Hello everybody. This, this will be a different sort of blog post. (I’ll get around to makes I promise, call this my detox) This is the kind of blog post that will definitely tell you a lot about me. You may not like me afterwards, it’ll be some plain speakin’. I want to you to know, I believe there is space in the sewing community for all of us… No hard feelings.
I put the disclaimer above because what I’m going to get into is why indie sewing is bad. Everybody in the community loves indie sewing right? Hell, I love indie sewing. However I’m just going to make a conscious decision in the coming months to balancing my support to of the little guy with my support of the big guy. The Big 4 (Big 1) and the traditional pattern magazines like Burda are an important thing to appreciate as sewists as well.
This will get political. This may go against your previous teachings on ‘feminism’, at least the feminism they sell on tshirts.
My little self history. I was born (as a sewist) in 2017 in the living room of my apartment with the sewing machine my Mum had forced me to buy ‘just in case’ when I’d moved into my first solo home years before. I sewed up a bag (or three) using a freely available online tutorial (link). I progressively refined the pattern over three bags. I discovered that sewing was totally doable.
If I could sew a bag, I could sew a top. So I bought a magazine that had 2 Kwik Sew patterns conveniently packaged. Immediately set to work with comically heavyweight Ponte Roma to make a bag with batwing shirt. I also tried a pair of black shorts doing a very sloppy ‘trace from clothes’ pattern attempt that didn’t even account for the fact what I was tracing was a knit and the fabric I had was a woven. This was the wild west of my sewing career.
Then, I discovered the world of Indie Patterns. I did my first ever pattern test for the Sinclair T-Shirt. Which was my first, successful sewing make. I wore it to my office (this may have been ill-advised) and straight up rocked it. It was quickly moved into a bedroom piece – however that’s not because I didn’t like it…. It was because I did. I have worn that t-shirt to death (due to my work, 24hr work, PJs and work clothes were the only thing I wore for months, and I wore my me-made PJs every day).
That pattern, combined with every sewing blogger who ever lived, served as a gateway drug into indie patterns. I have a folder full of poorly considered purchases of patterns bought because I love the designers, I love the community, I love love. I loved being part of something, just for loving a pattern. I bought the pattern, not for the sewing, but for the wanting people to like me.
For the false sense that the community would disappear if I wasn’t there to pay the individual sewist to stay in ‘business’.
Yep. I’m about to get controversial now. I’m not sure I want to be part of a business community. I want to be part of a sewing community, not a place where IP rights or ‘personal brand’ are at the for front of everybody’s mind. I was reading a post by Siobhon of Chronically Siobhan about Loving Big 4 Patterns. I was reading it to find a fellow soul, so I’m, similarly, writing a post, for any stray traveller in the sewing community that feels differently. You aren’t alone, Indie has huge media presence, but sewing is more than Instagram.
Why I can’t love Indie anymore. I have indie, I sew indie and I may buy indie in the future. However, for everybody out there, I want them to know, that I’ll only buy indie where I can’t get the same thing from the Big 4 already. For a die-hard member of #teamcutthatshitout, this will mean mean converting a little over to tracing, because Big 4 doesn’t do PDF yet…. But this is a sacrifice I’m will to make.
Firstly, the easy victory for Big 4. They are cheaper. I mean, sure, their packets SAY $20… but show me a person that spend more than $10 on a Big 4 pattern… and you’ll have shown me a fool, a very, very time poor individual or a parent indulging a child’s fledgling interest in his/her craft. Meanwhile, an indie pattern will set you back in excess of $10 dollars very easily… often (speaking as an Australian) in excess of $20. I could spend $25 on an indie pattern – and I have. Alternatively you can have your senses assaulted by a thousand diverse sales every day or week, hoping the the designer you like, has the pattern you like, on a sale 20% or better…. If you are the kind, you may want to pray.
I could make a pure financial argument. However, to be honest, my decision is very next level. I’ll pay more where I need to. I just don’t WANT to need to in patterns. I don’t want this to be people’s livelihoods. I don’t want to think my $20 dollars, paid from one individual, to another individual, keeps anybody afloat. There is a lot of exploitation in the world. So I know there will be people pricking their ears at this point for evidence that I’m just here to screw ‘women entrepreneurs’.
I’m not. I promise. However. I am here to screw all entrepreneurs. Not because I think it’s bad to have a passion. However I do think it is much LESS SUSTAINABLE to keep thousands of people working piecemeal work for their livelihoods, than to have hundreds of thousands of people in a workforce paid comfortable wages so that they can work less and enjoy more. Yes I do believe those two things are in direct conflict. If everybody only had to do work for big industry and agriculture. There would be soo many more people than we needed there to do it. So we could just work everybody less, give everybody time off. So then rather than having one person trying to live off individual purchases, you have an entire sewing community freed to be creative.
I want there to be sewing culture of experimentation, of pattern hacking. I’m not very interested in the duplication of effort for dollars that exists in the sewing community. Yep. I can find 1000 variations of a tshirt. Sure the mantra is ‘find your perfect tshirt’ however none of those indie businesses are staying afloat if people only have one tshirt in their stash and stay happy. They are reselling and reselling stuff that already exists. I’ve fallen for it (I naturally love to collect ALL THE DATA POINTS). However, do you know who doesn’t fall apart if you just need 1 tshirt pattern? The Big 4. They’ll sell you a dozen tshirts, but their inventory is so diverse and renewed with dozens of patterns every few months. They don’t need you to buy their 2-3 golden solution patterns to retain their staff.
My final point really exists around the concept of ‘intellectual property’. I think, particularly creative, this desire to keep everything in house is detrimental. It isn’t reasonable that everybody whose done a 6-12 month course in pattern drafting should be selling their, quite simplistic, wares to other members of the community. Much like doing a 12 month course in a language (I did Indonesian) makes me qualified to sell introduction guides to Indonesian.
I want the world to be such that we can learn from the great pattern drafters. If we can’t, then I want them to do their craft for the biggest audience possible, and I want everybody else to be sharing their information for free.
Please. Everybody. Stop obsessing about indie brands. They distract us all from beautiful community projects like FreeSewing.Org.