This has been buzzing around in my head all week so I’m just ‘brain dumping’ here today, I could write, re-write and refine this post but this post is aimed at being more of a discussion starting point (and I need a cup of tea!). This is a complex issue with a huge range of issues to consider, I’m just jotting down my thoughts this morning to get you talking…
So please comment and/or vent below. I’m interested. I think we all are. And I hope companies are listening.
I instagrammed an image of the current in-store Vogue catalogue – which in the USA market is ancient. It triggered some discussion from fellow Aussie sewing enthusiasts who are also frustrated.I think there is an interesting discussion to be had about the current availability and cost of ‘Big 4’ patterns in Australia and New Zealand – and perhaps anywhere outside the USA – (Vogue, McCalls, Butterick, Simplicity, New Look, Burda etc), the rise of independent patterns and online international marketing. This post in no way covers the entire discussion, it’s just more of a starting point.
I’m in no way having a dig at any of these companies – in fact I love them. I have a sizable collection of ‘Big 4’ patterns, I appreciate the breadth of patterns they offer and the fact they are available in Australia. It’s just a timing and availability issue for me. I think there is room for a productive discussion about the current situation and what we might like to see change.
McCalls have often responded to my emails and social media comments. I have a huge respect for their readiness to listen to the market and individual sewing people.
So let’s talk.
What go me thinking this week…
Vogue have just released their latest round of patterns. There are a few in there that I would love to make. Now. These include Vogue 1498, 1501 and 1489 from the previous release (which still isn’t available here). There have also been a couple of recent McCalls and Simplicity patterns that I would have loved to have made – immediately. Now I doubt I will.
I will wait at least 6 months to see these patterns in an Australian retail store. I have belly-ached about this on Instagram before and McCalls explained that the delay has been reduced to a month. However they are NOT ‘in store’ for at least six months.
Why do I have to wait so long?
So here is a brief summary of my experience/thoughts on purchasing sewing patterns in Australia.
Patterns in Australia are expensive – I’m referring to in-store patterns which include Vogue, Simplicity, McCalls, Butterick, Kwik Sew, Burda and New Look. With the exception of New Look, the regular retail prices vary between $18 and up to $29.95 for a Vogue designer pattern. I know. Ouch.
We do have patterns sales more frequently than ever before – with Spotlight being the most generous with $5 Vogue sales, 3 patterns for $10 for Simplicity, McCalls and Butterick etc. Thanks to most more regular sales I do have a sizable Big 4 collection – then why don’t you see more of them on my blog? I find that immediate strong urge to sew them has diminished as I’ve seen at least two more releases from the companies and my creative brain is otherwise occupied by what is ‘new’ on the international market.
If I purchase them direct from BMV, I pay a rather hefty shipping fee ($15 for up to three patterns and $25 if I go a little crazy). I used to do this frequently and I do have those three in a shopping cart waiting for another online Vogue sale because I am completely over the ridiculous delay. I’m rather cross that I have no other choice. I will wait at least 6 months to purchase ‘in store’ and even longer for a sale to pick them up for $5 or $10 a pattern. Then I fear I will buy them to satisfy a long-ago urge to own the pattern however the desire to sew the garment has diminished – and I’m mentally pre-occupied by ‘what’s new’ on the international market.
Believe it or not I don’t have a massive issue about not being able to buy $1 or $2 patterns like in a Joanns USA sale. I’m quite happy waiting for a $5 or $10 pattern sale, at least I consider my purchases more carefully and realistically. I just can’t sew that much and I don’t need that many patterns- heavens above – did I just type that??
I live in an extremely agreeable temperate climate – I acknowledge I am blessed in that regard and it’s not the case for everyone. Seasonal sewing doesn’t really exist for me as I can often get through my ‘seasons’ with the addition of an overcoat, long sleeve t-shirt and/or a pair of boots. My wardrobe is transeasonal and I wear many garments in my wadrobe all year round. My summer day temperatures hover around 28-30 degrees celsius and winter days rarely dip below 18-20. Yes, I’m spoilt.
Last year I was fortunate to have McCalls 7242 sent to me after it was released. I wore this dress immediately… because sleeveless early spring and late autumn and even in winter on a gorgeous day is entirely possible where I live!
Australians travel – we are a long way from anywhere it seems and our climate is quite different. I have lots of friends that travel extensively overseas – and they do sew winter coats out of season. Hello Busy Lizzie in Brizzy who is frequently sewing up a heavy winter coat in the middle of a sweltering Brisbane summer for her next European skating trip. If you don’t believe me just watch her Instagram feed!
Even though the catalogues are seasonal, the full range of the company’s patterns are still available in the catalogue. It’s not as if the ‘winter’ release doesn’t have spring and summer garments in the catalogue. If that’s such a concern for the retail stores that we might bypass their catalogues because there is a winter coat on the cover in the middle of our summer – do in-store posters or displays promoting the more seasonal patterns in the catalogue.
I do think these retail stores are not considering the buying behaviour of regular pattern shoppers (and let’s all agree many of us to stalk the pattern tables as much as the bolts of fabric). I often simply see a new catalogue, regardless of the cover, and think ‘hurrah new patterns!’.
Promoting your in-store patterns as ‘direct from the USA’ is potentially just as powerful marketing tool as seasonal sewing. Don’t you love making something before the trend hits the stores?
If these retails stores are happy enough to market Easter and Christmas at least four months early… why not market the coming season in the same manner?
MOTIVATION TO SEW…
I’d love to be a practical person. I’m not. I sew for creative reasons and I love nothing better to sew something simply because it takes my fancy. So new releases inspire me and then leave me flat as I can’t easily access these patterns to create the garment that is in my head.
Of course there is an element of seasonal sewing in the sewing market – however if that our only or strongest motivation to sew? How many people are motivated to sew for other reasons such as inspiration, creativity, online trends, catwalk fashions… quite a few I’m guessing.
THE APPEAL OF INDIE PATTERNS…
Indie patterns do appeal to me. Yes ‘indie patterns’ are expensive but no more so than purchasing a Big 4 pattern from overseas and having it shipped here – or buying it full retail price in store – in some cases it is cheaper (PDFs in particular) or only a nominal difference.
Papercut Patterns are based in New Zealand and while they might seem expensive at $25 or so a pop, when you consider they are come in sturdy packaging and are printed on very durable paper and the cost includes international postage, the cost seems quite reasonable compared to a flimsy tissue pattern from Spotlight at $18-$29.50 at full retail price. Many may not agree – but that’s my view.
I don’t have to wait over 6 months for the latest independent pattern release as most are shipped to Australia immediately after release and distributed by smaller online business such as Indie Stitches, Stitch 56 and Sew Squirrel which lowers postage costs. Alternatively they are available online and the companies which offer A0 copy-shop print files are particularly attractive to me!
Yes, the quality of indie patterns varies greatly, they are often aimed at niche style or size markets… however that is another debate altogether and not for today.
Indie Patterns are operating on a much smaller scale which no doubt allows them to react more quickly to the market… however if the Big 4 patterns are indeed sitting in Australian warehouses for 6 months I’m wondering why?
Perhaps 5 to 10 years ago I wouldn’t have been bothered as I am now about this delay – I probably wouldn’t have even been aware of it.
While I appreciate not everyone that sews reads sewing blogs or is on social media following pattern companies, there is a definite shift towards digital media, marketing and communication – this is only going to grow.
The pattern companies have a growing online international presence and I think they need to catch up with the availability of their patterns whether that is ‘in store’ or digitally.
There is an international sewing community and it is being marketed to internationally. Don’t drip feed a portion of the market based on seasons. In today’s world we do expect ‘here and now’ – for better or for worse.
I think that the delays from these companies both pattern company and retail distributor is no longer acceptable in the current marketplace.
What do you think?
For the benefit of this post: I’m based in regional Australia. I live 4 hours drive from Sydney and 6 hours drive from Brisbane. So my sewing supplies are Spotlight and Lincraft locally, shops such as Tessuti and The Fabric Store in the cities – and online suppliers.