Random thoughts on the debate about ‘indie’ pattern makers, their testers, followers, blog tours.
– inspired by the ongoing sewing community debate about value
If an indie designer’s, or a plain old Big4 designer’s pattern doesn’t fit you out of the envelope, there’s a good chance that it isn’t all their fault. It should fit the imaginary figure flagged up in their size chart. Putting a pattern out to a bunch of randomly selected bloggers to test will not determine if the fit is correct per size chart. The person drafting a pattern has to know that it fits their chart, that pockets fall in a good place, openings are big enough, collars sit well.
Pattern testing is part of designing and drafting. In a stint in manufacturing I had a sample maker, but she sat in the same room as me, close enough to throw the pieces back if there was an error. Nice ladies who sew, whom you ‘met’ in blogland having a go at your pattern are something else. They might be able to help you to know if the set of instructions you put out are comprehensible, but for design and drafting purposes, their work is useless.
How It’s Done
Patterns get made in one of two ways – draping or flat drafting. If you drape the pattern you need a stand which is the right size, or a person, then the pattern necessarily turns out to fit. If you flat draft, you work from a set of blocks which you drafted to the right size. Since you input the correct measurements to get the block, the garment will fit the same measurements, unless you wander off for a coffee part way through and forget that you added ease or seam allowance already, or absent mindedly pick up the wrong size block. Realistically though – the system works like a dream.
There are some rumours to the effect that one or more newly indie pattern makers get the patterns by rehashing old commercial patterns. You could work this way, but lose control of those measurements and risk passing on errors – the Chinese Whispers of drafting. Does that matter? Possibly. A pattern with an element of fudge on sizing won’t give your customer a good start. Much of the flack going Vogue’s way from this and other blogs has been about variable ease in patterns.
How Hard Can It Be?
In her open letter to indie’s Debbie asks independent designers to flag up their training. I don’t think this is realistic. There’s no single route to designing and drafting and no one ‘test’ for getting admission to the club. There’s pretty much nothing to stop someone from making claims which gloss. Those of us who took full time training might smell a rat, but the average home dressmaker probably wont. Not all training is equal, not all students are equal. There could be a privacy issue too. No-one else has to tell all to the online world.
There’s been an upsurge in interest from home sewists in learning to draft. Its not rocket science, but you don’t get to the position of being able to draft pretty much anything for anyone in a short course. At least, I never had a student who could pull off this trick.
How Great Is the Design?
One of the gripes about the newest indies is that they design for one figure type. Is this fair? Most fashion is aimed at largely fictional women. Gravity challenged, chubbily bulging, stooping, wrinkly don’t sell well. And its more complicated to design something fitted that works in a larger size on a G cup. I made many office shift style dresses in this figure type. Those designs which worked best don’t translate as-is to a standard 34 B size, and vice versa. Its a different challenge.
If we want a big choice in designs for other figures we’ve got to get good at voting with our feet. I don’t want to pick on individual pattern makers or bloggers, but how many brave attempts at getting a sweet little mini A line dress to work on un-doll-like figures do we need? I couldn’t get these to totally work on me first time around. (as a young, fit inverse pear.) A fifties pattern for a wiggle dress with a drawing on the front that looks like the model had an eighteen inch waist doesn’t come with a free magic spell either. I wish. Seriously, the question we need is ‘how great is the design for me’.
Price or Why Doesn’t the Indie Realise I Can Get Patterns For $3.99?
I’m guessing they do know this. Check out printing costs or the work involved in putting out those horrid horrid horrid pdf’s. Hats off to those with the commercial know how to get this going, I’m not surprised they don’t compete on price with the labels who have pretty much the monopoly of the pattern printing, and a big single currency, single language market on their doorstep. Its like wondering why the corner grocer doesn’t carry discounts like the supermarket. Qui pro quo – we don’t owe them our custom. Suspending critical judgement when checking out an indie pattern won’t do the indie market any favours. If the designs are awkward, dull, or unoriginal, or don’t work with your figure type, or the patterns are iffy, pretending otherwise will make it harder for other independent designers to put a toe in the home pattern market. Indie will end up meaning not so good.