Meet Rebecca of Candy Castle Patterns: An Interview

Meet Rebecca, the designer behind Candy Castle Patterns and Euro Fabric Shop.  She lives in the Netherlands (a tiny country in Europe next to Germany) and has four kids.  Rebecca worked in dentistry until her youngest daughter was born.  Due to her daughter's complicated health issues, they completely had to turn their life around, and she's pretty pleased with how it’s settled down now!  You've probably seen Rebecca's designs, if you haven't already sewn some of them.  Her Bubblegum dress was nominated for the Little Leading Lady Award in the 2014 Red Carpet Awards for Pdf Design, and the doll version of that dress was featured in the 2013 Designer's Challenge at Pattern Revolution.  Her Peppermint Swirl Dress (and doll version) are very popular among sewists and little girls alike - you can't resist the twirl power!  If you've spent any time in the Candy Castle Patterns Facebook Group, you  know how much fun it is to share photos, join sew-alongs, and get advice and help.  The group is celebrating 3,000 members this week!  Rebecca is very present in the group and lots of fun.

Besides sewing and designing, do you have other interests, abilities, or super powers? 
In the evenings, you can find me in the gym mostly, lifting weights. I like to cook and bake, especially together with the kids. They all have their own favorite recipes.
I’m also a fantasy geek, comic book nerd, and a true gamer (World of Warcraft), although the latter has been eliminated throughout the last years due to a lack of time. A true blood elf warlock by heart, though! I love watching shows with my other half; Game of Thrones and Spartacus are my all-time favorite shows, Walking Dead is a close runner-up.

Can we talk about your fingernails?  I think an added bonus of your patterns is seeing your different nail polishes and designs in the instructional photos.  I think my favorite design I’ve seen is the rainbows in the Soda Pop Polo Shirt pdf.  Are your nails always done?  Do you do them yourself?
I have always done nail art, because it makes me feel like I’m all on top of the game even when I don’t have makeup on. The kids usually get to pick the scenery mom is going to put on her nails. In dentistry I had to keep my nails very short of course, so it’s an added bonus that now I can not only show off my designs, but I can also grow my nails!  I always do them myself and it’s really not that much work! I do my nails once or twice a week and spend an hour at most – usually while we watch one of our shows. The secret is white nail polish – two layers underneath any design – and to always polish your nails. That way, it will become part of your routine, and it will in the long run, strengthen your nails and avoid breakage! My nails are always done, expect for once every couple months when I give them a two-week ‘breather.’ I totally feel naked then, though!

Candy and sweets play a big roll in your company - you even recommend snacks to enjoy while reading through your pattern and participate in Sew-Alongs.  Do you have a favorite dessert?
I love all things sweet!! We bake a LOT here, the kids all have a day in the week that they pick a recipe to cook or bake with mom (not just sweet treats, they also like to ‘help’ me cook dinner). I love cupcakes and candy, but cake is my favorite. Any kind of cake - especially with chocolate!   This is currently my daughter’s & my favorite.  (Chocolate Oreo Cake - and Google seems to do a good job with the translation if you want to give it a try!)

How long have you been sewing?  How did you learn? 
Bubblegum Dress using Euro Fabric
& Bias Tape from Rebecca's shop
Bubblegum Swing Dress
I’ve been sewing since I had a place of my own. 
My mom got me a machine for my birthday when I really knew nothing about sewing.  It turned out the best gift ever. My sister has a degree in fashion design and I always had my nose right in her business. Although she designed mostly bridal wear, couture maternity outfits, and other out-of-my-alley-stuff, I really enjoyed watching her design and work, and tried to understand how it was done.  (She is still my go-to advisor – I swear she drafts up a perfectly fitted, tailored pants in just thirty minutes, and she does it the old fashioned way – pen and paper!)  Sewing was not my main priority – it was the designing that attracted me, and sewing was something I just taught myself using mostly old-fashioned sewing books from the 1920s. Starting out, I created ill-fitting garments for myself – dresses, skirts, shirts.  Designing is difficult and takes a lot of practice!  I didn’t really wear those things outside the home! 

What is it about sewing and designing that you enjoy and are passionate about?
To be able to design onto a body and adjust clothing and sizing to accommodate the recipient - that is what makes sewing awesome.  You don’t need to work with generic sizes as you do when you buy a pants from a store.  Also, I very much respect and appreciate the old-fashioned sewing ethics.  If you own one or more of my patterns you may have noticed how I always point out couture etiquette rules (such as where buttons should be according to couture etiquette and on which side a pocket should be, or which way a wrap should go for a female garment, etc.). Oh, and you probably have noticed I’m a crazy bias tape fanatic! Almost all my patterns use bias tape, and I’m very thorough in making sure everyone is taught the correct, beautiful, fool-proof, old-fashioned way of attaching bias tape. I love my grading & drafting books; the old-fashioned ones mostly. The math & precision is right up my alley and I love seeing a project take shape. I really enjoy the technical aspect of designing.
Free pattern available
in doll, child and adult sizes!

When did you begin Candy Castle Patterns?  How did it come about?  How was the name chosen? 
I don’t think I ever ‘began’ Candy Castle Patterns; it was always right here. I was always creating & designing, but it was always on the backburner. It wasn’t until my youngest daughter was born and in need of more medical attention than I could offer her with a daytime job that I could actually turn what I loved doing into something more serious and dedicated. My oldest daughter came up with the candy theme (though in all honesty, she is not the only sweet tooth here; we all are!). 

I love how clear and encouraging your pattern tutorials are.  They are great for building confidence and learning new skills.  Have you had someone in your life who encouraged you and taught you new things?  Is that something you specifically had in mind when you started designing your own patterns?
My sister and her creations have definitely been a huge encouragement. I remember she had her first fashion show where one of her bridal gowns was being modeled, and I couldn’t make it due to work. I went through the pictures and she looked so happy and so fulfilled – I was equally proud! Although I design things so completely opposite of hers, I still feel a bit of what she felt that day of the fashion show, each time I receive a picture from a customer  of a little girl wearing an amazing dress. I love enabling people to do things they didn’t think possible with their skills.

Candy Castle Patterns Peppermint Swirl Dress
Do you have a favorite pattern you've designed, or one that has a special memory or sentiment attached to it?
My personal favorite must of course be the Peppermint Swirl Dress. It was just a silly thing in my mind that I had, that took a lot of uncommon and strange math. I decided to just give it a shot and sew one up – when I sewed together that last seam… Well, I think the whole neighborhood knew!   I think I even yelled for Kari to come see, while we all know my sweet friend & great help lives half a world away.

Can you tell us about your sewing space and machines?
Here in the Netherlands, houses are VERY small in comparison to yours. Our country is tiny and densely populated, so houses are tiny, like doll houses. A big sewing studio would be a dream – until that comes true, I have a very cool sewing space. It’s a fairly roomy  storage under the stairs (originally a closet where we just kept coats & food!) that I completely turned into a little sewing studio. It has chevron walls, pictures of me & my sis, drawings of the kids, inspirational prints, and everything that otherwise motivates me. A desk with my machines, some shelves, a drawer cabinet for my supplies and notions. I can be pretty messy while I sew, and the good thing about it is I can just close the door of the studio whenever it’s time for dinner or –shock- someone comes over unexpectedly! It’s okay that it’s small – it’s all I need; after all, I do not sew a lot. I mostly spend my working time at the computer, and so I have a very big desk with two computers, completely littered with notes, pens, drafting and grading books and empty coffee cups (I do clean up once or twice a day!). My grading & drafting books are like my bibles for designing, and I always have them near; they’re all smudgy and worn out of all that use and reading. 
I have a Brother sewing machine/embroidery machine that’s fairly new – that sewing machine Mom gave me for my birthday years ago was the one I used until it gave out! My serger is a second hand old lady; she is over 25 years old and all out of metal parts. She is like a tank and will plow through anything! I love her!

What is your favorite sewing tool you own?
It’s not a tool I guess, but I like the embroidery machine feature on my machine. Turns every garment into something special.

Can you think of a memorable sewing project that didn’t go right - something Sew Not Perfect – that you had to abandon or work to correct?  Or do you have a pet-peeve sewing mistake that drives you crazy whenever you do it? 
I have many of those.  Sometimes, a design doesn’t look like I want it to – or much worse. It’s all part of the process. Sometimes I decide it’s not worth it and I don’t like the project at all, so I trash it. I had that with a cowl neck dress last fall.  Sometimes, I really do like the project and I keep on drafting until it’s perfect, even if it takes me weeks.  (Below: During the recent Soda Pop Polo shirt Sew-Along in the Candy Castle Patterns Group on Facebook, Rebecca ran into a bit of a hitch with the Snow White version of her top, and came up with something even more amazing!)

...And came up with this instead!
The embroidery on this top didn't go right
So she cut it off...

How much time do you think you spend sewing each week (or working on a sewing project, if not actually using a sewing machine)?  How much time do you spend designing and/or running Candy Castle?
I do not sew much, perhaps 2 or 3 times a week. I’m a fast seamstress, so that works to my advantage, but I do make crazy work hours. Candy Castle takes over twice the amount of time that a fulltime day job takes – SO totally worth it though!

 Any hints what 2014 might hold for Candy Castle Patterns? 
I have a very busy schedule all planned out for this year. Fully booked. However, I’m way behind already, and often, my schedule is much more optimistic than I can actually manage to put out.  I have some ladies' designs in the works and a very long list of everything else I wish to design this year. As always though, 2014 will also be filled with Sew Alongs, because I simply LOVE having everyone around to sew together, chat with and share inspiration!

Thanks, Rebecca, for taking time to answer a few questions and give us a peek behind Candy Castle Patterns.  Be sure to stop by the Candy Castle Patterns Facebook Page, Facebook Group, and Website to join in on the fun and check out all her designs and fabric.

Candy Waltz Collection featuring Candy Wrapper Vest,
 Sugar Plum Fairy Skirt, and Licorice Bits Legwarmers. 
Rebecca wearing the soon-to-be-released
Cherry Cosmopolitan Dress for Women.
Butterscotch Bloomers
Triple Layer Cake Tunic

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