The Seamwork Manila leggings were the tipping point. The leggings wrapped uncomfortably around my calves. The print on the fabric, stripes and flowers, distorted comically. Worst of all, the seams threatened to tear.
It was the pattern. I sewed the correct size in the correct fabric. I used the correct stitch type, seam allowance, etc. The subpar outcome was on Seamwork, not me.
I cropped the leggings and canceled my Seamwork magazine subscription.
About Seamwork magazine
In case you’re not familiar, Seamwork is a monthly online sewing magazine produced by indie pattern company Colette. The magazine is free, but when you pay for a subscription, you get credits for sewing patterns, which can be used on Seamwork patterns or Colette patterns.
The pitch for Seamwork patterns is that they can be sewn in an afternoon and are designed to be worn together. Seamwork reports on its membership page that it has more than 8,000 subscribers.
By the numbers: My life with Seamwork sewing pattern magazine
Before I explain my resignation as a Seamwork subscriber, I’m gonna lay some numbers on you.
2014 – When I subscribed to Seamwork. I signed on from the first issue in December 2014!
29 – Issues to which I was subscribed.
6 – Cost in U.S. dollars per month of my subscription.
61 – Seamwork patterns, including bags, a bra, blouses, and more.
6 – Seamwork sewing patterns I’ve completed.
33 – Seamwork/Colette items (including one ebook) I downloaded to use up my sewing pattern credits.
I didn’t realize Seamwork had that many patterns out! That’s quite the collection.
3 reasons why I canceled my Seamwork magazine subscription
1.) It was keeping me from trying other pattern designers.
I’m participating in Project #SewMyStyle this year (here are my makes from January, February, March, and April), and I’ve had a wonderful time sewing patterns from other designers. #SewMyStyle made me realize I’m missing out by not spreading around my sewing budget.
Each pattern designer has a unique aesthetic and method to building a product. Eventually I’d like to design my own patterns, and it’s important to have lots of different user experiences from which to draw. For example, Named layers its PDF pattern pieces. The benefit of this is that you print off and tape together fewer pages. I LOVE this, because I trace all my patterns and printings/cutting/taping is my least-favorite sewing chore. I wouldn’t have found out about Named’s PDF patterns if I hadn’t sewn the Saunio cardigan for #SewMyStyle — because I already had similar (in function) patterns from Seamwork.
2.) I have quality concerns with Seamwork patterns.
Of the six Seamwork patterns I’ve completed, I’ve had major fitting issues with two of them. That’s a poor experience with one-third of their products I’ve touched. The sizing on the Nantucket shorts was off (I measured a straight size 4 and the shorts were too snug), and the calves in the Manila leggings were too tight — and I do not have wide calves. For a pattern designed for super-stretchy fabric to be that off… well, something was not drafted correctly. What’s more, the front-fly zipper instructions for the Weston shorts were not great.
My feeling is that production of Seamwork patterns and the magazine often is rushed and not as thorough as it could be. I spot copy editing errors in every issue (granted, I’m a former editor, so these things stick out to me), and fitting issues suggest patterns that haven’t been properly tested (or pattern blocks that haven’t been properly tested). I know, from firsthand experience, how tough it is to pull together a publication like a magazine. It’s a big undertaking, and mistakes happen. I can’t speak, though, to producing a sewing pattern.
As a sidebar, I truly try to offer constructive criticism when I write sewing pattern reviews. I talk about opportunities for improvement vs. blanket statements about inferiority. (If you follow the links above about each pattern, you’ll see what I mean. I go into detail about how things could be better.) I know pattern designers want sewists to have an awesome experience with their patterns, so I think it’s important that I highlight weaknesses as well as strengths. My suggestions come from a place of admiration and encouragement, because the world needs more of both.
3.) I wasn’t using what I was paying for.
This is the most obvious reason — I wasn’t sewing the patterns. Six patterns in two-and-a-half years means they weren’t resonating with me.
That’s not saying Seamwork designs weird stuff; it’s more that I didn’t see the patterns working in my wardrobe and in my life. And that’s OK. When you make something, not everyone is going to be down with it. Not everyone is down with Sie macht. I say if you’re not down, move on until you find something that speaks to you.
So, you might be like, “If Seamwork patterns don’t resonate with you, why did you download 33 of them?” Fair question.
I downloaded the patterns because I refuse to leave money on the table. If you don’t use up credits before you cancel, they’re gone.
I picked patterns likely to have fewer fitting issues. For example, Valencia and Madrid are bags. Bristol is a skirt with an elastic waistband. Almada is a kimono-style robe. There were a few patterns that resonated with me — Sonya, Neenah, Mesa, and more — and I downloaded those, too. Hey, in the future, there could be other Seamwork patterns that also catch my eye; this way, I can buy them à la carte.
Will I sew all the patterns I downloaded? My guess is no. But I paid for them, and even if I don’t sew them, I can share them with other sewing friends. That’s part of the fun of having a library — lending goodies.
I don’t hate Colette/Seamwork — honest!
This has been kind of a downer of a blog post, and I don’t want to end it on a sour note. Colette doesn’t deserve that.
Colette does a lot of stuff well. For example, I recently wrapped Wardrobe Architect, which I think was designed by Colette with love and a lot of thought, and it helped me plan a capsule wardrobe to sew. I can’t wait for the next season of Seamwork Radio; Colette founder Sarai is a natural when it comes to podcasting. Seamwork gets great contributors, including sewing blogger Lauren Taylor (aka Lladybird) and Closet Case Patterns designer/blogger Heather Lou. I also like Seamwork’s Swatch Service feature, where the mag prices out and links to fabric that works for each issue’s sewing patterns.
Sewists have a lot of options when it comes to patterns, which is great, because there are lots of different sewists out there! The best thing you can do is keep experimenting and challenging yourself — and encouraging each other.
Over to you: If you’re a Seamwork subscriber, what do you like best about the magazine? If you’re not, why haven’t you subscribed? What other sewing magazines with patterns do you like? Please sound off in comments. Thanks!
P.S. Here are all the Seamwork patterns I’ve reviewed:
Seamwork Olso review: At ease in a classic cardigan
Revealed: Retro Reno and Dakota swimsuit
Becoming a (Manila) leggings person for Project #SewMyStyle
Seamwork shorts sewing pattern: These ain’t Nantucket Reds
Shorts pattern review: High-waisted Seamwork Weston
P.P.S. Here’s my Wardrobe Architect series:
Wardrobe Architect Part 1: Getting personal about wardrobe planning
Wardrobe Architect Part 2: My silhouettes, colors, and beauty
Wardrobe Architect Part 3: Sewing a capsule wardrobe