Now that the children are back at school, there's more time for sewing!
If you’re a dressmaker, you might, like me, have been frustrated by the dearth of decent patterns on the high street in recent years. However, there are now lots of indie pattern designers on the web, from all over the world. Some of them sell downloadable patterns – relatively cheap and great if you want a pattern now, but lots of tedious sticking together of the printed A4 sheets – some give away their pdf patterns - a good way of trying them out – and some sell printed patterns. These are often more expensive than, say, a Simplicity pattern, but worth the money to get a great original design without the hassles of downloading, etc.
Most of these pattern designers are one- or two-man (or, more usually, woman) enterprises and most specialise in some way. Some design for men or children, some for a particular type of figure, some for beginner or more advanced sewers, some in a particular type of garment. The chances are, if you know where to look, you'll find what you want.
A bigger choice of patterns
The first light at the end of the shortage-of-interesting-patterns tunnel, for me, was Burda Style. They produce a monthly magazine which includes lots of patterns. Good luck trying to work out which lines refer to the pattern you’re trying to cut out! They also have regular pattern updates on their website. Some of these are of the quick and easy type for beginner sewers, but there are some more challenging designs, too. They are available for download, usually costing around $6, with no postage or customs charges to pay. There is still Prima, of course. Their free pattern is no longer stapled into the magazine, you have to send for it, but it’s more like a traditional pattern to work with. Some of their designs aren’t bad.
Our own Tilly, of The Great British Sewing Bee fame, has recently started to produce patterns. Her Miette skirt is a straight-forward design for your first forays into dressmaking, and she has fantastic, easy-to-follow instructions on her blog. She is gradually expanding her range of patterns, which are now available as printed patterns as well as pdf.
I love the way the indie designers give their patterns such lovely names, instead of numbers. Zinnia, Mathilde, Mortmain, Bellini ... Which is your favourite pattern name?
Colette’s patterns are gathering quite a following. They’re stylish, beautifully produced and can be bought as downloads as well as printed versions. Most of the indie producers who print their patterns are also being original with their packaging and Colette is no exception. Their patterns come in a booklet, with a pocket at the back to hold the pattern pieces. There are clear instructions, a page at the back to record your notes and extra help on their web site. A good starter project, both for trying out their patterns and from a sewing point of view, is their Sorbetto pattern for a summery top.
By Hand London's designers are tall and leggy, and their patterns reflect this. Lovely, elegant designs, but you might have to shorten them if you're not particularly tall. Canadian-based Sewaholic, on the other hand, create their designs with the pear-shaped woman in mind.
If you like vintage style, Sew Chic patterns may be for you. I recently made their Tia dress. It was a challenge! The bodice has something like 16 pieces and at one point I didn't know what I was sewing at all, even with help from the designer's class at Craftsy! However, it did finally go together. It fits beautifully and is fun to wear.
Talented young Finnish duo Named produce patterns (pdf and printed) for the younger market, although still take a look, even if you're not-so-young. I've bought one of their blouse patterns, although I haven't made it up, yet.
One great bonus of the indie designers is that they almost always have a blog. They host sew-alongs and have much more detailed instructions (usually with photos) than you get in an envelope. You can often also contact them if you're still struggling.
This is just a tiny peek at a few of the dozens of indie pattern designers out there. Fiona Parker has a much longer list, updated every month, on her blog, Diary of a Chain Stitcher. She also regularly reviews patterns there.
I'll finish with a pattern I've been looking for for two years! Christine Haynes's Emery dress. It's a simple design with a fitted bodice, full skirt and straight sleeves, but it lends itself to so many variations! If you follow sewing blogs, you may have come across Dolly Clackett, aka The Dress Lady, who has made many Emery dresses, with lots of variations. I've also heard about someone who has made 50! I plan to use it for my Gingko fabric; I'll tell you how I get on!
Have you used any indie pattern designers? Which ones do you recommend?