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Canadian Pattern Designer tour: Interview with Jalie Patterns

interviewjalie

Today and for the next couple days I’ll be showcasing Jalie Patterns. Today is my interview with Émilie Fournier of Jalie, who are located just outside of Quebec City.

Jalie Patterns have a huge selection of patterns with a large size range included in each pattern. Many, if not most, of the women’s patterns, for example, also include the full range of girl sizes as well. Their patterns are available in print and PDF, although not all are available as PDFs at the moment. One interesting difference with their shop, that I haven’t seen done anywhere else, is that their instructions are downloadable before you even purchase their patterns!

I have to be honest with you all, I was so so nervous about approaching Jalie Patterns (and if I’m really honest, I was nervous about approaching all of the designers, lol). They’re a more established pattern company (they started producing paper patterns in 1983) and so I assumed that they were a large company a la Vogue or something. But no! They’re as Indie as they get with the mother and daughter team of Jeanne and Émilie taking care of pattern design to pattern testing and everything in between! And super approachable, Émilie did not hesitate at all to answer my questions. Read on for the full interview.

I noticed on the About page that Jalie started out by offering knitwear patterns that could be made without a serger. Was Jalie always only a pattern company or did Jalie offer finished products in the beginning and then evolve from there?

Back in 1983, knit remnants were the cheapest fabrics in stores. Jeanne (my mom) would visit local fabric stores looking for cheap fabric options. Nobody knew how to sew those knits that would sell for a few cents per pound and she could not afford a serger. She took a pile home and started experimenting until she found a way to make sturdy seams that could stretch. She made turtlenecks, t-shirts, tights, swimsuits for herself and would make me miniature versions of her garments for me. Needless to say that we stood out :) Everyone would ask her where she bought my little outfits and others would ask her for tips and tricks. She started teaching and quickly had 100 students per week eager to learn how to make swimwear, jogging suits, hats…

For her classes, she had to draft patterns for every class and would have people trace their size that they would take home as their « homework”. People asked her why she wouldn’t print and sell her patterns. It had never crossed her mind! She founded Jalie and started making patterns, printing on the xerox machine in her bedroom. The company grew, but always remained in the family house.

 

They have a diverse range of patterns. Featured are #2680, #2920, #3027
They have a diverse range of patterns. Featured are #2680, #2920, #3027

 

Can you describe a typical day at Jalie?

My job is wonderful because every day is different! Everything but pattern printing is done is house: Pattern drafting, prototyping, photo shoots, ordering, customer service, packaging, storing… Being only two means that we have to multi-task!

I usually start the day by answering emails and picking orders. Then I either work on instructions/pre-press work while Jeanne works on the patterns or sews in the studio downstairs. At the end of the day, I sometimes pick up Éléonore at daycare and bring her to the office (aka Grand-Maman’s house) to try on some prototypes Jeanne made during the day.

Do you remember the first thing you ever sewed? How did it go?

I framed a piece of fabric with the first buttons I sewed when I was 3. I grew up around the sewing machines and remember that I was allowed to use whatever was in the bins. I loved to make dresses for my Barbies with those acrylic sweater knits remnants and could play under the cutting table all day.  Jeanne always trusted me and would let me experiment and work with every machine. The fact that I have always seen her so at ease, making everything look soooo easy, it gave me a lot of confidence and I always felt that everything is possible (except cutting chiffon in a straight line :)).

 

Most of my sewing is now for pattern testing. If I can make it, any intermediate sewer can make it! Whenever Jeanne thinks a step is tricky, she sketches the instructions and sends me to the sewing room without any info to see how I will do. If I struggle, she figures out another, easier way.
Photo courtesy of Emilie Fournier of Jalie Patterns
Photo courtesy of Emilie Fournier of Jalie Patterns

 

Since this is a Canada Day inspired blog tour, I’d like to learn a little bit about Saint-Romuald. Is there one place (either a landmark, shop, restaurant, etc) in Saint-Romuald (or in a town nearby) that you always recommend to new visitors?

Saint-Romuald (now Levis) is on the South Shore of Quebec City. Old Levis has by far the best view of Old Quebec.  I always recommend visitors (who usually stay on the North Shore) to take the ferry to cross the St-Lawrence river, stop in Levis for a soft ice cream dipped in the chocolate at Chocolats Favoris on Begin Avenue and take the ferry back to Old Quebec before sunset, to get the best view of Chateau Frontenac. It is also lovely at sunrise! 

Quebec City is known as a “winter” city, with it’s Carnaval de Québec in February but July is by far my favorite month, with its music festival and tons of activities. The kids love walking on the cobblestone streets and climbing on cannons on Terrasse Dufferin, one of our favorite spots.

[Ula’s note: Next time I visit Quebec City I will definitely check these out! I love that I’m fairly close!]

Is there any other place in Canada that you like to visit or that you have ever dreamed of visiting?

We visit my husband’s family in Ottawa regularly. I love that city and are usually in the area around Canada Day. I also lived in Montreal for five years. I really miss the city vibe, the long walks on lively streets, little shops, great cafés and bakeries, Portuguese chicken, hearing French and English all the time. Montreal is fantastic and anyone visiting Quebec City has to stop by Montreal!

I have always dreamed of renting an RV and crossing the country from East to West. We will probably do it when the kids are a little bit older. If I had to pick only one city to visit, Vancouver is on top of my list.

Do you think that being from Quebec has an influence on your designs?

Until 1998, we sold patterns almost exclusively in the province of Quebec, but now we sell to people from all over the world. We used to have more outerwear for Quebec winters, but we now prefer focusing on staple pieces that everyone can make.

Quebecois people are known for their entrepreneurial spirit and creativity. I think that shows in the way the garments are constructed. Jeanne does not stick to conventions or standards. She likes what is efficient and practical, not what is usually found in formal sewing books. She truly believes that there is always a quicker, better way to achieve a professional result without spending days working on a garment or hand stitching.

Pattern #3133. So cute! Wish I had found this before Miss V had grown out of the sizes :(
Pattern #3133. So cute! Wish I had found this before Miss V had grown out of the sizes :( Love those little puff sleeves!

What are your top 3 favourite sewing or creative resources? (books, websites, etc)

1) Everyday life
We sometimes have great suggestions, but cannot find the right angle to make designs right, we don’t know exactly how to implement it. Then there is the eureka effect, the aha moment!
Here a few examples:

– We had a lot of demand for a cloth diaper pattern, but we only we ahead when Henri was born. I was in a fancy store looking at $35 diapers and  remembered those requests. It was then the best timing possible to test the numerous prototypes and we went ahead with pattern 2907.

– Same thing for the nursing top (when Eleonore was born). Jeanne could tweak some tops, but when I realized that my friends had to pay fortunes for ill-fitting nursing tops we knew it was time for a nursing top!

-Then came the 3242 underwear pattern. It was supposed to be a men’s pattern only, but Éléonore was potty trained around the same time and I realized that there was nothing in store on in current patterns that fitted well on tiny little girls like her. We had to include that in the pattern!

– For 2918, my husband is very tall and had a hard time finding fitted, t-shirts in store for his long torso. Henri inherited the long torso gene and had the same fitting issue from age 1! It was enough motivation for Jeanne to create the men’s t-shirt pattern!

 2) Friends and customers requests

When my mother-in-law complained about swim skirts and said that she was wearing running shorts at the pool, we knew there were probably many people out there that were also looking for swim short. That’s how 3351 was created.

When a customer (who became a friend over the years) begged us to make a rhythmic gymnastics leotard because she had to dress elite teams but grading was just taking too much of her time, we were hesitant at first because the sport is not very popular in Quebec. We discussed a lot with her to make sure the leotard would be exactly what gymnasts needed and 3026 came along.

3) Pattern Review

I think the first Jalie review was written back in 2003 on PatternReview. I always read the Jalie reviews and try to follow some discussions on the forums. All that detailed feedback written by people who love sewing is so constructive! It somehow reflects in each pattern we make, from design and fit to instructions. I love seeing what people make, how they adapt, transform, reinvent some designs.

What is your #1 sewing tip or trick?

“Make a muslin first as-is, using a fabric that has the right stretch and weight, then figure out what need to be fixed.” Too many people overthink the project and alter the pattern before even starting. If the fit is not right, they cannot tell if the problem is with the pattern or because of their alteration… Knits being very forgiving, it is sometimes surprising to see how well something fits, right out of the envelope.

It was mentioned in previous emails that you will be launching a new website. Can you tell me a bit about it? Do you have any new pattern releases in the works you’d like to mention?

A few months ago, I was shocked when I read « I do not buy from Jalie, I prefer buying from Indie pattern companies ». Many sewists think we are a big company. Actually, it does not get more indie than mother-and-daughter-working-from-the-family-house :) The new website will give people a better look at who is behind Jalie, how our patterns are different from others and showcase more of our customers creations. We will have  « pattern stash » and « wish list » features for people to keep track of what they own and what they would like to add to their collection :) Finally, we will make the PDF file management more intuitive and easier to use. The new website should be up and running before July 1st!

You can read more about Jalie Patterns here. You can find them on Facebook, Pinterest, Youtube

These bloggers will be sharing their versions of a Jalie pattern:

June 4th: Shaffer Sisters – June 5th: Call Ajaire – June 6th: hibbadoray

(For the full schedule go here)

Enter to win 1 pattern of choice from Jalie in the Rafflecopter below.

Giveaway closes June 7th at 12am EDT.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

There are more prizes to be won! Giveaway and prize details for the Grand Prize and Second Prize can be found here. Sew up a pattern from one of the featured designers and you could win the Grand Prize!!
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Ula writes for Lulu & Celeste

27 thoughts on “Canadian Pattern Designer tour: Interview with Jalie Patterns

  1. Thanks for sharing this interview! I too thought Jalie was a bigger company. It wouldn’t keep me from buying one of their patterns, but I would love to see a bit more of the personal on the website.

    1. I know, my understanding is that they’ll be updating their website to make it more personal for that reason. :) I can’t wait to see their new site!

  2. crossing the ferry to LEvis was one of the highlights of my trip to Quebec, so neat to learn more about such a great company!

  3. I had no idea Jalie was a small family business! I love the look of several of their patterns but given my kids’ fondness for footed pajamas, I think it’d be fun to make some for the whole family, lol.

  4. There are so many great patterns! I am needing something for my boyfriend, so I’d have to start by getting something for him!

  5. I would probably go for the men’s & boy’s boardshort pattern. There are so few men’s patterns

  6. I thought about Jalie as a much bigger company, it was a surprise. Thank you for the opportunity to win, I’d choose a swimsuit or a leotard :)

  7. Love this interview! My sister has loved Jalie patterns for years and I’ve made up a few as well. They always turn out great! I’d love to get the dolman pattern!

  8. Never heard of Jalie before! Thanks for the interview and background. Now, I’m off to make their men’s tee after seeing the Shaffer Sisters’ review. :)

  9. I also thought they were a big company since the website looked more Big 4 ish… I have a couple of patterns bookmarked to get from them now! :)

  10. I have to admit, I’m not sure what I would make- I have the swim shorts and men’s polo shirts on my cutting table right now. Love all the Jalie patterns I’ve ever made.

  11. I love all the Jackie patterns. Its great to here the before story behind the patterns. Its hard to pick just one! I’d probably pick a swimwear pattern.

  12. Eek! I’d love to try one of these patterns. The #3023e Tankini / Skirtini looks like a good one to try. Imagine making your own jeans these are my style #2908e Women’s Stretch Jeans

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