what we learned from your feedback: part 1, paper vs. digital patterns

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.




  1. Briana

    Exciting news!!! I actually found the post fascinating, so thanks for breaking all of the blog rules. 😉

  2. Paige

    Thanks! I will continue to buy paper patterns. Glad to see they will still be printed, for now;)

  3. Helena

    As I was reading this I had a lump in my throat fearing the loss of paper patterns! Thank you for continuing, and for sharing the feedback, thoughts and reasoning for this. I regretfully suspect you’re right about the demise of paper patterns, but I like to think of them in the same way I think of the decline and slight resurgence of vinyl. Maybe in 20 years time I wont need to sew at all as I can 3D print out the outfit straight from your website! 😉

  4. Susan

    Well I stuck with you to the end and found all the information very helpful. I’m one of those old-school types that still loves the paper patterns, but can certainly appreciate the digital age we live in!! Personally, I buy both types, but there’s just something exciting about unfolding a paper pattern! (Smiles)

    At any rate I’m very excited about your new patterns coming out. You folks write some of the best in the industry and I thank you for that.

  5. Mel

    This was a very interesting post! I tend to purchase paper patterns whenever possible and am (selfishly) glad to hear you are not doing away with them just yet!

  6. I read the entire post and found it very interesting! Thanks for the explanation. It sounds to me like you are on the right track – keep it up!

  7. I too found this fascinating! Thank you for sharing. And I look forward to ordering my patterns soon!

  8. Rene Hawkins

    I love the design of your paper patterns but find the convenience of PDF patterns usually overrides.

  9. Erica Guadagnoli

    I think it’s great you will still be offering paper patterns even though they cost more to produce. I’m one of the prefer paper people 🙂 I just like the convenience of having it all there for me. No guess work about what goes where. Or messing with the printer. Eventually I will try the digital because there are some patterns you guys make that I really want that aren’t on paper anymore. Thanks for taking the time to tell about all this too. It helps to understand and not be upset when I can’t get a paper. 😉

  10. Karlien

    Hi Todd
    This has been a hugely informative and interesting post.
    I live in South Africa and am hugely excited about the printing on A0 option. Printing here is pricey and shipping paper patterns here is beyond pricey. I take full advantage when my husband travels to NY but that is unfortunately few and far between.
    Rachel from stitched together is so right when she says O+s patterns are the gateway drug to sewing., I’m totally addicted!
    Thanks so much!
    Karlien Chaplin

  11. Melissa

    I really enjoyed this post and that you took the time to write it up and give us a glimpse into all the factors that you have to consider. As someone that has all your patterns in paper, I continue to buy them that way only because I like continuity, but if you stopped selling printed copies, I would just start purchasing digital. I also like looking at them to decide what to sew as I study each design element, or quickly compare patterns to see if I have enough yardage, etc, but I imagine that one day when you’re exclusively digital, you could have a quick(er) and dirty comparison sheet so that I wouldn’t have to go into each file, wait for it to pull up, scroll to the right page, etc, to find that info). I would definitely enjoy reading more “behind the scenes” posts. Thanks again!

  12. One of the things I love about this company is your willingness to share this “insider” business information. If there is something I don’t like about a company or the decisions it makes, I vote with my wallet. Quietly and often subconsciously.

    But if you make a decision that I don’t like, but I understand, it is easier for me to continue to be a customer. Sharing this with us makes me feel respected and appreciated as a customer. It also makes me more likely to continue to be a customer, even if I am not always happy with the choices a business makes.

    (I am talking generally and not about you. I love you guys!) 🙂

  13. JEB O'Barr

    So happy there will be more paper patterns!

  14. Danielle

    a true education. Thanks for taking the time to explain your business!

  15. Flipflopmom

    All good stuff!
    Thank you for continuing to offer a women’s line of real clothes for real women!

  16. Danae

    I always enjoy the behind the scenes posts! I personally prefer the digital patterns and love that you are embracing technology that will continue to make them easier to use. However, if I were Team Paper Pattern, this explanation would make me feel like a truly valued customer. What a great example of customer care.

  17. María

    Thanks, Todd! A very, very interesting post.

  18. Susan

    Very interesting post. Thank you for sharing so much information about your business! I am particularly excited about the layered PDFs. .

  19. Jen

    Thanks for sharing, I find these behind the scenes types posts very interesting.

  20. Brenda

    How interesting! Your post made me aware of stages of the pattern design and production industry that I had never thought about before. I will be looking forward to more posts about the future of your company.

  21. Cheryl

    I am appreciative that you take the time to survey your customer base. I am doubly appreciative that you let us know what the results of the survey are, and how you use those results. We like feedback from you too, you know! I don’t mind digital patterns, but as a teacher at a sewing shop, the owner is less likely to have me teach something where they can’t sell the pattern; and that means in paper. Thank you for keeping two of your lines on paper. These will be my go to for future suggestions!

  22. I loved this post! I appreciate hearing about your decision making process. I will buy your patterns any way you decide to produce them~

  23. You know what also really helps in the PDF taping process? Grainlines! I appreciate the grainline because I KNOW it is a straight line from one end to the other, and shouldn’t waver. There are often slight variances when you line up patterns, and precision sewists need reconcile marks – the grainline does this.

    I rarely have the patience for mailorder patterns – It can take 2+ weeks for a pattern to be delivered to Canada – but I must say I have always appreciated the beautiful Oliver + S packaging.

  24. Jane

    Thank you Todd. That was incredibly insightful. I appreciate the thoughtfulness that goes in to the process as related to the consumers.

  25. Adaire L Graham

    I found this fascinating and would love to hear more about the business in subsequent posts. I don’t really care…paper vs. pdf and have lots of both but the pdf takes up more storage room. I always trace unless I’m at the top of the size range so I can use the other sizes in the future.
    Thank you for sharing this with us. I participated in the survey and wondered how it all came out.
    Thank you for all you do. Your patterns are a breath of fresh air and remain the “Cadillac” of the industry.
    Best regards.

  26. Elizabeth

    I love reading these types of posts! The inspirational posts are nice too, but I can find inspiration easily through Pinterest. This post is intriguing. I like having the option of paper and digital, and personally have happily used both. However, I did first discover Oliver + S patterns by stumbling upon a paper pattern in a local fabric shop. Thanks for the dedication to your customers!

  27. Stirling

    Thanks for posting this! I’ve been looking forward to the results of that survey for a while.

  28. Of course this post has been read…and my english improved : thank you. But most of all thanks for sharing this in a way that shows you’re considering your clients as smart people 😉

  29. Lindy

    I really enjoyed reading this and “getting” the thought process! I agree that paper patterns will go away at some point – it just cannot make much sense for production and inventory purposes. I’ll live easily with this since the only time I buy paper over digital is when they are on sale! (I’m pretty good with Scotch tape.) Regardless, a good pattern with good designers and well-written instruction make the sales; which you’ve got. Keep up the good work.

  30. Suzanne Lauer

    Thank you, Todd, for this informative post. I can get where you are coming from regarding the business decisions you are making about paper v digital and truly appreciate the fact that you are still providing the paper patterns. I will research to the ends of the retail earth to locate a discontinued paper pattern before I reluctantly purchase digital, as I am one of the old timers whose preference is paper. I agree with you and others that digital is the way things are trending but for now, give me my paper–please! Many, many thanks for continuing with the paper option for the new styles.

  31. Amanda

    I’m genuinely baffled by the popularity of PDF patterns. Certainly, I understand the desire for instant gratification…but it’s no longer instant when I have to print out 60+ pages and play arts and crafts, cutting, taping, and cutting some more, all before I even get the fabric out. Clearly, I need to stockpile all the paper patterns I encounter so that I can survive in this brave new world of garment sewing.

  32. I read the whole thing and found it very informative. I used to buy your paper patterns, then switched to digital, and then found myself buying paper patterns again recently. I like having them in my pile to remember to sew them, not just lost on my computer somewhere, and most importantly, I realized I actually preferred tracing to printing and taping and cutting. The other thing is, I originally discovered your company because of your paper patterns in purlsoho, and have been a very loyal customer 6 years now, so there is that other kind of value to being in physical locations. Glad to hear your plan! And the updates to the PDFs sound great. In the meantime, I’ll be one of those paper customers for a while still. 🙂

  33. Jennifer

    Thanks for the great info. I’m relatively new to your company but definitely hooked. The boy patterns were my gateway to you and are truly appreciated. Although I love the convenience of your digital patterns I find the packaging of your paper patterns very beautiful and buy them when they are on sale. Your commitment to your customer base will keep me coming back.

  34. Colleen P.

    I generally prefer not to have to assemble my pattern but hearing the process and outcome explained in this way makes me understand better why it’s of benefit to me to do so in future. To get down to brass tacks-it just makes better financial sense, on both ends of the supply chain. Reducing your overhead makes it easier to expand the products offered and brings it to market more quickly. I have options on my end to print it in whatever way I choose, and I can get the pattern in my hands within hours of ordering it. You’ve actually…changed my mind about the viability of printing and assembling the pattern myself. Thank you for sharing the inside look!

  35. Erin Waters

    I enjoyed reading about how you navigate these waters. I love Oliver + S, and hope to see it stay around for a long while. I hate that it costs so much for you all to produce paper patterns, but truth be told, I love mine and consider them a collection I’ll never get rid of and hope to pass on to my girls. I do, however, also love the convenience of PDF patterns. Good luck in the next few years as you make these decisions for your company!

  36. Alice S

    Fascinating article! I enjoy statistics. Thanks for giving us a glimpse into your small business and the changing world of sewing.

  37. thank SO much for all the info!!! it is useful to know. and i realize that people are loving their digitals these days, but thanks SO MUCH for continuing to publish paper, even if it’s just for the short-term future.

  38. clothespin

    I like both. BUT, as a mom of kids who grow quickly, I have to say that future layered digital patterns that I can print out just the size I need will be brilliant! My least favorite part of sewing is tracing the pattern out – twice (once for each daughter).

    And, even with digital, I always print them out and put in a ziploc bag to store in my pattern area. Seems silly but there it is. But, I went through a disaster and lost everything – having digital patterns backed up on my computer (and on an external hard drive that I carry with me in my purse) means that it’s one less thing to loose should the sky fall again.

    Love your patterns – love the mom friendly Lisette patterns. Love that I can adjust them to my very tall size… And I’m glad you make the bigger sizes. I’m not over weight at all but a normal size 14 – I’m just tall!

  39. Karen brown

    Here is my kudos to you for posting this insightful explanation of paper vs. digital patterns. Very helpful. I would certainly enjoy more of these behind- the- scene posts. I did participate in the survey also. I intend on continuing to purchase your paper patterns as long as you continue to make them! Thank you for your fabulous patterns in whatever form you put out for us.

  40. Really found this post interesting and do agree that layering is the way to go with PDF patterns. It saves on printing all that is not relevant to the sewer and is so much easier to cut out. Glad to find sewers are liking PDF patterns, I think once sewers except the change, they just get on with the making!

  41. Philippa

    Really interesting post, thank you.

    I personally love pdfs. I take aaaaagggeees to decide on patterns to purchase, but when my mind is made up I want it now!

    I’m thrilled by the A0 layout, I am lucky enough to have access to a plotter at work and have a very understanding boss. I have just heard of the witchcraft that is layers in pdfs and am very excited to see those coming into use in the next year or two.

    I also love the additional construction information which seems to be with digital patterns, I’m afraid I haven’t actually ever bought a paper O&S pattern, so I don’t know if they have a similar level of detail. Sometimes, no matter how well written, a picture can tell you so much so quickly.

    So pdfs all the way here. x

  42. Sasha

    Thanks for posting this! It’s nice to know what to expect and why.

  43. Karen

    I would really like to see more posts like this (survey results and behind-the-scenes business topics).

  44. Enbee

    Oh, please do post more of your responses to the feedback survey! I *love* that you not only solicited feedback from your users, but that you’ve actively incorporated our suggestions. I also really appreciate hearing what you CAN’T do, and why. So much better than feeling like we (your customers) were just typing into a void.

    And as a mother to a son, thank you so much for the not-as-profitable boy patterns. I’m looking forward to next week!

  45. Clover

    Thanks for the post. I love your paper patterns. Thank you for keeping them up. The quality is worth the investment and time to wait for it to arrive. It’s way easier to trace a new size than print a new one. I love the behind the scenes work. It motivates me to support a company I love. Can’t wait to see the new patterns.

  46. Sarah Lippitt Houston

    Thank you for this post! I read all the way through and was expecting the ball to drop with no more paper patterns and going to cry. I will be sure to be a contributor to the continuation of paper patterns by purchasing, and now knowing “don’t put it off or they may be gone”! Also a very big thankyou for continuing to print boys patterns! You are my go to for boy patterns for my little grandsons!

  47. Thanks for sharing! As a businesswoman who loves to sew its interesting to see the other side of your business – it sounds like you are doing a great job with some difficult decisions and engaging your customers.

    and thanks again for the boy patterns!

  48. LiLian

    Thanks for the down low – I found this to be an interesting read. And thanks for listening to our feedback, digesting it and making use of it!

  49. Robyn Garner

    Very interesting! I agree that I adore the paper pattern and miss the vintage appeal of the paper dolls. The main reason I purchased my very first Oliver s was the adoration of the “look” of the old packaging. After using that first pattern I was hooked! But honestly I would have never been drawn to the newer packaging.
    I am old fashioned and like the things the way the ” use to be”

  50. Carol Evans

    Thank you for sharing this info, Todd! You B2B and B2C business models are very interesting and it is obvious there are conflicting needs which you are addressing. When I started sewing a few months ago, I purchased your paper pattern at a retail store. However, they only had one of your patterns! I subsequently went to your website, and have since found all your patterns. The digital patterns so much easier to use and to store. They also allow me to start sewing right away instead of waiting for the pattern in the mail.

  51. Tineke

    Thanks for taking time to explain all that ! I’m very happy that you will print paper patterns for Liels and Co !

  52. Rachel Gold

    I’m sorry I never paid any attention to the initial survey! The digital patterns work as well as the paper for me in theory, because I can just have them printed in one big piece at Staples. However, one thing that I’ve had trouble with both in printing them out on a small printer I own, and at Staples, is getting the sizing right (or even knowing if I have it right). Even at Staples using the 100% setting, they haven’t been sure…it would help me a lot if there were some type of 1″ scale on the pattern like many other digital patterns have. I realize that probably won’t happen for this batch, but if you could do it in the future, even on just one page with partial pieces and the big one for the print company, that would be great!

    1. Rachel, there is a 1″ test square on all our digitals–both the full sized sheet and the print at home pages. (On those the grid lines are all 1″ squares. You can use that to check sizing.) And I always tell people that if you use Adobe Reader to print, you should get it printed to scale. Other PDF readers, like the one included with Apple products, often do not print correctly to scale–even when you choose to print at 100%.

    2. Maggie

      I think this makes good sense to me, too!

  53. Fiona

    this was such a fascinating post! Thanks for the peek into what goes on behind the scenes at Oliver + S. I’m partial to digital patterns myself, so I’d always purchase that option if it is available, but I appreciate your dedication to produce paper patterns for those who prefer them!

  54. Amanda S

    I found your post very interesting! I used to prefer paper patterns, but honestly, after tracing them every time I sew (my kids grow fast!) I began to see digital patterns really weren’t any more work. Both have pros and cons. I can appreciate your decision to continue producing paper patterns, but would have been equally appreciative to find you moved to digital only. It will probably just take time to convert the sewing world to digital only. I fought e-readers tooth and nail because I preferred a real book in my hands. Having been forced to purchase some ebooks for college changed my mind. It turns out a Kindle is not so terrible after all! Thank you for taking the time to educate us on the why’s behind your decisions. May God bless your company so that it can stick around for many years!

  55. I love reading about the business side of things! If print is an option, I generally choose that, but I have to say, I really like the way your pdfs go together, and don’t hesitate to buy those, either! Thanks for letting look behind the curtain!

  56. Heather N

    I read the responses quickly so I may have missed it, but I was surprised that no one commented on the price of your downloaded patterns. Most companies charge a much lower price for the download since they don’t have the expense of printing, storing and handling the patterns.
    I think twice about paying full-price for a download and then having to spend an afternoon printing, trimming and taping. Not to mention the added cost of paper, toner and tape.

    1. Heather, pricing is another topic that I plan to address in a future post. The quick answer to your question (which will be explained later) is that for us it’s no less expensive to produce, distribute, and provide customer service on a digital pattern than on a paper pattern. That’s why the newer styles are priced the same. (Our older PDFs for out-of-print styles are still priced less than the comparable paper version was.) It’s my humble opinion that companies that price their PDFs significantly less than their paper patterns either 1) aren’t making good business decisions because they don’t understand all their costs–which puts their long-term viability at risk (see By Hand London) or 2) have produced a paper package that is too expensive and you are paying more than you should for the paper version of the product.

  57. Jennifer

    This is very interesting. I am new to sewing, but I definitely have a preference for the printed patterns. Most of the time I don’t need to start sewing right away, so it isn’t too much hassle for me to wait. However, I am concerned about what might happen to my collection of printed patterns. Do you think there is any way that there could be a “printed + digital” pattern release (probably at a slight surcharge) to get the best of both worlds?

  58. Sarvi

    Just amazing. I am blown away by what a thoughtful, human experience there is interacting with this company and the community around it. I wish you a lot of growth and success!

  59. Sarvi

    Heather N, I think you’re coming at it backwards — it sounds like O+S is actually eating the additional cost of paper patterns to keep them at the same level as PDFs, despite them becoming less and less profitable over time as fewer copies sell and they have to be stored for longer and longer.

  60. Leticia

    I love your patterns and will continue to buy them any way I can get them! Through Butterick, online digitally, and from my sewing store who stock printed copied. Love ’em all! Keep them coming!

  61. Sarah C

    I find these kind of things so informative. We as consumers are so particular and think we are always right. I really appreciate when companies that we trust give us more reason to by explaining how much goes into providing goods and services.

  62. Todd, thank you for this explanation. I will like the changes you are making with the digital patterns for sure. I adore Oliver + S patterns in both forms. Too, I appreciate the community of sewists you have created. I learn much!

  63. Anne

    Thanks. Very interesting post.

  64. emily

    Read the whole thing with interest! I love digital patterns and look forward to the changes. 🙂

  65. Anonymous

    I would love to see the patterns with shirt/pants made available as separate patterns, for a lower cost. It becomes too expensive to buy the patterns in both age ranges (for both of my daughters) and pay for things that I won’t use. I would buy several if they were split up. It would be exciting to make my first oliver and s purchase. Thanks for the consideration.

  66. Emily

    Thanks for this post! I appreciated the commentary on how much things have changed in the last few years.

    Also – I’m glad you’re still printing paper patterns! I don’t mind the digital copies, but in general I prefer the paper.

  67. Thank you for this great post. I actually read through it all as well and it was interesting to learn more about your industry.

    I just returned to sewing last summer, after an absence of decades, and it was interesting to see the changes in the sewing-at-home industry. I was initially thrilled with digital patterns due to the immediacy and cutting out shipping costs. Then I ran into the printing challenges. Initially I went to one of the Staples stores and though I got a few patterns printed it was not without problems. A big one became being hassled about copyright! They wanted me to show a receipt!

    Anyway long story short, I ended up getting a new printer (I needed one anyway)! Then a few indie designers started paper patterns and once I could get those locally I preferred getting them that one. I will no doubt use digital when printed is not available but I am glad to see printed versions become more available now.

    Thanks for listening to your customers!

  68. Sarah

    thanks for the informative, interesting post. It really is great to see the pattern designing world through your eyes.

    The only outcome I would cry about is you guys not producing any more patterns! They are the best I’ve ever encountered, and I can honestly say I wouldn’t be seeing anything for my kids (or myself!) if I hadn’t found your designs, and intrinsically-easy-to-use patterns! Thank you for all you do.

  69. Sally

    This was a fabulous and very interesting post! I enjoy learning how other businesses operate and learning about the behind the scenes machinations. Understanding the decisions helps keep me as a customer, even though I only use your girl’s patterns and buy only digital 🙂

    Please follow up with additional survey response information!

  70. Heather

    Read it all and found it very interesting!! Thank you!

  71. Ruth

    This was really helpful and interesting. Thanks so much for being so committed to your customers. I know making these decisions isn’t easy and I appreciate the behind the scenes look in this post. I love oliver and s patterns (both formats though I do slightly prefer paper) and I look forward to enjoying them for many years to come.

  72. Dawn L

    This was an interesting read. Thanks

  73. Amanda

    I absolutely read this post! Thank you for the explanation, and I love what you’re doing. Keep up the great work, and I’m looking forward to seeing the new patterns!

  74. Rebecca

    I love these kind of updates. 😀 It’s fun to hear about the whys and hows. Thanks for sharing!! 😀

    For what it’s worth; I prefer digital patterns for kids, and paper patterns for adults. I only intend to cut one-size for the adult and toss the rest. For the kids, the digital are key, to keep printing the new size (rather than tracing!!) each time I need it, again. But, that’s my preference, of course.

  75. Laura

    The post was very interesting. Thanks for sharing.

  76. Sarah Ross

    Very interesting post. I’m excited for some more of these behind-the-scenes survey-related posts!

  77. N. Fritsche

    Thanks for sharing this with us! Paper vs. Digital is a financial decision for me as a consumer, just as it is for you as a business owner. I’ll invest effort in a digital pattern if it’ll save me some money. If the two costs the same? I prefer paper. A paper purchase requires less time and effort from me and gives me a lovely product to use for years. The number of pattern pieces can affect my decision also. Thanks for committing to what is best for your consumers — I look forward to learning more!

  78. Handmade Boy

    Very interesting post! I love your patterns and have both digital and paper. While I love the instant gratification of digital, there is just something about flipping though a paper pattern that I love. Thank you for continuing to offer both! I can’t wait to see what you have coming out next!

  79. Angela Halfacre

    I REALLY enjoyed this post! Of course, this is coming from someone who has been sewing for 55 years, using paper patterns, and only about 2 years, using digital patterns. If ALL of the other PDF pattern designers were as thorough as you are, I would gladly just use them! Fortunately/unfortunately for both you and me, I just purchased my first digital pattern from you! I had been reluctant to spend the extra $ your patterns cost, after getting burned by a couple of designers’ poor quality patterns. Now, I finally know why your patterns cost a little bit more ! They are fantastic! I will definitely be purchasing more for my little toddler grandchildren! You have a new fan! Thank you ! PS-The pattern I just purchased is your “Puppet Show” shorts pattern. I had seen a couple of others that were very similar, but got bad reviews. Yours got excellent reviews, and, I am so happy that I purchased it!

  80. Thank you for sharing this! I don’t mind the length and love hearing how things work at O+S. I’m so thankful you will still be printing paper!

  81. Melinda

    I thought this was a fascinating post and I am definitely interested in seeing more like this about your business decisions.

    I like both paper and digital equally well for different reasons. I like to be able to see the patterns I have sitting out in my sewing room and to be able to flip through them. But I don’t like to trace the patterns. I also don’t like to pay shipping. It is a lot of work to assemble a digital pattern though but there is so much convenience that the trade off is worth it.

    I’ll be sad when paper patterns are finally obsolete but I will be fine with buying digital only. We all must evolve!

  82. Such an insightful post. Waiting to hear about other survey results.

  83. Kathy Capps

    i enjoyed reading this and hope you write more about the survey and what you found.

  84. Rebecca

    the behind the scenes posts are my favorite! Even if they do break all the rules. 🙂 Thanks for sharing your thought process with us!

  85. Loved reading this post, thank you for sharing the inner workings of your company. I am such a hybrid, I love digital patterns, except for when it comes to o+s, then I prefer paper. So excited for the spring patterns!

  86. I found this article to be very interesting. Thanks for all the behind the scenes information. I am old school and like paper patterns so thank you for keeping them around a little longer.

  87. MaryW

    I found this very interesting and not surprising based on what I’ve seen from comments on Facebook. By the way, I was one that suggested that I would love to see an Oliver + S sewing group on Facebook, but can also understand why you may want to dip your toes in to that. Would love to hear more about the other learnings from they surveys. 🙂

  88. Liz

    So interesting, please tell us more! Sadly I missed the survey nevertheless it’s fascinating to read about the feedback. Mostly I buy your digital patterns as I live overseas but last week on a shopping trip to a sister island to my ‘local’ fabric shop I found four of your former Simplicity Lisette patterns on sale. FOUR Lisette patterns in a tiny shop in the Caribbean. Can you believe that? It made me so happy. Thank you for selling both formats. And thank you for boy patterns too. I have two boys. New patterns next week? Woop woop!

  89. I read every word! I’ve only sewed digital Oliver + S patterns, but actually purchased a paper one (for boys!) in your recent sale and plan to sew it up next week for KCW.

  90. Add me to the list of people who really enjoyed reading this post. Looking forward to the rest of your posts about the survey! And I am one of those who doesn’t have a clear preference of paper vs. digital. I hate tracing patterns so when I print them out I just cut the size I need. But storage-wise, paper patterns are so much neater and easier to put back on a shelf. I have some of both and am glad that your paper patterns aren’t going away yet.

  91. Cherie

    Wow! What a very informative post. One of the things that I don’t like digital patterns as opposed to paper is the cost. Sometimes they just cost too much. And then I have to print it out on my paper and use up my ink. Now I don’t mind for smaller projects such as bags.
    Question: if you are making digital patterns in different sizes anyway, is there anyway you could do tween and teen girl patterns? Ok I thought I’d put in a plug for these. Lol.

  92. I truly enjoyed every word of this post. It means a lot that you would take the time to give customers information about company decision-making and new directions forward. At the end, I was almost wishing I could re-take my strategic management class to write a paper on the Oliver + S brand.

  93. Karen C

    Thank you for the blog post. I appreciate you sharing your views and the market trend. I really like digital patterns so am thrilled to see some that are well made.

  94. Emily

    Thank you for this post! I’m one of the people who spent a lot of time offering feedback, and I’m so glad to know that you took the time to go through all of it. I look forward to your upcoming releases!

  95. I love hearing the business side of things! In the end, it effects the customer side too. Way to break the rules in an interesting way!

  96. auschick

    In curious how not having the pattern sizes layered will work with making adjustments for people who are multiple sizes.

  97. Rachel

    I really enjoy reading through your survey statistics, and your business response. I look forward to more posts in this series.! I don’t know if this is something you want to tackle but info graphics would be handy to break up the text. For example, before they stopped blogging, Young House Love shared great info graphics complied from survey data.

  98. Janell

    the sunny shorts were the first freebie digital paternity useful to me, and it did a lot to improve my opinion of the format. I can’t remember if I took your survey before or after I tried it.

    I love posts like this which help me better understand the origin and thought in my sewing tools!

  99. Cheryl

    Some of the better bag patterns can run 20 to 30 pages easily. Sara Lawson’s Sew Sweetness bag patterns are well done with plenty of pictures and good instructions.

  100. Read it all the way through and found all the information very interesting. I prefer paper patterns and I am so glad that you will be continuing printing for a while at least. Thank you for all the explanations.

  101. Andrea Gaus

    Thank you so much for a very interesting and informative post. I love paper patterns. I’ve been using them for (gulp) 50 years. But your explanation of how the printing works for a digital paper has given me the courage to go ahead and try one. So later today………T

    Thanks! Love your site!

  102. Gayle K

    I appreciated the information. Thank you for continuing to produce paper patterns!! I know that in my lifetime I will never buy a digital sewing pattern.

  103. I am so very excited about the digital pattern news! Layered PDFs are fantastic…! I actually found the behind-the-scenes stuff fascinating since my background is print production, so I really enjoyed this post! 🙂 Thanks for the info and the education!

  104. Sash

    Thanks for spelling all that out! Really enjoyed the post and so glad that paper patterns are staying and digital patterns will have the A0 print option. As my kids grow older, my sewing time is more limited (no more naps) so to avoid spending time taping pieces of patterns together is fantastic!

  105. I love, love reading about the behind the scenes stuff, and actually like long posts. This is one of the many reasons I love your company and am 100% loyal to you. You listen to us and try to make us happy (it can be hard with so many opinions!), even though it can affect you maybe in a way that isn’t as profitable.

    I am selfishly happy you are continuing in printing paper patterns and developing boy patterns. When I started sewing a few years back it was nearly impossible to find something to sew for my boy, fast forward a few years (adding in a new baby boy) and I think I sew just as much for them as I do my girls.

    While I love my papers, and will purchase them when available, I am excited to hear about the changes in the PDFs. Especially the print guide. I still trace them off on freezer paper to save my ink, so storing them seem to take more space than the paper patterns.

    TL;DR- Oliver + S is awesome sauce and I am excited to see where the future takes your company. And crazy excited about the hint in the forum of a boy on a pattern cover this go around.

  106. jb

    I missed the survey. But i love the paper patterns. So happy you will continue to provide the paper patterns! Thanks for the post.

  107. Karenk

    Thanks for the inside, honest look. I’m a fan for life.

  108. Emily

    Really enjoyed the post, and appreciate the boy patterns – would love to have the women’s patterns in paper as well. Thanks for the information. I think the education piece helped me understand why I should buy the paper patterns more often if I want to keep seeing them.

  109. Thanks for such an interesting and detailed post. I found it fascinating, and loved hearing about the decisions that you have to make. I’m in Australia and love the convenience of pdf, and your pdf patterns are definitely the best ones around. May you have many more successful business years ahead!

  110. Leslie

    I loved reading about your research and findings and appreciate your candidness. It’s great to have options. I have tried other digital patterns but still love the paper ones. So much easier for me. The cutting and pasting of the digital ones, then having to redraw on tissue paper o deal with copy paper to cut is just not to my liking.

  111. Phyllis in Rocky Bayou

    I really enjoyed your post, Todd. Please continue with posts on the other survey results.

    One problem with PDF patterns is cost. I pay the same amount for a paper or digital pattern initially. For a digital pattern I take my thumb drive to the blueprint store, and they charge $10 or more for each sheet I want printed. If there are two sheets to print, I can wind up paying three times the original price. If I make a muslin and decide I’ve picked the wrong size, I have to go back to the store and get two sheets reprinted. The cost adds up.

    It’s not so bad with children’s patterns since most of the time (so far) there is only one sheet to be printed; however, I will need additional sheets as the child grows. Next,I’ll have to buy the same pattern in the larger size.

    Did I mention that I don’t like to tape the pattern pieces together?

    I’d like to buy a paper/digital pattern – a paper pattern as it is now with a digital file containing only the pattern pieces. The instructions would be in the paper pattern. The reason I like paper is that I’m not sure how long the blueprint shop is going to stay in business. I guess paper blueprints are being phased out and going digital, too. I’d like the paper pattern for archive purposes. If there comes a time when I can’t get my pages printed, I can always copy the paper pattern on my home printer and tape the pieces together.

  112. Thanks for this post, Todd!
    Obviously O+S faithful fans already knew you listed to “us”, but it’s great to hear more from behind the scenes.
    Due to economy issues (international shipping is becoming increasing expensive and we still need to add duties/taxes), I’ve shifted my preferences to digital, but I honestly prefer O+S paper patterns.
    And thumbs up for keeping with boy’s patterns – I’m guilty as I find myself sewing, and blogging about, dresses more often, but you’re the only company I buy boy’s patterns from. And yes, we would welcome more 🙂
    (PS. Don’t worry about long posts. We do love to read them!)

  113. Thanks Todd, I am so inspired by your company and admire your hard work and business models. It was a great read and awesome to hear you listen to your customers. I’m definitely a digital buyer being over in Australia although I do believe you stock at Spotlight now. Buying online is so easy! Well done and I can’t wait for the new patterns!

  114. Susan Van Houten

    First and foremost I love your up to date and inspiring patterns. I was so happy to work with Liesl at our last SAGA convention. You have captured your niche customer and I see it expanding and keeping the love of sewing alive.
    I have gone through the one size tissue patterns, layered tissue patterns,(not good) mostly from the big three and not even closely sized to ready to wear, tissue patterns with each size separate, nice, and finally printed (from classes), and digital to purchase paper patterns. Some layered and some single size. Other than the layered tissue and big three, I have been happy with all the rest. Purchasing digital has been last on my list, although I did purchase your digital cape pattern. I love seeing the retailers with their samples of your garments which of course lead me to purchase the print pattern and the fabric. I see why the retailers want the print pattern to increase their over all sales. Of course, our friends outside the US need to be able to print your patterns. I know that Oliver & S produces a quality digital product. So many other digital patterns are not professional at all.

  115. Alice

    i confess, I have stopped buying the paper patterns for the convenience of having the pdf straight away. I don’t mind putting them together, and I’m really excited about the changes you’ve made to the digital patterns, especially the A0 printing option for the non-US customers.

    Great informative post, I really enjoyed reading through it.

  116. I have signed up for your newsletter only recently and, thus, did not participate in your survey. I am one of those stitchers who will pay extra for a paper pattern and greatly appreciate the (long) blog explaining the rationale for the large number of digital patterns from Oliver + S.

    I made it to the end of your very informative blog without any trouble and will now wait for the ‘thumbs-up’ to rush out and purchase my paper patters (particularly interested in Leisl + Co.).

    Love your patterns, loved meeting Liesl last year and thoroughly enjoy the newsletters.
    Thanks for everything, Lyn

  117. Patricia Hersl

    Thank you. I thought it was interesting.

  118. Ann

    Thanks for sharing this with us . I wish you all the best with your family owned business!

  119. Thanks for this very informative article and when we think it through (I do traditionally prefer the paper patterns) ~ it applies to everything in life….. nothing stands still, everything is always evolving, no matter what industries we are working in or where our interests lie. However, appreciate so much that yours is a company that is really attempting to give consistent customer satisfaction. Wonderful … and keep the boys patterns coming too…. big tick!

  120. sorahart

    This was a great post! I love hearing your rationale behind business decisions and the reminder that you really are a family company. Many of the questions in the survey also asked about adding plus sizes and I hope this is being considered. I am just out of your current size range but have been able to make a few patterns work. It would be great to just have the pattern in my size to start with! I also appreciate your endeavors with Lisette patterns too. They are more budget-friendly but still have great style. Thanks!

  121. Kerrilyn

    Loved this post. Thanks for sharing the inside story. It helps me to be an even happier customer! I also appreciated how you answered people’s queries in the comments.

  122. Mary Ann Wilson

    Thank you for breaking all your rules to explain how and why you make business decisions. I love starting my day with Oliver and s and sew from paper and digital patterns. This discussion helps me see trends as you give survey results and roll out new products.

  123. Interesting article. I am curious as to whether there was much of a difference to paper vs digital when it came to international customers? I am in Australia, and have purchased both digital and paper patterns. They both have their pros and cons, but having to wait, wait, wait for a pattern to arrive when you just want to sew now..

  124. Suzanne P

    Informative post, thank you! Love the idea of layered PDFs and looking forward to A0 printing of patterns

  125. Siobhan

    Thank you so much for this informative post. I think a point of differentiation for independent pattern companies must be their connection to their customer base, and by being totally forthright about the results of the survey and your future directions you can only strengthen this connection. There are a lot of indie pattern companies who fail because they make unpopular decisions without explanation or treat their loyal customers like chumps. I look forward to reading more about the results of the survey and the future direction of Oliver & S.

  126. emily

    read it ALL word for word. As a paper pattern lover i did at one point scroll to the end just to reassure myself that you would still be printing patterns! I love hearing about your decision making processes and how much you really value your customers. I can’t wait to read more!

  127. Heidi

    I love the boys patterns, I own most of them 🙂 I’m only missing the school bus tee and bedtime story Pj’s.
    It’s very interesting to hear why decisions are being made, esespecially those that appear counter intuitive to the initial info provided, in this case keeping and producing more paper patterns.

  128. Carol

    I hate change. And that feeling becomes stronger as I age. But I’m coming around with digital patterns and choose them now when possible. I just wish everyone’s digital patterns were as carefully prepared as yours.

  129. Thank you for sharing your reasoning – you can’t please everyone, obviously, but this makes it much clearer why you do what you do. I am someone who usually purchases your patterns online, in paper when I can, with PDFs being a second choice, but as more and more patterns are offered as PDFs only, well, hey, I’m getting pretty used to it!

  130. Very interesting read! I’m an all digital buyer myself and I’m also on the Oliver + S train no matter what stops it makes! It is great to hear about the process that goes into these patterns. I know they’re great just from sewing them, but the amount of work you guys put into every detail is what sets Oliver + S (and Liesl and Co) apart! Thanks for listening to all of us!

  131. Loved this post. I do prefer paper (although I use both types) and appreciate that my preferences were considered. I love Oliver + S patterns and have an extensive collection at this point. I love that your patterns are fun to sew and result in beautiful clothes that I’m proud to say that I made myself.

  132. Susannah

    I read the whole post and think it’s awesome that you would take the time to respond to us!! Thanks!!!!!

  133. Dana

    Thanks for sharing with us. It was interesting and I’m excited for your next tidbits!

  134. Margaret

    Very interesting! I use both paper & digital. I love your patterns.

  135. Jennifer

    Yes, I did read to the end and I found the post fascinating, not sure I’ve ever read your blog before. Can’t explain exactly but I am very interested in the goings on behind the scenes with pattern development. I guess it’s just something I think about while assembling .pdfs–seriously I do. I am someone who sews nearly as much for my son as my daughter and also don’t really sew her frilly things. I definitely once struggled to find him patterns. I have always assumed I was in a minority and the shortage of boy patterns was just good business sense on someones part. Still I’m so glad the internet has allowed niche markets like this to thrive. Thanks for all the details about your development process. Oh, and I’ve used one Waffle Pattern, layered pdf is awesome.

  136. Darlena

    I’ve only been following your blog for a few months, and this one really sparked my interest. Congratulations on your success and for wisely following the industry trends and adjusting your business plan accordingly while staying true to your purpose. Here’s to future success in doing what you love!

  137. Thank you, Todd, for taking the time to give the O+S “business perspective” side of things… Ready to hear more!!! You just whetted our appetite….

  138. Jen

    I found this post to be very interesting and extremely timely! I can see that I have made a shift as well — paper to pdf, being one of those that voted pdf a handful of months ago. Thanks!

  139. Jumping in with everyone else to say thank you for this post! I find the business information fascinating. I sew with both paper and digital patterns–definitely prefer paper for adult patterns, and with kids’ patterns I go either way. I also appreciate your dedication to boys’ patterns. Thanks!

  140. Tece Markel

    Thank you so much for continuing the paper patterns!! I sew for all my grandkids and your patterns are the best by a long shot. I have to confess to being “old school” and really prefer the paper.

  141. Beth

    I read your entire blog post with great interest. I have not tried any of your patterns yet, as I only sew for myself, but definitely will take a look at your patterns for women. I either sew from paper patterns, or draft them myself, but am open to the digital format. I really appreciate you taking the time to explain the hows and whys of the business of producing patterns, and see how important serving the needs of your consumers is to you. I have watched some of your tutorials, which is how I came to follow your blog. Thanks for all the great information! Beth

  142. Trish

    Thanks for a great post.. I completed the survey and was interested to hear about changes you would make. I’m so excited for the layered PDFs .. and advising the numbered pages for each size is a great interim. Hooray for not wasting paper! 🙂

  143. Hi Liesl,
    It’s fascinating how much the industry has changed in just the last few years. It doesn’t surprise me that we are all moving towards digital patterns. I have surprised myself in liking them, when I always thought I’d prefer the paper. Either way, I convert mine straight to card, as I much prefer the accuracy of a pattern on pattern card. But it’s the immediacy of a digital pattern that I like so much. I just have to work on converting it to a finished garment in a more immediate fashion!

  144. I love digital patterns. The only thing that makes me hesitate is if it’s not available in A0 format – so thank you! Will all your digital be available in A0 in the future (including past patterns)?

  145. Karen

    Great post! Thank you for keeping the paper patterns they are my preference from the start. Will be purchasing the new Spring 2015 paper patterns.

  146. Thanks a ton for all the info, and I’m also looking forward to more lengthy posts about the survey results and review. I’m a paper pattern person. I’m completely terrified of screwing something up in printing out and constructing a digital pattern, and having all that money go to waste because I end up never doing anything with it. Your explanation of the what and why does help. I’ve been coveting the liesl+co cinema dress since it was released – that dress would be PERFECT for me. Maybe someday I’ll get up the guts to get it and try it, but that day is not today. Today, I’m very glad to hear that the next round of liesl+co patterns will be printed on paper, and I hope that lightning strikes again and there’s another perfect outfit for me to buy this time.

  147. Thanks a ton for all the info, and I’m also looking forward to more lengthy posts about the survey results and review. I’m a paper pattern person. I’m terrified of screwing something up in printing out and constructing a digital pattern, and having all that money go to waste because I end up never doing anything with it. Your explanation of the what and why does help. I’ve been coveting the liesl+co cinema dress since it was released – that dress would be PERFECT for me. Maybe someday I’ll get up the guts to get it and try it, but that day is not today. Today, I’m very glad to hear that the next round of liesl+co patterns will be printed on paper, and I hope that lightning strikes again and there’s another perfect outfit for me to buy this time.

    Also, perhaps at some point you could publish a blog post explaining in very small words for idiots like me how the whole digital pattern thing works – what happens when I hit “purchase” on my computer, how to print it on a home computer and tape it all together correctly, and anything else that I’m missing. That would help clear some hurdles to purchasing them. Thanks!

  148. Becky Phillips

    Both interesting and inspiring. Holding my breath until next week! Thank you, Liesl and Co.

  149. Stefanie

    Great post! Please do another. Very interesting info.

  150. Jan

    I do prefer paper patterns and I have only bought yours (kid patterns) in a shop. I will have to take a look at the grown up ones, as I have just started sewing for myself again (since middle school in the 70’s!)

  151. Jerri

    Thank you for sharing this side of your business. I now have a better appreciation for some of the work you do to keep up such a great line of products.

  152. Julie

    Todd, I really appreciate the time you took to explain the thought process behind the paper/digital pattern availability. I’m sure producing a post like that would take up a lot of your valuable time. I read all the way to end with interest … thank you for breaking your blog post rules. I work as an accountant, and really like hearing about how business deal with the challenges and changes affecting their business model. I would definitely read more of these behind the scenes posts.

  153. Karen Jones

    Thanks for this post, it’s really interesting to see how the survey results turned out, and how my own opinion sit with everyone elses! I own both paper and digital patterns and although I prefer to use a paper pattern, being in Australia the digital patterns are definitely more accessible!

  154. Jen B

    Thanks for the insightful post. I just love O+S so I’ll buy both types of pattern, though I prefer the simplicity of the paper. Looking forward to the spring patterns!

  155. Wow Todd, for a techy blog post with no inspirational pictures you’ve probably topped the all time number of comments record!
    That’s because you write well but also I think because you allow us, the consumer, to feel like we’re part of the Oliver + S family. I might buy patterns elsewhere sometimes (rarely of course) but do I care much about their business? Not always.
    The A0 printing will be much appreciated, thank you. I’ll still buy paper first cause I have to keep the collection complete, but I’d consider buying digital as well more often with the printing made easier by way of A0 sizing.

  156. Trina B

    That was an interesting read! You have the *best* boys patterns! I wish you had more, as all of my children are boys!! But I’m thankful you keep producing them – in paper 🙂 I’m not a huge fan of of PDF’s – only for the fact I have issues with the scaling between my old iPad and printer. You have a wonderful business, you listen to and respect your customers, produce beautiful quality patterns and are generous with your time and knowledge – for as long as you continue to produce patterns (in whatever format they come) you will have a loyal customer in me! xx

  157. Thanks for taking the time to write this down Todd! It’s really interesting to read how you make your decisions – it helps to know your motivations. Please keep these posts coming!

  158. Jen

    You’re right about this being a polarizing topic: so many comments! I’m happy either way and have both types of patterns and, like Nicole, I love the convenience of shopping over the Internet to get instant, high quality patterns. And I would be happy with digital-only patterns if it meant that Liesl continued to produce more patterns.
    Your honesty about the important business decisions you are making is refreshing. Much appreciated!

  159. Thank you Todd, for this post – I really enjoyed reading it – and added thanks for breaking your rules (actually, I prefer longer and more in depth posts in general). I am looking forward to the next installment 🙂

  160. This was such an interesting read! Thank you for taking the time to listen to us, adjust accordingly, and letting us know we were heard. 🙂 Your patterns are the BEST! I don’t own any in paper format though since the pattern cost + shipping costs makes it impossible… But I have several on PDF, so thank you for going digital. Can’t wait to read more conclusions on your survey so please keep up with more posts like this.

  161. wildwinowoman

    I teach managerial accounting (at the university level) and I’m printing this out for my classes! What a great analysis of costing and management decisions to serve the clientele. Thank you!

  162. Tiifany

    Thank you for this post! I appreciate you taking the time to share the business side of Oliver + S with us all. It just reinforces that feeling of supporting a small business because of a personal relationship and personal investment in that company’s success. I read every word and plan to do so in the future with similar posts. One question that I had regarding paper vs. digital when I completed the survey was: will there ever be a way to get a free or discounted digital copy of a pattern that I purchased from your site when the pattern was only available in print format? I’m wondering if any other PDF pattern lovers would love this option? Or if in the future we could buy a bundle that included both the paper and digital patterns together for less than the price of buying both at full price?

  163. Ash

    Thanks. Your thoughts are enlightening. I also own a small business (different field) that is changing between “bricks and clicks.” Food for thought. You have a good understanding of true costs.

  164. THRILLED! Will definitely pay for paper patterns with my wallet. 😉

    Thanks, Todd!

  165. Thank you for your insightful article. I’m among those who *strongly* prefer paper patterns and created my own business for those who prefer printed patterns. Therefore I hope interest in paper patterns will continue. The biggest challenge I see for it are actually the A0 prints – they are a very “comfortable” alternative to gluing all those sheets of paper together!
    Anyway, if you’d like me to become one of your retailers, drop me a line 🙂

  166. Marjolein Flick

    Thanks for the look behind the scenes post today! I’m glad you’re making digital patterns because for me, living in the Netherlands, it would otherwise be to expensive to purchase you’re patterns.

  167. I love when companies spell it out to their customers how things work and why they do the things they do. I really really appreciate this and want to see more.

    When I worked at a small fabric store overseas on a military base we had people constantly saying “Joanns has better sales” or “why are your prices higher than other fabric stores” (and people were mean about it, like we were trying to screw them). I tried to tell as many people as I could what went on behind the scenes. We were a small one-shop place. No discounts for buying in bulk like Joanns or Michaels. We had to pay shipping on every thing where as big places will often get free shipping on huge orders and so many other reasons our prices were sometimes higher. Anyway, it was frustrating and I’m not sure anyone was even listing to me but it made me feel better:)

    I said all that you so you know your explanation is wanted and to keep it up. People need to know why things are the way they are and what it costs, etc. etc. Thank you Oliver + S!

  168. I for one am very greatful that Oliver +s makes wonderful boy pattern even if they are not big sellers, so thank you thank you thank you! Also I’d love to see more posts like this.

  169. Mary C

    Very interesting. I always enjoy learning about how this all works. Glad to hear of the additions to the new digital patterns. I’d like to see a separate sheet or a section on in the instructions showing layout. After I’ve traced a paper pattern it is inconvenient to have to look back at the big sheet for layouts.

  170. An interesting read. Thanks for being so transparent. You keep raising the bar for indie pattern designers. Keep up the good work.

  171. Paige E

    I read every word and found the discussion fascinating – thanks for sharing! I use both paper and digital patterns. I have a slight preference for paper because I find they are easier to store, but I do like the convenience of digital and don’t hesitate to purchase them. I really admire and appreciate Liesl & Co’s quality and customer focus, and I will continue to use your patterns in whatever form they are offered!


    I think that this very insightful and interesting information. I would love to hear more from the feedback that you received.

    Thanks for sharing!

  173. Susanne

    Of course I read and appreciated this post – and I’m looking forward to more of them…
    I’m really looking forward for the layered PDFs, such an improvement!

    And I am very thrilled to see the second O+S spring pattern within the next couple of days…

  174. Nancy Barbata

    I read the entire post. I want paper patterns but, with the cost of printing and storing, I was not expecting you to say you would continue with them. Then you made your announcement that you care SO MUCH about your customers, you are continuing to offer paper! Wow, thank you! I just ordered two patterns, one a week ago, and another a day before your post. This kind of interest in offering your customers the ability to not have to go digital makes me even more devoted!

  175. Annee

    read the whole post. Loved it! And I still love paper patterns too!

  176. Sandi

    Thank you, Todd. I’m sad to see paper patterns dwindling because I like them, but as long as O+S keeps selling patterns, I’ll keep buying! 🙂

  177. Great post, thank you! For what it’s worth. I’d like to point out that the Oliver + S digital patterns are the best I’ve ever used in terms of how well organized and easy to put together they are. They’re really a breeze, and many who have reservations about digital patterns will be pleasantly surprised by how easy these particular ones are. I normally prefer paper patterns but with your patterns I can happily go either way. Well done and, as ever, I’m impressed with how connected you are to your customers and with the genuine way you take into account their needs. What a great, forward thinking company!

  178. Jaala

    Great read and interesting analysis – thanks for the effort 🙂

  179. Anne

    I have been a fan of the digital patterns for convenience but after reading this, I feel a sudden twinge for a tangible product. After all, if I print out and tape together my digital pattern, it still needs an envelope. As with books (digital vs. paper) one has to think of the future. I have not a few old patterns in my collection that needed to hide through their unfashionable seasons in grandma’s attic, but now they’re “vintage”. I’m a believer in the importance of old things, and it seems that a digital file is so much easier to get rid of than something one holds in her hands. Thanks for the opportunity to think about that.

  180. Fascinating and informative post. Thanks for listening to our feedback!

  181. I loved your candidness and your honesty about the topic of pattern patterns vs. digital patterns. Your patterns are some of the best in the industry, and knowing that you truly listen and implement your customers’ comments into your products makes your patterns even better to me! Thank you!

  182. Dayla

    Thanks for explaining. I’m a 30 yr old seamstress that is “old fashioned”, as I prefer paper & usually only purchase a pattern, yours included, if it comes in paper. Maybe I’ll adjust with the changes, but thank you for continuing the paper format, even if it’s more limited than before. Thank you!

  183. Marcy

    Thanks for the incredibly informative post! I was fascinated by the details of the business process of paper vs. digital and would love to see more posts of the survey results. I got back into sewing about five years ago and have loved the PDF patterns! I find them much more convenient (especially with kids’ sizes since I can just reprint when I need the next size) and since they don’t take up as much physical storage space. But I love your company and how you treat your customers, providing those who prefer paper with paper patterns.

  184. Mary

    I loved this post. I am one of those who answered your survey, and one of the sewists who don’t care if I ever buy another paper pattern.
    Very interesting to read about the twisting road your company has, and continues to travel. So nice to have our thoughts taken into consideration.

  185. Ruth S

    Great post and so interesting to see the business issues you deal with in this evolving market. Thank you for thinking about your consumer in by our business model.

  186. Nancy Faught

    I found your comments most interesting and I prefer the PDF patterns to the others. Some of your plans to change things up for the better including making the individual sizes next year are welcome even though I do not find any difficulty with your patterns now and I have both the PDFs and the paper ones.

  187. Dawn J Boyd

    Really appreciate the information. Happy you will continue to print new patterns.

  188. Susanne Brisach

    Extremely interesting view of your business. It amazes me how complex things are. You produce wonderful designs. I prefer paper patterns, but the layered PDF idea sounds appealing. I look forward to seeing you continue to be successful.

  189. Mary Rachel Moore

    Thanks, I read all the way through. I’m fascinated by your business decision and sewers pattern preferences.

  190. Robin

    I read it all and I am excited you keeping paper patterns. I refuse to pay the same amount for a PDF and use my paper and ink to print. I still have to trace as the printer paper is too stiff as a pattern.

  191. Jane

    Thanks for a very informative article. I read to the end!!

  192. i read the whole post, I don’t think I’m the only one who has a big emotional investment in having o+S stay in business and be profitable! as always, not all paper patterns are created equal. I like yours but not other companies’ because of the better quality paper… it lasts longer and doesn’t tear. As far as digital goes, I like being able to print out another copy if I’m making a different size, and reuse my kids’ school papers to print on. I would like to see the sizes in different colored lines (instead of different line types) if that is possible tho.

  193. Lisa

    Thanks for the info. Any chance of being able to print the whole pattern to a plotter rather than taping it all together? I would love digital if I could just print it out on a plotter.

    1. Lisa, yes each of our digital patterns comes with a full sized sheet that can be printed on a plotter.

  194. Barbara

    I enjoyed reading this and will be watching for me articles like this!

  195. Claire B

    Yay for paper patterns, and double yay for continuing to produce boys patterns (any new ones coming out soon?!) I definitely prefer paper patterns (I’d rather spend my limited free time sewing than piecing together bits of paper), and I’m happy to keep buying any new boy patterns you release (sadly I don’t have a girl to make pretty dresses for!)

  196. Loved this! thanks so much for a peek ‘inside’ your business. I don’t see why anyone would have a problem with this type of post. One of the best things about blogs and posts is that if you are not interested, you can just move on. You post following your ‘following the rules’ posts often, so there is a lot for everyone to reads and see; don’t worry about that! Appreciate both forms of patterns; each has its benefits and drawbacks.

  197. Francesca

    Thanks for this – and for showing that you really respond to what people want. I took the survey and will be responding with my wallet when paper patterns are available (Lisette, that is – no kids). The layering sounds great – I’ve bought layered patterns, and they look so much easier to use – but still, they stayed unused unlike my paper patterns…..

  198. Andi

    This is the type of information I find most useful – what goes into your decision-making process and why you make the changes (or not-changes) you do. My tiny, independent, local apparel and quilting cotton shop carries your children’s patterns, and before we realized your Liesl and Co. women’s patterns were only available in PDF, that shop owner was ready to order the Cappuccino Dress based on the number of clients coming in to buy their yardage in her lawn. Thank you for offering paper patterns for the new women’s patterns in response to feedback.

  199. i found this really interesting! thank you for writing and posting it! i do still like paper patterns, but i understand all you are saying.

  200. Jen

    This post was fascinating. Everything about your business is so thoughtful! Thank you for the glimpse into your decision-making process.

  201. Cynth

    Thank you for this insightful post. While I sew for relaxation, in my professional life I work for a large educational publisher. I was struck by (what now to me are obvious) similarities between book publishing and the pattern industry. We struggle with the breakdown of traditional distribution channels, the demise of brick and mortar stores run by real people, and the advent of new technologies. Our business is now almost entirely B2C, we struggle with setting appropriate print runs, warehousing and distribution costs are eating us alive, and we wonder about our customers’ acceptance of electronic formats for our content. It has been, and will continue to be, a wild ride.

  202. Sarah

    I really found this interesting. After reading what happened to By Hand London I think your constant examination of your business and what people want is sensible and admirable.

    I also love that you do plenty of patterns for boys. I have a girl but her best friend is a boy with a mum who appreciates handmade. I will be making plenty of things I bet.

  203. Loved this – looking forward to more behind the scenes/industry posts in the future.

  204. Cheryl

    This is fascinating–thank you for letting us in on the dilemmas and challenges! As a consumer with no business experience, I’d never guess about all these considerations. I prefer paper patterns–I love the weight and clarity of the paper you used, and my kids and I love the paper dolls of the earlier patterns. That said, I’m certainly willing to make the switch to digital if it means more O & S patterns in my future!! I hope you continue with patterns for boys, even if it means only in digital forma. Thanks again!

  205. Ann

    Thank you for a thoughtful,informative post. I read it in its entirety and found it quite enlightening. As a digital pattern devotee, I appreciated the behind the scenes discussion. I would welcome more on the topic.

  206. Sally

    Thank you for the very interesting behind the scenes chat. And thank you even more for keeping us paper pattern people in the loop!

  207. MaryLou

    Thanks for the thoughtful insight into the business side of pattern design today. I really appreciated your long-form essay on the subject. Not necessarily what I would like in 90% of the blog posts, but certainly appropriate occasionally when the topic requires it. Explaining your take on the opinion survey and what you have learned and done about it is definitely worth writing and reading about.

  208. Brenda

    Very interesting…helps us to better understand your business model & where & why you make some of your decisions. I find paper patterns do require as much work as PDF’s just because you still have to cut them out and/or trace them. They also take up a lot more room to store. I like being able to just print out the size I need (even if I have to cut it out) each time if I didn’t save it for some reason. I think the only comment I have for your patterns is the choice of cover pics…I’d love them to show actual fabric models…not an artist’s rendering. I guess it’s just a visual thing for me and sometimes hard to imagine a completed garment. Thanks again for great patterns!

  209. Caroline

    Thank you for the informative post! Transparency is a great policy and whole-heartedly support your ‘breaking the rules’. In reality, it really is about us, in that we asked, you listened. I personally, love paper patterns and not all the fuss and time in printing, taping, and scaling of pdf’s. So, I very much appreciate the Company’s decision to do both.

  210. Kami

    Paper, paper, paper! I am so glad your still making paper patterns!

  211. Mary Helen in OR

    Thanks for this post. I found it quite interesting.

  212. Layered PDF coming – YAY!!!!!

  213. Beth T.

    Thanks for your response to the feedback. This is very helpful for me to know what you are planning. I prefer printed patterns, as I like to see what I have available in my pattern stash for making new garments. I also send some of your new patterns overseas to my daughter who lives in the Philippines. She also loves your patterns and has no local places to buy them. She does buy some of your digital patterns, but brown-outs and computer signal issues can be a real problem for them. I have loved your patterns since the first one I bought some years ago and look forward to your new releases.

  214. Beth

    I am so happy to hear that you will be printing the paper patterns again. I understand the investment it takes and I appreciate you making it. We will do everything in our power to help support you and keep people buying the paper patterns!

  215. Michelle

    Thank you for the detailed post. I do appreciate understanding the issues and preferences and the options. I prefer paper patterns for the same reasons many people here posted. Beyond the printing issues that can cause me to print 40 pages and discover down the road, it did not print accurately.. sigh.. I too like to have the patterns in their envelopes with the picture and details to sort through, when looking for something to make with some gorgeous fabric I just bought. Most of us are all on our computers too many hours as it is. I am on it all day for my job. My brain and eyes get overwhelmed at times and I just cannot ‘sort’ through another thing online.

    I have purchased and will continue to purchase your paper patterns.

    Have a great day!

  216. nicola rodgers

    Great article on every count. Ive followed your company from the begining and its so refreshing how you communicate with your customers. You were one of the reasons I started work again and started my own little company. Keep up the great work. Nicola

  217. lori

    Thank you for continuing to print!! I believe childrens patterns in pdf are much more realistic than adult sizes and almost always choode the paper option.
    very interesting to read about!!

  218. Mary ann

    Such an interesting post, thank you for taking the time to share all this information with us. I am very much a paper person for garments. Way to much work for me to print, cut and tape before I even getting to cutting fabric. So I buy paper patterns and trace if I am doing a small size. Thank you for appreciating those of us not ready to make the switch yet. Like so many folks have commented, I do figure it’s only a matter of time.

  219. Colleen D

    I usually hate long posts but I read every word of this one. It was very interesting!

  220. Cathy

    Fascinating blog – will look forward to the next edition!

  221. Beth

    I lasted through the whole blog post and it was very helpful, thankyou for the time you put in to communicate with your customers!

  222. This was a really informative and helpful blog post. I read it with great interest! I am always fascinated by hearing your process and the rationale behind the changes and evolution in the business. I too prefer paper patterns for several reasons: the cost is lower (printing on a large format printer is at least $20-30 per pattern), no assembly of paper pieces, easier to have all instructions and pieces together when they come packaged that way. Tracing is necessary either way if I want to use other sizes or variations of the pattern again (at current prices plus the cost of printing I plan on using every pattern multiple times). I agree that the layered pdf is an improvement for digital patterns although for those of us who sometimes need to grade between two sizes at once I am not sure how that would work. I look forward to more of these posts. Thank you!

  223. Jean McCoin

    Thanks for all the good information! I usually perfer paper rather than digital, especially since I live in the country and sometimes the printer acts up or low on ink when I want to download.

  224. Not sure if y’all are still reading this comments, but I wanted to add another insight. Originally in the poll, and since, I had said that I wanted paper for the women’s, but PDF for children’s (since I’d use so many of the children’s sizes, but only one size for the women’s).

    Since, though, I’ve been wanting to experiment more with adjustments and slight tweaks. However, doing that with the full-size patterns is extremely time-consuming and paper-wasteful. So, it’s only recently occurred to me the obviousness of instead purchasing the women’s paper, to buy the women’s PDF and then print at 25%, so I can do a quarter-scale adjustment and trial sewing.

    Anyway, just wanted to add that idea, and why I’m switching camps back to PDF for women. 🙂

  225. Denise

    Thank you, that was a very informative insight into your business. I bought the Butterfly Blouse digital pattern and it went together seamlessly. The new cutting lines are fantastic. I always thought I preferred paper to digital, now I don’t care. Keep up the good work, I love sewing with your patterns, the instructions and fit are always first class.

  226. Janet Baillie

    Scrolling through all the comments to get to this box shows me clearly that many of us read and very much appreciated your post about the PDF vs paper pattern issue. I feel that we, as consumers, like to be kept in the loop. Please continue to keep us informed.
    Many thanks for your terrific customer service. Hope you’ll keep it up.


  227. I read it to the end!

Post a comment