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.
Can you describe a typical day at Jalie?
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?
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?
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?
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.
What are your top 3 favourite sewing or creative resources? (books, websites, etc)
– 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!
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.
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!
These bloggers will be sharing their versions of a Jalie pattern:
June 4th: Shaffer Sisters – June 5th: Call Ajaire – June 6th: hibbadoray
Enter to win 1 pattern of choice from Jalie in the Rafflecopter below.
Giveaway closes June 7th at 12am EDT.