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From Where I Sew: Sharon Mendham of Maven Patterns


We recently welcomed Maven Patterns to Backstitch, and they have proven very popular. The five beautiful designs are: The Rochester Top & Dress; The French Dart Shift Tunic; The Wendy Smock Top; Maria Wrap Apron; and Kitty Dress. Who better to tell you a bit more about Maven patterns than their designer? I am delighted to introduce you to Sharon Mendham. I have really enjoyed listening to her story and hope you do too. 

Sharon Mendham of Maven Patterns

Sharon Mendham of Maven patterns Sharon Mendham of Maven patterns

My sewing history began at primary school. A visiting teacher from the 'big school' told us we should already know what we wanted to do for a job. I took that seriously (no one else did) and couldn’t settle until I had found MY job. A few weeks later there was a girl on telly who wanted to be a fashion designer - and it clicked! I wanted to study fashion too.

I’ve always made things, it was just a way of life in our house. My parents cut up the sofa once to make it into a corner suite! My mum always sewed, and had worked as a sample machinist, so it never really seemed a mystery, just part of everyday life. My parents were always creative but never wasteful, because we couldn’t afford to be. That thought has stayed with me and is why I aim to create patterns that have versatility and longevity in mind.

So off I went to college and discovered pattern cutting. It was a light bulb moment! The joy of starting with a flat piece of paper and transforming it into a 3D wearable creation satisfied my creativity and practical streak all in one go. After college, I worked in the fashion industry as a pattern cutter, which was interesting but ultimately unsatisfying - clothes were just becoming too disposable, with no real value.

Maven Patterns is a product of my upbringing and years of work. Everything I have ever done has taught me a skill that has shaped how Maven sits in the world (even if I didn’t know it at the time!) Working as a pattern cutter taught me to create fool-proof instructions that even people in far-off factories could understand.

Maven patterns in the making! Maven patterns in the making!

Maven pattern development Maven pattern development

It’s rather lovely to have my hobby as my job! I’ve always sewed for purpose, and now all my sewing is Maven sewing. But I sometimes don’t sew for ages, it just depends where I am in the process of pattern development. I do sew a lot of toiles, which I actually really like - I’m happiest messing about with the fit of a pattern! Luckily, Eve, my daughter, has joined the Maven Team and is very business minded so she can handle the sales and marketing whilst I focus on the design and construction of new patterns.

My sewing studio is at home, which means I’m able to pick up my work whenever the inspiration hits. Of course when I say studio, that sounds rather grand – it’s actually at one end of our large kitchen! But it’s a really nice bright space, and what I’ve learnt is that it doesn’t have to be perfect, but it does need to function really well. I have a lovely view of the garden and the ducks, and it’s handy for the kettle and biscuits… When everyone is out it’s heavenly quiet.

Maven workspace and ducks Maven patterns at work, and Sharon's ducks!

I sew at Granny's Table, which is probably now about 50 years old! It works perfectly, and I’ve been sewing at this table for 24 years! The space is quite versatile, the table will collapse to make room to take photos on a sunny day and we have a blind that pulls down to give us a plain backdrop. I have a huge pattern table that a friend gifted to me (I know!), which has a lot of storage space underneath. I have also overflowed slightly around the rest of the house!

Maven patterns Granny's Table Granny's Table, and the screen that provides a backdrop for photographs

I am very lucky to have a group of friends with the same background. When we see each other, we talk nothing but fabric, fitting, who’s making what, who’s got a plan. We try to fit in meet-ups, exhibitions and fabric fondling trips as much as possible; it’s an essential part of the process for all of us, so we can bounce ideas around. Our girls caught us the other day when we were in full ‘sewing flow’. There was part admiration, and part rolling their eyes at us! They think we have our own language. We do!

My sewing habits completely change depending on where I am in the process. I do love listening to a good podcast. But often silence is best, if concentration is required. While sewing, I’m usually making copious notes and taking photos for the detailed maker instructions, so I need to focus. I was always really shy, so I found it painful to ask questions. Now I aim to be so clear that people don’t need to ask, or play ‘hunt through the instructions’.

I am currently working on a new pattern - a skirt! It always takes so much longer than I ever expect, but if I am going to work hard I might as well throw everything at it and enjoy the process. I usually have only one pattern fully in development, and then samples/ideas ready to go. I was once worried I’d run out of ideas, but the opposite is true, I can’t produce them quickly enough!

To see the full range of Maven patterns, please see here.

Maven patterns

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