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.