Saturday, January 29, 2011

Assessing the Situation

I will start at the beginning for this post (be warned this is a long one)....about two years ago, when the girls were only about 6 months old, I walked into a local fabric/craft shop looking to get some jewellery making supplies...this was going to be my latest greatest hobby! I was bored with card-making...(I still make cards, I'm far too mean to buy them!)

While I was waiting for the shop owner to finish with another customer, I had a look at the lovely fabrics on the shelves....I had never made a garment, but I had made curtains by the shed-load, so I had an interest in fabric and colours.
When she finally got to serve me, I told her how lovely one particular jersey was, and bit the bullet and asked how difficult it would be to make a top. She told me that if I could make curtains/cushions/jewellery/cards, that she was sure that I could make a top from a "very easy" pattern....she told me to phone her if I had a problem.

I held my breath as I cut into the jersey, trying to remember all the things she had told me...I made a wearable fact I wore it to a wedding party with white trousers, and to a christening too...I still wear it occasionally.
I was hooked from then on...I went on to make the little ones a couple of simple pinafores, and several more tops and even some trousers, all from "Big 4" patterns. I made T some trousers from one of these patterns....they would have fit me!

In the meantime a Dutch friend of mine loaned me an Ottobre Magazine, in Dutch! I had no idea what the instructions said, but I still managed to make a few, very wearable garments for the little ones. I immediately subscribed to the magazine for a year, in English this time! I also ordered several back issues, including the original one that my friend loaned me. 1/2008.( Which ironically was only available in Dutch, with seperate English instructions!)
These are two "Maya blouses" (from the borrowed Dutch magazine) the first garments I made from Ottobre. I remember bringing the 3 younger kids to Kindermusik, the two girls wearing these, and feeling as proud as Punch!

This year will be my 3rd year to subscribe......and I have to admit that I am underwhelmed. It probably not the fault of the current(or last) issue, but I have barely looked at them.
To tell the truth I have enough Ottobre patterns to last me a lifetime. I am uninspired by a lot of the over-the-top designs of late....but then maybe I have just seen enough of Ottobre...? There are several things in the latest issues that I possibly might make, but I probably have an equally nice one in another issue.
Ottobre is the best value around as far as I am concerned, I hear people complain all the time about the price, but one issue of Ottobre is the same price as one single pattern in my local shop. Or for that matter, the same price as most single patterns from any pattern company, printed on paper, rather than a PDF. With Ottobre you get 40 designs, spanning a huge size range.

I have recently discovered Oliver + S patterns, which are expensive, and postage from most places that stock them is expensive too. But I find the need to think less both about chosing what to make and how to make it, which is a bit of a relief. Like Ottobre, the fit is excellent.

Is it just me being fickle, or have I just grown bored because I have seen enough Ottobre....and yet I hear several people on the Ottobre Yahoo group that they have every Ottobre ever printed....Will I come to love it it just a phase.....has anyone else had the same problem?

By the way, I have not fallen out of love with most of the issues I already have, like 1/2008. I adore many of the patterns in them and will one day make them.

I am totally self taught when it comes to garment making, well, I learn loads form the internet, but no-one has ever sat me down and taught me. I am extremely stubborn, and like to do things without help, so learning from Ottobre, with little or nothing in the way off illustrations, certainly was the hard way, but I am glad I learned that way. However I think I am now quite happy to sew with illustrations!

I am waiting for two new Oliver + S patterns to arrive, and I am soooo looking forward to them I do with every Colette pattern that arrives......this is how it should be.....

I used to worry that I would go off sewing, but I never have, I am delighted about this, it brings me such enjoyment.

I have not bought my kids any clothes in ages....I buy school uniforms because they take such abuse, and the (awful) fabric that is in the RTW ones, wears better than any fabric I can buy. I also buy them socks and tights. Everything else they wear, I have made or, is either a gift or a hand-me-down. (from cousins or friends)

So to conclude, I have decided that this year will be my last year subscribing to Ottobre, I can always buy single issues if I see something I really like, I know it works out more expensive that way, but like the clothes in the sales, I would rather pay a little more for something I really want than have loads of stuff that I don't want.

Any thoughts...anyone?
Sorry for such a long post.


Cindy said...

I definitely can see your point. If one has several years worth of Ottobre's, you can see that they have a tendency to repeat patterns. It's not surprising, after all there is only so much you can do to make something different. OD is still a bargain though...especially if you're sewing for a wide range of sizes and for different genders. I feel like I've become a more competent sewer through their instructions but there are times that I would prefer to have everything spelled out plus a few diagrams to show me exactly how to do something. That's where the O+S patterns come in for me. Plus, their designs are more timeless vs. trendy.

For me, there's a place for both. At some point I'm sure I'll decide that I have had enough of OD. The fall and winter issues didn't really grab me so much but the current one does. There's definitely a few misses in the spring issue but there's at least 5 patterns that I can see sewing. We've made the jump to the 104+ size range with the little girls and I don't really see as much in that range that I care for as I did the 92 and below. And I'm starting to ramble! My point, I guess, is that yes, at some point I think it's reasonable to quit a subscription and only buy when an issue grabs you.

Which 2 O+S patterns did you purchase? I recently got the Ice Cream Dress and the Hopscotch pattern. I'm excited that those go up to a 12. I'm hoping K might like one of them.

Andrea said...

Hrm. I have the opposite problem! I haven't been able to find Ottobre here, but have quite a few O&S patterns in my stash (if I ever get to them. I have told myself I will, but the knitting is just so much easier to manage these days).

I think, in the end, you're wise to go issue to issue and buy one if it speaks to you. Meantime, if you need me to find some O&S patterns, let me know!

Kitschy Coo said...

I'm with you. I've subscribed for three years too now and it's gotten to the point where I see a lot of overlap now. When my friend had a baby recently I looked through all of my issues for feety trousers and found no less than four in three years! I'm not sure I'll stop my subscription though, I *do* find it quite inspirational and I often see wee tiny design quirks that intrigue me.

Mise said...

I'm not a sewer (alas) so can't comment on the patterns, but am sneaking in a comment to say that I'd love to see a photo of some of your cards...

Jen said...

I relate to this a bit - I've felt a bit like there's some design repetition going on in a couple of the most recent issues, at least for some of the more basic garments. I think my favorite issue is still the 5/2006, for the "wow factor" alone. But now I'm sewing more for Tallon and I don't have a ton of patterns lying around for him other than Ottobre. For the girls I go back and forth between Farbenmix/Studio Tantrum patterns and Ottobre. Gwyneth discovered my Redondo skirt pattern and asked for a skirt to go with her Valentine shirt. I still love the more over-the-top designs, so it's a good thing my girls do, too.

I think you do amazing work for someone who has only been sewing for a few years. I've been doing it for 30 years, more or less, and I don't know that I'm any more proficient than you are, although I probably know a lot of obscure hand stitches and things like that, lol! And FWIW, I'm really inspired by the fact that you are able to get so much done while having the twins to look after, as it's hard enough for me to sew when I only have Tallon at home and the other 2 are at school.

Millie said...

Thanks for your input Cindy...I agree Ottobre is still brilliant value. As you say, especially if you are sewing for a range of sizes and genders.
I suppose I feel that there are probably several things in the new mag that I would sew, but probably not before I sew something in a previous issue.
I bought the Nature Walk pattern and the Sailboat Pattern, both in larger sizes. I am hoping that the Nature walk sweater will be a winner with the older two.

Andrea, I have found it easiest to order Ottobre from an agent or directly from Ottobre Design themselves.
I understand about the knitting, (even one-handed knittting while nursing!)
I have no problem finding O+S patterns, but I have to order them from the US, UK or Europe, no local shops sell them. Postage costs a lot from many of these places. It is reasonable if you also buy fabric, but I don't always want to! I may call on you one day though!

Amanda....I don't even mind that they repeat designs, I can understand that that happens, but I think I have just had enough, for now anyway. I feel I am becoming overwhelmed by the choices I have, so I do nothing! I agree that they do manage to make ordinary designs quirky with their small details. Like I say, I still love the issue that I own.

Mise...I will see what I can root out...I thought I had a photo of a recent wedding card, but alas, I can't find it!

Thanks Jen! I find making thngs keeps me sane, and I suppose I have always sewn, just never clothes. I had done quilts and cross-stitch, so the progression was natural enough.
I agree that for boys patterns, Ottobre cannot be beaten. The Over-the-top patterns don't suit me, and my girls don't like them much either(so far), that's not to say that I don't admire what you make....they just don't suit our lifestyle, where you could be out in a farmyard for a good part of the day! I will have 5 more Ottobre before my sub runs out (including ladies), I will do a final accessment of things at the end of the year...thanks for your help on this issue.

motherof5 said...

I used to buy TopKids which I think may be similar to those that you speak of.
A magazine with pull out pattern sheets that you trace?
I swore it was so much cheaper than buying single patterns... then I had twins.
Time is precious, mine is almost bloody non-existent! I sew with oliver+s pretty well all the time. The instructions are good, the designs are so cute and the comradeship in the group is the cherry on the top!
And I don't need a stiff drink before facing the tracing!

Millie said...

That's right Nicole...sounds like the same type of thing.....I actually never mind tracing the patterns! I agree with all that you have said about O+S patterns...there is a Yahoo Group for Ottobre, but I have only left comments a few times. The O+S forum seems very friendly, not saying the other isn't but I just never seemed inclined to join in chat. Maybe it is because I am shy! I will definitely continue to sew Ottobre, but I think I will give my subscription a rest after this year.

Thirza said...

I can completely see your point: there are only so many patterns you can mentally handle to go through! I have 6 Ottobres: 4 summer, 1 winter and 1 children and I do not know where to start!

I could make dozens of things that I like, and because of that, I do not do any, because I do not know where to start. Even when I do, you have to wrestle your way through the pattern sheets...

I have set myself a goal of sewing the perfect white blouse shirt within the fortnight.

The Oliver + S patterns are so pleasing. And yes, they are expensive, but they are very good quality. And, is there anything not described in those instructions??! I would say: keep your Ottobres as a back up, and buy single issues whenever you spot something really nice!

Millie said...

Thirza....I agree about O+S, they are lovely.
The funny thing is that I am very attached to the many Ottobres that I already own, I just find it hard to process all the new patterns that arrive in the new issues. I still have loads of patterns that I want to use from what I already have.
I am looking forward to my new O+S patterns arriving soon. I will make a start on the sweater from the Nature Walk pattern asap!
I will watch out for your new blouse....I'll be checking up on you!

Angela said...

Millie, that's an interesting post, and it had crossed my mind recently that I might stop buying Ottobre. My reasoning was firstly that I usually prefer the patterns in the Winter and Summer editions only, and secondly I find myself going to back issues for many clothes that I make.
Though I love the look of the O+S patterns, have quite a few, find the instructions incredibly detailed, and always learn from them, I find them too word heavy, and I prefer to get a picture in my head of the process - hence my 'obsession' with Japanese pattern books. I started sewing end of 2008 by copying RTW, sewed 2 dresses and then a winter coat for my daughter all without a pattern! So I find I'm always looking for a challenge and maybe that's why I still find I need to work things out in my head first.
I'll probably continue with Ottobre, but I will also consider getting single issues when I see something I love.

I think after getting some experience sewing, you also gain confidence in what you like and don't like, and because you started with Ottobre, it can be just that bit harder to let go - my two-penny worth!!!

Millie said...

Angela...thanks for that...I felt like I am beng disloyal to Ottobre! I agree, funny now that you mention it, I also like Summer and Winter issues best!
Imagine that you made all those without patterns. I know what you mean about liking the challenge of sewing with minimal instructions. I will definitely continue with sewing Ottobre for those times, but I imagine that I will use O+S for when I don't need to coached through my sewing! There is surely a place for both in my life!

Joy said...

I can relate to your conundrum - both the appeal of the new and different and having enough of one thing. Ottobre has been extremely useful (and economical) for me. Even so, I let my subscription expire because I have so many patterns yet to sew; I just don't need more right now. Ditto for my Burdastyle subscription. Both magazines repeat patterns (Burda is worse-they repeat very distinctive patterns like sarouel pants!!!) I figure when styles change over the next few years, I can always re-subscribe if I want to. On another note, Japanese patterns have been calling my name lately (:

Millie said...

Thanks Joy...I am so glad you understand...that sums up exactly how I feel! I find other patterns appealing, but I still think Ottobre is extremely useful, and also economical....but like you say, by now I have plenty of patterns to sew from... Maybe in a couple of years I will resubscribe. In the meantime I will buy single issues if I see something I especially like. BTW..I had to google Sarouel pants!

Ria said...

Hi Millie,
I just said to Mark: "This year will be the last year I'm subscribing to Ottobre. If they release something I really like, I'd rather buy the mag in the store next year". The reason is the same as yours: I have enough pattern already. And I can mix them to make just the garment I want. But boy, I still am so greatfull for their exsistence. They tought me the love of sewing and after all those years I still really like their style (for boys).
We also have another magazine here in Holland, Knippie, but their pants e.g. are always so detailed yet not original. Exactly the way you find them in the store. Ottobre stands out more.
And ... I started to sew knits, really love to make T-shirts and tops. Something that brands them, I think.
You'll see some more of my sewing soon, on my blog.
Greetings, Ria

Millie said...

Ria...imagine that! I am so glad that I found Ottobre too, like you, I have learned so much...I also love their style for boys. In fact I think they are the best pattern company when it comes to boy patterns. I have seen Knippie, but nothing caught my eye quite like Ottobre does. I will watch out for your latest sewing, you always make such lovely imaginative colourful things!

Ana said...

I had the same experience with Burda magazine. I spent the first year buying it religiously only to feel that I was getting less and less for my money. True, you get 30 or so patterns for the price of one, but a lot of them turn out to be variations on a theme (over the course of a few issues) so not such a good deal.
These days I flick through the issues at the newsagent and only buy if there's something I can't live without. Recult: haven't bought one for months!

Millie said...

I can appreciate that Ana...I have never even seen Burda here....I still love Ottobre and would highly recomend it, but I will take a break after this subscription...I counted that I have 12 childrens issues and 4 ladies. Enough to keep me going!

mc said...

I subscribed to Ottobre for two years and also purchased a few back subscription ran out and i didn't renew it thinking I would next time I saw an issue I couldn't live without...that was over a year ago. There are so many things in what I already own that I haven't yet got around to making that I also just don't need anything more right now. I too think I'll order a single issue if something really hits me.

Millie said...

Thanks seems like that is the best way to go for me you, I have more than enough things to sew for the forseeable future too!

Medrie said...

My Ottobres go back to 01/2004, and I can see how much overlap there (inevitably) is in the number of patterns I now have. I have enough issues and patterns to keep me busy for the rest of my life. I often tell myself that it's time to stop my subscription, but I love browsing the mag for every detail, even if I don't sew much (or anything!) from it. I'm also always eternally convinced that the next issue will contain their most showstopping garment ever! But, as Ria says, there's always the opportunity to pick up single issues if you do decide to give your subscription a rest...

Millie said...

I can understand all of that Medrie...I should used to enjoy looking through Ottobre...but the last two issues have not thrilled me...maybe the next couple will? I also think that as a magazine to just read/browse for inspiration, it is not at all expensive. That's even before the patterns. I am afraid that I will regret it as soon as I stop my subscription...I can always re-subscribe immediately though! Right!? If not I will buy single issues as and when I fancy one.

Jne4sl said...

Very nice post so much you say is familiar.

I'll admit I'm obsessed with Ottobre and I probably should branch out more. Not that I love everything they do but even if I quit sewing I think I would enjoy it. The most recent issues haven't grabbed me as much although what I have tried has still been good, so I think it may be the styling lately more than the actual patterns. Still, I will always love the first issues I saw most and I will never poor over a new issue as thoroughly. For me that was Winter '05 and Spring '06. When I first saw those online I was incredulous that I could actually get/sew patterns for all those designs. I had seen Burda on newsstands but never was inspired enough to purchase an issue. I ordered those two issues, liked them even more in person, and subscribed. I had already been sewing but mostly toddler clothes from American pattern companies, the boutique brands hadn't really gotten going yet. I had made it through some intricate patterns before OD, but, I'd say they taught me how to sew, too. My sewing improved over night: the details, the fit, the fabrics. I don't like over the top, all I wanted was to sew as well as what was in shops while making my own choices. I have lots of issues and I can get overwhelmed by the choices but I don't think that's slowed me down. I was so impressed that OD had detailed coat patterns as I couldn’t find those anywhere. I do completely agree with the idea of pay more but get only what you need. I started sewing partly because I was sick of the piles of store bought clothes that were all slightly wrong: didn't quite fit, didn’t match anything, and I think that we do actually get by with less now that I sew.

You may be lucky to have started with OD, I think I'm scarred by the time I waisted sewing other patterns and now I'm leery of trying them. I don't want to re-figure the fit or deal with wide seam allowances. I've never tried O+S although I am impressed by their pattern packaging and instructions. But the thing I hated about the American patterns I was using was that they were so old. The fit was erratic, too, but even when I could get past that, the companies were clearly reusing the same catalogs the had for forty years. And all though some were classic styles I felt it was so limiting. Now, I like vintage things and I shopped thrift stores before I ever sewed. Still sewing one Jon Jon for my son is nostalgia but having no other choices for a toddler boy pattern is depressing. So that's where my hesitance for O+S comes. I'm sure O+S is producing quality versions of these patterns but they are going for nostalgic designs and that is exactly what I escaped when I found OD. I also agree it's the boy's patterns that make OD great. I like sewing some frilly things but, I much prefer sewing a good pair of pants with nice details. No one would guess they are home made but I'm just so proud of how nice they look. Good to know the O+S forum is rewarding, I do wish there were more general sewing discussions out there. I'm active on the OD group but there isn't really that much discussion more just quick questions.

So that's where I am, when I found Ottobre it gave my sewing life but now I cling to it because It's so familiar. I think you're practical to give it up especially if you're moving on to other things and you already have what you need. But for myself I still really enjoy getting it and I always find some things I have to make. I have an issue for a while before I really start using it so it's hard to gauge if it's really a dud. The only direction I've been moving in is sewing more Vogue patterns for myself just to try some more tailored details and drafting some things. But for day to day clothes, I don't see myself moving beyond Ottobre. (Sorry for the epic response.)

Millie said...

Jne4sl.....I still love the first issue I found too, (the dutch one) from my friend. I agree that you get extraordinary patterns from OD, like coats and outer-wear that would be next to impossible to find elsewhere.
Indeed I did manage to sew a few Big4 patterns before OD, oh my! T's gigantic orange cords still haunt me! As for O+S, their patterns are very classic, but then, I haven't too many of that style...I also seldom use very old-fashioned fabrics, so I hope they end up a bit more modern looking.
I alway find it hard to avoid the stuff that doesn't interest me on the OD yahoo group, like you said, just other people's questions more than discussions.
I am always amazed how many of the same things you and I sew from Ottobre. I am delighted to hear that you are still getting so much out of Ottobre. Maybe I will come back to it in time. For now I still have the rest of my subscription to enjoy.

Sarvi said...

Millie, have you tried C'est Dimanche or Citronille? They're French patterns for children (with a few teen sizes I think) and they're very elegant. It's a different aesthetic than Ottobre, so if you're looking for a change, that might be good. They sell single patterns, like Oliver + S. If you can track down Japanese pattern books, you'll find they're very similar to Ottobre in that there are many designs, you must trace the pattern and add seam allowances, etc. The written instructions are in Japanese, but there are pretty clear, detailed construction photos. I sometimes cheat and look at the instructions for a similar O + S garment. (found your blog through the O+S site, by the way!)

Millie said...

Sarvi....I haven't tried either of these companies...I saw C'est Dimanche on someone elses blog and I knew of Ctironille. I think they are very elegant, but one of my problems is that my kids hardly ever wear good clothes...they wear uniforms to school and the majority of the other clothes they wear are very casual because a lot of their time is spent on the farm or just playing. I have in the past made special things (apart from a dress), like a nice tunic, but these things are maybe worn once! I know this is probably hard for other people to imagine how seldom we have the need to wear really nice clothes!
I am afraid to buy any Japanese pattern books...I hear they are adictive! Thank you for giving me a few more ideas.


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