I remember vividly why I started sewing and I bet you do too. In my case, I was 14, I had my mind set on a particular dress I saw at the mall for the holiday season and I had no money to buy it. It’s was a bustier dress with a floor length a line skirt. The fabric was a cheap purple woven with some stretch and a tulle overlay. One of my friends was fortunate enough to own it, so I borrowed it and decide to recreate it. I went to “Marché Saint Pierre” in Paris, bought inappropriate fabric and a plastic zipper. I went home and got to work. No pattern, no tutorial, nothing… Unsurprisingly, I ended up with a big mess. But I took it to a professional seamstress, aka my grandmother, who was very encouraging and ended up saving the day.
With time sewing has become something more than just owning clothes I couldn’t buy, I learned to enjoy the process of making and recognized it is an essential part of my inner balance. But why I sew has never really changed, it has always been about making the clothes I couldn’t afford or find. The clothes that I find appealing today are not the same but I still can’t buy them… Setting high-end RTW as my standard is a sure way to get frustrated. With some exceptions, there are no patterns, books, or YouTube videos teaching you how to make what is for sale in Galeries Lafayette or on Net-a-porter. I bought all the books, trying to teach myself pattern making. I took drafting and draping classes at FIT. I even took a CAD pattern making class.
Getting the fit and the silhouette right is a time consuming affair. And even more time consuming than drafting a shell/sloper/block is adding everything else, the pockets, the closure, the collar, etc. All the little elements that make or break a design. As you witnessed if you have been following this blog for some time, I kept going back and forth between making my own patterns, hacking existing ones and sewing garments straight out of the envelope.
In addition, sewing patterns are only one side of the equation. Construction is the other side, and home sewing has its own set of rules. Some of those rules are linked to the home sewing machines, some are from past practices and some are adapted from “industry” or from “couture”, etc. What they have in common is they are not equivalent in terms of the results they provide. For instance, like many others, I find that sewing with smaller seam allowances is more accurate and reduces the need for trimming/notching, etc. But, because home sewing is somewhat codified, many pattern companies still release patterns with 5/8″ seam allowances. Yet in some cases, for instance when your fabric frays a lot, wider SAs may be a good idea. Let’s just say: it’s complicated…
How much the sewing world has changed in the last 5-10 years is something that I recognize and I write about regularly here. But I still feel that there is more to be brought to the table, and I’m going to assume that there may be others like me. Or rather, I’m going to test if others feel like me! While on maternity leave, I was obviously not seeing things clearly and I decided it was the perfect time (??!!) to release sewing patterns… I convinced Eira (from the The Pattern Line) to follow me in my madness, and we used her existing pattern library to choose five patterns. They were digitized and graded and four of them are already available in our Etsy Store.
In a way, we followed the Minimum Viable Product approach that is so popular with Tech Start-ups. It consists in developing a new product with sufficient features to satisfy early adopters and to take their feedback into account to refine further iterations. This is guiding a lot of our choices for the project. The website, Just-Patterns.com is nothing fancy but hopefully it is functional. Our only “marketing” (that’s a big word for what we are doing…) currently is Instagram with @just_patterns and the patterns are for sale in an Etsy Store so that we don’t have to run our own e-commerce. The instructions are minimal by choice, because we want to keep the costs down and we believe that dressmakers have a mind of their own. You can suggest things but they always end up doing it their way. That’s for sure how we do things around here!
To understand better how to improve, it’s crucial for us to get systematic feedback from our users. We currently systematically email a survey 30-45 days after the pattern purchase and we maintain a log of comments made to us directly by email/IG or that we find on blogs and sewing boards. This is something that we really want to take to the next level and in order to do that we are about to set up a pattern development group of 10-20 sewers to review our existing and future patterns. It’s similar to pattern testing, in the sense that the patterns will be provided for free and there will be some sort of deadline. But we want to make it a wider discussion space to review what is working and what is not. If you are interested, you can email me!
I think that’s already quite a long post, so I will leave it at that for today! I will of course keep running this blog for my personal sewing but also to keep you updated on how the Just Patterns project is going. I hope you find it interesting and that you don’t hesitate to comment if you have questions/suggestions/comments/criticisms! Everything is welcome and you know how much I love to discuss what is going on in the sewing world in the comments!!