I must confess that the majority of the envelope patterns I've bought are Big 4 envelope patterns (a majority of them Simplicity). I do have a few independent vendor patterns: two from Cake, one from Deer & Doe, a couple of My Image envelope patterns (though one of those I won rather than bought). I also allegedly have two StyleArc patterns but alas they are caught in a vortex somewhere in my sister-in-law's handbag and I may never actually have them in my possession (I've been waiting for her to send them for over six months now). Also in my stash: a couple of Silhouette patterns, some e-patterns from Grainline and Dixie DIY, a couple of free patterns from Colette and Maria Denmark, the famous Weekender Sunshine tee from HotPatterns and the Jalie pattern for jeans, and finally, the Colette book which contains several patterns. In total, including the Colette book, I have about 20 patterns from independent vendors, from a pattern stash (excluding magazines) of 114 single pattern envelopes.
What is remarkable about this list is not the sheer number of patterns I own (though, that's quite remarkable as well, in a bad way!), it is that it seems like every sewing blogger and her little dog too makes up garments from two sources that I own exactly none of: Colette envelope patterns, and Sewaholic.
I've mentioned before that my main problem with Colette boils down to the fact that I just don't like her patterns with a more vintage aesthetic -- too fussy, too girly, too costume-like for my tastes and my lifestyle. This is also why I've not made any of the patterns in the book either. I have to be honest, I'm always kind of amazed that sewers who make up loads of those patterns up find any place to wear them because no, really, I've never worked anywhere where people wouldn't have side-eyed you for wearing most of the Colette catalogue. I do just wonder how much mileage most people really get out of the clothes they make to those patterns. On the other hand, the patterns she makes that don't have that aesthetic (e.g. the wide-legged trousers and the most recent Laurel dress) are a total snooze -- pretty enough, for sure, and I know people buy them as much for the quality of the instructions as for the pattern, but I am certainly not going to spend €20 to acquire one pretty bland and ordinary pattern.
Plus, I don't know about anyone else, but when the pattern reviews are about 75% "It took eight muslins and I ended up doing this whole shopping list of adjustments to get it to fit but the final dress is awesome, A++ pattern!" I have serious concerns about, well, everything. How is it an A++ pattern if it took you 300 hours to get it to fit? Especially if I'm looking at the photos silently observing all the ways it doesn't really fit. I mean, I am the last person who should make any comment about other people's fit problems, but I have to wonder, if it fits that badly after multiple muslins, what the hell did the first muslin look like? I am probably jaundiced though by my one attempt to make up a muslin of a Colette pattern, the ubiquitous Sorbetto, which was a complete and utter waste of time -- so much so that you'll note that I've never made up an actual garment, so appalling was the fit even after three attempts at a muslin.
With Sewaholic, I do love her patterns. I follow her blog. I love the clothes other people make. I think if there is a indie company I yearn to give my money to, it's Sewaholic. But I have the exact opposite of the body shape she drafts for -- and while that's 100% fine and I wouldn't want her to stop drafting for that body shape, it means that even contemplating her size chart makes my head ache. I was very taken with the Robson coat, but I just couldn't face the adjustments. To get shoulder fit, I'd just barely get into the largest size plus a massive FBA, but then I'm at least two and maybe three sizes smaller at the hips than her sizing and that's BEFORE the extra waist and hip volume provided by the FBA. In the end, her patterns are just not unique enough or killer enough for me personally to get into that level of adjustments before I even start normal tweaking for fit. If you're a pear-shape I can totally see that Sewaholic is a godsend. For me though, I was trying to think if I could see myself ever buying a Sewaholic pattern, and I have to say although I would never say never, it would have to be a pattern that was just beyond amazing and utterly unique, just because the sizing is so epically wrong for my body.
Of course, none of us have to justify why we make up the patterns that we do, and I am 100% not saying that if you love Colette and get perfect fit straight from the envelope that your experiences are not valid. Really this post is because I'm super tired of seeing, and being given, the advice that as a relative beginner, all else being equal I should learn to prefer either Sewaholic or Colette patterns because Big 4 patterns are horrible and won't fit. I really think that's super discouraging when Colette has such a specific aesthetic that, newsflash, not everyone likes and moreover seems to have some epic fit issues for a lot of body types, and Sewaholic is drafted for a specific body type that not everyone has, AND when they represent such a small number of patterns and come in so very very expensive compared to the Big 4, even if you're paying European rather than American prices.
I don't think Big 4 are perfect either -- far from it -- and you've all seen me fall about laughing at Burda's idea of what we should be wearing before now. So I'm not really picking on the indies, particularly, so much as trying to suggest that they are not as far above reproach as we sometimes seem to suggest. I get wanting to support indie designers, I really do. They are One Of Us, very often -- women like us who were bloggers and sewers who have transitioned from sewing for themselves to designing for themselves to designing patterns for general use. I just don't get why we're so insistent as a community that because they are One Of Us their patterns are beyond reproach, the best choice for beginners, or even, really, necessarily something special (Colette Laurel, I am looking right at you right now).