On today’s episode of the Craft Industry Alliance podcast, we’re talking about building a sewing pattern business with my guest Norma Loehr.

Norma is the founder and creative director of Orange Lingerie. After a career in financial services, she started Orange Lingerie and began making custom bras for individual clients in 2010. In 2013 she published a book on how to sew and fit bras and then began releasing her own line of bra sewing patterns and teaching her techniques in weekend workshops all over the U.S.

Her company’s mission is to enable sewists to make their own beautiful and professional looking lingerie.

This episode is sponsored by Therm O Web

Maker of some of the craft industry’s best-loved brands for sewing, quilting, paper crafting and more.

For almost 50 years, Therm O Web has served as a prominent adhesives manufacturer for customers around the world, offering one of the most trusted, innovative and complete lines of adhesives for both sewists and paper crafters. In addition to adhesives, Therm O Web offers a full selection of premium fusible and sew-in interfacings and stabilizers for sewing, quilting, embroidery and crafts, with all business functions housed in their Wheeling, Illinois, facility.

Whether you need foil or fabric glue, interfacing or iron-on adhesive, or you just need some fresh inspiration, visit thermowebonline.com to explore everything Therm O Web has to offer today’s modern maker. 

I was able to visit Norma in her Boston studio to record this interview. It’s always lovely to talk in person for the podcast.

We begin this conversation by talking about Norma’s childhood attending a creative preschool, then learning to sew while in elementary school. She took sewing classes at a local shop and one of her first projects was sewing her own underwear!

Although she always enjoyed sewing and being creative, after college Norma got a job working on Wall Street. She talks about really enjoying that work, but also feeling all-consumed by its demands. I ask Norma to share some of the enduring lessons of that decade of her life. She also talks about how she made a plan to exit that high-earning career to strike out on her own with a creative business.

Norma explains the path she took to found Orange Lingerie in it current form. She first bought a bra making kit from Bra Makers Supply, then studied bra making with its founder, Beverly Johnson, before taking on private clients. Although she learned a lot in that process, she realized that the bespoke bra business model wasn’t right for her, so she pivoted and wrote a bra making book instead. We talk about why Norma decided to self-publish this book, rather than seek out a mainstream publisher, a decision she still feels was a good one.

After the book came out, Norma began publishing patterns. She explains why Orange Lingerie patterns are digital only. I ask Norma about her team and it’s really interesting to hear what’s inolved in creating a new Orange Lingerie pattern. We also talk about her Instagram strategy and about the pros and cons of having such a niche business.

This year Norma is a Bernina ambassador. I ask her how that partnership came about. She’s also self-produced a video class recently and we talk about the benefits and costs involved in doing something like this. Finally, we discuss the logistics of teaching in-person workshops when most of the shops don’t carry bra-making supplies and we talk about ecommerce platforms including Shopify and Etsy, both of which Norma is currently using.

And, of course, I ask Norma to recommend great stuff she’s loving right now. Norma recommends:

Keep up with Norma on the Orange Lingerie blog where you can also subscribe to her newsletter. And follow her on Instagram for more updates.

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