STU grad opens online pattern making shop

Alex Cunningham, a St. Thomas University graduate, launched a clothing pattern selling business on Etsy named Mountain and Lighthouse Company. (Submitted: Alex Cunningham)

Alex Cunningham, a St. Thomas University graduate, launched a clothing pattern selling business on Etsy named Mountain and Lighthouse Co. The shop was inspired by Cunningham’s efforts over quarantine to learn to sew her own clothes, which eventually led to creating her own patterns.

“Generally speaking, I’m a really goal-oriented and determined person,” said Cunningham. “Being at home during the pandemic without much to do made me feel like I needed a concrete project to direct my concentration toward.”

The shop opened Feb. 26 and features two purchasable designs. Cunningham described them as “designs that are meant to be versatile and flattering for a wide range of bodies,” on the website. She said she goes for a classic feminine silhouette.

“What I was going for with my designs is to allow them to stand out as something really versatile, that can depend on the fabric choice that you make and is flattering on a wide range of bodies and sizes,” said Cunningham.

Her patterns are done in the flat pattern drafting style, which requires the pattern to be drafted without the help of a model. She starts with basic blocks of sizes she knows well, then creates samples in different fabrics to test the design. Finally, she inputs the measurements in a drafting software in order to adapt the design to a wide range of sizes without the use of pricey physical models.

Once the bulk of the design is finished, she sends the design to a print shop to ensure it translates well into a physical product and finishes it off by sewing her own samples of the pieces in the different sizes to triple-check the quality.

The process is unforgiving and she said that when mistakes are made, she often has to start it over from the beginning.

“I’m not going to lie, it’s really frustrating sometimes,” said Cunningham.

Despite only having opened on Feb. 6, Cunningham said she is pleased with the sales she’s had so far. Both of her current designs sell for $11. She’s currently had 8 sales, with 18 pieces aside from that reserved for later purchase.

“It is still difficult because I have read that generally speaking, it takes more than a year to actually get established on Etsy, just because it’s such an oversaturated marketplace, even if you’re in something more like less saturated like sewing patterns,” said Cunningham.

She said her interest in sewing was inspired by her mother-in-law and began by making masks at the start of the pandemic. Cunningham’s mother-in-law re-taught her the basics of sewing, and she developed the patterns independently from there.

The name Mountain & Lighthouse Co. was also inspired by Cunningham moving to Calgary for grad school, as a way to connect both her old and new homes.

“To go from living by the Atlantic Ocean, to moving all the way to the Rocky Mountains drew me to create a brand that was built around and inspired by the unique attributes of the Canadian landscape,” said Cunningham.