I think I’ve said it before, but brevity is not my bedfellow. I blame the days of my youth spent reading epic fantasy. When I originally set out to write this post, I just wanted to create a quick account of why I’m planning to pause my typical review posts on new pattern announcements. An account this is, but quick it is not. So, I’ve decided to write a brief introduction for those of you who don’t have the time to sit through this whole thing: I’m taking a break from posting new release reviews from the major pattern brands. I know that these posts are the reason that I have the majority of my audience so I did not want to simply stop with no explanation, and I will not be surprised if this announcement is disappointing to many of my followers. However, after the events of the past week I feel that I really need to put a pause on what I’ve typically been writing about and really need think about how I want to approach this blog’s content moving forward.
For those of you who are interested in a more in depth account of how I’ve viewed the events of the past week, the details are below. Take this with a grain of salt. It is coming from my perspective, and this is the perspective of someone who hasn’t been overly active on social media lately, and was watching events unfold throughout the days when I was also trying to work a full time job, recover from my bug bite issue with a bout of antibiotics, and listen and absorb as much as I could from the people who are doing the hard work of leading the movement for change. So if I’ve missed things, misunderstood things, or are unaware of certain things please feel free to correct me in the comments. This is also the perspective of a white person who has long followed and deeply respects many of the Black Makers in the sewing community. I feel that I have long been listening to what they have said but I never really understood much of it until now. Not that I think I will ever truly be able to understand, but there is a certain level of clarity and perspective that I’ve never had before, and that I feel I must find more appropriate ways to act. Obviously, making this small declaration on my blog does very little to actually create the sort of larger change we really need, but it’s a change that I can directly control and that I very much feel needs to be made at this time.
So if you would like to read the longer, original post read on, but if you are just here for the pretty pictures then you might have to wait a while.
In my most recent post I touched on a variety of things that have been going on, the most important of which is Black Lives Matter, the movement for social justice, and the need for reform in this country. At the time of writing that post it was clear that we all need to work to do better in this country and to really push for sweeping changes in so many aspects of our society. This sort of thing will require that we demand more not just from our political system, but also from ourselves. It will also require that we re-examination of how we conduct our daily lives, and how we make choices to support things that really do match up to our own values and promote the sort of world that we want to live in.
My post was written and published last Monday, partially as a personal check in, but mostly in response to the previous weekend’s events, the larger protests, and wider issues that we are facing as a country here in the US. However, for anyone following along on social media, it also became quite clear that the smaller world that is the sewing community was going to need to take a much closer look at itself and examine exactly who and what it is supporting. Carolyn from Diary of a Sewing Fanatic created a very informative Instagram post looking at how most of the major sewing brands were addressing the Black Lives Matter movement. Or, more accurately, not addressing it. The reality is that none of the major US crafting chains have (to my knowledge) made any sort of mention about what is going on or how they will work to support their customers moving forward. While I already wasn’t supporting Hobby Lobby for *ahem* other reasons… and while I was disappointed (but not really surprised) to see a lack of response from Jo-Ann or Michael’s, it was very disheartening to see the absolute bungled attempt at a response from the McCall’s pattern group, who have had partnerships and pattern lines with several of the more prominent Black Makers in the sewing community. When the utter silence was pointed out by several in the sewing community, it seemed to prompt McCall’s to produce the most lackluster statement of “support” that I think I’ve seen from any brand, in any industry, thus far.
Of course, then there was this:
Now I know Simplicity has been moving away from anything resembling fashion in the past few months, and, as has been noted by several other sewing bloggers, “we aren’t their target customer anymore,” but this goes waaaaaaaaaay beyond aesthetic or stylistic differences. Honestly, who in their right mind looked at the cover image of pattern number 9144 and thought not just “yeah, this is going to sell” but more importantly, “yeah, this is ok.” The politest term I’ve seen for this pattern is “modern-day slave cosplay.” Of course, after that conversation started making the social media rounds, Simplicity apparently pulled the pattern design from their website the following day:
I’ve been a bit dismayed at the direction of the Big 4 since the massive merger, but this really made certain priorities of this redirection of the brand very clear.
The removal of this pattern from the Simplicity website wasn’t the only response from the Big 4 this past week. McCall’s initial response received many comments calling them out for their lackluster efforts, and the company created a follow-up post acknowledging that the response of Mimi G. (who is still producing patterns with Simplicity, and even has 2 new patterns in the most recent release) was correct in calling them out on their bullshit. Of course, since then several things have happened, including a heartfelt InstaTV post by Mimi G (I couldn’t figure out how to find or link this), the formation of Black Makers Matter (I am so excited for this! I feel like it’s going to be like The Avengers of sewing groups – all of the superstars are going to be there!), and a spreadsheet of Black-owned or ally-owned sewing supplies, which was put out by pinkmimosabyjacinta. This is discussed in more detail on the Sewcialist Blog, so I highly recommend going there to check it out. I also think that Gillian’s post at Crafting a Rainbow is worth a read on this topic as well.
Anyway, through posts on Instagram stories and other social medial outlets, it has been revealed that Mimi G. and the Black Makers Matter group have been asked to a meeting to help the McCall’s pattern company understand exactly who their customers are (or at least who they used to be) and hopefully guide them in what they need to do to help the company stay relevant in a space that doesn’t have time for this “sympathy and solidarity” in “turbulent times” nonsense. While further statements and action plans from McCall’s appear to be “forthcoming” (see the comments on that post), the fact that they are at least willing to have the conversation opens some hope, possibly, for future redemption from all of this.
Of course, while the McCall’s response was a total shitshow, it’s hard to tell if scrambling to save face or total silence on the matter is the worse response. The major European pattern brands (including Burda) have largely been completely silent, as have many of the major sewing machine brands as well. While some of these brands appeared to have completely paused posting for a week, none of them have (at the time of this writing) addressed the Black Lives Matter movement directly. I’ve had conversations with friends who work in (non-sewing related) marketing, and tried to get a more complete picture of what’s it is really like behind the scenes at major international companies right now. It’s hard to know if international brands are silent because of a lack of a US media team (let’s be real – Burda’s US website still is touting it’s own newness, which doesn’t make me think that they have a really engaged marketing team focused on the US right now), a feeling that this is a “US issue” that doesn’t really impact them (or more specifically their bottom line, or, even more specifically, could impact their bottom line were they to upset a larger customer base in a different country…), or an actual disregard for Black Makers and other Makers of Color who use and promote their products. It’s also hard to know if it’s just something that has taken so long to get the supervisor’s supervisor’s supervisor’s approval that by the time any statements come out it will feel irrelevant given the pace of social media, or that a statement is simply being made once it has been deemed “safe” to do so. I’m not trying to make excuses here, but I am trying to understand all of the things at play with how media and marketing are handled for these brands. Of course, if Starbuck’s about-face is any indication, then brands can move pretty quickly when they feel the tides turn against them. And if the point of marketing (and the way it has taken over so much space on social media) is that it really can control public perception of a brand, then, of course, this works both ways. If your marketing department can’t keep up with the needs of your consumer base (or you as a company don’t even understand who your consumer base really is) then we as consumers also have to be able to draw certain conclusions from what you’ve chosen to focus (or not focus) your marketing on. We don’t really have a lot of other ways to evaluate what your brand is or what it stands for. Of course, it has been great to see the support from the Indie Brands and Small Businesses this past week, but I would also venture to say that it’s a lot easier for smaller businesses to react quickly to social media events, in no small part because the chain of command from “post approved” to “posted” is so much shorter. So while I’m in no way trying to condone, justify, or ignore the silence of the larger international brands, I am trying to understand why certain statements have been so slow in coming, or, as increasingly seems more likely, may not be coming at all. And if these brands can’t address this issue, then we as the consumers must draw our own conclusions on this matter.
So… where does that leave us? Long time blog readers know that while my sewing output has waxed and waned in response to life events and energy levels, my attempt to keep up with reviews on recent pattern releases from the major brands has been very faithful and has largely made up the bulk of my blogging in recent years. If you’d asked me a few years ago how I would have felt about not blogging about new pattern releases it would have been a really hard ask to let it go, because I felt like it was a fun way for me to engage with the community even when my sewing time and output was extremely limited. Yet, after observing the events of this past week, I realized that I need to make a change, and that promoting the products of brands that don’t recognize or support some of the strongest and most important voices in their community is not something that I want to perpetuate going forward.
So I think it’s time to take a pause. I have received many (many) comments over the years about how I’ve pointed out patterns and designs that have inspired people to seek out and buy patterns that they otherwise would have ignored. So while I’m not so naive as to fancy myself an “influencer” (I make no money off of this blog, and have never had any sort of a sponsorship), I also know that I have a small but consistent audience who come here specifically for my posts about the new releases from Burda and the Big 4. But right now I really can’t find the motivation or justification to put forth the effort to promote these brands or have what feels like an ultimately frivolous discussion about the products of brands who have been so silent on an issue that is so important. This situation is weighing on everyone (as it should – it is important and deserves the time and energy that is being devoted to it), and I am not immune to bearing my fair share of that weight. So it’s definitely time to evaluate where my time an energy resources are going, and it’s definitely time to take a break from business as usual.
I can’t say if this change to my blog’s content is “forever.” With McCall’s preparing for discussions with the Black Makers Matter coalition, it’s possible that we may yet see positive changes that will, hopefully, make the brand seem like it’s heading in a direction I think we would all like it to go. We also may yet see how Burda and other international companies will react or change moving forward. I’m… not holding out a lot of hope on that front, but I’m also not a fan of the premise of cancel culture. I’d like to believe that we all have the capacity to do better, either as an individual or as a brand. So I’m not “canceling” these brands, but I am going to put a pause on how I have been promoting their products here on the blog and consuming their products in my personal life. It’s time to reflect, take stock, and observe how things move forward. Too long we’ve been a society that sweeps things off until later because of the desire for convenience, but we’ve long been heading to a place where we don’t have that luxury anymore.
Of course, I don’t think the sort of change we all want to see will be a quick or easy process. Yes, going through this sort of change means getting uncomfortable with the way things have been. It means that we have to mess up and get called out for it (and I’m just as guilty of messing up this past week as anyone else, between the timing of my Butterick post, my attempt at posting, re-posting, and ultimately deleting my black square, and unintentionally using loaded phrases that I’d not yet realized were antiquated and wrong). It means possibly losing the respect of some of our personal heroes or, worse, people that we had considered long-time friends. It means doing the work to learn how to do better. In the case of these brands it means watching and observing what they do, and thinking long and hard about where discretionary dollars are going, and what that is ultimately promoting in the world. Is this a really long-winded and overly dramatic way to look at how I’m spending $2 on paper patterns? Possibly, but sometimes it is the little things that become the big things that make the difference.
I’m… not really sure what this means about sewing content on this blog. Ultimately, I have an extensive pattern collection comprised mainly of patterns from the Big 4, Burda, Patrones, Knipmode, My Image, and the now-defunct Manequim. It would feel incredibly wasteful to get rid of it all and I can’t say that I’m realistically prepared to do that at this point. Many of my older patterns were bought second hand, and, honestly, any way I look at it, that money has already been spent. But I also know I won’t be spending more money on these brands (or in the big box crafting stores) anytime soon. The sewjo has taken a hit (even my quilting project, which features red, white, and blue feels tainted in a way), but I expect it will be back. I know the solace a sewing project can bring, and I expect I’ll want that soon. And while I’m not necessarily opposed to reviewing older (OOP) patterns, I’m also hesitant to be promoting new products until I’ve had further time to assess which brands and products more closely align with the values that I actually want to promote on my little corner of the internet space.
I expect that this will not be the my most popular post, as I am aware that the vast majority of my readers are here for the pattern release reviews and discussions over the latest new new things. But after the events of last week, I think it is pretty clear that it’s definitely time for me to take a break from our regularly scheduled programming and reconsider exactly what I want to be contributing to this conversation and how I want to be going about it moving forward.
45 thoughts on “Taking a Break from Our Regularly Scheduled Programming”
I’m really glad you are socially aware and doing what you can to support the Black Lives Matter movement. People of colour make up a significant part of the client base for the Big 4, as they do for many many companies, so it makes all the sense in the world that the companies would take a serious look at how to make their customers happy and treated like customers want to be treated. I’m not a fan of big biz, but people live on earth, so the companies who want to make money from everybody they can make it from should find it in their own best selfish interests, if nothing else, to treat everyone well. As a bonus, treating everybody well makes for a better world in general, less stress, more enjoyment, better corporate culture, better life. It might even contriubte to better patterns and fewer crappy ones. Who knows? The Black Makers Matter sounds very cool too.
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Who you are and what you believe in are way more important than a blog. I have enjoyed your Burda reviews in the past and that is why I came to your blog, but I applaud your desire to reflect on and sort out what you are contributing to. Good luck!
Donnalee’s comment makes a lot of sense to me.
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Well, can’t say it’s a surprise, but I will miss your reviews. My sewing friends are not really burda girls and I can’t go and see my grandmother and look at the patterns together either so your blog is one of the signs that someone else cares 🤷♀️ (on the other hand, July is not much to review 🙈). Do what you believe in, you are not obligated to make content and I will be looking forward to your future endeavors in blogging!
From a strictly European perspective, few bigger companies have taken any action, it’s not really a thing that companies do here.. And I am not sure it would be a good thing for them, because it’s a political issue and consumer power is not seen as a serious action. At least among the people I know. I mean, every time h&m makes a feminist t-shirt people get provoked, not because they are against feminism, but because of the capitalisation of a serious problem.
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Thanks for sharing this! It has been really interesting to hear about the European perspective. It felt short sighted for me to view all company actions through an American lens, and it is also important to consider the idea that capitalizing on a serious human rights issue is wrong (*coughStarbuckscough*). I think this is why I feel the need to take some time to reflect and watch what happens next, and focus my time and energy on my own education.
(And, yes, I agree with your assertion that we aren’t missing much by skipping out on the July Burda right now…)
Hi. It was a long and interesting post. I am in Europe, so not in the middle of this and so not so very well informed. I am aware of black lives matter protests and insane police violence against peaceful protesters (and black people in general) these last couple of weeks, but could you please say what specifically you are referring to when you say events of the last week? I feel like I am missing the context a bit, sorry. Also the “modern-day slave cosplay.” if you care to explain that. Being danish we did have slaves historically (I am sorry and it was very wrong of us), but we had them in the virgin islands, not in our country, so it has been “conveniently” eradicated from our collective memory. And so I do not understand the reference. Could you please explain so I can be better informed.
Writing this, I see that we the danes owe it to the american decedents of our former slaves to actively stand with you and say that you deserve better: You, people of all colors deserve better and exactly the same as white people. You are right to demand it and you have my moral support.
I didn’t catch the “slave cosplay,” either. I might have viewed the collection after that pattern was pulled. However, the skirt is not only ugly, but the waist bag looks an awful lot like a seed bag. The dull earth toned colors in the styling also reinforce the ideas of poverty and dirt. In the Southern US, before and after the Civil War, black men and women were the backbone of the agriculture industries. Pre-Civil War, they were enslaved.
By “events of the past week” I was referring to both the extreme use of police force against peaceful protests and the continued murders of Black Americans through the use of excessive force, and also the more sewing-specific events that occurred on social media (which I have tried to detail as accurately as possible in this post). As a whole, the emotions of this country are complex and a bit hard to distill into a single blog comment, but I think white people in America (at least those who are supporting the movement for change) are having a collective realization just how deeply we are entrenched in systemic racism and it is a lot for our collective psyche to process. I’m obviously not saying that this is more of an emotional burden than is being shouldered by the people who are disproportionately harmed by this system, but I will say that there is a certain depth to the feeling of betrayal that permeates all aspects of life right now and has us questioning everything that we took for granted, from our perception of the police all the way down to how our personal choices in everyday life perpetuate this system. I want to believe that this introspection, hopefully, will ultimately lead to meaningful change, but for now we are still at the early stages of processing everything that is happening and taking stock of what this means moving forward.
As far as the “slave cosplay” goes, the pattern was referred to as such on a number of social media accounts last week, and for me it was something that, once seen, could not be unseen. The colors, trim, and silhouette hint at the clothing that was worn during the time of enslavement, and putting that style on a Black model strongly hints at this history. It is something that I would say could be considered a microaggression – it isn’t perhaps obviously racist, but it perpetuates a narrative of enslavement or the poor in the south. If we look at just the line drawing of the skirt, then, no, it’s not an obvious reference to historical dress, and this outfit could have possibly been amended with different stylistic choices. However, the choice of the styling team to use these colors, with this silhouette, and on a Black model is something that demonstrates that there aren’t any voices from PoC in the room where these sorts of decisions are being made, and that this is really a major part of the problem.
I applaud you for taking a stand, Doctor T. Reading this post today has made me realize that I have been aware for too long about BurdaStyle’s almost complete lack of any POC models in their magazine, and yet I continued to buy it. I am long overdue for not supporting that company anymore. Thank you for the nudge.
I’m not sure if you saw SewRuthieStyle’s comment below, but she got a very interesting reply from Burda UK. We might be waiting for a while to see if they will enact the changes that they mentioned in their reply to her, but it’s definitely something to keep an eye on. If they do start using more inclusive models I would definitely want to support that!
Its hard to know what the best response is, I’ve mostly focussed on widening the you tubers I follow.
Today I wrote to Burda Style UK as follows:-
Hi Burda Style,
I normally buy Burda Style magazine every month from the supermarket.
However I notice as I flick through the pages that everyone in the magazine is white.
The recent Black Lives Matter protests have made me more aware of whether I see variety of skin tone in the things I read, watch, follow etc. Burda is very much lacking in this area.
I am now going to boycott Burda magazine and not buy it until this issue of diversity is addressed. Let me know when you have someone Asian and someone Black modelling, until then I hope I don’t miss too many great designs.
I was slightly surprised to get a reply. It read.
Thank you for your message and for bringing our attention to this lack of diversity in our magazine.
Black Lives Matter. Aware of the implications of and consequences from lack of diversity in any depiction, we will endeavor to include a larger variety of colors and creeds in Burda Style.
It is important for everyone, everywhere to feel represented.
Thank you again for your comments.
Please do not hesitate to let me know if there is anything else I can do for you.
Natalie, Burda Style UK
Wow! Thanks for both taking the initiative in reaching out to BurdaStyle, but also in sharing their reply. I think it is really exciting that they are willing to acknowledge the lack of diversity and at least say they will attempt to address this moving forward. Of course, I know that it takes time to produce these magazines, so I don’t expect that change will be something we see immediately, but I think it would be really great to see Burda make this change and use a more diverse group of models in the future. It’s definitely something I’m going to keep tabs on!
Thanks Ruth, you inspired me to send a similar letter to Burdastyle.com.
Hi Burda Style,
I am an avid follower of your work and have purchased and sewn many of your patterns. However, I notice that most of the models you use are white, and Burda often engages in culturally inappropriate “themes” such as ‘African Queen’ (now I think renamed ‘Queen of the Desert’?).
The recent Black Lives Matter protests have made me more aware of these issues and I believe Burda is sorely lacking in its response. I’ll be interested in making Burda patterns again when you have a magazine full of Black, Asian, Indigenous and other POC models; and when you ensure your pattern themes are not harmful or appropriative.
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And to follow up, here’s the response I got from German Burdastyle, after US Burdastyle told me it was none of their business:
Dear Ms Simper,
thank you for your interest in burda style and for voicing your concerns.
We are sensitive to the change in societal climate towards diversity. We are happy to show women of colour of diverse backgrounds wearing the fashion we create for our international audience. We have done so for example in the June 2020 issue of burda style or on the cover of issue 03/2019 of burda easy. To increase this diversity we are depending on the choice of professional fashion models that are available from agencies for our photo productions. Please also note that burda style is German by origin, even if published internationally. We expect that model agencies will react and try to recruit a more diverse portfolio of models which will in turn allow us to increase diversity in our presentation in the future. But this will take some time.
We would be very happy if you continue to enjoy sewing with burda style.
With kind regards
Your burda style Team
Kind of a weird non-answer IMO.
Interesting! Thanks for sharing. I think I’m some ways it’s a very realistic answer; they work on producing magazines several months in advance, so if we are going to look for changes it could well be at least a year out from seeing more diversity in their models, and they likely don’t want to promise changes that can’t be made immediately. As others have noted, this still doesn’t tell us a lot about their production or design staffs, but hopefully they will start to consider how they can be more inclusive. As they say, they are a German based company, so I’m still a little hesitant comment on the behaviors of international brands when coming at this from a US perspective, but it sounds like on some level they are limited by the options from their model agencies? I am not going to speculate on what sort of agreements they may or may not have in place for those sorts of things, or what sort of budget they may have for hiring internationally, but I do think it will be interesting to see if their model representation changes over the course of the next year or so.
I applaud you for taking a break and giving this some serious thought. That may be just the key – taking time to really look over who we are and how we are in the world. If we don’t like how the world is, I believe we must take the first steps to change. To find out what those next steps need to be we need dialog with those most concerned.
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I understand your reasons, and I do support your taking a stand this way, though I will miss your reviews of course.
As a European that works in marketing, I can tell you that making political statements as a company is not considered a good thing mostly. Most people view such statements and actions in the wake of an event very cynically, as an insincere attention grab. (And honestly, I agree, even when large US companies do this. I exclude small owner-run companies from this.) Saying something to and about Black Lives Matter would probably bring only negative attention to the fact that they don’t usually care about this issue, don’t have any black employees in high ranks etc. Also companies are not considered as much as entities over here and we don’t expect any random company to have a set of morals or values or political leanings, unless that’s their whole brand.
People here are not as open and I believe also not easily incensed about political issues. Also, we are still reeling from Corona and the impact on our economic system.
But even in otherwise stable times, I don’t think a lot of companies would make public statements, simply because it’s not done and considered to be in bad taste. Even more so, because it happened in the US. I have never seen a US company make statements about any political upheavals or even natural disasters that happened anywhere outside the US either, but maybe I am just not looking for those statements, because they mean nothing to me.
Also, even as I work in online marketing, I would be kind of afraid of putting my foot in by sheer cultural ignorance. For example, I would not have recognized that “slave costume”, even though I consider myself well educated, culturally aware and even versed in a lot of US cultural via media consumption.
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Thanks for sharing! I do think it is really interesting how the actions of companies and brands are perceived differently in different places. I also very much understand and agree with the idea of not capitalizing on human rights issues, and the perception of how doing this only at the height of a social movement looks when little actual work is being done in that direction by a company. As much as the response this week has been noted by many people in the sewing community, I think it really will be observing what these brands do moving forward that will give a clearer picture of brand priorities.
Oh my goodness, it’s your blog. You should fill it or not fill it with whatever information you want to. I never understand when people try to tell people what to discuss on their blogs or youtube videos or whatevers. Your blog = your choice. As individuals we also have a choice to read or follow or not. Personally I read blogs for distraction from world events and entertainment and discussion of hobbies I enjoy. I don’t follow or read political blogs. I listen to the news all day and I am tired. I experienced the riots of the 60s and remember when women could only have certain jobs and wear certain clothes. I support all efforts to make people of all genders and races equal, but I also like a break from thinking about it sometimes. That’s why I read blogs. Not for particularly deep thinking. But I am certainly not criticizing you in any way. I have enjoyed your reviews of pattern releases. I will miss them, but that’s on me not you. You must do what makes you feel easiest within yourself. I will scan your posts for items that interest me and read or not. Your writing has always been enjoyable and entertaining. I hope you are well and stay well.
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…I am so sad, but you should take a pause whenever feels right for you. I do agree with others though that institutions are not individuals. A few additional comments that I had though. 1. I am extremely skeptical of all the companies that are just sending me emails stating they’ll do better without any outline as to what is going to be changed. For better or for worse, the speed of response to societal issues depends on the company’s market base, but thus far, out of all my emails, I think I’ve only seen one email with commitment to a plan. 2. Our generation has a tendency to completely walk away from something when we perceive it to be broken. But I think in a lot of cases, we can shape it and fix it. While you may justifiably put your subscription to the big 4 and Burda on hold, in the meantime, shouldn’t you as an influencer, point out what these companies should do better to address racism in the fashion industry? Not just hiring more diverse populations, but specifics that we see when we see their work products month after month?
Was pondering this further. Remember the Nov 2019 Burda Style mag? Everyone loved it because we saw an older woman being represented in gorgeous, sophisticated outfits. I think there’d be so much value added if that continued, in addition to diverse populations being represented…and also not forgetting about other groups such as people with disabilities and LGBTQ. (I’d love if we had patterns specific for people with different physical disabilities for example…I get so frustrated trying to find easy to wear (and beautiful) patterns for my grandmother who can’t move on her own). While diversity is clearly not the mission of the big 4, I really think they’d benefit from it…their patterns are not as good as they could be. There’s also so many up and coming designers in NYC, they really have no excuse in not trying to find them and showing the world their talent, considering the big 4 HQ is there.
Which stream of consciousness leads me this point-I think you should put together some type of manifesto (a real one) that details the exact changes the sewing pattern design companies should implement (perhaps also after getting input from others to get as many thoughts on this as possible?) .You’re detailed, thoughtful, and could help all sewing pattern companies do better…and you have support here too. 😉
I always anticipate your pattern posts but I fully support your decision. I’ll still be here for your sewing content too.
Any company that is such a behemoth that it can’t respond appropriately to the cultural and societal changes being rightly demanded at the moment has very big problems. There is always one person at the top who can take a decision.
I’m in the UK and there are protests and riots, but this seems to be more clashes between Black Lives Matters and the far right, with the main focus being demands on the Government for change, not individual organisations.
I’ve also considered what to do with my existing collection of patterns. Maybe the way forwards is to use them but not tag them in Social Media as suggested by @minimalistmachinist.
The quickest way to get companies inside is surely to hit them in their profit margins!
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I hope my post didn’t give the wrong impression – the largest issues in the US are definitely focused towards police brutality, mass incarceration, and other governmental issues that perpetuate systemic racism. However, in the context of these larger issues, the sewing/crafting community is also taking a hard look at itself and resulting in the events I detailed in my post. I wouldn’t say that the movement is primarily geared towards individual organizations, but I would also say that it doesn’t exclude them either. Everyone is questioning everything right now, but since this is a sewing blog I focused on that tiny piece of the larger societal context.
I think that the whole not tagging/promoting things in social media might be a good place to start. I might also focus on sewing with my older (OOP/hard to get) patterns because then I can use what I have while not promoting new pattern purchases for a while. I’m too entrenched in academia to not cite my sources (ie, if I make something I will at least state the pattern in a review post), but I think the promotion of the pattern will maybe be less of a focus of my writing and sharing.
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@Eleanor, you should have a look at Rad Patterns — they have some inclusive patterns for differently-abled bodies.
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I think we all benefit so much from embracing diversity and learning from each other – it’s so true that these pattern companies could do much to improve their product if they utilized their access to new, diverse designers. The November Burda was a great step forward for the magazine in terms of diversity and I think everyone loved seeing that feature, but sadly they don’t seem to have done much to go forward since then.
As far as writing a manifesto… I don’t think I’m really at that point yet (I’m still considering all of the events of last week!), and I think I still need to consider and solidify my own actions moving forward. More importantly, I think this is maybe the appropriate point at which I need to sit down and listen to the makers who have been most impacted by all of this. While I would be more than happy to support Black Makers Matter or the Sewcialists in any sort of efforts they want to put forth, I also realize that this is where I need to listen to what they’ve been missing and support them in their requests for companies to do better rather than shout over their voices in creating my own list of desires of what I’d want to see.
Your blog so you get to decide what you write about. I love your writing style and really appreciate the depth and quality of your research. I love your pattern review posts and will miss them.
I’d be truly upset if you ceased blogging all together. Hoping (guessing) that won’t happen.
Possibly you could consider doing a review of a single small company – like all the Grainline designs, or all the Muna & Broad designs. Compare their output across several years and where they fit into general fashion trends.
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That could be really interesting! I’m not done blogging, just going to change the focus of what I write about for now. It doesn’t mean I might not go back to doing pattern release reviews if I feel that they make the sort of changes I can get behind, but right now it feels really insensitive to keep on with business as usual here on the blog given everything that has happened. It’s a pause for now, but I will definitely be watching what happens moving forward.
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Thank you for your post. I also would not have identified the “cosplay” item, but I am from Australia (and we have a whole issue with treatment of BIPOC here too).
Will continue to read your work if you choose to post it. I truly hope that companies take notice and make lasting change.
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Contrary to your initial thoughts, this could end up being your most popular post! First, thank you for taking the time to verbally walk through all the feelings many of us are having right now. I have so much anger and confusion but the words are not coming out. I had to laugh at your comments about corporate marketing – I briefly worked in communications at a large multinational corporation and between the endless levels of approval and the ping pong between marketing and legal, it was a miracle anything ever got published. The response/lack of from sewing related companies has been horrifying, but has also given everyone clear insight into just how utterly clueless the gigantic, long-established corporations really are. This is sort of like hitting bottom, which is where you have to be if you’re going to start to make a change.
I will miss your pattern posts like I miss the days of actual good patterns that I liked and small local fabric stores with something other than quilt cottons and fleece. Times change. I look forward to reading anything you decide to post in the future, and if you take a break from the blog, that is very well deserved. Take good care of yourself! 🧡💛💚💙💜
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I miss the days of good patterns and local fabric stores too. I’ve been organizing some of my pattern stash and when I compare what Simplicity was producing even 2 years ago to what they’ve put out this year… I can’t help but think the brand is going to end up being Kwik Sew’d* before too long. But, I have to firmly believe that we can move forward to where we want to be and that this will be worth all of the change that it takes to get there.
*Kwik Sew’d is a term I have decided should be a verb for taking a pattern brand with practical or even fashionable options and turning it into a caricature of a stereotype of what a sewing pattern actually is.
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US reader here, watching the evolution of the sewing world with great interest. I’ll miss your pattern posts, but this is a good time for all of us to review and re- think the role our buying power, and our online presence (whether readers or writers) has. I’ll be watching the upcoming results of the Sewcialists’ meetings with great interest.
It’s very different here in the US where capitalism allows almost everything in the name of profit, but where consumers often expect a level,of social/ environmental/etc. reponsiveness.
What is done or not done by the Big Four and other corporate interests in the future will inform my buying habits ongoing. There was never any excuse for the marginalization of ethnicities, and the one thing the past few weeks have demonstrated is that the old days are GONE. We all need a decent and humane world to live in, and it’s now time to build that world with our minds, our hearts, and our wallets.
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Huzzah to that!
It’s interesting to see the dynamics and landscape change. I will miss your round ups, but mostly because I think your opinion on the patterns are interesting and I like your writing style 🙂 so I hope other blog posts will follow!
And I’m wholeheartedly behind your decision. Actually, I will take action and write to Burda about it. Because they might not notice me not buying their magazine, after all. But if enough people email them, maybe something will move the needle on their strategy.
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That’s a great idea! And I will definitely still keep blogging – just about some different things for a while.
Thank you for your monthly pattern reviews and thoroughly researched Kibbe posts. I have learned a great deal from reading your blog. I will miss your reviews of the pattern releases, however, your blog, your rules. Given that you no longer feel that you can continue, then of course you must stop.
Thank you also for pointing out the slave costume. As a Canadian of East European origin, I did not catch that.
I would like to chime in with another perspective on why European companies do not make political statements. Half of the European continent was under Soviet subjugation for over 40 years. Self-denunciation, forced confessions and political re-education were features of Stalinist-era communism imposed on the Slavic and Baltic countries and East Germany. The kinds of statements now being made by companies in the USA, to a European audience, sound eerily reminiscent.
The Slavic and Baltic countries see themselves very much as oppressed. The scars of 40 years of Soviet domination are not yet healed. Moreover, these countries suffered greatly under Nazi occupation and before that, some were historically victims of slavery when their young men were forcibly conscripted into the armies of the Ottoman empire. That is not to say that today a few of them do not have issues with discrimination against minorities—the Roma come to mind—however, the historical and cultural realities are very different from what you are experiencing in the USA.
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Thank you for sharing! It is really valuable to hear this perspective, and to put the actions of everyone in this sort of global cultural perspective. I find your explanation of the impact of Soviet subjugation really interesting, and it does make a lot of sense as to why certain companies would behave very differently from from a US brand.
Very thought-provoking. Like everyone else, I would really miss your reviews, but it is definitely a time for change, all across the board. Blogs like yours, I think, help in the change when you voice your opinions, and if (in the sewing arena) the big 4 wish to continue, they’d best change as well, and quick.
Someone mention that Burda magazine featuring the older model – I was definitely one of the people excited about that! Sadly, it didn’t continue for long… As someone of Danish heritage, and having family there and having visited many times, I am a bit surprised that one doesn’t see more inclusive “stuff” from there. Scandinavians are pretty open and accepting. But I don’t live there so what do I know.
As a Canadian (Quebec) though, I can tell you for a fact that racism is alive and kicking here no matter what Legault says, though it isn’t rampant. My sister-in-law is a person of color, and she has experience both misogyny and outright racism on several occasions.
I myself have, now that I think about it, not been as inclusive as I should be in my day job and will take the time to consider my decisions better from now on. We ALL have even a small part to play, and little choices are the foundations for big ones. Sewing is still important also, and may I selfishly say I hope Burda wises up and changes. I’ve no intention of throwing out my stash, but I might put a pause on my subscription until change happens. (sorry but I can’t say I care all that much about the big 4, apologies)
It looks like everyone supports whatever decisions you take, Doctor T! The idea of supporting the smaller, more inclusive companies from a previous post here, was a cool idea…
So sorry I posted so much.
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Don’t apologize for writing too much! I think an important part of this is having these sorts of conversations, which means thinking through things and figuring out how to express them. I really enjoying seeing the work you post to social media, and I think reflecting on that and considering how even what you as an individual has an impact is really important – it’s something I think we all need to be doing right now, and I really appreciate everyone who says they are going to work on understanding their own behaviors and work on change. While I must admit that the Big 4 have gotten quite dull lately, I also hope that Burda will make the sorts of changes it mentioned in Ruthie’s comment above. It was really exciting when they had the older model, and I think it gave us all hope that they were diversifying the image of their magazines, but it sadly hasn’t really gone anywhere since then. It’s the sort of thing I want to follow for a while and see if there is any movement in that direction.
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I’ll be honest, I had no idea what you had in mind with the “slave cosplay” comment. It’s something you would see if you’re looking to get offended. All I saw in that picture is a pretty girl in an ugly skirt. Should ugly skirts only be worn by white models? 🙂 Also, I sure hope Burda never opts to make any serious statements on race relations and police misconduct in the United States. They are not qualified to offer an opinion, and corporations in general might be better off not contributing to certain debates. I don’t want Kraft Foods to comment on LGBT issues, and I definitely don’t need my sewing pattern companies to offer (inevitably shallow and pro-forma) opinions on race.
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In regards to the sewing pattern from Simplicity, I did not write what I did because I was looking to get offended. That particular commentary was something that I noticed several Black makers posting on their Instagram stories the day the release came out, and I don’t want to minimize the hurt and outrage that this pattern’s image caused other members of the sewing community. I realize that it is because I can approach this from a place of privilege that it wasn’t as initially upsetting to me as it was to others, and this is something that I need to work on in myself. However, even if it is an ugly skirt that isn’t as overtly terrible as other patterns which rely on stereotyping that have been released in the past, I think it is a bit disingenuous to treat this as anything other than the microaggression that it really is.
Also, while reading all of my comments has given me much more to consider regarding the place of a brand to comment or not comment on social matters, at the end of the day it all really boils down to if and how they are giving representation to their audience. In the case of Simplicity, that representation is poor and hints at a time of enslavement and the difficult eras that followed it. In the case of Burda they just aren’t doing it in the first place. And if they aren’t representing their audience fairly, then I think it is well within the rights of that audience to question what exactly they are supporting with their money, and if that money might not be better spent elsewhere.
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Thank you for writing this. I check your blog often, but I’ve never posted. And I didn’t want my first post to be negative. But I think that a lot of people are putting on blinders about the power of images and what corporations can and cannot do.
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I waffled on posting, and now I’m so late probably nobody will see this. Maybe it is good, because everything I want to say starts with “But”…. Burda doesn’t even have a presence in the US, does it? It is a European company, and couldn’t even organize the distribution of its magazine to the U.S. for awhile there. It is perhaps a bit egocentric of Americans to expect the company to jump on major changes because of what is shaking up the population on this side of the pond. Encouraging diversity is a positive way to communicate with the company, but they are trying to satisfy users worldwide, not just North Americans. I would be more concerned about the diversity among their employees than anything.
I also wonder about the perception of the “Big 4”, because I don’t think they are as big as people think. This is not some massive industry with a huge number of consumers. Sewing is a niche market that has been further eroded by young sewers’ enthusiasm for independent pattern companies. The Big 4 have been consolidated, and with that comes less financial stability and fewer employees. So we can’t really complain about boring patterns or the good ol’ days of better drafting when we go crazy for an indie pattern for a basic button-up shirt or pajamas which has been in every pattern catalogue for decades, but lacked a catchy name and a social media presence. Anyway, my point is that the Big 4 are established names, but I’ve read that there are only around 100 employees. Again, positive encouragement for change is reasonable, but pattern companies are probably not the most stable industry around. It is great for those of us with big collections to sew without buying anything new, but supporting products you’d like to see around long-term is important.
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I’m a bit late in replying to your comment, but I think the perspective of the past few weeks has been good, and I do think you have some interesting points. While Burda is a European German-based company, they do have a US based website (https://www.burdastyle.com/). The US website used to be significantly different from the other international Burda sites, but was recently re-designed to be more in line with the rest of Burda’s branding and hasn’t really been updated since the re-design. So I agree that the US probably isn’t the primary market for Burda, and I also agree that we need to be cautious about putting a US-centric view on the behaviors of international brands (as I pondered in my original article). I’m conflicted because while I’ve not exactly turned a blind eye to Burda’s model choices, I also realize that Germany is not necessarily as diverse as the US. Additionally, Germany doesn’t really track that sort of national data either, so it’s hard to come out with a definitive statement on this since it isn’t as well documented as in the US (https://qz.com/1078032/can-germany-combat-inequality-when-it-has-no-data-on-race/). Regardless, greater diversity in their models and in their staff and design teams would undoubtedly make Burda a better publication. The response from the UK office to Ruthie gives me encouragement, so I’m definitely paying attention to what directions Burda takes in the future. But I’m still going to put a pause on my typical posts for a while. I need to take a bit of a mental break and take some time to assess how I feel and think about where my time is going and what I’m supporting with my posts. It also seems a bit trivial to go back to the same-old with everything else going on, and I feel that I want to put my time into something a bit more meaningful at the moment.
I will state that I have not cancelled my subscription (I’ve never had luck reaching the distributor by phone anyway), but I am giving thought to if I will want to renew when it is up. The US distribution issue (with the closing of GLP News) is a separate issue to everything else going on, as I believe GLP was an independent company that only distributed German media and magazines in the US. Their closing left things a bit wild in the US for a while in terms of magazine distribution, but most things are running smoothly at this point. And I will definitely still sew with Burda (I have a massive stash that’s not going anywhere), but I also want to take a step back from constantly promoting new products and focusing so much on just the consumeristic side of sewing (and maybe get back to posting more about actual sewing).
The Big 4 is a bit of a different issue because they did attempt to directly address things going on during the height of the protests, and they botched it badly. I think the posts made by Black Makers and Makers of Color during the past few weeks, along with the information in Episode 39 of Clothes Making Mavens (http://www.clothesmakingmavens.com/episode-39-whats-happened-to-the-big-4-pattern-companies/) has provided interesting perspective on the developments inside the Big 4, which have a new parent company that is essentially focused on making paper products. I’m aware that the Big 4 aren’t that large of a company, and I do agree with many of your points about the direction the sewing pattern companies are headed and understanding why there would be a push to move towards simpler pattern that are mimicking what is popular in the indie scene. But I also think there used to be more of a divide between indie vs. Big 4 sewists for that reason, and that the new direction of the Big 4 to try and interest the new/younger sewing market is actually losing them the customers who bought their patterns in the past because of the details or complexities that weren’t available with the indie brands at the time. The reality is the market is changing and that consumers are clearly willing to spend more on patterns if they feel that they are getting value from that purchase; either be it from the drafting, instructions, or desire to support a small or indie brand that aligns with their personal ideals. In regards to the Big 4, I know that the Black Makers Matter group and Mimi G. were both slated to have discussions with the company regarding how they handled their social media posts and what they would like to see from the brands moving forward. As far as I know, we have yet to hear anything from those meetings, but I am planning to see what comes from it in the near future. I think now is a time to sit and listen to what others have to say (aside from their temporary boycott of Jo-Ann, Hobby Lobby, and Michaels), which again is part of why I want to pause my typical posts for a while. I agree that we should be supporting industries that we want to survive (especially right now), but I also think that I need to take some time to consider what exactly I’m supporting and if that support couldn’t better be used elsewhere (which, right now, I think it really could). I’ve basically come to a point where I’ve had to acknowledge my finite resources of time and energy, and I think that this is also a good time for me to take a pause from what I’ve been doing for the past decade and really look at how I want to spend my time moving forward.
Why are you and other throwing out history? We can support the present and the future while respecting the hard work of pattern and fabric designers of the past. I am very turned over by how some people model their clothes. A bit too much for my taste. Many people want a hand out and hand up for nothing. I will not visiting this blog again. I will buy where ever I can find what I need. Please don’t forget all the people who walked through Ellis Island and suffered.
Since you won’t be returning to this blog I’m not entirely sure why I’m taking the time to reply to this comment but there are a few aspects to your comment that I feel I should address:
(1) My decision to not write blog posts discussing the latest pattern releases has nothing to do with throwing out history. It’s not like I’m ignoring the fact that these brands ever existed or even going to throw out my current collection of patterns that I have from these brands. I’m just taking a break from the sorts of review posts I typically write because I’m more concerned about causing harm by ignoring recent events and proceeding as though nothing has happened than I am by taking a break, seeing how things move forward from here, and writing about other things in the meantime. Oddly, I’ve become even more interested in textile and garment history in recent months, and I’d argue that I’m actually more interested in history now that I would have considered myself to be several months ago.
(2) I agree that we can respect garment designers of the past, but I think the point is that we should also be cognizant of the world events that made those styles prominent or even possible. I also don’t think that is really relevant to the discussion we are having now, which is more about the fact that these brands have undergone several changes of ownership in the past few years, which have essentially changed their direction from what I would have said it was even 2 or 3 years ago. When things change it doesn’t mean that we can’t admire what was built in the past, but it also doesn’t mean we have to continue to be loyal if the changes are going in a direction we don’t agree with.
(3) I’m not exactly sure what you are talking about with how people model their clothes? If it is just a matter of how people are photographing themselves then don’t follow those accounts?
(4) I’ve never personally taken money to promote or sponsor anything on this blog, and the people I’ve mentioned in this post are, like me, mainly hobbyists who actually purchase the products in question. I don’t think any of us are asking for handouts, but we are trying to be more conscious of the brands and products we are promoting and supporting with our money. The few people I’ve mentioned who have working relationships with these brands are pattern designers and should be paid for their work. They aren’t getting a handout; they are doing a job and they should be getting paid for it.
(5) I don’t really care if you don’t visit this blog in the future. Again, as a hobbyist, I put my own money into maintaining this blog for my own enjoyment. I don’t get any money from views or ad sales, and I actually spend money to remove ads from this blog because it’s what I’ve chosen to do. For me it was more about participating in the online sewing community, so I’m really not here for the page views.
(6) Of course you can buy things from wherever you want. The fact that I am supporting the Black Makers Matter movement in their 3 month boycott of Jo-Ann, Michaels, and Hobby Lobby is my choice because I want to support the statement they are trying to make, and my linking to a spreadsheet of businesses they want to amplify is just me providing a resource list to others who read this blog and may be interested in doing the same. It is of course your prerogative to behave differently, and I am aware that not all businesses ship everywhere and that not everyone has access to the same resources.
(7) As someone who had ancestors come through Ellis Island at a time when their country of origin would have not made them very popular, it’s not a part of US history that I am likely to forget. However, the suffering at Ellis Island is an entirely different conversation that what is happening with Black Lives Matter and Black Makers Matter today. In one case you had a group of people who chose to come here and while they suffered bigotry upon their initial arrival, they were not hindered by their appearance as they were able to advance in society in future generations. In the other case you have people who’s ancestors were brought here against their will, were forced into enslavement, and have been hindered in all areas of society even when they were given their “freedom.” Accepting the hardships of one group throughout history does not erase the hardships of other groups. But when we look at modern society, it’s very clear that certain groups are still facing the issues of systemic racism while others have largely overcome the hardships that were present when they or their ancestors originally came to this country. Unless you are talking about James McCall (a Scottish immigrant who was one of the founders of McCall Magazine), I’m not really sure why this statement was a part of your comment. But to round back to my first point, all of the major US pattern brands have changed ownership several times in the past few years, so while this company bears the same name, it really is nothing like the pattern company of yore. Again, it goes back to the fact that I can appreciate the history of this hobby without feeling the need to post and promote modern releases at a time when I feel that sort of effort isn’t necessarily warranted or might cause harm to the wellbeing of others.