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Saturday, 24 September 2016


My Bundled Up Bindle Bag PWYW experiment...
Back in mid-May, I released my latest pattern in a markedly different way than usual. The Bundled Up Bindle Bag did not have a conventional price, nor was it meant to be given away as a freebie. The pattern listing on Craftsy clearly indicated that it was being offered on a "pay what you want" arrangement.

If you were aware of this offering, you may be curious as to how it played out. Well, on July 31 — tired of the lack of any variable data — I deleted the PWYW option and put up a conventional version of the pattern for two bucks.

After the first fifty or so purchases, I had it in mind to pull the plug on the experiment if it did not pay anything after ten weeks; it was ultimately eleven weeks and a few days.

So there you go. But before anyone jumps to the conclusion that the experiment was a failure, I can say that the numerical data (such as it is) is still informative in and of itself. With just under 300 "sales", the numbers reveal that a whopping 71% did not even download the pattern at all. This leaves only 29% who may actually have opened up the PDF at any point in time.

Intriguing, isn't it? Unexpected? Not so much.

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I already knew that a lot of purchasers of free patterns on Craftsy do not in fact download the patterns. These crafters put a lot of faith in Craftsy — and individual designers — to keep safe their access to these patterns in a way that I would never be. (I download all of my Craftsy patterns as soon as I "buy" them, whether they are free or not.)

Case in point, before I pulled the PWYW version, I uploaded a stripped down version of the PDF stating that the pattern was no longer available as a free item and that the purchaser will have to go to my payment page to make a "donation" of some sort (after which, I would send them the full PDF), or they could purchase the newly available pattern for $2. I believe the way it works is that — even though I deleted the PWYW pattern — previous purchasers will still have the option to download it from their individual accounts, only now they will be downloading the most recent version, which doesn't include instructions.

To hazard a guess, I'd say that most people won't even be affected by this change; as in, if they've never downloaded it, they likely never will. You and I both know that there are so many free patterns out there, it's easy for them to get lost in the pile.

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I found an interesting blog post at ConversionXL.com that outlines a bunch of pricing strategies and provides some historical data on them. With regards to the PWYW idea, it had this to say (which is actually taken from a book called Smart Pricing by Jagmohan Raju and Z. John Zhang)...

This screenshot is from a blog post at ConversionXL.com...

The first bullet point is a given: the PDF is a product with a low marginal cost.

The second bullet is less of a given. Not to say that Craftsy customers are not fair-minded, but in this same blog post, the writer states the following:
"Of course, the anonymity of the Internet removes the social pressure one feels after being served personally by a human being. It’s one thing to have the amount you choose observed and another thing to download stuff without being seen."
Simply put, customers do not see me standing at the checkout counter watching them leave without paying anything. (I knew that from the get-go.) But I had hopes that perhaps a few people — or maybe just one?? — might see the opportunity to drop a token "thank you" for the perceived freebie.

I'm not positive about the third bullet point, but in the world of PDF patterns, I think it's safe to say that this pattern could have been sold at a range of prices (if not a particularly wide range), given what I've said in the past about the varying prices for zippered pouch patterns.

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The fourth bullet speaks to a condition that is hard to find in this arena. For buyers and sellers to have a strong relationship, designers would have to have sold many, many patterns to many of the same people over a period of time. That's certainly not where I sit.

Finally, I believe the fifth bullet is true, but in this marketplace, it works in reverse. What I mean is that unlike how restaurants have paid competition, my competition is in the abundance of free patterns.

[Actually, if you'll permit me an aside here, there is still an overwhelming belief that most things offered online should be free or cheap. Over the past couple of years, I have been solicited several times online for my consulting services and in all cases — even though my quoted prices are well below the rates that I would work for in the "real world" — there are no responses once I put out my price. It would be an aggravating situation if I were actually trying to make a living, but instead I'm aggravated by the time I waste in responding to these people. I would take down my info were it not for the fact that my "real world" clients need to be able to see samples of my work.]

Anyway, to bring this update to a close, by the end of the week in which I put an actual price on the Bundled Up Bindle Bag, I had sold two of them.

So goes my pricing experiment. Was the result more or less what you had expected?

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Create Sewing Patterns From Your Old Clothing

eSheep Designs shorts
Two pairs of shorts made with help from an old pair of shorts...
Today is the last of my recent run of posts about sewing clothes and the specific topic is how to make your own sewing pattern out of a discarded garment.

Similar to how my skirt project got started, I had a pair of white shorts that had been in my summer and holiday rotation for years and years. (I have photos of me wearing them from as far back as 1995.) Two years ago, I finally decided to say goodbye to them, as the waistband had begun to fray.

Then I realized why I had worn these shorts for so long: I liked the style. (Unlike my one and only white skirt, I had three other pairs of white shorts.) I liked how they were cut sort of skirt-like with wide leg openings and how they had a nifty little faux fly in the front. And the elastic waist gave them convenient pull-on comfort.

With that in mind, I decided to disassemble them and make a new pair using the pieces as a pattern template.

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Pleats and a faux fly front...
If you've never done this before, it is an excellent way to recreate something that you like with more or less foolproof results. 'Cause if the original garment fits well, you can be assured that your result will also fit well. Not only that, if there are parts of the original that can be reused, all the better. (I reclaimed the elastic and the buttons that trimmed the faux fly.)

I will recommend, however, that you don't just take your seam ripper and "have at it". It helps a whole lot to take the time to check out — in detail — how your garment is sewn together before taking it apart.

With these shorts, I took a series of photos from all angles and locations.

Documenting how the shorts are sewn together as I deconstruct it...

I actually took notes too, although I did not have to refer to them afterwards; a pair of shorts is, after all, a relatively simple piece of clothing.

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As you start to take the stitches out, try to make permanent marks on the pieces of fabric to record the placement of any pleats, darts, etc. (I realize this will be difficult with some colours and some fabrics; pins will be your friends in that situation.)

Another thing: label your pieces as you go, i.e., Right Front, Left Front, Right Back, etc.

eSheep Designs shorts
Photos are cheap these days... take more than you need to be on the safe side!

Pay particular attention to seam allowances! (Write them onto the fabric itself if you can; that way you won't lose the info.)

Once you're done, give everything a good ironing — if possible — and ensure that every piece can be identified. (Again, these shorts were easy: the result was only four pieces; the waistband was actually not a "band", but an extension of the main pieces.)

Then the fun begins. Pin these templates onto your new fabric of choice and you're on your way to making a reproduction of a favourite old garment. (Or an inspired amalgamation. My shorts are a poor example, but if you have a shirt or something with parts that can be reused, it might be an interesting mash-up to see old fabric paired up with new.)

eSheep Designs shorts
I took advantage of a shortcut...
used the existing hem from the bed sheet as the hem on the legs of the shorts!

My fabric of choice was a bed sheet that first appeared on a wallet. (It was also used on one of my Make it Yours test bags... and no, I don't have any progress to update you on in terms of that project.)

eSheep Designs shorts
Pleats and faux fly pinned and ready for sewing...

With this first version, I remade the entire pair of shorts in the exact same way as the original. On my second pair (the blue flowered one that you see in the photo at the top of this post), I left out the pleats and the buttons.

eSheep Designs shorts
Close-up of the finished pleats and the button trim on the faux fly...

If the original was not exactly perfect for you, now is your chance to make it perfect. Did you want something to be longer? Wider? More fitted? Now is the time to try it out. I would even suggest basting your new "pattern pieces" themselves in a revised configuration (to make something shorter or more fitted, for example) where possible.

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I thought briefly about adding a set of pockets to these but then decided to wait until the next time. It would have been pretty easy to add an "in seam" pocket along both sides.

eSheep Designs shorts
Almost at the finish line... all that's left is to secure the bottom of the waistband
and then thread in the elastic...

But then of course, by the time I made this blue pair two years later, I forgot about the pockets. Maybe on my third try??

eSheep Designs shorts
An easy pair of shorts to sew and to wear!

The fabric here is again another bed sheet, last seen — I believe — on a hat I made for Mom.

Of course, this method of "deconstruct old to construct new" works on other things too, like stuffed toys, cushions, bags, purses. Obviously, the more complex the item, the more difficult it will be to recreate a new one for yourself. For me, this simple crossbody bag from last summer was a fairly easy project.

Have you ever attempted this type of reconstruction project? If so, what was it?

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Quasi-Tutorial: Quick Sew Kimono-Inspired Jacket

Pride & Prejudice Kimino Inspired Jacket by eSheep Designs
Simple kimono-inspired jacket made out of
my Pride & Prejudice text fabric...
Towards the end of June, Spoonflower held a four day sale on their sport lycra that I couldn't pass up: 25% off and free shipping. The fabric is heavy, so getting the shipping for free was a $6 savings in itself.

I quickly re-jigged my Pride & Prejudice design to make a non-directional version and ordered a yard.

I did not yet know what I was going to make, but given the nature of sport lycra, it was destined to become an article of clothing. I thought briefly of leggings.. then of shorts... then a skirt... and then a kimono. At that point, I turned to Google and wound up finding ideas that involved very little sewing and not a whole lot cutting. Some were so simple as not to require any sort of pattern and yet were very versatile in the end result.

Today I will present my own take on the "snip and sew" concept: a kimono-inspired jacket that can be made with just one yard of fabric (depending on size).

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When I first hit upon the idea of a kimono type of garment for this project, I knew that it wouldn't be a big flow-y one more suited to a light, airy fabric. I wanted mine to be wearable as a casual jacket or as a beach/post work-out cover-up. And I wanted to take advantage of the fabric's properties and do as little sewing as possible: i.e., no hemming, no finishing.

Pride & Prejudice Kimino Inspired Jacket by eSheep Designs
A simple and versatile jacket to make!

As mentioned in past posts, the advantage of Spoonflower fabric is that you have bonus usable fabric around the edges of the design. All designs are printed on white, so the underside remains a solid white that adds a natural contrast to the top side of the fabric. The lycra shrunk a tiny bit on the length but not so much across the width, so I was left with about 60" of usable fabric width.

Pride & Prejudice Text fabric by eSheep Designs
Original, washed piece of fabric, folded in half...
I decided to take this piece of fabric, fold it in half across the width and then turn it ninety degrees; i.e., the selvages are at the bottom of this picture.

With the fold across the top, my fabric measures approximately 30" from fold to bottom and just shy of 37" from left to right (recall that it started out as a 1 yard cut and that there was some shrinkage along the length).

The plan was to cut a basic "T" shape and sew up the side seams per the tutorials that I had seen. Referring to an existing similar garment of mine (ironically, a kimono robe), I determined that a folded width of 11" — i.e., 22" all around — would it do for me for sleeve size.

Pride & Prejudice Text fabric by eSheep Designs
My "pattern" for this kimono jacket...

Since I didn't want this to be as wide as a regular kimono — which typically overwraps one side to the other — I cut away 8" on either side of the body to make it more close-fitting. (Note that this is not meant to be one size fits all; as said, if you're going to make this, use your own clothing as a guideline. I generally wear a size 2.)

I sewed up the sides — with wrong side of the fabric out of course — with a 1/4" seam allowance, using a ballpoint needle and my machine's built-in stretch stitch. (Went off without a hitch until I ran out of bobbin thread with about seven inches left to go.)

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After turning it right side out, the next step was to cut the front opening of the jacket all the way from the bottom to the folded edge. Then it's a matter of cutting a small oval for the neck area, which also creates a bit of a "lapel" in the process.

Pride & Prejudice Kimino Inspired Jacket by eSheep Designs
This can be worn belted for another look...

With some fabrics, you'll have to be mindful of how the pattern looks after you do this 90° spin. The underlying text on this fabric runs along the vertical throughout the body of the garment and along the horizontal on the sleeves...

Pride & Prejudice Kimino Inspired Jacket by eSheep Designs
Back view...

But because I created segments of "title text" along every axis, there is no obvious upside down or right side up to the pattern.

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I'm quite happy with the results. I particularly like that it's long enough to cover my butt, since I'm not at an age where I'm entirely comfortable running around in leggings — which I do like to wear — without having a tunic length "something" covering my behind!

Pride & Prejudice Kimino Inspired Jacket by eSheep Designs
Back view again...

The best part of this project was that I was able to whip it up with just one yard. Spoonflower has several different fabrics that come in a width of 56" and up, enabling the white border to boost usable fabric width up to 60". (The least expensive option is the performance piqué — which would also work well for this — at $20/yard.)

On second thought, maybe the best part of this project is how quick it is to make! Once you have your measurements determined, this will be a half hour effort at most. (And what's not to like about a quick project?)

But on that note, what's the most complex thing you've ever sewn for yourself? Let me know about it... I'm gathering info for a future blog post. :-)

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Reminiscing With My Younger Self

An entry from my diary...
Today's topic doesn't really have to do with sewing. With the coming of fall and most people returning to a "routine", I'm feeling nostalgic and thought I'd share a recent trip down memory lane.

The diary page that you see here was written when I was 27 (which honestly feels like a lifetime ago). The entry makes reference to the fact that I'd been keeping a diary since the age of 10. It was something that I continued to do — more and more sporadically, mind you — for another eleven years.

For about an eighteen month period after I bought my first computer, I also kept a digital diary, but stopped after losing quite a bit of data due to a hard drive failure. Even though I could type faster than I could write, I appreciated the advantage of writing on paper in a book: it offered more options for reading. (Ever tried taking your monitor to bed? This was, after all, back in the early days of micro computing; no tablets, no eReaders, no stupidly large smart phones.)

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Did you ever wish that you could go back in time and perhaps give your younger self some valuable advice on life and living?

Of course, that's impossible, but having access to diaries that were written when you were a child allows you to go back in time virtually and listen to yourself. Like it says in my entry above, sometimes in doing so, you read about things that have been forgotten. It's extremely fascinating to "hear" yourself describe things that now seem new again.

On the other hand, it was distressing to read this: "had an unfortunate incident at work last week that I won't bother to go into detail about... but as a result, it's totally changed the way I see X and I don't know if that relationship can ever be repaired". I have no memory of what that incident was, despite the fact that when it happened, quite obviously, "younger me" did not think I would ever forget about it and therefore decided not to commit any details to paper. It's frustrating not to know the plot of a story in which I was a central player!

Perhaps it's most heart-warming to hear one's "in the moment" enthusiasm over events that haven't been forgotten but that are almost light years ago. Here is one such moment that actually involves sewing...

Must have been a fast sewer when I was fourteen years old...
(For a couple of years in my early teens, I wrote "backhanded"... just for fun!)

When I started this blog, it was — in small part — an attempt to return to active journalling. (As I've noted in the past, blogging is just journalling until someone stops by to read!) There are times in my life when I live to write. It's why this blog is "wordier" than most; you can tell that I pay no mind to the typical advice to keep blog posts short!

Over two years in, I would say that I still blog mostly for me; as in, I'm not picking and choosing what to write in hopes of appealing to other people's tastes.

September is National Sewing Month!

Win a Bernina from AllFreeSewing
Win a Bernina!
First proclaimed by Ronald Reagan (!) in 1982, National Sewing Month is meant to celebrate the importance of home sewing to the economy. I like it for the fact that AllFreeSewing typically has a big prize up for grabs — this year it's the Bernina 215 Simply Red (Canadian and US residents can enter once a day through Oct 2) — as well as all sorts of interesting stuff on their blog all month long.

Given that this is a publicly accessible blog, I have a lot fewer choices in terms of what I want to write about, of course. The subject here — for the most part — centres on sewing and my personal design journey. Playing outside with my friend Shelly, mooning over various teenage crushes, dealing with the heartbreaking angst of a first love, despairing over the parents' inability to treat me as an adult, or coping with the many challenges of the working world are less likely to be topics for public consumption.

But I've written about all of those and more in my diaries, and it's quite an experience to go back and reminisce. (And commiserate. It's remarkably satisfying to commiserate with oneself!) Memories are so much more magnified and clear when I read about them in the "present tense". Let me give you an example and share a little of myself in the process.

Three of my sixteen diaries; a few have locks... the one on top is my very first one!

In the early 1980s, I was a big fan of Another World (and head over heels for Richard Bekins). That time period was one of the golden ages for soap operas in North America. Even people who didn't watch soaps knew the names of popular characters. (Did you know that you can access AW episodes on YouTube? I recently found that out and really went back in time. It was so strange and weird to see Jamie and Sandy and Cecile and Mac and Rachel and not remember how the big hostage taking drama from the summer of 1981 turned out, yet I was able to recall actual dialogue from other scenes.) For many months, my diary entries were summaries of the day's storyline as it affected my favourite characters!

Eventually though, like with all of my obsessions, it petered out. :-)

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Today's parents snap pics of their kids very second of the day, it seems. Then there are the videos. Frankly, it happens ad nauseum. Recording endless minuitiae overshadows the important stuff. I'm willing to bet that these kids will grow up with such a constant digital reflection that they won't appreciate any of it.

When I was a kid, we only had photos... the old fashioned kind. (We weren't rich enough to have an 8mm home movie camera.) The film had to be sent away to be developed and nothing about the whole process was cheap. Therefore, we only took photos on special occasions. But the albums that those photos now occupy tell the story of my life in a meaningful way. Now, in a way that I never expected would happen, my diaries have also become a valuable part of my personal record.

Starting a diary early in life is the equivalent of giving yourself a reward that will last to the end of your days. I certainly hope that keeping an old-fashioned written journal is not a dying art. You can't appreciate the variations in handwriting, the different pens and ink (and the smudges), or even the smell of the pages when you "write" on an electronic device. Those are all layers that add to the experience of being transported back in time.

You know what I'd say to my younger self if I could? Thank you for having done this.

Did you ever keep a diary? For how long?