Sarai Mitnick: Handcrafting for the Win

September 2 - On The Dot
It’s a great day to be a woman! Melinda Garvey here as your voice, with the mission to give women everywhere a place to be heard and tell their stories. We’d love to hear from you!

FIRST THOUGHT: Crafting the Handmade Life

A lot of women say they aren’t creative. They can’t draw more than a stick figure or even pick a paint color besides “greige.” Not everyone can put pinstripes and polka dots together and somehow rock it, but we all have a little bit of creativity in us.

Plenty of those same women are amazing at creating new recipes, developing bold ideas in the office or coming up with handmade summer crafts for their kiddos. Today, write down three ways in which you’re creative and celebrate them!


I dare you to go into your closet and count your shoes. You don’t need to be a shoe addict to realize that—whoa!—you have far more than you think you did. Now imagine living in the early part of the 20th century, when women had to suffer through life without Guccis or Jimmy Choos.

In 1930, the average woman owned only nine outfits. Nine! Nowadays, women average about 30 outfits and spend more than 100 hours per year shopping for garments. Jeez, that’s an awful lot of time spent under unflattering florescent lights in the dressing room!

WOMAN TO WATCH: Sarai Mitnick, Founder and Creative Director of Colette Patterns

One way to avoid the ill-fitted and often unethically made clothing available in retail stores is to go old school and make your own clothes. Even though it might sound intimidating, this kind of crafting can be a great way to connect with your creative side, learn a thing or two and dress your figure perfectly.

Sarai Mitnick starts her day with kitty cuddles and a run before heading to her office and studio, housed in a renovated industrial loft in Portland, Oregon. This crafty gal has been sewing since she was 16, and is the founder and creative director of Colette Patterns, one of the most popular indie sewing-pattern companies around, with a ton of adorable classic wardrobe styles.

If you’ve browsed the blogosphere, you’ve probably noticed a resurgence in handcrafting—everything from handmade soaps and dresses to handcrafted jewelry and even homemade booze. Women are taking a hands-on approach to tackling projects, not just using their fingers for typing and texting anymore.

Sarai has a good head for business, and worked as a Silicon Valley techie before switching to a career focused on needle and thread. While working at Google, she researched user experiences and needs, and was able to put that kind of expertise to use when founding Colette Patterns. She found there was a real lack of contemporary, well-made sewing patterns out there, so she decided to make her own.

In 2009, Sarai founded her company on the principle of providing customers with sewing patterns that are not only cute and flattering, but that also come with useful, precise instructional info. Unlike traditional mainstream patterns, Colette Patterns offer more details and illustrations, and often feature “sewalongs”—visual step-by-step guides showing talented seamstresses creating the patterns. Colette Patterns are available in more than 300 retail stores, and in a wide range of sizes, a welcome change from the unrealistic patterns of yesteryear.

In 2014, this handmade mogul launched Seamwork Magazine, which includes several patterns each month, alongside articles and techniques about sewing, as well as lifestyle subjects like sustainability, homemade beauty products and mindfulness. It’s all about creating a dream wardrobe and handcrafted lifestyle that’s truly yours.

Clearly an imaginative entrepreneur, Sarai recently launched a podcast called Seamwork Radio, where listeners can check out stories about artists, designers and everyday creators, and their personal stories about all the ways designing, making and wearing their own clothing has altered their lives.

Sarai, an admitted introvert, has been able to create a welcoming company culture that celebrates women who may not be the loudest, but who have some amazingly creative ideas. Keep making great things, Sarai!


The queen of creative ideas, writer Elizabeth Gilbert, said:

“Do whatever brings you to life, then. Follow your own fascinations, obsessions and compulsions. Trust them. Create whatever causes a revolution in your heart.”

That’s all for now. Be sure to share this so more women can have a voice! Thanks for getting ready with us.

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