Do you still buy many patterns ?

Posted October 13, 2021 by sewingplums
Categories: pattern making for clothes

What is your relationship with patterns ?

Dr.T has written an interesting piece about the state of the pattern industry.

I’m certainly not contributing to the health of the pattern industry as much as I used to. In my personal progress I’ve gone from being a pattern nerd, and buying every pattern I liked the look of, to having a set of personal blocks and doing my own hacking. Things have progressed so far that I’ve recently considered not following up on pattern releases any more. I certainly couldn’t write blog posts reviewing what’s available in the way I used to.

This has happened for many reasons.
Partly because I have many non-average body features, so it is much less trouble to make my own pattern than to make all the changes needed to someone else’s.
Partly because I’ve done much work on ‘finding my personal style’, so I don’t get tempted by ‘wrong for me’ patterns any more ! (or battered by ‘you ought to want to wear this’ thoughts. . .)
Anyway being up-to-the-minute is not needed around here. This area is mainly students and health workers, not competitive suburbanites or inner city dwellers with money to spare on following fashion.
And I know my wearing style tends to be a ‘uniform’, I’m not a ‘something different every day’ person in what I wear. My making style also doesn’t go for big variety. I’m ‘a 100 ideas before breakfast’ person, but that comes out in thinking of new ways of using the same pattern. I find I’m a one-pattern-many-looks person. I’m not constantly looking for ‘new ideas’ from other people.
And as I’ve learned more about pattern making, so I less often want to buy a pattern just to find out how it works 😀

So I find what I keep near to hand is my small pile of books which suggest variations around a few basic patterns, not my embarrassing number of boxes of patterns sitting in the far corner of my sewing space.
Though I don’t much refer to the books either. Most of my pattern hacking needs are very simple, and covered by the comments I’ve made in pattern hacking posts here – see this post on simple hacks to one pattern, or go to the index page on pattern making – click on ‘altering patterns’. More recent links here.

And partly it’s just the sheer effort needed to keep up with all that’s happening the pattern world ! Although I spend inordinate amounts of time on the internet, it’s not spent following pattern influencers on Instagram 😀 But as I’m not a fan of Instagram – perhaps that shows I’m not really the right person to comment on the health of indie pattern companies !

Dr.T comments on repetition by the Big 4 and pattern magazines. My big difficulty with indie designers is similar. Many of them show slight variations on the same shape – how many patterns does one need for a ‘kimono’ jacket, cut-on sleeve top, shift dress, elastic-waist pants, tee, hoodie, leggings, joggers. . . Such companies are either depending on customers who find it restful to stay with the same designer, or they need to be sure that their pattern offers something different.
I have pinterest boards of patterns for ‘kimono’ jackets, and some of the other styles.

And the webosphere is getting clogged with people who happily generate pdf patterns with only the most minimal help, if any, with how to make them up. Which you only find out by buying the pattern – aargh.

I do find myself following pattern designers who give much thought to their teaching role, and give extra support with making – detailed instructions with many diagrams, extra photo sew-alongs and videos.
Though again this is something that is not guaranteed – you need to try patterns to find the people who give instructions that work well for you. I know a couple of indie companies which claim to take extra care with their instructions but which I don’t get on with – they always seem to leave out what I want to know.

And then there’s fit. . .
I’m also more impressed by pattern designers who try to help with fit (such as Fit for Art, the Sew Liberated Mindful Wardrobe class, Curated by In the Folds, 100 Acts of Sewing in her book).

In contrast, there’s a pattern company which claims “Our patterns WILL fit you!” in bold. Well, that is simply impossible. It would have to be a very shapeless pattern to fit both people who are A cup and people who are G cup, people with a defined waist and people who are round, people who have a large rear and people who are flat there, people who have wide square shoulders and people who have narrow sloping shoulders. I could go on at length about this ! Presumably this company has a big enough customer base of people who are about the same shape as them to keep them in business. Well, about 40% of the population are rectangle body shape. I’m not, and anyway I don’t buy from this company on principle !

Long ago most indie pattern designers were well ‘below the radar’. Big4 patterns were sold in fabric shops, and indie patterns in quilt shops.
Now that has opened up more – the big UK internet sewing supplies company I use has an amazing range of indie paper patterns.

But the patterns I have bought recently mainly come from the more remote corners of the indie pattern world. I’ve become aware that some pattern companies are not mentioned at Pattern Review. I didn’t even realise it was possible for a pattern not to be mentioned at Pattern Review 😀 their list of indie pattern companies goes into the 100s !

Several of these not-at-PR companies sell their patterns in small numbers to private Facebook boards for unusual styles.

One of the patterns I wouldn’t want to have to do without is one of these, the Blanchette blouse by Alexandra Genetti.
This for me has almost infinite possibilities for change. Top left in this collage of 5 favourite items, which I set up in mid 2020 :
5 favourites
My ‘uniform’ is a loose pullover layer over that frilled blouse, with slim pants and lace-up shoes. Add a padded vest in winter. None of these are items that appear in stylists categories, let alone being mentioned by fashion stylists or capsule wardrobe advisors 😀 Well there is a good pattern for the frilled blouse – the Liesl Gibson Recital blouse. I once heard a top style advisor say no one should wear a small frill, yet this is my everyday ‘signature’ item 😀 Jalie used to have a pattern for a padded vest but, very unusually, the instructions were terrible, it took me quite a while to make sense of them.
So none of my choices are likely appear in any advisor’s top style or pattern lists 😀 hence perhaps why it took me such a long time to identify my style.

Other pattern companies are successfully offering support which is going unnoticed in the conventional sewing world. A couple of these not-at-PR companies sell their patterns in 1000s and get enthusiastic endorsements at Etsy from people sewing their first garment, who are surprised and delighted to find they can understand the instructions : All Well Workshop,
and 100 Acts of Sewing (she used to have an Etsy shop where the patterns got the same sort of reviews as All Well Workshop is getting now – she also has video classes at Creative Bug).

Comments on help with making patterns lead in to my personal big beef – the world seems to be full of winter coat patterns that have no front closure?!? At least the Big 4 have more common sense in this area. Maybe your pattern customers are frightened of buttonholes and zips – but in that case you need to offer good tutorials, or add fabric loops / poppas, not expect people to freeze with cold !

Well, obviously I can still go on at length about patterns, even though I don’t buy many any more 😀

Unlike many people, I don’t in theory object to the price of indie patterns. It’s difficult enough to make a living in any ‘design’ area. But in real life, although I understand the pricing I can be put off buying by it.

And of course as a recovering pattern addict, I do still find buying a new pattern is a relatively cheap way of getting a little treat – though that doesn’t happen as often as it used to 😀

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Building a wardrobe capsule

Posted September 12, 2020 by sewingplums
Categories: co-ordinates, wardrobe planning

A ‘capsule’ wardrobe is a small group of co-ordinating clothes that can be mixed and matched to make different outfits.

If you only have a small number of clothes, you want to be sure they all fit the needs of your lifestyle. And that they’re all items you love to reach for in the morning – they suit your personality and make you look and feel good. Hence the whole area of ‘wardrobe planning’.

There are many on-line style advisors who suggest the items to make a capsule. For example, Leanne Blackmon at Classy yet Trendy suggests seasonal capsules in 6 different styles.
And if you like to be dazzled by capsule wardrobe ideas, there’s The Vivienne Files.
In both, the styles are mainly ‘normcore’ so it’s easy to find patterns to copy the suggestions.

These stylists have good success because some people find it daunting to make a capsule for themselves.
But actually doing-it-yourself is not difficult.

Wear what makes you feel special

It’s not difficult to choose a capsule, so long as you have some clothes that you love, that make you look good and feel good when you’re wearing them.

If you haven’t got about 20 items you feel like that about, then finding some clothes that warm your heart, lift your spirits, and make your eyes shine and your skin look healthy has much more priority than developing a capsule.

Only follow style advice that makes you feel life’s possibilities are expanding.
The important thing is not to wear any garment (or follow any style advice) that pulls you down, makes you feel lesser or uncertain, diminished or defensive.

As April Grow of Stunning Style says : “If you’re trying to talk yourself into anything you don’t genuinely love, just put it away.”

Another similar saying seen on an FB board : “In case of doubt, there is no doubt.”

An idea for the simplest possible base capsule

Anne Whalley’s approach to easy styling is to have 5 basic pieces (without any added style elements) in the same flattering neutral colour/ fabric. These are : sleeveless top, skirt, leggings, pants, dress.  Add short and long sleeve tops to increase the options.

They make a basic background column, to which you add a star layering item which has all the outfit interest.

Here’s a demo video.

She uses very simple patterns for the basics, so you could quickly sew a group of ‘good for you’ items.  In the demo the basics are in knits or stretch wovens, no reason why you can’t use non-stretch wovens if you prefer.

Many people like Pamela’s Patterns for knits.  

While Alison Glass’s fitting pattern for knits gives you tops, skirts and dresses.

Tips for building a bigger capsule

A complete ‘wardrobe’ capsule is typically about 25-30 items, which could provide you with enough different outfits for an entire season.
Some stylists insist a true capsule is smaller, see later about a travel capsule.

Go through your current clothes and pick out items that you love wearing : 7 tops, 5 pants/skirts, 5 layers, 5 shoes, 3 bags.
If you can’t find these numbers, then find one less. Or pick items that are okay – not ideal, but not ones that make you feel or look bad !

Next remove any item that cannot be worn to make a good combination (one that you are comfortable with) with at least 3 of the other items (not all at the same time!). E.g. does this skirt look good with at least 3 of the tops, at least 3 of the layers, at least 2 of the shoes, at least 1 of the bags ? If not, replace it with something else you like.

If you find combining difficult, consider simplifying :

– choose one main darker neutral, such as :
– – black or navy if your skin colouring is blue toned and your colouring is generally stronger,
– – brown and grey are more difficult to choose but more adaptable, as they can be either blue or warm toned, either light or dark.

Here’s Imogen Lamport on choosing your best neutrals.

Some colour experts say a colour is a ‘neutral’ if it’s not on the colour wheel. I think that is a limiting definition. A wider definition is that a colour is called ‘neutral’ if it’s a colour that can be worn with everything else in the capsule, so makes a good starting point for many outfits (so your starting point colour could be shocking pink if your other colours are lime green and purple 😀 ).
Another criterion for a ‘neutral’ is that you would be willing to wear pants in this colour.
And your ‘neutral’ may depend on what you are choosing your capsule for – so shocking pink for a holiday trip but not for a business one !
You’re nearly always wearing this neutral colour, so it needs to be flattering and well-loved.

– add a lighter neutral – how much lighter could relate to the natural level of contrast you have in your colouring. Many people need a softened white, if they look good in white at all. Creams for someone warm toned.

– add not more than 2 accent colours or prints.

– choose everything with the same silhouette, such as :
– – top and bottom the same width,
– – wide tops over narrow bottoms,
– – narrow tops over wide bottoms.

Imogen Lamport has written a whole range of posts on issues that may come up in choosing items for a capsule wardrobe.
Here is her advice on what to consider if the above way of simplifying things doesn’t work for you : wardrobe basics.
And here’s an interesting post from her about choosing the colours for a capsule.

Classy yet Trendy also has a guide to devising your own capsule, mainly norm core styles and not free, but covers the basics to consider (with a little guidance on getting away from black, white, and denim blue !)

But try to keep things simple. And :
Hey Presto, your first capsule 😀

Some comments

Trying to build a capsule for the first time is not something that’s instant. Make small steps and enjoy your discoveries.
No need to get an ‘ideal’ capsule from the start. It will gradually ‘improve’ as you try things out.

Of course different stylists have different criteria for what a capsule should be like. Imogen Lamport of Inside-Out Style has fewer layers (she lives in a warm climate) and insists that everything co-ordinates.

This capsule idea doesn’t work for everyone. You may be someone who needs to choose an outfit on the day, whatever feels right at the time. What felt right yesterday evening when you were planning may not feel right this morning !
But you can pre-plan outfits, take photos of them, and choose which suits your current mood. Many people find it useful to take selfies of successful combinations, so they don’t have to do much experimenting in the morning.

Even a few steps towards achieving a part capsule can be useful and interesting. A ‘learning experience’. There’s no need to rush.

As you make progress, and learn more about your favourite garment colours, shapes, styles, co-ordinates, many people find that new items fit in without having to give it much thought.
Or if they don’t, don’t buy them !

Put these items at the front of your closet, so they’re the only ones you choose from when you’re getting dressed, and see if you find the capsule idea helpful.

If you love wearing makeup or jewellery, sprinkle on your favourites for even more joy and fun 😀
You could include them in try-out sessions too.
Or would you like to add into the mix : 5 hats, 5 scarves, 5 belts, hair ornaments, gloves ?

A small travel capsule

Choose 3 tops, 2 bottoms, 2 layers, 2 shoes.
In 2 different styles, such as casual + evening out, or work + dressy evening out.
With such a small number of items, it’s best if every possible combination looks good.
Take heavier items with you by wearing them for travel.
Jewellery, scarves, make-up are small light-weight ways of adding more looks.
And if you’re away for more than a few days, what about clothes care – do you mind hand washing in a hotel room ? If you would hate that, add more light-weight non-bulky tops.

If you’d like some more help with this, here is Janice of The Vivienne Files on what to keep packed for unexpected travel.

I’ve mentioned a few capsule stylists I’ve enjoyed following. Many more come up if you do a web search.
Enjoy your discoveries 😀

first published September 2020

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Download Craftsy/Bluprint classes

Posted June 13, 2020 by sewingplums
Categories: sundry messages

The new Craftsy site has opened.
So happily this post is just of historic interest.

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Big graunches and groans that Bluprint/Craftsy is closing down.

One of the problems with the Craftsy business model has been the huge team of professionals making the shows. So each class takes $000s to develop.   Compare to one-man-band teaching sites which film themselves using fixed camera angles and do their own editing.  Maybe some DIY effects, but it is more financially sustainable.  Creative Bug celebrates this DIY style as a sign of their overall attitudes.

Another problem with high teaching costs in this industry is there are so many good free sources of information. It’s difficult to build a big business with many staff if helpfulness is your only income stream, as people can usually go elsewhere. 
I’ve noticed some UK companies doing much to develop customer loyalty by providing extra free services during this virus-shutdown-time.

There must be dozens of on-line tutorials on every possible sewing technique, with hugely variable quality. And different people prefer different styles of presentation. I link to ones which work well for my preferred sewing quality and learning style, in my Aim for Quality blog. I’ve found there is no one source which is good for everything.

Although Craftsy/Bluprint has never been unique as a source of good information, you may want to download your classes so you don’t loose your ‘lifetime access’ to much good material.
I’ve been through an extended and convoluted process before finding something that works to do the downloading.

What doesn’t work

The download app at Bluprint-Craftsy only works for iOS/ Android (instructions here).
So what about downloading the videos to a laptop/desktop, especially a Mac ?

For those of you who are interested in using VLC to download the videos, here are the instructions for Windows.
I don’t use Windows so don’t know how well it works.

I tried several video download apps that are supposed to run on a Mac, but most of them only download YouTube. Here’s a list of the top 10 download tools for Mac – well, they do run on a Mac but they don’t download Bluprint/Craftsy.

So, many attempts and failures – including some mind boggling options needing you to go down into the depths of code, which is not one of my strengths.
Here is an example from someone who has kindly taken the trouble to sort out how to do it.
I found some instructions about installing curl on a Mac.

Allavsoft for downloading videos

Setting up the software

At last and happily, AndSewForth at Stitcher’s Guild posted about Allavsoft, which works for both Windows and Mac.
$20 for one month, not a big investment – I already had enough GB of free storage. You also need an .mp4 player. On my Mac, QuickTime does that.

Allavsoft’s instructions
Sewmodernbags instructions (more detailed)

Best first to buy and then contact Allavsoft, giving the receipt and your Bluprint a/c information, for personalisation before downloading the software.
The software downloaded from the link in the email you get from Allavsoft is the personalised version which works for downloading Bluprint videos.

Allavsoft have to manually set up the software to your Bluprint account, and not surprisingly they are very busy at the moment, so expect to wait some hours before being able to download, install, and use the software.

The instructions don’t mention it, but if you need to re-install the software, do un-install the existing version first, otherwise it just defaults to ‘Token Invalid’ again !
I worried whether I would use up my download limit, but I think if you did that while trying to sort out a version that worked you would have a valid reason for demanding more.

Downloading the videos

Using that software and the Sewmodernbags instructions, I have downloaded my class videos, I’m very happy to say.
I chose 50 of my classes to download (206 GB). 420 download files in all.
I haven’t got the fastest internet service, and it took about 12-1/2 hours.
I downloaded to my hard disk, and backed up on an external disk (about 3 hours).

On my desktop Mac, the only thing different from the Sewmodernbags instructions was that it set up a download folder : Movies > Allavsoft.

Allavsoft downloaded the files for each lesson into this folder.
There are 3 files for each lesson : the .mp4 video, an .srt file of the subtitles, and a .vtt transcript of the voice-over. Each file is labelled with the class number, lesson number, and lesson title.
So on my Mac in this folder after the download there was a list of 420 files sorted by class number and lesson number.

If you are using Windows, I suggest you set up a special folder instead of downloading to your desktop. See the Sewmodernbags Step 3 for where to change the ‘Save to’ to your own folder.

You do just get the class videos, not the support framework provided by Bluprint – index/menu, Q/A, etc.

Sewmodernbags has instructions at the end about what to do if the download is interrupted – looks as if it’s best not to quit Allavsoft until the download is finished.

When downloading – use the time remaining, at the bottom of the download window, only as a very general guide. It jumps to and fro – it went up to 6 days at one point for me. . .

If you change your mind and want to download some more classes, the Sewmodernbags instructions tell you how to download a single class (also see next section below). You can also download a single lesson, as each lesson has a different url.

Though you can no longer buy a class you’re sorry you missed !  The deadline for that passed before I knew it could be possible to download. . .

Do I have to say that I’m not affiliated to Allavsoft ? There may be other apps for Mac which do the job as well, but I haven’t come across them, and it was a great relief to find something that works. (See the Comments for more options for Windows.)

Sorting the videos into classes

As each lesson is downloaded separately, when the downloading is finished you need to sort out what you’ve got – see Sewmodernbags Step 7. 
Hmm – sorting 420 files into 50 classes.
Perhaps it would be less trouble overall to download one class at a time, rather than all in one go. That is a possible option as each class has its own url.
Sewmodernbags Step 4 screenshot – paste the url for an individual class here rather than the url for your whole class library. Then it will just download that class and you can take a pause before working on the next one.

Downloading each class separately needs more attention during the download process but less sorting out afterwards.
Fortunately on a Mac, items in a folder are listed in numeric order, so they’re easy to link together.

Support materials

Video download software does only download the videos. There are also .pdf written instructions, supplies lists and sometimes patterns associated with each class. I downloaded most of them when I first got a class, but I need to go through those as I find I haven’t got them all and some have been updated.
Download direct from the Bluprint site.
There’s a button labelled ‘Resources’ above the left side menu for each class. This time just touching the button for an item starts the download ! Though it just downloads to your browser. I need to transfer the file to a .pdf reader to save it as a .pdf.
There are still links to buying patterns and materials but they don’t work any more.

Good Luck for carrying out a hefty task, but it does mean you can retain your investment in these classes.

And do it soon – Bluprint have not announced when they are going to shut down completely, but expect it to be months not years.

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‘Planning’ my sewing ?

Posted March 1, 2020 by sewingplums
Categories: style and planning

I haven’t written anything here about planning for some time, but I’ve just been taking a ‘sew your own wardrobe’ class which ended with advice and examples on making written notebooks with specific plans for your wardrobe and future sewing.

And there are all those stylists and indie pattern companies which sell printed or free-gift pdf books for writing out your sewing project plans, with one page per project. They’re often not loose-leaf so you can’t even mildly change your mind. And they never have space to record what I think is important.

Oh dear, I can’t work that way at all.

One of my difficulties with sewing plans is I’m a ‘100 ideas before breakfast’ person about what I would like to make.
Also I’ve found in real life if I start on a plan, I wake up a week later to find myself doing the complete opposite (I gave up on making New Year resolutions for this reason some time ago – according to my notes here it was in 2013).

(And I was amused to hear a talk which said recent research shows if you tell people about your goals you’re less likely to reach them ! Though I don’t think that applies to written goals. It’s thought the reason is when you tell people your goals you get the same sort of enthusiastic feedback as you were looking forward to getting when you’ve achieved the goal, so that uses up some of the incentive – you can celebrate without actually doing anything 😀 )

I have managed to train myself to write my ideas down, instead of actually starting projects and then changing my mind, which began to be ridiculous –  a home full of boxes each containing a pattern and notions, and a huge fabric stash.

The point at which I realised I had to stop starting projects was when I organised all my ‘to make’ pile into project boxes, and so was face to face with the fact it was beyond helpful. . .

”project

Each of those 12 drawers is a separate project. There are also several project start-ups which are bulkier so have an individual tub.

I now have a computer full of ‘make next’ lists instead.  Each time I take a sewing or wardrobing class I end up with extensive ’make next’ lists.  My ‘make next’ list from the most recent class contains about 70 items. . .  (Meg McElwee’s Mindful Wardrobe class, thought provoking.)
And my lists change so often, I find it much easier to use word-processing rather than a paper notebook/journal to record them.  These days I find myself coming up with a new ‘make next’ list every morning  😀

I’ve also found it a great help to be secure about ‘my personal style’, so I’m not rushing after other people’s wardrobing lists and ‘develop your sewing skills’ pattern lists too !

By comparison, my actual sewing is very slow. So my focus needs to be on enjoying making, rather than on getting an ideal ‘me made’ wardrobe.

I’ve found it helps to have a good RTW wardrobe, so I’m not under pressure to make anything specific.  So I can just settle down to very slowly making items I’m fairly confident I will enjoy making and then using 😀 My making is best done in a ‘follow what I feel like doing now’ way, pre-planning and prioritising do not work for me here.

And I’m also a quilter, and enjoy using my embroidery machine. Have just fallen for yet another Block of the Month quilt, but have managed not to purchase. Unmade BoMs made another big pile in my previous home ! Long list of embroidery machine quilts I’d like to make too. . . My embroidery designs folder is also huge. There too I’m now managing to buy designs for a specific project rather than scooping up every design I like the look of. Like patterns, they’re a good low-cost option for a little treat 😀 I’ve never been a compulsive shopper for clothes, but patterns, fabric, embroidery designs all need restraint I’ve had to learn ! Now I’m making lists on my computer of what catches my eye in those categories too, instead of buying.

Well, that’s my approach to recording sewing ideas and choosing between possible projects.

But, although this sounds like the opposite of what I’ve said so far, once I start working on a specific project I do find it essential to make a detailed list of each step involved in making it, especially any step that involves changes in tools or processes.  Those lists are on my computer too.

’Sew the shoulder seams.’ Looks like a simple small step but – hmm, how many different sub-steps does that involve – pin, baste, test fit, alter, repeat, stitch, finish seams, press – and there are changes of tools used and/or position in sewing space between each step.

Also I note my progress in detailed ‘e-diaries’ rather than on paper.
So my sewing records are all on computer.

The organisers of the wardrobing course I’ve just taken are staunchly hand-written-paper-journal users. Ah well – that course has made me think I’m unconventional in an unconventional way. . .

Also ’sewing’ as the focus of my hobbies doesn’t just involve ‘making’.
What about all those very enjoyable ’sewing related’ activities which don’t get any making done : watching sewing videos, surfing pattern sites, reading sewing books, reading pattern instructions, changing patterns, blogging about sewing technique and about how to use my embroidery machine. Wandering between all those certainly is not planned. . .

There are other aspects of my life which are better sorted out on paper rather than computer.  When I was working and writing research papers, I had to integrate complex ideas and the first step was to work out how they fitted together.  I used hand drawn diagrams with many arrows to show connections. Using diagram-making software on a computer may be good for showing business plans, but I find it very much constrains creative thinking.

And when I have deadlines I do much pre-planning and prioritising. But for fun hobbies, definitely not.

So what best to do to support my sequence of activities does very much depend on specifics of the task.

Best Wishes for finding your own way through the ever-expanding maze of possibilities for sewing, planning, and making records of both.

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