Guest post by Stefaney Rants
Business: CUT/SEW Patternmaking
Owners: Madison May
Years in Business: ~1 year
I can safely say the common thread among all the Makers at Maker Faire Orlando is, passion.  It takes passion to create an idea into reality.  Another commonality is often a leap of faith.  Innovators take risks, take chances and have a burning desire to provide their niche idea to the world.  If it weren’t for these people we would have missed out on many inventions and products that make our life easier and more beautiful.
Madison from Cut/Sew Patternmaking is revolutionizing traditional pattern making.  As a sewer myself, I am familiar with how difficult pattern reading can be and how detrimental that is to learning something new.  One of the first things you want to do as a new sewer is build your confidence.  You want to learn your machine, you want to learn a few skills, and you want to make an item right off the bat.  Madison is taking the guess work out of sewing and has created patterns that appeal to Cosplayer’s which leaves more room for imagination and less time being frustrated.
With that said, if you’re a sewer be sure to see her booth at Maker Faire Orlando this weekend at the Central Florida Fairgrounds.  And if you’re NOT a sewer, be sure to see her booth!  She is on the verge of introducing a new generation to sewing and is bringing back to life such a beautiful art and practical skill.  Cut/Sew Patternmaking will make a sewer out of us, yet!
1.  A brief overview of your background.
I come from a fashion educational background and a costume design professional background, which is a really great way to get a quick-and-dirty garment making skill set. I learned how to pattern and sew “the right way” in school, graduating from the Pratt Institute in New York City, and while I was there I interned, snuck into, and bullied my way into experience in costume shops for music, television, and Broadway productions, which completely upturned my notion of “the right way” to make clothes. There are all these wonderfully creative hacks, tricks, and cheats that are used in the industry to make gorgeously artful costumes, and that whole concept of deconstructing the process that you already know to better suit demand is a huge influence on CUT/SEW.
2.  How did you come up with the idea or how did you get involved in that industry?
I moved to Orlando in 2014 and was working at a costume shop where I was patterning for theme parks and cruise lines, and so many of the industry professionals I encountered at all of these high-profile places generally had the same thing to say about commercial sewing patterns: they’re a nightmare and even people who sew for a living can’t really figure them out. While I was working there, I had a lot of friends in the area who were avid cosplayers and I kept hearing these major complaints about the kinds of sewing patterns available from both a design and from a usability perspective, so really for more than a year I was surrounded by people who were telling me that these products already out there don’t work, and I’m one of the few people who know how to make the products themselves. After a lot of nervous hand-wringing, within a few months I quit my job and starting working on what would become CUT/SEW patterns.
3.  What is the process/materials used?
Our patterns are made in a hyper unconventional way for the 21st century because we make them the “old fashioned way” – at least up to a point. Most major pattern companies today make their patterns from scratch using specialized computer programs, and then print out that digital pattern onto paper to make samples and generate their final product. We work almost entirely on paper and the human body, draping our designs onto a dress form, making our initial pattern from those drapes, and then sewing samples which we fit multiple times on a variety of body types to make sure they’re flexible for a multitude of sizes. Only once that entire hands-on process is done do we digitize our patterns and get them ready for production.
Production for us means printing small batches of patterns in-house on a 36” wide format printer, and we intentionally print on durable 30 lb bond paper rather than the flimsy wax paper that most patterns usually come on so our customers can actually reuse our patterns and get more bang for their buck.
4.  How is your business different than other competitors or do you even have competitors, are you a niche?
There aren’t many independent sewing pattern companies domestically, and the market for what we do is very much overshadowed by the huge corporations like McCall’s and Simplicity who a lot of people see as the only available option for sewing patterns. I wouldn’t call us competitors for giants like that, but we do strike a niche in that we make patterns geared towards people who want to dress up, whether it’s in cosplay or in niche street fashion styles. We offer patterns for looks that are contemporary, but not limited to just one type of person the way commercial patterns are, and our goal is to take patterns out of the “crafty grandma” sector and make people think of sewing as the frantic art that it really is, all while making it incredibly accessible.
Our biggest difference from the rest of the pattern world is that we offer truly beginner-friendly patterns, with simplified instructions free of terminology and complicated lingo, and a streamlined, no-need-to-decode supply list. We’ve really worked hard to improve in all of the areas where traditional patterns fall short – our patterns are reusable, easy to make, with lots of unisex options and in styles you actually want to wear – and we work very closely with our customers and community to design new patterns so we’re really filling in the gaps that the rest of the pattern world has left open.
5.  What businesses or other organizations in the Florida area have assisted along the way or do you belong to?
CUT/SEW is a bit of a dark horse simply because we’re such a niche product, and a lot of the places that we’ve approached for various reasons have not fully understood exactly what it is we make and have been hesitant to get involved. As a business, we’ve really pulled ourselves up by our boot straps and turned a small team into an army – we handle all of our own finances, promotions, packaging, distribution, and more – so we’re extremely independent in that regard.
6.  Any patents, revolutionary technique, technology or something that makes you stand out?
The way we make our patterns is an heirloom technique, but we’ve reworked and modernized the way our customers interact with the patterns themselves to make learning to sew faster and easier. Updating patterns to coalesce with technology is a huge deal for us, simply because tech has moved so far so quickly and sewing patterns seem to be the only product on the face of the earth that hasn’t caught up.
One of our unique offerings is a custom size calculator for all of our patterns, meaning that by scanning a QR code on the back of the pattern tag you can enter your measurements and our website automatically calculates your size. We’ve also merged the worlds of traditional store-bought patterns and e-patterns by providing digital sewing instructions and complete email support for every pattern, so we can answer any sewing questions that may be hanging you up.
7.  You obviously do this because you’re passionate about it.  Was there a leap of faith you took to get to this point that might inspire others to do the same?
Without a doubt, deciding to turn this idea into a reality was the most difficult decision I’ve ever made and has given me the most stressful and demanding year of my entire life. There’s uncertainty everywhere when you decide to start a business; You’re responsible for a laundry list of new and terrifying things – some of which you have no experience with whatsoever – and you’re also responsible for fending off the constant mental chatter of “Will people like what I’m offering? Will this ever be able to pay the bills? Where will my next meal come from in the meantime?” I read a lot of self-help books in those first few months and was clipping coupons like it was going out of style.
Without a doubt, though, it’s all completely worth it. Nothing keeps me going like hearing from people “This is brilliant, how can I help?” and seeing strangers light up when I tell them what it is exactly that we make. The reception we’ve had has been beyond anything I could have ever expected, and even though we’re still slowly growing as a company, that kind of emotional support keeps me going and drives me to work harder for these people who actually, amazingly, somehow want what I make. They want to make the things I make, which is crazy and cool and fantastic all at once, and I want nothing more than to give people the tools to dress up, go out there, and conquer the world.
Madison May
Creative Director
CUT/SEW Patternmaking
Written By
Stefaney Rants, Guest Blogger