Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Same Ole...Same Ole

I was cleaning out my email inbox this evening and I stumbled upon this letter written to McCalls Pattern Company in 2007:

> Sent: Wednesday, July 4, 2007 5:25 PM
> To: McCall's Patterns Consumer Service
> Subject: New Fall 2007 Pattern Offerings

I received the new fall 2007 pattern offering email early this morning. It was with some trepidation that I flipped into your site. You see in May I received an email announcing your summer pattern selection and I eagerly clicked into your website to be sorely disappointed in the pattern selection for plus size women or "Large Sizes" as you put it! I wrote about my disappointment with your selection on my blog, DiaryofaSewingFanatic. I titled the post, "This is why its so hard to be a fat girl"

So this morning, I flipped into your site with some concerns and with good cause. Again, the newest, most up-to-date styles are not graded up for any sizes over 18. So again I wrote another post about your pattern offerings called, "Here We Go Again!" (...sorry about the missing photo links...)

Just in case you don't want to read my blog...I will share with you the high points of my post:

1. The newest most up-to-date styles are not featured past a size 18.

2. The patterns that are offered for a size 18 or larger are either folds and folds of fabric, or

3. Have been done by other pattern companies much better - i.e. The Twist Top Dress (McCalls 5484) - done several times by Burda World of Fashion much better, or

4. The pattern has been done to death, i.e. McCalls 5452 - the gauchos. Please I have several Simplicity patterns that are better drafted than these.

As a plus size woman, if I want fashion I have to sew.  In RTW it is either outside of my price range or to "something" for me to wear. I would much prefer to purchase patterns from your website and/or at the retail level and make a garment using them than to be dismissed. It is almost like you are saying that my fashion needs and dollars should be spent at competing pattern companies because you don't want them.

Really, how hard is it to grade a jumper pattern (McCalls 5464) up to a size 24! I could do it but why should I purchase a pattern and then do what I paid you to do?! After two seasons of very disappointing pattern showings for plus size sewers, I am just wondering if you really want my sewing dollars? Do you really want me to promote your wares? Or have you tossed me over for the younger, chicer, slimmer sewer?  A response to my concerns would very much be appreciated.

And this is the response I received;
Dear Carolyn,
Thank you for your email concerning McCall Patterns. Whenever possible, we try to provide our home sewers with the information they desire.  We appreciate you taking the time to send us your comments about our patterns. It's so important for us to know how you feel about our product, and what we can do to make it better. Be assured, your thoughts and opinions have been forwarded to the proper department for review. You may want to visit our Butterick site to view the new edition of Connie Crawford Patterns, designed for plus size figures. Currently the selection is small as the patterns have only been in our catalog for 2 issues, but we do intend to add more designs with future isses.
Meg Carter
Consumer Services
I saved this email to remind me not to write to them again.  Obviously, the links to my blog weren't used because they encouraged me to purchase the Connie Crawford pattern line...and no offense to anyone who uses them and gets good results but to me this pattern line just does not scream FASHION.  I must own 4 or 5 patterns max from this line because even though the patterns have a few more seams they aren't what I turn to when it's time to recreate something I've seen on
I think it's time I stop bitchin' about the pattern companies on my blog.  After stumbling upon this email and realizing that I have exactly the same issues with them four years is more than obvious that this is NOT an area that they plan on developing.  I will continue to "knock-off" the trendier garments featured in the smaller sizes using my TNT patterns (ala Butterick 5566) and I will use my pattern dollars much more wisely and less often with the Big 3 (McButVog)...thanks for that Elizabeth! 
I'm also going to make a commitment to use more of the Burda Plus patterns from the Burda Style magazine.  I truly hate tracing all of those pieces out and adding seam allowances but I'm no longer sewing because I need a wardrobe for work...I have plenty of outfits now...I'm sewing for the joy and the creative release.  This is not to say that I won't ever use a Vogue, Butterick or McCalls pattern again...cause dayum I have alot of them living with me!  *LOL*  But I'm through knocking my head against this wall...
...more later!


  1. Do you think they give lessons in how to placate an irate customer? I think that you'll be happy with Burda's styling and drafting. You get used to the tracing and lets face it, you spend a lot of time grading up and tracing your tnt don't you?

  2. I am so with you on not wanting to trace patterns. I'm wondering if there's someone out there you (or I) could pay to do all the tracing at once? I hand her a stack of magazines, I get back a stack of patterns. Voila. It's worth thinking about.

  3. I've always though Burda was more on trend than the major pattern companies anyways, and they consistently have interesting plus sized patterns. Sometimes I'm envious because Burda's plus fashions are better than the rest of the magazine!

  4. I'm sure tracing can't be any worse than grading - go for it!

  5. I agree with mollymolly. I often find the BURDA Plus offerings are my favorites. And the models are always so nicely styled.

  6. If you really don't like the tracing and only want about one pattern per magazine, you could also download them from In which case you get to print and tape them together instead (in my experience, taping together and tracing take about the same amount of time).

    As an added thought, in some countries, Burdafashion also publishes a magazine called 'Burda Plus fashion' which appears twice a year (I thought...) and is dedicated entirely to plus size fashion.
    I'm not sure whether or the styles in it are also featured spread out over the normal magazine. My guess is some will be but not all.

    You can't find the magazine on but it should be under 'magazines' on (the German website.
    I wanted to add a link but the page didn't load in browser at the moment.
    Here you can see the current issue on the website of a Dutch online pattern store:

  7. I'll bet you have a lot of fun and satisfaction sewing up those Burda patterns, even though they are a pain to trace! I'll look forward to seeing your new creations!

  8. Because I have to do loads of alterations every time, I always trace - even on envelope patterns. I forget that other people don't have to, but it goes at least part way to explaining why their sewing goes much quicker than mine!

    BWOF (BurdaStyle, whatever) Dec '10 had some *really* nice plus size stuff in! I bet there are a lot of smaller readers who'd be willing to sell you a copy if you don't have it, because the rest of that issue that month was pretty awful.

  9. *correction, Jan '11.

  10. I've always hated tracing too but a few months ago I splurged and bought real tracing paper at the art supply store. OMG, what a difference - I can SEEEEEEE! I've been pulling out those old Burdas and actually using them. The more I use, the more I like!

  11. It's a shame that you have to take matters into your own hands. I don't know why they won't do more to appeal to plus size women. It's good you have the Burda plus option. At least with that you know you're getting some stylish options. Like you, I do hate all that tracing though. Here's to making cute clothes despite the challenges:)

  12. I'm with you on the no-love for the CC patterns.

    Now that you have a spare bedroom again, will you set up your sewing room there? If so, maybe you could trace just one piece per night and leave everything set up. I know you get home late and are tired, but one piece would only be about 5-10 minutes and then you could go collapse for the rest of the night. ;-) By the weekend, you'd have the whole garment traced and ready.

    I haven't made a new Burda mag pattern in a while, but I know that while I always dreaded the tracing I found that once I actually started, it went faster than I was anticipating. You kind of get in a zone. Or at least I did. :-)

  13. A comfortable chair, good music and a glass of wine helped the last time that I traced a pattern.

  14. Oh my. McCalls solution is Connie Crawford patterns? Yikes. Most of the McCalls plus size patterns are designed with minimal effort for the woman who has decided "I feel so bad about myself I have given up trying to look stylish and am just looking to keep from being naked" category. Thanks McCalls for throwing us a bone. If McCalls wants to be in the "you'll have to take what we have" category - I say "see ya". Burda is certainly a better option.

    The pattern selection for us bigger gals has put me into the same TNT pattern methodology that you employ. I have a couple patterns that I have modified, modified, modified. I do envy the average size gals who get to try out pattern after pattern with minimal fitting modifications.

  15. So I've learned something from this post and the comments: I didn't know the regular Burda magazine had plus stuff in it! I took the Burda Plus for two years and never found anything I wanted to make. Now I'll check the regular magazine! Thanks everybody.

  16. Amen!

    But ask Melissa at Fair Trade about quick pattern tracing methods and buy yourself a seam guide for your rotary cutter. Then it takes almost exactly the same amount of time as cutting out a normal pattern but it is easier to alter the patterns!

  17. I think that if you wanted to publish an instruction or pattern book for plus size, I think it would be fashionable and wildly popular. You are very talented and have identified a real need. :)

  18. Hi Ms. Carolyn, I follow your blog and I don't comment much, but I feel your pain. I would just like to say I truly appreciate your blog because I can identify with your plus size dilemma. To boot, I am tall as well...Yep! Double whammy! But that's another issue.

    I've just gotten back into sewing full force as I was tired of shopping for clothing that fit(IMO Lane Bryant equates plus - size to WIDE and SHAPELESS and too expensive for the cheap fabric they offer and I don't like Ashley Stewart, at all.).

    I also have the Burda Plus issue and love some of the garments that are offered but I, like you cant bare to trace...Not yet. Sewing a few Burda mag patterns is one of my goals this year.

    I just want to say thanks for the inspiration you give to us Curvy girls!

  19. You know I have been wanting you to become a Burdaphile for a looooonnnng time. Yes, tracing is a pain, but you get used to it. As a plus size woman, I really feel like I have no choice but to use Burda. Big 4 plus sizes are a little boring. And if I think they're boring, they must be boring :)

  20. PS: That letter was so obviously a form letter! How disrespectful! I don't think "Meg Carter" even exists!!

  21. Obviously a form letter. I share your fitting issues. As a newbie to these sewing blogs (LUV EM) I'm learning to better fit my patterns and the resulting garments. I do not yet have TNT patterns, but soon, maybe. Thank you, Carolyn, and the rest of you for the inspiration and guidance to this long-time sewer.

  22. I love sewing from the Ottobre Women's Magazine. At least 50% of the patterns go up to plus sizes. I don't mind tracing since I already trace from the Ottobre Kids for my daughter. My favorite issue is which I have sewn from many times.

    I'm a little disappointed that Burda no longer has an English preview on Burda Style. But I agree the big 3 have little to offer me as a plus sized woman. When the patterns are graded up to my size they are usually a horrible fit.

  23. Carolyn, my size 26 hips are with you. I know you've called them out on the blog before. Have you given Facebook a try? Butterick has a very active FB profile. McCall's is a joke and Vogue's in non-existent. Companies tend to respond better when FB and Twitter are involved. If we're able to start a conversation, there and you call them on the same BS responses something might happen. If you go to BMV's sites, you can see they are looking for a new designer. You should offer your services!

  24. I hear you!! Its so frustrating for me to have to figure out how to change EVERY single pattern just to fit my larger body. (Especially when I don't really know what I'm doing! lol) I just got my new BurdaPlus in the mail the other day and can't wait. It looks like it has a few cute things! Thanks for always being such a great plus size seamstress with a great attitude! You & your blog really inspire me!

    ~Amy Jo


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