How I’m putting my money where my mouth is!

Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is!

I wrote a post on the Sewcialists called “Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is”, all about how in 2018 I’m going to focus on buying patterns and fabric that support the ideals I believe in. I want to explore the topic more here on my own blog, so let’s dive in!


I’m cusp-sized, so I fit into the majority of straight-sized indie patterns, but I’m sized out of just enough that the exclusion stings. I don’t really think of myself as “plus”, but I feel a strong sense of camaraderie with larger sewists. I’m particularly turned off when a pattern range includes my size, but none of the models or testers reflect that. As you’ll know if you listened to my episode of the Love To Sew podcast, I also have little patience for companies that don’t feature a range of ages and ethnicities in their models and testers. I think it’s time we know better and do better!

So, who do I support? Well, it’s no coincidence that the three companies I pattern test for are Cashmerette, Helen’s Closet, and Seamstress Erin.


From left to right: Seamstress Erin Cashmerette, and Helen’s Closet.

How awesome is that artwork? It’s such a simple thing to make everyone feel welcome, right from the first visual. When I’m putting my own time and fabric into helping someone else develop a pattern, I want to believe in what they make, and also feel that they designed it with figures like mine in mind!

Who else is doing it right? Another company that I think choses amazing models is Seamwork/Colette. I appreciate that By Hand London dedicated their new coat pattern to Great British Sewing Bee alum Rumana (The Little Pomegranate), because there isn’t much visibility for hijabi or modest-dressing sewists. Style Arc has one of the best size ranges, and is becoming more easily available online. Thread Theory announced they are doing more men’s patterns in their expanded size range (up to 4XL/50″ waist). As I explained on the Sewcialists, I’m also donating this year to FreeSewing.Org, which offers free patterns for any size and drafts any pattern for a body with or without a bust.

2017 was also a great year for new sewing magazine releases, with both Sew Sew Def and Sewn Magazine launching. I appreciate that both are Black-owned and feature a wide variety of figures, ages, and sewists! I’ve bought a copy of each, and I’ll try to do a review/feature sometime soon.

best online shops for knit fabrics in Canada


The obvious choice would be to buy eco-friendly fabrics, but I just don’t see the fabrics I like to wear in eco-friendly versions! I am going to try to educate myself better this year though.

For now, I’m going to try to shop local and use my money to support Canadian-owned businesses. (Starting with my list of online shopping options in Canada!) I’m happy supporting stores like Blackbird or L’Oiseau that offer a quality product at a fair price, and larger chains like Fabricland and Club Tissus that make shopping for fabric locally across Canada easier!

In addition, I’m continuing to boycott any fabric with name or motif that appropriates another culture. Why call a pattern “Navajo” or “Aztec” when it could just be called “Geometric”? That said, I enjoyed sewing with African wax print in the fall, and I still think it’s fine to buy, sew and wear authentic traditional fabrics from around the world.

Sewing Challenges: 

I don’t join in many sewing challenges, partly because I’m so busy hosting my own with the Sewcialists! (Did you hear that February’s theme is #SewStripes?) That said, I love challenges like BP Sewvember, Me-Made May or #makenine that encourage everyone to participate in their own way, at their own pace. I think the Curvy Sewing Collective is doing a great take on the year-long sewing challenge by having loose categories and letting participants pick the pattern that best suits their size, gender, style, timeline and practical needs. It’s not hard to be inclusive!

Another great initiative is @sewqueer , which is drawing together and amplifying the voices of sewists who tag their work with #sewqueer. Shannon from Rare Device is doing such a great job building the community!

Social Media: 

Finally, I’m going to make sure that social media brings positive thoughts and inspiration into my life. This isn’t so much financial as emotional investment – if I roll my eyes when I see a certain person/company’s post, then I know I need to unfollow. If a username or blog post makes me smile as soon as I see it, then that is the right content for me to consume! It’s easy to underestimate how much encouragement we all get from each other, so I want to consciously make sure I’m cheering on friends online as much as possible. Let’s spread the good will and love!

How do you put your money (and time and energy) where your mouth is? I’d love to hear your thoughts below! 

Ps. You folks gave the best recommendations for Big 4 patterns – every suggestion was a winner! I’ve started a Pinterest board to keep track of the inspiration, and I’ll start watching out for pattern sales! 

39 thoughts on “How I’m putting my money where my mouth is!

  1. There was a discussion on this on Textillia last year, so it’s been on my mind. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the big 4 in the diversity front recently – they’ve certainly branched out along skin colour lines and somewhat on fabric choices, and Butterick will have the “plus-sized” (ok, for the fashion industry) model as the first one posted, with the standard sample size as the alternate. Vogue is not so good on showing plus size at all. Not nearly as good as a company or group that is targeting these areas, but I think we do need to give them props to keep going.


  2. Hi, I just wanted to thank you for the positive messages you are getting out to the sewing community! I returned to sewing for myself and following sewing blogs within the last few years and was hesitant to start my own blog bc some seemed so professional. Now I’m hearing interviews with these same people and realizing they’ve only been doing this for the past few years too. Instead of nervously trying to plan everything before I start, I just need to start, accept that there will be a gap between what I see in my mind and what I can actually produce. But knowing, by doing I am getting closer to my vision! I’m in the same size range as you as well as entering my fifties, and love the same companies you do for their inclusiveness! I also stopped fighting my hair and went gray, and was surprised at how many people took issue with my personal decision. I joined IG last year and am loving the supportive sewing community and am looking forward to starting my blog to share what fabulousness is happening for this stage of my life.
    *note* Blank Slate Patterns is another good one.


    1. Thank you for mentioning Blank Slate! I agree, they are good about size inclusivity!

      Isn’t it funny finding out that people we thought are “expert” are really just like us!? I was rewatching episodes of the Great British Sewing Bee and was amazed how many contestants had only been sewing a few years. Anything is possible with confidence! I’m glad that you’ve been getting back into sewing and finding the community supportive!


  3. It’s a great idea to support local or national businesses. I only wish that were possible where I live in the UK. My experience working previously in the haberdashery industry just did not allow such restrictions. For interest, one company we used for fabric purchases was actually Canadian, with prints of London icons! My experiences now as a customer only is that we just don’t manufacture enough in the UK, fabric in particular. I sew a bit, knit a lot. Luckily I could choose to just use UK yarns as there are many independent sheep and alpaca breeders.


    1. I’d love to know more about your experiences as a buyer! I don’t know if we actually produce any fabric here in Canada, but I figure that if I”m supporting a Canadian business (even though they import fabric), it’s better than nothing. My local chain fabric store closed, and now I have to drive an hour for fabric… so I’m quite aware that if we don’t keep our local options open, it will make sewing a lot less accessible!


      1. Oh dear – I now remember the fabric was imported from New Zealand! So sorry to get any hopes up. It was about 7 years ago and a lot has happened since, though I have to say I have returned to the same store and there is still the odd print in the series available (and I don’t think it was reordered). Your support of a Canadian store is commendable, even if they have to import, it is still a local business to you. I despair when I hear of some people only ever buying online and not caring where the item is coming from. Have to say I do both out of necessity, but you can’t beat an actual visit to a craft shop! On a note about being a buyer’, in my last job I chose the yarn for the store. We only purchased from a UK company and I know originally this company was selling yarn only spun by particular Yorkshire spinners (Yorkshire is a region in the North of England). I am not certain they still just support local spinners, that information was never given and I did not ask the question – I had reserved this for the future, no longer in the job though!


        1. thank you – I found that all so interesting! I get the feeling that if we dig deeper at all into where our fabric comes from, we’d be horrified… but I love fabric, so I admit I’m going to keep buying it! HOpefully at least shopping local helps offset that a bit!


          1. Quite true – I dream of one day visiting India or China and buying fabric at source! I admit thought, until then, I will buy where/when I see fabric, trying to keep to fairly local shops but as there aren’t too many I imagine plenty of forays to find good haberdashers!


  4. My friends and I have been doing something similar on a local scale. As we were riding the train back from the Women’s March last year, we brainstormed ideas to do next. We came up with a list of women- and minority-owned businesses that we all promised to support. We later added small restaurants owned by immigrants and refugees. I was gratified to support a few places I already knew and loved and to learn about a few new places. A few I tried weren’t that good, so I haven’t been back. Whenever I have shopping to do, a service to hire or a meal to have out, I think first of the list. I also got a new female GP doctor from the list.

    The one tough call for me is the hair salon. A man owns the one I’ve patronized for 15 years but everyone working there is a woman. I love my stylist, so I still support it, and leave generous tips. She told me that he’s a good boss and treats the stylists well, and I believe that’s true since most of the stylists have been there for as long as mine.

    When it comes to sewing, I have given more business to shops owned by minorities in New York’s Garment District, although that’s not difficult to do, given the number of shops owned by Asians, Orthodox Jews and gays. A gay man owns my local store, so I shop there often too. I recently bought a sewing book from a female author’s website instead of through Amazon. It cost $1 more, but I figured she’d get more of the profit that way.

    Patterns are a tough call for me. You know I have an issue with indie designers who charge $15 for a simple pattern that needs to be printed and taped together or printed at a copy shop. While they get all the profit, I would have to really love a pattern to buy it this way.


    1. What a fantastic idea to have a list of businesses to support when possible! I love that idea. I”m going to reflect on how I could do something similar.

      Pattern costs are a funny one… after my post on sewing big 4, I was HORRIFIED to find that Vogues cost $33 and all other big 4 cost $15+! That’s more than most of the indies I buy. I know they do go on sale, but I’m annoyed to have to wait months to get a deal, and not know how good that deal will be. I want to sew NOW!


      1. Yeah I have never paid full price for a pattern in my life. They are always on sale in the US anyway – sometimes as cheap as $1 for Butterick, McCalls and Simplicity and $5 for Vogue.


  5. Three cheers! Such an uplifting post and something I can aspire to. Totally agree with your points and it is definitely something I will try to incorporate in my sewing and fabric choices. I am plus sized and I am glad to start my sewing journey in a time when these issues are more inclusive thanks to some amazing indie designers. I am also very aware of environmental issues in my sewing and try to sew for longevity and not necessarily the latest fashion, although organic fabric is beyond my budget. Thanks for a very thoughtful post and Happy New Year.


    1. Hi Angie! I’m glad you are finding the size range in patterns that works for you! I think we’ve made some good progress there in the last few years, although i always want to see better! I like your point about sewing for longevity, no matter what kind of fabric is used, because I also feel like organic fabric is not always a possible answer.


  6. Hey Gillian,
    Laudable goals! 🙂 Just thought you’d like to know that SewSewDef appears to be either on hiatus or truly dead. There hasn’t been an issue since September, no updates on social media, and no one seems to know what’s happened to subscription money.


  7. Great post, Gillian. And I totally agree with you! I spend a lot of time thinking about this. I actually try not to shop at traditional grocery stores anymore, I shop almost exclusively at our member-owned cooperative market and seek out other coops or locally owned natural food stores when I travel whenever possible. Food is one of our basic necessities and I don’t think that some CEO somewhere should be making a huge profit off of it! Just my little proselytizing for the day 😉

    Anyways, I love what you say about sewing companies, especially pattern companies! However, I don’t consider Helen’s Closet to be super inclusive (I’m out of her size range, but I do see what you are saying about her drawings) so I’ve had a bit of back and forth debate about buying from her. I did end up getting the Blackwood Cardigan though, since its been so popular and looks so good! So I am still making exceptions for designs I love ( from Papercut patterns too, which are not at all inclusive, but I do just fit in their size range because they have a ton of ease). I need to try Seamstress Erin, she is doing great work, its just that none of her designs have spoken to me yet. I would really like to stop buying patterns that I have to grade up.

    I really appreciate you being vocal on this subject and I loved your episode on Love to Sew. Great work!


    1. Agreed about Helen’s Closet – I’m at the upper end of her size range (as well as a number of other indie companies that I do sometimes buy from, like Closet Case Patterns) and have made about a million pairs of the culotte pattern, but I’m disappointed that even with fairly simple style lines the size range isn’t wider. (I’ve also noticed they kind of shy away from size-inclusivity issues on the podcast, but that’s another issue).


      1. I Agree that they have shied away from the issue- I have had a voicemai/email in mind to send to them for an while I response to something they said on the the pattern podcast and I think I’ll just go ahead and do it! Like Gillian said, people sometimes need feedback to see the other side of something.


    2. Good points, Megan! I think you and I are just a couple of inches apart in our measurements, but I am right at the top of Helen’s size range. I’ll ask her sometime about the size range, and if it would be possible to add another size or two, since (for now at least) she is PDF only! I think her designs would be popular with the curvy community, because they are modern and classic at the same time.

      I think overall the trend is growing for larger sizes in sewing – it’s funny looking back at 5 year old indie patterns and realising they mostly stopped at a size 16! But not fast enough, and I’m hoping that emailing pattern companies helps them decide to expand size ranges! (I just heard back from Thread Theory, who I emailed to thank them for expanding size ranges, and it sounds like customer emails asking for bigger sizes made a big difference in their decisions!)


      1. Good idea, Gillian! My hips are 51” right now and many indies seem to go up to 48”. I do sometimes buy those, but stay away from anything 46” or smaller if it all possible.


  8. Gillian, I love this! I’m trying to shift my fabric and notions buying habits towards more local and indie companies, and have also been thinking more about the places I buy from that sell overstock/jobber fabric and how that does or doesn’t align with my values (thinking about Allie’s post about overstock fabric on IndieSew, and big fabric discount places like fashionfabricsclub or, more locally for me, SR Harris). I like the idea of getting use out of “leftover” fabric, but I don’t necessarily know much about the values of big places like those, so I don’t have a single answer! But I hope to do a good amount of my fabric shopping this year either from local or small indie stores when possible, and to maybe try to make a habit to swing by my local fabric store when I need thread/interfacing/etc instead of making a Joann’s run. (And, of course, thank you for the sewqueer shout-out!)


    1. It’s so hard to know what’s going on behind the scenes in fabric retail! I’d love to know more from people involved in the business. I’m trying to ease myself into sustainability by continuing to buy the fabric I want to wear, but making sure I am responsible about the scraps and alter garments to get more wear if they aren’t seeing the light of day.


  9. Great post, lots to think about here! I buy a lot of big four patterns and lately, it seems as though they’re making an effort with their envelope photos and magazine shoots to celebrate diversity. But I need to be more conscious of my choices and appreciate you inspiring me to do so!


  10. This is a great post, Gillian. Up until a few years ago I had just been a voracious consumer, buying all and everything that spoke to me but more recently I have been on a tighter budget and the upside of this is that it has made me really consider what I am buying, and as a consequence who I was buying from. I love to support indie and small businesses and am going on a bit of an RTW fast this year, have committed myself to sewing at least some of my stash (which is now taking over 2 houses) and to buy patterns either second-hand or from small companies, even Big 4. I am so happy to see wider diversity in our sewing community and think that it is quite ground-breaking in its inclusivity. I can’t think of any other *hobby* (for want of a better word) that celebrates such a wide audience. Xx


    1. We have got to rope you into being a Sewcialist! If you ever want to join the Facebook planning team, we’d love to have you! It doesn’t have to me a lot of work, but we have lots of interesting discussions about planning things!


  11. I just found your blog (I can’t remember how I got here…from the curvy collective or maybe Meg from Cookin’ and Craftin’…?) and, after seeing this post, I am glad I did. I am a sewing professional (I’ve been a costumer for almost 25 years and also a former fashion teacher) but I have rarely ever had much time to sew for myself (mostly because I have been too busy or lazy to draft patterns for myself). I didn’t really start sewing for myself again until last year…when I found the Cashmerette Harrison shirt…and from there realized that a lot of Indie designers were doing plus sized patterns that I didn’t have to alter! When I sew for myself I just want to take a break…Keep fighting the good fight! I’ll be following for sure!


    1. I”m so glad you’ve found a happy place in the online sewing community! I LOVE Cashmerette, and the joy of sewing clothes that fit!


  12. Speaking of sustainability: In a somewhat timely way, CBC’s Marketplace just did a documentary about where recycled textiles go (a la donation bin at H&M), and most of it gets sold in bulk to countries in, for example, Africa. Sadly, if it can’t be used as is, it gets burnt. And most of the fabric/old clothes can’t be resused or recycled (mixed fibres, and apparently recycling cotton/wool weakens the resulting fabric). So all those scraps I’ve been saving for recycling are essentially getting thrown out anyway.

    Something to think about even harder.


  13. What I love most about your style is that you aren’t complaining at all about how hard this is. As soon as I think about supporting local fabric stores more, I default to thinking about how far they must have shipped the fabric regardless and it all seems too difficult because it’s not “perfect”. It’s a nice reminder that doing something is better than nothing and I can make loads of small changes that will add up!


    1. I definitely get those feeling too! Our national news (CBC) just did a report on how most of the textiles donated at places like H&M just get burned, because there isn’t demand for used textiles, and recycling is $$$. Now I don’t know what to do!


  14. I’m glad you included age in your categories; when you were on the topic of ‘who are you?’ I had thoughts about this that were hard to put into words. When I started doing the Insta thing, it took me about 3 days to feel like I didn’t really fit in. (I’m 58, 5’8″, rtw size 10) Just like when browsing patterns, I have to do a lot of mental translating to visualize these things in my wardrobe. I’ve since found a variety of people in different age groups that help balance that out, and I agree – the visual representation on most pattern art is pretty narrow.


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