Saturday, March 1, 2014

My Meeting with Vogue Patterns

With Frank Rizzo and Kathy Wiktor

Table of contents:

Just an FYI. I wanted to sew today. I had my project all figured out, but I couldn't find the pattern that I bought at the Vogue booth yesterday. Instead, I spent the day writing this post. I have one more post I want to write about Puyallup, but this is the one that covers the reason for my being there - the visit with the folks at Vogue.

This is a LONG one, so here goes!

Disclaimer #1

I feel the need to include this statement because I heard rumblings that some folks think that maybe McCalls (whom I routinely refer to as "Vogue", as they produce McCalls, Butterick, Kwik Sew, and Vogue patterns under the McCalls banner) is trying to "buy me off" with this trip to Puyallup. So here's the full disclosure:

McCalls flew me to Puyallup to meet with them to discuss my blog post, to hear my opinions, and to fill me in on what they have been doing since the new President took over last May. I have the receipt for the airfare and it cost them $138. They did not offer to pay for accommodations, which is why I flew in and out of Seattle on the same day. They paid for my ground transportation from the airport to the show and back. They left a "McCalls" employee badge for me at Will Call (a show ticket costs $10 before the show, or $12 on the day of the show).

In the morning, Mr Rizzo bought me a mango lemonade at the show, as we talked in the Expo cafe area. At lunch, I was treated to a meal at the "Longhorn Steakhouse" booth (or some similar name). This vegetarian had a water, a side of baked beans, and a side of coleslaw. (The only meatless items on the menu, but I was quite satisfied.) In the afternoon, I was treated to a strawberry shortcake at the Scone booth.

That's it. No money was given to me. No gifts other than the travel and food I have listed. I purchased a pattern ($5) and a magazine ($3) in the McCalls booth, but I discovered that the pattern was left behind when I returned home, so I paid $8 (in effect) for the magazine. (That's ok, though I was a bit frustrated because I really wanted to sew that pattern IMMEDIATELY.)

McCalls has not "bought me off" and that was not their intention. If you know me well, you will know that I can be a fairly outspoken individual. I think that's what they wanted, and that's what they got.

I just wanted to clarify. :)

Structure of the Day

Here is a blow-by-blow summary of the day. I cover the topics we discussed in another section of this post.

Travel to Puyallup incurred some minor delays. San Francisco experienced some light rain, which seemed to befuddle air traffic. (I thought it was only car traffic in California that is befuddled by rain...) As a result, I arrived late to Seattle (it is a 2-hour flight) and the car picking me up was still later. Then the driver, who was hurrying to get me there, was pulled over and received an expensive speeding ticket.


When I arrived at Expo, I had a bit of trouble retrieving my badge from Will Call. It was not listed under my name. It was not listed under Vogue. It was not listed under McCalls. You'll never guess how it was listed. It was listed under "T" for "The McCalls". I later learned that this is the correct legal name, it's "THE McCalls Pattern Company", not "McCalls Pattern Company".

I did not know that.

Before the show.
(Photos courtesy of Vogue Pattern's Facebook page)

I finally arrived at THE McCalls booth (which involves walking across the fairgrounds to the cavernous ShowExpo building), where I was greeted by several members of the McCalls team - Frank Rizzo, President and CEO of McCalls, Carolyne Cafaro, Senior VP of Merchandising, Design, and Catalog, and Kathy Wiktor, Director of Retail and Consumer Promotion. I also met Gillian Conohan, Associate Editor of Vogue magazine, and a creative force in her own right. (She created the embellished top on the cover of the April/May 2014 issue.)

Carolyne Cafaro asked me to crop her face, but she was wearing this To.Die.For Sandra Betzina jacket that I wanted to share. This unlined jacket is made from Vogue 1385, a blouse pattern. This is the pattern I bought in the booth and planned to start sewing today. I really love it as a jacket! (You can see a clearer photo of this jacket on page 81 of the April/May 2014 issue of Vogue Pattern Magazine.)

Frank, Carolyn, and I went to the cafe to sit and chat. We talked until it was time for the Palmer/Pletsch Fashion Show, so the three of us went to watch. Inside, Kathy W and Gillian were saving seats for us. The show was well attended and featured a lot of clothing shown in the BMV catalogs, as well as self made clothing by Marta Alto (and modeled by Marta). There were also designs by Pati Palmer's daughter, Melissa Watson.

After the fashion show, the five of us went to lunch, talking all the while.

We returned to the McCalls booth, and Marcy and Katherine Tilton had stopped by.

I finally met Katherine Tilton in the flesh! (Though I felt like I knew her already.)

I met Kathy Marrone, Editor-in-Chief for Vogue Pattern Magazine, and James Bosco, Fashion Director. (He's the one who takes some of the fun pictures that he posts on the Vogue Facebook page, such as the recent pics of spring designs in the Saks windows.) I also met Chris Gill, Art Director (among other things, she oversees the photo shoots).

with Kathy Marrone, who is wearing a beautiful Sandra Betzina jacket that she made. (I am sorry I didn't get a picture of the back with a contrast insert! Notice the self fringe around the edge of the jacket? That is an ATTACHED fringe. And she MATCHED the PLAID. That is the determined person that is Kathy Marrone.)

By the way, I just noticed. Their sign really does say "THE McCALLS..."!

By the way, Kathy M, Kathy W, Gillian, and Chris all sew! When I returned from Marcy's booth with my bag of fabrics, they gathered around and asked to see. Yes, that's what sewers do. We share fabric porn.

It was time for the Tilton fashion show, which Frank and Carolyne had seen on Thursday. The fashion shows are held in another building on the fairgrounds, so I was grateful for a lovely, sunny day to be scooting between buildings.

Kathy M, James, and I walked with the Tiltons to the fashion show venue. This fashion show featured garments by both Tiltons, garments by Gwen Spencer and Nancy Murikami using Tilton patterns and fabrics, several garments by Gertie, and some dresses by a shop in Michigan that make formal dresses using "camouflage" fabrics.

After this fashion show, we went back to the McCalls booth to talk some more. Frank, Kathy M, Gillian, and I then went off for strawberry shortcake at the world-famous Scone booth. And we talked a lot more.

We returned to the booth, where more talking occurred. At this point I met Randy Peterson, VP of Manufacturing. He has been there (at the facility in Kansas where they produce the patterns) for 32 years, working his way from engineer to VP. I enjoyed talking to him about the weight of the pattern tissue (which has "lightened up" over the years and is now a much flimsier tissue which is much harder to print) and all the companies they print patterns for.

You probably know that they print patterns for Vogue, Butterick, Simplicity, and McCalls. You might even know that they print patterns for Louise Cutting and Sewing Workshop. But I bet you didn't know that they print patterns for SEVENTY different pattern lines and they do it with far fewer employees than they did years ago.

Randy Peterson

At this point, Frank became concerned that it was 4:30pm, and the Expo closes at 6pm, and I hadn't visited a single other booth.

He (kindly) shooed me out to look around. (Hey, it's not every day that I have Vogue executives at my beck and call.)

Given that I had very limited time, I headed straight for the 800 aisle, where Diane Ericson and the Tiltons had their booths. I first hit Diane's booth, where I ran into folks I know from various sewing retreats. Diane enthusiastically showed us some of her latest work, as well as some stenciled pieces that her son has been making and selling.

I'm telling you, the artistic apple didn't fall far from the tree. Diane had a largish basket which had been full of her son's stenciled pieces for sale, but by the time that I arrived there were maybe 2 or 3 pieces left - the sewing locusts enthusiasts had come and gone.

with Diane Ericson, who is wearing another masterpiece

Nearby was the Tilton's booth, where I happily reunited with Gwen (my roomie from DOL) and I was finally able to meet Nancy Murikami! Each one had some beautiful pieces in the Tilton fashion show, as well as the beautiful pieces they were wearing.

with Nancy Murikami and Gwen Spencer

with Katherine and Marcy Tilton

I quickly selected four fabrics to bring home and left behind an IOU for my first grandchild, because one of these fabrics is a very fancy coating with a very fancy price tag.

My fabric haul

Gwen, Marcy, and Katherine told me that I must check out the Professional Sewing Supply booth. Katherine had some items on hold there, so she and I walked over (to another building, also full of vendors). She is an Enabler Extraordinaire, that one. I went along just to see what they had and, next thing you know, I had spent $75 on Japanese fusible binding (both bias and straight grain), and on a set of the same Japanese sewing needles that (I was told) Susan Khalje uses.

Then Katherine took me to the dress form booth (Fashion Supplies, Inc), where she bought some really nice coated metal yardsticks. I had enough to lug home already (I was not checking any bags), so I did not buy anything, though I picked up flyers and business cards.

We walked back to the Showplex and I told Katherine that I wanted to see Louise Cutting's booth. I have never met Louise Cutting and I'd heard that she brought fabrics to this show, as well as her patterns. I have seen photos of the luscious fabrics that she brings to the shows closer to her Florida home (such as the Atlanta Expo). But, by the time we got to her booth, the sewing locusts enthusiasts had struck again, and there wasn't much fabric left. It was nice to finally meet Louise, who was looking elegant in a mustard-colored, boiled wool top made from (I believe) her Hearts A'Flutter pattern. (I've used that pattern myself.)

By this time, the Expo was about to close. I returned to the McCalls booth, bought my (now-missing) pattern and a magazine, recovered my stashed bags, and said goodbye and thank you to the nice McCalls folks.

While waiting for my ride back to the airport, I watched the herds of sewists as they headed off into the dusk sporting their bright pink Sew Expo shopping bags, and their rolling suitcases, groaning with new treasures, and their heads swimming from the classes they had taken.

Substance of the Day

There is no way I can capture all of the conversation that happened over those six hours. Instead, I am including some of the points from my original Open Letter to Vogue Patterns with a summary of what we discussed.

Offer more designer patterns.
They have been really trying to do this. They have a couple new designers that may be coming on board soon. But this is very difficult, very slow, process. Carolyne told me that for every 10 designers that she contacts, she might hear back from one. And many established design houses are owned by large corporations that are simply not interested. (This is a big change from back in the 50s when design houses were more independent.)

What about new, up-and-coming designers, like those who participate in the CFDA Fashion Fund (spearheaded by Anna Wintour of Vogue), and who are hungry for exposure? In fact, that has been one of the avenues that they are pursuing.

Perhaps you can help.

Update the fit of their sloper.
This was a very interesting discussion and I felt that we could have explored it further. They told me that, at one time, there was fairly consistent sizing between the brands. Vogue was consistent within Vogue, McCalls with consistent within McCalls, and so on. That has not been true more recently, but they are planning to return to that model.

When I suggested that the fit sloper itself could be updated, there was some confusion. For example, I told them that the fit through the upper torso could be modified to be more like RTW, but we didn't discuss that angle in depth.

We also discussed the issue of pattern grading. I told them that I have been plus sized, and I have been "regular" sized, but my shoulders don't generally widen much based on my weight. And, yet, the larger-sized pattern assumes I have massively wide shoulders. The patterns are drafted for a size 10 and then graded up for larger sizes and down for smaller sizes. There seems to be some bad math involved in the grading. Frank seemed willing to explore this subject further.

I suggested that it would be great if they started a line of patterns, maybe under the McCalls banner, that featured more RTW fit and more RTW detailing, reflecting current styles that can be seen in stores. It could be labeled with a special label, so that consumers would know to expect different fit. If done well, this could be massively popular among a younger demographic.

We also talked about the crotch shape of their pants, which is problematic for many women. There was no clear answer on that one.

This entire topic needs much further discussion. I strongly suggest that you let them know what you want to see. Now is the time for feedback.

Better designs for plus sizes. Enough shapeless sacs.
They have heard this, loud and clear. Very soon they will be bringing back women's sizes (as in 20W, though I don't remember to specific range) to Butterick and McCalls. They have some other exciting developments, but I don't feel it's my place to make announcements.

Oh, I will say they told me they are bringing in more cup sizing. But I have long stated that this does not appeal to me. My bust is bigger, and lower, than what they draft for. It's more work for me to lower a bust point and to widen a dart, than to put one in from scratch. But this may bring joy to some.

Enough with the Very Easy patterns, the repetitive designs, and the "meh" designs.
They have heard this, loud and clear. They assured me that we will be seeing improvement soon. They also told me that the designers now have more time to iterate a collection and have time to include better and more interesting details.


Include the finished pattern measurements on the pattern envelope and in the catalog.
They will be doing this!!!! Very very soon.


Better pattern instructions!
They are very aware of this. I am not sure what they have in mind for this, but it is on their radar. If you have specific suggestions, let them know.

What about a better solution for downloadable patterns?
They were, frankly, dubious about the need for this, believing that most sewers want paper patterns. I agreed that I, as a rule, prefer paper patterns. However, there is a time and a place for downloadable patterns. If you live in another country, for example, and shipping is slow and expensive. If you are in a hurry and want to sew it now. And what about retired patterns? You have to retire a paper pattern eventually, as your stock sells out, but you can make money out of downloadable OOP (Out Of Print) patterns forever.

Just think... instead of people spending all that money on Ebay and Etsy for OOP patterns, they could be giving that money to YOU.

In fact, the second scenario happened to me during the FabricMart competition. I needed a Butterick pattern and had no time to order it, so I went to the BMV site and bought the downloadable pattern. The experience was beyond awful. I planned to write a post about it, but I was rather slammed at the time with the competition itself, and I ran out of steam.

But I had some gripes with the experience:
  • I bought the downloadable pattern through the BMV site and it cost the same as the paper pattern. I resent paying the same given that I have to print it out myself, tape it together, and trace it off.
  • I had to download a third party app to view and print the pattern. It was an atrocious third party app. I resent that the file is only viewable through a proprietary format. It should be PDF.
  • All I wanted from the pattern was the little bolero jacket. However, I had to print out the entire 32 pages, containing ALL views in the pattern, to get the little bolero. If you are going to force me to use an app, then that app should be smart enough to allow me to select ONLY the view that I want. And preferably in the size that I want. But I should then be able to go back and print it off a different size later, or a different view, if I want that. If you force me to use an app, there should be some intelligence built in.
  • By the time I was finished with the process, I was quite frustrated and angry.
The bottom line is that that downloadable patterns are here to stay and a good solution should be available, though I never EVER want them to replace paper patterns, but just to offer an alternative form of distribution. If you agree, let them know.

Bring back junior sizing.
I did not receive a clear answer on this, but they seem to think that their size range is adequate. If you care, let them know.

Better designs for men.
They have already made inroads along these lines. If you want to see specific styles, or designs, let them know.

Most Surprising Factoid

Here is the most surprising factoid I learned all day...

How many employees do you think work for McCalls?

This company prints 6 issues of the Vogue Pattern Magazine each year. I think they have some other publications, as well as the pattern catalogs that go to the brick-and-mortar stores, like JoAnns and Hancocks. They produce four pattern lines, each one multiple times per year. They manufacture (in the U.S.) all of their own pattern lines, plus SEVENTY others. They also oversee manufacture of a line of wallpaper. (Yup, wallpaper.)

They accomplish this with 275 employees.

Yup, 275.

That blows me away.

What YOU Can Do

Things are changing at McCalls:

  • They recently added a Consumer Services person to their staff.
  • They have attended several consumer shows (rather than trade shows) and the executives are manning the booth in order to talk to consumers.
  • At the recent show in Novi, Michigan, they ran consumer focus groups. What they heard is very similar to the content of my "Open Letter to Vogue Patterns" post.
  • At the magazine, Kathy Marrone is soliciting names/votes for the new "Star Blogger" feature. (ahem)

The bottom line is that they really want to hear from YOU, the consumer. They want to know what you want to see, and how to make the product better. So write them letters, send them emails, let them HEAR from you directly!

The other thing you can do is, if you want to see more designer patterns, let Vogue know which designers you'd like to see, but don't stop there. Let the DESIGNER know that you want to see their patterns sold in Vogue Patterns.

Disclaimer #2

Another thing I wanted to clarify: At NO time has anyone at McCalls asked me to write or not to write anything in my blog. Not once. I peppered Mr Rizzo and his team with questions and everyone was very open. Mr Rizzo was personally staffing the floor at the booth, as were all of his executives, and he was happy to talk to anyone and everyone - he is a true people person. I even saw him handle the transaction of a woman buying a pattern, and who had no idea who the heck he was, and he was happy to do it. Mr Rizzo is the kind of guy who opens the door for his companions, and patiently stands there holding the door for 20 more people that he doesn't know.

I spoke to him alone, and with some of his top people, and I spoke to his people without him around. (I spent hours with him and his team and had to be practically ejected from the McCalls booth to visit some of the other booths.)

They are happy, to a person, with the changes that have been happening at McCalls and are happy with the new course of the company. I enjoyed watching all of them tease and "rib" each other good natured-ly. You can see that they like each other. Mr Rizzo has created a very agreeable, even copacetic, work environment. It was very good to see.

(As a side note, I asked them if they minded the nickname of McVoguerick. They laughed and Carolyne said that they sometimes call Frank, "Mr McVoguerick".)

Also, Mr Rizzo did offer me a couple of jobs, but not in a serious, "We want you to come work for us" way. It was more of a light "How about you come do X" and, later, "Hey, do you want to do Y for us?" And, at the end of the day he said, "It's too bad you don't live in NYC and maybe we could entice you."

While I would definitely enjoy working with that team, leaving SF and Google is not really an option for me any time soon.


I had the idea that I would like to interview Frank Rizzo for my blog. In the past, I have interviewed Diane Ericson and Marcy Tilton. I really enjoyed the process and these have been popular blog posts. Frank agreed, so I need to figure out what questions I will be asking him for an upcoming interview. It will take me some time, so stay tuned!

Thank You!

I want to end this post with a huge thank you to Mr Frank Rizzo, Kathy Wiktor (who handled all of the arrangements), and the other good folks at McCalls. What a treat it was to get a peek at my first Puyallup and what a special way to do it.

Thank you for your openness, your honesty, and some fun and compelling conversation!

It was great to see folks I know at Puyallup, and to meet new folks. I really felt at home at Expo (amongst my "people" - whether they call themselves sewists, sewers, or seamstresses) and I definitely plan to attend this show again.


  1. Outstanding! How you managed to process all this and produce such a succinct and entertaining post on very little sleep astounds me! Thank you a million times for representing so many of us and beginning what I hope will be a long and rewarding conversation.

  2. Awesomeness! Great post, and it sounds like an incredibly productive (and fun!) time :) I'm thrilled with the response and attitude that you experienced - it really helps to bring the whole McVoguerick team into our home sewing rooms in a more "real" way. Well done, shams, and well done, Mr. Rizzo and team!

  3. Brilliant (Margy and Jilly used Outstanding and Awesome) report on your day. I am sorry that you felt you had to write a disclaimer, as although we have never met, you come across as a very honest and sincere person. The 'Folks ' who would question your motives need to go away. You speak for us all and we are grateful. I am glad you had such a great day. I will use your suggestions and write to The company.

  4. Great summary of what was most likely an astounding experience. You are so enthusiastic and energetic. Thanks for the connection you have crafted for all of us.

  5. I want to agree with Mary about the disclaimer, totally not necessary. I think you've been open and transparent about everything. Having met Kathy Marrone at the PR event, I know that The McCalls company is really interested in giving the consumer a better experience. I'm glad that you had a good time, sorry about you're lost pattern, and look forward to the changes that are to come. Hey, if Simplicity could turn their pattern company around, I'm confident that McCalls can do the same thing.

  6. It sound like you were the right spokesperson for the job. Thank you for getting the conversation started.

  7. Thank-you on behalf of all home dressmakers around the world hoping for changes with McVoguerick. I am sure your day with these people has made a huge impression as has your blog post from last year. When I read that post last year, I felt you had read my mind and I am so pleased that you have been listened to and have been taken seriously. Thank-you again and all the very best.

  8. Well done, Shams! I was thinking of you the day you were in the Great Northwet, and it sounds like everything went superbly. Good for you for getting the ball rolling -- now we all need to follow up and let THE McCalls Company what our wishes are, and thank you for such a detailed report of your very full day!

  9. Shams, you are absolutely remarkable. For starters, you had the imagination to pen the Open Letter to Vogue. What a wonderful breath of fresh air and an enormous creative step forward. The letter itself was courageously truthful, no small deed. And, your follow up is entirely responsible to everyone engaged in the sewing circle. We can see your tremendous character at every step. In my book, you need no disclaimer. Thank you for all of it and especially this robust post. Go take a nap!

  10. Definitely sounds like the start of a very good conversation w/ their customer base.

    BTW, considering the value of your time and how much you gave them, I don't think you were bought off at all. In fact, you donated your time for expenses.

  11. Excellent post and so prompt after your long journey. You really put in a full day and covered subjects I hadn't considered so thank you. Love the fabrics you went home with and sometime down the road I look forward to the interview questions and answers with Mr. Rizzo.

  12. Thank you for such a thorough and well written report! I'm so glad you had this opportunity to meet with Mr. Rizzo and the other executives. You are an intelligent and creative woman, and I'm glad they recognized this and arranged for you to meet them. It sounds like they listened - and are listening - to feedback from the sewing community. We'll see what happens. By the way, I was also surprised to hear how many pattern lines they produce paper patterns for - and with only 275 people.

  13. Thank you, thank you. I am in awe at this whole surprising and wonderful turn of events and send congratulations out to all who enabled and participated in these conversations. Wow, Shams, you are now on my Hero list, from which there will be no escaping, BTW, it's a Lifetime sort of thing. Thank you, Woman!

  14. Thank you for such a thorough account of your day. Either you have a fantastic memory or a very large notepad ;) It never occurred to me that you had been 'bought off', it kind of comes through in your writing that you are not that kind of person (I mean that in a good way!). You definitely discussed some of the things I would like to see as a returner sewer and relatively newbie at making my own clothes to wear daily (rather than a hobby dress now and then) - specifically ready-to-wear sizing, grading issues (I concur on the shoulder v bust ratio), cup sizes (although this would not be ideal for you, it would help me) and finished garment measurements which are absolutely VITAL and no pattern should be without! I have had such trouble figuring out which size to make that at times I have just given up on the pattern (notably the skirt that put me at a UK22 with my measurements and I would have needed about 3 metres of fabric to make! - I am a UK12 RTW!). I hope all your hard work and the opening of the opportunity for feedback enriches the products for all us sewers.

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  15. Thanks for this. Sounds like good times ahead!

  16. I want to click Like on every paragraph of this post and on every comment! Thank you for taking this journey for all of us. :)

    And I am excited about cup sizes.

  17. Oh, and I'm curious about why Carolyne didn't want you to show her face ...

  18. Thank you so much for this! Your summary is extremely well-written. You represented the sewing community with integrity and intelligence; we will benefit. The McCall Company will also benefit from your wise counsel.

  19. Your post, and the advocacy it represents, reflects so well on everyone involved. And goodness gracious, what McCalls spent on your airfare, transportation, show pass and bean lunch wouldn't even buy ME off, and I don't work for Google (or anyone else) with a salary to match. You invested so much time, thought and personal exposure in this effort, the value of which is difficult to calculate--but which is the deal of the century for McCalls.

  20. Wow - what a wonderful, informative post! Thanks for sharing our concerns/issues, for the exhausting trip you made (but obviously enjoyed - I'm happy for that) and for taking the time to write and share the story with us! I never had any inkling that your were being "bought off." Who thinks like that if they have read your blog????

  21. I am commenting because I want you to know how many of us are appreciative of your efforts. I really have nothing new to add to the previous glowing comments, and just want to thank you once again for the time and effort you put in to producing your outstanding blog. I would like to also thank the management of THE Company for being open and receptive to the sewing community.

  22. Wow! What a day! I'm so glad you did this and wrote such an interesting post. It's fun to see what happens at Vogue patterns from the company perspective.

    Now, to send an email to Albert Elbaz at Lanvin and Sara Burton at Alexander McQueen to request that they work with Vogue Patterns!

  23. Sounds like it was a great discussion and great people to talk to! ! Your commentary was so thoughtful and I am glad you were able to enjoy the show a bit as well. Let's see where they go with all your comments. . .and ours. Thank you.

  24. GREAT blog, top-notch writing...your voice and marvelous sense of humor come through, and your sensitivity permeates throughout. Kudos. Loved seeing you again!

  25. I had a big smile on my face while reading this. I was so fortunate to work very briefly with many of the people you mentioned and learn just how much they do with a small staff. Yes, they have gorgeous offices in Manhattan, but other than that, it is a very lean operation. I met with Mr. McVoguerick, too, when he was still pretty new. He struck me as just the right person for this job and it was all so emotional for me to see that the company is in good hands. At the time, I was bursting to write about it on my blog, but the conversation was so full of confidential information that I couldn't figure out what I could possibly write so I left the topic alone. Now you have shared the real inside story at McCall and it is wonderful to read. Oops, I meant THE McCall. Ha ha.

  26. I cannot imagine a better person to represent the sewing community at large than you have done. Thanks from all of us for presenting our problems in (I'm sure) a charming, gracious, but pointed and intelligent way.

  27. Great and very interesting post, I am so glad they are listening to people and making some changes. Concerning the "need" for the disclaimers, I suspect it was jealousy (as if they wouldn't have jumped at the chance to have been in your place).

  28. I am a huge fan of Vogue patterns, although I don't agree with all of your issues with MBV, I think that it is wonderful that you voiced your concerns and they took the time to listen. That is awesome. It sounds like you had a great day at the conference and meeting with the Vogue peeps.

  29. Exciting and gratifying meeting. Thanks, Shams, for representing us so incisively.

  30. Thank you for opening up a dialogue with The McCall company and for sharing the details with us. I love your idea of downloadable OOP patterns--pure genius! And I'm thrilled that they are trying to have more designers. Although I'm at the bottom of the size ranges, I am so glad that you explained to them that there is a problem with their grading for plus sizes. Better patterns will help us all.

  31. Well done! Thanks for taking 'fusses' that so many of us have with the 'big 4', 3 and presenting our concerns so well. Sounds like an interesting, productive meeting - and a great opportunity for you to attend that fantastic show! Good to know more about the company, and that they took the time to listen to what you said.

    Seeing the fashion shows must have been so much fun, as well as diving into those great fabric offerings! Sounds like a productive trip! Kudos to you for the letter that started it all!

  32. GREAT post, Shams!! Thank you so much for all the detail - soooo very interesting. Obviously you established some wonderful relationships, and we can all see what the future will bring. It is exciting to hear all of the fashion/sewing things going on across the country - it gives me hope that the garment industry will indeed return to our shores. Sorry I missed meeting you, but know there will be other opportunities. Cheers!

  33. Great post. I looooove Vogue Patterns. I'm so glad that the Vogue "people" are invigorated and open to making improvements. I would love to see an even stronger focus on "fashion." Getting great new designers - and reissuing retro patterns from the 60s and 70s too. Nice work!

  34. This is fantastic, Shams!! It is wonderful to know that you have opened the doors for an open dialogue with the powers that be. This is tremendous news that we as consumers do have an impact on the present and future of the industry! Thank you for letting them know how we feel. Kudos to you my'dear.

  35. Oh Shams, it sounds like you had so much fun. Maybe one of these days I can make that show. I grew up in a small town outside of Manhattan, Ks and went to college in Manhattan ( Go KState Wildcats) so I know exactly where the building is. I am so glad they are open to discussion and look forward to the changes. The printed FINISHED garment sizes on the envelope would be such a big help! Thank you for your wonderful blog.

  36. Shams-- Now what an interesting and educational day that was. I couldn't wait to read this post when I saw it listed earlier today. Thank you so much for sharing all the info you learned and the experiences you had... it's fascinating to hear many concerns addressed that lots of us seamstresses have with commercial patterns... and by the actual execs who are managing the companies. Thanks so much!

  37. Thanks so much, Shams, for being such a fabulous spokesperson for us! Now I guess we wait and see what changes really happen in the near future. As others have said, the most important ones for me too are some consistency in the sizing and documented finished measurements. I will always have to make many fitting adjustments but I shouldn't have to start from scratch every single time! Also they need to have more designer details or I'm just going to stop buying their patterns. I don't need any more of the plain and simple basics. There's a reason the Tiltons' patterns are top sellers because they are just enough out of the ordinary and look good on a variety of body types. I'd like to see more for those of us who can handle a sewing challenge.

    Glad you had a great time in Puyallup! Maybe next year I'll be able to go again. It sadly wasn't in the cards this year but I enjoyed having a vicarious taste. The strawberry shortcake looked especially yummy...

  38. Thanks for reporting back so quickly. Certainly a jam packed day. It doesn't sound like updating of the sloper is happening any time soon. Hope at least they get consistency with the sizing. I also hope they take on board downloadable patterns. Being in Australia I find that really useful. Yesterday I downloaded a Lekala pattern for $1.49! And supposedly to my measurements. McCalls are getting a lot of competition now that the Internet is making the world a lot smaller.

  39. I am so glad you were articulate enough to pen the Open Letter and to express the issues that I just sum up as grunts and groans. Hopefully, they will take your comments and suggestions to heart and we will see actual change.

  40. This is all just awesome. Great job for speaking out!

  41. Fabulous! What a great day you had. I am glad to see that they are listening to the consumer more I have the same complaints and wants that you do for Vogue patterns. I want more designer patterns but I had no idea how hard it is. Most of the French houses are owned by big companies who aren't interested in the home sewer. What a shame. I like your idea of young up and coming designers. I truly hate their very easy patterns, so good to hear that they are changing things. I remember that your original open letter really spoke for a lot of sewers; it's nice to learn that they actually read and listened.

  42. Thanks for sharing your trip to seattle with us. I think it is cool that they are open to your letter and suggestions.
    I think you should suggest to Mr Mcvoguerick that he should to take one of his beginner patterns and he, himself, make a dress, shirt, or pants for a lovely lady in his life. Then he might understand what we go through to sew for ourselves. I have sewn for quite sometime and understand that they can not make a pattern to fit all body types, but it shouldn't be as diffifult as they make it.
    Great letter to Vogue & I am extremely jealous that you got to drool over pretty fabric!

  43. No surprise at all that they are nudging you toward some kind of job with the company. Maybe a monthly column would work, so you could stay put with your home & job and still contribute...? I loved your write-up and agree with Marcy: top-notch! Also agree with everyone who has said that no disclaimers are needed for those of us who follow your blog. Your character comes through in your writing and it is a settled issue. We trust you! Great job, Shams.

  44. Shams, this was an incredible view into the inner workings of this big company, big in its reach. I will agree with all that has been said before. I am not surprised at all to hear of job offers. You make an amazing liasion between the end user and the corporation. I am awaiting their upcoming changes with enthusiasm. I totally intend to respond with an email to your "let them know" suggestions. I know I represent many when I say a heartfelt thank you for your effort and care about this fine craft that we all love so much. Great job, Shams!

  45. I have just finished reading your post and am awed that your meeting with the McCall Executives lasted the entire day! The realm of your thorough and thoughtful suggestions can improve the sewing experience for all sewers. Thank you for encouraging McCall customers to share their thoughts with the company. Thank you for leading the way :) !

  46. Thank You For Sharing Shams! :)

  47. Way To Go! Thanks for helping us all out!

  48. You are simply the best - the best one who could and should do this. Respect!

  49. Loved reading about all this and the expo experience. I think it was great that you agreed to do this. I feel it is really important for them to get input from someone who voices real issues like the shoulders in plus sizes being off the wall,etc. Since they have multiple pattern lines,if they listen to concerns like that and the pants fit craziness that so many experience perhaps more women will have success with sewing a garment that fits. I think we all owe you many thanks for making that trip and offering some great suggestions. I have spent a lot on oop patterns especially the kwik sew classics which it would be great if they could offer as downloadsl While I love a paper pattern, some are just not available even as oop. MANY plus people also buy oop on ebay as the catalog selection is so limited.

  50. Thanks for inspiring and organizing this conversation. I am adding my own voice as a consumer of Vogue patterns

  51. "I suggested that it would be great if they started a line of patterns, maybe under the McCalls banner, that featured more RTW fit and more RTW detailing, reflecting current styles that can be seen in stores. It could be labeled with a special label, so that consumers would know to expect different fit. If done well, this could be massively popular among a younger demographic."

    You crammed more in-depth into your one day visit than I did in my three days.
    I live close enough (Portland) to treat this as a shopping trip.
    I agreed with so many of your points, it was difficult to pick one or two to focus on. RTW styling is probably what I strive for most in my personal sewing.
    I appreciate, as do many of your readers, your clarity in writing about sewing.

  52. Shams...Thank you so very much for the time you are giving to this issue. You are such a dynamic writer and as someone who earns their living in the sewing field I salute you ..I have been to Puyallup several times and reading your blogs yesterday and today I felt I was there again .....Happy Sewing Jane Foster

  53. It is thrilling that a giant pattern company cares about actual seamsters. No disclaimer was needed, and I hope they continue to fly you to sewing conference, but pay for more than airfare. You are more adventurous at sewing than most, and probably have more experience with pattern quirks. Some day, perhaps Vogue will address its instructions problem. Instructions re given in detail for everything we already know about, and the one thing that is unusual, that we bought the pattern for, is a mere line in the instructions. It should have had a drawing and a paragraph.

  54. Thank you so much for all the time and effort you are putting into this. All the ideas you offered are spot on. It is fair that they care for their custumers, and try to offer what we are expecting from them. I like very much the idea of a pattern being downloadable, as you say, not only the shipping expenses but what if I need to sew it up right away? I usually have to wait 15 days to get the goods!
    Thank you again, Shams. You are the best!

  55. One person CAN make a difference. What a great written piece.

  56. Great blog post Shams! Thank you for being our "sewing voice" with the large pattern companies. It was wonderful to meet you "in person" at the event, your warmth and exuberance shined. I enjoy following your blog and feel you have great ideas and a heart for our industry. I too felt inspired by being there and grateful my mom and I were able to attend together. BTW I loved the jacket you were wearing and took YOUR picture as inspiration for my (Diane Erickson inspired) inspiration board.

  57. I am so glad you had this opportunity! And a huge thank you for being the voice of so many of us and taking the time to articulate your experience.

    It is rather refreshing to hear that McCalls is interested in what their customer has to say, and I look forward to seeing what happens . . . more designer patterns, please. And I sure hope those finished garment measurements are actually going to happen - that would be a miracle.

  58. This meeting of yours made my important news of the day! I did once write a rant about Vogue's antiquated sewing's instructions and if you do talk to them you can relay this short post : Thank you on behalf of all of us!

  59. Home seamstresses the world over could not have asked for a more appropriate, remarkable or eloquent spokesperson. I'm obviously not alone in thinking this. I am, however, greatly saddened that you felt obligated to put a disclaimer on this post. Unfortunately I've never had the (I'm sure) pleasure of meeting you in person, but having read your blog it never occured to me that your motives were other than hoping to prompt McVoguerick into upping their game. Shame on the naysayers. Bravo to you. And many, many thanks.

  60. I call myself a seamster. :)
    I loved loved loved reading this. You have inspired me to write about the McCalls Focus Group I was in at the ASE in Novi. I will post that this weekend.

  61. That sounds like a dream day!! Glad you got to give open and honest feedback. And that they truly took the time to get your input.

  62. FYI- I wrote to Kathy Marrone at Vogue Pattern Magazine this weekend and got a nice email back in response. I told her I was frustrated with stories on designers that didn't include enough photos. You are right- they are listening. Maybe things will improve with these Big 3. Thanks for getting the ball rolling.

  63. On behalf of all sewcialists, thank you for taking the time to address many issues that we all seem to have at some point or another. while my experience with their particular brand is mostly good, I hear the frustrations & its refreshing to hear they are making in-roads to accommodate the concerns of their customers.

  64. Well girl, you did a great thing for the team (meaning all of us frustrated home sewists who had many or all of the same complaints that you posted in your open letter).

    I hope they take you seriously, you speak for A LOT of other customers (past, present and future).

    I guess I will follow your blog for updates to see if they make any of the much needed changes you discussed. Then and only then will I consider restarting my Club BMV membership and shopping their patterns again.

    Thanks for trying to get in front of this.

  65. Thinking about pattern sizing and using the same size sloper for all of their designs, especially in relation to beginner sewers. Vogue should provide a sloper pattern based on the sloper all the patterns are based on AND (this the part for the beginner sewest) include information about this sloper in the pattern instructions. They should also include something about this in their catalogs along with some kind of notation about sizing issues one may experience. This way, at least the beginner sewest will be armed with the knowledge that it may be sizing / alteration issues that contribute to the item if it doesn't turnout the way they expected. Of course, offering altering info on their website, and including the website on their patterns, would make sense. Seems to me this would be a smart thing to do, business wise, because it would help retain customers and help draw people to their site, etc.

    In a nutshell, what I'm getting at is, don't leave the beginning sewest in that dark about altering. Go beyond the basic lengthening / shortening seen on patterns now. Acknowledging that people
    come in various sizes and being upfront and offering solutions to altering the pattern to fit, is a good thing. It shouldn't be a "secret" which is the way it seems to be now. Too many people who begin to sew get discouraged when a little more knowledge would open up a whole new world for them.

  66. Thank you so much for taking the time to give such a detailed report on your meeting. There's so much valuable information here I'm printing this out and saving it for future reference. You are to be commended for your tenacity and commitment to all of us who love to sew but didn't step up to the plate and say something.


  67. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Your "open letter to Vogue" covered my major gripes with patterns specifically and with women's fashion in general. Theat fact that they responded delights me. Thank you for sharing your excellent skills and your persistence in finding answers.

  68. i don't know if anyone has mentioned this or not. Please please number the notches on patterns. Not to much to ask and a huge help when putting a complicated pattern.. I have one project from a Vogue pattern I have never been able to get together. Seriously, three or four total pieces and I can not get it to look like the picture.

  69. please number the notches on the patterns. I have projects that I still can't get together.

  70. I always find myself wishing that the garments photographed for pattern envelopes and the website were not made in black or very dark fabric. You cannot see the detail of the design, especially on the printed envelope.

    Plus they should always have both the photographs and line drawings showing front and back views - without the odd contortions that some of the models get into. I don't need to see the garment being worn on someone with their right elbow up at their face and left leg bent behind them while tilting toward a fan that not only blows their hair but the garment, too.

    These are common sense things - we're not looking at a fashion magazine, we are looking at the lines of a pattern to decide if it will work for us.