Pimping for Patterns/Fabric/Books

There is a growing trend among sewing bloggers and it is not as sweet as it seems.

First, there is the free pattern scheme for “testers”. You are given an envelope with a dubious pattern made by either a company contracted in China or by some other means with a designer’s name on it. You get excited because it has a price tag of $20 or 20 pounds and you want to do the happy dance. You feel like you have been invited to join the cool kids at the lunch table. Let’s analyze what you really got:

The pattern is not worth anything unless it has been bought and paid for by someone, namely you, a customer. Unless that happens it is worthless. Next, the supplier asks you to use your own fabric that you paid retail for to make up the pattern. You do all the cutting out and measuring and layout and stitching. You use your own thread and notions and then spend more time taking photos to display on your blog. What a proud moment for you! You may even enter the photos and glowing review on other blogs and websites…the more you spread it around the more valuable you are to the supplier. You may or may not disclose you got a freebie.

But…the big but…how many hours have you spent from start to finish? Was it one of the baby doll skater dresses that are everywhere? Let’s say 7 hours of labor (minimum wages $70), 3 yards of primo fabric you love and bought and dragged out of your stash ($35+) and photo shoots and working on your blog another 2-3 hours ( $30). OK, you are proud of yourself and thinking you have reached thousands of other sewers makes it all worthwhile…or does it?  You feel honored to have been selected to be THE seamstress to make this fabulous pattern. You got a free pattern worth nothing and you spent a minimum of $135 to promote someone else’s pattern. What a great deal. The supplier sits back, may or may not correect any flaws in the original pattern, and waits for the pattern orders to roll in and they will roll in because you and only you have done such a good job with your candid review…or was it totally un-biased? If you had paid for that pattern with your own money ($20 +) plus shipping and it turned out the same way or more of a wadder, what would your review had been? I wonder?

Here is the other scheme out there…free fabric…a fabric store wants to unload a pile of crap fabric they bought for way below wholesale and they need someone to use a spare 2.5 yards of this stuff so others will swarm to their website and order it until they run out. They offer you the bait, you bite, and we start all over again…you pick a pattern from the stash or buy a new one from Vogue because they suggested you go big or go home. You spring for an artistic variety aka baggy, layered with odd seams running diagonally and weird collars and asymmetrical hems…you know the sort…it says, “I am hip and on the cutting edge of fashion”. You spend $30+ for that high end pattern, you cut it out making sure to include photos of the said fabric on your cutting board and you stitch it up. You encounter loads of problems with the fit and directions and yet you assume it is just you because you are not as experienced as the supplier thought. You can’t let them down, they have invested 2.5 yards of crap fabric in you and you are expected to turn out something in quick time.

You sweat and drink way too many lattes along the way and vow never to do this again because you know you will never wear this outfit anyway…not in your town, not anywhere…you may just give it to your cousin, she will wear anything. Let’s total up the damage: labor 15 hours for a designer pattern ($150), your notions, thread, elastic, seam binding, buttons etc ($20) and your time for photos and blogging ($30). You have invested $200 to promote the fabric dealer’s crap fabric and website for thousands of unwary readers. The fabric supplier will certainly unload all the yardage left and make a tidy profit…you will give that $200 rag to your cousin will be wearing it to Whole Foods to buy kale and radicchio. Again, you may or may not disclose to your readers that you got a freebie.

Do you understand why I have named this latest scheme “Pimping for Patterns/Fabric/Books”? What is the difference between a working girl displaying her wares on the corner of Hollywood and Vine for a pimp versus a sewer displaying her garments on the internet? At the end of the evening both have been used and abused. You will be asked to do this over and over if the supplier gets a good enough response…how many men drive around and around the corner and ask you into the car? How many other sewers, on your recommendation alone, buy untried patterns and crap fabric? Its a dirty little game.

Do not be flattered by being used, for being used cheapens you, your skills and the skills of all the other sewers and professional seamstresses worldwide. Worldwide, yes Ma’am we are a global village now and if the word “Community” is familiar to you in regard to sewing it means “suckers”. Retailers use these 2 words interchangeably. You follow popular bloggers, you buy what they are promoting whether it be fabric or patterns or books and you feel like a warm, fuzzy participant of her “community”. Guess again!

I have included some first hand experiences below from bloggers who have fallen into this trap and wanted to share their views:

Oh wow! “Miss X’ emailed me with a testing offer! I must be one of the best seamstresses. Yes I’ll do it! Yes I’ll do it! Yes I’ll do it!
It’s a deep V cleavage-revealing maxi dress more suited to someone 4 inches shorter and 60 lbs lighter. Um ok, It’s still flattering to be asked?….

This pattern was nowhere near my size. I’m going to have to scale this up a million times and change the bust curve, the waist line and do an FBA. Um ok, but it is flattering to be asked?!
I’m on my third crappy muslin and 16th hour. My husband is eating take out, my house is a wreck and Miss Y has emailed me 3 times to make me shake a leg and every time I mention an issue, she politely talks down to me about my sewing experience. I feel so bad letting her down and my family.

I’m supposed to take semi professional photos of the finished garment. I can’t blog this looking like crap- everyone will think I can’t sew?!  I’m going to have to scrap the instructions and just do what I have to do make it match the envelope picture. No! No pictures of the back- it’s a train wreck!!! My reputation and blog is on the line! Then I have to pretend I actually bought this… I hate deceiving my readers like this.

I hate this pile of artistic/cutting edge pattern pieces all staring at me. They are taunting me. I’m going to sneak it and the jacket/cape into the trash- I’m still too hostile and downhearted to look at it in my sewing room. But Miss Z gushed all over me so I have to make nice. Can I tell my readers to avoid this train wreck??? Is that dishonest? Damn it, I want my time, fabric, integrity and sanity back!!!!! I wish I had never given in to this flattery, it is like I sold my soul to the devil…never again!

So sewers…the question is: Are you willing to be a “working girl” with a sewing machine? Are you willing to auction off books written with re-hashed techniques? Are you willing to be a fabric-pusher? All these options seem to be infiltrating the world of sewing blogs like an epidemic and there is no vaccine except a dose of integrity which seems be in short supply this season.

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104 Responses to Pimping for Patterns/Fabric/Books

  1. One thing I can ALWAYS count on from you, Mrs Mole, is honesty 🙂 Honest assessments of anything involved in sewing is a good thing, even if it’s sometimes hard to ‘take’. That’s why so many highly value your opinion.

    Very good points…and many points that had me smiling. I understand the desire so many of us have to help others in the sewing biz…but it’s great advice to think twice – or three times! – before we jump.

    On my fledgling blog, I’ve made it a point to only pass along great places I’ve personally dealt with – like fabric stores, notion sellers, super bloggers, etc. It’s so hard to find a really good pattern company these days…but I have seen a couple of “indie” patterns that seemed to have gotten good reviews. Makes you wonder exactly how deserved that was…I’m hoping they were genuine.

    Food for thought, and much to ponder. Thanks for your post 🙂

  2. mrsmole says:

    We all have to be on our guard. Even Amazon is culling 5 star reviewers to make sure that they even bought the product they are reviewing. Cream rises to the top! Consider the source…who is going to profit in the end? Like you, if I like a product, I buy it, use it and tell everyone the pros and cons and where to get it. I don’t monetize my blog, I blog to inform and and inspire and have a laugh…Lord knows we all need that! Thank you for dropping by, Cheryl!

    • Bunny says:

      Have you ever noticed the stamped of five star reviews on Amazon that occurs immediately after a new release of a sewing book? Buyer beware.

      • mrsmole says:

        Recently I have seen some bloggers claim that they have seen pre-release pages of a “new” sewing book from their favorite marketing sewist and been raving about making sure we all get our copy before they run out…really? With words like “OMG, you guys have to see this new book…I would have never know that elastic sewn into a waistband was so simple”. Lord help us!

  3. Tia Dia says:

    Well said. I like watching the frenzy, but I’m not interested in participating. Being an audience member is more entertaining than killing oneself over a copy of a design that may or may not work!

  4. mrsmole says:

    And we have seen enough copies of 60’s and 70’s fashions…baby doll/skater dresses, shifts and wrap skirts to last a lifetime! If you troll through thrift shops, like I do, for old patterns you can find plenty of designs that were left behind and can be resurrected for around 25 cents! Your latest creation for your daughter was amazing!
    http://mezzocouture.com/2014/11/21/lbd-burda-92014-130/

  5. Lynda says:

    I so love your honesty! And you are right on. Who, unless they have a stake in the company would go to all that work and expense just to be one of the “cool kids.” Guess I never got what the draw was to be something I’m not. I’ll stick with my own processes, trying, and trying, and trying again to get a classic look that is age and figure appropriate. SIGH. But maybe, if I were 6 foot tall, and 115 pounds, and all angles… who knows? LOL

    • mrsmole says:

      Exactly, Lynda, and how many muslins/sample garments does it take to wake us up? Are we getting muslin for free or providing our own? Are zippers free or buttons? Give your labor a dollar amount and do the math…scary and eye opening for all of us!

  6. Meigan says:

    Mrs. Mole, you have hit the nail on the head. There is always a big buzz surrounding new ‘indie’ pattern or book releases and I never understand what the fuss is about. I admit that a few years ago I did fall for and bought 2 books written by bloggers. Once I had them in my hands, I thoroughly regretting spending the money. I have learned my lesson well. Insofar as patterns, books, and fabric are concerned, the age old wisdom “caveat emptor” now echoes in my mind.

    • mrsmole says:

      Public libraries are chock full of sewing manuals and inspiration for free. We forget that wonderful talented women have come before us and made books that show us the way. The new books have color photos and little icons and drawings but the information is the same…how many books do we need to show how to make a Peter Pan collar or gathered skirt? When in doubt and in a hurry…just Google it. Thanks for dropping by Meigan!

      • JustGailj says:

        The sad thing is – the libraries are tossing the wonderful older books with really good time-tested instructions in favor of the newer books with prettier pictures and fast-and-easy projects by bloggers turned “designer” and author. It’s not just the sewing books, it’s all the needlework, knitting/crochet, and all textile arts related books. That is if you are fortunate enough that your library even HAS books on those subjects to begin with.

      • Tia Dia says:

        Love my library! I always borrow the latest “fantastic-you-can’t-live-without-this-new-sewing-book” issue and test drive it before purchasing. Needless to say, the only one I’ve purchased is a technical one on fitting!!

  7. piakdy says:

    Oh I don’t know Mrs Mole…If Mood want to give me fabric coupon…Or some highfalutin designer want to give me free pattern for a signature look I love…I just don’t know if I can resist!

    But yeah, if the offering is blah, I’ll pass. All the extra needed to be a “Brand Advocate” as they call it in my industry is worth it if it’s a Brand (or Product) I love. Yes they might be using me. But really, I’ll also be using them – provided what I get I do love. I like win-win situations. I don’t see it always as a win-lose situation. I might have wasted all that time, effort, money on something else equally demanding and with no more certainty of success. In fact I’d be spending more money because I’d have one extra ingredient to pay for. But of course all this hinges on being able to say No Thank You to the Duds. So I blame sheeps. I’m obviously a goat 😉

    And for the record, no one has ever offered me any freebies. Sad face. (OK, one Indie Pattern Designer did ask if I’d be interested in testing patterns. And as I hadn’t seen anything I absolutely must have and can’t make myself I didn’t sign up. Besides I sew too slowly to be of any worth to any Brand wanting to shift unwanted stocks.)

    Be more goat!

    • mrsmole says:

      Love your response! Being a slow methodical precise seamstress has it’s benefits…avoid the deadlines and pressure of slave driving “designers” who NEED YOU to market their stuff.Check out fabric suppliers who give away fabric…be suspicious…why are they doing this? Who are they giving a kickback to to advertize on their website???There is a reason they are being featured…what is the payoff as Dr. Phil always asks?

  8. paisleyapron says:

    Your analysis is right on. This has been happening in the knitting realm of the crafting world, too. Certain designers ask for people to “test” their patterns for free, of course, and with their own yarn and needles. I am often surprised at how many do it. Knitting takes a heck of a lot more time than sewing.

    • twotoast says:

      I hadn’t thought of the knitting testers – I have been a test knitter of both socks and shawls on Ravelry, and have also had people test patterns for me. I used to by-pass the requests where designers wanted you to use a particular brand of yarn (usually a very expensive/hard to find brand). I was also constantly amazed at the knitters that would test a complicated lace & cable sweater using lace-weight yarn (or something similar). But, perhaps I am just jealous that I do not have the time to knit these time consuming garments!

      • Urbanite says:

        Don’t be too hard on yourself about the test knitting. Some people enjoy doing it b/c it’s like a “Mystery Knit” project. You know the kind: you get a clue every week and you aren’t sure what’s next. These knitters also like the process, so they are interesting not only in the how and why of the construction, but enjoy noodling out problems that arise with pattern directions.

        Thank you Mrs. Mole, two toast, and others for spotlighting and illuminating this topic. I’ve recently seen a very interesting blog go completely flat b/c the blogger got sucked down this rabbit hole. This can wring all of the verve out of a blog, and that’s sad to see.

      • symondezyn says:

        Thanks Urbanite – very good description of the challenge/process of test knitting; figuring out the how and why, and the process of “noodling out problems” was challenging and fun; even having only done it once, this is exactly how I felt about it! 🙂

    • mrsmole says:

      Wow…thank you for sharing that info…I don’t knit so I would have never thought about the hours and hours done for free not to mention using gorgeous yarns as the knitters’ expense. What happens if the garment turns out too big or too small with the gauge?

  9. A well written blog. I think you covered it all. Hopefully those who are doing this are getting some satisfaction out of it, otherwise it is a great waste of time, money and resources. I myself am into this blogging business for the chance to read the blogs of others, their projects, whether they have good or bad results, are very interesting to me. Thank you for the education you provided with this post!

    • Bunny says:

      What they are getting, at least they think they are, are hits back to their own blogs where they need to foot traffic to drive their own monetization. That’s why they do it, IMO.

    • mrsmole says:

      You are welcome, Linda! Blogging does give us a connection with good and bad and offers new ways of doing things we may need in the future. While very few of my readers will ever want or need to alter wedding dresses and formal wear, just showing what goes into those fancy dresses is my goal. Reading tailoring blogs and historical reproduction pattern blogs is just a treat for me. Seeing fabrics transformed into one-or-a-kind masterpieces as wearable art or fantasy costumes make your brain excited too. It is a delight to have readers like you with many views and different backgrounds adding with your comments!

      • elledechene says:

        Bingo! I just ran across your blog today, have thoroughly enjoyed seeing your work and reading about your travails in your witty, acerbic style. There are many other wonderful bloggers out there that I’ve enjoyed reading over the years. Sadly, when they start to monetize, it starts to go downhill. I recently visited one that I hadn’t been to for a year or so, had to run away from the pop-up ads.

      • mrsmole says:

        Thank you, Elle, and welcome to my alterations world of weird. Thankfully, I don’t have to monetize my blog and if there is the odd ad, it has been put there by WordPress, not me.

  10. twotoast says:

    Thank-you Mrs M! You have made me feel so much better! As someone who sits on the sidelines, watching all the cool kids getting what looks like fabulous freebies, I have to admit to being a teeny bit jealous. But now, I completely see the other side and realise that I have managed to dodge a bullet.

  11. mrsmole says:

    As piakdy suggests…let’s be goats instead of sheep. Question everything, suspect freebies and kickbacks…”community equals suckers”…sad but true…be on high alert! Be jealous no longer, June!

  12. Wow, I so love your candor! I couldn’t help but laugh at a not so funny scenario because I see it ALL the time. The funniest thing about it is the “newbies” or “not-so-experienced” SEWIST are the ones walking right into it and jumping on every bandwagon of trendy fabrics or the hottest “it” pattern….uggghh, don’t get me started, LOL!
    Very interesting read, thanks!

    • mrsmole says:

      You got that right, Alethia! Fads come and go and don’t we all have bad purchases lurking on our closets…patterns we had to have and then discover them 10 years later when they are definitely past their sell by date? We were all young once…so glad it is behind me and realize you can brake the rules and make up your own techniques for dealing with what life/clients throws at you!

  13. robindrush says:

    Brand endorsement in the sewing/craft world offers the same ‘five minutes of fame’ people seek with other products. Some sewists have turned a hefty profit for themselves and the pattern and fabric merchants they endorse. One particular sewist who is quite popular in blog land has a large following due to her brand endorsements and sewing tutorials. Now she has her own pattern line. You might say she has become a brand. However, I don’t think the average sewist considers the things you’ve mentioned before they say yes to the offer. The invitation to sit at the ‘cool kids’ table is hard to turn down. Hindsight is 20/20. I’ve grown wiser and I’ve learned the ‘cool kids’ table is wherever I choose to sit.

    • mrsmole says:

      Brava, Robin…being a cool kid is a state of mind. Integrity and confidence show through all the bull. We can consider all this crazy-making just entertainment like I do with my brides…if you have a chance to share sewing with a good friend or have the opportunity to teach a young person your skills in sewing, this will be a bigger blessing than having your own brand. When you leave this earth you leave behind your kindness and devotion and passion and love…a treasure and indelible legacy…not everyone can say, “I shared my skills”. Thank you for being part of this sewing family.

  14. Not So Innocent Bystander says:

    I love, love, love your blog because you’re so upfront. Over the past year, I’ve watched one blogger after another start doing “product reviews” that are really thinly disguised advertising and using their readers to expand their influence/earn money/get free stuff. One blogger I used to enjoy can’t seem to turn down a freebie. In the past 6 months she’s written posts on undergarments, sponsored trips, toys, and – wait for it – mattresses. It seems that every other post is a rave about some new product or other (to her credit, she always has a tiny “Sponsored Post” disclaimer somewhere). She also has a pattern line and runs her Facebook page like a fan club, banning members who question her or dare to post any tutorials by other seamstresses.
    A number of women bought her very unflattering patterns and seem unnaturally excited on the rare occasions when she answers questions about her projects. They even made up a name to call themselves as a tribute to her. When she’s not shilling for a new company, she’s asking her readers to vote for her in contests or tweet/Instagram about her – and they do it just to be part of the group. I’m surprised at the number of women who gladly give their money and time to support bloggers when there’s no reciprocation. It like they’re trying to relive high school, but this time they’re “friends” with the Queen Bee. I wasn’t much of a joiner in h.s. and I’m even less inclined now so I’m definitely not her target market.
    As always, thanks for sharing your refreshing perspective. It’s good to know there are still independent bloggers out there. I always look forward to your stories about bridal alterations. I stopped sewing for other people some time ago, but I cheer you from the sidelines!

    • mrsmole says:

      Well, you are so sweet to cheer me on….yes, this idol worship has reached ridiculous heights…it is almost like televangelists telling viewers to just send in money and “expect a miracle” only the miracle is anything but that! How long will we be bombarded with such stuff…how many more victims will be sacrificed for this hero worship? Shilling/pimping for patterns is one thing…promoting mattresses….that takes the cake! They are sent on trips all over the world to hook up with other marketing seamstresses to sniff butts and promote each other in a chaos of “Ain’t we wonderful!” theme. The rest of us normal folks keep our heads down and focus on real sewing and fitting and turning out a quality product for ourselves and our clients…in a way I feel sorry for these women who have so little self esteem that they can only get it from a manufactured and conned audience aka SHEEP. I repeat from piakdy today…”let’s be goats!” Refuse to support the self-promoting behaviors of these lately arrived “designers” and do stick with quality pattern makers who know their products and can even explain how to alter their patterns for a better fit…not every designer can.

  15. Alex Bradley says:

    Wow, you’ve really given me a lot to think about. I do tend to take the reviews of indie pattern companies with a grain of salt, and I really feel that particular ‘named’ patterns, (they all seem to have trendy names for the blouse or dress that is all the rage at the moment) are overrated and shapeless. I, too, buy quite a few old patterns from op shops, and find that their shapes and lines are recycled anyway in all the latest patterns! But yes, thank you for an eye opening essay!!

    • mrsmole says:

      Thanks, Alex, it is nice to know others like sniffing through thrift shops for vintage treasures in an envelope! Yes, the names of the patterns…food, places, flowers…very creative. But as you say some can be shapeless and boring for sure.

  16. jay says:

    It does surprise me how much of a draw a ‘free’ pattern is. Especially when it is very similar to styles which have been around so long they turn up in job lots of sewing patterns from the seventies on ebay. The ‘pimping’ metaphor is especially appropriate. Fashion photos have steered pretty close to the rocks for decades, do we have feel pressured to take the same route?
    On the other side of the coin we have the misunderstanding by those who sew but don’t draft of how much work actually goes into making a new pattern. (Well, if you are designing and drafting it not ripping off an old one your auntie had in a box in the garage)

    • mrsmole says:

      Amen, Jay! Wishing I had an auntie who left me a box of patterns!!!! So many of the patterns today are fads and will pass away in a couple years, so we just have to sit and wait…ha ha. Ebay is certainly brimming with old bad patterns in boxes…did these people have aunties who bequeathed them to them too? Just working with Nancy on her pattern choices and getting the muslins to fit right tells you what labor is involved. You know what labor is involved in a “from scratch” pattern transferring body measurements to flat paper and we see little evidence that these marketing sewists/salespeople are sweating in the backroom over a cutting table with pencils and rulers and erasers. Mention
      “oak-tag” or “notching or rabbit punch” and they would think it was a new cocktail.

  17. Priya says:

    Yeah, when I got back into sewing a couple of years ago (for me, its still a very part-time hobby, so I would class myself as very low intermediate), it was nice to read sewing blogs and realise that this hobby of mine was not something only my parents’ generation did. And it was nice to read about people’s efforts and their frank comments about what they did right and equally, what they did wrong. Even though I’ve always been a lurker on blogs, It made me feel better about my own sewing skills and not be too harsh on myself, but still try to do better.
    But recently, I’ve been taking a lot of blogs off my reading list, because – how much more a$$ can some of those writers lick? It’s like nobody is unbiased anymore. Everybody wants to say the nicest things, and put a positive spin on the most negative of points. You’re right, there is such a queen bee culture, and its off-putting. All that fawning over beginner sewists who just happen to be good at taking gamine photos of incredibly basic dress designs or they have made a TV appearance and now they are all over the internet as everybody’s favorite sewist.

    I understand no pattern is going to fit right out of the envelope, but if you change everything about how you used the pattern, then what’s the point….might as well take a “TNT” pattern like Carolyn of sewingfantaticdiary does and make something she loves and is comfortable wearing and makes her happy.
    I have so much respect for sewists like Ann, who won the British Sewing Bee…so unassuming, and so nice and so not pushing for publicity for its own sake. For all the others, should we just blame it on reality tv?

    Okay, rant over 🙂

    • mrsmole says:

      Love your ranting…stay informed and vigilant, Priya! Carolyn and Ann are classy forthright ladies who can turn out a quality product with lots of hard work and planning. They inspire and excite us and give us permission to explore and learn more. Isn’t that what we all want? To love what you do, do what you love, perfect your techniques, learn a few new ones and share with others? So simple and they have a real following of like minded people. They are not advertizing for suppliers or taking kickbacks…they don’t have to. Carolyn has a stash that makes us all drool that she bought herself and she has an eye for combining fabric, colors and textures to suit her body and lifestyle. She can also see a model on a runway and re-create a look from her TNT pattern technique…fabulous. I don’t know if reality TV is to blame for the others…maybe just plain greed or that 15 minutes of fame Andy Warhol talked about.

      • Carolyn says:

        These are the nicest comments. Sorry but I’m just catching up on my blog reading and I saw these and they did my heart good because honestly lately I’ve just felt like closing my blog down. There has been so much snark and mob mentality of bashing bloggers on the internet that it seems like more trouble than worth to keep sharing.

      • mrsmole says:

        Please don’t quit, Carolyn. We adore your TNT garments and your bought fabrics and stash!!!! The fact that you can spot a fashion forward outfit and make it up so quickly and so fittingly and flattering is magic itself!

  18. Monique says:

    Dear Mrs Mole, this pattern testing thing makes your bridal work almost seem straightforward and simple. But when you keep your integrity, I suppose everything is straightforward.
    I prefer truth and simplicity to sheepish madness, so will never join this “cool club”, but I found this a good insight, thank you! When I restarted sewing a while back, the sewing world seemed to be buzzing and exciting, but now I really regret my mother threw away all her old patterns, just before I got the bug again. If she’d brought them to the thrift shop, now doubt I would have looked for them there!
    Not everything new and shiny will hold itself well against the test of time and I suppose this is just a necessary growing-up phase in the sewing community (of which I am only a slow amateur sewer and reader as far as taking part is concerned). Many illusions die on our way to adulthood, don’t they?
    Have a great weekend!

    • mrsmole says:

      Poor Monique…maybe there is still time to find those old classic patterns in the thrift store!!! Love your phrase, many illusions die on the way to adulthood. So true! Copying or reproducing sheath or gathered waist patterns from the 60’s and 70’s does not insure success but we see it gets people talking and the money flowing. This year they even attempted to bring back the maxi dress, Maybe next year it will be hot pants from 1969. We get to decide if it is fad or fashion and what it is worth in real money and labor time. It can be easier for us veterans than newbies to spot a fraud but not always. Being on guard all the time may keep us safe from being duped into spending good money on shoddy products and services…fingers crossed! Wishing you a great weekend too…stay warm and dry!

  19. prttynpnk says:

    Is that why Mood hasn’t called? Im a pink paisley goat and they want an ITY sheep? Better practice my twee bleeting!

  20. fabrickated says:

    An excellent and very amusing post Mrs Mole, which I largely agree with. I think the “community” point is especially well made.

    The thing is – let’s assume you are a person with integretity. What if you have developed a pattern lovingly over many months, fitting it on yourself, trying to simplify and improve the design and construction, and by the end feel you have made something new, and better than what is out there? Perhaps something you would have bought yourself if it existed, but having searched, find that it does not (or maybe you didn’t search really, really hard). And you love it so much you actually want to share it, and you ask a few friends (supplying them with fabric that suits their colouring and zips etc) to actually test the pattern and give you honest feedback (because now you are too close to it). You take their feedback with gratitude and improve the pattern and the instructions. And then you tentatively decide to offer this item to the world, and maybe £5 or $7 is what it is “worth” because you have already invested 100s of hours and fabric in this item, so you decide to charge for it. And then someone kindly writes about it on their website. Is this OK?

    I think there are two sides to this story, and the difference is people who are doing a good job, with honesty and professionalism, and others who are a bit of sham (who perhaps rip off vintage patterns rather than designing and pattern cutting, and may even pay others to produce the patterns). These people may have great skill in presentation and marketing. They may know how to talk to the cool young people. They may have better IT, photography and design skills that we have. Maybe they are connecting with the next generation in a generally positive way.

    In conclusion (phew, sorry I have gone on a bit) I think your warnings are very useful for the naive and stupid. But so long as everyone thinks carefully about what is happening and enters into it with awareness of how they might be being used I guess it is OK. Your post helps change the balance.

  21. mrsmole says:

    Hi Kate, I don’t have any problem with folks doing what you described in the first story…sort of like asking people to try out a new cooking recipe and then selling it. You started it, you refined it, you sell it…marvelous. What sticks in my craw, are folks who draw a bad sketch on the back of an old envelope and have someone with real skills create the pattern and samples from scratch for pennies and then they pass it off as their design. I could draw a sketch of a rocket but it would take the folks at NASA to test it and make it a reality…in the end I could not claim it was mine.
    If newbies want to follow a marketing genius/saleswoman around and throw money at her and her marketing crew in the background then they may or may not want to know what the real deal is. The same goes for this fabric giveaway crap… free samples for anyone who will rave about the apparent quality of an online dealer. If we support reputable suppliers and share the pros and cons honestly then we can hold our heads up high…otherwise we are as much a flim-flam/con artist as the person who leaves a deceptive review. IMHO it boils down to this…Can we be bought for the price of an untested pattern or 2 yards of fabric or a book with re-hashed techniques? If it seems to good to be true…it usually is. If you always work above board then no one can accuse you of handouts from under the table. We all can admire businesses and people that have integrity and thrive, finding them is another story! Thanks so much for adding more thoughts to the warnings to the sheep!

  22. kathy says:

    Love this entertaining and insightful post on the “testing” of the free patterns and I’m 100% in agreement. I’ve seen so much of this in the indy PDF designers and then their faithful followers of groupies that promote and gush over the “soon to be available” pattern. So often the patterns are no different than patterns from the big 4 companies, that you can purchase on sale for $.99 or $1.99 pretty regularly, but would have to pay anywhere from $5 – $18 for a PDF downloadable pattern which adds to the expense and time of testing – printing out numerous pages, taping together and such. Why would anyone spend that kind of money for something that is not unique? I don’t understand the attraction. Yet, everyone continues to praise the product. It’s such a mystery to me.

    Pimping for Products – what an excellent description of the process.

    • Bunny says:

      I just want to say that a group of PDFers recently and blatantly on facebook openly discussed copying one of the many designs Kathy has had published in Australian Smocking and Embroidery. They were lining up to BUY the knockoff until a person with integrity screamed copyright issues at them. Kathy knows full well the awfullness that can happen in this “community.”

  23. mrsmole says:

    Kathy, I downloaded one pattern once, printed the pages, hoped they would line up, used half a roll of tape and then in the end tried to figure out why anyone in their right mind would pay for the privilege of such labor? What a scam…we send you money and you send us an IKEA type pattern to assemble…flat pack in the extreme! Your don’t even get the complete puzzle pieces, you have to print out 60 pages of your own paper and then lay them out on the family room floor, hope the kids and cats don’t interrupt by walking over and through your masterpiece before it is completely taped down. Then how do you store this monster? You can’t just roll it up and stuff it into an empty paper towel cardboard tube can you? But the deceptive idea is pure genius…they make one PDF and sell it thousands of them with no hassle of postage and packaging and the money rolls in.We are told this is the way of the future and printed patterns in tidy envelopes are passe’. Again…decide what you hourly rate of labor is, and total up this madness and toss in the cost of tape and a chunk or a ream of printer paper…what a bargain for instant gratification with online selling…NOT! I like your version…Pimping for products…it covers a multitude of sins!

    • kathy says:

      Once was enough for me as well! Hahaha!!! Thankfully it was a child’s pattern, so 40 pages instead of 60. Definitely a waste of time and ink!!! It is very clever marketing, for sure. And the impulse buying after all the positive and FB teases of the “almost ready to release” pattern and the testers gushing comments produces a flurry of sales.

      If there was some quality education in the pattern drafting field behind these
      indy designers (resulting in better fitting and drafted patterns), perhaps I’d feel less negative about the printing, taping, etc. But that hasn’t been my experience. Now, I will only buy from indy designers that clearly state their educational expertise in pattern drafting before I’d even consider buying a pattern. Thus far, I have ONE designer of children’s clothing that I would buy from again. Kind of sad.

      • Jacqui says:

        I third the results regarding PDF patterns! I loathe them because no matter how careful I am I still get bubbles in the sheets in the middle and strange shaped armholes etc are the end result. As for indy designers I have also steered clear of most of them as they do not consider the largess of my body in the size range.

  24. gorgeous things says:

    AMEN! I did test a pattern for a company once, about 8 years back. I made the pattern up in muslin and fashion fabric, both of which were supplied by the company. I made extensive notes on the pattern and the instructions, which the company took and incorporated (many of them, anyway). And for that I was paid by the company and I did not blog or review the pattern. In fact I had to sign a non-disclosure agreement. The pattern testing blog tours that are so prevalent these days have been a real turn-off for me personally. I did see a funny blog post/rant about testing tours on SewSorrySewFat recently. There seems to be a backlash against the blog tour/pattern test cliques, and I think it’s high time.

    • mrsmole says:

      Well hey there gorgeous things…don’t you just love that non-disclosure form? I have signed many of them for making sun-blocking hoodies to make-up travel cases to hats to wear while flying…all original designs drawn on the back of an old envelope. You draft the pattern, make sure measurements are accurate, notches match etc and sew it up figuring out what notions work best, interfacing, boning, metal hooks, two way zippers and hand over the hot little product with all this potential to make a million dollars for the “designer”. Then they tell you they will hand it or send it to a Chinese rep who will mass produce these for cheapy cheapy. All we are left with are sketches and photos we took of the process and yardage requirements and measurement and a few dollars. When I ask them if they know how to sew or grade patterns or the difference between boning types or ready made binding fabrics…the answer is always NO…they just want to get the sample and crank out product for money…fair enough but calling yourself a designer is going a bit far. This hero worship that is going on now is interesting to watch from the sidelines…let’s see where all of it leads!

  25. A very interesting window on this phenomenon. I had no idea this is how it all works. I’d never be tempted or flattered because I don’t like to call attention to myself and I’m too slow. At least I now know what I’m missing. Thanks!

  26. Bunny says:

    Great post, Mrs. Mole! I’ve yet to figure out the mystery of PDFs, way more expensive than a 99 cent Big Three sale or even a Vogue sale at 4.99. Then there is all the peripheral crap of taping, paper, tape, etc. And in the end the pattern is often questionable, missing notches, apexes, finished garment measurements, etc. I just don’t get the sheep mentality. I am definitely a goat, but one of these Kashmir types ; ) .

    • mrsmole says:

      I have no doubts you are a Kashmir variety…no common garden variety for you, Bunny…ha ha I think where the PDF patterns come into use is for people who do not have the advantages we have here in the US with really discounted patterns and good availability. With those PDF tape-them-together masterpieces, anyone can access the designs and have them instantly so it works when that is your only method.

      • I think my stance on “indie” patterns has been well-established, in various media on the interwebs. BUT: there is exactly one company that I will make the PDF exception for, which is Style Arc, because hallelujah, they finally started selling their patterns in PDF format, and shipping from Australia to the US is hella expensive and time-consuming.

  27. girl in the stix says:

    Following this with a smile. God forbid you should give an honest review of a pattern! One very talented blogging seamstress gave an honest, constructive review of an indie pattern (that she bought) that had serious drafting, instruction and design flaws. In fact, she had, at first, contacted the patternmaker about some of the problems she was having. She received a dismissive reply (obviously she didn’t know how to sew, how dare she question instructions). She tried again to address the serious flaws with the pattern with the designer, and was even more excoriated. So, as a public service she reviewed the pattern on the blog, noting both the good and bad points, advising her readers where the instructions failed, providing workarounds, etc. Hoo, boy, was there a sh*tstorm from the designer, who published her very rude comments on the sewist’s blog. I think there were even some legal threats.

    Most people don’t want to hear that sewing/designing/drafting, like all skills, take time to master. I guess they think there’s an app for that!

    Thanks for an interesting discussion!

    • Not So Innocent Bystander says:

      I remember that fiasco well. I was stunned by the vitriolic responses the pattern maker had to the blogger who reviewed the pattern. And she just kept going and digging the hole deeper. I was considering buying one of her patterns, but after seeing her become unhinged over some really minor criticism, I decided to keep my money in my pocket.

      • Jen says:

        That was a sad affair. I used to follow that designer-blogger before she because a designer and enjoyed the things she delved into. That all seemed to have changed when she started selling patterns. I don’t think she even blogs anymore. I had the same reaction though–decided not to buy a pattern and not because of the honest review.

      • mrsmole says:

        Such public rantings really can leave a bad taste in the mouth and in the end everyone feels bad and nothing is solved. Hurtful words can not be taken back and it is sad we cannot all play together and get along.

  28. Mary says:

    Thanks for this post Mrs. Mole! These recent developments in pimping for patterns etc have made me less happy to cruise my blog roll. In fact, I trimmed away a few. It is self promotion and a way to bring money to the blog in question. That being said, I did test a pattern many years ago and was honored to be asked. Most testers at that time were slender 20 somethings and I was 50ish. The designer was very straightforward in her expectations and open to suggestions on the instructions. I did blog about it because I found the whole experience fun and exciting. At this time though, I am pretty cynical about many of the indie offerings and don’t follow those particular blogs or those of the fangirls. I sew for a hobby and don’t need to be part of the cool group.

    • mrsmole says:

      Thanks for sharing your experience, Mary. The difference between a pattern designed for a 20 yr old body and anyone over 50 can be miles apart. Weeding out pattern designs and sizing and bloggers takes a little time but quality always wins out over quantity.

  29. Miss Celie says:

    By my count, I’ve been asked three or four times to pattern test and I’ve not said yes (basic pattern, not my style, who has time, and I do not work for free). I recently *volunteered* to pattern test an item because I do know the person and felt like I was helping a friend. That said, I really glanced through the directions, didn’t make alterations and sewed up the item because it was something I was looking for and would have made anyway. Luckily, it’s wearable and nice and didn’t take me more than a Friday evening to complete. I think I find these tours boring because the patterns are often boring. I’m also lucky enough that I have plenty of real life friends who sew, so I don’t ‘need’ to be internet friends with people.

    In full disclosure: I was also a Mood blogger at the beginning and enjoyed the fabric shopping opportunities. I’m not a blogger with them anymore because I could no longer commit to the monthly blogging and needed a break. Once it feels like work, I tend to lose interest.

    • dibs says:

      Ah…I know that feeling. I used to be part of the Minerva sewing network here in the Uk but I left it because it stopped being fun and I generally like to sew because I want to, not because I have to.

    • mrsmole says:

      It sure is work, Renee, and that was the point of this post…what is anyone willing to do for free stuff? To some it may be worth the time and fabric stash to feel like a cool kid but many of us have real jobs and enough friends and working to promote a new designers would not add to our quality of life. Thank you for sharing your former Mood commitment, it must have been tough to sew on demand!

  30. symondezyn says:

    Love your candor, as always 🙂 When I first started sewing a couple years ago it was exciting to discover there was a whole community of people out there doing the same thing – and everyone was so nice!! I was enchanted by indie patterns & books, sewalongs and the like. I think it was beneficial for me as a beginner.

    Now, however, there seems to be SUCH a glut of same-looking patterns on the market, all seemingly being aimed at beginners. Blogs I used to follow as peers I’ve begun to fall away from because I’ve moved on and they are still sewing beginner patterns – only now as testers. I don’t have a problem with it personally but I have no interest in wasting my time or money with patterns I already have a similar version of, or which would look terrible on me.

    Granted, it’s taken being burned a couple times by community hype for me to learn what works/doesn’t work for me and MY body, but I’m super happy to be where I am now, and to have learned what is truly worth my time. I now only buy patterns I’m truly inspired by and which I know will be a joy to sew and wear.

    Not that there’s any danger of me being asked to be a sewing pattern tester – I’m the slowest sewist EVER! lol I did recently test a knitting pattern but I volunteered for it, and it was such a fun challenge & experience – and the designer was very keen on testers communicating & giving honest feedback 🙂

    • mrsmole says:

      It sounds like knitting patterns designers can operate on a more friendly basis as knitting takes way more time to complete a project. Knowing your body and what looks good and flatters is the key isn’t it? So many new patterns stop at size 14 or 16 which eliminates many women anyway.

      • symondezyn says:

        To be fair, it was a very tight deadline (implemented by the publisher) but working with this particular designer was a treat for me as she was so lovely. I think it all depends what attitude you approach the project with. I respect the designer and I enjoyed the challenge 🙂 I would potentially pattern test for sewing as well, as long as I felt the same way about the designer and the challenge, and the design was worth sewing of course! ^__^

  31. sewruth says:

    I haven’t read all the comments and your replies, but I have read your posting. Brilliant!
    You are our moral compass and you have restored my faith in humanity – integrity! Can’t buy it.
    Good for you for stickin’ your neck out and making us un-commercialised sewing bloggers feel worthwhile. I have refused advertising and associates on my blog but that’s because I couldn’t be bothered. I have turned down many ‘pattern testing offers’ mainly because I couldn’t commit to their time schedule and in truth, I didn’t like the patterns!
    However – anyone want to give me free fabric?????? I’ve never had that offer from a business but I have had wonderful gifts from ‘our community’.

    • mrsmole says:

      Wouldn’t free fabric be nice but with NO strings attached??? I’m sure you have been approached to be a “tester” with such finery being produced in spite of having a full-time job of your own. You know your own style and what flatters your body and we love following your blog just to see what tasty delights are next!

  32. Ines says:

    I am so glad you posted this, it can be easy to be taken for a sucker!

  33. ivygirl2112 says:

    Very pleased to read your opinion on this Mrs Mole. I get rather tired of flavour of the month bloggers, those who have a new pattern out, as it seems to swamp the whole of blogdom for a week or two! It really gets my goat that there are one or two sewing bloggers, who have published patterns, when they have only been sewing for a couple of years themselves. How come you can take expensive/extensive pattern drafting courses if it’s that easy?
    These people are very wise to convince others to make their pattern up for them, as sometimes the quality of their work is shocking!

    • mrsmole says:

      It is scary out there seeing what passes for “designer” quality work with designer prices. Being aware of what goes on in the background helps us all to be better choice makers. Thanks for dropping by ivy girl!

  34. Sharyn says:

    Interesting post. I returned to sewing after a break of many years a few years back and it was lovely to find a supportive online community. But like you, I find there are some issues currently that I’m less comfortable with.
    There is a lot being written online (finally!) about being paid for your creative work currently and I do feel that some indie pattern makers in the sewing online community contribute negatively to this debate, by expecting testers to do it for free with their own materials. If you are developing and selling a commercial product, then as part of the development costs you should absolutely be paying for testers’ time and be providing any materials that are required. And it surprises me (in that I just can’t see men doing the same) that so many women will jump in and do this work for free (well actually not free, in fact they pay for the privilege!!).
    With regards to PDF patterns, I don’t mind them and like having the choice. I live in NZ and here a vogue pattern costs over $30 (around 25USD). Also buying anything offshore often results in exorbitant postal charges (just this morning I wanted to buy some fabric from the UK, the fabric was going to cost £15 and the postal charges came to £25!) and not to mention the time waiting for the goods to arrive. These things make buying PDF patterns attractive, yes, you have to print them out and stick them together, but it means I have the pattern the same day I bought it and often for much cheaper than buying a hardcopy pattern. Having said that, I do think a lot of the indie pattern PDF releases are simplistic and overpriced for what they are. I think it’s a case of buyer beware really.
    However, I think it’s good to have competition and I hope the entry of indie pattern designers into the market will keep the big 4 on their toes.
    I do think sewing blogland is under going a realignment with these issues currently and hopefully will continue to develop into a more balanced place.

    • mrsmole says:

      Your last paragraph is superb in summing up what the current feelings are. Competition leads to product improvement and eliminates the boring and ill-fitting designs and styles. We are in a state of flux right now and I think the sewing blog world has seen the light as far as what works and what doesn’t and what is value for money…fingers crossed it can only get better and we ens up with stellar products and committed quality designers who stand by their work. Thank you for taking the time to comment, Sharyn!

  35. Anne says:

    I pattern tested a couple of years ago (never blogged about it though) and while I was initially excited, the deadline ended up completely killing my joy for the process. So now I will accept a free pattern, but ONLY if:
    1. The designer appears to be someone that has a clue. Or they are someone I’ve worked with before. I have no patience for the see one/do one/teach one crowd that started sewing a couple of years ago and has since decided they’re an expert.
    2. They don’t set a deadline. If they want it on their schedule they’re going to have to offer additional compensation.
    3. It is a style I like.

    I then take the pattern and make it up with a fabric that I have since fallen out of love with and just want to unload from my stash. (It is the same fabric I would be unloading at Goodwill.)

    I don’t consider whether something is free or not in my assessment (unless it is free for everyone). Just like in my dating days when I wouldn’t have considered myself obligated to a man just because he bought me dinner, I don’t consider myself obligated to give the pattern designer anything but honesty. After all, they’re the one that approached me, and it will take a LOT more than a free pattern for me to feel like I owe them anything!

    Fun fact: In general marketing they’ve found out that people are more likely to claim satisfaction with their purchase if they paid a lot of money for it and/or no returns were allowed. They minimize the negatives because they’re afraid of looking foolish if they admit they hate it after spending a lot of money, or force themselves to like it knowing they can’t get their money back. That’s what makes me more suspect of something like a $5k Bernina review rather than a review for a $20 pattern that someone happened to get for free.

  36. kathy says:

    “I have no patience for the see one/do one/teach one crowd that started sewing a couple of years ago and has since decided they’re an expert.”

    That’s exactly my issue!!! They don’t have the experience or the proper training, but that is no deterrent to them designing and selling patterns. It’s no wonder that the results are poor. But the groupies still gush over the patterns and spend their $$$ buying them. I don’t get it at all.

  37. Jen says:

    Oh ya. There is no free lunch. As a reader I am usually bored by the pattern testing. It often involves a really basic pattern, hyped up, but looks like something Simplicity printed in 1982. I also get kind of turned off by the Mood blog because its often so obvious that the writers feel beholden to Mood. Actually, it also makes me not want to go to Mood either. I’m also really turned off by bloggers promoting their own patterns, and I tend to delete them from my Bloglovin feed after a short time. Oxford shirts, jogging pants, ordinary knit dresses, etc., etc. Wow, that sounds a bit negative I guess, but the whole commercial thing really turns me off. “Community” indeed.

    As for my interest–and why I read sewing blogs in the first place–I like to see how sewers handle different problems. It’s great to see creative solutions and I really appreciate it when bloggers share their sewing dilemmas. It’s interesting and it sometimes feels like a real discussion.

    • mrsmole says:

      For me too reading blogs with problem solving and good stories is key. If the blog really concentrates on promoting a fabric company you have to suspect some sort of deal being made. If it smells fishy…it probably is. Why would any blogger push or feature a certain fabric store every day on her blog or website? We all have favorite suppliers online especially if you live in a place where all you have is one JoAnn’s store but to promote it every day says something. Those featuring books on Amazon with a link back to Amazon do get commissions and anyone can do that. Some bloggers tell their readers to buy the books and do admit they get paid for every reader who uses the link…it is a small thing but affects the way I see the integrity.

  38. June says:

    Women historically devalue their time, and to ask for or insist on fair compensation for time and skilled work has been instilled as a culturally undesirable thing for ladies to do. It is unfortunate that women take advantage of other women in that sense.

    I have patterns from 5 indie designers in my stash… and I waited until I saw many, many garments from various sewers (and *not* just the blog-tour pattern testers) that looked good before making a purchase. Some indies I trust more than others – Liesl Gibson of Oliver+S kid’s patterns comes to mind.

    Integrity – indeed, where has it gone? And… where are the indie designers’ responses? Surely many are reading your blog, too.

    • mrsmole says:

      Funny no one has commented yet but the overwhelming feeling in the past 2 days has been positive. It is like the floodgates have opened and true confessions have been flowing with bad experiences and suspicions about quality and bad negotiations…it is nice to shed a little light on a dubious situation and let folks make informed decision in the future…if they are offered free anything and they are willing to risk the time and labor and frustration…then go for it!

  39. It really bothers me when a pattern designer’s business model is built on free services, such as testing, that is overwhelmingly provided by women. The designers pay for their drafting paper, muslin, fashion fabric, printers, graders, software, website, e-commerce, etc, to create and distribute the pattern, but then plead startup/newbie/community to get out of paying for services like a tester. If you can afford other hard costs in your business model, you can afford to (or wait until you can) pay for your tester.

    This goes back to the study that shows that “favors” done by men are remembered for the generosity and returned, whereas “favors” done by women are expected and unrewarded.

  40. EasilyAmewsed says:

    Wow, I missed looking in for a new post for one day and look what happens. I don’t buy into most indies because I can recreate some of their stuff in my home pattern making software. I’m also a mature ‘apple’, not the body type that most design for.
    I will confess the only new pattern makers on the block that have my interest at the moment are Lekala and Bootstrap, because they embody the same idea that prodded me into trying home software, – patterns drafted to individual measure.
    I like blogs when they explain some part of the process, or problem solving ( like this one), or if the seamstress has or deals with a body type similar to mine.

    • mrsmole says:

      I’m so lucky to have Nancy as a client since she embodies the more popular over 50’s shape and I can show many alterations that younger bodies may not need. Her patterns need so much tweaking that it is a joy to work with her! In the future I think patterns may be more designed for custom sizing just as cancer medicines will be formulated for the person and not the disease…like in one-size-fits-all/none.

      • EasilyAmewsed says:

        Nancy’s the lucky one. ; ) That’s an interesting thought about the influence of personalization on pattern design. Hard to say whether it’s good or bad. In the past most of my ‘wadders’ have occurred to fit issues I couldn’t solve, but there’s been a few due to not recognizing my limitations in styles. Just because it fits, doesn’t mean it flatters…this was a new concept for me. < : ) I'm currently trying to decide what good fit is for a plus size that isn't built like an hourglass or likes the fit to be so close it made me wonder what would happen if they sat down. Perhaps that is some of the reason these patterns get by, as it takes time to figure out what really works.

  41. Sharon N. says:

    Amen Mrsmole. after awhile, all the gushing accolades with no criticisms are just not credible thus nullifying their purpose. At least, that’s my take away from most pattern testing reviews. Sorta defeats the purpose…. unless the idea is more for marketing (which I suspect is the case most times) than getting honest pattern testing feedback. As Jay wrote, it’s not doing the indie pattern community any favors.

    • mrsmole says:

      What are the results they seek??? Promotion or pattern perfection…and what do they do with the results? I have seen no blogs reporting that after all the testers have sent in their findings, the pattern was tweaked to be bigger in the hips or bust or dropped the hem etc…if you want to improve a pattern you need real data and not just glowing reviews because one pattern cannot fulfill all it is promoted to do. We are all shapes and sizes that need addressing and those that don’t address that will be left on the side of the road holding lots of envelopes filled with badly fitting patterns.

  42. Wow… amazed at the amount of comments! This has really struck a nerve with everyone. I have bought a couple of indie patterns but mostly I use Burda because I can rely on the fit. I have always been surprised that Indie patternmakers make such basic pieces and also, for the most part, use almost the same standard size charts. It would be good to see a company/ designer that would focus on apple shapes or athletic/lean shapes or large waist/small hips etc. Or at least make it clear what their fit model/customer shape is. It’s annoying to claim a pattern fits all shapes when we all know it’s not possible.!

  43. mrsmole says:

    It does make one wonder why do all the Indie designers have the same size range? Coincidence? How many t-shirt patterns does one need? How many gathered skirts can we store in our pattern boxes? How many shift and baby doll dresses does one need for work and play? What amazes me the most is sewing bloggers who make not one or two but dozens of the same pattern and position themselves next to a fence/garage door/front door with their pigeon toed pose…it this a REQUIREMENT to promote someone else’s patterns? It does get comical after a while and I wish someone would make a collage of all this “sameness” photos and post it. Of course all the fan-girls and groupies would have a hissy fit but we have all seen music videos done this way…scene after scene of the same flat front/flat back patterns with no darts or fitting seams scrolling past our eyes in a hypnotic trance…with some appropriate sound track and subliminal ads running in the background saying “Buy Me”. Thanks for contributing, Chris!

  44. Kay says:

    Mrs.mole, I’ve been. away from sewing blog land for quite some time, thanks to a new baby at home… But I stop by your blog(and a few others) once in a while to see what you are upto. How I love all of your honest, no holds barred posts!

    I once volunteered for testing a pattern and got a reply that shocked me. The pattern designer wanted not just my review comments, but Also photos with full face, all professional quality…. I Am a person who do not even wear clothes that have the brand names printed loud. Why I should I pay my money to advertise for big brands or any brand? With that attitude, this pattern designer’s reply was a shock to me. It made clear that she didn’t want testers.. She wanted models to promote her pattern. It was never about testing! It was all about self promotion. Yes, promotion is very important for a business. Why can’t they do it without exploiting others? These small businesses are exploiting somebody else’s time, fabrics, pictures, blog for their own means. Not good in my book!

    Now, if somebody wanted to test their product and supplied the pattern and supplies and asked for the review with detailed explanations and maybe pictures to explain the what didn’t work part and why.. and paid for it with a non-disclosure agreement that clearly says you cannot talk about it ever… And the company signs an agreement saying these pictures will be used only for pattern correction and will not ever be published without author’s permission. That’s professional testing!

  45. Theresa says:

    Oh my I do love the lively conversation this wonderful honest post has inspired. Great reading! I love to try out indie patterns, on my own terms and I’m pretty fussy I think about the ones that appeal to me. Frankly, I see nothing exciting about having the “touch” put on you to try a pattern out and what’s with the spate of truly boring look-alike indie patterns anyway? I think the world has enough sleeveless shift dresses, with and without elastic waists and certainly enough tank tops. I don’t care how well drafted it might be, move on designers, move on. Mrs. Mole, keep the great discourse on these sticky sewing topics going and thank you!

  46. accordion3 says:

    I finally finished the post and all the comments, and have been loving the discussion. I agree that the current trend of getting other amateurs to test a product created by an amateur with a hobby based business, is bordering on exploitative.

    I’m now curious to know what procedures the pattern designers from small companies use. The ones where the designer clearly has had some decent training & experience & is now branching out on their own. Also – curious to know what the designers want from testers – commentary on the design – shape, drafting, fit? Or commentary on their construction process? Writing instructions is a different skill set to drafting a clothing pattern.

    I dislike printing & taping PDF’s too. I use the A4 ones for small things only – like toys or bras. The larger things like trousers sees me getting the print shop version. Better results, store in a roll, can be ironed and drawn on. And the total cost is less than full price Vogue patterns.

  47. Eena says:

    Mrs Mole, I’ve just found your blog (and this wonderful post!) by chance. I will certainly visit again.
    I’m not much of a blog-follower or reader usually, because (a)I don’t adore gushy sweetness-and-light, (b)unicorn farts make me sneeze and (c)pigeon-toed, knock-kneed poses by ‘pattern testers’ and ‘designers’ just make me wonder if they’ve wet their knickers and are looking for the puddle on the floor …

    Too many of the patterns presented by these self-styled designers and made up by similarly-unskilled testers are nothing but sheer mockery of the real skills, talents and learning of a class of professional people – designers, pattern-makers, sample machinists – whose level they cannot even hope to approach.

    In the ’50s and ’60s my auntie was a senior sample machinist at a highly-reputable business in Manchester – the equivalent of a present-day pattern tester, I suppose. She was very well paid indeed, worked in the same room as the pattern-makers and designers and production depended on her final approval. In my mind, if a designer or pattern-maker relies on feedback from beginner hobbyists using their own labour and materials for testing, those patterns are not, and never can be, except by the strangest of chances, considered fit to be sold. Pay a professional to prove your pattern, ask a skilled and experienced dressmaker what she would charge to make it up and write a report, find a retired professional with time on their hands and offer them a really worthwhile gift in return – and then listen to and act on what they tell you. But that way means you might have to hear some critical remarks … oh boo hoo diddums got their ickle wickle egos hurt …

    Thans for letting me rant!

  48. Polly says:

    Brilliant and timely discussion. I’ve unfollowed so many blogs I used to enjoy as they’ve turned into blatant advertisements. I can’t believe how many of these “testers” blindly post photos of ill fitting, poorly made garments alongside sycophantic phrase of the pattern.
    However, I’d be really sad to see all indies tarred with the same brush. I can think of two or three in particular who abstain from this type of testers and blog tours and instead run very detailed sewalongs. OK I know this is marketing, but these independents provide incredible detail, tutorials in new techniques and respond to questions. They must invest substantial time and other resources into them. So I’m happy with the trade off and wish them success in their businesses

  49. Virginia says:

    I love Eena’s 1st paragraph and Mrs. Mole, I love your blog!
    I’ve stopped following blogs that had been very good until the person signed on for a fabric promotion or became noticed by someone with ‘a name’, or hits the magic number of followers, etc and starts posting dozens of pictures of themselves in all forms of poses, twee and otherwise. Then suddenly they become a full-fledged member of the narcissistic society of whoever. I don’t need to see someone staring up at the sky in a twisted bent knee pose or sitting with Alice in Wonderland, or standing in the most beautiful river in the world, ad nauseum, to evaluate a garment. In fact, I don’t need to see someone in their garment to be able to get an idea of what it is and whether it is well made or might be something that would work for me. People that complain about someone who only shows a picture and isn’t wearing their garment just doesn’t get that all bodies are different and how it looks on them doesn’t mean I will look the same. Just show a front, back, and side view, and detail close-ups as necessary, and give me the sewing info, then stop there, just stop there. Stop all the dozens of poses, please. Or I will stop looking and take my crossed eyes off the train………

  50. Tracy says:

    Hi, I just stumbled across this post — thank you! I’m not always a fan of indie patterns (too many vintage-inspired designs), and I hate seeing what are effectively “sponsored posts.” Drives me nuts!

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