I was quite dismayed to see the announcement on their homepage that Modern Sewing is going out of business. Modern Sewing, or m-sewing as they are often called, is an independent pattern company. I have to admit that I never bought any of their patterns, so I certainly didn’t help their plight. But they seemed like they had pretty fashion-forward designs and decent patterns, based on the reviews I read. The only bad thing I heard about them was that their instructions weren’t very good. But hey, that can be said of all the pattern companies out there at some point, and Marfy doesn’t even offer instructions.
But where I’m going with this post is, what is the future of sewing patterns? I’m not a prognosticator but I have seen some things in my travels that may or may not be harbingers for what’s to come. Historically, the big 4 pattern companies have been printing companies at their hearts. Peggy Sagers tells some pretty funny stories about working with pattern companies and being told words to the effect of, no, we’re not going to change the instructions to make them clearer, because that would involve adding more sheets of instructions, and we won’t ever do that, period. Fair enough. They have their business models and they work. Or at least they have in the past.
What seems not to be working for many companies is the method of distribution. It’s expensive to print patterns. Patterns are big; printing equipment and facilities are expensive, and distribution can be a difficult logistical problem, especially when dealing with multi-national fulfillment.
Some companies are starting to do pattern downloads. Burda has a number of downloads available, some for free and some for a cost. SewingPatterns.com has a whole downloadable section of patterns from commercial vendors.
The problem with these downloads is that you have to spend a fair amount of time (not to mention a lot of ink) printing them out, then taping them together to make your pattern. If you have access to a large printer it’s not such an issue, but most people have the standard 8.5 by 11 inch printers, and I can tell you from experience that it’s a total pain in the butt. These downloads are also prone to user error and may be subject to changes based on the settings of each user’s individual printer. I saw this first hand when HotPatterns released their LaRue bag. I downloaded the PDF pattern using my Mac. Sewing Diva Phyllis downloaded it as well, on her PC. We both printed them out and compared the patterns. There was almost a full inch difference between the size of her pattern and mine (mine was the bigger one). That may not be too troublesome when you’re talking about a handbag, but it’s a real problem when you are dealing with a clothing pattern. There are several variables that come into play, including your printer and computer settings. The pattern companies would have to deal with customers whose patterns don’t seem to fit right or are the wrong sizes, even though in theory they should be spot on. And face it, when something like that happens, the first one to get blamed is the pattern company.
If you have a Kinkos or other commercial printing company nearby, you could have your pattern printed there. But that can tack on a significant amount of cost to your pattern. Let’s say you buy a downloadable pattern for $7. Printing it could add another $20 or more to the cost. Even I would have a hard time with that.
I don’t have a solution right now. It seems like we are in a transition period. The printing technology has not caught up with the downloading capabilities. Will it change? I don’t know. But for now, I’ll probably keep on buying my regular old paper patterns and wait somewhat patiently for the next generation.
On a completely unrelated subject, it’s pretty tough being a Patriots fan these days. I love “my boys”, but even I have a hard time with the shenanigans going on down Foxboro way. Rodney Harrison, who has in the past whipped his teammates into competitive frenzies by claiming that other teams and the press disrespect the Pats, has no corner to make that claim any more. And hearing him say he didn’t use steroids, when he used HGH? Puhleez. And don’t even get me going on Tom Brady, who made a sympathy play for being an absent father while gallivanting with that skeevy Giselle? Ew, I say. Makes me almost (but not quite) root for Peyton and the Colts. Sigh…