Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Sewing pattern problems...

Lots of writing in this post, no pics - sorry!

I have a question for the big US pattern companies.

Why are so many products of the 'Big 4' pattern brands (Vogue, McCalls, Butterick, Simplicity; also including Kwik-Sew and New Look) so ... disastrous, at least in the oh-so-cutesily named 'plus sizes'? 

Baggy, saggy, oversized tents. Droopy, loopy, floppy awnings. A parachute with a neck hole is a rough approximation of many patterns, when made up according to the sizing and measurement information on the pattern envelope. 

I accept that an increasing number of adjustments on a purchased paper pattern is inevitable to cope with the figure changes associated with age. I can even accept that grading-up to what the US oh-so-politely refers to as 'plus sizes' is a procedure fraught with difficulties and inaccuracies, thus resulting in even more adjustment and alterations being necessary. I willingly acknowledge that the additional difficulties in fitting which are posed by my deteriorating eyesight are no concern to the pattern producer

However, what I cannot - and will not - accept are the inaccuracies, inconsistencies and outright errors which are increasingly associated with the products of these major pattern companies. Have you ever tried measuring these patterns, and comparing the actual measurements of the pattern pieces with the measurements stated on the back of the pattern envelopes? I have! 

It makes my brain ache. Not just my poor old eyes.

Whether this originates from poor original design, from incompetent grading of the different sizes, or at some other stage in the process, I have no idea. It has been suggested that there is too much red medicine available at all stages of the process ... :)

What I do know is that I am not alone in my frustration. See this open letter to Vogue, and the update, on the popular blog 'Communing with fabric'. 

See this post in a Uk-based sewing forum; what are the pattern companies thinking? I have to wonder if they are on the same planet as the rest of us, or if their standard inch and centimetre is somehow different to that accepted by the rest of us on Planet Earth.

I am also very angry that I am expected to pay an average of around a tenner (the majority of Vogue patterns are more than £14) for something which may well be 'not fit for purpose' nor 'substantially as described' in the commonly-accepted sense of the term, but which is sold on a non-refundable basis.

 It's a big, fat con.

European pattern brands are, in general, somewhat more consistent in their sizing, ease and grading, I find. As such, they're considerably less stressful to alter, Burda especially as they still produce a 'Petite' range which takes care of height/length issues. However, the multiple size lines put additional strain on my vision and I no longer find it a pleasure to work with them.

Indie pattern producers have some interesting stuff, but I am put off buying them by several factors. They can be unexpectedly expensive - when buying paper patterns from outside the EU, 20% of the total value of purchase and postage is usually added by HMRC as import VAT, and the delivery agent, be it Royal Mail or a courier, charges a significant flat fee for acting as collection agent on HMRC's behalf.   A downloaded purchase doesn't have these additional, inescapable costs, but it has others - the cost of printing, for one - and the time and effort needed to match up and stick together all these sheets of A4 paper ... with my eyesight ...

Many indie patterns come in a restricted range of sizes - actually I think this is a good thing, as it indicates the designer acknowledges the limitations of their skills when it comes to the correct grading of large sizes. Some brands of indie patterns are well-known (in the sewing community, anyway) for being - umm - confusing, despite having lovely styles. No thanks! 

I am simply no longer able to waste money on buying patterns that might, or might not, give an approximate fit, and I am no longer willing to waste time on taping together 49 sheets of A4 paper which might, or might not, be usable to make a garment which might, or might not, give an approximate fit.

A couple of weeks ago I found something very interesting. Was this the answer to my problems, was this the Holy Grail of patterns? What I found seemed to offer the possibility of being able to 'cut and sew', with no pattern alterations required, as they would be added for me upon input of a range of my very own measurements and adjustments.

Lekala patterns!

Huh? Who? I hear you mutter. 

What's the catch? you demand when you see the very reasonable price.

This is a Russian company which produces downloadable, customisable patterns at very reasonable prices, and with a selection of fully-customisable patterns free of charge to try out their process and tweak measurements and adjustments for best fit.

I am so very much not a standard size. 

I am 5ft/150cm short. My measurements are (b:w:h) 48:38:51 inches/122:96:130 cm. I have DD cups, narrow sloping shoulders and muscular upper arms and thighs.  I hate wearing anything constricting around my neck. My waist is not especially high or low, but over the past few years, my bust has moved downwards and outwards - it's like the old geological theory of continental drift!

These 'customisable' patterns had to be worth trying, so I needed to do some testing. 

More later.

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