Kristi Fitzpatrick was working at her laptop one day last fall when she received an email inviting her to be one of the emerging designers featured in the SOCIETY Fashion Week in New York City this past February. She didn’t pay the email much attention; it sounded too good to be true.
“I thought it was a scam, honestly, that they just want my money,” said Fitzpatrick, a 1999 graduate of Washington High School and owner of George and Ginger Pattern Company.
Yet as the emails continued, Fitzpatrick realized the invitation was legitimate.
“I’m pretty sure I screamed,” she said, smiling.
And then she got down to work. The result was 15 patterns in a new collection that Fitzpatrick, daughter of Tim and Barb Meyer, Washington, created just for the New York Fashion Week show.
Seeing models — mostly her friends and not professionals — walk down a runway showing off her designs was surreal, said Fitzpatrick. It had only been a little more than two years since she started the company.
Previously Worked in Civil Drafting
Fitzpatrick, who drafts all of her own patterns, took her first drafting classes as a student at Washington High School, although all of that work was geared more toward mechanical drawing.
After high school, she went to East Central College, where she earned a degree in drafting and design and then went to work in civil drafting.
“We did a lot of business for Lowe’s and Walmart,” said Fitzpatrick. “We would get the footprint for a building and then design everything around it, the sewer lines and grading . . . all the underground stuff.”
Back in high school, Fitzpatrick had tried to learn how to sew from her mom, but it didn’t go well, and she didn’t pursue it after that.
Years later when she took up crocheting, a friend suggested she try her hand at sewing. A class offered at a retreat center was the perfect jumping off point. Soon after Fitzpatrick was drafting her own clothing patterns.
“When I started sewing, that was it. It’s all I wanted to do after that,” she remarked.
Fitzpatrick was still working a day job in civil drafting, but her lack of enthusiasm for it showed, and soon the company decided to let her go.
“I was devastated at first,” she said. “It was horrible, but now I want to go back and kiss them. It was actually a great thing that happened.”
Being fired gave her the push to start her own company. She named it George and Ginger after her husband and son.
George is her husband, Deric’s middle name, and Ginger is a reference to her redheaded son.
The first pattern she designed was a coat with a circle skirt on it.
New Style of Patterns
The patterns that Fitzpatrick sells are not the tissue-paper style from decades ago. These are PDFs, a type of digital computer file that can be easily viewed and printed.
“When you order it online, it is automatically emailed to you,” said Fitzpatrick. “You print it out and tape all of the pieces together, so it’s really convenient.”
Her PDF patterns also have numerous layers, so you can select to print only a certain size of a pattern, and you can reprint the pattern any time you want to use it again, said Fitzpatrick.
As excited as she was to launch George and Ginger, Fitzpatrick admits she has been surprised a little at how quickly the business has grown.
“It kind of blew up overnight. It’s been pretty crazy the last two years, I just kept building and building, marketing on Facebook,” she said.
Facebook has been key to the company’s success. Fitzpatrick created a George and Ginger Facebook group that now has more than 22,000 members.
“There’s a huge underground sewing world on Facebook,” she remarked.
Through the Facebook group, people who purchase Fitzpatrick’s patterns can get answers to any questions or help with any problems.
“It’s like a customer service group. People ask questions and other people chime in,” said Fitzpatrick.
30 to 50 Testers
Fitzpatrick describes her patterns as “a modern twist on classic pieces.”
“I like to do more ‘out-there’ designs than a lot of pattern designers,” she said, noting there’s nothing basic about her pieces. “I am known in the sewing community for doing these weird, asymmetrical styles.”
That can make them look complicated to sew, she understands, but with her patterns, they are easy, customers tell her.
“Every instruction from start to finish is included,” said Fitzpatrick, noting her patterns are created with beginning sewers in mind.
“I have a ton of beginners in my group, and it makes me super happy to read their posts — ‘This is the first thing I’ve ever made for myself.’ That’s super exciting for me,” she said.
“The group support (on her Facebook page) is great because someone will just post a picture and say, ‘Hey, I’m at this point,’ or ‘What do I need to do next?’ and other people chime in or I can comment. It’s like a sew-along.”
It helps too that long before a pattern is ever released for sale, Fitzpatrick has had it vetted by 30 to 50 testers — sewers who take her patterns and make the item in various sizes to find any problems. They are testing everything from how clear the instructions are to how good the fit is.
“It goes on like that until all the adjustments are made and we release it,” said Fitzpatrick.
There is a misconception among a lot of nonsewers that the reason people like to make their own clothes is to save money, but that’s not necessarily the case. Fabric can be pricey.
The real benefit of sewing your own clothes is getting a customized fit, said Fitzpatrick.
“All of my patterns have a height and basic measurements, and it teaches you in the pattern how to adjust for your size and your height,” she said.
Fall Fashions in Spring
Fitzpatrick’s invitation to New York Fashion Week was to create up to 15 designs, and she did every bit of that.
“I wanted to go as big as I could,” she said, noting she was one of six included in an emerging designers category.
“I had never been to a Fashion Week. Some people thought maybe I should just go and watch a show first but I am just, both feet, jump right in. I had no idea what I was doing, but it was great, an awesome experience.”
The George and Ginger show was held at the Roosevelt Hotel in midtown Manhattan. It was held in the morning Sunday, Feb. 11.
There weren’t celebrities in the front row, but the show was close to sold out, and Fitzpatrick said she saw plenty of people — presumably buyers — taking photos and making calls during the show.
She hasn’t received any orders or heard anything yet. Because her line is patterns, the buyers would be buying her designs to have the clothes mass produced and sold in stores with the George and Ginger label.
The show in New York was quick, around 20 minutes long, said Fitzpatrick. Her models were women of all sizes — from 0 to 20. Many were from her Facebook group, and one was a senior from St. Francis Borgia Regional High School, Kaylin Zeltmann.
“I’m all about body positivity with all of my group members and testers,” said Fitzpatrick. “I even expanded my size chart in my patterns to accommodate more plus and more tween sizes.”
In preparing for the show, she put out a model casting call in her group. She had members from as far away as Maryland respond, and a few had modeling experience, but many did not.
“They all totally killed it,” said Fitzpatrick. “And I heard so many comments after the show that it was really cool how they weren’t all the same height or build.”
SOCIETY Fashion Week provided a lot of the production necessities for her, like the stage lighting and audio/video equipment. But Fitzpatrick brought her own makeup and hairstylists — again, these were friends, not professionals. A friend’s husband created the music track of rock/pop songs that the models walked out to, and one of the women in her Facebook group designed a new George and Ginger logo to use in the show.
When Fitzpatrick saw it pop up on the screen, it brought tears to her eyes.
“I really lost it there for a second. It was overly emotional and overwhelming,” she said.
The collection she created for the show was mostly gowns made with a lot of velvet and chiffon.
Although the pieces are shown in spring, the fashions are for fall and winter, so buyers have time to get the pieces into the stores.
Already Fitzpatrick has signed on to do fall shows (of spring pieces) in Los Angeles, New York and London.
It will be a lot of work for an uncertain outcome, but the benefit is the exposure of the brand, said Fitzpatrick.
From Kitchen to Studio
These days, Fitzpatrick works out of a 1,000-square-foot studio that her husband added onto his workshop. It includes a large table in the center for cutting fabric with shelves filled with fabric on one side and a counter with her machines (two sewing and two sergers) on the other side.
A filing cabinet is where she stores paper copies of each of her patterns printed out in her own size.
Before the studio was completed last December, Fitzpatrick worked out of her kitchen, storing fabric wherever she could throughout the house.
Each pattern that she creates begins as a hand-drawn sketch. From there she drafts the design and then sews some samples of it. The last thing she does is write the instructions and put the pattern out for testers.
It can take a few weeks to get from a sketch to a finished pattern that’s ready to be released, she said.
Once a pattern releases, all the testers post their photos of their pieces, so people can see how different it can look in a variety of fabrics.
Fitzpatrick sells her patterns for between $5 and $10, with the price often determined by the complexity of the pattern.
Right now, she is finishing up a pattern she is creating as part of a fundraiser for Sandy Hook Promise, a nonprofit whose mission is to prevent gun-related deaths. Fitzpatrick created a quick and easy spring dress, and the sales from that pattern will be donated to the charity.
With all of the exposure George and Ginger has received from the New York Fashion Week show and with the three spring shows booked for this coming fall, Fitzpatrick said she has no idea what the future holds.
It would be a dream come true to have her designs sold in stores, but that wouldn’t put an end to the pattern business.
“I could never give up the patterns, I have way too much fun with that,” she said.
For more information on George and Ginger Pattern Company, go to