Oliver + S http://oliverands.com/community The Oliver + S blog provides tips, tutorials, and inspiration to make sewing with Oliver + S patterns more pleasurable and rewarding. Mon, 27 Apr 2015 18:05:41 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2 butterfly blouse + skirt round-up http://oliverands.com/community/blog/2015/04/butterfly-blouse-skirt-round-up.html http://oliverands.com/community/blog/2015/04/butterfly-blouse-skirt-round-up.html#comments Mon, 27 Apr 2015 13:47:30 +0000 http://oliverands.com/community/?p=44991 Not too long ago, I had the pleasure of sewing up a Butterfly Blouse + Skirt using new fabrics from Windham. For the past two decades Windham Fabrics has been concentrating on quilting cottons, but now they have branched out into apparel weight substrates including linen, lawn, jersey, and corduroy. I was fortunate to be able to try out a couple of cute new fabrics in cotton lawn and corduroy both of which will be available in stores starting August 2015.


Oliver + S Butterfly Blouse


I got to work with fabrics from two different collections. This first one is Tiger Lily which is designed by Heather Ross. She is known for her printed fabrics focusing on themes of childhood with a sweet illustrative style. Tiger Lily is much the same with frolics in the woods, flowers, cats, ballerinas, and butterflies. If you liked her previous fabric collections, Far Far Away and Briar Rose, then I’m sure you’ll enjoy Tiger Lily, too. Be sure to check out Tiger Lily which includes 23 fabrics available in cotton and five available in cotton lawn.

I sewed up a Butterfly blouse in a yellow cotton lawn with multi-colored butterflies. It works perfectly for the blouse both in pattern scale and the way it drapes so nicely. The Butterfly blouse will also mix well with other Oliver + S patterns. Here you’ll see I’ve paired it with a khaki Badminton Skort and I think they go really well together.


Oliver + S Butterfly Blouse and Badminton Skort


There was only one tiny modification that I made to the blouse and that was instead of the thread chain button loop I used thin elastic cord. This close up photo also gives you a better look at all of the cute little butterflies in the print.


Oliver + S Butterfly Blouse


The second collection I got to work with is Stella which is designed by Lotta Jansdotter. We all know and love Lotta Jansdotter for her Scandinavian aesthetic. Her Stella prints include stars, elephants, and butterflies in pastel shades of pink, purple, grey, celadon, and blue. Everything is simple, clean, and modern. The Stella collection includes 13 fabrics available in quilting cotton and four available in corduroy.

I sewed up a Butterfly skirt in a fine wale corduroy that comes in pewter with white stars. I think most of the Oliver + S skirts, pants, and jacket patterns would turn out well using this fine wale corduroy.


Oliver + S Butterfly Skirt


I like how with this fine wale corduroy the pleats stay so well defined without even having to iron them. Here the skirt is with a long sleeve white t-shirt. This one is ready-to-wear, but you could achieve a very similar look with the School Bus T-shirt.


Oliver + S Butterfly Skirt


There were several pattern testers who made items from the Butterfly pattern. From their creations you’ll discover that this pattern looks fantastic sewn up in many different sizes, from toddler through tween. Let’s go in order from smallest to largest, shall we?

Ashley and Emily from Frances Suzanne have been very busy sewing up a few Butterfly outfits. Here is their “toothbrush outfit” (named so since the blouse fabric looks like toothbrushes) featuring a 12-18M peach skirt paired with a 2T blouse where they lined the sleeves and added piping.


Oliver + S Butterfly Blouse + Skirt


Next up is their St Patrick’s day outfit; a home decor floral fabric was used for the 2T skirt to go with the 4T green blouse.


Oliver + S Butterfly Blouse + Skirt


And lastly, another one in pretty pastels.


Oliver + S Butterfly Blouse + Skirt


Sarvi sewed these next three garments in size 5. She made the blouse from an embroidered silk scarf her aunt brought from India.


Oliver + S Butterfly Blouse


Her first Butterfly skirt was made in Kaufman chambray.


Oliver + S Butterfly Skirt


Her second Butterfly skirt was made in a different Kaufman chambray and is a more of a ‘miniskirt’ since it hits a few inches above the knee. Also, she added lace to the hem.


Oliver + S Butterfly Skirt


Johanna’s daughter is sporting a size 8 ensemble. The blouse is an Anna Maria Horner voile and the skirt is a chambray-like cross-weave linen.


Oliver + S Butterfly Blouse + Skirt


Jeanne sewed a tween version with the blouse in Nani Iro double gauze and the skirt in sateen cotton from the Filagree collection by Art Gallery Fabrics.


Oliver + S Butterfly Blouse + Skirt


Here are some more beautiful Butterfly examples that were sewn up during Kids Clothes Week last week.

From the knitting anxiety, she has been very busy sewing up four floral Butterfly Blouses in size 5 this past week! These are her blouses in teal and red.


Oliver + S Butterfly Blouses


Her floral blouses in blue and brown look adorable with matching bow hair ties.


Oliver + S Butterfly Blouses


Ana Sofia sewed this beautiful blouse in Liberty D’Anjo, tana lawn, in Size 7.


Oliver + S Butterfly Blouse + Skirt


She also make a skirt in Robert Kaufman Chambray in Indigo, in Size 6. You can read more about this ensemble on her blog.


Oliver + S Butterfly Skirt


Isn’t it fascinating how the same pattern can look so different? Keep your eyes on the Flickr group where you’re sure to see many more darling outfits pop up in the weeks to come.

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how i wear it: lisette B6169 drapey dress http://oliverands.com/community/blog/2015/04/how-i-wear-it-lisette-b6169-drapey-dress.html http://oliverands.com/community/blog/2015/04/how-i-wear-it-lisette-b6169-drapey-dress.html#comments Fri, 24 Apr 2015 18:05:21 +0000 http://oliverands.com/community/?p=45232 Hello, friends! Today we’re just wrapping up the sew-along for this dress, so I thought I’d show it off. I wore this dress to a fancy event last week, but we didn’t photograph it that night. In any case, I received lots of compliments, and it was loads of fun to dye the fabric before sewing the dress.




If you’re like details on the fabric dyeing, check out this post.

Next week we’ll be back with lots of fun things, including a sew-along schedule for the new Oliver + S patterns.

Have a great weekend!

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fabric and styling inspiration for the parachute sweatpants http://oliverands.com/community/blog/2015/04/fabric-and-styling-inspiration-for-the-parachute-sweatpants.html http://oliverands.com/community/blog/2015/04/fabric-and-styling-inspiration-for-the-parachute-sweatpants.html#comments Fri, 24 Apr 2015 15:26:51 +0000 http://oliverands.com/community/?p=45047 Yesterday we covered the polo shirt from the Parachute Polo + Sweatpants sewing pattern in all its many variations, including dresses and rompers. Now let’s have a look at the sweatpants, shall we?

First of all there are the boys, who get to play with color and pattern. But they can also get a few extra details to make their clothes special too. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: boys clothes are all about the little details you can add to elevate them a bit. Think about adding a little pop of color or a special detail to make the clothing really unique and thoughtful. Those details will stretch your design imagination a bit, too!




  1. Taxi yellow sweatpants! I really like the contrast striped waistband here, which makes these sweatpants feel special. If your local fabric stores carries rib knit, you might be able to do something similar. A regular striped jersey would work, too.
  2. Basic black. Or basic navy. Or whatever basic color you need. Sweatpants don’t necessarily need to call attention to themselves.
  3. But if they do (call attention to themselves, that is), they might as well do it with printed stars, a striped waistband, and a contrast drawstring!
  4. I think almost any boy would love sweatpants with cargo pockets, don’t you? Just borrow them from our Field Trip Cargo Pants and you’ll be all set. The construction and location of the pockets will even be the same!

But sweatpants don’t have to be just for boys. The girls can get a pair or two too!




  1. I know these are jeans, but I love the heart-shaped knee patches, which would be a really cute addition to the pattern.
  2. Or you could add heart-shaped back pockets!
  3. So cute in a printed floral fabric.
  4. The subtle floral print on these sweatpants is really sweat, and I like the white at the waistband. You could use white at the side stripe instead, if you wanted, or add a little flat piping when you attach the waistband instead.
  5. Love the neon side stripe!
  6. This is really cute, too, with the peach-colored heathered fabric. I especially love the lace stripes at the sides, which would be a fun addition.

I’m actually thinking that S would love the cargo pockets for herself, too. I’ll be showing you how to add front pockets to the sweatpants soon as well, so stay tuned for that.

All of these photos are available with links to their sources in the Customizing with Oliver + S Pinterest board if you want to examine the photos more closely.

Who’s ready for a sew-along for these styles? Rachel will be organizing them, and we’ll be back shortly with details and dates for you. Start gathering your materials. It’s going to be a fun party!

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fabric and styling inspiration for the parachute polo http://oliverands.com/community/blog/2015/04/fabric-and-styling-inspiration-for-the-parachute-polo.html http://oliverands.com/community/blog/2015/04/fabric-and-styling-inspiration-for-the-parachute-polo.html#comments Thu, 23 Apr 2015 13:00:02 +0000 http://oliverands.com/community/?p=44976 Every child can use a great polo shirt. They’re part of many school uniforms, but they also work well with so many other items. They’re also dressier than a basic T-shirt. Plus, they offer so many design options. Here are a few examples and ideas for your Parachute Polo + Sweatpants pattern.




  1. A tropical-printed polo for summer.
  2. A solid-color polo is a great basic, but I think I’d like this shirt even better with a contrast collar, like an oxford blue.
  3. Awning stripes are perfect for summer, and I love the contrast with the white.
  4. Terry cloth lobsters. But just the terry cloth or just the lobsters would be fine if you can’t do both.
  5. Color blocking, of course. And we’ve got you covered with a complete tutorial, by the way.
  6. More color blocking for good measure.
  7. A printed polo is good, but what about a printed polo with a contrast collar?
  8. Stripes with a contrast collar would be good, too.
  9. What about color-blocking with stripes?
  10. The wide stripes would be great on their own, but with the butter yellow collar they’re even better.
  11. Wide stripes at the hem are a great idea.
  12. I love the button detail on the collar, which takes this to a new level and would be an easy add to the pattern.

But let’s not stop there! You know you can just add a skirt to the bottom of the Parachute Polo to make a dress, right? You might want to give the sides a bit more shaping and flare the dress a bit at the hips, but otherwise this is a really easy change to make. Most of the inspiration from this group is taken from Ralph Lauren, and as a former designer for Mr. Lauren I’m proud to say that he is still the king of the polo shirt. (Giant logos aside–I don’t understand that direction at all.)




  1. I think this skirt is actually two pieces cut on bias with a chevron center seam, but it might be fun to try a circle skirt instead.
  2. Love the chest stripe. Again, you could easily achieve this with simple color blocking.
  3. The really full, bias-cut ruffle on a dropped waist skirt is just darling. And don’t forget to add matching bloomers using our Tea Party Sundress or Seashore Sundress pattern!
  4. If you’re feeling really fancy, try a pleated version. I think the best way to handle these knife pleats would be to edgestitch each pleat, so this version isn’t for the faint of heart.
  5. These tiered ruffles are darling and would be really easy to do. The ruffles are separated from each other by a band of fabric. I love the stripes at the dropped waist. In this case, it emphasizes the Adidas logo and branding, but a ribbon or group of ribbons would be really pretty.
  6. More tiny ruffles. This is so cute, and I don’t even like ruffles!
  7. So simple and sweet. If you use a pique you could get a soft pleat without necessitating the edgestitching of the knife pleats of number 4, I think.


And if you turn back to the original pattern, I think we should also talk about it’s possibility of a rugby shirt. Right? I mean, the woven collar is perfect for this. And of course we’ve got the long sleeves, too, so you’re well on your way.


rugby shirt


Now you just have to decide which team to support. But I’m afraid I won’t be much help there.

And last but certainly not least, I think many of you are clever enough to combine the Parachute Polo with the Lullaby Layette or the Tea Party Playsuit to create a polo romper. I just added a bunch of ideas to the Customizing with Oliver + S Pinterest board if you want more inspiration in this area.


polo romper


So? What’s it going to be first? Start with a basic polo and then get fancy, maybe?

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fabric and styling inspiration for the butterfly skirt http://oliverands.com/community/blog/2015/04/fabric-and-styling-inspiration-for-the-butterfly-skirt.html http://oliverands.com/community/blog/2015/04/fabric-and-styling-inspiration-for-the-butterfly-skirt.html#comments Wed, 22 Apr 2015 12:32:28 +0000 http://oliverands.com/community/?p=44974 Yesterday I showed you some ideas for the Butterfly Blouse. Today let’s talk about the Butterfly Skirt, shall we?




  1. The classic summer outfit, right? White blouse, floral skirt.
  2. This watercolor-inspired floral would be a beautiful fabric for the skirt.
  3. Another pretty floral skirt to inspire you.
  4. Love this simple geometric print. It feels so fresh and summery.
  5. Aren’t these metallic polka dots pretty and sophisticated?
  6. Striped pleats are always a fun option.
  7. A simple monochromatic floral keeps the skirt interesting but makes it really easy to mix with other prints and colors.
  8. Chambray. Always.
  9. This floral has the retro charm a bit of a vintage feedsack, which I love.
  10. I love a good summer plaid, and this one would be great for dressy occasions, too.
  11. Eyelet and lace are so popular right now, and with good reason. They’re great for summer.
  12. A fun geometric confetti print. You could even add some random tassels here and there for a little extra interest.
  13. A simple, solid skirt with metallic cord detail and bow. How stunning!
  14. Yarn-dye stripes with either painted or appliqued details at the hem.
  15. This geometric print has a bit of a retro feeling, in a good way.
  16. Metallic for fancy occasions. Or just for fun. I love the metallic-printed linens at Gray Line Linen if you’re looking for a more subtle version of metallic.

Here’s another similar skirt. I love the texture of this one.


green skirt


And just for good measure, what about a skirt with a contrast front waistband? I love the little bow, too.

bi-colored skirt 1

What do you think? Have you decided on your first Butterfly Skirt yet?

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fabric and styling inspiration for the butterfly blouse http://oliverands.com/community/blog/2015/04/fabric-and-styling-inspiration-for-the-butterfly-blouse.html http://oliverands.com/community/blog/2015/04/fabric-and-styling-inspiration-for-the-butterfly-blouse.html#comments Tue, 21 Apr 2015 15:05:41 +0000 http://oliverands.com/community/?p=44967 The Butterfly Blouse is sort of an un-basic basic. I’m completely fascinated by how a simple blouse like this can work for everyone, from the littlest babies to full-grown women. It’s an extremely versatile style that will be easy and comfortable to wear this summer but will also be great for layering in cooler weather. And it will take on a lot of different looks depending on your fabric choices and how it’s worn. It’s really all about your fabric and styling choices. Here are some examples to get you started, all with Pinterest links from our Customizing with Oliver + S Pinterest board.




  1. Older girls might like to wear the blouse with skinny jeans for another look.
  2. This fun botanical print feels really contemporary and ready for spring.
  3. I love a pale pastel-colored blouse worn with a printed skirt or pants.
  4. Sew the blouse in a pretty floral print like a Liberty lawn and pair it with our Puppet Show Shorts for a cute summer look.
  5. Another pretty floral.
  6. Try embroidery at the neckline or add pintucks to the peplum for a vintage feeling.
  7. So many pretty floral options for this blouse.
  8. Still more floral.
  9. Try a fun, bold print for summer.
  10. Make a sweet set by pairing the blouse with our bloomers pattern (it comes with the Tea Party Sundress, in the smaller size range of the Seashore Sundress, and as a digital single).
  11. Another matching blouse and bloomers set.
  12. Play with the direction of your stripes–vertical in the blouse and horizontal on the peplum.
  13. Or vice versa.
  14. Stripes are cute when they’re multicolored all going the same way, too.
  15. Pair two different colors and patterns for a completely different look.
  16. Another bold print for a bright summer top that would pair nicely with a solid bottom or with another smaller pattern.
  17. Consider using a solid color for the bias facing, and maybe even apply it to the outside neckline of the blouse instead of hiding it inside.

You could also sew the blouse in a solid knit fabric for another take on the summer basic, sort of like this one.


solid knit


I’ll show you a bunch of ideas for the Butterfly Skirt tomorrow, followed by the Parachute Polo and Sweatpants later this week. Which one are you planning to sew first? We’re be doing sew-alongs for all of these styles, so stay tuned for details!

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spring patterns now available http://oliverands.com/community/blog/2015/04/spring-patterns-now-available-2.html http://oliverands.com/community/blog/2015/04/spring-patterns-now-available-2.html#comments Mon, 20 Apr 2015 13:18:47 +0000 http://oliverands.com/community/?p=44963 After last week’s introductions, we’re happy to tell you that our new spring 2015 patterns are now available.

Spring 2015 Pattern Covers

Here’s where you can find your copies.

We hope you enjoy these two new styles, and we can’t wait to see what you make with them.

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introducing the butterfly blouse + skirt sewing pattern http://oliverands.com/community/blog/2015/04/introducing-the-butterfly-blouse-skirt-sewing-pattern.html http://oliverands.com/community/blog/2015/04/introducing-the-butterfly-blouse-skirt-sewing-pattern.html#comments Fri, 17 Apr 2015 14:53:06 +0000 http://oliverands.com/community/?p=44680 The second of our new patterns for this season is the Butterfly Blouse +  Skirt. I thought we needed more separates for the girls. They get lots of cute dress patterns, but they also need sportswear items to round out their wardrobes. This outfit includes two cute little styles that will be perfect for spring and summer, and the skirt will be especially great for year-round wear.


Butterfly Blouse + Skirt Sewing Pattern


The top has a gentle A-line/trapeze shape that gives it a relaxed, breezy look. The pleated skirt is a pull-on style that will be extremely versatile for a wide variety of events and seasons.

The blouse can be sewn with either a sweet little flutter sleeve (View A) or a classic cap sleeve (View B), as modeled by these two little cuties.




The blouse features a back keyhole opening with button closure and a subtle peplum with gathers at the front. It’s a classic-looking style that still has a contemporary feeling, I think. This style feels a little bit like the Ice Cream Dress and the Roller Skate Dress, I think. It has that same simplicity, with style that allows the fabric to shine.



The skirt is a simple pull-on A-line skirt with front pleats and an elasticized back waist. The construction on this skirt is really easy and fast, which makes it an extremely versatile pattern that would be just as great for back-to-school (when that comes–let’s not rush anything here) as it would for a relaxed summer day or even a fancy occasion. Our little models didn’t want to take off their ensembles, so I think that’s a good sign.




Here are some more views on the mannequin so you take get a better look.


Mannequin1front, View A blouse


Mannequin2front, View B blouse


Mannequin3back, View B blouse


S always enjoys modelling the new styles. And it’s much easier to get her to stand still for a photo than it is with the three-year-olds.




The blouse works really well with lawn, voile, rayon, double gauze, and quilting cottons. The skirt can be made from anything as light as lawn and double gauze to heavier fabrics like fine-wale corduroy and twill. S’s skirt is a silk dupioni, so don’t forget dressier fabric options for this style, too. I chose rayon for her blouse, and she loves its silky drape. It would be a great outfit for a wedding! I think it will be really cute with a cardigan in the fall, too.




I hope you’ll enjoy this pattern! Like the Parachute pattern we announced yesterday, this new style will be available in both paper and digital format and will go up for sale in the shop section of the website early next week.

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introducing the parachute polo + sweatpants sewing pattern http://oliverands.com/community/blog/2015/04/introducing-the-parachute-polo-sweatpants-sewing-pattern.html http://oliverands.com/community/blog/2015/04/introducing-the-parachute-polo-sweatpants-sewing-pattern.html#comments Thu, 16 Apr 2015 14:41:59 +0000 http://oliverands.com/community/?p=44710 I’m so pleased to finally introduce you to the spring Oliver + S patterns! We have two new styles this season, and many of you will be thrilled to discover that the first one is for boys as well as girls.

The Parachute Polo + Sweatpants pattern is packed with options. It includes pattern pieces for a boy’s polo shirt in both short and long sleeves as well as a girl’s polo shirt with short and long sleeves. And it includes some great sweatpants, too.


Parachute Polo + Sweatpants Sewing Pattern


What’s the difference between the girls’ and the boys’ polo shirts? The boys’ shirt is a little longer, and the sleeves are wider and less fitted. The girl’s style has a smaller armhole and a more fitted sleeve, and the short sleeve is shorter than the boy’s style, with a more feminine shape.

This pattern has lots of terrific details, too. The continuous inset woven button placket, one-piece woven collar, optional chest pocket, and side vents will give you a really professional-looking shirt when you’re done. And I think you’ll be surprised at how easy this is to sew, too!


MannequinShortPantsthe girl’s polo has a more fitted sleeve


MannequinShort3the side seam has a little vent for extra movement (and style!)

The sweatpants also have lots of wonderful details, including a contrast-color side panel. I think it looks like a racing stripe. You can do all sorts of fun things with this side-panel detail: add a ribbon or cut it from a piece of woven fabric for extra design options. The sweatpants also have an elasticized waist (of course), with an optional drawstring and elastic at the ankles.


MannequinPants1front view


MannequinPants2the side view with “racing stripe”


FlatPantsan alternate colorway, because sweatpants don’t have to be gray


More photos? OK, I can do that.


FlatShirt2boy’s short sleeved polo


FlatShirtgirl’s short sleeved polo


MannequinLong1boy’s long sleeved polo


S is rather obsessed with her Parachute ensemble. She’s getting so tall, I’ll have to make her another longer pair soon! (We added length to the size grading after I saw how these fit on her.) S has been wearing hers to get to and from ballet class, and she practically lived in them this winter. They’re great for gym class and look nice enough for school, too. I like it when she wears them with her patent leather school shoes because I occasionally wear dressy sweats with men’s brogues. Today we were matching.




I think we need to show you this outfit in action, don’t you? Wow, it is so challenging to photograph three-year-old boys. But those of you with active boys don’t need me to tell you that.




ParachuteLong2Pretending to land the parachute jump? I feel like I should add to this photo a bit. OK, maybe I will.

Hold, please…







ParachuteLong2_drawn2I think it goes something like this, right?


And just for good measure, an outtake from one of the photo shoots. He has incredible balance, doesn’t he? (Just kidding, but I did manage to catch him a fraction of a second later. Which is why I was crouching in the corner in the first place.)




ShortSittinga good sport


As far as fabric suggestions go, you’ll want to sew this pattern in knits. Jersey or interlock would be the obvious choices for the polo, of course, and french terry or cotton fleece for the sweatpants. We recommend a lightweight woven for the placket, collar, and pocket, and I know some of you will want to sew those details with knit fabric instead. That’s perfectly fine, but I selected woven because it’s easier to work with and because it’s less bulky. You know how we work around here–feel free to experiment and try different things. We try to give you a great pattern to start out, and you just make it even better when you make it your own.

I hope you’ll have lots of fun sewing this pattern! It will be available for purchase on the website early next week and will come in both paper and digital versions.

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what we learned from your feedback: part 1, paper vs. digital patterns http://oliverands.com/community/blog/2015/04/what-we-learned-from-your-feedback-part-1-paper-vs-digital-patterns.html http://oliverands.com/community/blog/2015/04/what-we-learned-from-your-feedback-part-1-paper-vs-digital-patterns.html#comments Wed, 15 Apr 2015 13:28:56 +0000 http://oliverands.com/community/?p=44679 I have to make a confession. I’ve been remiss about something. At the end of last year, we asked you to take a survey for us. Over 1,500 of you completed it. For that, we’re very grateful. The part of the process where I dropped the ball was in sharing some of the things we learned. I’ll start fixing that today.

You were serious in proving feedback, and we were equally serious in reviewing it. Over the month of January, we put together a detailed analysis of your answers to our questions and a plan for responding to what we heard.

Now, I can’t say that we’re going to respond to every piece of feedback we received. And I may explain why in a future post. But today I want to address one of the topics that generated a lot of comment: paper vs. digital patterns.

This is a topic on which almost everyone who sews has an opinion. Some people love the convenience of digital patterns. (Immediate delivery with no shipping costs! No need to trace the pattern!) Others hate the idea of having to print and assemble a pattern. It’s always the most vocal who have their opinions heard in discussions on the topic, so I want to share with you what we learned about this from listening to over 1,500 dedicated sewists and from reviewing our sales numbers. The findings are quite interesting to us, and as a result of what we heard we’re making changes that you’ll see beginning next week.

But first, I think it’s useful to have a little background. In the big picture, Oliver + S hasn’t been around for all that long. Ebenezer Butterick, after all, developed the first commercial sewing pattern 1863. (We hope he would approve of the Lisette patterns his company is producing today!) But we have been here through what has arguably been one of the most fundamental changes in business model this industry has seen in its 150 years.

When Liesl launched Oliver + S in 2008, sewing patterns were printed, sold to retailers and distributors, shipped to them, and then resold to consumers who purchased them in local fabric stores–pretty much the same way sewing patterns had been sold over the preceding century. We had a website that sold patterns to consumers back then, but we would ship only a few orders a week.

In October, 2011, we decided to try something new. Retailers were purchasing fewer and fewer sewing patterns to stock in their shops. (It’s a trend that started in 2010 and has continued to today.) We had taken the Puppet Show pattern out of print, but we were getting regular requests for it from people looking for copies–but not enough requests to support reprinting the pattern. So we decided to test whether making it available again in a digital format would work. We came up with a novel way of turning that pattern into a PDF, and we put it up on our website. We sold a few copies. Then we sold a few more. We added a couple other out-of-print styles that people had requested. By the end of 2011, we had sold 382 digital patterns (not a large enough quantity to justify reprinting any individual style, but not zero copies either), and we figured that there might be enough interest in the concept to create more.

Jump ahead three years. In 2014, 78% of our product sales revenue came from purchases consumers made on our website. Of all orders placed on our website last year, 63% were for digital products only. (And even more orders included both digital and physical products.) And across our whole book of business, 50% of our product sales revenue came from digital patterns

Let me spell out what these numbers mean. First, the primary place of sales has changed from the local fabric store to the internet. Second, people purchasing patterns on the internet show a clear preference for digital patterns over paper. These are two major changes to how this industry has operated since its founding a century and a half ago. And those changes have taken place in just the last few years.

These observations are supported by your feedback to our survey. Your responses told us that 30% of people strongly prefer digital patterns to paper ones, and 26% don’t have a clear preference for paper or digital. That means over half our customers are happy to sew with digital patterns. This finding was underscored by the fact that 70% of people said they would not hesitate to buy a pattern they wanted if it were only available in digital format. (Only 16% said they definitely would not buy it.)

What’s our takeaway? Our business has shifted from a B2B model to a B2C model, and digital patterns have rapidly grown to be a major part of our business. This growth will continue—so much so that we expect digital pattern sales to become the majority of our business for the first time this year. As a result, paper pattern sales and sales to retailers will continue to decline. There are, however, still several retailers and many individuals who prefer paper patterns if they can get them.

Frankly, this puts us in a difficult situation. Like most businesses, we have limited capital to use. We need to deploy it in the best way possible to support our short-term needs and our long-term objectives. For our business, the primary use of capital has always been to support product development. (It’s very expensive to create a new pattern—and to develop it right—but that’s the topic of a separate post.) The next major use of our capital is to print and warehouse paper patterns. It used to be that we could predict how many copies of a pattern we would sell in the first 9-12 months after a release. We would print that number of patterns, warehouse and ship them, and then when they sold out decide if the pattern was still selling well enough to reprint it. If so, we would. Our older patterns would go through several reprints before we would decide to discontinue them.

Due to the rapid rise of the digital pattern, that’s not the way it works anymore. Now we plan on printing a pattern just once, and we’re constantly adjusting our initial print run size to try to hit the right number. We’ll eventually sell through the print run, as we always have. But that takes much longer now, and we don’t reprint very often. This means that over time our inventory turns less frequently and we end up sitting on more and more paper product. This is a very inefficient use of capital. We find ourselves keeping more money tied up in inventory each year, and our warehouse costs continue to increase as we need more space to store more items that stick around for longer.

On the one hand, it would be easier for us if we didn’t produce paper patterns any longer. We would have more capital to use in more ways, we wouldn’t need to worry about the size of print runs, and we wouldn’t need to store paper patterns in a warehouse. (I’ve calculated that it costs us ten cents a year to warehouse a pattern; when you’re talking about the number of patterns we have in the warehouse, those dimes add up.) On the other hand, limiting our products to digital only at this point isn’t the right decision either. Even though the number is shrinking, many retailers and consumers still want to buy paper patterns. We want to give them what they want.

So here’s what we’re doing in response to your feedback. The Oliver + S patterns we release next week will be available in both paper and digital format. And we are investing in producing our next collection of Liesl + Co. patterns for women in paper format too—which is something we have never done before.

After what I explained, this doesn’t seem to make much sense, does it? On the surface, no. But we have listened to you and we have a history of doing what’s in the best interest of our industry and our customers. We want to continue doing that. Need an example? We keep releasing sewing patterns for boys, don’t we? How may other independent kids’ pattern companies do this? Not many, right? And why is that number so small? Like we’ve said time and again, boys’ patterns never sell as well as cute dress patterns. It’s just a fact. But we know that many of you have boys you want to sew for, so we continue to make those products available for you, even though we know they won’t sell that well for us.

Printing two new pattern collections ties up a lot of our capital in a less-than-efficient way, but we’re moving forward anyway. We’re doing this primarily for the retailers who want to carry our patterns and for those of you have expressed a preference for paper. We will keep making paper patterns available as long as both retailers and consumers keep purchasing them. So if you’re a retailer or one of those people who is vocal about your preference for paper, we’re relying on you to vote with your wallet and purchase a few. To be honest, if I look long term, I don’t see paper patterns being around for another 20 years. How long we keep producing them will depend on how long those of you who like them continue to purchase them at a level that supports their production.

For those of you who prefer digital patterns, we listened to your feedback too. You’ll see some changes to the Oliver + S patterns that are released next week that have been made directly in response to your requests:

  • All patterns will now come with A0 sized pages for those of you outside the United States whose print shops use this format.
  • There will be consecutive numbering on all pages to make it easier for you to move through the various sections and to check that your printer has printed everything you wanted it to.
  • There will be a guide up front telling you which pages of the document you will need to print for each of the views included in the pattern so that you can print only the pages you need for the item you are making.
  • There will be new trimming lines to indicate where you should cut the pages apart prior to tiling to make it even easier to assemble the pattern pieces.

Many people requested that we produce our digital patterns as layered PDF files that allow you to print just the size you are planning to make. (Yuki from Waffle Patterns does this exceptionally well, and we think it’s a great feature.) Unfortunately, the work required to create a layered PDF needs to begin quite a ways up in the development process, and we were already well past that point for the Spring 2015 Oliver + S and Liesl + Co. patterns. So that feature won’t be included in this season’s digital patterns, but we do plan to produce future styles as layered PDFs.

So there you go. Way more behind-the-scenes information about one small area of our business than you thought you would ever read. But, like I said up top, we really appreciate all the time and thought so many of you put into completing our survey, and we want to let you know how seriously we are taking your feedback.

This post breaks every major rule we have for what an Oliver + S blog post should be: it’s too long, it’s about us not about you, and there are no inspirational photos. But since I wrote the rules, I figure I get to break them once in a while. If you’ve stuck with me all the way to the end here and you’ve found this interesting, leave a comment to let me know. If I’m convinced that people have actually read this and appreciated it, I’ll do another one or two on other topics related to our survey and what we’re changing in response to what you told us.

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