Do you still buy many patterns ?

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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Explore posts in the same categories: pattern making for clothes

4 Comments on “Do you still buy many patterns ?”

  1. Elle Says:

    “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 !”

    Or it would have to adjust like http://www.sewfitography.com does.

  2. sewingplums Says:

    How fascinating Elle – thanks for the link. I can’t try it as I use a Mac. It will certainly be interesting to see how much the pattern industry follows this route.

  3. birdmommy Says:

    I’ve found a few designers that make patterns that work for my body and fit my style – currently my One True Love is Merchant and Mills, but when I’m slimmer it’s Alabama Chanin. I like to look at what other designers are doing, but 99% of the time I don’t buy anything. I just don’t have the mental energy to experiment.


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