As a newbie in the world of sewing, I’ve been delighted to find the depth of community that exists, both relating specifically to sewing, and also in the wider crafting arena. Most importantly, it’s incredibly accessible. This is of course due to the nature of the internet and social media, which allow anyone to uncover a conversation or topic from one crafter to another, provided that conversation takes place on a general forum of some sort.
I thought I’d write a few notes about finding things out from a novice’s perspective. Maybe I can look back in a couple of years and laugh heartily at my naivety. But I also think if I’m looking at and for these things, then maybe other beginners are too – I’ve found out a massive amount from other people’s blogs!
First up is a little bit on independent pattern companies. I’m probably going to commit some heinous crime by leaving out someone very obvious, but this is genuinely just a listing of companies I’ve discovered so far that I liked, not a list of the top makers of all time. 🙂 I’ve really enjoyed coming across them, seeing what they have to offer and trying not to purchase everything I see!
The first patterns I (and presumably most people) came across were patterns from the larger companies. These companies, including McCalls, Butterick, Vogue and Simplicity, do a huge range of patterns. I see people talking in forums and on blogs about the fact that they seem to be drafted up in a very mechanical, commercial manner (“drones” was one memorable word I saw used to describe the employees). Having checked out quite a few, I understand why people make these comments, butttt, I also think:
- These companies are producing patterns for everywoman (and man and kid). They produce tons each season and I guess therefore can’t give each one the spotlight attention that a smaller company would. I do think this adds to the impression of not caring so much by comparison, perhaps a little unfairly?
- The fact of volume and mass appeal probably explains why I like maybe 10% of the patterns I see in the above catalogues, compared to probably 50% of patterns from an independent producer. But 10% of those patterns = quite a few patterns!
- There’s no getting around the fact that the patterns from the big companies are a LOT cheaper. By this I mean that someone like Jo-Ann Fabric has them on sale for $1.99 every other more, it seems, as opposed to maybe $10-15 for an independent pattern. I understand the reasons, just the same as any other business, but it is still a consideration if you’re looking for, say, a standard pencil skirt or similar.
So why even look at an independent pattern company if there’s such a massive price difference? Okay, well it goes without saying that the patterns have to be great – you have to want them! Additionally though, for me, the real beauty of an independent pattern company comes in the presale and postsale “care” if you like. Yes, the pattern costs a bit more, but there seems to be a relationship with a smaller producer that doesn’t exist with the bigger companies. You get updates from the designer as they plan and test the pattern, so you feel like you can have a little input, or at least that you can watch the project evolve. You know who your money is going to.
This sounds a bit strange, even to me, but if you feel something of a relationship to someone (albeit simply one of observance and blog post reading) and know something about them, it definitely adds to the experience of buying the pattern. Once you have the pattern, there are very often sew-alongs, where the designer will show you and other community sewers in great detail exactly how to make up your garment. You can discuss it, look at other people’s versions for inspiration or just follow along – it all adds to the experience.
Okay, so they are a few of my thoughts on independent vs. mass produced patterns. Suffice it to say I have purchased both and I have been more directly excited by the independent ones – really because of the buzz and community aspects I mention above. Also, they look prettier! 🙂 Without further ado then, here are just a few of the companies/people I have come across on my travels so far. They’re all super!
Made by Rae: I was first alerted to this site because of people talking about the Beatrix top. The general consensus seemed be that this is a pattern that fits well and looks great on just about anybody. I love the button-down back and some of the great contrast combinations I’ve seen, including the model ones. Rae also makes very cute kids’ clothes and has just released a new pattern for the Luna pants, which I must admit look fabulous in the photoshoot she did recently. But I suspect might not look so fabulous on me, heh heh.
Deer and Doe: A French outfit whose patterns I think might be aimed at a pear-shaped gal primarily (maybe?) but don’t let that put you off. I’m not pear-shaped and I’ve picked up a fair few of their patterns now. They are what I would say is typically French: chic, classic but with a modern twist. I was particularly drawn to the Cardamome dress, which is newer, but there are plenty of sewist versions online of the Belladone dress and the Bleuet dress to salivate over. At least, that’s what I did. Oh, and also, it appeared to actually be cheaper to send the patterns to me in the USA than from France to the rest of Europe. Something to do with taxes I think. So no worries about international shipping.
Grainline Studios: Run out of Chicago, Illinois, Grainline Studios offers patterns with a clean, modern aesthetic, to my eye. I was going to say that they have a more autumnal/wintry feel, but actually that’s not true. I think it’s just that I was drawn towards the likes of the Linden sweatshirt (which seems super popular) and the Cascade duffle coat. I don’t have any Grainline Studios patterns yet, but I do covet that duffle coat, so it’s only a matter of time!
Colette Patterns: An independent pattern company that seems in a transition phase at the moment from small(ish) to big(ish), at least in terms of scope and ambition. The “Colette Patterns” patterns are gorgeous – there are quite a few I have my eye on and they are the sort of patterns you see cropping up on blogs all over the place. The latest pattern is the Wren dress and there are puhhlenty of online versions to get a feel for how it might suit you.
Something else definitely of note for beginners is the Seamwork magazine: this is a monthly online digest that has lots of interesting articles, including basic (and not so basic) sewing techniques, a look at the fabrication of a vintage garment and historical sewing-related feature articles. It really has some great info, but it also offers two patterns a month that are suitable for any level of sewing experience, since each one is reasonably simple and takes between 1 and 3 hours to make. Okay, honestly, it takes me a lot longer than that, but if you were a more experienced sewer, the estimate is probably more accurate. A subscription costs $6 a month and you can pick and choose which patterns you’d like to download. So far, I have made Akita (see the article here) and I plan to make at least the Moji trousers next. Quite attracted to the new York top too, actually.
Victory Patterns: This Canadian company gets the award from me for best logo – I love that Art Nouveau 30s vibe. And the patterns kind of fall in line too: they’re definitely modern, but with more than a tip of the hat to vintage design. I really like the styling too – it’s a “fuller” look than many pattern companies produce, which I suppose could be good or bad, depending on how much you like it and/or are influenced by it. I happen to love it, and the Roxanne top is on my ‘to buy’ list. I love the back pleat detail – really unusual.
StyleArc: Run from Australia, I keep running across this name when looking at clothes other people have sewn. I’ll be honest, I find the website a little confusing – it’s very busy and has some strange layout going on, but once you get past that, there is a plethora of patterns to choose from. I’m not so keen on the fact that you choose just one size. I’m still losing weight after having my baby, so that automatically means I’m out for now. Looking at the site, I’m drawn to some of the more modern patterns, in knits particularly, like the Hedy Designer Dress and the Toni Designer Dress.
Sewaholic: You know, I have never seen a cape I have wanted to make. I’ve seen capes that look good on other people, and I’ve seen capes I admire, but not one that I really think I’ll wear. Well, Sewaholic has cracked it with their Cypress Cape in my humble opinion. That cape shall be mine. And I shall wear it. Oh yes. Based in Canada, Sewaholic produces patterns primarily for pear-shaped women. Again though, that doesn’t exclude shapes like mine (not pear). And thank goodness, because I really do like their rainbow-coloured multitude of modern yet extremely wearable patterns.
Named Clothing: This company is run by two Finnish sisters and they conform to the fashion-forward, sleek ideal that many people have when they think of Scandinavian fashion. For me, these ladies get top marks for styling. Whether it’s tribal print, peg leg trousers or maxi cardigan, the latest must-have item is in their collection, sewn up in a delectable fabric, and then shot impeccably.
Papercut Patterns: I only just discovered this one recently and the website is another masterclass in styling. I’ve not decided if the patterns skew slightly to the younger lass or not, or if it’s just the model that’s making me think that. Either way, I like these modern patterns a lot and even though they’re based in New Zealand, they do free worldwide shipping. Great! I have a soft spot for Kiwis too, so I’ll definitely give these chaps a few looks.
So there we are. A wee round-up and perhaps I’ll do a Part 2 as and when I discover new and favourite pattern makers. If you have any suggestions or favourites, feel free to let me know in the comments! Bye for now!