Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Are you a Big 4 or Indie Sewist?

This is a constant conversation in the sewing community.  At times it can be as polarizing a conversation as whether we call ourselves sewers or sewists. There are zealots on both sides of the divide - some sewists swear by an indie pattern for directions, trends, patterns that highlight their lifestyle, easy downloads vs. the Big4 where there's always the "ease" conversation, lack of clarity in the instructions, sizing, etc.

So let's talk about this. First lets define Indie patterns and Big4 patterns ~ the Big4 are Simplicity, Vogue, McCalls & Butterick and I would even throw in Kwik Sew here since they are all owned by CSSI. For this discussion we're just not going to talk about the fact that all of those pattern companies mentioned are now under one umbrella.

Indies are anything that doesn't fall under that umbrella. I understand that since there are so many new indie pattern designers on the market, we sometimes forget that they stand on the shoulders of the indie designers that came before them. Many who are still designing.

If you will allow me a minute, I would like to pay homage to one of my favorite indie designers who has passed on...

Fred Bloebaum who designed LaFred Patterns 


Fred didn't produce a lot of patterns but they were basics with an interesting twist that could be sewn over and over again.  Actually an entire wardrobe could be made from her patterns by choosing your fabrics carefully.

So this is the Question of the Day.  Do you prefer Indie Patterns or the Big4 and why? If Indie, what are your favorite pattern lines?  They don't have to be the newest, brightest and shinest ones to qualify. I mean if you're a Loes Hinse woman for example, speak up and let us know why. Or if you prefer one of the newer indie designers like True Bias, let us know and why? Finally, if you're like me and sew primarily the Big4, tell us why.  Truly I want to know!

This is the Question of the Day so thanks for talking back to me!

...as always more later!


77 comments:

  1. I'm probably about half and half. Especially if you include Burda in the big 4 (after all they are not really an indie).

    Paper patterns in Europe are expensive. So the cost difference is removed which I think makes a big difference. I use Lekala a lot as they are so cheap(and they fit). I have also started using indies such as Patterns for Pirates and George and Ginger which have the big advantage of having a wide following on Facebook so you get reviews from all body types. The big 4 are my birthday and holiday treats. Even just owning the paper pattern feels a little bit special.

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  2. I couldn’t pick one side or the other any more than I could pick a favorite color. My favorite indies are picked by the ones that have the best plus size selection, and real plus, not some size 16 stuff! I do prefer paper over pdf, though I have learned there are better PDFs than others, Love Notions being my happiest to print and assemble so far. I love Style Arc paper patterns when I can catch a sale.

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  3. I like the big 4 but do sew some indie patterns. I hate taping patterns together which turns me off Indie patterns and the printed versions are quite expensive, especially shipping out to Australia. I actually like the instructions on the big 4 and sometimes the ease is an advantage.

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  4. I'm strongly in the Indie camp after giving up on the big4 about 10 years ago. Over the last 20 years as Indies evolved, I dabbled with different lines with varying success. Today Silhouette Patterns is my go to collection.

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  5. I am a big 4 person. They have the size range which many of the indies didn’t have when I got back into Sewing. However, I like Style Arc a lot, especially when I buy them from Amazon, because they are multisized, as opposed to the single size patterns ordered from Australia. Postage is cheaper too.
    Cashmerette is a force of nature, and Colette has made huge leaps too. I’m now seeing more availability in more ranges and I’m certain that soon, we won’t be asking the Big4 V Indie question any more, and the range of designers in our pattern stashes will be much wider.
    Here in the U.K., the indies are at roughly the same price point as Vogue patterns, (£15 aproximately) making Butterick et al. more attractive. A point in their favour?

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  6. I sew primarily Indie, although at this point it is mostly habit. I only learned how to sew a few years ago, completely by buying quality Indie patterns with good sewalongs. I’ve even been able to email a pattern designer to ask why something went wrong. When I started, I also tried a few big four patterns but with mostly wadders as a result (I didn’t know about the excessive ease). Now, I’ve sewed enough to try the Big Four again but they don’t capture my interest the same way. Also, unless you live in the US, the Big Four patterns are not a better deal. In Canada, The cheapest you ever see one is an occasional five dollar sale for McCall’s or $13 for a Vogue pattern.
    Rena

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  7. I mainly buy Vogue patterns as they always fit and as I subscribe to Sew Today I get them half-price and indie patterns are often quite expensive. However I would buy Indie if it was something I really wanted to sew. Vogue are the best I think for instructions and design. By the way I love your blog!!

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    1. Sacha, I'm mostly in your camp. I like the designs of Vogue, but I mostly sew the other Big 4 also. I know what to expect with the fit of these patterns and the kinds of alterations I need to make in most cases. If I tried an Indie pattern (and I have tried a few), I have no idea what I'll run into regarding fit. I also use the DressShop pattern-making software which I have owned for over 25 years, and make a lot of my favorite garments from it, after I got my measurements right and could produce patterns that truly fit.

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    2. I mostly like Vogue patterns too. I love the designer ones -- even if they don't quite work, they're always interesting.

      I also sew a lot of Alabama Chanin patterns for the opposite reason -- they're really simple and only have a few pattern pieces.

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    3. Huge fan of Silhouette patterns. These are my TNTs. Occasionally, a Vogue Designer pattern slips in the mix.

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    4. Huge fan of Silhouette patterns. These are my TNTs. Occasionally, a Vogue Designer pattern slips in the mix.

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  8. Oh, you hit me in the feels. I stand where Fred's booth at Sew Expo always used to be, and feel very sorry for myself that she has passed away. She was kind and helpful and inspirational. I own all her patterns, including the Brown Paper basics. She knew her stuff.

    My TNT patterns are Loes Hinse. She's never let me down, the fit, the style, the instructions. If you can find em, get em. Her basic pant is foolproof. Also Saf-T Pockets Journey jacket. Never ever fails.

    The way I see it, if I buy a pattern for $15 and I sew variations of it for over a decade, it was worth fifteen one dollar patterns I read and ignored. And I confess I usually buy these patterns at SewExpo or similar trade events, where I can read the instructions and examine trunk show samples before I buy. I have been very lucky to be able to do that in my life. And also, to meet Fred Bloebaum.
    I miss her so!

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    1. Fred was fantastic wasn't she?! I took several classes from her and loved her enthusiasm! I do need to drag those patterns out and see if I can adapt them to my lifestyle now.

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    2. Oh Please do drag out those La Fred patterns...
      As I commented below, I "discovered" La Fred in Threads magazine ads and as fascinated as I was (especially by that square armhole), they looked too sophisticated for my lifestyle at the time and I never got them...Live and learn...

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  9. I like Style Arc best, because the fit and size range are great. Lekala, Ottobre and the occasional Burda are good for value. I also like Jalie and Cashmerette. I have trouble choosing sizes in the big 4 and since they tend to be around $15-20 here, I rarely buy them and even more rarely sew them. I’m open to other indies and have bought some but haven’t sewn many. I have enjoyed the Otaki hoodie by the Dreamstress and a Muse patterns cardi, both local designers here.

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  10. I should have said, the Big 4 are around $15-20 in NZ on sale!

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  11. Lord knows I own enough Big 4 (cataloguing them into evernote as we speak), but I'm actually sewing more indies and pdfs these days. I especially like the challenge of Lekala--they take most of the work out of fitting, but add it back trying to decode their instructions. And I had excellent results with the George and Ginger Rulo--most of her designs aren't my style, but that one's spot on.

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  12. I'm more a Burda and Stylearc girl but I don't consider Burda Indie. They have been around for a very long time. I find Burda and Stylearc to be cheaper, easier to get and a better fit for me.

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  13. About half and half for me. I have only been sewing about 5 years and started with big 4 but quickly included indie. I think the best thing about indie is that so many do a lot of testing and so you get to see the pattern on a lot of different body types and this can make or break a purchase for me whereas the big 4 photos are a bit rubbish and sometimes I just don't have enough experience to ascertain from the line drawings if something will suit me or not. Mostly I'm happy with the instructions and diagrams of both but again indie sewalongs can be so helpful with new techniques.

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  14. I’ve only gotten back into sewing recently after running into the CSC and your blog. You girls are so inspiring! Found a Butterick T-shirt pattern with multisizes and cut out what my measurements are verses what I wear in ready to wear. OMG the thing is so ridiculously oversized; It’s a wadder for sure! I would have been closer to use one of my RTW T-shirt’s as a pattern than this. So now I’m going to try an indie next but as a retiree, I need to evaluate one to choose as money is tight. I find it a bit intimidating to venture into this water?

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    1. Quite a few of the indie companies offer at least one free pdf pattern so you can get an idea of their fit and style. George and Ginger, Lekala, Rebecca Page, Halla Patterns, Deer & Doe, and Patterns for Pirates are just a few. If you google "free pdf pattern" or join the facebook groups for your favorite pattern companies you'll find lots to try.

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    2. If you look on the pattern piece itself for big four patterns, it will usually give you the finished measurements for the bust and hip of all the sizes for that pattern.

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    3. Love Notions has a free “swing tee” once you join their Facebook support group. It is a quick and easy pattern. And the designer now has designs for both knits and wovens. I’ve been very pleased with her patterns.

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  15. I like vintage Butterick & Simplicity. "Vintage" being very late 80's to the early 2000's. The sizing was more generous then and the styles suit my life better. I sew because I don't like anything in RTW, thus, I am not going to sew current patterns (esp. indies, since they are mostly on trend type styles)

    I am a HUGE fan of the Delta Burke patterns. Sure you have to watch for overtly 80's styling, but there are a lot of great basics to be had in her line as well.

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    1. OMG! This had me howling..."vintage being very late 80s to the early 2000s" you mean the prime of my life! *LOL* I have a few of those Delta Burke patterns too...held onto them because they transitioned well!

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    2. Prime of *my* life too!! LOL But these days, it seems "vintage" means 50's, retro style, and that wasn't exactly what I meant! Glad to make you smile, even if ironically! =)

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  16. I am not going to totally cooperate 8-).

    I am creating or have created ?(possibly for me only) a third category. IMO, there is, or should be a level between Indie and Corporate (which of course is SimplMcButtVogue and Burda), which I would call Top Level Indies. That level would include Jalie, StyleArc, Sewaholic, Hot Patterns, Silhouette, and very likely more companies that I can't think of right now. In order for an Indie to make it to the next level, they would have to demonstrate excellent drafting, no expansion packs that cost as much as the original pattern for something as simple as a sleeve, and possibly some mentions on PR Best Patterns Lists. I really don't think Jalie etc is on the same level as By Hand London, for example. I have no negative opinion about By Hand London, but Jalie is clearly leaps and bounds ahead, again, in my opinion.

    Now that I have changed the conversation to suit me 8-), I sew mostly with Corporate, some Top Level Indies and very few Indies. I just don't think the drafting and pricing of most indies is worth the cost or the effort to assemble PDF's, when even in Canada I can get a far better price on Corporate patterns, and then of course there is Burda which I can get a PDF for $5.99 US.

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    1. I like the distinction too because you're right...Style Arc, Jalie, etc (I don't sew a ton of Indies but these two I completely trust their drafting) are in their own league.

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    2. I also totally agree. There needs to be that third distinction, one for independent designers who have the educational chops and industry experience, as opposed to the basic rectangle group.

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  17. I like that distinction, and I sew a mix of all three. As a newer sewist, I have been so grateful to sew-alongs and detailed instructions from indies that have helped me sew new things, like swimsuits, jeans, and bras. So I feel loyal. Sometimes the big 4 have interesting and cheap options, though. But I do find I stash those patterns more than I see them, often, and then sometimes forget about the weird ease and end up with wadders.

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  18. I mainly gravitate to the Indie patterns but only because I can download them. I never trace, so if I stuff up a downloaded pattern, I just have to download it again and I can start over.

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  19. I love the Indies, mainly Style Arc, Closet Case and True Bias. I find they are contemporary and well drafted and pretty inclusive in their sizing. Being in Canada, we don't have access to the 99 cent pattern sales, so Club BMV is our best bet but with exchange and 3 weeks shipping time it makes you lose your creative momentum somewhat. PDFs are the way to go for me. I also love that the Indies often provide a sewalong, so if you're stuck, a quick visit to the site sets you straight.

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  20. As far as quantity in my pattern collection, definitely Big 4. I do use Indies and I agree with Elle on the Indies that have made it to the top level. I've been sewing since I was twelve but didn't get serious until I retired. My faves are McCall's Palmer and Pletsch patterns. There are more makes from P&P patterns in my closet than anything else. But as an experienced stitcher, I'm able to make frankenpatterns and incorporate details from anywhere. I have a printout sketch for the Style Arc "Sutton Woven Top" that I am currently considering. I generally buy patterns that I don't have in the collection or patterns that will save me time (frankenpatterns do take some work). The latest indie buy was Closet Case Patterns "Kelly Anorak" with the additional lining. The latest Big 4 was a basic skirt pattern in my now larger size. Buying a larger size makes sense when it's only $4. But that OOP Vogue Rachel Comey skirt pattern with the front pockets that everyone (including you Carolyn) on the blogosphere has made, if I make it, defintely frankenpattern knockoff.
    Theresa in Tucson

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  21. I started out with a lot of vintage (aka thrift store) patterns, which are mainly big 4, but there weren’t as many indies back then. My fave thing to collect is patterns from weird vintage indie companies. But I don’t often make them. When I started working at Fabricland I had access to free Big 4 for my shop projects, so it was easier to sew those. Now that I’m teaching at a small quilting shop, I can choose some indies for my classes, so I’m getting to try more out (plus some other indies really hit me this spring so I went on a bit of a binge.)

    Which I guess means I’m a bit fickle—I’m more likely to sew what catches my eye (or what is available cheap or free via my work) than be loyal to a particular company. I’m not very dependent on instructions at this point (though some are gorgeous) so that’s not a huge factor.

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    1. I like to collect older patterns just because the instruction sheets are so divine!

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  22. It's no surprise that I'm in Team Indie... but I'm enjoying dabbling in Big 4 as well to make sure that I'm not missing amazing things! I'm enjoying Burda the most of the big 4 so far... I like being able to download the patterns, and the sizing has been accurate. On the other hand, I wish all their patterns went up to "plus" sizes!

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  23. And I'm chiming in again. Thanks for the reminder on the late La Fred. I just went and bought one of her tops, the Athena Two, a pattern that would not be easy to duplicate on my own.
    Theresa in Tucson

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  24. I mostly use Big 4, and Vogue more than anything else, probably because I'm a real fan of Marcy Tilton's designs (and I live near a Joann's, only buy new patterns when they have them on sale.) I do have a decent number of indies, though I haven't used them as much. I've been sewing since I was a kid, so I tend to use the instructions for reference more than anything. Lately I've been using pattern pieces the same way, as I've been doing a lot of remaking with tees and oversized linen or silk shirts I've thrifted -- and I'm not afraid to frankenpattern either.

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  25. I admit to a small eyeroll and scroll/x'ing out when the "omg so much ease" starts about Big4.

    I prefer Big4 and Burda magazine. I just love my Burdas! If for some reason I had to choose...I'd just sub and do all my sewing from there. Otherwise, I love Vogue for the interesting details/designers. I really like McCall's in general. I like Butterick wardrobe patterns and Simplicity is probably on the bottom for me (based on the original Big4). I really like New Look as well and Kwik Sew is more limited. Their upper body draft is just not right for me.

    I do buy Indie patterns but again, based on my success with Big4 and Burda, they've got to capture me. e.g., if I decided to sew activewear again, I would just go Jalie...I may never try a Big4 swimwear pattern again.

    But I find them so boring and basic. And I hate the verbose instructions. I have found more drafting issues/errors in Indies and I just cannot be bothered. Especially not at $14-20 a pop for a pattern.

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    1. Agree! Big 4 swimsuit patterns are awful. Kwik Sews are better, but still not great. They can be too low and bare where you least expect it. The old Stretch and Sews I rescued are great, but you have to update them. I like Jalie for swimsuits- just finishing one now.

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  26. I don't want to fit into either category. I sew what I like and what I think will suit the occasion. For me it is all about fit, and little details if I like a pattern. Like Emmyjay, I've been know to merge favourite parts of different patterns to create what I'm looking for. It's not about indie vs big 4 for me.

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  27. I am an equal opportunity seamstress as far as patterns go. If I like the style and think it will work on my body, it doesn't matter from where it comes. Lately though, I have started to mainly purchase those that have larger cup sizes available. I would rather spend my time altering the style lines on a pattern that has an FBA built in, than actually doing an FBA.

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  28. I always want to use indie patterns, but I tend to find that the Big 4 have options that suit my body better.

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  29. I'm always looking for interesting (read complex) patterns so count me as a fan of Vogue designer patterns. I've just started using more Burda patterns in the past few years and finally subscribed. They have a great variety and interesting style lines that you don't find in most pattern lines. I think the indies are generally overpriced for the value I perceive, particularly if they sell add-ons which seem a bit of a rip-off. Certainly I'm not someone who is interested in a sew-along or need detailed instructions. Shout out to New Look patterns (which I love) which quite often have multiple views in the pattern, include a range of sizes, and often have multiple garments in one pattern! Lastly I a sew for someone in the curvy category and I think the Burda plus patterns are overlooked for this category. So many choices, great sizing, interesting patterns - you can find anything either in their envelope patterns or as a PDF download. I recommend.

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  30. I do mostly high level indies, with some Vogues. I like the styles of The Sewing Workshop and Cutting Line Designs. They both have GREAT instructions, each garment a sewing lesson itself. Cashmerette is great too.

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  31. I try to buy Indie first, because I want to support small business, especially female owned. (Love you guys, but that glass ceiling is still there.) However, I guess I have an "average" body type, because Big 4 fit me best.

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  32. My preference is for Vogue: I have sewed so many now that I automatically reduce the waist by 2", lengthen by 3" and sew a 1"arm scythe. I have a fairly average body size and so I don't really need specific alterations.
    When I was a teenager, the name "Vogue" was prestigious and covetous and I have carried this into middle age.
    Of course I sew Indies too but my default is Vogue.
    Interesting question....

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  33. I love Big 4 patterns and sew with all of them, but my brands of choice are pretty much McCalls and Butterick.

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  34. I'm sure this isn't a popular response but I only sew with the big 4 patterns because of the price. I only buy them on sale. I covet some of the indie patterns, especially the Cashmerette Upton, but to buy the pattern and if they're only pdf, orint it is more than I can budget. I understand why, it's just not in my financial wheelhouse. I can alter a pattern to what I want so I spend whatever money I have on the best fabric I can afford.

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  35. Gosh, you got the convo' going with that question. I have sewn with Vogue since '68 and they are still my favorite pattern. I even follow Carlos on IG so I can see all the test garments. But there is one Indie that I have gotten two patterns from, "Named" patterns out of Finland. That is one wonderful thing the web has given us, the chance to try some of these Indie designers!

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  36. The only Indie I really buy is Hot Patterns. They are current and stylish. I sew Burda Style from the magazine and I'm not sure I'd call that an Indie and I sew Vogue. I preferred Vogue when they had French and American designers though. I have fond memories of Geoffrey Beene, Issey Miyake and Bill Blass. But, those days are long gone. I like Burda usually better than Vogue, though I sew both.

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    1. Nancy - you probably can find a lot of those old Vogue Patterns on eBay or Etsy. I mean if you really want them!

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    2. The patterns from those particular designers can cost a fortune on ebay. They were my faves too.

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  37. Mostly Big 4, due to cost. But if I find something unique that I haven't seen before that I can't buy at a $1.99 sale, I'll grab an Indie and get to taping. The sizing/ease stuff has never bothered me because I'm not hardly going to ever fit anyone's pattern straight out of the envelope.

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  38. I just "curated" my sewing pattern collection. I don't know whether it is because I paid more for the indie pattern to begin with, but few were pitched. Individual designers, like Marcy Tilton were also kept. I think the sales that McCall's pattern company does is a big incentive. That is why I know longer subscribe to their emails. If I purchase an Indie pattern - I prefer paper, I really want that pattern due to the cost.

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  39. Basically I sew whatever catches my fancy be it be Indie, Big4, vintage, or sewing magazines. If I like it and I think I can sew it, anything is fair game.

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  40. I'm a big 4 pattern sewer; but I also so some Indie and Burda magazine patterns.

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  41. I like to sew both! If it is a pattern design I love and am deawn to, I will give it a try. Now, as I purchase, I definitely have my faves I lean toward, like Simplicity and Closet Case. I especially like that there is usually something for all sewists between Indies and the Big Four.

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  42. I like Cashmerette & Burda patterns. Burda, because I happen to be the right shape for their slacks pattern, & Cashmerette because Jenny designs for curves, INCLUDING us apples!

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  43. Sewer, Big 4 mostly but have a large amount of indie brands, and want my pattern to come in an envelope on paper to cut not tape! And while I have all of the big 4 I have always been partial to Vogue. But you bring back memories mentioning La Fred patterns. I remember the first time seeing La Fred at the Sewing Expo in Puyallup WA. And so many others were there as well (before the internet)-- Dos de Tejos, Material Things, Indygo Junction, Elements, CNT Pattern Co, Birch Street, LJ Designs, Lois & Diane Erickson to name some of them. Thanks for bring back these memories. Jean

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  44. I love McCalls, especially their Palmer/Pletsch patterns. I know how to fit them and always have success. I like Vogue for dresses. Kwik Sew for active wear. Jalie is even better for active wear. I make a lot of Hot Patterns. I love Fit for Art patterns and their jackets and pants fit me perfectly. I am slowly getting hooked on Cashmerette. I subscribed to Burda for a year and didn't like anything- it was all too young . I do like their paper patterns.So I make both Big 4 and indie. I do wish the fit was more consistent in some indies and that they supplied more info in the instructions on how they should fit. I don't like it when I can't tell from the pattern how something should fit.

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  45. I sew both. A few more Indies, of which the most garments I've made have been from Closet Case Patterns, I recently sewed a Vogue Designer pattern which was a great experience. I sewed a lot of them back in the '80's.

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  46. I’m a mixture of both. LaFred and Loes Hines patterns are the best! I made a new pair of LH European pants at the beginning of this year. I don’t think I have any LaFred patterns currently made in my closet. Might be time to dig them out and make an old tnt.

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  47. I'm a pattern agnostic and don't have any strongly held views on whether one is necessarily better than the other. Having said that though, I do sew a lot of Style Arc. 1. I like their styles 2. Their size 12 matches my measurements exactly, so I don't have to alter a lot. 3. The draft is reliable 4. They require little effort from me to acquire. I purchase the paper patterns so it's point, click and wait for the mail 5. I don't have to trace or tape PDFs together yay! 6. Being Australian I like to support Australian companies where I can.
    But I'll sew any pattern company if I like the design enough.

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  48. Like many, I started sewing with the big 4. I knew about Stretch and Sew and those ones sold through newspaper ads which always looked so interesting (Ann Adams)-I was told there was sort of a hierarchy: Start with Simplicity, on to McCalls, then Butterick, then Vogue...then realized that I like the Butterick aesthetic. So, for "dressy dresses" like Easter or the Father-Daughter Breakfast at school, Mom and I would head in town to the "fancy" fabric store (the one where she bought the material for her proms and wedding)
    It was only in college that I heard of Threads magazine and saw all the great ads. Including La Fred but the patterns all looked to chi-chi for my lifestyle. Later, while working (near the fancy fabric store), I stumbled on Magazine Burda and with kids, Sew Beautiful Magazine. The for years, sewing was mostly a self drefted TNT pajama/sweatpants pattern and patching kneeholes and hems (and the fancy fabric store closed)...Then, becoming a stay home mom, I discovered independents and tried a few if I could eek out time...
    Now, full circle, I am back to mostly Simplicity and McCalls. (But I need to find time to try that Cashmerette Harrison shirt pattern that has been in the queue for the last year...)

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  49. I do but the big 4patterns when they are on sale, but lately I prefer the indies. My favs are Style Arc, Colette, and Papercut. I have a lot of Sewing Workshop, the Ericson sisters, and La Fred. Why? Because they represent my lifestyle which is more casual, funky (at times), relaxed. They are "fun" clothes that have a bit of something else like different pleatings, off kilter hemlines, unique ways of layering. I find it helps to know what you are doing as the instructions are usually text only, not accompanied by line art. But you know, one of the important reasons is that I want to support the individual designer and creator.

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  50. I think that I am evolving to be an 1/2 and 1/2 sewer...with a slight edge to Indie patterns...

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  51. Truth is that I have been sewing for a very long time. My wardrobe has been over 90% self sewn for more than 25 years. I have a lot of patterns, even ones from my mother when I was a child. I'll never fit in those again, but someone will. Because of my sewing longevity, most of my patterns are the Big 4. I have some very specific OOP patterns for my basic Tshirt and blouses. I self draft my skirts and pants. About 20 years ago, I started with indies. My favorite is Connie Crawford. Her Sedona and signature collections are much, much better than the ones for Butterick. But I do use the Butterick ones. Two of my best dresses are from that collection.
    I tend to be a TNT sewer and I concentrate on classics. I have made my Tshirt pattern at least 40 times. It is easy enough to change sleeve lengths and switch between V and scoop necks. I have 3 favorite blouses, all from Connie, that just fit. Again, easy to change a collar from banded to not, change a sleeve length or overall length or make it a shirt dress.
    Once I started concentrating on the fit and really reading Burda Magazine and how they use the same patter in 6 different fabrics for very different looks, I stopped buying patterns when the ones I had served the same purpose with slight modifications.
    The clothes I make fit better than store bought, but could always be better. I get more compliments on what I make than what I buy. And I wear the ones I make for years, making it very cost effective. I have a long sleeve flannel shirt in my closet that I made in Jan 2000 (or a little earlier) that I still wear. Most Tshirts last 3 years, skirts last 5-6 years, blouses 5-10 years and jackets last 15-20 or more. It depends on how often it is worn and washed. Classics never go out of style.

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  52. Great post Carolyn. Lately, I’ve been sewing a few Indie patterns and I know it’s basically because I like the different styles offered. I know it started because I was so very frustrated by not being able to purchase a pattern I wanted during the sale...they were always not in stock!! I could go to the Indie and download what I needed right away. Now with PDF Plotting, I don’t have to tape together either! I haven’t abandoned the Big 4...I’ll purchase them whenever I can get in my little hands when I want it!

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    1. This is why I sub to Club BMV. The $10 annually is so worth it! And yes, there is a slightly higher cost and shipping but no time wasted traveling to JA to look in the drawer and see they haven't stocked new patterns yet or they're out or they don't have your size!

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  53. I go where I can find great detail and drafting. For me this is often Vogue but I have used Indies, that third level of Indie that is not basic rectangles. My indie of choice has to offer a paper pattern. I want something I can put on a shelf in my studio and look at. I also will not tape unless it is a bag pattern which is usually several small rectangles to a page and only 3-4 pages. Life is just too short.There aren't enough trees already and printing cuts into my fabric budget. I can go to any of the Big Four (except Sandra Betzina patterns) and immediately alter them perfectly before I pin them to my fabric. There is no standardization at all with Indies and each pattern is a new experience if getting it to fit. Designers often make them to fit themselves and draft out from there. No thanks. I have the corporates down pat. I don't want to remake the fitting wheel with each Indie I try. It's a choice on how I spend my time. I have used Jalie and Style Arc and they do not really excite me. I do really like Sew House Seven and Sew Chic. The first really seems to get my aesthetic and the second has some vintage inspired garments that don't loom like costumes and I like that.Some are downright beautiful. For now, it is those two and the Big Four for me. Why? Fitting experience with them, price, availability. I get that they assume the maker knows how to sew and that newb sewists love the handholding aspect of some indies as opposed to the BF. But at my stage of the game. I want details, challenge and great design, no hand holding, so those designers and the Big Ones work for me.

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  54. I have pretty much been a Big 4 sewist. I sewed mostly Vogue for years as well as Butterick. Because I am a member of Club BMV I can get a pattern for great price when they have a sale. So have bought a lot over the years. I do remember LaFred and thought that her pattern line was so unique when I learned of her patterns. I made several from hers. I have to admit I have purchased several Indie patterns over the past few years. I too thought some looked modern and trendy. I have had good successes and not so good successes, just like the Big 4. Some of my favorite Indies are Itch to Stitch, Love Notions and Hey June. Right now I have a WIP with a Closet Case pattern and I really like the instructions and the design variety with it. I am probably in both camps.

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  55. My favorite patterns and the ones I sew most are burdastyle, and for kids clothes Ottobre. I would consider these both in that top level indie category. I do sew Big4 as well and have no complaints about them.

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  56. I have to say I am both lol! I sew any pattern, as long as it fits my lifeste and taste for fashion. I sew Big4, Burdastyle, BCN-Unique by Paco Peralta, Ralph Pink, Made by Oranges, Closet Case Patterns, etc. (Just to name the most recent ones and leaving out the Lingerie pattern brands that I also sew...)

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  57. I like Style Arc. They fit me out of the envelope, they are simple and clean cut, and you can order them from Amazon (free shipping with Prime). That said, I firmly believe indie patterns are designed with the body shape of the original designer in mind, so Peggy Sagers patterns fit me while Louise Cutting's do not.

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  58. I used to only sew Big 4 patterns because that was all I knew about and was available ( this is going back 20 years ). Then I discovered Pattern Review and Burda magazines. I only knew of one newsagency that sold them ( 2 hour drive from home ) so they were rare purchases. And then for a while I didn't like the styles ( they seemed a bit shapeless and very simple )so I mainly used Kwik Sew and Simplicity because this was what was available to me. Currently my favourite again are the Burda Magazines - the last few years have been terrific and I can buy them locally ( for the same price I paid 12 years ago ! ).

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  59. I’m so late to the conversation (because I’m so behind on blog reading), but I really like the distinction of “corporate (aka Big 4/1+Burda),” “established indie” and “new indie.” I sew a lot of Burda, vintage Kwik Sew (ie, before the takeover when they had really good leotard patterns), some Jalie activewear, and a fair bit of the Big4. I’ve dabled with Closet Case patterns to some success, but I still find it hard to justify a $20 pattern when I can get Simplicity for $0.99 at a sale, I’ve had success with them in the past, and I enjoy their aesthetic. I’m always going to be a Burda girl first and foremost, because I find the drafting to be a thing of wonderous engineering and the styles to suit my taste more often than not. And, I know I’m weird, but I’d rather trace patterns for days than tape together a PDF. My option might change now that large print services are becoming more affordable, but there is something about opening the tissue paper or tracing off of a magazine centerfold that I actually enjoy.

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