Friday, October 3, 2014

This week in patterns (3-Oct-2014)

You haven't heard from me yet this week because I took a few days off from work/sewing/blogging to hang out with my mom while she was in town visiting. While not actively sewing (although I do have two just-finished projects for Eva to photograph and post about), I spent some time thinking about what I enjoy reading and writing about, sewing-wise.

If you haven't already figured it out, I'm completely obsessed with sewing patterns, and I miss the days when a new pattern release would spark its own thread and discussion on Pattern Review. (These days, it seems like whenever someone starts a thread for a new indie pattern release, it either sits there silently with very few responses or re-launches the whole indie vs. Big 4 debate again.) I want to be able to talk about pattern releases and other pattern news, and I hope you do, too, so I'm starting a new weekly post on this blog where I recap the new releases and any interesting news in the pattern world.

I'm under no illusion that with all of the new indie pattern companies out there that this will be a comprehensive recap of ALL of the new releases for the week; I'll be focusing on the companies who I'm familiar with and who have a decent size range. However, if I do leave off an exciting new release, please post about it in the comments!

By Hand London

Let's start off with a company that had a LOT going on this past week: By Hand London.

Saying goodbye to (most) PDF patterns

If you are a fan of PDF patterns and of By Hand London patterns, you probably already know and are disappointed to hear that they announced this week that they will no longer sell PDF versions of most of their paper patterns. Coinciding with this announcement, they pulled all of the PDF versions of their paper patterns from their site.

I'm disappointed both in the announcement itself and that BHL gave no warning that this was going to happen. I like PDF patterns because I like to forgo shipping costs when I can, and the fact that I can just print off another copy if I need another size. I have to trace patterns on the floor of my sewing room, which is much more cumbersome than just taping pages together. Not surprisingly, I wasn't alone in expressing my disappointment, if you read through the comments responding to the announcement. In response, BHL posted that they want to focus mostly on their printed paper patterns and basically, that PDFs were cutting into this business:

Response from the BHL blog

To be blunt, the logic here doesn't make a lot of sense to me. Now, I'm not a pattern maker, so I could be way off base, but I'd think that after the initial cost of digitizing a pattern, the maintenance cost of offering a PDF for sale would amount largely to download bandwidth, digital storage, and possibly some web maintenance. I'm obviously not privy to BHL's sales numbers, but I'd think that they sold a number of PDF patterns that they flat-out wouldn't have sold, period, in paper format, especially to their international customers. I'm really surprised that the profit margin is apparently higher on printed paper patterns than PDFs; I would have bet money that it would have been the other way around.

I respect their decision, but truly feel that they should have given at least a few days warning for PDF fans before yanking this option.

Sabrina dress release

In less controversial news, By Hand London released a new beginner dress pattern last week. The Sabrina dress has princess seams and an A-line shape. Ironically, this particular pattern is available ONLY as a PDF download right now. The Sabrina has two views, one with a bateau neckline, and the other with spaghetti straps and a button-up front:

By Hand London - Sabrina dress, view 1

By Hand London - Sabrina dress, view 2
These are cute enough basic dresses. Version 1 has many equivalent patterns out there in Big 4 land. View 2 is a bit more unique, although I remember owning versions of this dress back in the early/mid-90's. Granted, back then, I wore this type of dress layered over a baby doll t-shirt and was probably chanting "Donna Martin graduates!" in a dorm room in Santa Cruz.

StyleArc - New October patterns and freebies

One thing that I look forward to at the beginning of every month is seeing what new patterns StyleArc releases. Not only do we find out what new patterns are available, we also find out what the monthly "freebie" pattern options are for the month. (Every month, StyleArc offers a new free pattern with any pattern purchase.)

The non-freebies

First up is what I consider to be the "star" piece of October's group, the Jett Biker Jacket:

StyleArc Jett Biker Jacket
The Jett looks like a bit more sophisticated look on the moto/biker jackets that we've been seeing all over for the past few years. My guess is that it will also be a slightly easier sew than StyleArc's other biker jacket, the Ziggi. I'm kind of on the fence with this one. I like the biker jacket look, but I feel like (along with peplums), we've been seeing a lot of them for quite a while now.

Also new this month is the Eddie Vest:

StyleArc Eddie Vest
The Eddie is pretty similar to the Jett, although the Eddie is a vest and not a raglan-sleeved jacket. The Eddie has a few different style details, too. Since I'm not a vest person, I'm not tempted by this one, but it's a cute pattern if this is your style.

The freebies

As they've done several times in recent months, StyleArc is offering a choice between two different freebie patterns with a purchase during the month of October.

One choice is the Fleur Tunic, a woven tunic with an inset detail:

StyleArc Fleur Tunic
This tunic would be a nice pattern if you've got a special small piece or remnant of silk that you want to show off but not make a whole garment with. It's not a terribly exciting pattern, but I could see it being a wardrobe workhorse.

The other free pattern this month is the Ginger Top:

StyleArc Ginger Top
The Ginger is a knit (and clearly simplified) version of the twisted wrap blouses that we've been seeing everywhere for the past few months. For a similar look, also see the StyleArc Dotty Blouse or the HotPatterns Aqualina shirt. McCall's has a similar pattern, too. What I like about the Ginger, though, is that it looks like a quick and easy way to add a piece like this to your wardrobe. Even though I already own (but haven't made) the HotPatterns version, this is the freebie that I'd be going for this month if I were to place an order.

Colette Patterns

If you follow Colette Patterns blog, you know that the Colette team focused on hems for the month of September, culminating with the release of a free e-book on hems at the end of the month. In one of her posts discussing the new book, Sarai teased that she'd include a special treat for those who signed up for the e-book. All I'll say about that is that if you've had your eye on a Colette pattern or two, it would be well worth your time to sign up for the free e-book. Here's where you can sign up for the book:

Colette Guide to Sewing Hems

Liesl + Co

For fans of Liesl + Co, the line of women's patterns created by the founder of Oliver + S patterns, I'm sure you've been loving that Liesl Gibson has been releasing a new women's pattern every Thursday for the past four weeks, not to mention that these releases include an expanded size range. This week's new release was the Digital Bistro Dress pattern:

Liesl + Co Bistro dress
The Bistro dress is described as being a semi-fitted sheath. To me, it looks like a chic shift dress with a couple of neckline/collar options and the option of long or short sleeves. It's cute, and it looks like it has a bit more waist shaping (via front waist darts and belt) than the similar Colette Laurel dress. As is the case with anything that Liesl does, I'm sure that the instructions for this pattern will be fantastic and that this dress will be a great choice for beginning sewists looking for a versatile pattern that can be dressed up or down.

Closing thoughts and questions

So that's my take on this past week in pattern land. I figure that these days, there are enough new patterns being released to easily give me enough to talk about in a weekly post. Plus, if you're a pattern junkie like me, hopefully between my posts and the gems that you discover, as my readers, we can all learn about a few new pattern companies this way.

What's your take on the BHL PDF announcement? Did it leave you scratching your head, too, or was that just me? Or do you just not care? How about the new StyleArc patterns? Are you tempted to make a purchase this month, and if so, which freebie do you prefer?


  1. What a great idea for a weekly post. I thought the BHL announcement about ending most PDF offerings was really weird. Their patterns don't interest me so I'm not personally put out by it, but it just doesn't seem to make any sense. And I agree that it was not cool to do it without any warning.

    I absolutely love the new Style Arc jacket pattern. My skills are nowhere near being able to pull something like that off, but it's great motivation to improve!

    1. Thanks! I haven't actually sewn any BHL's yet, but there was a particular pattern that I had my eye on, specifically the PDF version. I think I'll take a pass now--I'm going to take this as a sign that that pattern wasn't meant for me. :P

      The more that I think about that StyleArc jacket, the more I want it. I particularly love that inset detail on the collar. Currently leaning towards placing an order this month.

  2. BHL isn't really on my radar.

    I love that Style Arc jacket! It's fantastic!! It has that effortlessly chic look that I want to OWN! :)

    1. I caved. Jacket pattern ordered (I went with the Ginger freebie).

  3. I adore the Style Arc jacket and am reallllly tempted to get it.

    The BHL announcement bummed me out because I was hoping they would release the Anna in pdf. I won't pay shipping prices and possible custom duties for a paper pattern. So, they lost my business for that.

    1. Their patterns are REALLY pricey (even for an indie) when you factor in shipping. One of our local indie fabric shops stocks their patterns, but they never have the full line in at a given time.

  4. Argghh ... Blogger just ate my comment, so I'll try to reconstruct but it won't be as pretty.

    First, I like this line of posts and will look forward to more. My wallet not so much. :-)

    As to BHL ... as others before me have commented, this particular decision affects me not at all since I'm not a customer and probably won't be since I'm not really a fan of the styles offered and would only buy a PDF if I was interested. As to the why ... well, it sounds as if they printed a crap-ton of paper patterns. The more you print, the cheaper per piece. And now they're stuck with a crap-ton to store in a warehouse for monthly rent. They seem to think that removing the PDF option will turn those sales into print versions, which will allow them to recoup their cash outlay for the paper pattern print run. But I disagree with this thinking because, as you already said, many PDF sales only happened because of the PDF option. Many of those customers will not instead buy a paper pattern, for various reasons. So, IMNSHO, they are closing down a revenue stream and will soon feel a hit in heir bottom line since I believe their overall sales numbers will shrink. Stay tuned. You might see PDFs return soon.

    1. You said what I was thinking. ;) It just seems like an incredibly...unsavvy business move to me.

      For the most part, their patterns don't fit my lifestyle, but for some reason, I'm intrigued by the Holly jumpsuit pattern and was contemplating getting the PDF of that. Because, for reasons I don't understand, I'm completely obsessed with the idea of making/wearing a jumpsuit. But this move sealed it--I ordered the StyleArc Carly jumpsuit instead (which will probably be a lot more flattering on me, anyway) and got 3 StyleArc patterns (including shipping and freebie) for just over the cost of one BHL pattern.

    2. I agree with Debbie, they just dried up a revenue stream. My problem with indie patterns is that very few of them feature my aesthetic so I just can't see paying that kind of money for a pattern that I can get much cheaper from the Big 4 and make a few alterations too. However, I wish BHL good luck and hope they haven't compounded one not so great business decision with another bad one that could totally affect their business.

  5. Great post! I wasn't aware of the Leisl and Co pattern line: thanks for the cue!

    1. She's got some cute designs, doesn't she? I like the new Cinema dress, but I'm really hoping that she'll go back and expand her size range for some of her older patterns, too.

  6. Not a fan of BHL as they don't go to my size and if I am going to purchase indie patterns they have to be really special for me to do all the adjustments including going up heaps of sizes.

    1. ...which is a big reason why I like HotPatterns and StyleArc so much. ;)

  7. I enjoyed this post! I like all the pattern round-up posts, but you brought a nice chattiness to the table! :)

  8. Loved the post. And agreed with what Debbie Cook and you were saying. I prefer a printed pattern and have no problem finding a US stockist if I wanted their patterns, but like others said BHL not really on my radar except for the Anna dress, and even with no shipping its just too pricey.

  9. Oh, man! I didn't even know about the BHL thing. I'm kicking myself I didn't order the Anna when I was contemplating it a month ago. I definitely don't foresee myself springing for a paper version anytime in the near future. And I didn't know Oliver & S was doing women's! Clearly, I am out of the loop. Thank goodness I have your blog to help me out! :)

  10. I think BHL made a poor business decision and had too many patterns printed. Discontinuing PDF's to force printed pattern sales is is their way of trying to recoup their costs. I think they will lose customers. IMHO Independent pattern designers aren't offering new or unique styles to those of us that have been sewing a long time who have large pattern stashes and pattern drafting experience. Example the Sabrina dress. However I can see how IPM marketing, packaging and internet sew alongs etc. would appeal to a younger demographic. Isn't it great there are so many patterns sources available these days.

    1. On one hand, I can see why some indies offer more "basic" designs, especially after they've got a decent variety in their catalogue--some of the brands have very loyal customers, and to me, they're essentially filling holes with these offerings. On the other hand, someone would have to be a VERY loyal customer to pay $14+ for a pattern like the Sabrina, which is available in some form from all of the Big 4 companies. Although, I guess for a dress like this, their target is going to be a beginning sewist who isn't yet up to the task of morphing details from one pattern onto another.

  11. Oh wow. I didn't know BHL did that. I don't follow their patterns/updates and personally don't like (read: too lazy to tape) PDFs. It's unfortunate to institute the change with no warning.

    I like your this-week-in-patterns posts. Keep 'em coming!

    1. Thanks! I'm sure that there will be more to talk about some weeks than others, but I hope it will be useful!

  12. I don't use BHL, although I have contemplated buying the Anna. I really don't like PDFs for larger garments - too much paper, ink and gluing. If I really want something, I am prepared to pay for postage - and as most patterns are available in some way shape or form from other pattern companies, I usually use them and modify.

  13. Many of these styles seem to be similar to the Big 4 patterns with the exception of the updated Jett Biker jacket. I have many of these styles in my extensive collection and I spent much less on them. The already purchased patterns also come closer to my current size, too. But, as you said, the new indie patterns seem to appeal to new sewists. Thanks for your informative and respectful review.