Nau mai haere mai! Welcome! 

our team

This is my little family. We live under a giant tree in Christchurch, New Zealand. Together, we make up the Below the Kōwhai team!

My husband Graeme is the chief encourager and tech guy. He’s the one who pours me a glass of red wine during our live Facebook sew alongs, or is up late into the night working on my website. He’s a bit of a geek, and we’re grateful for it!

Camilla and Katie are our girls. They love to fit test, try on clothing samples and model our new patterns. They love doing “photo shoots” down by the river and tell their friends they are real life models!

learning to sew

I started my sewing journey when I was just a young girl, sewing up chalk erasers, pyjamas and eventually dresses throughout my schooling years.

When I was out of school, my Nana gifted me her old sewing machine.

She told me stories of learning to tailor her husband’s and children’s clothes. Her neighbour taught her while they drank tea together and poured over patterns. When “going shopping” with the girls meant to the local haberdashery shop to find a new buckle or accessory to sew. It sounded so nostalgic, and I was transported to a time when we used our hands and created, and saw the fruits of our labour.

I have been sewing on my Nana Vera’s sewing machine ever since and I was newly inspired when my girls came along. I created quilts, coats and dresses for them. It brought me so much joy to see them wearing clothes that I had handmade!

I discovered it was a relief to spend my time creating something that had a purpose and a finish to it. So much of parenting is continuous tasks that never seem to end. But, as I sewed, I could create and finish something and feel pride and purposeful in that. I soon realised I needed that outlet in my life and so spent more time at the sewing machine learning new skills.

developing Below the Kōwhai

As my sewing became more refined, so did my interest in pattern development. I found it fascinating how a garment comes together from a flat piece of cloth. I began to design my own patterns for my children and friends, and learned how to grade and digitise them through online courses.

It became my dream to teach other people how to sew, so they too could experience this wonderful escapism and opportunity to create!

Spurred on by my husband, I spent a year refining my first pattern. When it was ready, Below the Kōwhai was born!

In April 2017 I launched The BellBird Dress, and haven’t looked back! Along came The Tui Pinafore (our most popular pattern!) and The Mānuka Skirt, followed by many others.

Our range has expanded as our patterns and their reputation have made them a staple in handmade wardrobes around the world.

In 2019 we introduced Paper Patterns as an option for our most loved patterns. I hope these serve you well and provide you with the convenience to get to the most exciting part of the process, the sewing!

In 2022 we released our first BTK Fabric Collection with 7 curated hues of 100% heavyweight linen.

Along with fabric we also started offering notions to go with your BTK patterns; play house mesh inserts, dungaree clips, sewing clips and more!

Handmade starts here with patterns, fabric and notions – we hope our range inspires you to create!

Māori Culture and Below the Kōwhai

Māori culture and language play an essential role in our family, and it infuses everything we do here at Below the Kōwhai. From sustainability, slow-handmade garments, to community and care for the earth.

If you would like to learn about our pepeha (ancestry) click here to see it woven into cloth.

We love to promote the use of te reo Māori through our social posts and video’s, and include pattern name pronunciations within the pattern tutorials for you. 

Please feel welcome to ask questions about any of these journeys we are on! We would love to have more conversations around these concepts.

looking to the future

Below the Kōwhai patterns have a loyal fanbase who enjoy easy to use sewing patterns with well thought-out tutorials. The garments they produce are well fitting and include techniques to create a beautiful, professional finish.

No matter your sewing experience level, whether you are a beginner or advanced, you’ll love our patterns!

It is exciting to see more people discover BTK as our international reputation increases.

Thank you for sharing your makes with the world, recommending Below the Kōwhai and leaving reviews!

We will continue to develop our pattern collection for you and your little muses and we can’t wait to share this journey with you!

where to from here

Head to our pattern collection to see what we’ve been developing for you, or our fabric collection here.

Jump into our VIP Community for more connecting and to introduce yourself! I would love to meet you!

Love and happy sewing,
Sophie x

PS – My Nana is 95 now, when I visit her I get to show her my latest pattern. She is amazed people from all over the world can download a pattern off the computer and learn to sew! Technology huh!


Email: hello@belowthekowhai.nz
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