Blink Twice for No

Writing reviews for new pattern releases used to be one of my favorite parts of posting to this blog. I know a lot of people would read specifically because of those reviews, but at a certain point it got to be too much for me. It was a combination of several things; burnout, for sure, but also a reconsideration of who and what gets promoted in the sewing space, and what I want to be promoting on my blog. Plus, with everything else going on in 2020, looking at pattern releases really wasn’t a priority. I haven’t written about the regular pattern releases in over a year now, and I have to admit I really don’t miss it. I’d like to say that I’ve missed out on talking about a lot of interesting patterns, but, honestly, I haven’t. I still follow the brands out of curiosity, and I’ve taken a look at a lot of the new releases, but I really don’t feel inspired by the pattern companies like I used to. I know the pandemic has shaken up a lot of industries, and I’m sure the pattern making industry is no different, but it after taking a break from this line of thinking over the last several months (and piquing my interest in the paper pattern industry by reading about its history), I think it might be worth pondering the state of some of the Big Name pattern brands and considering the pattern landscape as things seem to be attempting to approach some sort of a “new normal”.

The Big4

Based on information on the social medias, it appears that Mimi G. has been hired as VP for Design and Patterns for the Big4. With Mimi G’s line for Simplicity, I have to say there are some patterns that I love and some that are definitely not for me. And that’s cool, because there need to be things for other people too! But regardless of if it’s a pattern I love or not, I’m always at least intrigued by what she releases, and the styling at least generally looks like things people would wear. That’s more than I can say for much of the Big4; honestly, there has been very little released over the past year (with a few notable exceptions) that I’ve even been remotely excited about. There have been a few cool Vogue patterns, one or two McCall’s patterns of note, and the Inauguration Knock OffTM looks from Butterick, but not a whole lot else to get excited about. Simplicity and New Look have been unforgivably boring, though there are some possibly interesting patterns with their latest release. Even if these brands head in a direction I’m not personally interested in, I’m still hoping that Mimi G can help breathe some new life into these lines. At the very least being not so terribly boring would be a good start. But expanded size ranges, a wider selection of styles, and considerations for updated instructions wouldn’t be bad either. Regardless, it should be interesting to see what happens, and if the Big4 can turn things around before the remainder of their lines goes the way of Kwik Sew (which had a buy 5 get 5 free, with everything for $2 sale recently; coupled with the lack of new releases, my bets are are that this brand name won’t be a part of the sewing landscape for much longer). Regardless, one can at least hope that the “Something Delightful” website name might change at some point, though I expect that might be too much to ask for.

Burda

As far as pattern magazines go, I just have to ask – Burda, are you ok? The magazine has done a nice job of styling in the past few issues (some of the photography in the October issue is just stunning), but I’m pretty sure the past several months they have been re-printing (with slight modification) a majority of their magazine patterns. I’d gotten used to seeing reprints between the magazines and the envelope patterns, the regular monthly issues and the special Burda Plus or Burda Easy editions, some styles being graded up or down, and even the special vintage reprint patterns making their way to several different formats. But I can’t remember a time where nearly every pattern of note in the regular monthly issue was a reprint from a former monthly issue, and apparently I’m not the only one. I don’t want to take the time to go through every pattern, but here’s a quasi-comparison of some of the more obvious reprints:

I do understand that with the pandemic, there have been a lot of disruptions. Notably, the paper quality in the magazines has dropped dramatically. It’s hard to say if this has more to do with cutting costs or supply chain issues, but regardless it’s a bit sad to see really vibrant photography on such dim paper. It’s hard to know if the issues of the pandemic have also impacted the ability to draft new patterns. I’m sort of willing to hope that Burda has just had a lot of delays and issues regarding creating new patterns, but if this trend of reprints continues well into 2022, I’m going to start to be really concerned. As a tangential point of interest, I did a bit of investigation to see if it looked like Burda was having any sort of major employment turnover, and it does appear they are hiring for the Burda International financial department. At least they seem to be doing well enough to be hiring? It’s a situation to continue monitoring though; I’m sure there will be more to say on this matter as we start to get more magazines and patterns as data points.

Patrones

As a complete contrast to this, somehow Patrones seems to be making the best of things? I have to admit I actually really enjoy their phone app – you can preview the line drawings before buying an issue, it’s easy to purchase, quick to download, the photos are gorgeous and zoom-in-able, I don’t have to worry about water damage to the pattern sheets as it travels halfway around the world. And it’s only $4 for 40 patterns (which is significantly less than the $15-20 I paid for print issues to be shipped to me). Plus, you get the full Pattern Magazine ExperienceTM because they still use overlapping pattern pieces on the PDF printouts. No matter how big your garment is, you only need to print and tape 9 pieces of paper together. But you don’t have to deal with the overlap of 5 other pattern’s pieces, just the one you want to sew. It’s really the best (or worst?) of both worlds; you still have to do minimal PDF taping and you have to trace, but the taping is significantly reduced and the tracing is significantly easier. So if you, like me, really hate taping PDFs because *gag*, I can confirm it’s not so bad. And if you hate tracing patterns because of all the crazy overlapping lines and colors, it is much, much easier where there’s only one pattern of overlapping lines and colors. Anyway, I have to say that I think Patrones went digital at the right time, and I have to admit that their recent patterns have been pretty fantastic.

Other Magazine Brands

I’m not much of a Knipmode connoisseur, but I have a few issues from back when my sister was able to do study abroad in Europe. Things may have changed, but I’ve never found it easy to get ahold of copies of this magazine in the US, and I certainly don’t have the encyclopedic knowledge of this publication in the same way I do for Burda, which I’ve followed in-depth since 2011. Interestingly, Knipmode seems to be showcased as “Burda Extra” editions on both the Russian Burda site and the German site (listed as “Burda Fashion Style“). I’m not sure what this means for the future of the brand long term, especially if it has the Burda quasi-re-branding, but I at least appreciate that it’s a lot easier to see the patterns in the magazines now that they are on the Burda websites. It’s also interesting to note that both magazines have utilized the same fabric; though it’s hard to know if this is intentional or accidental. I can’t really compare if Knipmode has been re-printing patterns the same way that Burda has, but if anyone else knows it would be great if you could share in the comments!

My Image Magazine is another publication I have followed since it started, but I have to admit, I’m sort of over the designs. I don’t think anything really comes close to what they produced back in the early 2010s, and I’m finding everything now a bit too basic for me to want to add it to my collection. I think that it’s a fantastic value for the cost to pattern ratio, but I only need so many basic top patterns at this point.

This isn’t so much of a health check up, but just a side note of RIP Manequim. It was challenging to get ahold of the Brazilian fashion magazine, but they had a fantastic sense of style that none of the other magazine brands even comes close to replicating. I didn’t buy many issues because of the cost, but I am really happy with the few I have managed to get ahold of via EBay.

Indie Brands

My take on the Indie pattern landscape is also probably not so observant since I wasn’t that into indie brands pre-pandemic. I haven’t heard of any of the major brands shutting down, and most seem to be producing new styles or updated size ranges without too much disruption during the pandemic. Granted, these brands do tend work at a slower pace than the Big4 or Burda. In general, collections are typically smaller, or more spaced out, or one new pattern is released at a time to a certain amount of fanfare. Although I’m sure some of the larger indie brands have larger teams working for them, even those companies (like Jalie, for example) have been producing new patterns lately. Perhaps one benefit for many of these smaller businesses is that the shift to “work from home” wasn’t much of a shift at all.

Conclusions

Overall the status of the paper pattern industry feels very in flux right now. Of course, I think the pandemic has had a massive impact on fashion in general, and I’m sure we are seeing some of the effect of that in the paper pattern industry. It was not uncommon that many of the designs were typically inspired by styles that were popular in the mainstream, were showcased on runways, or had some sort of celebrity influence. But with the world largely in a holding pattern, 2020 didn’t really provide a lot of inspiration, and 2021 has really felt like this weird extension of 2020. It should be very interesting to see how things progress into 2022 though. Of course, the current state of the pandemic won’t magically change with the calendar, and 2021 has been sort of a weird year all around, and probably is a very transitional year for a lot of companies deciding how to move forward from the pandemic. Regardless, things definitely feel like they are changing in this industry, and it should be interesting to see how things progress over the next year.


29 thoughts on “Blink Twice for No

  1. What a great post! I’m also getting worried about Burda – it’s not so much the reprinting I mind, because at least they’ve remade the samples and done new photography, so the patterns seem like new ones to me. The paper is definitely worse than it was. But recently I just don’t want to sew anything from the magazine. I’m now getting my pattern inspiration from vintage designer Vogues off eBay and my collection of Vogue patterns from the early tens. Even Style Arc’s new releases aren’t doing it for me these days. Perhaps it’s less about the pattern companies and more because fashion is going through a really bad patch for me: I wore all the 90s stuff first time around whether it suited me or not, and it just makes me cringe now. So I’ll be over here in my corner making up out of print Vogues until the fashion cycle moves on. I will definitely check out Patrones though 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, same! I do love some of the new Burda re-creations, but they are the same ones I loved the first time around, and I’m still more inspired by the originals and all of their details. In general everything just feels like I’ve seen it before and there’s not a lot that is really inspiring in the latest patterns.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I wonder how much of the blahs is all the looking at things through screens. I’m longing to be able to go to a museum again and see a fashion exhibition. I live in a town that’s not exactly known for its street style, and I haven’t visited anywhere good for people watching since before covid.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s quite probably a mix of things. Like, what’s the point if we never go anywhere or do anything? But also how do you get inspired if everything feels the same all the time? If everything is Digital, nothing feels really different or interesting or inspiring because it all seems very flat.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for the detailed comparison of Burda repeats. I had subscription from 4/2010 to 4/2019. Cancelled partly because of access to reasonably priced individual patterns vs expensive magazine (AU$20/issue) with only one or two patterns per issue I would want to make; plus extreme difficulty just communicating with Burda to arrange subscription renewal. Got out just before company changed hands and when dust settled cost had doubled or more. Recognised repeat of handful of patterns in latest issue that I had taken particular note of first time round, but hadn’t bothered to look up mm/yyyy # to confirm. Thankyou for saving me the trouble.
    I love my Burda patterns, both the drafting and the fact I know exactly the adjustments I need to make for a good fit, but I have not regretted letting my magazine subscription lapse.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I did a couple of round-ups of the repeats on my blog in October and September based on the discussions on the Russian Burda site, but November is so dismal that I can’t even summon up the energy for another round up. Even if none of them are repeats, they are still boring. I probably have all the patterns I need, to be honest, and pattern magazines and designers are not the only source of inspiration for me. So even if they all stopped making new patterns, I’d probably get on okay.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. This is a really interesting post!
    I’ve actually quite liked some of the McCalls patterns released recently. They’ve been fitted, youthful and not too boring. However, looking back I realise that part of the reason that I’ve liked them is because the Indies, which is where I usually look at first, have been quite boring and staid (and in some cases frumpy). I feel like I’ve been conditioned to think that a fitted waist seam is a feat of pattern drafting.
    There is a niche growing of smaller companies like vikisews coming up. Interesting drafting, striking silhouettes, cheap but with badly translated minimal instructions (if any at all) which is pretty interesting. I’ll definitely be sewing some patterns like these soon!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Interesting post! I think we see burda low right now due to the production being a year ahead, hopefully it will improve for next year 🙂 I really like the latest ottobre woman, feels very cohesive and wearable, and if I were to make a wish to pattern brands is to think more about actual layering and wardrobe use.. especially now, I can’t be the only one with one half of the wardrobe pristine and unworn and the other a tattered mess..

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Yes! And that’s another thing I like about Patrones – almost everything in the magazine has a pattern and they are showcasing them as outfits. I don’t think the draft is *as* good as Burda, but I also have Burda magazines back to 2000 (plus a few actual vintage issues I snagged from the internet) and the trend has definitely moved from outfits to individual pieces. I also really miss their styling sections that would either show variations on a pattern or how to style a pattern 3 ways or show how to style a pattern with other Burda pieces. I always got very inspired from those.

        Liked by 2 people

  7. Very interesting overview, thank you!
    I hadn’t noticed the pattern reprints in Burda, but was going to cancel my subscription simply because I’ve noticed I don’t need fifty versions of the same ten basic shapes (especially as I usually know I need to make changes to have it really fit me, anyways). And I just never understood how they’re fundamentally selling patterns but focus the whole magazine on every other aspect of “fashion”, ie fabric and colors and trends and runways and accessories and makeup and just lots and lots of product placement. I know they have to finance this somehow, but that doesn’t feel right to me.
    On the topic of the bad quality paper: that is a problem across all publishing! Several Chinese paper factories recently shut down (good thing because of environmental reasons) plus a lot of paper mash gets turned into those replacement products for formerly plastic things (like takeaway containers, cutlery, straws etc). So paper has exploded in price. Plus, of course, all the supply chain problems because of lockdowns + brexit + Suez canal, which has container shipping prices going up almost tenfold! (I’d heard a lot of problems from friendly booksellers, then read this article: https://www.vox.com/platform/amp/culture/22687960/book-shortage-paper-ink-printing-labor-explained)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for sharing the info! I know a few book sellers and writers I follow have talked about it, but I haven’t had a chance to look into it in depth. I will definitely read through the article link!

      Like

  8. Thanks for the comprehensive review. Everything everyone said above. I like Ottobre and have had a subscription fir a number of years and what I like is that everything pictured is available as a pattern. I often like the top and bottom in Burda but only one is a pattern and they annoys me. I picked up a Patrones when I was in Europe just before the pandemic and they have all the patterns and their draft height is shorter and suits me but I haven’t made anything yet. I’ve been using my vintage pattern that fit me so much better. I don’t do indie at all as I think most are repeats of basic stuff that my vintage collection comes up with but if there was a really different complex, pattern design I may buy it. Basics patterns that are $20 US that I have to print, tape, trace and then try and use seems like a bad joke. There is nearly nothing new. I think the Big 4 need to write new instructions fir a lot of their stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I gave up on the big 4 decades ago, because of the deplorable fit, so seeing them crash and burn is just a big yawn. I sadly haven’t felt excited by Burda since they lost Anna. The new Patrones model is interesting, but personally moot because of their limited sizes. Basically I am only interested in the indies at this point. And if you think they are limited, let me recommend you check out the https://thefoldline.com/ which is doing a stellar job of keeping up with that field

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I can give some context to Knipmode/Burda: Knipmode is from the Netherlands and there was a German version of it called “Fashion Style” (the worst name to google on the internet), published by a small German company called OZ-Verlag. It went bankrupt in spring 2020, but the publication of the German Knipmode version has been taken over by Burda. It’s still called “Fashion Style” and sold on the German burdastyle.de site, as a magazine and also as separate PDF patterns (https://www.burdastyle.de/shop/ausgaben/fashion-style). I’ve made some Knipmode and Fashion Style patterns in the past, but as with other companies, their styles have been somewhat lackluster lately. I also find the current pattern landscape somewhat uninspiring with a lot of baggy shapes that aren’t just doing it for me, haven’t bought anything in a while and just go back to my existing pattern collection.
    Thanks as always for your detailed posts, I’ve been following your blog for a couple of years and have always enjoyed your writing and reflections.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah! Thanks for the insight; I was aware ok Knipmode coming from the Netherlands, but I was missing how they got connected to Burda. Very helpful to understand how things got the way they are.

      Like

  11. Totally agree with you about Burda. I have noticed even more reprints of old patterns and many of the 2021 and 2020 patterns are exactly the same as some of the older 2000s and 1990s patterns as in EXACTLY the same. OK so these older issues are not online but people like me who buy old issues via Ebay will often have these. Also agree about My Image. I never got into them at the start, but all recent issues I have looked at have been uninspiring. I think once someone has collected a reasonable number of patterns they no longer need most of what My Image is printing but if you were just starting out then these could be very useful to get a good collection together in a short space of time. They have some good offers on multiple buys of magazines.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. A very interesting piece, Dr.T. I’m certainly not contributing to the health of the pattern industry as much as I used to. In my personal progress I’ve gone from being a pattern nerd, and buying everything I liked the look of, to having a set of personal blocks and doing my own hacking. Things have progressed so far that I’ve recently considered not following up on pattern releases any more. This has happened partly because I have many non-average body features, so it is much less trouble to make my own pattern than to make all the changes needed to someone else’s. And partly because I’ve done a lot of work on finding ‘my style’, so I just don’t get tempted by ‘wrong for me’ patterns any more ! Also I’ve learned more about pattern making, so I less often want to buy a pattern just to find out how it works 😀
    You’re commenting on repetition by the Big 4. My big difficulty with indie designers is similar. They are showing slight variations on the same shape – how many patterns does one need for a kimono jacket, cut-on sleeve top, shift dress, elastic-waist pants, tee, joggers. . . They’re either depending on customers who find it restful to stay with the same designer, or they need to be sure that their pattern offers something different.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, I am also finding the same in terms of self-drafting patterns. I drafted my first ever pants block and OMG I should have been using this so much sooner. I think combining my existing blocks with designs from my own pattern collection has just opened the door to so much better fitting items with so much less work…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes – I recently used a bendy ruler to copy my crotch curve, following instructions from Joyful Expressions, and ***eureka*** my pant fit problems were at an end 😀 The same thing won’t work for everyone, but it is exciting and changes your sewing landscape, when one eventually stumbles across the right solutions.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Following a similar evolution here. I used to love your seasonal pattern reviews, it was great to know where to find a specific look 😁. But if my older/fatter fitting problems mean I have to make a block for every basic shape, the hard part is done. I am perfectly capable of adding the few design details that catch my eye.
      The plus of indie patterns is that they are a lot more opinionated about their blocks, and if you can find a couple brands that draft to something approximating your shape you’ll have a decent set of basics ready to adapt for yourself with minimal effort. After I found the few lists that specify things like height and cup size, I quickly narrowed in on my current favorites, which are a lot better than either rtw or the big4.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. I love Burda patterns, they fit me better than any of the Big 4, but seeing the reprints you’ve posted is pushing me more to cancel my subscription, at least for a while. There is always at least one pattern I really want to sew, but my sewing time has diminished drastically over the past two years, and will stay that way for at least another year. My sewing mojo dropped as well, and that makes me SO sad. Even if I’m not super good at sewing, I still liked it for so many years. Maybe the whole covid thing, I dunno. Hopefully it’ll come back this winter.
    I tried the Ottobre magazine – got two of those – they do seem interesting. I’d love to try Patrones, but it is impossible for me to get.
    Your posts were, and still are, something I continually look forward to reading. Yes I miss the pattern reviews, but all your posts are interesting. Really like the “where are they now” looks at patterns you’ve done.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I’ve noticed over the last few issues how many patterns are repeats. I wouldn’t have thought that the pattern lead time is as long as a year I assumed they took the lead from the designer runway shows that are about 6-7 months in advance, at least before the pandemic. The only other pattern magazine I’m familiar with is Ottobre – I haven’t mastered their very different draft in the upper body/ sleeve.
    A Burda and Ottobre offspring would be my ideal – the consistent draft of Burda and easier to trace sheets with some high fashion coats and dresses mixed with the no-nonsense, basic designs of Ottobre in a wide size range for all designs with their usually easy to follow yet concise instructions.
    I don’t need a pattern magazine every month though I enjoy the fashion aspect of Burda. A good mix of simple basic tops and bottoms with a few more detailed coats, dresses and skirts every 3 months like a seasonal release would be perfect. There is only so much I can sew and “need” in my wardrobe.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Check out La Mia Boutique. https://web.lamiaboutique.net/ I used to pick it up at Around the World magazine shop in NYC when I traveled there for work a couple of times a year. Now that I’m not traveling and that shop has closed, I had no idea how to find it. Then I discovered that it really is quite easy to order issues off their website, and I recently ordered a stack of back issues when they had a sale.

    They tend to have fashion-forward and party clothes (not exactly what I’m wearing!), but in the last year, going through the few issues I had, I was struck by the number of men’s patterns they include (now sewing for my sons!), as well as some great designs that I now see potential in. I’ve now chosen several patterns out of the new batch of magazines which should be interesting challenges, and which I can make in fabrics that will suit my current life.

    So consider La Mia Boutique as another resource for interesting patterns.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. Very revealing, thank you. As a fairly new Burda subscriber I feel a bit cheated that so many patterns are rehashes! Going just by the blogs I read and the people I follow on Instagram, I think the indies might be the only pattern companies thriving right now – they do well out of newer sewists, and there have been lots of those during the pandemic. Off to look up new-to-me Patrones – thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I actually just subscribed to Burda magazine — early Xmas present from SO! I was relying on Etsy and eBay for old issues, but people seem less willing to part with them these days because the good issues are nowhere to be found! I’m actually only planning to subscribe for a year because that will give me plenty of patterns to choose from. 😉

    I’ve also been buying a lot of OOP Big 4 patterns on Etsy — so many of the good patterns are now out of print. If you look at the line drawings, and not the doofy cover styling, there are many hidden treasures to find.

    Liked by 1 person

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