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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Why do we buy so many patterns?

Every time my non-sewing friends come to my apartment and see my pattern collection, they ask: “Why do you have so many? Will you ever have time to use them all?” My answer is no and, in all honesty, I don’t even know why I have so many sewing patterns. I realized the real price of my hobby when, during the move from Japan, at least three of the moving boxes were full of patterns.

When I had just started sewing, I felt overwhelmed by what the pattern world had to offer: Burda Style, Vogue patterns, vintage patterns, and independent pattern designers, which had only started to emerge! The options and possibilities were endless!  So my natural reaction was to buy a little bit of this, and a little bit of that. I did not know back then that each pattern designer, whether industrial or independent, uses different sizing and body standards. Take, for example, Tasia, a designer behind Sewaholic patterns, who clearly states that her patterns are for pear shaped girls. The “Big 4” patterns include big seam allowance and ease while BurdaStyle does not. As a matter of fact, many of these patterns have never ended up on my sewing table and probably never will!

In Japan, I discovered a whole new world of Japanese sewing patterns and books. I would spend hours in book shops leafing through the pages of numerous sewing books and, of course, many of the books followed me home, until one day, I realized that the designs were 95% repeats. I kept on buying Japanese sewing books for their aesthetics and cuteness.

It is very difficult to resist buying a new pattern from an indie designer, especially when, literally, every month a new brand appears on the horizon. New modern designs, very detailed sewing instructions with step-by-step technical drawing, sexy packaging: what’s not to like! I felt equally good giving my money to a small business rather than to an established house.

You can’t neglect the fact that when you see your favourite blogger post about a cute dress or skirt you instantly want to buy the same pattern. Seeing a garment made by a talented blogger immediately makes me cover their pattern. As a result of such compulsive buying, some of the patterns turned out quite nicely while others did. This happened because I did not take into account my body shape and proportions while admiring a finished garment.

Personally, I am a big fan of PDF patterns. Do I have to say more? If a pattern designer offers PDF patterns, the chance that I will buy more than one is super high. The amount of them I use after remains a mystery though.

With this in mind, a few months back, I put myself on a pattern-buying diet. Before buying a pattern or a sewing magazine, I try to answer a number of questions. If the answer is ‘no’ to most of them, I avoid buying. Here they are:

  • Do I like the pattern?
  • Do I want the pattern?
  • Do I need the pattern?
  • If I buy the pattern and spend little time adjusting and modifying it, will I still enjoy working with this pattern?
  • When it comes to buying a magazines: do I like more than 5 patterns from it?
  • Does this pattern suits my body type?
  • Is it a good use of my money?
  • Now, do I really need this pattern?

Then I think about my existing pattern library and try to remember whether I have similar pattern. Maybe, I can modify a pattern instead of buying a new one? Can I combine different elements of patterns to make it look like this pattern? Would I be able to draft this pattern myself?

This little exercise has worked pretty well for me. Since I started being more pattern-conscious, I have spared my apartment from new wave of pattern hoarding and I’ve saved a couple hundred euros.   

Quite often I go back to my BurdaStyle collection (I own approximately 20 issues) and I find a lot of inspiration there. I think about the possibilities of combining different patterns, mixing and matching various elements of different designs to make it work for my body or drafting my own patterns. Since leaving Japan, I have not been drafting patterns due to the lack of space, but this is something I’d like to change.

Let to tell you why I decided to write this post. The straw that broke the camel’s back was this flounce top by Salme patterns which I purchased on a whim, mainly because it’s a PDF pattern. Once the top was ready and I put it on, I looked absolutely hideous in it.

Have you ever felt like this?