Some Grumps

Aargh. . . my list of advice that annoys me.

In this new year I’m telling other people their resolution should be to give better advice 😀

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“Start your colour choice by picking out a favourite print from your existing closet”

But I haven’t got any prints in my closet.

I’m a patchworker and I have a huge stash of print fabrics. But they are nearly all one-colour prints. Patchwork advice also often tells you to start your colour planning from a multi-colour print. But it’s not something I like to do.

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“Choose your size by measuring a favourite fitted RTW jacket”

But if I could buy a fitted RTW jacket that didn’t make me look like a freak I wouldn’t need to be doing this.

And with my high round back and short waist, using RTW neckline and waistline as reference points for length measurements is a very bad idea.

Well, I suppose at least that’s a good clue that someone who says this is unlikely to give the sort of fitting advice that I need.

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“Every woman looks good in . . .”
“Every woman should have a . . .”

It’s difficult to understand how people who say this become style advisors, as they obviously don’t really look at people, and aren’t interested in people as individuals.

Well at least it’s a good cue not to take their advice.

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Why are so many people who make sewing videos so badly dressed. . .

Partly it’s the universal black, which is truly flattering on only a minority of people, and even worse in harsh lighting. Very few TV presenters wear it.

I know of 3 fitting videos now where the person giving fitting advice is wearing badly fitting clothes herself.

And the wrong styles for their body shape. I won’t say more or you might recognise who I was being unkind about ! But there are several people who give marvellous sewing advice but I wouldn’t turn to them for colour or styling guidance.

Of course it isn’t true about all videos, but a surprisingly large proportion.

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Why do some independent pattern companies show their patterns so badly

I’m happy to promote independent pattern designers. But some of them give such poor information about their products, they don’t deserve to succeed.

As an example : I recently looked for a pattern with a shirt-style sleeve placket. Some of the companies have photos so small you can’t even tell if the style has a cuff (and I’m looking on a desk-top, not a small screen). Or the garment is in a strongly patterned print and there’s no line diagram, so again you can’t clearly see the style. Or there’s no back view, so you can’t tell if a cuff is open or closed. Or there is a line diagram with a back view but it’s so tiny or of such poor quality that you can’t see the type of placket opening. I’m not going to choose a pattern if I can’t tell what its style elements are.

Also the information about size can be very limited. Small to Large – what does that mean ? (Extra Large for the Japanese has 38 inch hip. . .) Sizes 4 – 24 : well, are those Big4 pattern sizes or US RTW sizes. Not very helpful.

It’s sad, but if pattern designers don’t take the trouble to tell us about their products, they can’t expect us to buy them.

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Lists of must-have tools for beginners

Why oh why those daunting lists in beginners’ books, of 100s of tools you must have before you ever begin. It’s a wonder anyone ever gets past that stage. I’ve been sewing for over 60 years and I still haven’t got all of them.

You can improvise many tools. Though beware cheap thread and pins. Use new sewing machine needles. And a quality fine tipped seam ripper really does help with near disasters !

LDT2011 at Pattern Review has devised an entertaining sewer’s version of the ‘Keep Calm’ poster.


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Difficult books for beginners

It’s surprising how many books for beginners are much too difficult. And few books for beginners are aware that people have different learning styles. Some like to watch, some like to see, some like to read, some like to share in a class, some need to do it themselves. Some like to be fully guided, some want to find out for themselves. Some like to take tiny fool-proof steps. Some like to jump in the middle and merrily make mistakes. Brief written instructions with no pictures really don’t meet many learner needs.

And how many beginners books have not been properly checked or tested. They contain small errors or gaps so the inexperienced don’t know what to do for the best. Thorough testing of what you think is the final product, on real beginners not sewing friends, is essential. I think it’s irresponsible to claim a book is for beginners without doing this. Learning to sew is quite difficult enough – many new skills needed to make even the simplest item. Understanding patterns and fabrics, fit, cutting, marking, sewing, pressing – it’s amazing we ever get confident about it all. In fact the only two sewing books that have got me in a real rage have been books for beginners. It’s sad to give beginners a confusing or even a bad experience.

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Grand claims for fit

I’m a trusting soul. When people say their pattern making instructions tell you how to draft a successful personal pattern for your body, I used to believe them. But I’ve learned a lot in the past few years. Including that no pattern drafting system (or the software based on them) can allow for all possible body shape combinations. And if they try they can get horribly complicated.

Of course people are enthusiastic about the fitting schemes they’ve devised. But please do admit there are some people it doesn’t work for, instead of claiming it works for everyone. I hate to think of all the grief I’ve spent on picking myself up off the floor when yet another fitting method doesn’t work for me and I’ve taken it for granted it’s me that’s done something wrong. . .

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Sorry about the bad temper !

Moral – don’t take it for granted that people giving advice do know what’s best for everyone. And that includes me 😀

Have a lovely 2012 finding the best people for you to take advice from 😀

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Links available January 2012

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Explore posts in the same categories: sundry messages

16 Comments on “Some Grumps”

  1. Nancy Says:

    I couldn’t have said it better myself! lol

  2. Liz Says:

    Bwahhaaha, well said and the truth of it all makes me laugh! I get grumpy about those things too. May I add another? Patterns that obviously have not been tested after printing.

    • sewingplums Says:

      Good point Liz. I’ve been caught out by that too. The successful independents put a lot of effort into checking their pattern pieces match up well in all sizes. And testing their instructions. So people want to come back for more ! Producing a good pattern is not trivially easy. Design flair is not enough, you have to care about the details. Reminds me I didn’t sound off about incomprehensible or disorganised instructions 😀

  3. Chris Says:

    LOL! you took the words right out of my mouth…

    “Choose your size by measuring a favourite fitted RTW jacket”
    HA! Indeed – I wish I was the size & proportions of a fit model – but i’m not – not even close.

    • lorrwill Says:

      I wish I could find the link where I fit model apologizes to all the women who do not fit the RTW based on her measurements.

      I kid you not. She said its her job so she doesn’t start trouble, but she is fully aware that most of the people who buy those particular designer’s clothes are no where near the proportions she is.

  4. Ruthie Says:

    Oh yes! I agree on nearly everything you said there lol. Except I haven’t tried any fitting videos. I have a lot of RTW jackets, and because you can try them on they do fit a bit better than my home sewn ones, though they don’t actually fit me properly on the back neck. I have made some progress in fitting, but am perhaps not sufficiently obsessed with it to get really good results.

  5. sewingplums Says:

    Good to know other people feel as strongly about all this as I do 😀

  6. vwgrant Says:

    I am WITH you on these comments! My personal grating favorite is ‘measure your favorite RTW’ for determining how to select sizes for X pattern. No help for us who do not fit RTW! Talk about flying blind!

    I have fallen into the unstated “advice” trap of thinking “they must know more than I do, after all, I’m not designing/creating patterns and instructions”. Happily, my skeptical antennae has increased with my sewing knowledge. A newer sewist would be lost with the omissions and errors on my latest grumpy Burda pattern -7422. It has a lot of “hey, that’s not right” or “something’s missing here” moments which is forcing me think about construction details, something I assume I’ve paid for and is included with the pattern I bought. Not so in this pattern!

    I think the thing I’ve learned is to treat every pattern like a Marfy pattern.

  7. pascalenary Says:

    I am a beginner sewer and would appreciate it if you could be more specific about the books that are good and the ones to avoid. I actually have quite a few beginner books including ones like Cal Patch, Sew what skirts!, Sew Everything Workshop and the Wendy Mullin series and I would love to start with one that is recommended as most reliable.


    • sewingplums Says:

      Good question. There isn’t a simple answer, as people have different learning styles and different favourite projects.

      Look at Amazon and Pattern Review. Ignore comments from people who aren’t beginners, or who haven’t yet tried to follow the instructions but think the book is attractive.

      To fill the gaps, it’s good to have a general reference book with plentiful illustrations. Again there isn’t universal agreement on the best. Many like the Readers Digest New Complete Guide.

      It takes time and practice to build sewing skills. Start with simple projects. I make a lot of samples. There is no way of avoiding mistakes – even experts make them !

      P.S. Try Me and my sewing machine or Sewing Machine Basics.

      Good Luck with your explorations 😀

  8. eumoronorio Says:

    Hi sewingplum! I noticed on one of your older posts you referenced a skirt as a “TNT” skirt. What does TNT stand for? Thanks for the help!

    • sewingplums Says:

      Sorry – thought I always explained this ! Tried ‘N True patterns – ones that you’ve made many times. You know they fit well, look good, and you can do all the techniques without thinking. The ideal patterns for a core wardrobe 😀

  9. lorrwill Says:

    Raising my hand as someone how has videos by more than one person who’s clothing looks awful.

    Also have the fitting system that guarantees you will get the best fitting ______________ you have ever owned and I got the worst! Way worse than any of the sewing patterns I own.

    And the video that came with that system with the “professional models” from about 1982…I’ll be nice and stop there.

    So glad to see I am not the only one who noticed/fell victim to the problems that gave you the grumps!

    • sewingplums Says:

      Good points Lorrwill – thanks.

      I still watch that video from the early 1980s, it is a good laugh. What was thought stylish 30 years ago 😀 The bodice of that fitting system gives a result for me that needs just as much adjustment as any other to get it right. The skirt and pants it produces bear no relation to me. The trouble is there are so many people who it works well for, and there doesn’t seem to be any effective way of warning purchasers that they may instead get a nasty shock. Don’t know how many of us that is true for. . .

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