Sidewalk Astoria Top

Sidewalk knit Astoria top

Here’s something I whipped up the other day: an Astoria top from Seamwork magazine in the art class print from Sidewalk. I think it works (as do many of the prints in this collection) as a “grown up” print, don’t you? This is probably hard to believe, but I always try to design fabrics meant for women’s apparel, but the collections always end up reading “kid” more than “grown up” once they’re done. I keep trying though. I swear the collection I am working on right now is more serious, just you wait!! Anyway, I love these little pencils so much and it’s really fun to make them into something I can wear.

Sidewalk knit Astoria top

Sidewalk knit Astoria top

I made a size medium of the Astoria pattern and made just a couple of small changes. First, I removed the curve in the side seam which I imagine is meant to accommodate those whose busts achieve the dimensions set forth in the measurement chart for the size medium bust (mine does not). Furthermore, I ended up flipping the entire neckband to the inside of the top and stitching it down after finding that it wasn’t sitting quite as flat as I’d hoped (this is a result I think of using a 100% cotton knit; if you had a lycra knit, you probably wouldn’t have this issue). Overall, it fits quite well considering the cowboy approach I took (no muslin, serger for everything but the sleeve hems and neckline). If I make this again, I might add some length; it’s definitely a cropped top and lands right at my natural waist, so I really can’t raise my arms in this outfit without showing off my midsection. But I think as long as I wear this with high-waisted pants (which unfortunately these awesome red cords are not), it will be fine.

Sidewalk knit Astoria top

I love Seamwork magazine, and this was my first attempt at one of their patterns. I own a few Colette patterns and love the designs that Sarai and her team produce, but the Colette aesthetic has always been a bit fancier than my chase-the-toddler-at-the-park wardrobe demands. So when they launched Seamwork magazine and included a new line of patterns with the subscription (two patterns are free with every issue) that are simpler and a bit more casual than their Colette patterns, it was right up my alley, since as you probably know I tend toward fairly simple garment designs.

Sidewalk knit Astoria top

I still balk a little as a pattern designer at the low price ($6/month for a Seamwork subscription, which means the patterns are all $3 each), because I worry sometimes that stuff like this can make it tougher for my own patterns to sell, but I think that the adage “you get what you pay for” is applicable in many cases. The entire Seamwork magazine is so beautifully presented, the articles are wonderful, and the photographs are amazing, but overall my impression is that the patterns can be hit or miss. Which really is fine with me as a subscriber, since I’m already getting a fantastic magazine with top-notch articles. You can’t expect to get awesome every time when you are getting two new patterns every month for $6. Maybe they do compete on some level with my patterns for the customer who responds to low pricing, but I’ve come to realize that I need to be catering to the person who will value the time and attention I give my patterns, and is happy to pay more for that value. If it takes me six months to make each pattern and then charge next to nothing for them, I really don’t know how I could have a sustainable business. I hope this doesn’t come off as a diss to Seamwork — that’s not how I mean it — but I do think that it’s important to talk about value and quality and how it relates to pricing. Seamwork is just taking a different approach with the subscription model.

Sidewalk knit Astoria top

Anyway, the Astoria top has been, as they’ve put it, one of their “fan favorites,” and I would agree: it’s easy and quick to sew, and doesn’t require much fitting or fussiness. And as you can see, it’s great for showing off Sidewalk!

Sidewalk is my newest fabric collection for Cloud9 fabrics. It is printed on 100% organic knit interlock and will be shipping soon to a fabric shop near you!

23 thoughts on “Sidewalk Astoria Top

  1. gosh I love this so much Rae! Thanks for showing off this pattern. I’m a subscriber, too, but haven’t even made one thing yet! I love how you did the neckline. And in regards to your fabrics designs, I love them so much. They’re fun and happy and I love that.

  2. Cute top. That fabric would be perfect for a teacher.

    I think the “subscription” model comes into play with the pricing. Seamwork is getting $6/month from X number of subscribers. But not all those people would have bought the patterns individually, even at $3 a piece. Some months the subscriber isn’t interested in the pattern, yet Seamwork still gets their $6.

    I’ve purchased both your Geranium patterns and they are fantastic. I’ve made over 20 in size 0-3months-5T, and I’m just starting on size 6/7. Other than your Geraniums and Dana’s kid shorts (of which I’ve also made more than 20), I’ve never paid more than $2 for a pattern. It’s hard to switch from Simplicity/Butterick/McCalls, who can sell cheap due to large volumes and because JoAnns/Hobby Lobby expect you to buy your fabric there, to making the investment in the good modern pattern designers.

    In summary, economics is a fascinating field.

    • I think that you are definitely right about the subscription mentality; it’s just a different business model, to be sure.

      And yay, so glad you’ve gotten a great value from Dana and my patterns!!

  3. I’m a subscriber because I want to support the magazine and the podcast but I haven’t tried any of the patterns yet. I’ve read so many mediocre reviews that I’m kind of afraid to. I’d rather stick with stuff I know will work (like your patterns! and Grainline) than spend what precious little sewing time I have messing around with something I’m not sure about. Thanks for the honest review.

    And I agree about Colette. Cute stuff I’ll never ever wear. I’m not into vintage, honestly, and I never wear dresses. Even when I have to dress up, I go with NICE pants and maybe earrings with bling.

  4. I love your top (and fabric!), Rae, and appreciate your honest thoughts on pricing patterns. With the huge amount of free patterns on line, quality control is a real issue for me. There’s nothing worse than only being able to half-sew something due to a not-quite-right pattern. And it’s not so much the fabric waste (although I hate that), it’s the time and motivation waste (I have limited supply of each for sewing).
    It can be a similar deal in the quilting world (I design quilt patterns); not all patterns are made equal. Sewing with a well written, tech edited, tested and multiple sized pattern is a joy – a great way to expend time and money. This is the experience I want for my customers. But still, I know not everyone is keen to pay for that.
    There are many different business structure options, we all get to choose which suits us best – great to see you have found yours!

  5. Cute you! The sidewalk fabrics are adorable.
    As far as Seamwork goes, I think the real difference is that, as a subscriber, I get patterns that they choose, not patterns that I choose. That makes a huge difference. There is no way that I am going to sew the majority of those patterns. Most don’t fit my personal style or body type so I would rather stick with patterns that I know have a chance of being flattering. I am a subscriber to Seamwork for the content. The patterns are a nice extra when they work for me.

    • Agreed, it’s a totally different approach. That makes sense to me about “I choose” versus “you choose” too!! Good point. And yes, the content is fantastic!!

  6. Once I’ve messed about with grading and bust adjusting a pattern then muslinning it once or twice for a pattern which ‘might’ work, it might no longer be a cheap pattern if I take my time into account! And it’s better for me to have a couple of wardrobe staples that I can confidently churn out time and again. Once the pattern’s been made a couple of times the initial pattern price is less of an issue, isn’t it? I don’t think I’m the only one that feels like that- let Collette have their niche market, and you can have yours.

    (I really enjoy your patterns, Rae, I should add)

  7. Agree completely with this, and I often think about pricing too. I’m trying to save money like the next person, but I’m willing to fork over some dough for an awesome pattern that will WORK right off the printer. YOURS DO. I don’t know if we have similar body types or if you put magic dust into the grading and darts and all that mess–but I’ve come to realize I am not wasting time or money when buying Made by Rae patterns. I support Collete and Seamwork as well- a few patterns have worked for me, esp the one hour ones for some reason. I can see why their price point is low- I pay regardless of downloading the pattern or not, and if it were $20/month I probably wouldn’t subscribe.
    Keep on keepin’ on Rae. <3

    • Aww thanks, Natalie!! I’m so glad you love the patterns.

      And yes, I agree that signing up for (and keeping) a subscription is much easier with the low price point.

  8. Wow, criticizing a competitor! That is really in poor taste. While I may have appreciated this coming from someone who wasn’t a pattern designer, all it does here is sound childish and make me question the validity of the statement.

    • I respectfully disagree. I don’t believe Rae is being childish. I believe she simply offered up her honest opinion about Seamwork patterns (which she is paying for as a subscriber herself), including one she made and photographed and is showing in this post. I also think that MBR and Seamwork are completely different business models, so I don’t even see that they are direct competitors anyway. Also, her designs are different enough from Colette patterns that they aren’t really targeting the same sewing audience either.

      We need candid, polite opinions about indie designers, even from one to the other. I’ve actually seen criticism from the other side of it, that designers are “too nice” to each other and are too willing to overlook serious flaws in pattern making and design in favor of mutual praise in order to promote each other’s businesses.

      I speak as someone who both subscribes to Seamwork and has bought several patterns from MBR as well.

      • I certainly don’t want to see false praise for flawed work. I am happy to fairly compensate designers for quality work, as I have done with MBR and other pattern designers. I even see nothing wrong with a general criticism of low-quality patterns that are being sold for cheap and undercutting competitors, and I’ve read similar kinds of posts from knitwear designers. But to call a competitor out by name, yikes! Bad manners, in my opinion ,and I’m uncomfortable supporting someone who chooses to do so.

    • So sorry you feel that way, Jessica! I did try very hard to emphasize all of the things I love about Seamwork, as well as emphasize that I don’t think this poses competitive issues. I’m sorry that message didn’t come through for you.

  9. I love this top. The simplicity of the pattern really complements your cute fabric. I don’t subscribe to any sewing magazines although it looks as though the content is terrific. For me my most precious commodity is time. Not that my funds are unlimited, quite the contrary. But time is in even shorter supply. I actually have purchased several great patterns that I haven’t yet made because the time it takes to make a muslin and figure out the quirks feels overwhelming if I just have one afternoon a week to sew. I am far more likely to reach for an old friend and like Natalie the MBR patterns fit me really well without major changes. I listened to the interview you recently did on the business of selling patterns and it was really interesting to hear your experience in terms of balancing providing content for free with not undercutting competitors. I have definitely gotten more than my money’s worth from your patterns since I have made so many versions of each.

  10. I love your top too! The pencils really make it but truthfully I also love that length on you even though as you say you can’t actually raise your arms without some skin peeping out 🙂 But I like tops that either stop at the natural waist or tunic length – I just don’t care for that mid hip length on me. I also subscribed to Seamwork for a few months and then stopped because the mag is free to everyone anyway (and I’m a faithful reader!) but the patterns were rarely what I was interested in making. I’m sure the competition for pattern making is getting crazy competitive especially when you see the sales the big 4 put on fairly regularly. I have 2 patterns on the way from Vogue and McCalls and with shipping I think I paid $15 CDN which is quite inexpensive. I do favour indie patterns in general though because the instructions are so much better along with sew-a-longs it makes a huge difference. You do great work Rae – always love your blog 🙂

  11. The first thing I thought was “I would have to lengthen that one.” It looks cute on you, but I would definitely want more length.

    A thought on pattern pricing as a consumer – I will pay more for a classic pattern I will use repeatedly, because the price per use is much lower. For example, I’ve paid far less than $3 per Geranium Dress for the pattern, because I’ve made it more times than I can count for my two girls (and one friend). But, a sundress for myself they I probably won’t make more than once or twice is a harder sell.

  12. I appreciate your frank discussions about pattern pricing. It reminds me, as a consumer, to be mindful in my shopping. Paying $6-$10 for a pattern really seems like a more than reasonable cost for the amount of work that goes into them on the part of the designer. I’m happy to continue paying your prices for patterns that I know are well tested, clearly laid out, and easy to follow!

  13. Love the pencil print Rae!

    Re Seamwork’s pricing – this pattern has been on my to-try list, actually and I’ve been put off by the subscription model because I know it’ll end up costing me a fortune. Not because I think $6 is a lot, but because if I subscribed to Seamwork I’d probably only manage to make one thing a year from it – just due to lack of time, and all the other things I want to sew too. And $6 x 12 for one pattern is definitely a lot!

  14. There are several ways of supporting people.
    Since the magazine is free to read and most of the patterns seem to have issues, I bought ALL the pins to support her work and buy Burda for the patterns (6€50 here). This way I know what kind of fitting I’ll have to do as they are very consistent.
    Do you think we’ll see some of that pencil fabric overseas? It’s lovely.

  15. I know this is an older post, but I wanted to drop a note here to say THANK YOU for being honest in your review.

    I have pretty mixed feelings about Seamwork. They have recently upped the prices for their patterns from the magazine from basically $3 to $10-$12 if you don’t subscribe. I feel bad saying this, but, ime, their patterns are, overall, not well made. A few are OK, like their Rio tee shirt, this top, the Lynn dress, their basic skirt. But, even though they’re OK, that’s all they are–OK. I have a Deer and Doe tee that is graded beautifully for female shoulders and armscythe. The small changes take that pattern from a Hanes tee to a designer T, because the fit is so worth it. The simple Seamwork patterns are, well, Hanes tees at best.

    I wish this was different, I do, but…

    I would say that more than half the Seamwork patterns I’ve tried have not made it past the cutting stages. The lovely and incredibly beautiful soft bra pattern, Florence, is so poorly graded that when I taped everything together and cut out the muslin I just stared. I think they must have increased length as part of the grading of the cup pieces, as well as width, but the pattern was essentially unsewable at the large sizes. I’ve seen a few reviews that say that as well, so I know I’m not alone. It works OKish at the smaller sample size, but for the bigger sizes it is just….unsewable. I’ve honestly NEVER seen any pattern made so badly, in all my 20+ years of sewing. Never.

    I’d say around half their patterns are gimmicky ways to kinda-sorta-sew. You know where, as a beginning sewist, you try sewing a couple of rectangles together because curves are too scary, and you hope it makes a shirt? Yeah, like that. Their charlotte pj top is that kind, as is the akita top. Akita is one of the oddest patterns I’ve seen, as drawn out, and to me, a tremendous waste of fabric.

    I would be fine with that, if they were more upfront about it, but recently, they’ve made it harder to see the reality of the pattern before you buy it. The tech illustrations are now a separate link, instead of being part of the photo array, and sometimes, as with akita, you don’t find out that the pattern is this weird attempt to skip sewing side seams or whatever, until after you’ve bought it and read the full instructions. I don’t see why they don’t just SAY it’s an attempt to sew using rectangles or to sew without sides or whatever. It makes me a little wary, as a customer, but I could live with it.

    However…… what disturbs me the most is the way they’re treated the York pattern.

    York is supposed to be a simple woven fabric tunic, gently A-line shaped with side seams and bust darts. That’s definitely how it looks in the tech drawing.

    Except, when they released it, people pointed out that in the photos of the model the bust darts were weirdly low and that the gold-satin version was so poorly made it still had dangling threads.

    Suddenly, these comments were deleted from their blog and the York photos were re-arranged to use pictures that made the bust dart problems less obvious. OK, it was the holidays, crunch time, they were embarrassed, these things happen.

    Except–York is now listed as a $10 pattern and, not only have they played around with what photos to show, they did a new photo shoot for it–with the tunic tucked in (!!!) to hide the weird shaping and the bust-dart problem revealing photos removed entirely.

    There are just five photos now–they show the back tie, the sleeves, a tucked in front, and a front where the model is leaning waaaaaaay forward. I even checked the tech drawing to see if they’d show the weirdly low darts, but no, in the drawing, the darts are placed traditionally.

    I just, there are mistakes, and we all make them, and I can’t at all fault a pattern company for making an honest mistake. (Although, after a year, I’d expect errata.)

    And then there’s literally TRIPLING the cost of a known-flawed pattern and doing your best to purposefully hide the flaws to new buyers.

    I’m really not OK with that. I’m really REALLY not.

    What puzzles me is that Seamwork could very easily make accurate patterns if they created a set of well-made basic blocks in various sizes and then altered those. If they’d taken, say, Colette’s Laurel pattern as a base and altered it to make an A-line tunic, then York could have worked, if you see what I mean. I don’t particularly love Laurel, but it’s considered a reasonable fitting shift dress by many. I guess I say that because I don’t want a bunch of commenters telling me that Seamwork had to start from scratch on York, and it’s unfair to expect them to get things right. I don’t think it’s unfair to expect them to get a basic A-line tunic right–they have the resources to do a good job. They just…..didn’t, for some reason.

    And then, having made a weirdly fitting, low-dart shirt, they tried to hide it with fancy photos.

    That just plain skeeves me out.

    Lynn is the last Seamwork pattern I’ve made. I love the magazine itself, which is what makes me so sad about things. I don’t mind paying $6 for the magazine. But, I would much rather pay $12 for a well graded pattern that doesn’t take me three muslins and a bottle of wine to make work.

    I don’t think your patterns will be competing with Seamwork any time soon, let’s just say. I’ve finished my latest Beatrice, this time in cotton interlock (I like loose, 90s style knits). Next, I’m plotting a long sleeve flannel beatrice with an open front, lengthened to a tunic length, over a little gemma tank dress. I think it’ll be cute with tights and boots.

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