Nau mai haere mai! Welcome!
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 along’s, 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 back to a time when life was simpler, 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 mothering is continuous tasks that never seem to end (can I get an amen?!). 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 digitize 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 she 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.
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!
You’ll find our patterns are firmly rooted in our kiwi way of life. They are made for playing at the beach, skipping and adventuring. Māori culture and language play a big role in our family and it infuses everything we do here. From sustainability, slow-handmade garments, to community and care for the earth. Please feel welcome to ask questions about any of these journeys we are on! We would love to have more conversations around these concepts.
Thank you for joining us on this Makers Journey and supporting Below the Kōwhai. 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! Jump into our VIP Community for more connecting and to introduce yourself!
Love and happy sewing,
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!