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What’s your major?

2011 February 25
by elizabeth_admin

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Carolyn and I were chatting yesterday and in interesting topic came up.  We were talking about her use of TNT patterns to interpret or knock off the latest designer fashions that catch her eye.  Since she traces out her TNT patterns over and over again for each new design, I mentioned to her that someone had commented on her blog recently about how that was so similar to tracing out Burda patterns.  Carolyn pointed out that it is different because she only has one pattern line to follow whereas, with Burda, you have to find your pattern line out of hundreds to trace.  It makes your eyes go back in your skull sometimes.  Really!

This is where the conversation got really interesting.  Carolyn mentioned that sewists tend to stick with what they know.  So if you grew up on Burda, you tend to stick with Burda.  And if you grew up with ButtMcVogue, then you tend to stay within the Big 3 pattern companies.  And then there’s Carolyn, who has admitted that her creativity is fueled by interpreting designs she’s seen and using her TNT patterns, which are basically her own slopers. 

But where does that leave me?  I came to sewing relatively late in life.  I’ve used Simplicity, Kwik Sew, Burda and others.  I own a ton of Vogue patterns.  I flit from company to company but haven’t really settled down yet.  I have’t picked a concentration yet, like a college major.  Carolyn thinks it’s because I am still a beginner. 

But I wonder…  Do I need to pick just one?  I am still discovering what my personal style is.  How many people do you know that have made a faux fur skirt and would wear it everyday if they could?  And yet, I have a TNT pencil skirt pattern.  You can’t get any more conservative than a simple classic pencil skirt. 

So no, I haven’t picked my sewing major yet.  I don’t know if I’m a Simplicity gal or a Vogue one.  There are patterns I like from every company.  I most likely won’t be a Burda person as I can’t get past that darn pattern tracing of 3 billion little lines, and this despite having two years of magazines stacked 0n my b0okshelf.  I can’t honestly say what my major will be down the line.  But I’m open to and excited about the many design opportunities.

Have you picked your major yet?

24 Responses leave one →
  1. February 25, 2011

    Interesting question! I major in everything. I grew up using McCall, Vogue and Butterick, New Look and Simplicity and Burda envelope patterns. (Basically whatever brand had the styles I was looking for.) I’m a fan of Colette Patterns, and vintage patterns like Advance. I learned to draft patterns in school, so I have that extra bit of knowledge. So I don’t think you’re confined to any one brand, company or style. I do know that Burda subscribers don’t buy as many other patterns, from a survey, probably because they have so many patterns in their collection that fill most of their needs. I generally prefer Vogue patterns, both vintage and modern, over the other big companies.
    So, no, you don’t have to pick! You may find that over time, you lean towards certain brands or companies, but you don’t have to be exclusive 🙂 Think of what you might be missing!

  2. February 25, 2011

    I don’t think you need to pick a major either. I grew up on the Big 4 because they were cheap and readily available, but now that I’ve become more involved in the online sewing community I’ve started using Burda, vintage patterns and independent patterns. I have patterns from each company that I love, though I’ve found Burda’s fit to be more reliable on me. So basically, there’s always time to switch just like in real life!

  3. February 25, 2011

    I think the point that’s missing is that I was trying to emphasize that sewists who started with a particular pattern company are partial to that pattern company…mainly because pre-internet days that’s all we knew. Also since most of our “sense” memories are formed with those pattern companies, those are the ones we turn to again and again. I believe post-internet sewists have been exposed to more resources so they are open to more experiences…cause when I first learned to sew, I would have never realized that you would one day be able to print a pattern, tape it together and sew it up.

    Finally, I truly believe that once you become more experienced, that you pick a major. Something (garment type, style of dressing) that you become experienced in and it is your signature…i.e. me and my dresses. Elizabeth really is a college freshman, experiencing all the pleasures that sewing college has to offer and enjoying the process! *LOL*

  4. February 25, 2011

    Although I love all pattern companies, they are not created equal! I find that I mostly sew Simplicity at the moment, but I dabble in the other Big 3, as well as the occasional Kwik Sew (mostly for DH) and Burda envelope. I have been sewing more Burda mag, but they are much more of a hassle, although for the kids I am an Ottobre girl almost exclusively, especially for my boys.
    One thing I have discovered is that while I am competent at drafting patterns, I think it is too much trouble for me. I’d rather let someone else do that part. Just give me the pattern and I’ll make it do what I want.

  5. February 25, 2011

    I’m with Tasia and Molly: I dabble in everything, and always have. It’s the style, the line, or the function that draw me to a particular pattern, not the way the pattern is used or sold.

    Because my body has changed over time, I’m dealing with new fitting challenges, but I’m quite an experienced sewer, and even did couturier sewing (though only for myself) when I was in my 20s, along with, of course, making much simpler things.

    I don’t think sticking with one type of pattern really has anything to do with “beginner” status. In fact, I think that I learned more quickly as a new sewer just because I drew from so many sources, which required me to constantly evaluate drafting, fit and style according to each different input.

    I think the choice to draw from many sources, to stick with only one pattern mode, or just to rely on base TNTs to realize inspirations, may simply reflect personal work styles, not any particular level of expertise.

  6. February 25, 2011

    I’ve been sewing since I was a child and have tried just about every pattern company out there. I’m a Simplicity girl through-and-through, with a preference for vintage Simplicity. I also like Butterick, Sewaholic, and Oliver +S (for Miss Friday). I do have a few favourites that I use as building block to create something new.

  7. February 25, 2011

    Just saw Carolyn’s comment about pre-internet, which twigged some memories. From post-WWII on, there were always lots of other-than-major patterns around: magazines published patterns of their own, newspapers always had ads for patterns that could be bought by mail, and there were published pattern books with pattern sheets just like Burda’s — you picked a design and then hunt-and-pecked to find and trace the pieces.

    For those who were looking, there were lots of options, Whether they were on the radar, of course, would depend on circumstances, where and how one learned to sew, and, probably to some extend, geographic location, and relative affluence.

    Which is not to say that the Internet hasn’t made knowledge exchange a whole bunch easier. No way I could have been using patterns from a small independent company in France back in my 20s! (Unless I’d bought them in France myself, of course.)

  8. Valerie S. permalink
    February 25, 2011

    What a fascinating question! I’ve noticed that cooks tend to stick to the cookbooks that they learned with (I’m a joy of cooking girl, myself) so while I do make recipies off the internet and from other books, I return to Joy when I have a technical question or need to know what to do with a piece of venison.

    That said, I’ve been sewing for 20+ years and find that I go back to pattern designers — not so much companies — that I know make clothes I find to be flattering for my shape (round) and height (short). I also think that I look to pattern companies for different things. Vogue tends to have interesting construction details that I can’t find elsewhere. Simplicity patterns tend to fit me a little better. I’d buy anything designed by Sandra Betzina or Claire Schaeffer for the instructions. They make me a better sewist.

    Interestingly, I’ve been fitting the Colette Rooibos this week, am on my second muslin, and realize that it’s definitely designed for someone taller and thinner than me. I’m pairing the top of the Rooibos with the skirt of Simplicity TNT pattern that I like very much. So, even if you have a “major” I think you can continue to learn from new companies/designers.

    • sewer permalink
      February 25, 2011

      Which pattern designers do you recommend for short women? I, too, am much shorter than the average ideal customer, who I believe is about 5’6″.

      • Valerie S. permalink
        February 25, 2011

        I read somewhere that around 40% of American women are 5′ 3″ or shorter. Walking down the street, I’m not sure that I believe that number, as it seems like everyone is taller than me! I’ve found that the Palmer-Pletsch patterns are easier for me to shorten than other pattern designers. Fit is their “thing” so they’re good about including adjustment points. Having a copy of a good pattern-adjustment book handy helps too — I have a few, the ones I use most are the Fit for Real People series (also by P-P). Entertainingly, home sewing books from the 1950s and 1960s are almost always available at thrift stores or used book stores — I’ve gotten some of my best technique hints from those (even if the graphics are a little comical).

        One of my friends likes the Amy Butler patterns, but she’s a smidge taller and a lot thinner than I am 🙂

        Good Luck!

  9. February 25, 2011

    Having sworn off dressmaking for a bit I’m not sure I’m qualified to answer, but the things I’ve had most success with have been independents. Maybe this is because when I first made clothes from the big 4 I had no idea about altering, or that I love knits where my altering skills fail, and everything looked awful. So maybe I’ll stick with the indies, partly because it feels nice to support new designers, and when I feel better about the whole thing I’ll take a look at the majors.

    Probably won’t do Burda though. Life’s too short to go through that.

  10. February 25, 2011

    Good post! I would have to say that I’m also a freshman, as Carolyn put it. I’m a bit all over the map and having fun exploring what’s out there. It’s all part of the adventure for me at this point.

  11. sewer permalink
    February 25, 2011

    I’ve bought from major and independent companies. I discovered a new line today:

    I always trace my patterns. They’re too expensive to cut up and use just once. I may try to go to a photocopy place and make a copy the next time around.

    Although I’ve never actually bought a pattern based on a review, seems very helpful.

  12. February 25, 2011

    I’m so glad someone else has Burda magazines languishing on a bookshelf. I mean, how hard do they have to make the whole process? Brand loyalty – hmmm, I don’t think I’m that bothered. What I have noticed is that you start to understand how different brands work ie Simplicity usually needs to be worked two sizes down from what they tell you to cut.

  13. Marie-Christine permalink
    February 25, 2011

    Nah… Carolyn just has an unusually one-track mind. Just because she’s perhaps been sewing (the same thing) longer than you have doesn’t mean you have to turn into her when you grow up. Or that you should. With experience, you’ll be more like -your-self :-). Hopefully, at least.

  14. February 25, 2011

    I’m just now starting to get to the place where Carolyn is – using my TNTs to create new (simple) patterns. Most recently, I used my Amy Butler Cabo Halter (which I had made in a knit fabric instead of a woven, originally) and extended it out on the bottom to turn it into a dress for my vacation and it worked out well. I also found sleeves from another Butterick pattern to trace and adjust to fit my TNT B5147 sheath dress pattern (as I had shortened that from shoulder to bust, I needed to do the same on the sleeves) and that worked too.

  15. February 25, 2011

    I started sewing a year ago, and I came to sewing late as well. I started off learning how to sew using the Big 4 patterns, but nothing I made fit me. Everything was too large and had too much ease, even though I sewed the seams carefully and looked at the finished garment measurements to determine my size. Eventually I moved on to sewing exclusively from my bodice block and using vintage patterns, and so far those have fit me really well. The only modern pattern I use nowadays is a Burda pencil skirt pattern, which has become my TNT. Otherwise my major would be Vintage Patterns in General, with a Minor in Vintage Patterns from the 1940s. 🙂

  16. February 25, 2011

    hmmm, well I started copying RTW when I was a teenager and I still do it.
    By that I mean, I picked apart a pair of pants. They were my favorite pants and they fit really well, so I used them as a pattern to sew more. I can still see that green fabric folded & tucked into my sewing box.

    I could not get a good fit from a commercial pattern unless it was a halter dress and believe me, I sewed a lot of halter dresses! Fitting was my nemesis right from the get go.

    Up until I got into pattern-making software, my TNT’s came directly from RTW garments that I picked apart and tweaked for a better fit.

    I am only sewing from commercial patterns in the last couple if years, now that I have taught myself how to make them work for me.

  17. February 25, 2011

    I guess I’m in the category similar to yours, I like designs from them all, although I would likely stick to only the simplest Burda patterns (less to trace). I guess I’m a Liberal Arts Sewists. A little of this, and a little of that. Although I’m really starting to lean more to Vouge I’m liking the way the turn out. But there was a time that I wouldn’t touch a Vouge with a 10 foot pole – I was scared because I thought they were too advanced for me. I do think Carolyn is mighty talented. She really trusts herself to cut that TNT into all types of shapes and comes up with amazing designs.

  18. February 25, 2011

    I am all over the place.. dabbling here and there. Right now I remain majorless.

  19. Kathi Giumentaro permalink
    February 26, 2011

    I first learned to sew 30 years ago using the Simp, Butt, Mc and Vogue patterns. Last year I bit the bullet and gave Burda magazine a try. I haven’t looked back since. I too was not happy about the tracing and the lack of directions but the fit of Burda magazine patterns is the pay off for me. They fit me so much better than S B M & V. It’s all I use now. I really don’t mind tracing any more and it goes much faster than when I first started using Burda. Tracing is now part of my sewing process. When I know the outcome will be a better fitting garment I don’t mind one bit.
    Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?

  20. February 26, 2011

    Being very much a born again beginner I have no allegiances. I remember Simplicity and Butterick from my childhood…my Mum believes Burda to be the devil incarnate (“very confusing instructions, don’t go there”)…

    I have to confess I’ve had more success with books where you have to draft out your own pattern from the start (Sew what skirts and internet tutorials)

  21. February 26, 2011

    I’ve been sewing from patterns since I was 12 or 13 and I’ve never been “brand loyal.” I sewed only Big 4 until about 3 years ago when I discovered internet sewing, and now I sew as much Burda as Big 4. I sew a lot of dresses, but I sew everything else too (coats, workout clothes). One of the great things about sewing is that you *don’t* have to major. There is always something new to try and becoming an expert in one area doesn’t disqualify you from another (unlike in a real life career, where a specialty can be a blessing or a curse but regardless of which is almost impossible to change).

  22. February 28, 2011

    This is such a great post. Growing up I only sewed the Big 4 as well. In the last few years due to the internet I’ve learned of all the other pattern companies as well, and learned of Burda Magazine at Border’s Book Store of all places. Even though I have been sewing more Burda patterns lately, I agree with not having to have to pick a Major as well. Sky’s the limit, pick a pattern and start sewing.

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