Tag Archives: sewing

A Survey for Sewists

I want to know how sewists use digital sewing patterns.  I wonder what my potential customer’s expectations are, what they expect to see within my digital pattern.  I also wonder “what are the little things that annoy my potential customer about digital patterns”.  How can I make my patterns better so my customers will keep coming back to my patterns?  I know there are a few things that annoy me about digital .pdf patterns.  Do they annoy other sewists as well?  Should I make an effort to try to solve some of those annoying little things in my designs?

The best way, I determined, to learn user behaviors and get a feel for how home sewists are using digital patterns was to ask my questions by conducting a survey.  The survey would be short, nothing scientific or worthy of a research prize.

First, I needed to identify a group of users.  It’s easy at an academic library or department store or a local restaurant to survey your customers.  One simply adds a survey to the bottom of the sales receipt or emails users an online survey.  How do I locate digital pattern users?  The pattern’s very nature causes their users to be isolated.  Facebook groups are formed for fans of many pattern authors but how do I reach out to a broader group of pattern users?  When identifying an easy group of digital pattern users to reach I thought of pattern testers.  There is a general Facebook group for pattern testers.  It is a group of over 1000 members that connects independent pattern designers with pattern testers. This is the group that I chose to survey.

I wrote up a survey of questions and posted a call within the Facebook group for anyone interested in answering a few questions. The survey was far from scientific.  It contained some very basic questions about how a sewist typically uses digital .pdf patterns and what may or may not be a source of frustration for them.

Here are my questions:

  1. Do you print pdf patterns?
  2. Do you print all or selected pattern pages?
  3. If you print, do you print in black & white or color?
  4. Do you tape the printed pages together?
  5. What device do you view your digital patterns on?
  6. Do you prefer a visual illustration of some type?
  7. Do you prefer line drawings or high-resolution photos?
  8. If you could have one wish granted to make .pdf patterns easier to use, what would it be?
  9. If you could tell pattern designers one thing, as a pattern tester, what would it be?

The response to my survey was amazing.  There were over 80 respondents and all of them had something to say about various aspects of .pdf patterns.

A pattern tester’s objective is to sew the item using the pattern instructions.  Their feedback to the designer is centered around the construction and errors in the steps or typos.  I don’t believe pattern testers often get the chance to comment on the entire digital pattern process as a whole.

So over the next several posts, I will be revealing my findings in an effort to, if nothing else, start some very real conversations about how modern technology needs to be applied to sewing.

What Digital Pattern Customers Want

There are courses and webinars by the dozens out there to assist creative entrepreneurs produce, market and sell digital sewing patterns.  I’ve listened to and read most of the information they provide on how to build a successful creative business.  One chapter or session is always dedicated to identifying my perfect customer.  The exercise takes me through steps to describe her, exactly who she is and what I can do to attract her to my products.  The exercise helps me find a way to convince my customer that she needs my products or services in her life.

But at no point, does the exercise take me through the steps of identifying what my customer expects from me.  In some ways, the current methods are basically shoving my goods down my customer’s throat and telling her why she should like it.  Have you ever tried to do that to a college student?

My day job has been to attract college students to the technology and resources that the campus academic library has to offer to assist them with completing their assignments.  I could identify my college student customer all day long and go to many lengths to convince him to use our services but until I listened to them, met them, spoke their language, I was wasting my time.

I liken it to visiting a foreign country.  One can stand on a street corner in a foreign city, holding a sign or bull horn and shout all day long in English about what one has to offer and I would wager, one would find very few customers.  If one wants to “pitch” something to someone, one must learn their language and one must go where they are, into their community or social gatherings.

I’ve seen no evidence of this in the sewing community.  I see all kinds of designers churning out and posting .pdf patterns for everything under the sun.  I see lots of promotion of said patterns; slick graphics, professionally shot photos, and complicated social media campaigns.  They are spending a lot of time following the advice for creative entrepreneurs.  In my academic library, we searched out the college students and researched how to communicate with them in their own language and through the avenues that they preferred.  We met with them and their instructors in their classrooms and we did surveys to find out exactly what they needed from us. We made many amazing discoveries that allowed us to get our message out to more college students.

So have any of the designers ever thought about asking their customers what they want?  Or are designers just designing simply trying to find that pattern that will sell for them?

As I begin drafting and writing my first pattern, my natural instinct is to ask “what does my customer want from me as a designer and pattern seller?”  I know as a sewing pattern customer, I have certain expectations and several problems with digital sewing patterns as they currently exist. I wonder if other digital sewing pattern consumers feel the same.  The best way for me to learn how digital pattern users feel about digital .pdf patterns is to ask.  So I asked.  And boy, did I get answers.  I got so much feedback, it is quite obvious that this community has never been asked what they want in digital sewing patterns.

So follow along as I write a series of posts on the survey that I conducted and the amazing answers I found.

The Problems with Pdf Patterns


I love the easy access to all kinds of patterns on the internet but I keep saying there has to be someway to make it easier. 

This is problem number one for me. Tape! It takes rolls and rolls, first of all. Tape has a different thickness and flexibility from paper. This makes it difficult to fold or roll or store patterns. 

Tape does not age as well as paper. It changes color with age and becomes more brittle increasing the chances the pattern will not hold together despite a use of yards and yards of it. 

Sewing for Plus-Size Girls

When I published my post in the Curvy Sewing Collection about sewing patterns for those little girls who are outside of the boutique clothing sizes, I was convinced there was a large gap in the clothing market for these little girls.  The plus-size community has really received a lot of attention over the past year and is finally gaining the voice that it long has needed.  So what about the little girls?  I expressed my opinions in my CSC post and here we are, months later, and I’m feeling even more convicted than before.

I’ve spent several months researching children’s, specifically little girls, clothing and if you do not fit into the cookie cutter sizes, you are completely out of luck.  So, I am determined to design some patterns.  I have several designs in mind. I follow lots of sewing and boutique clothing stores and designers on social media.  I see what is popular. I have enlisted the aid of a your 6-year old fashionista and she is advising me on what is hip and cool.

If I can stay on task, I want to design a few garment patterns for those healthy, but above or below average, size.  We all know those standardized size charts are merely suggestions anyway.  Real people come in all shapes and sizes.

So, here goes.  I would appreciate any suggestions, links, information about those sewists out there that are struggling with sewing for children who do not fit into the boutique fashions.


When Two Worlds Collide

My day job is in an academic library. I’m a library systems person……a tech geek. I’ve spent 35 years in this environment. I have the unique ability to take technology and translate it into common words of one or two syllables. I am the “technology translator” in my organization. Please don’t refer to me as a “librarian” as that definition requires an MLS or MLIS, neither of which I have. I am a staff person…..a professional staff, a para-professional, potato…..pa-ta-ta!

My heart is in crafting, sewing and quilting. I’ve spent my entire life doing them. Sewing is my favorite. It really doesn’t matter what I am sewing as long as I am creating with fabric and thread. This love of mine never really meshed with my day job. Sewing blogs on the web and using .pdf files for patterns are the closest thing I can get to one of my worlds touching the other. I possess all of the skills to write and draft patterns yet can’t decide which items to design first. (That is for another blog post.) It has been a problem for me. I love technology. I love playing with it, tinkering in it, creating with it and bending it to my will. But there has never been anything about sewing that could use my professional tech skills other than blogs and social media.

Until now……

I’ve developed a way to use modern technology to organize my fabric and pattern stash AND carry them in The Cloud with me everywhere I go. While working on a project at work, it occurred to me that I could use the same skills for fabric as I do for books. The academic world and more specifically the library world are becoming firmly rooted in The Cloud.  Meanwhile, the sewing world continues to be dominated by piece of paper and little clips of fabric.

So would you be interested in learning how? Would you like an e-book, video demo, online course, or more? Leave me a comment, please! I can’t believe there are not others out there struggling with this entire problem.

Removing Pearl Snaps to Upcycle a Man’s Western Shirt

IIMG_0977 am a sucker for western shirts. The farm-raised country girl in me loves the sight of a top-stitched yoke on both the front and back of a shirt…….(because everybody knows that shirts with yokes on only the front or back are wanna be’s…..city slickers.)

The glint of pearl snaps makes me go weak in the knees. One browse through my favorite Etsy store, CowgirlSnaps, can inspire me to design western shirts for hours. I am experienced at creating and sewing western shirts. If my ample female chest would adapt more readily to the typically male cut of a cowboy shirt, I would have a closet full of yoked, pearl-snapped beauties.

When a client came to me asking if I could replace the snaps on a shirt with buttons, I was able to hide my reaction and agreed to attempt the project. She explained the shirt had been her grandfather’s. Her grandfather had recently passed away and she had claimed his shirt to wear herself. She felt the snaps made it look too masculine for her.

I am sure anyone watching me while we spoke would have seen me flex my thumbs as I remembered all the times I have mashed my thumbs while applying snaps to my home sewn shirts. I have extensive experience in applying snaps. “Surely”, I mused, “the snaps will come off the same way they went on.” I felt my thumbs twitch, anticipating the pain sure to accompany the project.

I agreed to try the client’s request. Here is what I learned:

 Proper tools are essential – All snap kits come with a snap setting tool. This tool is NO help IMG_1005in snap removal. Apply a snap in the wrong spot and one is pretty much screwed. Lacking any better idea, I choose my favorite all-purpose multi-tool, a treasured gift from my husband. I find that when you put items found in hardware stores on your Wish List, husbands are more likely to give you a gift at gift-giving occasions.

The stud portion of the snap was backed with an open prong ring. I grabbed a portion of the ring with the pliers on the tool and gently but firmly peeled the ring from the fabric. Once the entire prong ring has been pulled free, the stud should fall away from the fabric.

IMG_0978The socket portion is more difficult to remove. I used the pliers to grip the snap’s socket and tried to bend the pearl snap and fabric away from the socket. With a little bit of patience and a lot of hand strength the two parts of the snap can be separated. Once separated, the pearl snap prongs will still be embedded in the fabric. The pliers easily straightened the five prongs allowing them to slip back through the fabric in the same manner that they went in. Caution here, as some of the prongs will break off, leaving small bits of metal in the fabric, falling into the folds of clothing and carpets.

The amount of wear on the shirt and the number of launderings will determine if the presence of the snap will be noticeable after it is removed. – Good quality fabric will not fade very much and most of the time, there should be no holes under the snaps. A slightly shiny look may remain on the fabric beneath the snap but that can be covered with buttonhole or button placement.

I proceeded from here with sewing standard buttonholes in place of the removed pearl studs. (Remember which side of the shirt front or sleeve cuff that laps over. Buttons can be stitched on the shirt in the exact location of the pearl sockets, aligned with the buttonholes.

So feel free to raid male family members’ closets and cruise yard sales and consignment shops. Men’s western shirts can be feminized, snaps can be removed and replace with buttons……or hey, maybe even replace with different snaps…something with some bling, yeah, now there ‘s an idea!

I Sew Because…

I am a sewist, a creator of clothes, quilts, bags, home decorating, and many other things. have sewn for over 20 years. My projects have changed over the years as my needs have changed.  I was sewing before sewing was cool.  I learned to sew during the last time period when sewing was cool.

At the age of 50, I began to do some self-examination.  I realize that IO do not need to do things simply because I have always done them.  I have the freedom of choice to continue or stop processes or habits in my life.  My time is valuable and I am making the conscious choice to d those things that are rewarding to me.  This decision has caused me to inventory my activities during my spare time as well as my professional life.  Sewing dominates most of my spare time. Why?  Why do I sew? The first step is to examine why I sew in order to make a more informed decision on whether to continue devoting so much time to it.

I wish I could say sewing is my artform.  Sewing is a means of creative expression for many people.  They consider themselves fiber artists. I can say I may create art and each project has my aesthetic throughout it, but I am no artist.

I wish I could say my sewing is the result of my inner urge to be a “maker”.  There is currently a huge Maker Movement underway.  I wish I could say I sew from a deep inner need to make things and create objects. Yes, I have a desire to create things and learn techniques, both traditional and modern. I love learning new crafts.  I will forever be a student of how things are made, but I am no maker.

I can definitively say, after much introspective, that I am a sewist out of necessity.  I would like to turn this blog into an art gallery or maker space, but it is a complete waste of time.  I have asked myself the hard question.  I have no doubt now that I sew because the goods I need are not readily available.

I learned to sew clothing because my mother sewed clothing.  My mother learned to sew clothing because her mother sewed clothing.  We made my clothing because garments were not available in my size.

There were no clothes to fit me in the late seventies and early eighties.  I suffered from being a healthy child from hearty Midwestern stock.  No one in my family fit within the standard size measurements established in the late forties.  I remember a school year when I was finally able to fit into husky jeans designed for girls much, much older than me.  For a few golden months, I was able to wear jeans from a mail-order department store.  I remember that being a year that I thought I was someone special.

Later, as a teenager and young adult, the fashion industry began to make clothes for my more-than-average frame. Unfortunately, the price tag affixed to those garments was beyond my meager budget.  The tops, pants, and dresses tended toward the matronly or the muumuu styles but nevertheless, I was finally able to wear “store-bought” clothes.

So here I am, a mature adult and my frame has not changed.  I am still larger than those original standard measurements that have not been updated since the later forties.  My clothing choices are more plentiful. There has recently been a revolution to acknowledge those who wear a size twelve or larger.  I applaud that movement.  I hope it gains more and more momentum.

The portion of my budget dedicated to clothing is not any greater than it was in my younger years, but I find I have a fabric stash, as do all sewists.  The temptation to walk into the sewing room, pick up an attractive yardage of fabric and craft a garment that fits me specifically in all the right places and is the right color or design for my body is a force that I cannot resist.  It feels good to finally have sewn enough that my skill level has progressed past beginner.  Many techniques are second nature.  Yes, I sew because I need it.  I need well-fitting clothing that suits my style and my pocketbook, as well as expresses my artistic personality and fulfills my need to work with my hands and craft something.