The Challenges Of Choice


Something interesting happened this week. I noticed three blog posts in my reader, each celebrating the launch of three different new patterns.

Sheesh, I thought. I can hardly keep up!

I didn’t read the blog posts at the time, but later that day thought I’d check out these new patterns. I tried to remember their names and who they were from. Hadn’t a clue. Couldn’t remember. Poof! They’d disappeared in the ether and I wasn’t quite curious enough to start Googling new sewing patterns. After all, I already own a lot of patterns.

Some sewing friends and I were reminiscing recently, over 5+ years of blogging. ‘Remember when it was the Big Four and Colette?’ one of us asked. We nodded sagely, in the way people do when someone mentions the heatwave of 76. (I can still vividly picture the melting tarmac on our street!)

Choice is a wonderful thing. But I feel a bit like the sewing fanatic who wanders into a huge fabric store and leaves empty handed because I’m overwhelmed by options. I need help, and so do those designers. When you launch a new business or new range and four hours later a potential customer can’t recall your name – I’d say that’s a problem.

Books have publishers, physical stores and online shops who all help the reader find what they’re looking for. What Other Customers Are Looking At Right Now … Inspired By Your Browsing History... Museums have curators who select what to put in front of the viewing public. There are always more artefacts in the bowels of a museum than ever sit in glass cabinets.

Do we have anything comparable? Knitters have the peer reviews of Ravelry. Sewists have Pattern Review, but have you visited that site lately? Me neither. Last year, Abby Glassenberg wrote a really interesting article about Why Isn’t There A Site Like Ravelry For Sewing? A lot of the points she made still stand true.

Interesting times, but I can’t help feeling that there’s a way forwards for both designers and home sewists. We all want to play together. We just need to work out what the rules of the game are, as more and more people join in.

Do my experiences and feelings chime with you? And do you have any answers?!

vintage patterns

Which pattern qualifies as vintage?

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85 Responses to The Challenges Of Choice

  1. mepellymelly says:

    Hi Karen, I launched The Sewing Pattern Directory last October for this very reason! I’m a bit of a pattern magpie and as you say couldn’t remember what I’d seen where. It’s a WIP, but there are over 70 pattern makers on there (with their permission) and lots of patterns! I add new releases on the ‘New Patterns’ page and I also tweet / Facebook them. Would love to know what you think?

    • Lyn says:

      Hi mepellymelly.
      It’s a nice site, but why do you need their permission to put their patterns on there? Also, unfortunately, it deals only with patterns. I too would like to see a website that is comprehensively about sewing – Craftsy meets PR meets Threads – that has patterns, tutorials, reviews, videos.

    • Cherry says:

      Hi mepellymelly
      Thanks for posting this. The site does exactly what it says it is, a directory and a very useful way of being able to search by type or designer. I am new to all this returning to sewing in my 60s after a break of 30 odd years and having a very different body to fit! I have been delighted to discover the online sewing community and all the indie pattern designers and have bought rather a lot of patterns in a wave of enthusiasm. Not all suit me and I do forget what I’ve seen (pinterest helps). Your site is a bonus for me to compare and easily check if the designer does my size and to see the technical drawing to imagine it on me and not a willowy beauty!
      I do heartily agree with Abby though about there not being a Ravelry for sewers and I have found it hard to find my peers with the same issues as me. The Curvy Sewing Collective is great for the busty discussions!

      • mepellymelly says:

        Yes, I fall into the category of having to carefully select what I buy! The Curvy Sewing Collective is great, reviews is something I’m thinking of adding to the site, thanks for your feedback 🙂

  2. balthin says:

    Hello, regular follower (love your blog) but first comment today. It’s a French forum but is “thread and needles” something close to what you have in mind. It’s a great place for sewists, pattern reviews, discussion on sewing related topics, advices, etc.

  3. What gets me is how similar things are, maybe us just me but I tend to think if you’ve got one princess seam bodice that fits perfectly then you don’t need another! A skirts a skirt after all ! I only really buy pattern books now becuase you get more variety

  4. I’m with Frankie. I don’t buy any more than the styles I already have. I have an A-Line vintage skirt pattern and a 1990’s pencil skirt pattern I can change into different lengths. I don’t need another skirt pattern because these fit and work so I won’t be wearing a skater, gathered, full skirt any time soon i.e in my lifetime! I buy when I see something in a different shape or that I have not already got. Discussion wise? I don’t know where you would go for that but it would be good.

  5. Lucy Turner says:

    I love that there are so many new indie patterns popping up at the moment! I find keeping track isn’t a problem for me for 2 reasons: 1) I’m really slow and behind with my sewing so there’s NEVER the thing where I’d sew something up the minute it’s released – I just either buy it (if I love it that much), or bear it in mind for the future, and 2) I have a very quick ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ response to designs, which means that many are discounted and ignored straight away!

    Ravelry is great, but to be honest surely a quick Google search of a pattern brings up loads of other sewists versions to look over? Works for me!


  6. I dont buy indies at all. There’s nothing they’ve offered that I can’t find in a vintage pattern that I know will fit me without many changes. And they’re usually cheaper too.
    So its kind of frustrating to see how much of the online sewing community doesn’t stray from the indies at all. And when there’s a new release out, thats ALL you see on the blogs…everyone excited about how they’re sewing up the new whatsitsname and I’m like *yawwwn* please can we see something different?

    • Diane O says:

      You took the word right out of my mouth. Most of indie that comes out I’ve seen before nothing exciting to write home about because you can buy similar when the big 5 go on sale. Now I will buy if its something that I have not seen before, but it needs to really peak my attention. Not to take away from small business owners which I’m all for, but you have to have something that is actually new.

      • Esz says:

        Exactly – I am all for small businesses too – but there really isn’t much indie patterns offer that would make me pay EXTRA for a pattern. Fancy instructions don’t sway me and pretty packaging. And I sew because I want to make sure that no one else is wearing the same thing as me.

    • Catherine says:

      Yes! I think im one of the very few in the sewing group im in who sews exclusivity with vintage patterns. I’ve done some new indie ones for t-shirts and pattern reviews, but mostly when the group starts talking about a new pattern I wonder if they’re talking about a person or a pattern i’m so out of that loop. And I too find the same silhouettes in my vintage patterns as in the new patterns. The only difference is maybe the sizing is updated for our modern lovely lady lumps

    • Emilie says:

      I think your comment is really interesting! It is also probably very true for most patterns. There are a few exceptions that I would point out. The first one being for sizing. I am a definite pear-shape and I find that Sewaholic patterns (which caters directly that body shape) fit almost directly out of the package! This is really great for me because I don’t always have loads of time to sew three test versions of a garment before it fits my curves!
      Also, for beginner sewers, I would definitely not recommend starting with patterns from the big 4 or vintage, since their explanations are somewhat lacking/confusing. This of course does not apply to more advanced sewers. I guess at that point in your sewing career, it’s just a matter of choice!

  7. I had a newsletter telling me about new pattern releases recently. The trend seems to be to look like your clothes shrank in the wash or you are raiding your grandad’s wardrobe.

  8. something like Ravelry would be brilliant, I more often than not google a pattern to see if anyone has made it. Printing a pattern at home just requires a little time to prepare and great for instant satisfaction, although I do love the crisp paper tissue patterns of old.

  9. Trish says: is a good place for discussions, questions, etc. The forumites were very helpful to me when I was looking for a new sewing machine. Sometimes people sell on their patterns and fabrics.

    • TSF is amazing, I found it three years ago, and it’s helped me to develop skills I would never have dreamed of, guiding me through making my DD’s wedding dress, my own, and my lovely wife’s. It’s also full of enablers, leading your bank balance into despair as you find all those fab patterns, and other resources. We also swap unwanted patterns/fabrics quite often. Unbeatable. Oh yes, and I’ve also led several meets in Birmingham [Rag Market etc] and made a load of real life friends…one was even my bridesmaid [and made her own dress, double result!]

  10. Caitlin says:

    Is Kollobora the sort of thing you mean?
    It has patterns with reviews, a bit like Ravelry, but probably not quite as good yet. It also seems to cover various types are of sewing and not just clothing. Mind you I don’t look at it that often 🙂

  11. sewbusylizzy says:

    I do use Pattern Review. I haven’t posted in ages but it often refer to it when researching patterns – it’s a great resource for that, you can see what types of fabric have been used etc and what a pattern looks like on different body types.
    I agree though, something like Ravelry would be great. To have a way to catalogue patterns & makes, discuss and share would be great.
    I’ve been sewing/blogging around 3 years and it’s startling how many pattern companies are out there. I still like & happily sew ‘Big 4’ (I have a huge collection) and have a handful of independents that I also enjoy making because I like their style or fit.
    I’ve become a Japanese book junkie in the last 12 months, I’ve found the different approach to construction (drape drape), fit (more relaxed) and styling (quirky, casual, classic) are very appealing & refreshing. Plus the books are great value for money.

    • Emily says:

      Hello sewbusylizzy, I find Japanese sewing book is like a breath of fresh air, too; however most interesting books are in Japanese which is ashame as I don’t understand them 🙁

      • sewbusylizzy says:

        Hi Emily, I can’t read Japanese either 🙂 however most of their books have quite reasonable diagrams and with some sewing experience & garment construction knowledge you can muddle your way through. I have as many untranslated books as translated ones these days! They are seriously addictive & inspiring!

  12. Chris says:

    I subscribe to Burdastyle, so I get around 30 new(ish) patterns every month. Maybe because I pay to very little for them I don’t feel overwhelmed, it’s not a problem not to make anything at all from one issue because per pattern made I still pay a lot less than if I used individual patterns only. So while in general I – like you – would be happy with less choice and less confusing choice I don’t mind it in the sewing pattern world.
    I do google sometimes before I make an older pattern though and use pattern review which I think is excellent, inspite of its retro appearance. But because I often sew from the latest issue of Burdastyle of course there isn’t much inspiration out there yet.
    Of course, if there were a way of getting together all this information that is navigable more easily that would be brilliant.

  13. beccaw01 says:

    I definitely agree. As a relative newbie to this wonderful sewing world, one of the things that makes it so much more exciting than when my mum made me clothes as a kid is the availability of independent patterns which are so much more like what I see in the shops and what I want to wear BUT finding different patterns can be pretty difficult. I tend to go from what pops up in my Bloglovin feed but feel like I must be missing out a little! I don’t know what the answer is but I really hope someone finds it.

  14. ooobop! says:

    I use Pattern Review on occasions but not often. I love an indie pattern as much as a Big 4 but also, if I know what I want, I’ll go to Burda first. search their archives and find the pattern and reference to the mag I’ve got. I have collected them since back end of 2010! Probably amounts to just under 1,000 patterns without the billions of hacking options. Much easier to store too!

  15. Jacqueline says:

    I use Pattern Review often – and really appreciate the range of information to be found there. It was invaluable in accessing a range of opinions via the sewing machine review section before purchasing a new model and later, upgrading my overlocker. I also consult it when considering a new pattern: it’s great to see clothes on a range of figure types and read the comments of sewers at different levels of expertise. I am always surprised when I hear/ read dismissive appraisals of the Pattern Review site…

    • Mary says:

      Am also surprised at people taking issue with them. Providing an optional template for reviews ensure that all contributing members have an idea of what constitutes a useful review. they are actually quite thorough as far as meeting members needs.
      I love hearing from people with all manner of fitting issues. Wonderful resource. As long as people honestly evaluate their own skill level…
      Wouldn’t it be great to have Lorna, and Ann of GBSB with a site where you send photos, and they ‘read’ wrinkles? I can’t be the only one, right?

  16. fabrictragic says:

    I’d use PR more if it wasn’t so…… Uninspiring! The size of the pics is next to useless but using a combination of blog reviews, Kollabora, Burdastyle and PR there’s plenty out there – you just have to be willing to research a bit. In terms of the barrage of new patterns – I’m really only interested in something shiny and new if it truly has a point of difference in the design.

    • Yes, I’m afraid I agree on the size of pics and the uninspiring.

    • Sue Prichard says:

      I SO agree with this assessment of PR. The formatting is terribly outdated. Compare that to Sewaholic or Colette and they are light-years behind in imaging as well. Also very clunky for searching. I try to search for a review of a certain pattern and the first few tries often come up with nothing, but if I keep trying, eventually, I might find a review. The website needs a major overhaul. There is a lot of info, which is great, but formatting and images are very important for sustaining it as a resource.

  17. Another nteresting discussion. I am newish to the ‘indie’ scene but having bought a couple, find the instructions oversimplified, sometimes I wonder do they really know how to sew or are they jumping on the ‘indie’ bandwagon?
    Where are the notches, the casings, the facings?
    Not impressed and have been put off these patterns as a result.
    Finding your own style and sticking to those shapes works for me, vintage or otherwise….

    Daisy j x

    Ps I class any pattern over 20 years old as vintage. The frightening thing is that includes some of the patterns I bought new, as a young sewist!

    • barbarags says:

      I thought vintage was anything over 50 years but this seems to apply to cars rather than sewing patterns. Daisy Jones I confess that I have patterns over 50 years old that I bought as new- and I am still using them as the fit is much better for me having remained the same size as the old sizing, although the bust has dropped!

  18. I use Pattern review as it’s probably the closest thing to ravelry for sewing. But it is limited in that I would find it helpful to search for people with similar body measurements and shape ( ie ..I’m a Rectangle ). It would make it easier to decide which size to cut etc. As it stands I mainly use Burdastyle as the patterns are very current and the sizing works for me (once I add to the waist area!). I’m not a fan of many indies as they are often over priced and basic in design .

  19. Liza Jane says:

    Funny, I’ve been thinking about how overwhelming all the choice is at the moment. It’s too much to keep up with. I have actually thought about renewing my old burda subscription and just focusing on their patterns. I do love burda patterns. And yes, I remember back in the day…. 🙂

  20. Hélène says:

    Kollabora, Thread & Needles and Burda Style are all good but each one is incomplete. As for the Pattern Review, its interface is just depressing. A kind of Ravelry for sewing would be very useful, indeed. Plus, there could be a swap section: some sort of classified ads where we could sell and buy fabrics, patterns, books we don’t use or want anymore. I do agree with many others that indie patterns get more and more redondant or ridiculously basic. It seems that every sewist is aspring to be an indie pattern designer right now.

  21. skellie says:

    I’ve also felt that indie patterns are a bit overwhelming & can get repetitive, but I don’t feel like that about Ravelry which is interesting! There are many many designers and patterns but it is incredibly easy to search for exactly what you want to make.

  22. Kate says:

    Hi, I too am a lady of a certain vintage and I find the indie designers are not making the style I want. There are one or tw out there but they are very expensive and nothing I either haven’t seen before or can’t pattern hack. One of my favourite blogs is Sewcaroline and she tends to do exactly that. She is beautiful and slim though!
    I’d love to see a sewing forum for the older lady sewist. Especially those of of us with a rather square profile due to expanding waist.

    • Jenny says:

      I agree with Kate. I am over 70 and slightly overweight too. I have bought a indie patterns but mostly they are just not for my age or size. I find PR very clunky and the photos are dreadful. They don’t seem to have upgraded in years and their search options are very limiting. I love to read many sewing blogs but would love to see some older bloggers.

      • Stephani says:

        PR just did a major upgrade last year–although it didn’t change the style of the site much. However, the functionality is improved.

  23. barbarags says:

    The first step in tackling the choice challenge seems to me to be to know what you want/need. Then you will not be tempted to look at ball gown patterns when you need a top for work. The second step is to know what suits you and your lifestyle so you look for something with close fitting sleeves rather than voluminous bell shaped ones that get in the way of your work. Those choices are down to you but the third step in the choice factor is getting a pattern that fits, unless you are happy to make a toile every time and preferably have a willing friend to help you fit. I confess I do not have the time or money to keep making toiles. Maybe I am lazy in wanting to make the minimum number of adjustments to a pattern. But here is where the pattern producers could be a lot more helpful in giving more information about the sizing and finished measurements of garments. You will get bust, waist and hip measurements and possibly some finished measurements but there are other measurements that could be easily given to help decide if this pattern is one to consider, for example bust depth so you know if the darts will be in the right position for you, upper & under bust so you know if you need a FBA or SBA, crotch depth for trousers, shoulder length & shoulder to shoulder, armhole depth etc. All it would take would be a small chart that would not take up much paper space. Maybe I have this all wrong and it would be very difficult to do for a commercially available pattern but these are measurements that I use if I am trying to draft a simple pattern for myself.

  24. Kate says:

    That’s a good idea, Barbara.
    Just an addition to my comment, I meant Handmade by Carolyn, although I also read Sewcaroline.
    Sorry, blame it on my vintage!

  25. Ann says:

    I use Pattern Review as well. I get an email from them each day with the previous day’s pattern reviews in it. I skim it and click on the ones that look interesting. I’m not actually that interested in using a discussion forum very often, but there have been a couple of times when I’ve posted a question on Pattern Review and gotten good replies. Or sometimes I’ve done a search for a topic I want to know about and found existing discussions. Anyway, it’s been sufficient for me!

  26. Shawnta says:

    Personally all Ravelry has done for me is made me buy another pattern! 🙂 I love Pattern Review and the wealth of information there. I think everyone wants some kind of hip and shiny website with a bunch of bells and whistles that the majority are not even going to use after a week. I will agree that a body type or measurement question should be added to the reviews that could be searched to make it easier to narrow done what might work for you. Kollaboro is closer to what the new sewer wants as far as style is concerned but it lacks the knowledge base and kind of comes off as just a place to sell patterns for the designers.

  27. Shawnta says:

    Personally all Ravelry has done for me is made me buy another pattern! 🙂 I love Pattern Review and the wealth of information there. I think everyone wants some kind of hip and shiny website with a bunch of bells and whistles that the majority are not even going to use after a week. I will agree that a body type or measurement question should be added to the reviews that could be searched to make it easier to narrow down what might work for your body. Kollaboro is closer to what the new sewer wants as far as style is concerned but it lacks the knowledge base and kind of comes off as just a place to sell patterns for the designers. I rarely see any criticism of a pattern there like you might see on pattern review.

  28. Jen (NY) says:

    I’m a Pattern Review user as well. I first came upon PR when I was searching for fit tips – the forums have a wealth of useful information. The reviews are usually thoughtful written, and often by more experienced sewers. I only wish that reviewers were able to post one or two more photos. Otherwise, I sometimes skim the patterns section on the site. It’s not organized well, but I have a lot of the back issues, so I sometimes find what I need there. Occasionally, I just browse the BMV/McCalls site.

    I’m not really interested in buying indie patterns myself (with a few exceptions) because they are mostly repeats of Big 4 patterns at a higher cost and sometimes, drafting issues. Analyzing the tech drawings, there is not much new with the indies. However, I do look at them sometimes because the styling is sometimes better and/or more current. (A big exception for exercise-wear though – I love what FehrTrade is doing and the prices are more reasonable than most).

  29. Ros says:

    I would love a Ravelry for sewing. What I most like is the opportunity to see photos of finished garments on a wide variety of differently shaped and sized women before I decide whether to go ahead and try it for me. I do google pattern names and numbers and you sometimes get a few useful pictures, but a database like that would be fantastic. If it also, like Ravelry, had the option for including pattern notes – how clear the instructions were, whether it came out big/small and so on, that would be even better.

    I’m not all that interested in most of the indie patterns. They’re expensive and they tend to only come with one or two options. By contrast, I bought several big 4 patterns last week all of which have 4 or 5 quite different views – e.g. swimsuit, swim dress, tankini, and cover-up – and paid less than £4 per pattern. The instructions are clear and comprehensive and aren’t trying to teach me how to suck eggs at the same time. Also, I’m fed up with indie patterns which don’t have proper technical drawings so you can’t see the seam lines and construction. As others have said, so many of them seem to be minor variations on basic patterns.

  30. A really interesting post and fascinating discussion it has promoted. I agree with one other commenter that I rarely use Pattern Refiew as it’s difficult to navigate, clunky and very uninspiring. But the principle is great. I have sewn a lot of indie patterns over the last year or so because I like the aesthetic, but they are often expensive (understandably so given the small nature of the companies / individuals producing them and I am more than happy to support aspiring designers), cater to a smallish niche of sewers, and the quality of the instructions varies hugely. Often the only place to find reviews of these is on other sewing blogs and, because this is such a wonderfully supportive community, the reviews are very supportive and encouraging but never very objective or critically constructive, which can make it difficult to assess whether it is something you should shell out for. I didn’t know about the sewing pattern directory and will check it out. Perhaps there is some community way of improving the existing forums (fora??) there are so that they meet our needs?

  31. piakdy says:

    Totally agree. I wrote a post a while back with ideas for a pattern matching-making site. But it seemed way too much effort to develop, especially since there are already other sites that try to address the same problem – like PR, and new to me The Sewing Pattern Directory mepellymelly mentioned above.

    Looks like Sewing Pattern Directory is close to what you had in mind. But I find brands A-Z or browse by garment category not sufficient to help me limit choices to a manageable size. There are still too many choices. I think it would be much more useful to start with the sewer’s preferences – garment category yes, but also things like body shape & size, maybe style preferences. I don’t have time to look through every brand, but if you suggest which brands might meet my needs & preferences better, then that narrows down number of brands & patterns I have to wad through.

    Pattern Review again has a similar problem of not helping you limit the choices to just the suitable ones. It’s useful if you have a specific pattern or brand in mind and want other people’s opinion – though again, difference in body shape & sizes make some reviews less useful than others. Also, the site is simply just too big. Other commentators said they want a single goto site for all things sewing. I think you’ll just end up with a site that’s too overwhelming like PR has become. I think maybe it would be better to have a network of sites each with a specific focus, but cross-link where relevant. So a site that focus specifically on sewing patterns – helping you find the right pattern & helping you make it work for you would be much more useful than trying to do it all and do nothing very well.

  32. Stephanie says:

    Hmm…like a lot of the other commentators, I tend to ignore the indies and new pattern releases in general. With a dozen Burda magazines and a smattering of vintage patterns I pretty much have everything I need for a wardrobe I love. As my modest sewing skills improve I should be able to do more with those patterns. I’m more of a knitter and I have to admit that I don’t even use Ravelry much. I maybe Ravel a third of the things I make. Sometimes it’s useful to see a design made up as some designs seem to work universally and others not so much. That said, I wouldn’t say these views make a big difference in my decision-making, as I’m a middle-aged lady who knows what she likes already. You’ve probably heard of decision fatigue – people only have so much mental energy to make decisions, so if they are confronted with a great deal of choice that quickly zaps their decision-making resources. It’s why “automating” things like exercise and sleep and healthy eating, etc. tends to make life easier, rather than confronting oneself with a new decision to make each day. Instead of thinking about it, you just do. I like sewing blogs mostly for the personal taste and choice aspect of things – how people shape a wardrobe to suit their own style, etc.

  33. with web searching it is so easy to find many versions of patterns sewn up so I don’t find that an issue, and while the website is less than lovely I find Pattern Review so useful. I see some commenters have trouble seeing the photos etc. but it seems OK to me, and I wish more people would put pattern reviews there. I use it all the time as it is so great for seeing how one pattern looks on many body types. As for keeping up with new patterns, I don’t really pay any attention as I think a lot of the new patterns are far from original. I realize I am in the US so the price of pattern is literally pennies (sometimes) and the big 4 patterns are such a better value, plus they often have multiple views, options or even multiple garments in one pattern.

  34. sunny says:

    Wonderful discussion. Returning to sewing (nowhere to shop locally and they don’t fit well) with this rectangular, busty body. My favorite place for comments and photos are the blogs I’ve been finding but it’s hard to translate the vision when the blogger is svelte or inexperienced with fitting or finishing. I use PR but need more/better photos and comments. I also like some of the discussions on Artisansquare and have followed it for a long time. For patterns I love Stylearc because they are more of what I see that’s current but I need multisize patterns and would like better instructions/hints. I have lots of Peggy Sager patterns but they are too plain, a little clunky and it’s hard to see fit and detail as she shows almost all dark fabrics on her webcasts and those big shoulderpads. I’m interested in indies because the big 4 still designs for big shoulders, small waists, etc., and aren’t very current. One thing I’m observing is that a few folks turn out beautiful garments no matter the pattern because they make beautiful, smart fabric choices. It can make all the difference. I’d love to have access to nice fabric that I can see/feel and afford but, alas, Joann’s is my only local source. Choices mean we can still keep learning but pure trial and error is a slow way and expensive one. Keep talking ladies.

  35. Lorna says:

    Great discussion – I’ve been exploring indie patterns recently but do often find they seem too basic or just not for me in styling. But I haven’t experienced the drafting problems with indie patterns others have mentioned – 3 that came together really well for me were Pattern Runway’s Scalloped Shorts, Maria Denmark’s Jasmine skirt, and Tilly’s Mathilde blouse. I’m sure that will happen at some point and make me v. grumpy!

    I can’t seem to load up Pattern Runway here unless I’m working through a VPN connection pretending I’m back in the UK so haven’t explored it as much as I’d have liked to. I hadn’t heard of Pattern Directory but did like the interface when I had a quick look yesterday, so I’ll probably explore that a bit more. When i can get on I’ve found that it’s pretty good – but agree the interface is terrible – pictures far too small and just all round too busy and a bit too fancy to the point where it’s distracting. I’d like to see far more people putting things up though – there is a whole cadre of patterns that aren’t well reviewed on the internet (60s and 70s vogue designer ones, for example) which have great style and lots of details and the patterns are easier to work with than the 40s ones (a bit more detail / instruction) but still with the design details that later patterns seemed to lose as sewing became less fashionable. I’d like to see many more reviews of Pertagaz, Forquet patterns etc.

    I do find that often all the blogs seem to rave about a particular pattern that I don’t think is that different to others out there, or could find an equivalent much cheaper as a second hand pattern on ebay – but I like the princple of supporting businesses starting out so I don’t mind paying a bit more to support an industry I’d like to see flourish. It’s been good to see companies embracing the different formats a global customer base asks for, not just sticking to paper patterns. However if the company behaves in a way I don’t like I will also stop buying from them, no matter how much I like the patterns.

    Interestingly I did watch the Great British Sewing Bee and this season thought I recognised a few patterns – particularly Sewaholic’s Cordova jacket, so that was really nice to see.

  36. I haven’t read all comments but there is a site called the sewing circle which is basically exactly the same as ravelry but for sewing. It should be good but no one seems to use it! I dislike kollabora as I believe they own your pics once you upload them. I rarely use pattern review. It’s so ugly and non user friendly.

  37. Ali says:

    I feel a little overwhelmed too, so many lovely things to make, so little time… just can’t keep up with all the lovely things I’ve seen to make!

  38. lisa g says:

    I do still use PR when I’m looking for pattern information. Unfortunately, so many posters there don’t mention the specific fit and/or drafting issues I would be interested in. I try to post my own projects on PR when I have something useful to say… but these days if I get a blog post up I’m doing well, let along post a second time with a formal review. I hate to discount PR just because the site is ugly, there really is a wealth of information and forums with people willing to give advice. Wouldn’t mind a more inspiring format though, not gonna lie! Anyways, the number of indie pattern companies these days is simply dizzying. There are a handful that I love and am willing to shell out the cash for, but more and more I’ve been returning to the Big 4. So often you get multiple garments in a single envelope, and (at least in the US) you just can’t beat the price.

  39. Mary says:

    There is a site like Ravely for sewers and it is called My Sewing Circle and has been around since 2010 but people don’t seem know about it.

  40. fabrickated says:

    I do look at PR from time to time and it is a great concept but hard work to use. A redesign would make it more attractive and I think more PRs would be forthcoming.

    I haven’t yet seen an Indie pattern that I would want to make, but may in the future, but like many people I find vintage very affordable (many at 99p on eBay) and easily adaptable. What I love about Ravelry is that people sell their patterns through the one site, and even if they only make one or two patterns they can offer them to a wide, interested readership. At present everyone who designs a pattern (and I have designed a few) feels they have to have a website, branding, distribution, printing, advertising, blog tours etc. Ravelry just allows sharing at a low cost – a bit like Napster etc. Clearly Karen there is a demand for a really, really good website – maybe crowd funded?

  41. Colesworth says:

    I rarely buy an Indy or a big 4 pattern at first release. If I see it a few times and like it, I do a google image search and hope that a few of those examples are linked to blog posts that I can get a bit of a review from. Sometimes they are links to pattern review or the burdastyle website, and sometimes those sites have blog links in them.

  42. Angela says:

    I too use Pattern Review. At first I only knew how to plug in a pattern number and check to see who made it. Then I figured out how to see all the reviews in the gallery format. Most reviewers who have blogs will post a link on the review, so it can be a good way to find new blogs, or blogs of someone closer to your measurements, etc. Now I also check the forums and chime in when appropriate. Right now I am constructing a strapless bodice for a gown by following a great 6-week tutorial by Catina, one of PR’s participants, on the Bridal/Couture forum. I am sewing way over my head, but it is great because I can also ask questions and get feedback. There is a learning curve to PR’s site, but overall I consider it a great resource and I love that I can see sewing by so many different people, different ages, abilities, etc.

    I also really enjoy McCalls Fan Gallery on Pinterest. This only covers McCalls/Vogue/Butterick/Kwik Sew but it’s a great way to see what others are making. Other pattern companies ought to take note of how McCalls is interacting with its public:)

    • Jen (NY) says:

      I think PR shows what a big topic this is and how hard it is to manage a website like that. My understanding is that PR is run by one person, and I give her credit for that. But, the website is not going to look like a commercial enterprise. It’s fine for what it is, and hopefully, more search features will be added. Generally, it fits my needs. Otherwise I just visit the pattern company websites.

  43. ipires says:

    My biggest problem associated with the indy patterns, more than choice is a degree of “sewing blog” peer pressure. It seems those who are really fast a sewing/pattern testers/sew for a living/produce their own patters manage to sew those pieces really fast and blog about they nearly straight away as soon as the patterns are out. Adding to this are the sew alongs just as the patterns come out, competitions, etc. It makes me feel sometimes that choosing to sew a pattern a year later makes you somehow outside the loop. Maybe it is just my feeling, but would like to know if anyone else feels the same. (that being said, I do love the fact that now there is such a big offer of indy patterns, catering for all tastes!)

    A Ravelry for sewists is something that I keep thinking about. Have asked hubby how hard would it be to set up, and it seems it is tricky… but would be a great resource!

    • Elena Knits says:

      I also feel sometimes outside the loop. I used to care more before, and made a couple of rushed garments that I’m not proud of. I care less now and sew what I want. But anyway it’s a way of feeling part of the community.

  44. Rose says:

    I also use PR a lot as I’ve never found any other site with so much information. Honestly, it single-handedly took my sewing from average to something I’m proud of. It’s not pretty, but it’s a small price to pay to get precise and accurate answers to any questions. And there are actual useful reviews of patterns.
    I don’t use sewing sites for inspiration (I mostly get ideas magazines, stores or streetstyle), so the other sites mentioned are not useful to me. And I rarely buy indies for the same reason : mostly they don’t look like something I’d buy. They look like … well, home-sewn clothes.

    The main obstacle for a new website (other than technical issues) seems to be : how can you control the quality of the pictures in reviews, except for the size? I mean, imagine a Ravelry-like website – how can anyone ensure that the pictures are not “dreadful” ? Could a review be rejected because the picture is not nice enough ? How does it work at Ravelry ? (I rarely knit so I’m not familiar with it).

  45. I don’t feel either overwhelmed or forced to keep up with new releases. I have a very clear idea of what i like in terms of aesthetics, design and sewing development. I rarely will sew a pattern just because it’s new/ trendy etc. I think because I really know what i like and want to wear i don’t get caught on buying brands. I will encourage and like brands but if they don’t suit my style I won’t make or buy it. I think its fantastic that people have choice.

  46. Kerry says:

    A Ravelry for sewing would be helpful, it is an amazing asset for knitting and crochet. Ravelry has been developing over a number of years and slowly and steadily building a user base and has been responding to how users want it to be. There seem to be a number of sites trying to do the same for sewing but no one which is a market leader. I never use Pattern Review, it might have changed now but the user interface used to be very dated looking and I was put off.

    Re new patterns, I used to be more into indie patterns than I am now. I have a good collection of vintage patterns and it is rare that an indie comes out with something that I don’t already have a similar version of in my collection. I can’t get excited about another party dress, for one thing. I get bored when something new comes out and lots of bloggers make it, and it’s all over the blogs I read. Then it’s on to the next big thing. I can’t keep up! As the pattern market has got busier I have got more discerning and have developed a better idea of what I like to sew.

  47. Stephani says:

    I don’t know… I visit PatternReview every day and see something new, whether it’s a new list of reviewed patterns or a fashion forecast or a blog post about new pattern releases or a new video class, or a new discussion opened in the forum. It’s not the most attractive site, by any means, but I think it has everything that you pointed out is missing. If you can get past the dated design of the site–which you really should, because looks aren’t everything–it’s quite useful.

  48. Nikki says:

    I look at PR almost every day just to see what people are making, it is also a good way to discover new blogs. I don’t really feel the need to keep up with new pattern releases – I did used to but most of the indie ones are either not really ‘me’ or the fit issues are too numerous for me to keep trying/ bother with. I am now sticking with my ’70s pattern collection! Not only are the designs much more ‘me’ but I must have more of a ’70s body as I get a much better fit with them than modern patterns. The only problem with sewing vintage is you are much less likely to find anyone else that has made the same pattern.

  49. Elena Knits says:

    I started knitting long before I attempted sewing, and I have to say that I always wondered why there isn’t a Ravelry for sewers. I tried kollabora when it started but I had issues with their site, so I didn’t go back there.

  50. louise says:

    I don’t use indie patterns. I agree with a few, nothing different and exciting. More an everyday look which is maybe why they are popular. Ravelry is such a, well designed site. It can be approached from any angle, be it ply, pattern, quantity etc. Wouldnt it be marvellous if we had a sewing site just like that. If there is tell me so. I do use pattern review, now and then But only to see what a pattern looks like on real women, PR looks tired and uninspiring.

  51. Robin says:

    A more experienced older sister gave me dozens of patterns over the last few years, many of them from independents. A lot of them are not my style, so I can’t say I have tried any. The only independent I bought for myself was very pricey, but I went for it because I liked the style and have not seen something even remotely like it offered elsewhere. I still haven’t made up that pattern yet (shorts) and hope they are not too young for me – the designer tends to design for a younger crowd than I fit into.

    I second the idea of an independent and/or site focused on the older fashion sewer. My sister has actually given up on making clothes for herself because her body has changed so much she can’t adjust without going through a steep learning curve she doesn’t think she can live to see the end of!

    So I focus on the large pattern company offerings which are at huge discounts, and sorry, they do a fantastic job – many style options, entire wardrobes in one envelope, fitting options and instruction, etc. I don’t have the time or inclination to go beyond that. I buy patterns locally at the quilting cotton/fleece store, and buy most fabric online, or wait for a trip outside of my area to buy fashion fabric. I have looked at PR, but again, no time – I would rather experiment and learn, than read and (maybe) learn. It’s all just too much online to sort through!

  52. Wendy says:

    I predominantly use Indie patterns these days. However, in the onslaught of new ‘designers’ that crop up, I tend to still use the same few that I’ve found to work for me and my lifestyle.
    I have found a couple of new to me designers recently who do look to have put a lot of thought and time into testing their designs BEFORE they release them, and have been really pleased with the designs of theirs I’ve tried.
    I agree that a lot of the new stuff that is coming out is just a re-hash of something else, and even in Big4 this is true now. Mostly, it’s just not very interesting.

    I use Pattern Review very regularly, and receive a daily email with new reviews and discussion topics in it. The wealth of information that is available there, both in reviews and from members is amazing. I’m the first to admit I’m not super tech-savvy, but I have no trouble using the website, and with their recent updates and changes I think it is more user-friendly than it used to be.
    I’ve looked at some of the other sites mentioned above, but mostly they don’t provide what I’m looking for in a sewing site like PR does.

  53. Tia Dia says:

    I think PR is a great resource. You get to see makes on many different bodies in many different fabrics with a slew of tricks, tips and points on the patterns’ drafting, fit and design as you could like. I refer to it every time I’m considering a new make. is also a tremendous community that covers everything you could possibly want to discuss.

  54. Lisette says:

    There is but I know they don’t cover every company. I’ve been starting to use patternreview more since they have made some good changes to the website. I think helping them when they are trying to be a better tool for us is going to be easier than anyone trying to launch something new (because I’ve seen and beta tested for several of these “sewing Ravelrys” and they have yet to get off the ground).
    Personally, I also find them too repetitive or too trendy to suit my tastes. I really miss the original styles of the Colette patterns. They were challenging and interesting without being too much like something fugly out of a fashion mag.

  55. LinB says:

    In a university theatrical department costume shop, we considered “vintage” to be anything 25 years old or older, “antique” to be 75-100 years old. There are formal definitions of “antique” in use by licensed auction houses, who might be sued if items they sell do not meet a standard of age; I believe that 100 years is standard for most household and furniture items and jewelry. Automobiles are counted “antique” at 50 years, where I live.

  56. yosami says:

    I switched the style of my pattern review blogging recently because of pattern overwhelm. I’ve started to review 3 patterns from different companies for a similar style of garment at a time, comparing and contrasting them because I think that’s more useful than ‘look at my latest cool make’ style of pattern review. I’ll be reviewing my pick of raglan sleeved sweatshirt patterns in my next post if you’re interested –

  57. Jennifer Hill says:

    Having something like Ravelry for sew-ers would be fantastic. The filtering ability on Rav is amazing and so useful. For sewing I’m relatively new and mainly use people’s blogs to get pattern ideas, at least as a starting point, and find old and new patterns this way – though the danger is you set your heart on an oop pattern that’s now unobtainable! To bookmark and sort I use Pinterest. I don’t even know how Pattern Review works, to be honest. Jen

  58. Ewka says:

    Like many other people who have already replied, I’ve found PR to be an extremely useful site, lots of information and full of knowledgeable people who are very generous with their time, opinion and advice. It is true though that the site is nowhere near as pretty as Colette’s… To tell you the truth, I’ve stopped checking out the new indie patterns that seem to be coming out every five minutes – there is very little that is new, they show minimal innovation and anyone and everyone no matter what their level of knowledge and/or skill calls themselves a designer. I too want to support small entrepreneurial businesses but they need to give me something more than just a simple shirt or t-shirt or pencil skirt. I also tend to get really bored with bloggers that madly rush to try out new patterns just because they are new and everybody else is sewing them. I much prefer to read those bloggers that show some insight into how a particular pattern or ‘look’ suits them and why. I enjoy Colette’s patterns and her series on the wardrobe architect is fantastic in working through what suits me and what I really need (rather than want)! Great discussion post Karen and I really don’t mean to be so negative in relation to indie designers – I do wish them well.

  59. Sandra says:

    I just can’t afford independent patterns and I worry about the sizing too. I just would not pay $16 for a single item pattern. I would expect the skirt itself to cost that in fabric (as economy is important to me), not the pattern for it. Most of the pattern companies produce similar, so I wonder who got what from who? Also the main companies pattern envelopes are full of options with multi- sizes and different styles all in a single envelope. I realise that there is a lot of work involved but it just isn’t worth it to me. No one knows where I got my pattern from so it just isn’t important – an A line skirt is an A line skirt and I am not going to pay over the odds for it. I also think there are designers putting patterns out before they are ready. Designing is a different skill from making a pattern. I for instance am a pretty skilled sewer but pretty basic when it comes to fitting. So I like to know where I am with sizing and what to expect.

    I wish people would just enjoy sewing for what it is, without everyone competing to become a ‘name’. It is so off putting. I sew because I hate branding and materialism. Now sewing as well as other crafting is all about the brand and commercialism too. I can’t visit a blog without being sold something. No one is about simply sharing – showing and telling anymore.

  60. Interesting post, Karen! We like to see what people are making with our patterns, and many people here at work rely on PatternReview. Personally, I find I am using Instagram more and more to see what’s being sewn. It’s a fast, easy and visual way to keep up with the sewing community. —Meg

  61. Jen says:

    Been sewing since I was about 6, only 39 years ago (cough cough), and I remember when it was the big five… Vogue (ooh-ahh, much better in those days), Style, Simplicity, Butterick, McCalls. Oh, and Burda (no seam allowances at all!). So many more choices now.

    And I could have sworn that heatwave was ’74.

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