Skip to content

On (not) drinking the Kool-Aid

June 4, 2014

Something has been bothering me for a while, and, given some of the current conversations in the sewing blogosphere (I think things started here), this seems like a good time to talk about it.

If you’ve been around this blog for a while, you know that I make stuff from all sorts of patterns. When I sew, I sometimes work with patterns from independent designers, but I also regularly use patterns from the Big 4 companies.

I would love to purchase and use more indie patterns because I like supporting small businesses, I like the designs, and, to be honest, it’s fun to play along when a lot of sewing bloggers seem to be pumping out endless indie creations. I wouldn’t blog if I didn’t enjoy it, but I do want to be more involved in the online sewing community, and sewing indie patterns seems to be one way to do that.

Thing is, indie patterns are expensive. Of course, I think that people should be fairly compensated for their work, and it takes a lot of work to design and draft patterns. However, I’m on a grad student stipend and can only afford to spend $15+ on a pattern every once in a great while, and even then I tend to pick them up when companies have sales and I think I’ll use the pattern more than once. Otherwise, I shop the $1 pattern sales at the big box stores.

When I do spend more money for an indie pattern, I have high expectations. If a Big 4 pattern doesn’t work out, I’ve invested a buck and the time I spend muslining, but if an indie pattern doesn’t work out despite my best efforts as a seamstress of nearly 20 years, I’ve lost what is, for me, a substantial investment.

Much of the current debate has revolved around the payment and expectations of pattern testers, but this seems somewhat tangential to me. Sure, I believe that testers should be compensated for their work, but I myself have tested knitting patterns for little or no compensation (and certainly nothing monetary), so who am I to comment?

For me, the issue is the nearly universal raving about independent patterns. I’ve made patterns from companies that are praised for the thoroughness of their instructions only to find that some of those instructions are downright wrong. I’ve read sewing books written by authors who are praised for the quality of their work only to be deterred by the poor fit and evident quality of their model garments. And then I feel, rightfully or not, misled by those who have recommended these patterns and books.

So I, like so many other bloggers, am wondering what the solution is. I want my corner of the internet to be a positive space, and I want to be a friend rather than an enemy to the sewing community. But I also want to be respectfully honest here: respectful of the hard work involved in independent design and respectful of the time and money of anyone who reads my reviews. If that requires identifying, rather than ignoring, the problems that I’ve had while making a project, I hope I can be just as confident doing so when reviewing independent sewing patterns as I am when reviewing independent knitting patterns.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. June 5, 2014 12:25 pm

    I so appreciate this post. I’ve gotten to the point, sad to say, where when I read the overwhelming number of love letters for an independent pattern, my b.s. detector goes on high alert, especially when I see the pictures and think, “Um, it’s an A-line skirt, folks” or that the style really only works for a narrow range of figures but it gets universal love. It baffles me why this is so in the sewing world? On Ravelry, knitters are open when a pattern doesn’t work and this kind of honesty serves everyone much better, including the designer. That’s the key word: honesty. An honest review doesn’t necessarily equal “mean” or “bad” — it’s one person’s experience, and what doesn’t work for them might work for me. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve bought books off Amazon after reading the negative reviews because what people don’t like about the books are precisely the things I’ll enjoy. šŸ™‚ So please … don’t start drinking the Kool Aid. All that food coloring! šŸ˜‰

    • June 5, 2014 6:40 pm

      Thanks so much for your thoughtful comments, Diana.

      You’re absolutely right, what are negative aspects for one person are selling points for another!

      I think my only point of hesitation right now is that the atmosphere on the sewing blogosphere really isn’t like on ravelry (why? I’m not sure). I’ve seen bloggers villainized for what I thought were respectful critiques of patterns, etc. out of loyalty to indie designers. Can’t we have it both ways? Continue to support these talented designers, but in an open, honest manner? I hope so.

  2. June 8, 2014 2:34 pm

    I’m so glad that you brought this up!

    I’m not a great participator of the online sewing community (typical blog lurker) and really appreciate the work independent designers put into their patterns but sometimes (or should I say often?) I think that the patterns themselves are pretty “meh” and definitely don’t understand the rave reviews. This mainly applies to basic t-shirts and skater dresses, skirts that consist only of a few pieces of square fabric, circle skirts… things for which you either only need a really basic pattern – and some basic alteration skills – or a few measurements, a free tutorial that’s already out there (or experience/imagination, if you have it) and a piece of paper.

    I’m the first to admit that I’m not a great sewer and understand that loads of people have no idea where to start altering a pattern. Figuring out where to start putting everything together is of course another issue. Despite that I reckon there are too many garments made using a variety of independent patterns that essentially could be made using the same pattern. For a lot less money spent on patterns.

    I think independent patterns are where really interesting designs and construction techniques should be brought forward and am happy to spend some extra money on something like that. (Love Grainline’s Archer, for example.) I’ll continue getting my basic A-line skirt or t-shirt patterns from Burdastyle or one of the bigger – and cheaper – companies.

    • June 9, 2014 6:40 pm

      I’m right there with you, Siri, and that’s another reason why I think honest reviews are so important. If a pattern truly is beautifully drafted/has something new to offer/has instructions that will help me more than anything else, then I’m probably willing to pay more for it. But if it’s exactly like what I can get elsewhere, I’ll probably save my pennies.

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s