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?
*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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
*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.
Sometimes they throw in accessories like ties or purses, or even toys to make.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Hundreds of Ottobre patterns in one-foot box
A few dozen PDFs in two-foot drawer unit
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.
*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.
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!