An interview with Marilla Walker

Marilla Walker Sewing Patterns selection on table














This merry month of (Me Made)* May, I'm really delighted to add some new patterns to our shop - welcome to the designs of Marilla Walker!

Now you know I am very selective about the things I sell.  As my business grows, I still want to keep the focus on selling goods by other small businesses, designers and makers.  And I also wanted to bring back some focus to garment making, which I suppose is my first love and something that excites me the most - making your own clothes is very empowering and creative!

So Marilla's patterns seemed a great fit - she runs her own micro business here in the UK, with an emphasis on wearable but unique patterns that can be adapted and customised in many ways to suit your own style - just up my street!
She often shows her pattern journey through Instagram, adapting and tweaking styles until the pattern is ready for production.  The designs are then presented in her uniquely hand printed packaging alongside a very detailed instruction booklet - they are very much a labour of love! 

We have started off with some of Marilla's most popular designs and will be stocking new releases and updates in the future, so I thought I'd introduce her further with a little QnA session to find out more about her process and plans for future releases....

Grace - I think you were one of the first people I found on IG all those years ago and it's been wonderful to see how your pattern designs have developed from something truly personal to a unique small business.  Did you always have the intention of making commercial patterns or did it develop in other ways?

Marilla - Aw, that’s very nice of you to say and likewise watching your business grow! I have been involved in sewing in one way or another since I left school but didn’t really have much experience with home sewing patterns until a year or two before starting my business. I used to make my own patterns as a teenager or buy vintage but learnt how to draft professionally whilst studying fashion at university in my mid-twenties. Prior to that I worked as a factory sewing machinist and then a curtain maker, but fashion was always my main interest. 

image - young Marilla at her machine

At uni we were always being taught with the expectation that we would go on to work in the fashion industry, which I did kind of, but not in a creative capacity. It was only whilst on maternity leave that I discovered the online sewing community, and it was a revelation. Starting my sewing pattern business has enabled me to explore my design ideas without having to produce physical garments for sale and selling patterns is great as the creativity doesn’t end with me. It continues with the end user in fabric choices and pattern hacks, so it’s a very fulfilling way of sharing ideas

Pattern instruction writing has been a steep learning curve as everybody absorbs information differently. I have developed a style over the years to include a lot more technical and visual detail and my enjoyment of the writing process has grown with confidence in my ability and experience.

G - I love your ethos of reusing materials, mending and making do with what you have, which comes across not just in your garments but in your whole approach to your home and everyday life.  Has this always been your approach to making?

M - Definitely! I grew up in a family where making do and re-using was a way of life. My Dad spent years collecting old fence posts until he had enough to turn them into a picnic bench for the garden, ha ha! When my dad and I spent a day experimenting with stained glass one time, he cut copper strips from an old water tank to wrap around the glass. We had to keeping heating it and hammering it until it was thin enough to use rather than buy ready-made copper tape. Dad was always finding ways to make do and has been a big inspiration to me in that respect. Affordability of and access to materials when I started sewing were not like they are for me now, but all those factors make me resourceful in the present day and limiting materials often leads to surprising and exciting results!

images - a shoe repair and chandelier repurpose










G - What are the main changes you have seen in the sewing community over the past few years and which ones do you find most positive?

M - The main changes I suppose are that Instagram is now the main platform for sharing creations rather than blogging and how many sub-communities are popping up. There is much more opportunity for conversations around inclusivity which has exposed how underrepresented members of the greater community have felt. I think we are all richer for knowing this and I hope it’s becoming a place where everyone can feel heard, seen and valued. Sewing is about inclusion and tailoring to our individual preferences after all.

For me, the conversation around size inclusivity has had the most impact on how I design. I have adjusted my process so that going forward I can create styles that fit more bodies which feels great!

Image - Marilla in a bright skirt and bag outfit














G - I know that we share a love of vintage styles and an appreciation of lovely details and styling - how would you describe your own approach to your wardrobe and what are your best loved items?

M - Oh gosh, my approach is basically to inject bright colour and texture to my outfits, even just a small amount. I am really drawn to warm, natural fibres like wool and linen, but am also a magpie and can’t resist shiny things. 

I am highly influenced by shapes from the fifties. It was such a great time for fashion. Fit and flare dresses, cocoon shapes, the rising popularity of women wearing jeans. So much happening!

Personally, my current favourite pieces are my Belemnite dresses, especially in linen. A dress is an outfit and doesn’t require too much thought and I feel good in it, so it’s become a bit of a uniform.

Image - Marilla in a Belemnite dress














What is on the cards for future pattern releases or are there any other ideas or projects that you'd love to work on?

My Anning dress pattern is coming very soon. It’s a vintage smock style shirtdress pattern and I can’t get enough of it.

I also have a re-release of a coat later this year from the very early days of my pattern business. I say re-release, but it is a different pattern at this point, and I am so proud of how much better the instructions will be this time round with the fantastic addition of being more size inclusive.

The last couple of years of the pandemic really took me away from designing. I turned to growing vegetables instead as it felt important for my well-being to continue to be productive in some way. Happily, I have been able to return to designing and growing vegetables continues alongside everything else.

As for projects I would love to work on, I am looking forward to getting more patterns out in my extended size range. Maybe a range of sewing patterns aimed at fellow gardeners in the future?

G - Well I am definitely here for that!  I can't wait to see your new pattern soon and thanks so much Marilla for taking the time to answer my questions! I have my Belemnite cut and ready to sew so watch this space....

You can find Marilla's patterns here in the shop.  If any are out of stock, please get in touch and we can pre-order them for you.

* Find out all about Me Made May here

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