Every year there are more and more indie sewing pattern companies popping up – which is great because the big four pattern companies definitely need some competition and a bit of a shake up! Sewing has become trendy again – a lot more young people are taking it up as a hobby, and the patterns available are slowly reflecting this with more modern styles coming through and making up-to-date handmade clothing accessible for everyone. Homemade clothing used to mean very modest frumpy clothes made by your grandma, or a cringey knitted jumper (Christmas theme optional).
Nowadays though, you can make stuff that looks like it’s fresh out of a high street store (and better made, too). I love discovering new pattern labels, and Republique Du Chiffon – although not a new company – have recently made it on to my sewing table.
I bought a batch of their patterns a while back, as I really liked several of their designs. I’ve now made the Charlotte Skirt (not pictured here, but will be hitting the blog in a couple of weeks!) and the Suzon shirt… I also have the Gerard coat already cut from some awesome Stoff and Still tapestry fabric which will hopefully be finished off soon (because it’s defo cold enough for it) and I have all the fabric for the Jolaine shirt. Too many projects too little time…
Whilst the big four pattern companies have a huge range of designs that just can’t be rivalled, and they are often available at discounted prices, I find that on the whole they are not so modern, or appealing to us millennial sewists (there are some exceptions though, I’m not tarring ALL their patterns with the same brush). I feel like they aren’t really aimed at a young, city-dwelling-edgy-fashionista crowd, more the ‘mom brigade’… and the pictures on the pattern envelopes and websites don’t really do much to persuade you otherwise. You do, of course, have to look past the stylings on the envelope – after all the fit, fabric and styling will change the way it looks quite dramatically, but these pictures are hardly inspiring to someone in their 20’s or 30’s that wants to start sewing.
I mean, look at these… Republique Du Chiffon and Named Patterns photos compared to the sad-face-inducing Kwik Sew one at the bottom:
REPUBLIQUE DU CHIFFON
KWIK SEW 🙁 🙁 🙁
The indie companies like Sew Over It, Deer and Doe and Named are all appealing to the next generation of sewists, with their modern patterns and fresh photos. People can look at the pattern photos and think YES, I want to make something like THAT. They don’t need to look past the dodgy 90’s catalogue pictures to envision what their finished item will look like on someone their age – they can already see it and that’s what sparks the flame and gets the needle to the fabric. Their photos of the finished items wouldn’t look out of place on today’s RTW websites, and that’s what will get people making.
unfortunately, the indie patterns are more expensive than the ones from the big companies but on the whole the packaging is a bit nicer and the instructions are written more for the modern sewist, and are easier to understand. To compare printed pattern prices, Named Patterns are EUR19, Deer and Doe EUR14 and Republique du Chiffon EUR16. Kwik Sew/Butterick you can pick up for around £5 here in the UK. We don’t get the equivalent of the dollar sales that the US get, patterns here in the EU are pretty expensive.
Despite the cost, I would always rather pay out for the paper pattern over the pdf, unless I have no choice – this was the case with the RDC Charlotte Skirt (available as pdf only for some reason, but I *really* wanted it so just bought it). The indie patterns are usually printed on nice white paper rather than tissue paper though – I mean, whose idea was it to print on flimsy tissue paper?? It’s a nightmare to see the lines and symbols on it when you’re tracing it, and it rips and creases SO easily. Sometimes with the indies the pattern pieces overlap on the paper (but not as bad as some of the Burda magazine patterns that I’ve seen!) which can be a bit of a faff and it can resemble a Where’s Wally trying to find the small pieces amongst the mass of lines… but it’s bearable. I survived it. It does mean that you have no other option but to trace though, so if you’re a cutter, this may not be your thang.
The Suzon pattern doesn’t come with seam allowances either. I know, I know – I hear ya. It’s painful. This bumps the level of faff WAY up there. Firstly, you’ve got to find a way to add them. I bought a Prym parallel tracing wheel (from Amazon), which comes with white chalk powder – the idea is you cut out the pattern pieces as they are (without the seam allowances), then you place the pieces on your fabric and go round the templates with the roller side along the edge of the paper and the chalk side at whatever measurement you desire your seam allowances to be. You then cut through the fabric along the chalk lines you’ve just traced. This is how I did the Suzon – the white chalk worked fine on the black fabric, but I imagine you’re not going to be so thrilled with it if you’re using white fabric. The lines were a bit wibbly (the wheel, much like a supermarket trolley, seemed to have a mind of its own) and I was slightly concerned that I would end up with really misshapen pieces (especially around the collar stand) but thankfully it turned out really well!
What I do now, instead of tracing the chalk onto the fabric, is go about it a different way. I trace the pattern pieces without the seam allowances, but before I cut them out I run the chalk wheel around the lines on the actual tracing paper. Where there would have been a line of chalk on the fabric, there is now a line of small perforations on the tracing paper – the chalk wheel has little feelers on it which are enough to pierce through the tracing paper. I then cut out the pieces following these lines instead – this way, if I want to use the pattern multiple times, I only have to use the wheel once and the pattern pieces are already there with the seam allowances added – yay! (Added bonus – it doesn’t matter when the chalk runs out either because I’m not actually using it).
The Suzon pattern does suggest varying widths of seam allowance for difference pieces – standard is 1cm but there are others listed depending on the piece in question. My seam allowance wheel only does a minimum of 1.5cm // 5/8″ so basically that’s what all my pieces get, if they could do with a smaller one like on the collar stand then I’ll trim after stitching, it’s no biggie. Plus, if I’ve got varying seam allowances, it’s not as easy to autopilot through – I’m so used to 5/8″ seam allowances that remembering to do something different is a bit of a mission and the potential for it to go wrong is cranked up to the max.
So after all the time spent tracing, cutting and adding seam allowances (if I had also had to cut and stick a pdf I think I would have curled up and died) I’ve actually ended up with a pretty neat shirt, construction-wise. In fact, this might be the neatest little collar I’ve ever sewn! I just can’t make up my mind whether I like those ruffles or not…
This is literally the only garment I own that has ruffles. Usually I would say that they are too fussy for me – and that might still be the case, but something in me wants to make a long sleeve version of this. I don’t even know what drew me to this pattern in the first place… but something did and is now calling to me to make another. Weird. I want to switch out the cotton ruffle for a lace ruffle, and add a pointy collar – I guess I should really make my mind up whether or not I actually like the ruffles first before I commit to making more?! The ruffle gets progressively wider the closer it gets to the shoulder, and it’s that width which puts me off I think. I feel like I have 80’s power shoulders going on…
Along with the ruffles being a new thing for me, this is also the first ever item I’ve made in plain black (and only the second non-patterned item!) I decided to make it in black because I wanted to dodge the girly look… and head more towards the gothic/Victorian look. Plus I make *so* many patterned skirts that I guess I need to balance them out with a plain top. It did feel a little bit boring to make something that was plain black, I mean even the BUTTONS are black too, but it was oddly satisfying and I’m pleased with how it looks.
So – my first make from Republique Du Chiffon has turned out to be a good one and I’m encouraged to go ahead with more of their patterns, despite the faff with the seam allowances. I guess it does provide you with more scope to sew it how you want (so if you like 1cm seam allowances you can do just that) and without the seam allowances it’s easier to make adjustments to the pattern pieces if you need to and then add the seam allowances after. Next up I’ve got the Charlotte skirt, and I’m also umming and ahhing over the Emile trousers – they look like they will fit my hourglass shape but I’m worried the excess fabric at the darts will make my hips and stomach look bigger than they are. One way to find out, I guess?!
Have you sewn a good pair of high-waisted, but not-too-baggy pair of trousers? Tell me your pattern recommendations!
Coming up next week on the Wanderstitch blog… a black and gold posh sequin affair – because it’s my birthday! ? Subscribe below to make sure you don’t miss out!
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