word from around town

Hey there!  How’s it going?  Well, it is Monday, I have made four Emery muslins (five, if you count the full-blown, not-quite-there dress), and am ready to donate my bustline and dowager’s hump to science.  How about we talk about what other people are saying?

Mikhaela’s posts about barriers to sewing, and her recent UFO-busting streak, have had me nodding in absolute agreement.  Indeed, if you were to replace all of the husband and kid mentions with talk of school and cats, and all of the allergy-free meal references with asides about oysters and gin, I could have written them myself.  The cats have never treated me to a day at the museum, though.  Ugh.  Kids today, am I right?

Anyhoo, it is so comforting to know that someone else banishes their makes to the UFO pile after a roadblock.  I’ve drawn up thorough notes on how to line the Hawthorn, cut out everything but the skirt lining, and have the bodice shell and lining assembled.  Yet!  Yet!  That bloody collar’s poor directions make me want to set the entire thing aflame.  (You’re supposed to sew the whole thing with a 1/4″ seam allowance, not the standard 5/8″.  The instructions not only fail to mention this, but instruct you to trim down to 1/4″.  This is addressed on Flickr and in the comments on the Sewalong post, but I missed it.  Harrumph.)  I’ve been working on it for a month!  I need to just buckle down and soldier through it, and Mikhaela’s UFO ass-kickery is a total inspiration.

– This isn’t recent, but I’ve been thinking about Neemie’s New Years posts and the “Me, too!” school of pattern buying.  Mimi, at Shop the Garment District, used to work for a major pattern company, and she says that 75% of patterns purchased aren’t used.  That gives the me the sads.  I’ve been doing a thorough assessment of my pattern reserves, and I think I have something like 60% of my patterns cut out, but given the size change I’ve just experienced, I have to really go through and have a major purge.  A style cull, for someone like me who cannot picture garments on herself?  Not that easy.

The difference between buying a pattern and buying a dress in the store is, well, trying it on.  I can see someone wearing a cute dress from Anthropologie, pop in to try it on, decide it doesn’t work, and grab a couple of cookies on the way home.  It takes, at most, fifteen or twenty minutes of time, and costs me two Baked and Wired cookies.  (I go to school near DC’s main shopping drag, to be fair, and dozens of stores are literally on my route home.)  With patterns, though, I have to buy the pattern, cut it out, and make a muslin (or two, or six), before deciding whether or not it works.  Hours of time and a concrete monetary investment.  I sometimes feel obliged to make all of my patterns work, most especially the ones that required a lot of fitting time.  (Looking at you, Anna!)  Anyway, smarter pattern buying would save a lot of time, here.

-Michelle just had a not-so-great experience with BHL’s Flora pattern, and posted a detailed review of it.  She actually got some responses from the BHL ladies, and recently posted her final thoughts on Flora. The whole exchange is worth a read, but the most striking thing about the entire discussion, to me, is that people got testy around the idea of pattern testers being paid.*  Edited to add: The root of the tension is the notion that pattern testers are being paid for endorsing the patterns, not necessarily for the act of sewing up the patterns itself, but I guess things get kind of murky when someone is paid for doing something, and then writes a glowing review.  Talking about this issue is like untangling one big knot.

I made a vague comment about the “sketchy compensation issues” at play, if a blogger were asked to write a post about a make, in addition to pattern-testing.  I think it may have gotten misconstrued as insinuating that there are some secret backdoor deals happening.  Quite the contrary, actually.  Now, I’m going to give you a long preface to my response to this.  I first started reading blogs in ancient times, when I had a TA who had small children and wrote a well-received blog about motherhood.  Personal blogs published by women who weren’t Heather Armstrong were only just getting taken seriously, and corporate sponsorship in this corner of the Internet was really in its infancy.

In any event, bloggers were just starting to get approached to write reviews for companies (large MNCs, in a lot of cases).  At one point, though, someone said, “Sooo, we’re spending large swaths of time writing 2000-word “reviews” in exchange for. . .fabric softener?”  The tides changed.  There emerged a distinction between reviews (for which someone buys the product out-of-pocket, and writes about it on his or her own) and sponsored posts (when the company is involved, in whatever capacity), never the twain shall meet.  I think this raises a whole ton of interesting questions about women and money and friendship and business and skill and the general grayness of the (still!) new online frontier.

Years and years on the sidelines of that community means that I would totally think an exchange of money would legitimize a sponsored post, and professionalize a relationship, rather than call into question a blogger’s motives.  For me, the grayness comes when we’re drawing the distinction between pattern testing, reviewing, and sponsored posts.   They’re not mutually exclusive, nor are they necessarily dependent.  I do think it is telling, though, that a lot of people seem to have married the idea of pattern testing to reviewing.

– I’ve been on the fence about buying the Colette Guide to Sewing Knits.  Reading Maddie’s review side-by-side with Nancy K‘s has been pretty illuminating.  I’m leaning towards no right now, but would love to hear about your experiences.  The thing is, my Moneta fits well enough, but I’ve got a bit of armhole gape (as I do on all knits forever and ever, amen) and would love to know what the heck is going on with it.  Nancy K recommends the Taunton series, Connie Long’s Sewing Knits and Marcy Tilton’s The Easy Guide to Sewing Tops and T-Shirts.  A trip to the library might be in order, for me.

Kristin at K-Line has a marvelous post about wardrobe culling, and the seemingly Internet-wide purging cycles.  I’m not afraid of my wardrobe, per se, but I am the sort of person to regret getting rid of something much more than holding on to it.  I feel a sort of, not quite shame or embarrassment, but bashfulness, I guess, about selfishly wanting a large wardrobe.  I am fickle, and there are days when I want to wear an obnoxious floral, and others where I want to pare everything down like Calvin Klein in the 1990s.

Also, I’m in a weird place where I have to sew, because my old wardrobe plum doesn’t fit, and I have too much fabric and too many patterns to justify a summer of J. Crew.  I love reading all of these posts about simplifying while I’m amping up and feeding my fatted wardrobe.

I loved Mary’s comment on Maddie’s post about fast fashion and fast sewing.  I have a similar talk at school all the time, about politics and the golden ages of philosophy.  It goes a little something like, “Do you know what my favorite thing is about my life?  Not having polio.  Waking up, and not worrying about getting polio.  Seriously.  That and suffrage.  Property ownership.  Small potatoes, I guess.”  I’m working on an overwrought post about being taken seriously, and what that means for ye olde wardrobe, but I’ll spare you a preview.  You’re welcome.

Now, I’m off to finish another Moneta (armhole gape and all) and maybe head down to the World War II memorial.  Enjoy your Memorial Day, folks!  Service folks and their families, especially!

*I changed the word balked to got testy around to clarify the statement.  If only I could leave track changes on a blog post!

** I added some conjunctions and stuff, generally proofread, and questioned my grasp of the English language.  Must hire copy editor.

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72 thoughts on “word from around town”

  1. For some reason I couldn’t type more. Yarn harlot articulates it rather well. I see it as rather cheeky for commercial organisation -aka indie pattern companies – to expect a lot of work and not to mention a bit of publicity for the cost of a free pattern. Minimum wage anyone?

    1. Your original comment was just about what I was going to write about the entire thing. I was literally going write one line, “Pattern testers should be paid.”

      My favorite part of the Yarn Harlot post is the bit where she summarizes comments about her being a commie-pinko-tree-hugging hippie. I am a card-carrying capitalist, which is why I think people should get paid for doing work. [headdesk]

    1. Thanks! I am totally a skimmer, then I turn around and write novel-length blog posts without pictures. At least two of us are reading it all the way through.

      I just read the (very, very smart) piece and the comments. There’s nothing we can do to prevent bias, but we can at the very least stop pretending it doesn’t exist. Adding Empty Emptor to my reader. A dead language in the blog title? Sign. Me. Up.

  2. Weird, I totally assumed pattern testers were paid, or at least compensated for the cost of fabric/notions as well as the pattern. Isn’t that pretty much the whole point of the Mood sewing network — give away the fabric in exchange for the publicity? It’s weird that pattern companies don’t operate that way. (I mean, good for them on getting free publicity and all, but I’m somewhat surprised.)

    Good luck with the Moneta — my second one came out badly because I miscalculated the relative stretch of the cotton jersey. It had way less give, and the top is like a sports bra with heavy compression. Ouch.

    1. I did, too, actually. I assumed it worked like the Sew Bossy Initiative, where you go to your mailbox and find a pattern, some fabric and notions, a bottle of booze, and a playlist. At least, that’s how I assumed pattern companies ensured that their fabric recommendations worked well and tested across sizes. It could be the case for some companies, but not others.

      I could very well be reading the entire exchange wrong, by the way. It is possible that I am operating on too little sleep and too much Bletchley Circle, and am therefore harsh-minded. I just did a quick Google blog search, though, and the word “volunteer” seems to get bandied about more than I’d like.

      I’m wearing the Moneta right now! I still have this weird bagginess around the underarm and upper bust, but c’est la vie. I’m going to get a knit fitting book and see how to make modifications. (Oh! I’m using a fabric that you’d just love. From Mood, a St. James Breton-stripe, navy-and-white ponte knit with loads of rayon and a great drape.) Your first Moneta has me on the hunt for ikat-print knits.

      1. If you’re over a Bcup, you might need to go by your upper bust measurement. I like Moneta, but before her I really liked (and still do) the Lady Skater dress – loads of info in the pattern for a newbie, semi-circle skirt (read: flattering), bodice edged with bands not turned in or lined which I think is a little tricky for someone new to knits. anyway, the Lady Skater has you go by your high bust, and she has loads of tutorials on her blog (kitschy coo) for knits etc.

        I am in no way affiliated 🙂 heh heh

      2. Oh – and cake patterns make really nice patterns for knits – again all these patterns are for moderate stretch knits, not for very stretchy ones – and she has brilliant tutorials and tips. Including using steam a seam to help keep turned in edges from stretching out – like armholes.

      3. Yikes, I missed a lot! Suffice to say, I always figured there were pattern testers, technical checker types basically, and then a second set of like… pattern enthusiasts who get an early peek at something they’d probably want to make anyway and get to hype it up a little. I’ve done the second type for a few knitting patterns, but the first kind is something I’d think would require more time and expertise than I have. But everyone is different!

        And ooooh yes that knit sounds amazing! I think a fair amount of rayon or drapeiness (?) is needed for Moneta, or at least plenty of give. I got that ikat from Girl Charlee, and it came in a few other colorways if you want to carry on being fabric twins! I’m doing a second one in a modal/spandex blend and it’s going to be great, I think! I’m also thinking about a Moneta Mabel Mashup (let’s called it the Mabeletta) … because sometimes I’m not into a full skirt. Probably save it for autumn, though, so I can wear it with tights.

      4. Yeah, things got really interesting after you kicked off. Everyone is different! That’s basically the moral of the entire story.

        Are you going to enter the Colette contest, by any chance? Your Mabeletta sounds pretty killer, and you could so some sort of autumn-on-the-countryside thing. I’m not going to, but I’m dying for someone to steal my idea from me. (Independence Day week on Nantucket, complete with lobster-print Zinnia/Moneta top combination, and a Mabel with three pairs of buttons, like sailor trousers.)

        I might have to withdraw my fabric recommendation, unfortunately. I wore the dress twice, and it started pilling like the dickens around the seat. Granted, I rolled around on a carpet with five frisky kittens at one point, but still. Though, the rest of it is holding up really well, and Hart’s has it in several different colorways.

        Girl Charlee, you say. Hmmmm.

  3. Ha! I just spent ages following up your juicy links – proper sewing circle gossip!
    I had a good look at a hard copy of the colette knits book with a view to buying it. For me it’s a no, which was a good thing. But I’ve been sewing with knits for years and feel quite confident with them. I was hoping for some ‘industry expert’ nuggets of wisdom that would set me straight on longstanding niggles and was a bit disappointed that there weren’t… I can’t say this book wouldn’t be useful to someone new to sewing with knits but don’t feel that it would be that useful, as knits come in so many guises and often don’t work as you expect them to.
    Glad you’re posting again, good luck with the moneta

    1. Hey, Clare! Sewing circle gossip is the best sort, I think. No one in my out-of-Internet life seems to care as much as I do about this sort of thing. “But the UFOs!” “From space?” Yeah.

      Yes to knits coming in many guises. I wonder if the biggest industry secret is going with flow? Or, rather, MacGyvering your way out of unforeseeable jams with a lot of trial and error? Maybe? I’m not sure.

      Thanks for the luck and for stopping by. I finished my Moneta yesterday, wore it out today, caught a glimpse of my reflection on the side of a bus, and realized that my hem may have grown overnight. I am making a face. A new-to-knits face.

      1. Newbie to your blog here which I am already enamoured of. Re Moneta growing, did you let it hang? And, did you use something like 4-way stretch? I made that mistake when I first started sewing knits, and the dress I had made was like Topsy. Second, if you’ve done any sewing with knits, don’t bother with the book. I’m no expert, Ive picked all my knit knowledge from patterns and bloggers – especially kitschy coo and made by rae – but the only stuff I didn’t already know in that book was the serger info, and I am never going to get a serger or coverstitch, so I am happy that all I got was the e-book!

      2. I didn’t let it hang! First time sewing knits, so I followed the pattern instructions to a t (tee?). The next one will get ample hang time.

        I used a fabric with 50% crosswise stretch, and a really minimal lengthwise stretch. As in, it barely moves, but it moves some.

        I’m so with you on never getting a serger or coverstitch machine. I think it’ll be years before I have the space.

        Also, welcome! It’s been nice hearing from you!

  4. Wonderful post, Charlotte – I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and the links (love Clare’s comment above about it being like gossip – the best kind though!). I think it was on Moon Thirty’s blog that I read about her choosing instead of wearing something me-made each day of may, she was going to spend time each day on a sewing related activity. I say ‘sew related’ because I’m of the firm belief sewing should be called garment construction. Because so little time of the whole process is actually spent SEWING! ha.
    Interestingly, I’d never given a flea’s fart of a thought about the whole pattern testing thing. My now defunct opinion was that it shouldn’t be paid, so as to remove any bias – and this was reinforced by sewists in my real life getting super duper excited about being ‘asked’ to test a pattern – like it was the highest accolade from an indy designer possible. Personally I can’t think of anything worse that receiving a pattern you may or may not like and then being forced to sew it up in a week. I’ll sew what I want, and when I want – thank you very much! But now I’ve actually thought about it – it really should be paid.
    I’ve got no interest in books by pattern designers. Sure, they look pretty – but they’re always directed at absolute beginners… which I’m not.
    I’ll definitely say I was easily swayed by both the ‘need to have’ patterns and by what others were sewing up when I first started out. I certainly have more patterns than I can realistically sew up right now… but I would think upwards of 90% of those are absolutely my style. I’ve got no aversion to dumping a pattern at muslin stage that I thought might look good… indeed it’s the most frustrating (and paradoxically – liberating) part. Liberating because my personal style has become so much more ‘me’ since sewing… because I’ve tried things I would never try in shops.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts though – I love the way you write 🙂

    1. Aw, shucks. Thanks, Poppy!

      MoonThirty’s version of Me Made May is the best idea I’ve heard in a long while. I think sewing gets kind of daunting once you think of all the steps between a cute outfit idea and an actual wearable garment, and doing a little something each day makes a world of sense. I keep taking deep breaths, and giving myself the “bird by bird” talk.

      I scarcely have the time to keep up with my self-imposed sewing schedule. Adding the needs of someone else into the mix? That would suck the fun out of it for me. Then again, some people work so well with deadlines and puzzles, and relish the opportunity to feel a part of something larger and/or help in the advancement of the community. I’m a selfish curmudgeon who wants to sit alone with my teetering to-do pile and big old stack of patterns.

      The books, now, are kind of annoying. I’m so miffed that Susan Khalje’s books are out of print, for instance. But, I will admit that I first started sewing before the rash of garment-sewing-for-beginner books. I started out with the Vogue and Singer guides, and one or two of Claire Shaeffer’s books. It took me sooooo long to figure out how to transfer pattern markings to fabric. My books simply said, “Use chalk or carbon paper.” Oh, cool, that. So, it’s good that we’ve filled the hole for rank beginners who have certain aesthetic leanings, but it would be nice if we edged ourselves forward into techniques and embellishments that go beyond your standard blind hem and pintuck.

      Same goes for the actual indie pattern releases. I get Christmas-level excited for pattern releases, then realize that it’s yet another skirt, and grumble to myself for days.

      Oh, I long for your liberation. I’m really math-minded, and start mentally calculating the opportunity costs, and doing a detailed analysis about the benefits of moving forward with a project. I so long to just try something on, say “meh,” and toss it into the pattern-swap bin.

  5. 1) Yes, testers should be compensated–at least with everything to make the pattern, but damn I wish there was more diversity in the testers. I know that Lladybird/Ginger/Oona are gorgeous and could make a flour sack look fabulous, but I want to know what it’s going to look like on my frumptastic, pushed-two-beautiful-children-into-the-world, “big” bewbed, self. I have a couple of suggestions for testers if they ever ask me for my opinion.

    2) Oh the number of patterns I have purchased that sit unsewn is pathetic and embarassing. 😦 Most of them are dresses, which I KNOW I’ll never wear, but I’m always drawn to them even though I’m not comfortable in them and they don’t fit my lifestyle.

    3) All these sewing books drive me crazy. I mean, I’m happy that these people are able to make money doing something they love, but how many “absolute beginner” sewing books does the world need? I feel like there are just SO. MANY.

    4) I actually have a post in my drafts that covered several of these things in more detail, but now I’m not sure if I even need to post it. 😉

    1. 1) Yup. I hope more indie companies hear the chitterings around the Internet, and welcome feedback. Who would we like to see post test garments? One of the BHL owners had mentioned on Michelle’s blog that they’re going to start disclosing who is invited to pattern test. That would be so interesting. If I were to see that none of the big-bewbed (heh, bewbed) bloggers seem to have posted their garments, I’d draw conclusions. I don’t like drawing conclusions from omissions, though. Then again, not everyone is as willing as I am to look crappy on the Internet.

      I will say this, I think that the pattern testers who make the rounds the most are not just good testers. They’re good sewers, good writers, good bloggers, and gorgeous people who have strong aesthetics and photograph really well. If I were a pattern company, and you asked me for my top ten picks and I knew that my testers might post their garments on their blogs, I’d definitely have those three on that list. But we don’t read sewing blogs for a whole bunch of test patterns, do we?

      I suppose exhibiting patterns on different shapes and sizes used to be Pattern Review’s function. But now, the life of a pattern seems so different. We don’t see them online, wait for them to show up in the Jo-Ann pattern cabinets, and watch them slowly unroll over months on PR or Burdastyle, on users of different ages, shapes, sizes, and lifestyles. Now, an independent pattern is released, and we’re inundated with versions of them, from pattern testers and really excited early adopters. The pool is rather self-selecting, and sort of seductive and intimidating. Nowadays, I rarely ever see a bad version of a pattern near the beginning of its release. Maybe the cycle self-perpetuates, and people scrap their wadders because so few other bloggers in their readers do a “Well, that sucked” post? I’m not sure.

      Three paragraphs, and I’m only on the first point. Write your post! Mostly so that I can blather on over at your place.

      2) I have regrets when I let go of things. Will I ever sew my Sew Serendipity patterns, though? Probably not. The stack of patterns from my mum? Maybe. The too-small vintage patterns? When I get confident with grading? Don’t hold your breath. At least we’re on the same team!

      3) RIGHT?! At least they have patterns, though.

      I am frustrated at the lack of intermediate sewing books pitched to people like me. I am ashamed of myself for everything that I’ve packed into that “people like me.” Who? People who watch Portlandia!, drink kombucha, and live in large urban centers? I am dry-heaving.

      Part of the problem might just be this sort of social distancing. I’m not buying my pattern books from physical bookstores. Even if I check them out from the library, I order them, I don’t wander through the stacks and flip through them. Maybe I should spend more time with Nancy Zieman and Marcy Tilton, rather than up-and-comers with whom I identify a bit more, or people like Susan Khalje and Claire Shaeffer, whose techniques are aspirational.

      The market is saturated. As Mary mentions downstream, you can Google most of what you’d find in the beginner pattern books. So, uh, why don’t beginners do that? Are they shelling out twenty bones for pretty pictures and the materiality of the text?

      Becca, so many questions, so few answers. Gaaaaahhhhh. Make it staawwwp.

      4) DO IT. Please and thank you.

      1. I think posting who will be testing the garments is actually a good idea. I hope that happens, and that they link to each blog so that I can see if it would be beneficial for me to follow the progress. As far as who to suggest for testing, I think the 3 mentioned above are fine testers as far as they go, and I don’t want anyone to think I’m knocking them, but I just feel like it would be beneficial to see the designs made up on people of varying sizes and ages. My blog list is actually fairly limited as far as people I have time to really follow, so there are all sorts of lovely bloggers out there that I feel are left out in favor of the “ideally proportioned” bloggers. I’m sure they have their hangups about their bodies too (doesn’t everyone?), but I think most of us agree that those things aren’t noticeable on this side of the screen.

        I’m not sure about the whole issue of testing vs. reviewing. On one hand, I think they go together, but reading a comment below mine gave me pause. So now I’m not sure what to think on that.

        I think it *is* the whole idea of “identifying” with a blogger-turned-author that makes these books so popular. Everyone wants to support their favorite bloggers in their new endeavor, even if they really have no use for the item in question. And since we vote with our dollars, more of this comes about until such time as we collectively run out of money or start to question the real need of another sewing book. Personally, I’d just as soon buy the patterns individually (or in a grouping) for a slightly cheaper price and skip having the book on my shelf unloved. I’m too much of a book-lover to subject one to such abuse. 😉

        LOL! It seems I’m taking up an awful lot of your blog space on this issue. But it’s such an interesting topic, dagnabit! 😉

      2. Oh, look, three years later, I’ve returned to you. Bad blogger, I know.

        I face the dreaded quality-quantity issue on blog-following, all the time. I actually just deleted all of the blogs from my Feedly, am reassembling the entire list on Bloglovin’, with the intention of repopulating some beautifully categorized folders on Feedly and Digg’s reader. Sigh. If I wanted to read, comment, and actively engage with every blog I read, I’d have to cut my reader down from 200 sewing blogs to, generously, 50. (30, if we were talking about consistent commenting on every post, rather than my usual intend-to-comment-but-never-get-around-to-it style.) Most of the bloggers in my reader are within one standard deviation of average proportions.

        I just bought Fit for Real People (at long last, though my little independent bookstore hasn’t gotten it in yet, despite my ordering it ten days ago), and have gotten a couple of the out-of-print Easy Guides to. . . books from Taunton. It’s really staggering how many of the building-blocks books are out of print. Sonja, from Ginger Makes, mentions this downstream. I try to love my books equally, but am I the only person who does not like tracing overlapping pattern lines? They drive me nuts. This is why I’ve yet to touch my year of Burda.

        It is interesting, though! I intend to hold you to writing a post about this stuff.

  6. First off, I love that my ranty comment on a blog made your list. I was debating about even commenting on Maddie’s post, since it seemed like a somewhat negative reaction to a well-intentioned post, but I just can’t keep my mouth shut about such things. My feminism is of the See Something, Say Something breed, especially in regards to idealizing the historical woman. Being idealized has been such a large part of our subjugation, throughout history! Feminist Hulk Smash!

    In other news, I completely missed the whole pattern testing debate, so thank you for posting it. I’ve just recently joined the realm of pattern testers and my thoughts on the whole experience are mixed. As is probably evident from my blog, I don’t err on the side of only posting positive reviews of Indies. If something drives me crazy, I’m going to be honest about it. With testing, though, I have found myself having negative experiences and not knowing what to do with that information. On one hand, I feel like part of testing is help making a product better, so my negative experience may not even apply to the final pattern, since issues are fixed in the process. On the other hand, if I do post about a product, I want to be completely honest in my assessment, especially when receiving it for free. So far, I’ve opted not to post any review, in the two cases where the pattern utterly flopped for me. Both were pieces I was somewhat skeptical of style-wise, to begin with, so I probably should have bowed out of testing anyhow.

    Incidentally, on the same note, I was part of the Colette tour for Knits and have mixed feelings on the book. I think it’s a great tool for those who are absolute beginners at knits and want a bit of hand-holding, but…most of the information IS widely available on the internet. That’s kind of my beef with all “beginning sewing” books. A quick Google will sort out most any sewing question you have for free. I find myself buying sewing books for the patterns and completely skipping all the how-to sections. The one notable exception has been Gertie’s book, which I find myself referring to all the time, when it comes to couture sewing techniques.

    God, this is a long comment. Sorry for the rambling! Apparently, I have some Thoughts on all these matters. The pattern testing bit, especially, is a really interesting conversation in the sewing world. I think we need to keep talking about the issues we see with Indies especially, because they are more responsive than “Big Sewing.” If sewists are going to shape how home-sewing changes, in the next few years, I think the response Indies have to our complaints will be a huge part of that.

    1. Back when I was a decent enough Internet citizen to comment regularly on other people’s work, I would leave you book-length comments. Now, I only do it in my head. Point: No need to apologize for rambling. It is my favorite. Also my default mode.

      So, I consortiumed out a whole bunch of sewing books from the library, including a first edition of Claire McCardell’s “What Shall I Wear?” The book opens with a Time article about her, and I’m going to violate copyright and give you the last two sentences: “Designer McCardell did not try to change the tastes of her new husband. Their eleven-room Manhattan apartment is decorated with masculine hunt prints and heavy mahogany furniture.” Kerplunk. The end. Five pages about creativity and industry, all tied up with *that*. Yes, a horrible editorial decision, but huh? Fuck yeah, 1950s!

      See Something, Say Something needs to be whipped out more often. The tendency to idealize the historical is so deeply problematic. (Hullo, American founding. Nice to meet you, ancient Athens.) Relatedly, I want there to be a capital-F Feminist Bruce Banner who turns into the Hulk at the first whiff of misogyny. Like the Feminist Ryan Gosling meme, but angrier and greener.

      There are a few bloggers whose opinions absolutely make or break my pattern purchasing decisions, and you’re one of them. On those grounds, I would absolutely love to hear about patterns that flat-out don’t work, and read a bit about the whys and whats, though I can see why that sort of post might not be worth the trouble.

      Oh, beginner sewing books. I’ve had my fill of pretty books whose information leaves me wanting. I have a dream, Mary. An hours-old dream, but a dream nonetheless. An annual sewing book of sorts, where someone with really intense technical knowledge, like Helen Joseph-Armstrong, joins forces with a reliable indie pattern designer, like Sarai Mitnick or Jen Beeman, to bring that knowledge down from the mountain and translate it for the contemporary everyday home sewer. It would have to be annual, as I imagine we run the risk of information overload. The partnership could even change every year. We need to narrow the gulf between doorstop textbooks like Patternmaking for Fashion Design and good-looking, approachable beginner books. Then again, I can’t help but wonder if I’m just not going to that section of the bookstore because I’m scared off by the bare-bones look of books geared towards intermediate-or-better sewers.

      Agreed about keeping the conversation going, and being heard. From what I understand, a very familiar face from blogging and the business end of sewing blogging, is currently doing social media at McCall. So, 75% of the Big Four has someone with a pulse on the community, and the independent patterns are in the thick of things. I’m so curious to see how this all shakes out in a few years.

      1. This isn’t exactly the Feminist Hulk you desire and I might be telling you something you already know, but have you seen the Feminist Hulk on Twitter? I like her pretty well: https://twitter.com/feministhulk.

        I’m so late to this party because I was on vacation last week, so I’m just now catching up on these interesting followup conversations to Michelle’s post. I’m sad to report that although I just finished a year serving as an officer in the labor union to which I belong, it never occurred to me that people should be paid for pattern testing, but it’s clear to me now that they should. I think I was in the same place as poppykettle – thinking that reviewers shouldn’t get paid so as to ensure unbiased opinions. But the way yarnharlot laid it all out clarified things for me. On a basic level, I don’t believe in providing free labor to businesses, even if that business is very small. Sewing shouldn’t be an exception to that, especially since it’s a community largely comprised of women. We’ve had far too many years of devaluing the work women do!

        Thanks for the great food for thought – it really caused me to reevaluate some of my hazy ideas about pattern testing!

      2. Ooooh, I followed @FeministHulk the instant you posted this. A full day before having the decency to type a response to you. My priorities are skewed, obviously.

        You’ve hit it on the head, I think. The sewing community’s relationship with issues of friendship and money have always been really fascinating, to me, especially when compared with the larger blogging world. I’m kind of an extremist, though, and am all right with people getting paid to write review-like posts, too, if a company would like the advertising and there is clear disclosure. I think my ideas might be hazier than yours were, because they simply read, “MOAR MONEY.” I am mature.

        You’re welcome!

  7. I’m going to jump in that there boat with Mary

    *leap*

    So. Recently, one of the efforts that Mary, I and the curvy sewing collective have been making is to get more plus size women pattern testing, for a whole slew of reasons, not least that when a new pattern comes out you tend to only see it on pretty slim, “proportional” (eek hate that word, but you know what I mean) figures. Which isn’t helpful to the 80%+ (?) of women who aren’t like that. In fact, we’re even doing testing for BHL now, which is great because although their sizes go up to a US16, they don’t seem to have ever tested on plus sizes or indeed had any photos up at launch of what it looks like over a very small size. We actually approached them about this, and they were really positive about it – as were Colette, and a few other pattern companies.

    I think one crucial distinction is that pattern testing isn’t pattern reviewing. Just because a company sends you something to test, you don’t *have* to blog about it (note that the CSC’s Colette Blog tour *was* reviewing, not testing) – and like Mary, I’ve erred on the front of not writing about something if I didn’t really like it. However clearly it’s a bit of a delicate matter, and I agree that it’s hard to make judgement calls about whether a pattern not working is poor drafting or your skill level, or your body not matching the drafted measurements etc – like I’m never going to criticize a pattern for me having to do an FBA, because I understand it’s not viable to fit for a 34HH chest…

    As for the paid thing – that is a very interesting topic, and one I confess I hadn’t given too much thought to beforehand. If I’m totally honest there’s definitely a bit of me that feels “special” to be included, and another bit that feels like it’s public service to help designers adapt for plus size bodies (a friend of mine who’s drafting a pattern now significantly adapted a pattern and graded up several more sizes when she realized it wouldn’t fit me). On the other: yes, they’re mostly small businesses, making money, and I can’t imagine, for instance, cookbook authors expecting people to test for free. It’s somewhat similar to the unpaid intern debate, I suspect – people are willing to work for free, so why bother paying? Hmmm.

    Can you tell that I’m blatantly not doing any work having been on vacation for 2 weeks?

    Oops.

    1. Uh, you just cycled for two weeks, and had flight issues on the way home. Doesn’t that entitle you a further two weeks of not really doing any work? Maybe some sort of half-capacity arrangement?

      Agreed on the distinction between pattern testing and reviewing. I’m willing to go a step further, and split things into three categories: testing, reviewing, and writing a sponsored post. I think for a lot of people, the question becomes, “How do we treat finished-garment posts written by testers and/or people who have a relationship with the company at hand?” With the CSC, your mission is really clear. We need to see patterns on a host of body types, and the CSC is doing the community a service.

      The testing issue is where things get dicey. If the best of all worlds were reality, pattern testers would be paid, or at least provided with supplies. Continuing on this fantasy tack, the pattern-testing process, in my mind, would be a really intense back-and-forth that would last for several months. However, people apparently need to make money in their businesses, and have lives outside of their pattern testing, so things don’t necessarily work out as they should in my head. (What?! Absurd!) Someone made a comment on Michelle’s second Flora post to effect of: by buying an indie, you’re essentially buying into a community. I’d apply that to testing. By pattern testing, you are offering your services and you’ll get to both better the end-product, and become/feel like a member of a larger community. It seems like that is worth the cost of admission for a lot of people.

      I find that the community aspect is a double-edged sword. I don’t know how to read silences, so if people withdraw their criticism entirely, out of politeness or a determination to keep their blogs sunshine-y or an uncertainty about the root of the problem/s, I don’t quite know where to go. I understand the reasoning, but then I’m working with a sample set of, say, a dozen glowing reviews, and a sea of curvy- or beginner-blogger abstentions.

      The payment front, for me, is an anger-inducing women-and-money issue. I’m sure that there are loads of male-dominated communities where this sort of thing happens, but I can’t help but gnash my teeth when I think about the relationship between gender and professionalism, and how these seemingly small interactions might figure into the larger picture. I’m very Henny Penny, obviously.

    2. I am late seeing this, and sorry I missed it! I am surprised that By Hand London was receptive to your request for more plus sized pattern testers. I raised my concerns over this in an email and was completely ignored. They never responded or acknowledged what I had to say, kind of reinforcing how I felt about the whole thing. It completely put me off BHL.

      On another note, I like what you ladies are doing with the idea of a curvy sewing collective, and look forward to following the progression.

    1. Only one way to find out. I just emailed McCall and Simplicity to ask. From what I understand, they tend to be oddly responsive, but I’m not holding my breath. I always imagined they had full-time, salaried sample sewers, rather than pattern testers, and would maybe bring in fit models to test it in front of the designers, but who knows?

      Maybe they’ll answer. A Pattern Review member found a flaw in McCall’s 6696, and she managed to get a rep on the phone who cut out and had the pattern in front of her, and walked through it, step-by-step. Then, when the flaw was confirmed, she ran the issue up the flag pole, and the PR member was told that she’d be mailed a correctly graded replacement pattern piece. Rainbows. Sigh.

    2. From McCall:

      Hi,
      Thank you for your email concerning McCall Patterns. Whenever possible we try to provide our home sewers with the information they desire. Our patterns are designed and tested to provide the best final product; yes there are various check points along the way where the pattern is tested. Our pattern makers create samples which are then reviewed by the designer. Our dressmakers while preparing the visual garment, also provide feedback for the final product. Our writers in writing the instructions scrutinize the pattern and make sure the pattern is able to be completed using the pattern and information on the tissue.
      So yes, there are many stages that our patterns go through so that we can present the best final product to you, our customers. I hope this helps in your table discussion. We appreciate you asking.
      Cordially,

      Laurie
      Consumer Services, McCall Patterns

  8. great, spot-on reading list. i am now off to check out the posts you’ve highlighted that i haven’t already been pondering myself! 🙂

    1. Puuuuu! Sorry. I get really excited when Indiana’s trusty sidekick makes her way to my blog.

      Thanks! I do a lot stewing about sewing stuff, and realize we should probably just talk about them. Your post, by the way, gave me the warm and fuzzies. I’ll have to pop over and say as much.

      1. i think these are all really important topics in the community right now, and not enough of us are speaking honestly and politely and with helpful words about them. i can’t even say how many times versions of the posts you’ve highlighted have floated into IRL conversations i’ve been having recently – especially WRT the pattern-testing issue.

      2. Hear, hear! I shudder to think what my sewing life would look like if I didn’t have IRL (or emailed) conversations with other sewers. We have a responsibility to sewers who don’t have the privilege of in-the-flesh sewing friends, and to pattern companies that are helmed by people who are doing their very best with the information that they have.

  9. It’s not that they’re getting nothing – you do get a free pattern out of it, after all. I pattern tested once and it was a LOT of work. Its why I haven’t done it again – I sew for a living and that was just too much sewing! I don’t think they should be paid unless they DON’T write a review on their blog about it. When you get paid to pattern test, the exchange stays between you and the company. You help them fix errors in the pattern drafting and instructions. After all is said and done, if you want to make a new version of the new pattern and review it, by all means, do. But you’re either getting paid to critique a pattern or advertise it, not both.

    1. You’re right. The acts of testing and advertising are completely separate, and should be treated as such. Reviewing is an entirely different kettle of fish that I think should be reserved for people without any sort of business relationship with the company at hand. What do we make of it if someone writes a post about a pattern test without having sewn the final, out-to-consumer pattern, anyway?

  10. Awesome post! I don’t know I missed this one when it first came out, but I’ll blame it on Bloglovin. I just wasted a shocking amount of time reading all your links!

    1.) Can we, collectively, reject the term “dowager’s hump”? F-ck that! It’s too terrible of a phrase to stick in our vocabulary!

    2.) On sewing books- I think it’s nice that there are so many great beginner’s options out there now. I just bought Tilly’s book for my sister (she’s learning how to sew and has a similar style to Tilly), and it’s exactly what I would’ve wanted when I was starting out. That said, why does it seem like every good mid-level sewing book is out of print? Connie Long’s linings book is fantastic, so why is it out of print? I know that some of the couture books stay in print and sell well, but they’re way above my skill level and interest.

    3.) Mary is awesome and I wanted to stand up and cheer when I saw her comment. Yay feminist bloggers!!!

    4.) Pattern testing. I do it a lot, but have scaled back drastically recently. I tend to think of it as a favor for people whose work I really admire or who I’m friends with in real life, like Kelli of True Bias. But I think that every indie would really benefit from widening their pool of testers, so that they’re including all kinds of sizes and skill levels, and actually rigorously testing the patterns. I answered a call for testers from a successful indie company when I was a beginning sewer, and I found a major error in the instructions. When I alerted the designer, before the testing deadline was up, she had already sent the pattern to the printers so it couldn’t be changed! Why bother having testers if you aren’t going to fix the mistakes they find?! Needless to say I haven’t purchased a pattern from them since.

    I agree, in the abstract, that pattern testers should be paid (I believe everyone should be paid for work that they do, especially if it’s generating income for other people). But I understand that the average indie company can’t afford to pay even one person to test their patterns, let alone a wide enough range to make it worthwhile. And I think that most home sewists couldn’t afford to pay a higher price for indie patterns than they already do (this echoes a larger political discussion that’s pretty depressing). So that sucks. I’ve never been paid to pattern test, and I’ve only had fabric provided once (when I made the BHL Flora dress). I know that a few companies have bloggers on their payroll part-time (like Heather who blogs for Bluegingerdoll). Also, I should mention that I’ve never felt an obligation to post about patterns that I test- usually designers make it clear that you don’t have to if you don’t feel like it- although I’m pretty sure I’ve posted about every pattern I’ve tested.

    When I pattern test, I’m clear in my blog posts that I was testing the pattern. I don’t mention any issues I had that have since been fixed (notches didn’t line up or something like that that’s not a problem on the final version), but I do mention everything I had difficulty with and any issues I encountered. Whenever I’m talking about a pattern, I make it clear when I’m not sure what’s my error and what’s the pattern’s, and I like to ask for suggestions from readers in those situations. I’m not always certain if a notch should be further forward in a sleeve head, or if I just traced it wrong (let’s be honest, it’s probably the latter 9/10 times). I’ve only tested one pattern that was a disaster, and the pattern was never released. And I’ve never said I liked a pattern that I didn’t, or tried to hide the fact that I went to tons of effort to make something work (which is never actually true because I don’t have the attention span for 58 muslins). There were a few comments on Michelle’s post using words like “dishonest” and I just don’t think that’s fair to say. I really don’t think there are any bloggers out there giving opinions they don’t really believe. What’s the point? I think that almost everyone out there is honest and kind, which, WHAT?! Get them off the internet! There’s no place for honesty and kindness online… or so Yahoo comments would have me believe…

    1. 1) I love (LOVE!) the term dowager’s hump. One of the cats is a huge fan of draping herself across my dowager’s hump, like an ermine stole in a Holbein painting, thus making me incredibly aware of its existence. Maybe we can change it to a the Dowager Countess’s Hump (caps and all), and then attach Maggie Smith GIFs.

      2) The Connie Long lining book (actually, all of her books) is a digital download on the Taunton website. So is the Khalje book. I’m a nerd, though, and really, really, really require a material, physical text. Actually, I should email Taunton and ask them if they’ve ever considered releasing print-on-demand options. Some of my professors’ publishing houses do this, because of the nature of academic publication, and prices are surprisingly low.

      3) Without exaggeration, the year or so when Mary was MIA (fine, doing her doctoral dissertation and writing books and sewing and helming another kickass feminist blog) was embarrassingly rough on me/my feed reader. Feminist bloggers for life!

      4) Oh, this is going to be long: When I think about what we talk about, when we talk about pattern testing, so little of it has to do with actual sewing and conducting a test of a pattern. I’ll open by saying, I have no idea why people were tossing about words like “dishonest.” You can make a pretty solid argument for the sewing community having a culture of niceness that would require a layperson to read our posts with an enormous grain of salt, but intentional deception? Nope. However, I can see how somebody sitting in their living room in Akron would look at the ways in which we socialize, especially sewers who live in large metropolitan areas and directly interact with one another on a fairly regular and visible basis, and infer a degree of friendship that would imply that the blogger’s loyalty to that particular group might—I’m struggling to think of a milder word than “compromise”—in some way affect said blogger’s interpretation of responsibility to his/her readership.

      I’m an economist and out-and-out capitalist swine, so I think of paying people as a) essential and b) the great legitimizer. I get why it would be a nightmare for everyone involved, but I do wish it were a bit more like early-days Apple or something, where you could test patterns in exchange for shares of future stock or a fraction of a percentage of the proceeds of the tested pattern. Granted, I’ve packed a lot of issues into this tangle of gender and friendship and money that could have probably been left out.

      On the sticky issue of pattern affordability, I have some Henny Penny feelings about expensive patterns and the classing of the sewing community. This might betray a lack of diversity in my reader, but I worry sometimes that the flood of pattern-test review posts around release date creates a false distribution in the sample, since pattern testers paid for their patterns with labor and some bloggers are sent complimentary patterns just ’cause. It’s equal parts seductive and intimidating, but in no way indicative of what the spending patterns of the community would look like were we exchanging money for goods, rather than labor and pageviews/potential advertising. This issue is exacerbated by how (ironically) expensive and time-consuming it is to get your hands on Big 4 patterns when you live in NYC or [insert big city here], without a car. My Big 4 patterns are direct products of rides from my mother or two trains and a bus to Jo-Anns in the hinterlands, not everyone has that privilege/patience combination. Anyhoo, the point: These differences begin to look like something of a fissure, for me, between the average Pattern Review member and the average blogger in my reader. Because of the peripheral issues attached to our choices, this reads as an us-and-themming, when really it is so much more complex than that. So, methinks that when someone perceives oneself as part of the them in this equation, niceness and kindness are suddenly indicative of cliquishness, rather than not wanting to hoof it to Scarsdale (tip: easier to get to than the Jo-Ann on Staten Island, ask me how I know) or a good-natured desire to support small businesses and contribute to a larger movement.

      Exhale. One more paragraph.

      Last but not least, I so appreciate it when y’all testers specifically point out problems. It is da best. You’re a better sewer than I am. Hands down. You sew more than I do, it’s a simple fact. One of the BHL owners (I forget whether it was Charlotte or Elisalex) mentioned that they’d start revealing who their testers are, which would help me a great deal. If all of the testers with skill levels/body shapes/sizes comparable to my own don’t have posts up, I’d probably wait until more non-testers posted reviews before taking the $30 leap. That’s a dozen happy-hour oysters, a cocktail, tax and tip.

      Okay, I lied, one last paragraph: The important thing here is that we’re all trying our best, as treacly as it sounds. As long as we keep having these talks and examining the ways in which we approach this, we’ll be fine. I hope. Maybe. Good grief.

      1. Bwahahahaha, sadly I’ve made the trek to the Scarsdale Jo-Ann, too, and it’s WAY easier to get to than the SI one! And never go to the one on Long Island- it’s a total dump and barely has any patterns. By the time you’ve trekked up to Westchester and paid at least one toll, the “cheap” patterns aren’t very cheap anymore! I think that does skew us (us, urban folk) towards indies as we’re used to paying more money for convenience. And I think you would see us using Big 4 patterns more if there were good, affordable digital downloads- I’m certain that the instant gratification factor of an impulse PDF buy really pumps up the purchasing rate on indies.

      2. I just bought my first PDF pattern a month or so ago, and I’ve since racked up four. (I almost never buy patterns that this pace; it’s exhilarating.) Instant gratification is amazing. I think I bought the Moneta on a Friday, got fabric for it that Saturday, and had it done by Monday. Usually, it takes me months to get to a pattern, as I buy them in batches because I want to make the most of a Jo-Ann trip, or consolidate to save on shipping from Grey’s or something.

        While I instinctively shudder at the idea of Jo-Ann washing up on the shores of Manhattan, it would be really interesting to watch what would happen if big-box sewing and craft stores made inroads into larger cities.

      3. New to your blog via Cashmerette’s link (and I love your post and all of the comments! So good to see a feminist analysis).

        This isn’t directly relevant, but I wanted to point out that you can buy the Big 4 online–and usually a lot cheaper than in the stores. I get them off their websites for $4 or less all the time, with a small shipping charge, and it shows up in my mailbox.

      4. Welcome!

        Good to know about buying the Big Four online. I’ve tried once, on the McCall Pattern Company website, but the sale was BMV-only, and the shipping for two patterns was rather exorbitant, and I just gave up. (Some determination, I’ve got.) I’ll have to keep track. Or do the math on whether or not Club BMV would be worth the plunge.

        You know where I’ve had unexpectedly good luck on finding patterns? Amazon. I can get a Simplicity pattern for as little as $6, with Prime two-day shipping.

      1. charlotte, i think where you are really hitting the nail on the head with your akron vs metropolitan example. i’ve gotten comments from people WRT any posts i make about meetups, for instance, implying that it is unfair to post these things because it is done for the purpose of making other people feel bad. so, with my obvious recent exception, i have stopped doing it.

        i also really respond to your comparison between driving to the local jo-ann on a saturday because you can vs having to sacrifice money and time to even contemplate a pattern sale. mail order and PDF – two major domains of the indies – start looking a lot more attractive then!

  11. As an independent designer, there is absolutely now way I can afford to pay testers. I can’t imagine there ever being a day when that is possible unless you’re doing the volume of a Colette or Sewaholic. But even then, we are talking about tiny businesses with very small staffs. If that was the industry standard, you would have a tiny fraction of the releases we’re seeing. Bad for everyone, in my humble opinion. I don’t want to rely solely on the Big 4 for sewing patterns, simply because they have the infrastructure and staff to test in house.

    Speaking of Colette and Sewaholic, I rarely see posts from pattern testers from them. I assume they have a stable of people they ask who don’t blog about the process? I think a lot of the newer companies (many whom are bloggers turned designers) turn to their friends in the community since they already had established relationships with them (at least that’s what I’ve done). It makes sense to reach out to people who know you and have an interest in seeing you succeed. And to be honest, it’s the best way to spread the word about what you’re releasing. If I depended on my small blog readership, I wouldn’t be able to think about doing it fulltime, which I hope to do this year.

    I’ve tested for a few companies and I personally LOVE doing it. I only say yes to patterns I like, and I am dead honest with designers about issues I’ve found. I try to post honest reviews, but I’ve been lucky in having great success with all my tested makes so far. It’s lovely to be a part of someone’s creative process/journey. And I like returning the favour since I ask people to test for me – sewing karma?

    In the end, if someone doesn’t want to test, if they don’t feel like the process is fair, if they don’t think their work is justly rewarded with a free pattern…. they don’t have to do it. It’s a nice way to encourage good work and good drafting, along with helping support a company or person you like. The testing process makes products better, and brings bloggers together in what I think is a mutually beneficial arrangement.

    That said, in the future I’m hoping to have “testing calls” where anyone who wants to can test my work. I asked a few plus size pals to test Nettie but they couldn’t due to time constraints, and I was very uncomfortable having to release her without having feedback from curvier girls. Hoping to rectify this in the future! Hopefully all this conversation about the issue will encourage more transparency and honesty, and I hope pattern testing continues to be a process folks want to participate in! It not only makes our work better, but it makes us possible for us to design at all. I’m just not sure how many companies would be able to survive or grow without having people willing to test their work for free, unfortunately.

    1. Hey, Heather Lou. Thanks for stopping by.

      I don’t think I or anyone above is advancing an argument that all pattern companies should pay their testers now, or pay their testers or else, or that sewers should use payment of testers as a deciding criterion for whether or not we buy patterns. Rather, we were (or, I hope we were) talking about whether or not pattern testers should be paid ideally, in an abstract sense. For me, the answer is an enormous yes, because it would be a step in the direction of professionalization and would likely lend diversity to the tester pool. Any uneasiness around the topic has more to do with the conflation of testing and reviewing, rather than an actual problem with paying someone for the act of testing (which was the original point).

      It’s pretty clear why it would be hard for a smaller or younger company to pay their testers at all, much less pay them an hourly wage for services rendered. Basically, this was supposed to be more about consumer-side perceptions about the relationship between pattern testers and companies, and how money factors into the equation, than producer-side feasibility.

      If Colette’s post on the Hawthorn is any indication, Sarai et alia use local pattern testers who pop into the studio and have their work looked over. (http://www.coletterie.com/peeks-in-the-studio/how-our-sewing-patterns-are-made) I’ve only heard two people identify themselves as Sewaholic pattern testers, Amy at Sew Well and Laura Hojnacke at Make-It-Yourself Mom. Questions crop up because of the flood of pattern tester posts around review date for some companies, and not others.

      I’m sure you’ve probably been in touch with Jenny (Cashmerette) and Mary (Idle Fancy) about sourcing curvy pattern testers. If not, please do consider it.

      1. I feel exactly the same – it’s more an idealised concept. I totally get that a new company wouldn’t be able to afford it. Companies that are more established (like Colette) probably do it as a matter of course. BHL have managed to get their fans to contribute towards a startup for fabric printing or something like that, so I think it’s only fair they provide fabric. What I don’t get is pricing. Colette chargse less for PDFs than paper – like Kate n Rose and others. Grainline patterns are professional and well drafted and have decent instructions and great tutorials – $6.5 to 10.5. Liesl average $12.95 – and I find her patterns exceedingly well drafted with great, clear instrucions. Sewcaroline comes out with an overgrown tank and charges $16. Um…..

  12. For your Moneta, I think you need to go down a size at the bust and armhole and then possibly grade out to the next size at the waist. I’ve made the Moneta three times and I think I finally have it down. Here is a long version of my process:

    The first I made in an XS with a thicker knit and it was way too tight at the waist so I re-cut the bodice in a straight S, but ended up with a bit of extra fabric around the armhole/bust area. Next Moneta I made with a stretchier knit and used a S with a narrow shoulder adjustment (because I thought that was my problem…it wasn’t). I still ended up with the bagginess and I tried fixing it by taking in the seams around the armsyce and bust area. Then I realized that I had essentially made an XS bodice, but graded out to a S at the waist (starting from just below the bust line). So for my third Moneta that’s exactly what I did and it fits perfectly. Good luck!

    1. Ooooh! That makes sense. I’ve got a red striped knit that’s destined to be Moneta #3. I’ll whip it up and compare notes with you. Thank you! The Moneta is my first knit, and I’ve been so paranoid that my wonky armhole was the product of my shoddy cutting/notching/construction.

      Also, might I add (and I should probably go and say this on your actual blog) I love your one-day Emery? The neutral fabric is so chic.

  13. Many industries have paid Quality Control (aka testers), either on staff or for contract. They are paid to ensure an item meets a certain level of quality before it is released to the public.

    I think there needs to be a distinction made between a “reviewer” and a “tester”. Testing happens before a product is released to the public. Unless the pattern maker is perfect, there should be a fair amount of design and instruction changes to the pattern after testing.

    What bugs me about the trend in pattern “testing” is using the so called “test results” for marketing. If that’s going to happen, let me hear about what feedback you received and actually incorporated in order to make the product or instructions better.

    The industry should come up with some minimum checklists for testing a pattern, and standards for an acceptable pattern:
    1. Is there a legend for drawings indicating right side/wrong side, etc?
    2. Are drawings to scale or not?
    3. Are instructions linear?
    4. Are instructions given for serger and regular sewing machines, or only one or the other?
    5. Are pressing instructions given (some patterns never tell you to press, or which direction to press the seam, etc).
    6. etc.

    Bottom line: Testing results should be owned by the patternmaker and incorporated into their design and instructions. They should not be used for marketing.

    Reviews can be use for marketing, but I think the relationship between the reviewer and designer should be fully disclosed. Was the pattern purchased or gifted? Is there a personal or professional relationship between the two parties?

    1. +1000

      I can’t read pattern-tester “reviews” of makes the same way that I read actual reviews from people who paid out-of-pocket for the pattern, and sewed up the out-to-consumer version, not one of the intermediate versions. I wonder how many steps a pattern takes between landing in a tester’s hands, and landing on a customer’s doorstep. Interesting stuff.

      I really don’t like the test results for marketing bit. Jenny at Cashmerette has a post up about this issue, where she points out an obvious, but salient, point: When you test something (in the way in which we test nowadays vs. sample sewing in muslin), you end up with a finished garment. You want to blog that. I think that the way in which sewing blogs post is heavily informed by how the community got its start, since a lot of people are refugees from Pattern Review, BurdaStyle, and Sew Weekly. Because of this, posts take review formatting, almost reflexively. I get why it’s happening, but I agree with you: it’s not my favorite.

  14. I tested once for Sewaholic & I am not a blogger but I have sewn professionally at different times in life. I was chosen based off putting my name on a email list and responding with a sort of “pick me!” bio and answers to questions I sent back. (Also my measurements, I am a firm hourglass/pear shape and fit her “client brief”) I know it must be a ton of work to sift through emails and that girl is the energizer bunny but I think it’s a fair way to make sure you are picking from a wide array of sewers, not just strictly bloggers.

    1. Thanks for the glimpse of how Sewaholic works!

      I honestly think that Tasia has a clone of herself, charging its battery in a closet or something. It must be loads of work, you’re right, but I scarcely ever hear of problems with Sewaholic patterns. A sewing friend told me that she’d be perfectly comfortable wearing her Cambie inside-out!

  15. I read many of the comments here, but not all, so forgive me if I repeat. Having worked for a major pattern company, I am of the opinion that pattern testing is part of the pattern PRODUCTION process. Reviews, publicity, and praise should come later. I can see why any pattern maker or company would want to have someone try out a pattern, but they really aren’t going to get the feedback they need unless the tester has no incentive to do anything other than make up the pattern to see if it works, makes sense, etc. What is necessary, is that the pattern be made exactly as designed in the intended base sample size, using one of the suggested fabrics, and with no alterations. After that, grading can be checked, warnings (ex: no stripes) can be given, etc. That will give an honest result. No fun for the tester, as it will not be an addition to her own wardrobe, but a far more honest result. Having heard so many of the different problems people encounter when using patterns (it was my job to do so), I know that the variety of skill levels various users will have varies significantly. If you are being compensated, you are really just advertising, I think. I say that, because the comments from anyone who is not an expert level sewer are not likely to be of great value for the variety of skill levels who will use the pattern.

    1. Mimi, I always love it when you give us a glimpse behind the curtain of a major pattern company. It’s so fun!

      I suppose the next logical question is, how do you get expert sewers to sew your samples and review your instructions, if you’re just a little guy? Can you, or is having a pattern that benefits from that level of scrutiny something you have to grow into?

  16. I completely agree with some of the posters who make the important distinction between testing a pattern and a pattern review. I also understand that some pattern designers who are a one woman show may not be able to complete the testing process without some donated time from willing participants. The skill level of all the pattern designers definitely varies and I have my own favorites. A badly drafted pattern is a badly drafted pattern, doesn’t matter who you are. Both indies and the big 4 can be guilty of bad drafting and poor construction methods.
    I also think it is the responsibility of sewists to understand their own body shapes and fitting issues.
    I would agree with some of the sentiments brought up by the author of the article you link to,there are a lot of what I think are ill fitting garments being touted as really great.
    As far as where to look for sewing instruction, there is soooo much great info on the web for free for beginners. A lot of people have complaints about sewingpatternreview website and I agree but if you start poking around there is TON of info there.

    1. Pattern Review and Artisan Square are responsible for, maybe, 80% of everything I know about sewing. You’re so right about the information there. Not the easiest to navigate, but everyone is so generous with their knowledge.

      I think every pattern line that has more than one pattern out has a pattern that is especially hard to fit, or that could have used a better draft. Sometimes, you don’t find out until you talk to a sewing friend in person, or buy the pattern yourself, which, for me, is a big problem.

      You’re so right about fitting and understanding body shape. We sometimes end up with very static notions of what our bodies look like, and carry those with us throughout changes, which leads to less-than-ideal choices of silhouette or pattern. I’m only just shaking my fit-and-flare addiction, for instance.

  17. Really thoughtful round up. My only thoughts on the paid / unpaid pattern tester debate is if in offering your services for free you are doing someone else out of a job then, yes, testers should be remunerated for their efforts. My boyfriend is a musician and avoids unpaid work for this reason. I’m against internships for this reason too.

    However I suspect those who do get paid don’t rely on this as their sole income. Also those who are doing it for free are doing so voluntarily and aren’t being exploited.

    If a pattern company is foolish enough to use testers who only give positive feedback then I guess this will tell in their product in the long term and sewers will walk away from a pattern that doesn’t do what it says on the tin.

    Interesting that you flagged up 75% of bought patterns are never used. I don’t’ think sewers should beat themselves up too much about this. Sewing my own clothes has cut down my habit of mindless consumption, basically shopping for the sake of shopping. I rarely buy RTW and stay away from the high street. I no longer have a wardrode full of unworn clothes with the tags still on them. Having just finished Me Made May I’ve come to the conclusion that I get a lot of wear out of my hand made clothes. If I’ve spent a lot of time toiling, fitting and making the garment, I’m more likely to wear it than something I’ve bought it in the shops. All my handmades are in regular rotation and I still wear the first skirt I sewed.

    1. That’s so funny. The likelihood of me wearing a garment doesn’t necessarily go up or down based on how much time I’ve spent with it. I suppose that you might have a strong positive quality-time correlation, while my frustration increases with the amount of time I spend fitting a garment and that leads to me wanting to set aflame any garment that has required more than four toiles. Suffice it to say, garment quality takes a hit when I’m not happy.

      My original point about the link between payment and testing has since splintered into a few hundred different directions, so I don’t feel as confident giving you a comprehensive response as I would have three or four days ago. I’m really sorry about that, especially since I find the criteria you’re using pretty interesting—whether or not someone else would have the job and expect monetary compensation for it and the presence or absence of exploitation, both of which I and others have danced around, but not stated quite as plainly as you have. I will say this, I’m mostly troubled by the suggestion (not yours, just a general sentiment) that we don’t have to monetarily compensate people who are willing to work for free. There are a ton of circumstances under which someone could (and even should) volunteer their services, but I don’t think it should be regarded as standard operating procedure, outside of non-profits, regardless of context.

      I wish I could still wear the first thing I sewed! (It’s a different size.) Totally jealous, on this end.

  18. Lovely post again, I will spend another hour on the internet reading most of the links you posted!
    Just one tip if you can’t imagine clothes on your body:
    First make a mini-charlotte. You can find how here: http://masustak-eguzkitan.blogspot.com.es/2013/02/tutorial-to-draw-mini-me.html
    Than you get crafty with photoshop or Gimp to make a life like version of the pattern and the fabric you want to pair it with. An explanation how to do that can be found here:
    Photoshop
    http://thecuriouskiwi.wordpress.com/2011/03/21/tutorial-visualising-fabric-on-patterns-part-one-photoshop/
    Gimp
    http://thecuriouskiwi.wordpress.com/2011/03/22/tutorial-visualising-fabric-on-patterns-part-two-gimp/

    Then, you combine the two, overlay the mini-me with the dress and stretch or shrink the dress proportionally to my body.

    Have fun trying this out! 😉

    1. Oh, this is going to be great. I require a mini-me in a very real way. (I’m visual, but for some strange reason, you stick my head into the equation and it all goes out the window.) Wendy, you may have just saved me!

    1. I sew instead of sleep, on occasion, which is probably really bad (but explains a lot about my garment finishing—woof!). Take your time, Connie, is what I’m saying! Thanks for stopping by.

  19. I remember the mommyblogging blow-ups, and was thinking the same thing! So strange to see such similar arguments after so much time, though I personally hope that the sewing community is able to avoid some of the outcomes of the momosphere. i.e., I really really hate the blogs that are 95% sponsored content.

    I too think that, in an ideal world, pattern testers would be paid. In part this is due to the issues you and your commenters have already raised about women’s work and the devaluation of labour done “for love.” But it’s also a response to what I know of the media industry: if you want to write for a living, you will first spend many years working for free–working HARD for free. You will interview and research and draft and revise and revise and all of this to see your name in print for years without any compensation before anyone pays you even a $50 honorarium for your work.

    The reasons are very similar: small media outlets without large circulations trying to build a name and an audience for themselves, who aren’t making a living wage either, and can’t afford to pay their contributors. But the end result is total suckage. Here in Canada, freelance writers haven’t had a raise since the 1970s–they are still being paid the same fees, not even adjusting for inflation, the same actual dollar amounts–and it is no longer possible for a writer in Canada to make a living from writing, by and large.

    When a substantial amount of people are willing to do a particular job for free, it brings down the wages in the entire industry. It becomes very difficult for anyone to be paid a decent wage for their labour. We’ve seen it with the sewing industry too, of course, thanks to globalization–when women in China are paid $0.02/hr to sew, how can a woman here make even minimum wage from sewing? It’s impossible, right?

    So the argument that “if people want to test patterns for free, that’s their choice” only goes so far with me. Yes, they have the choice to do so, if that’s what they want to do, but that choice has larger implications for other people who don’t want to or can’t afford to make that choice. And it’s fair for people to question and discuss that.

    1. Oh, Andrea. Yes to all of the above.

      Part of the issue with writers, which I think might become problematic for sewers, is that we’ve built this whole mythology around the idea of the starving artist and the struggling writer. Now, working hard for little or no money in order to make it is perceived as the price of admission to the game. This, in my opinion, has created a really clear distinction between the Harvard-then-Iowa-educated bylines I see in The Paris Review or The New Yorker and everyone else cast afloat in the deep blue sea.

      In the sewing community, the starving artist is now the community cheerleader. You can totally support small business and be a member of the community, without believing in the devaluation of labor, or in rendering your services for free. I wonder, though, if eventually that’ll change. I was talking to a forty-something, female professor the other day about what I am going to do after graduation. I want to work a bit before graduate school, and she suggested that I take a few years to see if I can make it as a writer, and waitress in the mean time. Balking at the sort of suggestion is apparently a very 21st-century, entitled millennial thing, and is indicative of the privileging of physical comfort over art. But, uh, that lifestyle, that Brooklyn, that sort of work, was possible as recently as twenty years ago, but is nearly dead, now. Most of the waitresses I know are exhausted, have more than one “job”-job to pay the bills, and scarcely have time to call their families, much less write well and pound the pavement enough to get published. But apparently writing is something so effortless that you can pound out prose in the two hours before your swing shift or few minutes before bed, and sewing and blogging are both so fun and fulfilling that the expectation of remuneration is somehow anathema to the core beliefs of the community? Sigh sigh sigh.

      The mommyblogging blow-ups. On one hand, I hope that doesn’t happen here. On the other hand, we could kind of use some gadflies. I love GOMI, but it has unfortunately gotten a bad rap, which gives its posters legitimacy issues. That sucks, because there are a lot of smart people over there.

      1. I will confess to really enjoying some GOMI posts. Mostly it’s gossip about things I don’t know about and don’t want to know about, and it goes over my head, but it can be a fantastic validation when someone comes out and says the thing you thought you were alone in. But yeah, it seems overkill for this situation. Mothers are a much bigger target demographic than sewists–we’re not, so far as I can see right now, pulling out the same shark-like kill-your-frenemies blood-lust for the kind of money that was circulating in the momosphere for a while.

        We’ve somehow become a society that doesn’t want to pay for things. I don’t know how much of that is because of income inequality and the ridiculous price of housing almost everywhere–we don’t have as much money left over to spend–but everything is under such cost pressure. Clothes, food, music, art, books, media, whatever. It puts such an ugly pressure on the producers of the things we seem to feel we’re entitled to consume but shouldn’t have to pay for.

        I don’t blame you for not wanting to be poor. I chose another career over writing because I never wanted to worry about how to feed my daughter, and I don’t regret it, though I do wish it could have been otherwise. In the meantime, I do write and publish from time to time. Short form: I think the entitled millennial thing is crap.

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