue. If we want to change the fashion industry where better to start than at home with what we do and what we buy. There are lots of great resources out there to help inform us about the change that needs to happen, find brands that meet our values, and join the most exciting of campaign for change

Making your own cloths can also be a form of sustainable fashion activism. If you want to learn to sew and make for yourself, there’s lots of help out there too – local classes, great new indie pattern designs and the mighty YouTube, which is full of helpful sewing tutorials. And of course, if you want a little extra help to get started, our flat-pack cut-and-sew kits are specifically designed to make it easy and fun for anyone to make their first garment – no sweat(shop)!

Happy International Women’s Day Everyone

 #internationalwomensday #fastfashionisafeministissue #fairtradefortnight

sallysally - so good they named it twice!

Sally Cooke
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I’ve been asked more than once why I called my business sallysally. Here’s my top six reasons:

  1. When the business was just an idea and my best mate’s husband was explaining domain names to me, he said ‘if your business was called sallysally for example…’ and we all agreed it wasn’t a bad name for a business…. Some wine had been drunk!

  2. A few months later, I pitched my idea as part of a business Summer School at Leeds Arts University using sallysally as the project’s pet name. People seemed to take the name to heart and I won a business mentoring award...

  3. I looked up the definition for the term ‘to sally forth’. It means ‘to leave a safe place in a brave or confident way in order to do something difficult’ which is 100% what starting a business feels like…

  4. Also, I’m sure I heard or read somewhere that it’s not what your brand is called but what it says that matters. I may have misheard but I knew I had plenty to say so I took this as a green light…

  5. When it came to the point that I had to commit – to domain names, labels, marketing etc. - every other name I came up with was compromised in some way – so sallysally became a thing…

  6. Now some people read the name ‘salllysally’ and say to me ‘so good they named it twice’ which sounds like a mission and that’s good enough for me!

Maker of the Month!

UpdatesSally Cooke
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I am very excited to be featured as Maker of the Month in the November issue of The Simple Things magazine. Thanks to the lovely Louise Garrod who also blogs, bakes and photographs at It's great to be seen in the company of Seasalt, Boden and Toast as well as other smaller brands on this wish list. The magazine is on sale in supermarkets (Waitrose, Tescos & Sainsburys) and WH Smiths - so I am hoping it will introduce me to lots of lovely people just in time for Christmas.