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.
You are spot on with this post. I followed the comments on your Instagram post with interest and I’m glad you’ve expanded here. I often find myself in Spotlight searching for a pattern which I assume has been released here but in reality is stashed away in some warehouse somewhere. It is super frustrating in this globalised age that we have to wait an arbitrary length of time before we get patterns which we see made up over and over again online. The pattern companies are shooting themselves in the foot.
Hopefully they and Spotlight/Lincraft can come to some arrangement whereby we receive new release patterns asap. Spotlight has really upped its game in terms of fabric and staying on trend lately, so I can only imagine they’d be in favour of this kind of change.
I agree – perhaps times are a changin’ and we can hope that in the years ahead we aren’t quite as far behind as 6+ months.
This sale I had hoped that they might be only one release behind but alas no. I’m just tired of waiting, waiting, waiting. Especially if they are in fact ‘here’ but just not ‘in store’.
yes yes yes- I hate having to see something I really like now (and sometimes know exactly how i would seasonalise it) and I can’t get the pattern for months. I too blitz the on line sales and try to get into spotlight early to take advantage of their 3 for $15 sales – but my experience with spotlight is that their patterns are depleted within 24hrs of the sale starting and its like picking over ravaged crops after locusts have been through! International postage rates are a rort! Come on pattern companies and local pattern retailers move to modern retailing strategies- rapid cycle product release please!
The international postage rates are staggering in some cases and enough to deter me in some cases. I have to be particularly obsessive to give into the urge!
I am fortunate in that I’m not competing against the city crowd and often can get the patterns I am after… it’s just that I wanted them 6 months ago… and I have lost the impetus to sew!
I’m in Newcastle (NSW). If I buy big 4 I buy online from BMV when on sale. Even with the high shipping price it’s still cheaper than local. When patterns are on sale at Spotlight there is no point in going through the books writing down numbers. The drawers are often almost empty. You get your own patterns so I just go through the drawers to see what’s there. I suspect they don’t restock for a while before they are on sale here, not sure about other branches. Oliver & S now only distribute through spotlight in NSW (I could them from a local quilt fabric store, but no more), however they only stock 2 old patterns, no new releases since they took over selling them.
I often wonder if they have a sale before they re-stock, which makes sense as with each new catalogue some patterns disappear.
I imagine in the bigger metro regions the patterns disappear much more quickly than in the regional centres… we all seem to have the same size pattern filing cabinets despite population size.
We’ve typically had some of the same issues in the UK – the shops offering the Big 4 patterns books have been limited, they tend to have only selected patterns & very few sales. But now quite a few online shops are offering the full range & doing decent discounts (up to half price).
I was surprised in the UK at the lack of bigger retailers selling both patterns and fabrics. In Australia we are rather spoilt with two large chain stores selling patterns and fabric. We do have good sales and I don’t mind the prices… but I did I would baulk at paying full price for Vogue – they are expensive!
I live on the east coast of the US and love all the stylearc patterns. Thankfully they are now available on etsy as PDF’s and at very reasonable prices. Before etsy, I once ordered a pattern from them. It was very expensive and the postage was around $15 USD for one pattern! ouch
If I order from the big 4 i buy from sewing patterns.com. I wait for the sales. The big 4 have also jumped in with print it yourself patterns and have sales on them pretty regularly. I can’t bring myself to pay the high suggested retail price from the big 4 because I feel they all have sizing issues, but that’s another discussion.
anyway, check out sewingpatterns.com. you may be able to get patterns as they are released.
With Style Arc being Australian I can get their patterns – postage is $7 AUD here for a Style Arc pattern. I’ve had a look at sewingpatterns.com and found at the moment they are about one release behind Vogue – and I assume they will be on their site soon. Their postage to Australia is about $7.95 for one pattern. So I guess I’m better to wait until BMV have a sale, buy three and pay $15 postage which cuts the cost to $5 US postage.
I just wish it were simpler, I’m often not expecting a massive bargain just a little more convenience.
Hi Lizzy, I used to live in the Northern Beaches, Sydney, back in the days when there were lots of fabric shops (1990’s). We had moved from the UK so being ‘behind’ the the rest of the fashion world was frustrating, especially as mum had worked in the industry. As a teenager, me and my mum would pore through the designer magazines and she would knock off a few looks for me to wear clubbing (those were the days!) and I would be a few seasons ahead of RTW here in Aus.
That was obviously a while ago (and I now live in Canberra) and these days our pattern making skills are a bit rusty, I’m also a completely different shape with a slightly different style (no midriff tops for me) so none of those old patterns really work anymore. So relying on commercial or independent patterns is the game now, and that means being EVEN further behind! I’m not terribly fashion conscious now for myself but like yourself, I enjoy new ideas and looks.
I really can’t see how holding back new patterns helps anyone now. I agree with your section onGlobal economy. We can all access the new looks easily (no waiting for the latest mag from the UK) and all it does is spur us on to refresh those old skills and knock off the new styles once more… Just let me buy the damn thing now?
Another Canberran here – YES, YES, YES. Just picked up 4 vogue today. I’d have laid down quite a bit more had I had access to the current range.
Also – could I put a word in for more PDFs? (Vogue, I’m looking at you in particular. I love you, I really do, but p l e a s e.. I lose/tear/mangle tissue pattern pieces because that’s the kind of person I am; I hate tracing. A PDF can be returned to, tweaked, relied on not to get lost. Love them).
My whippet, as lovely as he is, has an obsession with walking across my fabric/pattern when I am cutting out something large on the floor… it often doesn’t end well.
I also love PDFs but have a huge preference for A0 copy shop files, I find I’m so exhausted from taping together the A4 sheets that cutting out the fabric is just off-putting!
And another Canberran! I agree with everything you’ve raised. I’ve found I’m veering toward indie patterns lately because of their availability by PDF. If I’ve decided I want to make something I want to do it now not when the pattern company says I can get the pattern. I can’t remember the last time I bought a full price Big 4 pattern. While Spotlight does have good sales on these patterns my experience is that most of the Vogue patterns haven’t been restocked from the previous sale or the place is such a mess with patterns lying all over the pace that there’s no way of finding a pattern that your after. High international shipping costs are a constant frustration living in Aus whether it be fabrics, patterns or yarn so those companies offering free shipping will get preference from me.
My Spotlight and Lincraft are both quite tidy… and I’m that freak that puts the patterns away that are on top of the cabinet that other customers have discarded – I think that behaviour is so rude and self-centred!
I buy my yarn from yarn.com which isn’t too expensive – especially after their bulk buy discounts.
The immediacy of indie PDFs are appealing – and if I want to make something and the indies offer something similar… then waiting for a mail order from the US is less and less appealing!
I have remedied this by having a virtual address in America where I get things shipped to and then they ship to me at reasonable cost. These guys have purchasing power when it comes to freight costs, so I can get things a pretty ok price. I also find stuff on Etsy every now and then.
I like the big 4 as I get better fitting results with them, than a lot of the indie patterns. I have actually stopped purchasing a lot of the indie patterns as they are getting too expensive for very simple patterns. I don’t really care for “packaging” etc I just want a nice pattern that fits. Do to my fitting issues, I always have to trace my patterns as I need 2-3 sizes, so the paper isn’t an issue either.
I agree that we should be able to get them a lot sooner, and I don’t understand why there is a lag, there shouldn’t be.
I get the Burda magazine each month and that is only 1 to 2 months behind.
Hope they hear our voices..
I totally agree – some indie patterns are so basic they make my jaw drop LOL. And I do think most indies cater for particular types/sizes/styles of customers – which is smart as it is very difficult to be ‘all things to all people’ on a small scale.
I trace all my patterns – I can’t bear to cut into anything but a cheap Big 4 that I can easily replace as I do like to keep them as I have daughters rapidly catching up to me and I like to preserve all sizes. I do like my Named, Papercut and BHL patterns as they sit neatly on my bookcase – whereas my Big 4 lived in sorted-but-messy stacked-up plastic tubs.
As I mentioned the quality/sizing of indies – however there are some that I personally find highly reliable in quality and suit my lifestyle, personal style and physical size. I have no issue with Big 4 patterns – as some do with their ‘ease’ – as I simply work from their ‘finished size’ measurements and rarely have a disaster.
I have thought about a virtual mail box – but I just don’t buy enough and coming from a regional economy I do like to ‘shop local’ and ensure that my on-ground suppliers can stay in business and I will always have somewhere to buy my thread, patterns and fabric – I fear the day when there is no ‘local’ and everything must come by post… I do love the people in shops and the hands-on experience.
I am also frustrated by this, as a Sydneysider. I buy many big 4 PDFs almost as soon as they are released, mostly from sewingpatterns.com, who have regular sales on both printable and paper patterns, as someone else suggested. Although why printable patterns cost MORE from BMV I do not understand, when there are no printing or postage costs, and they are usually excluded from their BMV sales too. The stupid printsew printing system they all use for printables is quite restrictive so it’s not as if people are mailing PDFs around to each other and reducing sales. It’s actually easier to share paper patterns than the printsew PDFs.
I also REALLY don’t understand why Vogue don’t do printable patterns, even on their own designs. I assume some of the “named” designers haven’t licenced their patterns for printable, as they are often not available in that form across all of the Mcvoguerick brands, and also Simplicity. I would buy many more Vogue patterns if they were available as printable – this is reducing sales.
So, yes, it’s a global market, and it’s the 21st century. By all means keep the paper pattern people happy, but why not also provide good service for the PDFs lovers. I find gluing (forget taping) A4 pages together quite ‘zen’ when I’m tired after a busy day at work, with the bonus that my pattern is all ready to go when I next have time to sew!
I went through a phase when I HATED taping PDFs together… I’m a bit more zen about it now… but I still prefer an A0 which I can easily get printed around the corner from work and then cut out… and throw out and reprint should I one day want to remake it in the future. Much less mess that way!
I think the way the big companies provide PDFs are ridiculous – as I mentioned on IG I think only being able to download and print it a number of times is totally stupid – and I just refuse to buy under those circumstances. I know there are ways around that BUT why should I have to do that. I often think big companies OVERTHINK the process and try far too hard to lock in the customer. I understand where they are coming from but I agree – they are losing sales by trying too hard to protect sales.
And losing more sales by being so far behind the northern hemisphere releases in Australian and New Zealand.
Thank you for putting into words my own frustrations! I live in Christchurch New Zealand and Spotlight here are not nearly as generous as in Australia. For some reason they don’t seem to think we deserve good sales here despite the exchange rate being similar these days! Spotlight also only stock minimal quantities of each pattern so I rarely bother. I have bought most of my big four patterns soon after release online in sales but like you say postage is exhorbitant. While our climate is not as mild as Australia, compared to a lot of the northern hemisphere our winters are mild, so most summer items can be worn for nine months of the year. Perhaps if the big four refuse to play the game we could start a bulk buying group down under and distribute amongst ourselves.
It is frustrating. I’m particularly annoyed if they are being shipped here but being held for a ‘seasonal release’ purpose. I mean those retailers market Christmas and Easter to us MONTHS in advance… why not sewing??
Hi Andrea! There is an independent online store here in NZ that sells Big 4 patterns – Pattern Postie. I don’t know how quickly after releases her stock gets updated, but I know people who have purchased from her and they say the service is excellent. 🙂
Oh, yes, yes everyone. I just went to Spotlight the other day for the $5 Vogue sale. For once I was there when the doors open on the first day (my son goes to school near a Spotlight… bonus, I think). I was looking for one of the new releases… I knew in my heart it wouldn’t be there, but I satisfied my curiosity and of course it wasn’t there. I picked out a few patterns, but by the time I looked for the 4 or 5 I had numbers for, I gave up and just left the whole lot, feeling that I would get over this need to make something immediately. I feel like we get leftovers over here … like a dumping ground. I don’t buy (and can’t afford) indie patterns as I find most are near enough to something I already have in my large pattern collection, but I understand the appeal for those who really sew on trend and have quick production. I have used sewing patterns.com and they are great but again, I’ve bought 10 patterns for a few dollars each and then $30 postage. I think the big 4 follow very archaic distribution patterns… in the old days it would take ages for the ‘ship’ to bring them over but now really there is no reason why they can’t release them at the same time over here. It is a matter of population… we are a tiny proportion of their sales. Will anyone care there is a coat on the cover of the catalogue when it is summer here… no, because we know we are a minority in this season and will just be better planned for the coming season (or will be in theory!).
LOL yes, we would like to imagine we would be organised.. but my sewing ‘eyes are always bigger than my tummy’.
I’m much better at resisting indie pattern fads – although I do give in from time to time and for me there are several companies that suit my build and style so I like to use them – ie Grainline is my go-to for basics as she provides A0 pattern sheets AND they just fit me so well. I don’t buy everything they release but I’m more than happy to buy their PDFs when they appeal. I have bought a couple of the recent Papercut patterns as while they are simple I’ve had a lot of success with her patterns and gotten a lot of wear from them… plus… they sit so neatly on my bookcase!
Looks like I might make high tea in April… hope to see you there xox
Yes, I think if you can fit into something well, and it cuts out many alterations, it is very worth the extra money. I will be there and really looking forward to it… actually you just reminded me that I haven’t sent Liz the money 😦 oops. Can’t wait to catch up. Safe travels.
I live in Canada, so there are similar yet different issues. While we only have to wait an extra 2-4 weeks longer for the new releases from the McCalls group to come in to our stores, we do not get Simplicity and Newlook at all. Which sucks. For me, Simplicity patterns fit better and I am envious of their rereleased vintage styles. Yes, I can order from the USA, but international shipping is expensive and a crap shoot when it comes to whether duty will be charged. With the McCalls group it seams like the retailers here always have sales or promos so I can at least get those between $7 and $15, which is ok.
I do like indie patterns but I hate putting PDF patterns together…..but they are convenient.
I will say that Australians and New Zealanders have the advantage of the Fabric Store. My first trip to the on in LA and I was in awe of the quality and selection of the beautiful and unique fabrics.
Simplicity have had a couple of lovely vintage releases and I am hanging out for those to be available here! We don’t get charged duties on packages under a certain amount so that’s not a drama for me. However postage to Australia can be very very high.
The Fabric Store is divinely lovely. From their fabrics to their interior fit-out, the experience is just gorgeous. I never manage to escape Sydney, Brisbane or Melbourne without a visit to The Fabric Store. There is no other fabric shop quite like them.
Another Canadian here! Now that the Canadian dollar has tanked, it’s just depressing/frustrating to see all the US stuff, but know that’s it’s just too expensive. All I want is good quality fabric at a reasonable price…
The high cost of Big4 patterns with postage is a disincentive to buying them, of that there is no doubt. In the past I’ve ordered 7 at a time during their sale, because that way the postage charge works out more economical, but I’ve pretty much stopped doing this now – it’s still too expensive. It would be good if they could have at least a business outpost in Europe and Australia/New Zealand, so that we could benefit from lower postage charges. I can and do draft my own patterns, and bought theirs when there is a design I like because it feels wrong to copy it, but it’s galling to have to wait for sales. PDFs are more trouble than they are worth imo. Some people have access to cheap or free large scale printing, so I can see the appeal to them, but I like a pattern to be an object – pinable tissue I can use.
I hear you & totally agree. I’m impatient. Give those patterns to us now!!!!
I live in a capital city in Africa… No pattern possibilities other than downloads. why does craftsy insist on mailing you the patterns with their classes? Isn’t the whole point of online learning and crafting that we can get started immediately?
Seasonality us a great way to introduce the subject but it is also simple availability.
I hear you Lizzie, it is so frustrating to see all the new releases and have to wait , in this age of international travel I don’t get why we can’t have the same release dates as the US . It is incredibly old fashioned for these BIg 4 to delay releases . Season is really irrelevant to us we travel in Australia and those who sew like to sew whatever takes the eye, so I am as astounded and frustrated by the status quo as you.
Totally agree Style Arc is now my choice Victoria Australia.
Totally agree, I’m so impatient I want to sew things as soon s I see them. I will say that Im lucky with my Spotlight, it may be 100km away but I had appointments near it on Friday and I got most patterns on my Vogue list.
Dear Down-And-Out-Down-Under, Sorry, I couldn’t resist. After all, I’m an American. Haha. (Hope I didn’t offend, mate. Holy crap, I can’t stop myself!) But, truthfully, we Americans do love Australia!
I really never heard about the pattern time lag for you folks. It seems so bazaar. It seems like the Big 4 are throwing money (potential earnings) out the window. Perhaps the rest of the internet world/sewing community should boycott them until they mend their ways? I haven’t the foggiest idea how that’s done, but out in the world of the Internet there is a tremendously huge number of supportive sewists. Just a thought.
And, please point me in the direction of the Joanne’s store with $1 and $2 pattern prices. That may be a rumor since my area stores don’t have those prices. (I live in rural New York.) FYI: They sometimes have $5 specials for particular brands. ($6.60 Australian.) But 40% off list price is standard.
Happily, Style Arc is selling select patterns on Amazon US. Meghan Neilsen has a shipping spot in the US, and I recently ordered the Tokyo Jacket Pattern from Tessuti. (Shipping, yikes!)
Good vent, and good luck!
I had no idea there was such a lag. Six months is crazy! There’s no reason for that. You are right to post about this. I buy most of my patterns from those $2 sales which is why I sew a lot of big 4. I could always send you what you are looking for but the shipping is probably pretty similar to ordering from BMV. But maybe not? If you want to order more than three. You just let me know 🙂
Great post, Lizzy. I’m in the US and therefore don’t experience these issues, but I think I speak for the international sewing community when I say that we are 100% behind you on this! As far as I know, there is no good reason to hold back pattern releases for a whopping 6 months. If I can transport myself to Australia in under 24 hours, I don’t see why patterns can’t do the same! Thank you for sharing this, and I do hope the pattern companies are listening.
Have you looked on Amazon for patterns? You could reach a free shipping threshold and have them a lot faster than at BMV
If I need something specific and it is not in my stash, I’ll look at the catalogue in the pattern shop closest to me (90km) and I’ll buy what is available. Quite often there is nothing in my size range and I’d have to choose an alternative. Ordering patterns is apparently a pain – according to the shop owners. I am in South Africa. The additional problem here is that due to our poor economy, we pay quite a lot for Indie patterns. Something that costs $16, will set me back R250. (That is pdf. format. I don’t even want to know what it will cost to send me the paper pattern!). I can buy one of the Big four patterns for between R70- R100, but I have to accept that they won’t be the latest patterns. I’m glad that you raised the subject. It looks like we in the oulying regions are not really treated very well. I accept that there’s nothing anybody can do to our South African economy – except somehow magic a new new government into place. LOL, But why should we wait so long for new stuff?
I think you are so right to feel this way – and your excellent point that the catalog in the store has all 4 seasons of patterns in it – makes your point. No reason at all that they can’t release the patterns worldwide at the same time. As with movies and music – a worldwide release in the global economy is just expected now by customers. I find it interesting that many people don’t like tissue patterns. I find them so much easier to work with, and also so much easier to store, they take up much less space and no need to trace. Guess it is what one is used to on that score.
I’m not sure if there is any industry that has left Australia behind as much as this. We used to wait ages for movies and TV to make their way here, but now with digital piracy etc, everything comes out much quicker. Obviously that’s a lot easier with a digital product. But if they are going to bother sending the physical patterns over here, why wait on the seasons? My other gripe is when a pattern in a catalogue is out of stock at one of our biggest chain stores. It seems they were not sourced from other stores within the country, but ordered from OS and then redistributed? Or did they just wait until the local store restocked? What else could account for 3 month waits??!!
Yes, I totally and completely agree with your whole post! Its frustrating and annoying although I do massively appreciate how Spotlight offers regular sales on patterns now and I always take advantage, although its often pot luck as to what is available. Big plea to McCalls and Simplicity to send us the new releases at the same time too. There are a few from the spring releases I would love and our autumn in Sydney is so mild most patterns are still seasonally appropriate so it doesn’t make sense to hold them back for that reason.
A great post Lizzy, I agree with whole heatedly with what you’ve said. I had to laugh when Nicola Finetti (who I love) started designing for Vogue. Spotlight highlighted one of his patterns in their catalogue (the one you’ve pictured) as soon as it was released. Having assumed that if it was featured in their catalogue I would be able to buy it, I went to Spotlight only to be told it wasn’t available in Australia yet. For me that just highlighted the ridiculousness of the whole situation.
I agree with mostly everything you are saying here. It does frustrate me too for only just a little. I think if Spotlight looked at who was buying their pattens and at what price, they would find that their avid sewers were buying them on sale. The people buying Vogue patterns for $30 and Simplicity patterns for $18 are probably few and far between – surely. If you look at who is buying what in Spotlight, the percentage of avid sewers to those buying party, craft and home supplies is probably minimal. Where then is the pressure to bring patterns in any sooner? The avid sewer is going to wait for a sale anyway, right? Why would I buy something for $30 when I can wait and get it for $4.50 within 2 months? I don’t know what Lincraft are like with sales as I don’t buy my patterns there. The reason is that I don’t know when Lincraft have sales. I’ve had a Lincraft card for about 15 years and never once have I had any kind of contact or sale information or incentive to spend my money there. My inbox is flooded with emails from US McCalls and Vogue telling me about all their fabulous sales that I pretty much don’t apply to me since I don’t live in the US. I detest paying excess postage at the best of times so I’m certainly not going to do that often and on patterns. Could these companies start selling to us directly here in Australia? I’m over seeing fabulous deals with free shipping offered to only those living in the US. Have the pattern companies looked at the sales coming from Australia and figured the community is too small? It’s possible. If I’m honest, I don’t see anything changing soon. If we continue to buy only on sale, we are sending a message that we think the prices of patterns is too high and we are prepared to wait (which I am). But then because we don’t buy at full price, perhaps we continue to be the reason not to bring the patterns to Australia at release time??? Just a thought.
I haven’t read all the comments, so I’m sorry if I double up on something that has already been said.
Australia used to always be 6 months or more behind the US and Europe in the fashion stakes, but there is no reason for that any more, given the speed of technology. The main thing that might mean Australia doesn’t get patterns, or indeed anything in the retail environment, as quickly as US and Europe is that we are, comparatively, a tiny, tiny market. It would be difficult for the stores to stock all the available patterns when they probably don’t move as quickly. I suspect the people you need to persuade are Spotlight and Lincraft!
I’d love to see a complete change in how this works, actually. (Not that I have a fighter in the ring because I don’t really sew from Big 4/5). For example, wouldn’t it be great if instead of selling individual patterns, the stores had a print on demand service for patterns? Then they would not have the issue of storage of patterns that don’t sell or even if trying to judge what would be attractive to the customer.
That is such a good idea, oanh! A person could order online and pick up in store or have it sent to your house. I suspect bulk printing keeps costs down though so the extra $$ would be passed onto us.
How Big 4 patter retail works is on a remainder basis, like magazines. The company supplies the patterns to the shop and when the new season kicks in, the shop gets a list of patterns to pull, and they have to send the envelopes back to the company. That is why shops write down which patterns you buy, or record in the pos system. They only pay for what they sell. So, unlike other goods where the shop has invested its own money into stock, the pattern companies actually call the shots. THEY dictate RRP, when the sales will happen and how much for – all of it.
So, all this nonsense about patters being shipped earlier but the shops holding them back makes no sense at all. Either it’s a fib, or the pattern companies are choosing not to intervene.
Personally, I hate Spotlight so much with its cheap crappy fabrics, terrible service and stock clearly owing its existence to unethical production. And here in NZ, you have to queue with all the other sad, washed out looking customers buying fabric for 3 minutes only to be told they don’t have that pattern, or not in the size range I want.
Honestly, the inabiity to get the latest patterns is the very least of our worries. Gettign a hold of any pattern in a shop is becoming more and more difficult. I’ve given up and buy all mine from Patternpostie.co.nz. so much easier on the heart and soul.
Since my local Spotlight has allowed us to have access to the pattern drawers, it has really changed things. And honestly I have bought more because I’ve seen other patterns I like as I’m hunting for the ones I want. The only downside is the broken drawers that never seem to get fixed. But other than that, I welcome the new approach.
They let you touch the sacred pattern drawers?! I want to live where you live 😉
Completely agree with you. I went into my local Spotlight store recently to ask about the new McCall Spring patterns and was told that the may not even get them in. It is very frustrating not to be able to get your hands on these patterns unless you purchase from the US (which I did end up doing). Something definitely needs to change.
Couldn’t agree more Lizzy. I too am partial to Vogue and other Big 4 ideas, but really love being able to support our local indie patternmakers (Go go go Papercut, Style Arc, Jennifer Lauren and Iconic Patterns!), and there is a definite plus there with no shipping time lag/copy shop A0 pdfs. Waiting for a sale for affordable Vogue patterns invariably means that anything popular or actually in my size is gone by the time I make it to Spotlight though, which is incredibly frustrating when one has made the effort to lug an enormous pram and toddler boys along!! So really i think the solution is to improve my pattern drafting skills??? Thanks for expressing eloquently exactly how I feel!
(another comment from the east coast of the US)…….you speak of the companies being 6 months behind getting patterns to you in OZ and i feel they are way behind the times keeping up with what’s currently trending in women’s clothing here in the states. i own a retail store and buy ready to wear from different vendors and there seems to be a shortage of patterns available that are current to what’s ‘in style’. ‘stylearc’ and ‘made’ seem the most up to date (and interesting) to me.
I would agree with your comments on the pattern companies & fashion. I’ve been interested to see a lot of shirt dresses quite similar to the Grainline Alder pop over in Australia this summer – and lots of split dipped hems like the Named Inari.
StyleArc is very current although curiously I don’t often purchase Style Arc but I do look often if I am after a particular item as their range is diverse.
I do like the Vogue designer patterns as they are often quite unique, it’s those patterns I hanker after the most, whether or not it’s ‘in fashion’.
You have just expressed something I am super passionate about. It’s time these companies stopped living in the pre-internet past! The world in a smaller place these days and “region-locking” sewing patterns is stupid, there is no sane reason why we should wait 6 months for “new” patterns. It’s $25.00 postage for 7 patterns to NZ (postage sticker usually says something like $12.50 though, that’s some serious handling charges) and I remember when they tried to double it. The out-cry online was huge and they reversed that decision pretty quickly. I hope they are reading this post too…
I got fed up with the protracted pattern wait and limited ranges a while ago without realising it. I like to shop for clothes but can make them so most of the time I make my clothes.
It’s the same situation with commercial patterns. I can draft off changes using my block patterns but I like the luxury of buying the patterns, if you get my drift.
Now I look at the catwalk, google and pinterest to find design elements I like and then adjust the patterns I have because I can’t wait 6 months to get the pattern, I want when I want it. I’m not a fashionista but I don’t want to be limited by what’s available after our seasons and trends have passed.
Sewing is my creative outlet so if I can find a freebie template, youtube instruction or a relevant blog post then I’ll take it and run toward the project I want to create now and not wait 6 months for a pattern to be released. The pattern will probable cost ‘full price’ with the possibility of it not being in the pattern draw.
But I do keep an eye on what’s being released eagerly to see if there’s something that keeps my sewing queue full.
I agree with you so much. Five years back I was planning what to wear to my brother’s wedding, looking at the Big 4 catalogues online. I found a Vogue pattern that was just percet, went in to try and buy it at Spotlight, but they didn’t have it yet. Same with Lincraft. It hadn’t been released in Australia. It’s frustrating to be able to see exactly what you want but not be able to get it for six months or more.
The other thing is that often after waiting so long I no longer care to try and buy the particular pattern. The Vogue one wasn’t worth tracking down because by then the wedding had been and gone and I’d made something else. But even when it isn’t event sewing that original excitement goes in the intervening months. It really is frustrating!
Great post and totally agree with all that you have said. I live in Brisbane and Spotlight and Lindcraft can be a hit and miss affair. Although I very much like oanh’s idea, perhaps we could go there in the future:)
Ugh, how frustrating! I hope that the pattern companies listen to all of this and adjust accordingly. There’s no reason for you folks down under to be treated like red-headed stepchildren! Plus, it seems like the pattern companies (and the fabric stores) are missing out on lots of potential revenue!
I do think the big 4 pattern companies haven’t really responded to the rise in popularity of sewing over the last few years. They’ve stuck doggedly to physical patterns only; the styling is very often terrible – models can be too thin and the clothes don’t even look like they fit in many cases. it can be hard to see styling lines. And then the marketing basically penalises anyone who doesn’t live in the US. I think it’s pretty bad that Big 4 companies don’t at least have a Europe and an Australsia hub which would allow those customers to access patterns that are more up to date at more reasonable shipping rates. I just thing they are being massilvely outmarketed by younger, fresher businesses. They are still in the game because they are well embedded in the US market, not because of how they treat their customers.
A friend of mine recently put a post up on facebook saying she had just done a sewing class and was going to get a sewing machine. She asked for recommendations. Every single recommendation was about a blog, craftsy, or about indie pattern companies. No one talked about Big 4 companies at all. I can’t understand why they haven’t actively updated their approach since it feels like they are missing out on a huge “moment” for the sewing community by being stuck in a rut.
I live in Sydney and I feel the frustration of the 6 month pattern catalogue lag too. I just wonder if the delay is caused at the USA end or the Australian distribution end? Or the retailers? Who do we bombard with emails?
BTW Did you know that high end designer stores in Sydney that I sometimes trawl for inspiration 😉 have for a couple of years stocked the CURRENT European season’s fashions instead of being a season behind like they used to do. Like you say, more people than ever are travelling to the northern hemisphere and also seasons are not what they used to be.
Not only shoppers but sewers want the current looks!
Thank you for wiring this post.
Thanks so much for this post. I can only hope that some pressure from McCallPatternCompany helps. I was so excited when I realised that Clegs also stocked patterns, then so disappointed when I realised they were just as behind as Spotlight & Lincraft ;( I also go in, excited by the sales, and I’m happy to pay $10/Vogue, only to find that we’re at least 2 releases behind ;( I want that swimsuit pattern and 2 of the dresses, and I want them now, while I’m still excited by them and while I can still wear them.
That’s so true. I was wearing swimmers and got a bit sunburnt this weekend. Our seasons are not very extreme – we don’t really relate to seasonal releases.
I can’t believe you did not mention Style Arc Pattern Co- They are in Australia- I am in the USA- I’ve had such great luck with all their patterns and they are just as expensive- but I feel the styles are far more current than the BIG 4 = the fit is far better- and as I sew for style= I haven’t purchased a Big 4 pattern in several years- I like these on line companies- and feel it is important to support them too….
The Big 4 are outdated in the way they draft patterns- ease= etc- for me it has never been worth the the money- that being said Marcy Tilton- designs for Vogue and she does have several great designs- again- she drafts them differently from the standard- so no wonder they FIT!!
Actually my last post was a Style Arc pattern – Ithink I may have mentioned far more companies when I first typed up my thoughts… and the post was soooo long I stripped it back so it didn’t look so daunting on screen lol. The marketplace for pattern is so large & diverse now it’s hard to capture it all.
I’ve only purchased one of their paper patterns as the cost of postage (even in Australia), delay and single sizing does put me off a little (I have two daughters who are rapidly catching up to – and in some areas bypassing me) so I like to have more than one size – just in case! Although I agree – their patterns are great and the monthly releases are inspiring. The eldest is moving my spare machine into her bedroom study area so I think it’s a wise decision. I tend to buy their PDFs via Etsy. Although taping together the Ziggi jacket nearly destroyed me!
I know lots of people have issues with Big 4 sizing and their ease. It’s not been my experience as I always select my sizes and grading using the finished measurements on the pattern sheets themselves. The patterns I most miss are the unusual or detailed designer patterns. I’m intrigued when they are released but when they are here – 6+ months later I’ve mentally moved on. I’m fickle I guess!
I like to support everyone. At the end of the day whether it’s a solo pattern designer or a big company at the end of the day there are people working to pay their bills and put food on the table for their families or themselves.
Hi Lizzie, I have really enjoyed reading the perspectives of everyone who has replied to your post. It’s fabulous to know the connections across the globe that have been made as a result of sharing sewing and patterns. I love being part of the international sewing movement, I really do.
Just a thought though- aren’t there more important issues to get worried about, in any and all of our countries? If our climate keeps getting warmer as it has, the only sewing patterns we may need could be for swimwear 🙃
It has been interesting to read such detailed responses & I’ve enjoyed reading them very much.
Couldn’t agree more, there are many, many pressing issues in the world than sewing pattern delay. On the climate change front, swimwear gets worn here about 6 or more months a year even now.
There are much more important issues in the world but in this space I just prattle on about sewing related ones. Noone seemed to have talked about this issue before and it had been bugging me. 🙂
It seems I’m not the only one.
I agree with everything you said, only one thing more I would like to add, is that not only are they expensive and arrive here too late, that I have given up buying them here as I don’t seem to be able to buy them even when they are on sale, but they’re quite behind the current fashion even when they are released overseas. Whilst I do buy them, other independent companies such Stylearc are way more fashion forward. I am not a speedy sewer, but I often see designs from the big four that have already been and gone, never mind when they decide to arrive here. I am a fan of vogue out of the big four, but lately they have left me wanting.
Agreed. For me I do still love the designer releases as much for the interest in their construction as for being ‘in fashion’.
While I may have ‘on trend’ pieces, I’m not much of a fashion follower, rather I sew what interests me or what suits my build and age.
I’ve just come back to Australia from 3 years living in the US, and I am shocked at the price Aussies have to pay for not just sewing patterns, but also fabric, notions, etc.
I just made McCalls 6959 wrap dress (which is a great pattern btw,) and now I am kicking myself that I didn’t “stock up” on more of their sewing patterns whilst I was living overseas. So far, I’ve found some bargains on Etsy if you buy a few items to save on shipping.
My go to patterns are Japanese sewing patterns, because you get on average about 20 sewing patterns in one book!
I hardly ever buy Big 4 patterns anymore. I find the up to date styles, immediate delivery and price of Style Arc and Tessuti PDF’s much more attractive, though taping 60+ A4 sheets is a challenge. I actually did my first A0 copyshop version today and I can see more of those in my future. I’ve recently subscribed to Ottobre magazine which is also a season behind, but you get many patterns for the same price as one of the Big 4.
I dropped into Spotlight today as well. The sales assistant was using old paper patterns to wrap fragile items from the homeware section. 😦
I find the postage rated charged by the McCall Pattern Company to Australia ridiculously high when purchasing their patterns. To get around some of this postage cost, I have my order shipped to a US parcel forwarding service (I use shipito.com but there are others) and then they send the parcel to me at a much more reasonable cost than McCall Partern Company does.
I’m in the UK and even for us there are issues with price and availability. It astonishes me that in the US you can buy patterns for US$1 (roughly 70p) a go. I bought three NewLook patterns on half price sale last week and they were just shy of £3 each. It’s a vast improvement on full price but there is no parity in the global market place.
Also, I purchased these from my local sewing shop, which I try my hardest to support. When I went in last week all three styles were out of stock. I ordered/paid for them with the expectation (set by the shop) that they’d be here by last Friday. They still haven’t arrived. If I’d ordered them online they would be here by now. Thankfully I’m not in a rush to sew them up.
But it strikes me that the local fabric shops want us to support them, but don’t want to provide a level of customer service. And the pattern companies want us to buy their wares but don’t want an even playing field in terms of price and, in the case of Antipodeans, availability.
Surely it’s not beyond the wit of man for the Big 4 to digitise their new offerings and sell them as instantly downloadable PDFs. This could circumvent the cost/availability issue is managed properly.
As for the Indies. I love how some of them are really upping the game with large size ranges and how they have pioneered the digital pattern market. I’m not averse to spending €12.50 (about £9.80) for the Waffle Patterns Tosti jacket, which is thoughtfully designed with plenty of features and challenges for the home seamstress. I’m less likely to part with hard earned cash for Tilly’s Dominique, which at £12.50 is more expensive for what is basically rectangles sewn together.
There is such disparity in the marketplace that perhaps the only way we’ll get the pattern makers (whether large or small) to listen is to vote with our wallets. But I suspect that won’t happen any time soon…..
This seems archaic that the Big 4 hold back the pattern release to you in Australia because of seasonality. Catalogs, magazines and even websites slap different covers on the same publication all the time to personalize them. To your point, the catalogs include the full line regardless, so why can’t they just put a coat on the cover of the summer issue specifically for your audience? I live in the NYC area so am not affected by high shipping for the big 4. It is a little baffling that these companies are not accommodating what seems like a large, engaged audience with buyer intent. Whoever’s running their marketing, should rethink this.
There is always going to be a shipping delay of at least 6 weeks I’d expect. However I don’t think it’s necessarily the Big 4 companies… it could be the retailers themselves. Which is odd… as it’s autumn here and I’m lying poolside in swimmers… I’d be quite happy with spring or summer patterns at the moment!
Hi I am in southern Victoria so four seasons sewing is the go here:) Great thoughts being posted from around the world. I do carefully consider purchases, check in my op shop pattern selection to see if I can reuse, adjust and only after that do I hit the shops. I have used the on line shopping world to purchase patterns, with great service – 4 days turn around! The cost however is prohibitive for anything except special occasion sewing. ‘Print on demand’ and I would be amazingly thankful 🙂
I agree on all points – I recently used a US post service to get my hands on a couple of Laura Ashley patterns. Ouch!
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I share your frustrations. One tip: postage from England is much cheaper than from the US so I sometimes order patterns from the UK Simplicity/New Look website when they are on sale there. They don’t take as long to arrive as I expected and are pretty good with customer service if you need assistance.