I first discovered Friday Pattern Company on Instagram (@fridaypatterncompany). The models wearing the Seabright Swimmer and the Wilder Gown really caught my eye — and I loved the flowers in their hair. I soon realized that Chelsea Gurnoe, the founder and owner of the indie pattern company, showcases women of color as well as people of different body types. When you look at the patterns on her website, you can see that she highlights a variety of models to feature her designs.
Although these designs were not quite my style, I did make the Joan Trousers and I bought the Square Neck Top pattern. Earlier this year, I added Friday Pattern Company to my sewing pattern height chart and I interviewed her via email, asking her questions about fashion, sewing, and her company. Thank you, Chelsea for taking the time to answer my questions!
When were you first interested in fashion?
I have loved fashion for as long as I can remember. I had a single mom and I used to have to go to work with her and she worked at this amazing vintage shop. My “play area” was the dressing room when there weren’t customers. I loved to try on different outfits and imagine where and why I would be wearing each thing.
What attracted your eye when you were first interested in fashion?
I think having a distinct style from my peers has always appealed to me. I love the way it feels to express myself creatively and getting dressed is a way that we do that every day.
Fashion design, inspiration, and more
Why did you decide to go to fashion design at San Francisco State University and why did you leave?
I was always into fashion and sewing and fashion school felt like the logical next step. I ended up leaving my program because I became disillusioned with the fashion industry. I also really did not relate to the other people in the program. I think there are probably really great fashion design programs out there but the one I was in felt very stifling and corporate.
What inspires you now?
I like to start with identifying how I want to feel in the garment and where I want to wear it and kind of expand from there.
What are your go-to wardrobe staples?
I feel like this changes seasonally but right now I wear turtlenecks almost constantly. In summer I feel like all I wear is elastic waistband shorts! I also wear a lot of dresses and I try to make them work year round because I feel my best in a dress.
Learning to sew
When did you learn to sew?
I learned to sew when I was a kid.
Who taught you?
My grandma taught me 🙂
What was the first thing you sewed?
We sewed a little tiny quilt.
Friday Pattern Company
What inspired you to launch the Friday Pattern Company?
I worked in a fabric store around the time that indie pattern companies started to emerge and it just seemed like the absolute perfect combination of my love of fashion and sewing.
How would you describe your aesthetic for your designs?
Ha! That is hard. They are my personal style. Probably modern with a bit of drama. Dramatic with a bit of modern?
What do you strive for in your patterns?
I want my patterns to be fun to sew and approachable for beginners. I want them to inspire the person making them to put their own stamp on it. I tend towards designs that are adaptable and hackable if that makes sense.
Your initial size range went from XS to XXL. Then you went up to 4X and last year you extended your size range to 7X (60″/152 cm bust). Why did you decide to increase your size range?
I initially decided to increase my size to 4X like you said, and then I just saw that there were still people in the community who were not in that size range. I also have more resources now that my company has grown a bit so I was able to continue to extend my size range.
Currently, several your patterns are available in extended sizes (XS to 7X). When do you expect to have all of your earlier patterns available in extended sizes?
I am hoping to finish in 2021 but I can’t promise that. I should have most of them done this year.
What are the challenges of grading in a wide range of sizes?
There was definitely a learning curve but I have a great group of testers and a plus fit model who has been an asset in developing my plus size block.
Your patterns are available in print and as a PDF. Do you sell more of the printed patterns than the PDF versions or vice versa?
I sell more PDF. It’s nice because it makes my patterns accessible to sewists around the world.
Looking at the models who are photographed for your patterns, it is obvious you are committed to being inclusive. Your models have different body types and include people of color. What process do you go through to select models for your patterns?
I love hunting down models. A lot of my models are my friends and family. The models who I don’t know personally I generally find through instagram. I kind of feel like a creep but it has been effective for me so far in finding different types of people who wouldn’t necessarily be signed at a modeling agency (although they should!).
For each pattern, you donate 5 percent of your proceeds to a selection of charities, which include U.S. and international organizations. How did you select these charities?
They are a mix of charities that have empirical data that they do the most good like Against Malaria and Give Directly, and also charities that I find to be doing incredibly important work like the Trevor Project and the Loveland Foundation.
What are you working on now?
I am working on updates and new sizing for the Ilford Jacket and also a spring dress that I am particularly excited about!
What advice do you have for aspiring fashion designers?
Find your niche, have a clear vision for what you want to do, and go for it!
What practical skills are most useful for aspiring designers?
I don’t think I am much of an authority on what aspiring designers should be doing, but I do think it is crucial to be clear in your point of view. Knowing why you are designing can center your designs and provide a lot of guidance.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
It’s not advice per se but I have a very artsy and creative family and they always steered me towards creativity and self expression. That push helped me more than anything in figuring out my path in life.