Final Thoughts: Flora
I didn't expect my post about By Hand London's Flora dress to create the reaction it did. I want to start by thanking those who commented for sharing your opinions. I do want to note, that since the publication of my original post, BHL has posted and responded to the comment I left on their Flora bodice post. Their representatives have also responded to several of your comments directly in the comment section of my first Flora post. I think it was really wonderful to start a dialogue regarding pattern companies, testers and expectations. I'm going to wrap up everything I have to say about my experience with BHL and the Flora dress in this post. And, then I'm moving on from this particular pattern.
In the comments, several people mentioned thoughts on pattern testing. I want to say that I did not, and have not ever claimed that pattern testers are paid for their endorsements. With that established, I do agree that there is an incredibly biased portrayal of patterns tested for indie sewing companies. A negative review of an indie pattern is essentially non-existent. Even if that is a conscious effort by the bloggers posting reviews to only share good experiences and stay positive, I think there should be room for sharing negative experiences and critical reviews of those same patterns. If only one side of pattern testing is revealed there is an incredibly skewed portrayal of the products being put out, and it is misleading to persons who pay and support those companies successes monetarily. When every review I read says that a pattern is wonderful, that it fits gorgeously, and that it's dreamy to sew, I buy that pattern expecting a similar experience.
If every person who has bad experiences with projects chooses to put those to the side and not talk about them, it would be a disservice to the community of sewers who look to those reviews as a basis for deciding whether or not to purchase a pattern. And, I mean that to apply to both indie and big four pattern companies.
Commenters suggested more transparency by pattern companies who recruit testers for their products. I think that's a great idea: How are testers selected? Does your company accept open submissions or do you cherry pick the bloggers you want to sew your garments? What criteria do you use to choose? Does your test pool represent the entire range of sizes you offer and a wide variety of body types? Do your testers have varying skill levels? What types of questions and feedback to you ask of your testers? Also, do you make changes from the test version and final pattern print? If so, are the testers sewing both versions to assure any kinks have been worked out? Etc...
I think most of us expect that we will have to make some modifications to a pattern in order to achieve a good fit for our bodies. I don't think anyone expects that a pattern will fit everybody. However, a pattern ought to be designed to fit somebody directly out of the envelop. Who is that girl? Do you find someone with those proportions to test the pattern? Also, when you ask people to 'test' a pattern do you ask them to sew it straight out of the envelop to show the results of your product and design on different types of bodies exactly as it is being sold? Where is the line between testing a pattern and custom sewing a garment from a pattern? If you allow modifications during the testing phase, is it actually a test of the pattern or a demonstration of an individual's ability to modify that pattern to produce a good garment?
Lots of questions. And, I'm sure others can think of more.
Now, back to where this all started. My initial gripes have to do with the excess ease built into the pattern and the underarm creasing in the bodice that I tried hopelessly to eliminate.
Elisalex, a representative of BHL pattern company responded to my complaint, indicating:
"The Flora wrap bodice is designed to have a more casual fit and more ease than the more fitted tank bodice variation. The gentle creasing under the bust as the top wraps is normal, and very pretty in our opinion, made all the prettier when used with a fabric with a bit of drape and body. "
Here is the link to the Flora product page where the company shows two separate modeled versions of the wrap bodice dress. You can decide for yourself whether the dresses shown fit that description and explanation for the fit issues I struggled with.
Suffice to say, I did have several communications with Elisalex, a member of the BHL team, all of which were courteous and promptly responded to. However, we fail to see eye to eye regarding the representation of this pattern shown on their site vs. the above stated intended fit of this garment and the resulting garment produced from the pattern.
Ultimately, BHL maintains that they do not see issues with any of the above complaints.
I give a lot of credit to anyone willing to pursue an independent business venture. It is certainly not an easy path to forge and it requires a lot of back breaking work. But, an independent pattern company is still a commercial entity, just like any other commercial pattern company. And, as I stated previously, as a consumer, I actually expect more from your company and product if you're a small business than if you're a mass distributor.
If I was writing a negative review of a Vogue or a Simplicity pattern, most people probably wouldn't bat an eyelash. They most definitely wouldn't comment and expect me to contact Vogue or Simplicity directly before writing my criticism on my blog. It's a double standard.
As I said. These are my final thoughts on this pattern and experience. It's not my aim to deter any person from exploring By Hand London's range of patterns- I haven't tried them. I do caution, however, anyone interested in the Flora pattern to know that you are not buying a well fitted faux wrap bodice dress. If that is what you're seeking, I suggest you look elsewhere.
Also, keep talking. What you have to say is important.
5/23/2014 02:20:54 am
there's a lot to respond to in this post-- and i think some of it is similar to a comment you made on my blog, which i replied to over in kalkatroona (i'm an idiot! but i like having my own planet, so yay)
I don't doubt the credibility of any of the opinions I read. Opinion is incredibly subjective.
5/24/2014 05:01:05 am
5/23/2014 08:12:05 am
There is no way that finished measurement would work. A 1/4" ease? Seriously? No way. But, the green dress on the model does seem to be too tight in the underarm, so there is definitely some creasing going on there. Not attractive if you ask me.
5/23/2014 10:06:22 am
Thanks for starting this discussion-I barely sew, and I'm always shocked at the price of sewing patterns compared to knitting ones. This "play nice" attitude in reviews is what used to bug me about the Knitty Yarn Roundtable-if people didn't like a yarn, they just didn't review it, so you would never know it sucked. Thank goodness we have Ravelry and can get some more honest feedback on patterns, yarn, and needles. It would be great if there was something similar for sewing!
5/23/2014 10:10:37 am
Hi Michelle, I know I'm probably a bit behind everyone else in making a comment, but I thought I may as well weigh in and give my penny's worth too! Thanks for posting on such an interesting subject, it really seems to have got everyone going. I completely get where your coming from with looking for more balanced views on popular patterns.
Hello! Thanks for stopping in to contribute to this conversation. I don't think you're being confrontational, and I appreciate adding voices to this discussion. :-)
6/3/2014 08:12:23 pm
Harrumph. Sense of community does not part a lot of people from their cash in these cash-strapped times. I do expect great drafting from indies. Not perfectly fitted, as bodies are unique, but great drafting. And why on earth shouldn't I?! I buy from certain indies because they either do specific things (like Colette and bluegingerdoll draft for C and D cups respectively) or because they produce designs that fit my aesthetic (vintage inspired, whatever). I have been cringing at the sight of a couple of new pattern makers on the web who don't look like they ever studied pattern drafting - and who are already selling, thanks to the flocking that sometimes happens. I don't hesitate to ask indies questions about their patterns before I try them out, and won't buy from someone who doesn't respond adequately. So far, I've only had one non-response (BHL, in fact, as I said in my other comment on your first Flora post) and one very negative response to a serendipity studio crit re drafting. BHL seem to have the same response as SS - "we are never wrong" - except that they reply politely.... BFD.
5/23/2014 06:17:00 pm
I do think it is fair to say in a review 'I think there are problems with the drafting/sizing of this pattern' if that is the case and to present your issues fairly while also presenting the good points. That is called a balanced review. I am going through a variety of modifications to an Indie pattern at the moment AND it's a pattern that has (so far) not had a word said against it that I know of.
i'm thoroughly enjoying your posts on this subject. particularly since this is something i discuss with the sewing ladies i know often - in fact, nearly always - when we get together.
I was talking with my husband on the topic of pattern testers, and he said much the same! I should probably note that he is a professional tester engineer in R&D, and while his industry is manufacturing, not sewing patterns, he was shocked and confused by the way we as a sewing community have come to define and view 'testing' a product.
6/3/2014 08:01:17 pm
I'm a new reader and just posted on the first (great, honest) flora post. Have to say that I totally agree with this. I remember a couple of indie companies sent fabric to their testers - I don't think this is standard, but I think it should be the absolute minimum!
6/4/2014 08:22:20 pm
Haha, my boyfriend, a web developer, said exactly the same. Testing is completely different from reviewing and they should be separated.
I've really enjoyed both these posts and the discussion that has finally come out from them. As Puu said, we end up talking about this a LOT in person.
It's really great to see some honest and open opinions about indie patterns though I'm sorry to hear that you had such a touch time with it. I, too, either rightly or wrongly, expect more from indie patterns, especially based on how much they cost, and more often than not, all the raving reviews on the blogsphere. I think the sewing community is almost too supportive...and i mean that in the nicest possible way. with indie companies where the people behind them are more visible, I feel that people struggle to voice a negative opinion. I fully agree with you that there should be room for constructive criticism, and it was very refreshing to read your well written posts.
6/3/2014 05:49:53 am
People are saying that pattern testers are not paid. From my understanding, they are not. But in the case of the BHL flora dress everyone of the bloggers I saw "revealing" the dress (and here I am assuming they were also the testers ?) also had a "care package" included, which included enough fabric to make the dress as well as some other lovely gifts. Yes, these were declared, but surely this would make you feel obligated to only say nice things about the pattern? At the end of the day, indie designers have the same goal at the big 4: sell their patterns and make the bucks. And there is nothing wrong with that. But if this review had been posted about the big 4 everyone would have cheered and as this related to an indie designer it's opened a whole can of worms.
6/3/2014 09:16:41 am
Just saw these posts. I couldn’t agree more. I’m a beginning intermediate sewist. And so when a indie pattern doesn’t fit (even after making basic alterations) I just always assume its me and I’m embarassed that I couldn’t make it work. Yes, I know it still very well might be me, but if people wrote more negative reviews I’d be able to figure out if it was!
Hello. I'm new to your blog and was directed this way by Cahsmerette's post. :)
6/4/2014 08:17:03 pm
6/5/2014 05:00:03 pm
Sonia, your blog sounds just right to me!
6/6/2014 08:19:26 am
I read this post and your first post. I thought nothing wrong of you writing your fit review of the pattern. Yea, there aren't enough of it. I like to write the fit reviews for my clothes too. I am highly critical of fit. Those wrinkles are weird. I didn't examine it on others. I made a couple of muslins and the bodice was a bit off for me. I bummed because i love a good wrap dress. The wrinkles were there that I didn't like and I tried to fix it. I just gave up. Hoping I'd come back to it, I didn't. I do like their other patterns though.
6/6/2014 08:23:01 am
The only reason I didn't blog about it is because I hoped to work on it again and write my experience. I don't know if I will finish it. If I don't, will I blog about it? Probably not because I don't normally blog about my ufos
Late to the party on this...but I ordered a Flora about a week ago and I'm honestly really nervous that I just paid $34 to spend 2 weeks fiddling with fit. Yeesh. At least when I buy a big 4 pattern it's less damaging to my wallet if I'm spending 2 weeks and endless muslins tweaking the fit!
7/7/2014 06:00:46 am
I just discovered your blog when looking at other peoples versions of the BHL flora dress as I'm about to make one. So glad to have stumbled across such a thought provoking conversation! I love seeing other peoples interpretations of all the great indie patterns that are out there but hadn't really stopped to consider how well they always seem to turn out and that people aren't sharing their makes that don't work out (which is perfectly understandable). I completely understand why someone wouldn't want to blog about something they may consider to be a failure but by doing so it perhaps makes us as readers think that our own skills must be lacking if our makes aren't perfect every time. While I like to support indie pattern designers and tend to buy from them rather than the big 4 I agree that a more varied test/ review base of bloggers who give completely honest feedback would benefit everyone in the long run - constructive criticism can only help an indie pattern company develop for the better.
I completely agree with you and boy, is it refreshing to find out that someone didn't drink the koolaid.
8/13/2014 06:07:00 am
You know what I really commend you for writing this post. It needs to be said because I definitely feel like there is a lack of authenticity in the sewing blogosphere with this exact thing and hopefully this will be the beginnings of change with that. I haven't made the flora skirt personally so I don't have much to say about that but like I said, I'm glad you stepped forward with your true opinions and didn't shy away for fear of offending anyone.
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