How Indie Pattern Companies Improved my Sewing, by Angie (@sewingceleriac)
Every time we lift the presser foot from a garment for the final time, it’s a great feeling isn’t it? But it felt particularly wonderful for me to finish the Simplicity 9010 this spring, because it had been festering on my ‘to do’ pile for over a year…
This pattern and I got off to a rocky start. As a relatively inexperienced sewist, the instructions weren’t clear to me. Some things seemed to be taken for granted – should I stay stitch? Anyone? Not only that, the picture was…umm…less than compelling (what is it with the big four pattern companies’ pictures?!) and for me it just felt flat. I’d been inspired to sew this dress by the fabulous Mimi G who really brought it to life for me, but honestly now that I was sitting at my sewing machine looking at the picture on the cover I was dubious. I’d already attempted to hack the sleeves and when I tried on my toile I was puzzled to discover that what I had in fact made was a straightjacket. And so it sat on the pile as summer turned to autumn and winter, one lockdown ended and lockdowns two and three passed. I tried not to make eye contact with it.
Instead I had picked up my first indie pattern – it happened to be a Tilly & the Buttons Fifi. Immediately I felt like this pattern wanted me to do well, wanted me to enjoy the process of sewing, to learn something new, to feel supported and most of all, to feel proud. And the same continued as the world of indie patterns opened up to me in 2020: friendly beginner tips from @helens_closet followed ideas for “If you get overwhelmed or annoyed while sewing” from the @fridaypatterncompany. These patterns had a personality, treated me as a friend and took me under their wing.
Lockdown has been isolating for so many of us, and for me these happy patterns have really been a creative and friendly lifeline. Just as importantly, they’ve taught me new skills: with step by step instructions they encouraged me to try new things – darts, French seams, bias binding, bust adjustments, and my sewing has really developed over the past year as a result.
And so, on a rainy day in May 2021 I thought, ‘let me just look at that Simplicity pattern again….’. This time, with the knowledge I had gained from sewing indie patterns, the instructions started to make sense and slowly an actual dress that didn’t look like a straightjacket began to take shape. I liked it! And that victory means that now an even bigger world of the big 4 pattern companies is open to me too, thanks to the indies helping me find my feet.
I get that some sewists don’t need to be hand-held or have their confidence boosted. They find it patronising. Some sewists like brief, short instructions and line drawings, others like photos and videos. We’re all different and that’s what makes the sewing community so interesting. For me, the big four pattern companies require a base level of knowledge of sewing techniques and fabrics, and the imagination to see beyond an often uninspiring cover picture. But they do offer a huge choice, affordability (especially second hand) and access to some really special vintage patterns. The indies, on the other hand, have given me great garments but also so much more: confidence, creativity, community and the feeling that someone other than me cares about what I sew. And that is a truly special feeling.