06 May, 2010

Pattern snobbery

I've realised that I'm a pattern snob, that all brands are not the same. I started thinking about it today when I was relieved that I found a Burda kid's pattern that I liked better than a Kwik Sew one. And it wasn't just that the Burda one was more what I wanted, I was relieved I didn't have to buy a pattern from a company that spells quick the way they do. Plus Burda is European - inherently more stylish right? So I started to think about my list of pattern coolness and it goes something like this:

  1. Pattern you draft yourself from scratch (you are massively cool and clever)
  2. Pattern you draft using instructions (still very cool and clever)
  3. Pattern from a foreign book or magazine, like a Japanese one (ooo foreign)
  4. Pattern from indie pattern company like Oliver + S (sticking it to the man, go indie!)
  5. Pattern from a magazine like Ottobre or Burda Style that you have to trace out and put on seam allowances. (foreign! stylish! different! takes a bit of effort! Might even have to order magazine from Finland!)
  6. Pattern from a craft book - Anna Maria Horner, Amy Butler, Betz White etc. (support fellow bloggers and style mavens!)
  7. Pattern from an online tutorial or magazine (go the little guy and freebies!)
  8. Pattern from Burda (Slightly edgy sometimes, great for kid's patterns, but the fabrics can be a bit weird in pattern illustrations)
  9. Pattern from Vogue (they take nice photos and hey, Vogue is a stylish magazine right?)
  10. Pattern from McCall's or Simplicity (not very exciting but reliable - like a comfy pair of old trakkies)
  11. Pattern from Kwik Sew (same as above plus appalling spelling and even less excitement)
I'm sure I've forgotten a pattern source in there somewhere! So what do you guys think - what order would you put them in?

I've started getting together the patterns for the kid's clothes challenge starting on Monday and one of the projects is making some long-sleeved tshirts out of merino to use as undershirts/layering items. I was going to adjust a tshirt pattern out of an Ottobre magazine - it's a turtleneck and should be easy enough to turn into a scoop-necked style. But today I came across this Burda pattern and got very excited about it:

Burda pattern

Long sleeves! Short sleeves! Hoodie! It has it all. Including a really crap review at Pattern Review :( Oh well, I'll check it out thoroughly before I start cutting that's for sure. Further to the pattern snobbery I was slightly loathe to buy it in some ways becasue I felt like I should be using the Ottobre pattern I already had and just altering it (may yet do that if this pattern is as bad as the review suggests though!). Not surprising considering that option would have been #5 on the list, plus a little of #1, up against a lowly #8. On the other hand, ease of construction and flexibility of 4 different styles counts for a lot!


  1. love it! at least your pattern snobbery is backed up by your skills. I seem to have pattern snobbery and little experience whichi results in lots of looking at gorgeous mags and very painfully slow (or complete lack of) progress. at least I should be learning from the best, right?

  2. I would put Kwik Sew above Simplicity, even if you don't like the spelling. Whilst Kwik Sew have a lot of patterns that are not very exciting, they had a lot of patterns for knits, swimwear, activewear and lingerie before any other company did...addressing a huge gap in the pattern market. They also have a couple of books that are great...I am annoyed that someone has "permanently borrowed" my kwiksew book on sewing for babies and toddlers...they had basic pattern pieces and showed you how to mix and match them or alter them to create hundreds of different garments.

    I never buy Simplicity or New Idea because I find the patterns clunky and ill-fitting. You can see Simplicity patterns made up in Threads / SewStylish magazines...it is personal preference but I don't like their drafting.

    I have a little further snobbery...I place the Vogue designer patterns above most other patterns, including the regualr Vogue patterns....I love that I can make the same clothes that grace the runways using the designer patterns.

  3. Oh - how funny! Just the other day, while buying fabric for M's Little Red Riding Hood Cape, I was looking at patterns. Looking looking looking through all the books, trying to decide which pattern to get, which one was best - the Kwik Sew with it's 10 or so other designs in the one packet (Little Bow Peep and such, with terrible images of tacky lace!), or any of the others with variations of the cape shape {round or pointy hood, long or short....}. In the end I didn't end up buying any, as I couldn't justify spending $18+ on a piece of tissue paper that I knew I could work out by myself.
    So, I think I'd rank similar to you -I barely ever buy actual patterns, I like to draft my own. I do buy design / pattern books (too many actually..... Anna Maria, Japanese ones, Cal Patch, etc, etc, etc) and I use them for inspiration, but again I don't often open the actual included patterns as I like to work it out for myself.
    It does seem really hard, for me, to buy a pattern (Kwik Sew, Vogue, etc) for so much $, when there are so many wonderful (free or cheap) ones online, or you can get so many patterns in one amazing book.
    I'll be watching your sewing week carefully - hoping to slip some kids + me sewing in, but not promising anything to anyone!
    {PS - 'Sewing Clothes Kids Love' book has some great patterns, lots for t-shirts/shirts, hoodies, dresses, pants etc, etc.... Very colourful and fun. Good for girls + boys - if you don't let boys see the mainly girl-focused pictures!} http://www.amazon.com/dp/1589234731/?tag=gpfm-20

  4. I completely and utterly agree with your dislike of Kwik Sew's spelling, and I think their illustrations are pretty uninspiring and blah, but I LOVE their patterns for fit. (Just for the useless info, Kwik Sew was founded by Kerstin Martensson, who was Swedish - is that exotic enough ;-) )

    And I have to like your pattern snobberry hierarchy because I do design patterns from scratch and draft them from blocks I also drafted myself. Since that puts me at the top of the list, how can I argue?!

  5. yep, I certainly have some merino that needs my attention. unfortunatly I have a lot of projects looking for my attention and paid (ish) work is getting in the way of my 'free' time. but your pattern looks good and would certainly do the trick. I look forward to seeing how your tops for Hazel turn out. I was going to cut a pattern of an existing hooded merino that we have which is a favourite of Toby's - see what I mean about not making it easy on myself? why make a regular t-shirt first, with a pattern, when you can try to make a hooded one with no pattern?
    I also bought quite a bit of merino in the heavier weight - that's more like a light sweater than a t-shirt so I'm thinking vests and v-neck type styles for that. I'm not sure how it's going to work out. but the same type pattern should be fine, right, just give it a little more room to fit other garments underneath.
    on the pattern front, I do think I learn a lot just from looking at, and reading the patterns and mags. My mother suggests that collecting patterns that you never make anything from can be considered an artistic interest. particulalry if they are glorious to look at. so I'll go with that.

  6. I'd add Jalie in there right around or above Burda. I'd also rank Kwik sew higher than vogue, simplicity and mccalls. Despite their lackluster illustrations the details in a kwik sew pattern, the well written instructions and the lack of awful, awful tissue paper automatically boosts them up a notch for me.

  7. I absolutely agree about the misspelling _ I have no use for it.
    I also feel "better" if I draft my own pattern or at least use Burda magazine.
    Can't help wondering if I am fooling myself- but the sizing is so unreliable from major pattern companies that I GIVE UP on them.

  8. Love your pattern snobbery list! Perfectly summarised, although I've got to say I do think the uncool ones can sometimes be the only ones that have just the "right" style!!

  9. I just found your blog via blog-hopping (I was at Wee Wonderfuls and saw your comment.) It is funny to read your post! I have some pattern snobbery, but more with how well the patterns are constructed and tested, and how well they go together. I almost never ever buy the big 3 patterns anymore (Simplicity, McCalls, Butterick) because of how poorly they fit. It drives me so crazy that my 5 year old niece would supposedly fit the 2 year old size by their measurements, and even that doesn't always pan out.

    I love Kwik Sew! Their line drawings can be boring, but oh the fit... and same with Jalie, Farbenmix and Ottobre- once you figure out your size and any alterations you need, they are the same from pattern to pattern. They don't vary between every single pattern!

    Those are definitely my top picks! And if I like a basic pattern, I can usually change something up to add spice if I want it. Burda has pretty good sizing too and I like some of their patterns, as well as some of the other independent pattern makers.

  10. Some of the Kwik Sew stuff is actually frikkin' awesome. I too thought they were weird but the designer is Kerssten Martenssen (don't know if I've mispelled that) and she's from Europe (somewhere Nordic). They have cool stuff for stretch materials and some of their cotton frocks are cute as. Also the sizing is less of a pain because they use xs, s, m, l etc which I feel is closer to ready to wear and will therefore cause less fitting hassels. I've bought the 3521 (cotton frock that I'm gonna make with stretch cotton) and the 3658 knit dress. Burda gives me the irrits because 99% of their patterns are 36 and up or 38 and up (i.e. 33 inches and 34.5 inches bust) which is a pain because I am a 32. I wrote to their website about it (as have others) and they responded with 'buy the petite ones' (2 per magazine...)

  11. Oh I know, the sizing is nuts. I can't even get patterns for me right :/ I
    can't count how many times I've made the size they say I should based on my
    measurements only to end up with something 2 sizes too big, or the times
    I've second-guessed that and gone with my RTW size and ended up with
    something too small! Can't win. I can see I'm going to have to change my
    mind about Kwik Sew though, too many people telling me I'm wrong to be
    snobbish about them! I've also heard good things about Jalie but have yet
    to try them, but I've got my first Ottobre for women this week so am looking
    forward to trying them. Thanks for commenting!

  12. It is pretty appalling isn't it? I mean, they produce so many of them you'd
    think they'd get it sorted wouldn't you? And the mistakes in the patterns
    like notches that don't match etc. It's just really disappointing
    considering how much you end up paying for them (well here in NZ anyways)

  13. The recommendations for Kwik Sew keep coming! I guess I'd better give them a
    go :) I've not tried Jalie but have meant to for awhile, they seem to be
    popular for good reason.

  14. Yes, I've noticed that Kwik Sew have lots of good basic patterns and I did
    have one of their tshirt patterns written down until I found the Burda one.
    Plus they have the only little girl swimsuit patterns available. Isn't it
    sad how illogical we are in choosing things because I know that the boring
    illustrations don't actually mean squat and basic patterns are much more
    useful than any other, but I just can't get past that name...

    I used to only buy Vogue patterns and I've always found them very good, but
    somehow I don't seem to buy them much anymore, I'm not sure why. I don't
    know if my impression that their range of clothes is more limited is true or
    not. They used to carry some really neat cutting-edge clothes in one section
    but discontinued it years ago and I was so sad. I think that's when I
    stopped buying them so much.

    Thanks for the comment!

  15. Well there's no point aspiring to mediocre so I'd say you're starting off
    right :) Plus of course you need to learn to talk big about the patterns
    you've bought and then steer the conversation away from any discussion of
    what you've made from them. It's a skill I tell you. I should write "The
    Bluffer's Guide to Sewing" and make a mint. Unless it's already been written
    - there's one for archaeology which is very funny.

    I was thinking that if you didn't show Toby the cover of the Burda pattern
    you could make some cool boy's tops from it - I do believe you have some
    merino that needs using up?

  16. I do still buy patterns because I'm not hugely confident about drafting my
    own. I desperately want to draft my own tshirt pattern etc. but I just don't
    have the time at the moment to do that plus make several to get the pattern

    I've had that Clothes Kids Love to Wear book on various wish-lists since it
    came out and have heard that the basic patterns are very good so one more
    recommendation really pushes it to the top of the list! I'm not entirely
    sold on the fabric combinations a lot of the time but I know they can be
    toned down a bit and of course, that's what kids love so I should just bite
    the bullet shouldn't I! I'd love to have basic go-to patterns for things
    like tshirts that you can just make bigger and bigger sizes as the kid

  17. Oh yes, you definitely qualify as very cool if you draft your own patterns!
    Big props from me on that.

    Ok so maybe it does help that Kwik Sew was founded by a Swedish person
    but...the name the name! Besides, Sweden also produced ABBA, not known for
    their good taste in clothes.

  18. Yes it can be frustrating when you have something in mind and patterns
    aren't quite matching up! Sometimes the uncool ones have more variations and
    are easier to visualise in different fabrics etc.

  19. I recently got the Burda Plus magazine and seriously I was cursing the
    petites because there were several nice patterns in there that I was
    immediately drawn to, only to find they were petite instead of plus! How
    utterly strange to mix them in together like that though, neither group is
    going to feel particularly appreciative of it I'd say. Surely the petites
    deserve their own magazine?

    I think I probably have to promise the crafting world that the next pattern
    I buy will be Kwik Sew, just to make up for rating them so lowly when most
    everyone tells me they're really quite wonderful!



Related Posts with Thumbnails