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Savings Made by Sewing {Patterns} with Sew a Straight Line

Can I be honest with you? I’m a bit starstruck with today’s guest blogger. OK, got that out of the way…now let me introduce Sabra from Sew a Straight Line. She’s incredibly inspiring in sewing for boys and she has mastered the art of sewing up Ottobre patterns. And that is all about what she’s going to share with us today. Let’s read!
Hello, my name is Sabra, and I sew at Sew a Straight Line. I sew almost all of my own clothing and a large percentage of my children’s clothing. Over the past 5.5 years of sewing, I have amassed a huge collection of patterns in all forms. I sew a lot of independent PDF designers, a few Big Five enveloped patterns here and there, but my go-to source for patterns for my children is Ottobre Designs, a sewing pattern magazine. Because I sew most of our wardrobe, I don’t mind spending a bit more for quality fabric. I am under no illusions that sewing in 2015 is the cheapest way to clothe a family. But I do try to save money as much as I can, and buying pattern magazines, though the upfront cost can be intimidating, has been the best value I have found for patterns that give me clothing my children actually want to wear.
dungeons and dragons cartoon hank ranger sew a straight line-10
I don’t remember when or how I first heard about Ottobre magazine, but I do know it wasn’t long after I first started really getting into sewing for myself and my children. I scanned through the magazine online, marveled that there were patterns available that actually looked like clothing I would buy my children ready-to-wear, then looked at the price and clicked off the page. But I kept coming back again and again. I checked eBay, hoping to find a deal, but the prices for used were within a dollar or two of new. Almost $20 for a magazine? I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. But the designs! The styling! The fabric pairings! Finally, I decided to suck up the price and ordered a single back issue.why I ottobre sew a straight line-3
And I was hooked. Within a month, I had signed up for a subscription, and ordered two more back issues. I’ve been a devote and outspoken Ottobre fan for 2.5 years now. More than half of my kids’ mom-sewn wardrobe are Ottobre patterns. And I’m currently trying to decide between two other pattern magazine subscriptions to add to my addiction. So why am I so okay with paying that much for pattern magazines now?

sew in tune sew a straight line stolen dance milky chance-1639 *hat pattern is Heidi & Finn

How much are you generally comfortable paying for a single pattern? Times that amount by 30. Is the total still less than $20? The average Ottobre has anywhere from 30-40 patterns in it, which means you’re paying at most .67 cents a pattern. And that’s only if you’re buying issues individually. Subscribing saves you even a bit more than that. I have not had experience with other pattern magazines yet, so the breakdown won’t be the same with all of them. But the concept is the same. You’re buying patterns in bulk and saving quite a bit as a result.

easter 2014 sew a straight line-14

Patterns aside, magazines are great inspiration. Pattern magazines double as lookbooks and fashion spreads. They are fun to look at. They are inspiring. From fabric pairings to styling ideas, to just plain entertainment, I enjoy browsing my pattern magazines. They give me ideas for clothing and photo shoots that don’t even have anything to do with the patterns in the magazines, at times. Other times, I want to copy the looks exactly: the pattern, fabric, all of it. And it’s not just me; my kids will flip through the pages and point out things they want me to make them. And when they ask specifically for something, I’m guaranteed they’re going to wear it.

IMG_9631*Tee shirt is store-bought

There are few things more frustrating than spending time, money, fabric, and energy on something that the recipient only wears once, or never at all. My kids wear the magazine clothes because they look like store-bought clothes their friends are wearing.

ottobre tank and shorts sew a straight line-6

And when I sew clothing for friends and family, I almost always go to my magazines because I know the results will look store-bought, and likely to be better received.

ottobre toffee dress nosh organics dogs sew a straight line

When you have a subscription, you get a steady stream of up-to-date, on-trend looks delivered right to you. The magazine is doing all the research and brainstorming of what’s in this season.

ottobre jumpsuit 32015 sew a straight line-1811

If you enjoy buying patterns, you know you’re going to be getting a whole new collection to add to your stash every few months. If you have a problem buying too many patterns impulsively, knowing you’re going to be getting 30+ patterns every few weeks may help curb your spending. It does mine.

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I have my favorite issues, with patterns I go back to sew my children a half dozen times as they outgrow things and as inspiration hits. Some of my issues are well-worn and taped together.

I also find new things to sew all the time. Frequently, I’ll buy a fabric I love but don’t have anything too specific in mind to make with it. I’ll start flipping through my magazines, marking down which patterns would work with my new fabric. Or I’ll have a specific something in mind I’d like to make, and I’ll grab the stack and check to see if I have a similar pattern already drafted, printed and ready to go for me in the pages. I almost always do.

retro uniform sew a straight line-10*Cap pattern from Urbandon

The magazines give you a great variety of patterns. I subscribe to the kids’ Ottobre, and there are patterns for everything from underwear and swimsuits to basics like jeans and tees to formal wear to full winter-gear outerwear.

ottobre camisole sew a straight linedays of the week ottobre undewear 6 2013 sew a straight line

Sometimes they throw in accessories like ties or purses, or even toys to make.

ottobre hoodie and aviator 42014 sew a straight line-3-2

I have made things I have *never* even considered making before, simply because the pattern was available to me and I figured, why not?! When someone else is curating your patterns, deciding which go in the magazine you will receive, there is a risk and the reality that there will be things you just don’t have any interest in sewing. But there is also the excitement of trying new things, pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, and being introduced to new styles and techniques you wouldn’t have found otherwise.

why I ottobre sew a straight line-10

One thing to be aware of, if you’ve never sewn from a pattern magazine, is that the layout of the patterns and instructions is different than you are probably used to. In order to cram so many designs into one magazine, the patterns themselves are printed “stacked”, one on top of each other on large, folded pull-out sheets.

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You need to trace out the pattern you want, following color-coded lines for each design. It can get really confusing at first. Also, the instructions are usually much more abbreviated than what you find from independent designers, and even a bit less detailed than the Big Five pattern companies. You rarely get illustrated instructions.

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Ottobre includes a section with some trickier-to-explain techniques that are illustrated, that all the designs using those same techniques will refer to. But overall, don’t expect many pictures to help you along the way. I have found that I like to use sewing technique books when I sew, anyway, no matter what patterns I use. I use a fashion design textbook that covers pretty much any and every sewing technique I’ll ever run across, explaining how the fashion industry does things. If I run into something I don’t understand in my magazine, or any pattern at all, I refer back to that book.

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But being so abridged and condensed is also an advantage. Not only is the pattern magazine fitting more patterns for you into each issue, but it makes things much easier for you to store. I store, in magazine form, literally hundreds of patterns in the same space I can fit maybe a dozen printed PDF patterns, or a few dozen enveloped patterns. I trace the patterns onto thin tracing paper, then store the magazines, the pull-out pattern pages, and my traced patterns all together in gallon-sized, zip-top bags. I save on shelf space and the hassle with my magazines.

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Hundreds of Ottobre patterns in one-foot box
A few dozen PDFs in two-foot drawer unit
 why I ottobre sew a straight line-1

I have a large collection of patterns: enveloped, PDF downloads, magazine. I sew from them all, and each have their advantages. Though I have favorites in all mediums, the magazine patterns win out overall because of how easy they are to store and find individual patterns, the variety of items to sew and the current trends they follow, the inspiration and enjoyment I get out of looking through them, and the sheer amount of patterns I get for my money. And when I no longer feel I need my pattern magazines, I know I can sell them on eBay for a pretty decent price.
a*tie is self-drafted

If you want to see a lot of what I’ve sewn my kids from Ottobre (I haven’t documented all of it), you can start scrolling back from here, or type in “Ottobre” into my search on the margin of my blog, Sew a Straight Line.  Though the search doesn’t pull them all up, you still will see quite a few and can link to the Ottobre tag at the bottom of a post to see them all. There are quite a few! Also, all the pictures of clothing in this post are all Ottobre, everything tops to bottoms (unless otherwise noted). Click on a picture and it should take you to my post of that specific item with information on which issue each came from.

sewing for kindergarten sew a straight line-14

Thank you for having me, Dana and Sew Thrifty Readers.  Happy sewing!


I, too, am a HUGE fan of Ottobre! While I haven’t sewn them up as much as Sabra, I love the cost savings, the styles, the sizes offered, and my kids love looking through the magazine with me. Have you considered purchasing Ottobre or have you sewn their patterns? I’d love to see and be inspired!

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5 thoughts on “Savings Made by Sewing {Patterns} with Sew a Straight Line”

  1. I love Ottobre, too. It is a bit daunting at first, tracing out your patterns, but once you get used to it, its no big deal. You do have to add your own seam allowances, though, if that is a big deal to you. I don’t mind that at all, unless I just happen to forget! I’ve been following Sabra’s blog for a while now and she is awesome! I only wish all my clothes turned out as cool as hers.

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