I’m Kate, the founder of Finnlen. I live in Louisville, Kentucky with my husband Michael, and our sweet dog Perl.
Making was always around when I was growing up. It was there, in the air, in bits of thread that worked their way through the house. I knew that jackets, dresses, and nightgowns were something people made from yarn or fabric. Clothes could be made and mended. Bags could be personalized with sparkly embroidery thread. Warp, weft, knitted, woven, fit – these words existed in the specific vocabulary of our household. That vocabulary and the idea that people have the power of making a garment to their own specifications is a powerful force in my life and it always has been.
But it wasn’t until my (very) late 20s that I took up sewing. It began when I inherited a beautiful, heavy beast of a sewing machine from a beloved aunt who passed away. I was already an avid knitter, and had been for a decade, when I brought the sewing machine home from Minnesota. But I hadn’t sewed much beyond making a doll blanket and taking a home economics class. For two years, just about every weekend and many evenings after working my day job, I taught myself to sew with that inherited Slant-O-Matic 60-year-old Singer. While my machine jammed frustratingly often and manual buttonholes were difficult to master, my hands learned how to manipulate fabric. I figured out that good sewing really does mean good pressing. I felt the joy of pants that fit both my behind and my waist at the same time. There was something very special about my Slanto-O-Matic, a history, grace, and literal weight that can only be found in decades old, well-loved machines. And that ancient machine opened up the world of indie pattern designers and print-at-home sewing patterns to me.
So this is where the idea for Finnlen began, with an inherited sewing machine and hours and hours spent in a studio apartment, teaching myself to sew and eventually design. I craved simple yet elegant beginner patterns for home goods and clothing. And I wanted to know where my fabric came from, that my hobby wasn’t just creating more waste, and that I wasn’t using poor-quality materials made in even poorer working conditions.
As I began learning about the complex and devastating impact the cotton plant has had on people and the land over the last two centuries, I realized what a political act reclaiming the skill of sewing at home could be. Making clothes and products in fair working conditions with fabrics that don’t pollute the soil is a revolutionary act. Finnlen came from a desire to clothe myself and my family with the highest quality, most sustainably produced, and best designed patterns possible – and to share this passion and knowledge with everyone who sews or wants to learn. It’s a long road we're on, and it’s a path which often goes against conventional wisdom and established ways of making and selling goods. But I’m proud to be forging ahead and creating and selling products that I can be proud of, products that more accurately reflect the true cost of production with sustainable materials and paying a living wage to the seamsters sewing these goods.