I have a few blogposts waiting for you over at the new blog address! Click on the link below the picture to be directly directed to the post and don’t forget to update your bookmarks since this is one of my last times posting here before I do a permanent redirect… If you subscribe by Bloglovin or by email, the transfer should have been automatic but otherwise you may need to update the rss feed or subscribe with the box on the side bar of the new blog!
I was encouraged by your reactions to my post in which I was wondering if I should merge the website of Just Patterns and my own personal sewing blog. It took me some time to figure things out but I finally managed and I published my first post there.
Don’t forget to update your RSS readers or subscriptions as I will no longer be writing here! I can’t wait to hear your thoughts!
I am not a particularly meticulous sewist. I do take my time but there is usually a moment when I start rushing. The context is almost always the same: I am in the “sewing zone“, everything is going well and I suddenly decide that I want to wear what I’m working on, THAT night! And instantly, things start going all wrong… I make mistakes I would normally never make, the machines act out, the little human wakes up, you name it… Of course, I never get to wear the garment that night and my next sewing session will be dedicated to fixing mistakes. Sounds familiar?
I don’t have a cure to offer but at least I’m convinced that it improves over time. I believe that the longer you have been sewing the more you realize that the pleasure is more in the making than the wearing. And you also learn the hard way that that taking your time pays off. Whenever I start a project now, I force myself to slow down, to select the best fabric I can get and apply the nicest finishings and techniques I can. I guess it sounds pretty much like trying to sew well, although in this Instagram-dominated world we would tag it as #slowsewing.
While the concept of slow has been trending for some time, starting with food and spilling into other categories, I find it interesting that sewing is almost always associated in the definition of slow fashion. Usually from the perspective of mending and altering, but also sometimes dressmaking (from scratch). It makes sense, the thoughtfulness, effort and time you put into sewing a garment is likely to change forever your relationship with clothes in general. Building a handmade wardrobe will always take more time than a store-bought one. And yet, as many members of the sewing community have started to point out, sewing and sustainability are far from being synonymous. My favorite sustainable sewing voice, Kate of Time to Sew, reminds us that if you are churning out garments at a rapid pace, your fashion is not much slower. It doesn’t impact your wallet, your closet or the environment as quickly as weekly hauls at the mall, but eventually you will end up with too much clothes, and for sure, with too much fabric!
Anyway, those were my thoughts when I decided to sew this outfit. I set out to replicate a pairing of the Sailor Pants by Jesse Kamm with the Georgia tee by Elizabeth Suzann I had seen online. Both garments are relatively pricey and that’s when sewing really comes in handy, as long you involve enough time to match the quality. This time I was successful in not rushing through the steps for either of those garments!
Sewing this top is very straightforward. I more or less ignored the instructions, sewed the shoulder and side seams with french seams and finished the neckline with bias binding (my favorite method). I widened and deepened the collar to look closer to the inspiration garment, but after wearing it, I think I might have over done it.
I love that this top is so easy to wear and launder. It’s a good alternative to tee-shirts on the weekend and to dress shirts in the office.Making
Fabric Stretch cotton poplin and striped double gauze Mood Fabrics in NYC Notions Buttons for the pants fly all came from stash.
For the pants, I had to make some alterations. I have a bigger difference between my waist and my hips than the pattern is drafted for. I made the back darts deeper (and longer) and took in the center back seam. I think the pants still came out a little big, partly because I used stretch poplin but also because I think the smallest size is a little too big for me. Since the final pants are extremely comfortable, I will try another version without stretch before making more adjustments.
I’m not a fan of the button fly showing so I added some stitching to the concealed button fly to keep it flatter and I used a one piece pocket that you can find on the actual Jesse Kamm pants. Overall the pattern and the instructions are great. My only comments are minor: I would have appreciated the option of a layered pdf to print only the size I needed and I think the waistband would look better fully interfaced rather than only on one side.
In case you like this pants pattern and would like to do something a little different with it, I wrote an article for Sew News that was published in the October / November 2018 issue on how to turn it into a paper bag waist. Beth recently pointed out that those pants fit kind of funny on everybody so it leads to some “interesting” poses. It’s true that there are more wrinkles that I would ideally like, but honestly I like the final results so much that I don’t mind. Trust me, I’m the first one surprised to admit this…
I love this outfit so much and since I finished it I have been wearing it many many times. I also wear them as separates quite a lot, and I know it’s time to make another pair of Persephone because I’m constantly looking for them, even when they are in the wash. So I would say that taking my time really paid off this time and I hope that it will serve me as a lesson next time I want to rush like a mad seamstress! What about you? Are you immune to the desire of urgently finishing everything or do you manage to keep your pace?
Compared to previous years, 2018 was relatively calm for me. I didn’t move across any ocean and I didn’t birth any human! But I did experience significant changes, some that were to be expected and some that were completely unexpected. On the expected side, my quiet and smiling baby turned into a determined, not to say very stubborn, toddler committed to climbing onto everything (especially me). On the unexpected side, two major changes of responsibilities in my day job have have considerably increased my workload.
While I love the idea of a #slowlife and I enjoy tremendously the hours spent sewing on my own, I regularly over commit and end up with more than I can handle. I won’t recap my entire year but in January, I almost drove myself insane and that pretty much set the tone for the rest of the year. I was working and adapting to my new job in Haiti, sewing for myself, sewing and writing for Sew News and then I decided to participate in a 10-day book proposal challenge. I didn’t even have intentions of submitting a proposal, even less to write a book right now, but I wanted to see what it would take to write a sewing book proposal (in case you are wondering, the answer is: a lot of work).
In 2019, I still have both the busy job and the toddler, so I probably won’t be able to regain control over my time. But what reassures me is that even if my ability to document on the blog and on instagram was reduced, I still managed to sew and to add clothes to my wardrobe that I love. The answer to the question in the title is no, it is 2019 is unlikely to be the year I slow things down. But I still want to try doing things slowly, or at least slower as I think that it has more to do with a state of mind than an actual pace.
Hopefully I will be able to spend some time reflecting on what slow sewing and slow fashion mean to me, and then share some of those thoughts with you. For me, it has to do with trying to produce your best sewing, pushing your skills and creating clothes that will have a special place in your closet for the years to come. The dress I’m showing you today is very far from perfect, but when making it, I did try to sew at my best. I sewed it in 2017 for an article in Sew News that was published last year.
The design is loosely inspired from the Christy dress by NYC label Khaite. There is also a version very close to the original dress that won a Pattern Review contest in 2017. I completely fell in love with the big buttons the moment I saw it, and we’ve seen big horn buttons every where since! I used our pattern for the Linda Wrap Dress as my starting point. I did the same modifications to make it sleeveless as my black linen version: remove 1” of shoulder length, raise the underarm by 1/2” and bring it in by 3/4” on both front and back bodice pieces. I omitted the collar and removed the extension of the waistband part. The bodice is fully lined in self fabric.
Fabric Mid-weight suiting of a mysterious blend from Mood Fabrics in NYC Notions Buttons from Botani in NYC
For the full details of construction, you can check my article in the April/May 18 issue of Sew News. It includes instructions for an in-set buttonhole at the junction of the bodice and the waistband. The most important design aspect of the this dress is the size of the buttons and their placement. I’ve said it before, but I have a personal pet peeve with slightly off button placement on handmade garments, that makes the entire thing look awkward. For instance, I often see buttons too far away from the edges, or very small buttons with too much space between them. I find referring to RTW clothes, in my closet or using pictures online, helpful to figure out what combination is most pleasing to the eye.
I really like my final dress and it’s perfect for my formal work events in Haiti. In the pictures the bodice looks maybe a little too roomy, but I actually appreciate the comfort. Not all my work dresses are comfortable for a full day of work. My only issue with this dress is that I picked the fabric based on the look that I was going for. It has the right mix of body and drape, it was easy to work with, and is easy to launder. But I’m guessing that there it’s a blend of something artificial and I don’t love the feeling on my skin.
As you can see, I am kind of letting go of the expectations that I will blog everything that I make, or blog about previously sewn garments in any kind of structured way. I hope it does not make it hard to follow along and the positive aspect is that I already know how I really feel about the clothes I’m showing you since I’ve been wearing it already! As I start to draft my next post on what slow sewing mean to me, I would love to hear your views or your resolutions for the year!
One of the issues of blogging only sporadically is to remember to give some contexts to whatever I’m about to say. Over the last few months, I have mentally wrote several posts so I feel like you are up to date with my train of thoughts when in fact, not at all! So let’s recap a little.
Since moving back to Haiti exactly a year ago, I have moved from one challenging and time-consuming job to another even more challenging and time-consuming one. Who would have thought that was possible?? But possible it was, and this is the situation now… In parallel, I also found that if I thought that being the single working mom of an infant was not an easy job, being the single working mom of a toddler is a completely different game. Basically, I have two very tiring jobs….
So where has my sewing time gone? Well, it’s not entirely gone, the proof is that today I’m including in this post pictures of two of my personal samples for Just Patterns, the Kate Bias Top and the Yasmeen skirt. But my personal sewing time has also been diverted by the attempts to keep Just Patterns (barely) alive. I haven’t been able to do much more than responding to customer requests and some occasion Instagram posting so that people know that we are still active. I’m disappointed because I had basically two patterns to release since the beginning of the year, but it has not been possible and I don’t see how it will become easier in the coming months.
Amazingly, the patterns have continued to sell! Compared to last year, we did very little marketing effort, released no new pattern and yet we are on track to sell more patterns… This makes me so happy and proud. It also makes me realize the this little pattern project means a lot to me than I initially thought. I regularly day dreams of running away from my job. I can’t help but think that if I dedicated more time and effort to it, it could turn into something else. My job is stimulating and rewarding but it is also extremely stressful and it has me outside of the house/away from my daughter 12 hours per day. I’m definitely not ready to quit and start living the sewing life, but there are days when the temptation is real…
In the mean time, I need to re-assess how I commit my time and my energy. I’m starting to realize that the idea of maintaining two blogs, one here and one for Just Patterns is completely unrealistic. I don’t have time to produce enough content and I never got used to the more neutral tone for Just Patterns. The way I write on this blog feels much more like me. There are also other considerations, such as never really liking the interface of the Just Patterns site or the name of my own blog “Sewing Tidbits”. When we launched Just Patterns, I just used a standard wordpress website, which doesn’t allow us to host a proper e-shop. It was fine then but now it looks a bit sad.
Fabric – Raspberry silk from stash (bought years ago in the NY garment district) and blush linen twill from Mood Fabrics in NY. Notions – Invisible zip and grosgrain waistband from stash
So I have been thinking about creating a new site for Just Patterns and moving my blog there too. That way I would only maintain one blog, with my rea “voice” but also the tutorials we do occasionally for Just Patterns… I still have a few technical and time management concerns, but mostly what I would like to hear is your opinion. Since Eira and I launched this project, I have tried to be as transparent as possible with you and listened to what readers and customers had to say. So I thought I would ask you, would it be weird to have it Sewing Tidbits and Just Patterns under one virtual roof?
I’m slowly climbing out of the overwhelmed single working mom hole although I have to acknowledge that I may fall right back into it at any time. Life has a thing for intently proving me wrong every time I start feeling like things are under control. But before that happens, I’m trying to get as much sewing and photographing done!
The skirt I am showing you today has been on my mind since November, I had just finished a grey wool and cashmere version of our Just Patterns Stephanie Skirt because I thought it would come in handy for the New York winter and then learned I would be relocating to Haiti within weeks. So in the midst of selling all my belongings, packing my things and my baby, I, of course, started thinking about new wardrobe options! I went on a last shopping spree at Mood, before leaving because fabric shopping in Port-au-Prince is limited. I wanted to find a cotton lace or Guipure that would enable an scalloped hem and some transparency, and I had an immediate crush on this particular fabric!
I didn’t do any change to the pattern, except lengthening it by 3 inches for the lace layer and shortening the poplin underlining so that it’s a total 12″ long. I really wanted for the sheerness of the lace to show, so I kept the underlining as wanted the underlining to be as short as possible. One thing I would do differently in working with this kind of fabric would be to add wider seam allowances than just 1/2″ as it can get tricky for the “holes” part of the lace.
Fabric Lace and cotton poplin are both from Mood Fabrics in NYC Notions The invisible zipper and hooks and eyes are from the stash.
The poplin is serged all around the edges of the lace. Although I am usually not a fan of overlocked edges, for this particular fabric it provides some needed stability the the seam allowances. Treating the poplin as an underlining rather than a lining also has the benefit of hiding the pocket bags. To create the scalloped hem, I carefully cut around the flower shapes, trying to respect the flare. Unlike some pleated skirt patterns or tutorials you sometimes find, the hem is curved because the pleats were added to a flared skirt and not to a rectangle.
Just Patterns Stephanie Skirt
What I like about this pattern (and I’m biased of course ;-)) and this particular combination with the lace is the wow effect of a relatively simple project otherwise. I’ve been thinking a lot these days about what constitutes “good sewing”, as in garments that you will enjoy wearing for the years to come. I hope to reflect and write more on this but I believe that it’s a combination of sewing things that reflect your “personal style” (although I’m getting a bit drained by all the content generated around this), good fit and good construction.
To improve our sewing skills, we automatically think about tackling more complex projects and the results can be less than great since we become overwhelmed and lack the practice. On the other hand, when tackling a less involved project, we are tempted not to dedicate as much time (in terms of seam finishes, unpicking and perfecting the topstitching, etc.) because “it’s just an everyday item”. So I decided to force myself to slow down as much as possible and try to do my best work for every garment so that my clothes stand the test of time!
The finished garment is very close to the one I had in mind so I’m very happy with the result! As you can see I played with two different styling options for the pictures. The first one with flats is a realistic version of how I wear it to the office and the second is my attempt to recreate a look worn by Ulyana Sergeenko as entry in the Pattern Review Bargainista Fashionista contest. I didn’t aim to recreate the skirt as exactly as possible but rather to transpose the feel of it into something I could wear in my everyday life. This contest has been happening for several years on Pattern Review and it’s my favorite one to enter, since copying RTW I couldn’t afford is the very reason why I started sewing. [EDIT: Unfortunately due to my terrible internet connection in Haiti, my entry did not make the deadline :-(]
Although I have been a member of Pattern Review for the last 13 years (!!), I don’t enter many contests except this one. I also have the feeling that sewing contests are not as popular as they once were. I could be only an impression though and it would be very interesting if PatternReview looked at the number of contestants over the years. What do you think? Do you participate in contests? Do you think they are still relevant?
I want to start by telling you that I have tons of ideas of things I would like to talk about on the blog this year, but I have to admit that I, again, put too much on my plate and I’m currently juggling to make it all work. But I finally managed to complete this post that has been in my draft box for 2 months (yay!!) so grab a coffee because today we are talking business!!
After almost a year of activity in our PDF sewing pattern endeavor, I thought it would be a good time to gather some of our early findings and lessons learned. I’m a great admirer of bloggers operating with a high degrees of transparency. Income reports are quite common in the blogging world but not so much in the sewing community. There are of course exceptions, I think most of us are familiar with Abby Glassenberg of While She Naps. My lovely friend, Sanae Ishida, also discusses her blogger/writer income very openly with Furoku members. Transparency doesn’t necessarily mean discussing $$ at length and I always loved the behind the scenes posts published by various indie pattern designers (like Sewaholic or Closet Case Patterns). For all the years that I delayed taking the leap and starting my own project, reading about it was my little window into that world.
The way I approach Just Patterns, is largely shaped by all this generously shared knowledge. So it seems only fair to apply those standards of transparency to myself and share with you what we tried so far and where we stand. I try to be as genuine as possible so I hope it doesn’t come of as complaining, bragging or something like that. If it does, then you are more than welcome to set me straight! I always felt that this blog was a space where I would always get valuable feedback from you, which is why I’m sharing my thoughts so openly with you.
2017 in numbers
5 patterns released
370 patterns sold:
345 on Etsy (our main shop)
24 on Makerist (we listed 3 patterns there in December)
1 on Craftsy
1383$ of revenue:
1315$ on Etsy
65$ in Makerist (We listed there in preparation of a sale, so basically patterns were sold at 50% off)
3$ on Craftsy
289$ of e-commerce fees:
115$ for Etsy Credit Card Processing
155$ for other Etsy Fees
19$ for Makerist Commission
892$ of other Expenses:
210$ for digitizing (that includes our current patterns and some of our future releases)
630$ for the licence of our CAD software.
52$ for the domain of our website
That leaves us with a positive balance of 200$. But that’s not entirely correct because major expenditures are being left out. First, we are currently able to get the photography done professionally at no cost. However, it may not last forever. There are also costs not being charged to the business such as Adobe Illustrator (for which I pay about 240$/year) or fabric for samples. So it would be fairer to say that we approximatively broke even this year but it does raise the question of the sustainability of our approach.
Just Patterns – Yasmeen Skirt
Just Patterns – Linda Wrap Dress
Just Patterns – Kate Bias Tank
Just Patterns – Christy Bias Slipdress
Just Patterns – Stephanie Skirt
Lessons and questions
Obviously, getting rich out of selling PDF patterns was never a goal. What I really wanted out this project was to experiment, learn and challenge my own assumptions about what is going on in the world of independent patterns makers. None of the lessons below are breakthroughs, they are things that I believe we already know, but I’m a hard-evidence type of person. So I won’t believe anyone until I see it for myself!
Lesson #1: Simple patterns are the ones that sell
Duh! That one is easy and from looking at other popular indie designers, we know the answer. It’s the simpler styles that sell better. That’s about it. You can spend weeks developing a pattern like Linda but you will sell a lot more Stephanie. The investment is lower, the risk is lower and the sales are higher. Simply put, releasing complex patterns is not a good business decision.
Of course, things are more complicated than that. First of all, the process of getting a pattern ready for release is long and sometimes tedious. I find it more rewarding to work on designs I truly love. I’m also not a marketing wiz, so to “sell” a style I need to truly love it! In addition, I believe that releasing more complex styles actually the credibility of the simpler patterns. By showing that you can achieve this, it gives confidence to customers that your drafting/grading is on point.
Lesson #2: Making money out of sewing patterns is difficult
With Just Patterns, we made the deliberate choice to start at much lower price than the current indie offering. Since then, we were told repeatedly that our patterns were too cheap. We heard it from pretty much everybody: bloggers, customers and fellow indie pattern designers. I’m very stubborn, and I was very committed to our price point but looking at the numbers that I outlined above, I have to admit that we have a sustainability issue. How long will we find the energy and time to do something that is very far from paying even a portion of our own time?
At the current pricing level, we would need to sell significantly more patterns. That would require stronger marketing efforts which is definitely a weakness. Marketing is time consuming and not a favorite of either Eira or myself. It also brings out another question, how big is the market of people who do not expect detailed instructions? Is it that we are not reaching our people or that there are just not that many of them? The answer of this question, which I obviously don’t know, leads to very different paths. If we are not reaching out enough then we need to focus our time on marketing and expanding our horizons. If the answer is that there aren’t that many sewists not looking for detailed instructions then the possibilities are 1/ outsourcing the development of instructions, because there is no way for us to do it, and then hike up the price to the level of other indies 2/sticking to the spare instructions and finding a middle price that allows us to keep catering to the same small crowd in a sustainable manner.
Lesson #3: I am terrible at keeping my balance…
I don’t talk about my personal or professional life that much around here but I think most of you know that I have an interesting and demanding day job, and I am the single parent of a small but growing human (in the middle of sleep training…). Obviously those responsibilities come first, and then there is also the need for some kind of social life, the personal sewing, sewing and writing for Sew News, and everything Just Patterns related. Even though her responsibilities are not the same, Eira also has an extremely busy schedule outside our little pattern venture.
I feel lucky because I love every aspect of my life, but I tend to over commit. So I do it all, then I reach my exhaustion point, take a break and restart all over. Exactly what every business book tells you NOT to do. Because it even shows in our online presence. For some time I manage to post regularly on social media and then suddenly disappear. I know it’s bad but I don’t think there is anything i can do about it for now. So I guess I’ll have to hope that our customers are patient and understanding!
The post is getting longer than initially intended so I will break it in two and keep my questions and goals for 2018 for a follow-up post. I hope that the first part was of interest to you, and as always don’t hesitate to let me know what your thoughts are or if you would like me to expand on any of the things I mentioned!