Just Patterns: a project 17 years in the making...

Just Patterns: a project 17 years in the making...

Dear Readers,

I remember exactly when and why I started sewing, and I bet you do too. In my case, I was 14, I saw a dress at the mall for the holiday season, and I had no money to buy it. It was a bustier dress with a floor-length A-line skirt. The fabric was a cheap purple woven with some stretch and a tulle overlay. One of my friends was fortunate enough to own it, so I borrowed it and decided to recreate it. I went to "Marché Saint Pierre" in Paris, bought inappropriate fabric, and a plastic zipper. I went home and got to work. No pattern, no tutorial, nothing... Unsurprisingly, I ended up with a big mess! But, I took it to a professional seamstress (aka my grandmother) who was very encouraging and ended up saving the day.

With time sewing has become something more than just owning clothes I couldn't buy, I learned to enjoy the process of making and recognized it as an essential part of my inner balance. But why I sew never really changed. It has always been about making the clothes I couldn't afford or find. 

The clothes that I find appealing today are not the same, but I still can't buy them... Setting high-end RTW as my standard is a sure way to get frustrated. With some exceptions, there are no patterns, books, or YouTube videos teaching you how to make what is for sale in Galeries Lafayette or on Net-a-porter. I bought all the books, took drafting and draping, pattern making, and CAD classes at FIT. Getting the fit and the silhouette right is a time-consuming affair. Drafting a shell/sloper/block is already a lot of work, but adding all the little elements that make or break a design (pockets, closure, collar, etc.) takes even more time!  

As a result, I kept going back and forth between making my own patterns, hacking existing ones, and sewing garments straight out of the envelope. In addition, sewing patterns are only one side of the equation. Construction is the other side, and home sewing has its own set of rules. Some of those rules are linked to home sewing machines, some are from past practices, and others are adapted from "industry" or from "couture." What they have in common is that it takes experience to know which ones to apply depending on the circumstances. 

For instance, because home sewing is codified, many pattern companies still release patterns with 5/8" seam allowances. I personally find that sewing with smaller seam allowances is more accurate and reduces the need for trimming/notching, etc. However, in some cases (when your fabric frays a lot when you will need room for alterations), wider SAs are a good idea. Let's just say: it's complicated…

How much the sewing world has changed in the last 5-10 years is something that I enjoy thinking about and discussing here. I still feel that there is more to be brought to the table, and I'm going to assume that there may be others like me. Or rather, I'm going to test if others feel like me! 

While on maternity leave, I was obviously not seeing things clearly, and I decided it was a perfect time (??!!) to release sewing patterns... I convinced Eira (from The Pattern Line) to follow me in my madness, and we used her existing pattern library to choose five patterns. They were digitized and graded, and four of them are already available in our Etsy Store.

In a way, we followed the Minimum Viable Product approach that is popular with Tech Start-ups. It consists in developing a new product with sufficient features to satisfy early adopters and to take their feedback into account to refine further iterations. This is guiding a lot of our choices for the project. The website Just-Patterns.com is nothing fancy, but hopefully, it is functional. Our only "marketing" (that's a big word for what we are doing...) currently is Instagram with @just_patterns, and the patterns are for sale in an Etsy Store so that we don't have to run our own e-commerce. The instructions are minimal by choice because we want to keep the costs down, and we believe that dressmakers have a mind of their own. You can suggest things, but they always end up doing it their way. That's for sure how we do things around here!

To better understand how to improve, it's crucial for us to get systematic feedback from our users. We currently systematically email a survey 60 days after the pattern purchase, and we maintain a log of comments made to us directly by email/IG or that we find on blogs and sewing boards. 

This is something that we really want to take to the next level, and in order to do that, we are about to set up a pattern development group of 10-20 sewers to review our existing and future patterns. It's similar to pattern testing, in the sense that the patterns will be provided for free, and there will be some sort of deadline. But we want to make it a wider discussion space to review what is working and what is not. If you are interested, you can email me!

I think that's already quite a long post, so I will leave it at that for today! I will continue running this blog for my personal sewing but also to keep you updated on how the Just Patterns project is going

I hope you find it interesting and that you don’t hesitate to comment if you have questions/suggestions/comments/criticisms! Everything is welcome and you know how much I love to discuss what is going on in the sewing world in the comments!!

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