Wednesday Thinking: Are the Big 4 sewing pattern companies​ off trend? // Champagne Twist


Wednesday Thinking: Are the Big 4 sewing pattern companies off trend?

As many of you know, I love sewing, I adore sewing. I’m not a fan of clothes shopping per se because I find it difficult to find clothes in styles that fit and suit me. Hence, one of the many reasons why I love sewing.

But there is one hurdle when it comes to creating my own fashions. While the indie pattern industry is growing, the big four, long established and market dominating sewing pattern brands are slowly dying a death. It may seem a good thing at first, but in the long run, if these major pattern companies – McCalls, Butterick, Vogue and Simplicity – don’t change soon, it could spell the end of the sewing pattern industry as we know it.


When I heard about the possibility of making a cocktail party dress, showcasing my outfit at the Knitting and Stitching Show and following my favourite home seamstresses creating their unique versions, I was so excited, until I saw the patterns.

With a heavy heart I say this – but there simply wasn’t anything I felt passionate enough to make from the selection of patterns available for the challenge.  Some of the styles seemed born out of 1980 – and not in a good way.  Only one pair of trousers, a jacket with a pointed back hem and dresses that my grandmother said she wouldn’t wear, let alone spend time money and effort creating.

I felt all the more guilty because the idea behind the event is to raise money for the Eve Charity (click here for details). But, I couldn’t justify making a dress just for the event, that I knew I wouldn’t enjoy making or wearing, and would never wear again. This hardly encourages new-to-sewing folks to pick up a needle and thread.

Another major issue I had with the collection of patterns, was the non-existence of patterns for men. Last time I checked a) men wear clothes and b) men attend cocktail parties. This was a golden opportunity missed, to encourage the growing number of males who are taking up the hobby. It was as if there was a huge sign saying, “Boys Not Allowed”.

I also got the impression that these patterns were chosen in an attempt to boost sales, rather than to welcome newbies to a new skill set, or encourage more established sewists to stretch their skills. Some of the styles were 20-30 years behind the times and lacked modernity. When I look at the fashion magazines and Pinterest boards, I don’t see my style favourite reflected in patterns offered by the Big 4.

The most popular styles seem to be the classics created during the 1940s through to the 1960s. Thanks to films and television shows such as Down With Love, Ad Men, etc.  Shirt dress patterns, the Walk Away dress, the Mondrian dress are just 3 examples of styles that have sold successfully in recent years.

There is also still a severe lack of patterns for wheelchair users or those with physical disabilities.  All the patterns, in fact, were styled towards slim, average height, able-bodied women.

I normally buy PDF patterns from indie pattern designers because they are usually up to date trend-wise, and are easily adaptable to my height and shape. My last pattern purchase from the big 4 was actually a classic style shirt dress.  Even when there are 50% savings, I find it impossible to buy more than 2 patterns. The dated designs just are not that appealing to me, and to spend upwards of £15 for a single pattern that I would spend more money, time and effort to adjust, just takes away the joy of sewing.


2nd Release Knitting & Stitching Show Ticket Giveaway​!

Hello everyone,

If you missed out on Sunday’s ticket giveaway, good news! I’ve secured a 2nd set of free tickets.

I have 3 more pairs of free tickets for the Knitting and Stitching Show, at Alexandra Palace.

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All you have to do to win 1 of 3 pairs of tickets –

  1. Follow me on this website ( and
  2. Subscribe to my YouTube channel or follow my Instagram account.

Then, to let me know you want a chance to win a pair of tickets, leave the following message in the comment box below:

“Dear Champagne Twist – I would like to go to the #knitnstitchshow @ Ally Pally on [INSERT DAY]”

There isn’t long, the show starts tomorrow and ends Sunday.

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Available Dates

  • Wednesday 11th October – 10am – 5pm 
  • Thursday 12th October (evening only) 3pm – 7pm
  • Friday 13th October  – 10am – 5.30pm
  • Sunday 14th October  – 10am – 5pm


Terms and Conditions

  • The giveaway is open from Tuesday 10th October 2017, 18.00hrs GMT, until Saturday 14th October 2017, 23.59hrs GMT.
  • 3 separate winners will be chosen on a first come, first served basis.
  • I will contact the winners, requesting names and addresses.
  • The winners’ details will be passed to the show organisers, and arrangements made for the winners to collect their tickets from the box office, at Alexandra Palace.
  • Sorry, this giveaway is only open to UK residents. However, there will be other giveaways soon.



For more information about The Knitting and Stitching Show, please check out the following links:

The Knitting and Stitching Show, Official Website

Spring Knitting and Stitching Show – review 




Great British Sewing Bee Live - Vogue Patterns Fashion Show

Great British Sewing Bee Live – Vogue Patterns Fashion Show, video now on YouTube | Champagne Twist


I’ve just uploaded a new video, the Great British Sewing Bee Live – Vogue Patterns Fashion Show.

If you would like to see it, please click the link below –

There are more #GBSBLive videos on the way, so please stayed tuned, and subscribe to for further information. Thanks for reading and watching.


The Great British Sewing Bee Live Event – videos // Champagne Twist

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If you are subscribed to my YouTube channel, you may have noticed a few new videos. Well, please stay tuned, as I upload more footage from the Great British Sewing Bee Live event, held at London’s ExCeL.

As a taster, here are 2 recently published videos.

There are more videos on the way, which will be published over the next couple of days, if my over worked computer can keep up!

Plus, I have a very special announcement to make over the next few days, so please subscribe, so that you don’t miss out on all the latest form Champagne Twist.

Thanks for reading and to all my new subscribers, a very warm welcome, hope you like it here in this little corner of the interweb 🙂

Sewing for beginners – new YouTube series | Champagne Twist


I’ve started a new YouTube series, where I share ideas, hints and tips on all things sewing.

The first video, ideas for creating a design sketchbook, can be viewed below.

I hope you will find this video useful. The next episode will be a step-by-step guide on how to make a design sketchbook, so please subscribe so you don’t miss it.

Thanks for reading and watching!


Refashioning Couture – The Lemon Grove Dress – The Reveal | Champagne Twist

Here it is …

lemon groe dress final



The entire process was fairly straight forward. Using the By Hand London patterns as a base made the project easy and quick. The only issue was changing the zip from the centre back to the side of the skirt, but that was a very simple adjustment, and made the skirt construction process easier, as I didn’t have to pattern match.

lemon bodice final


Costs of making the Lemon Grove Dress (excluding labour and power costs)

  • Fabric – £35
  • Notions – £6
  • Patterns – £18 (please note, I already owned the Charle dress pattern, prior to this project)
    • Total = £59
  • Time to make – 7.5 hours over 4 days

Price of D&G dress

  •  £810 (source


I really enjoyed making this dress and am very proud of the result. It’s looks great, fits well and feels glamorous and fun to wear.

I’m so glad I made plain shoulder straps, instead of the elongated bow ones, as these would have been too fussy for my personal style, with this busy print. But I’m considering making many more of this style of dress, and will use the bow detail with less bold print fabrics.

The dress cost me less than £60 in materials to make, a small fraction of the cost of the D&G dress. But the awards are far greater, as I had a lovely week making this little number, with successful results. I could have saved even more, if I drafted a new pencil skirt pattern.

Even thought it took me 7 and half hours to sew, this is actually a very quick make. I took my time with the hand finishing and hacking the 2 patterns together, otherwise, I’m sure the dress would have been completed in half the time.

In all, I’m very pleased with this project, and can’t wait for any excuse to wear it.

final shoulder lemon dress


Next time

My next project is a Christopher Kane gingham floral skirt, made from a self drafted pattern. If you would like to read about my new project please subscribe so you don’t miss out. As always, thanks for reading, see you soon.


Related posts:

Post 1 – Planning the Lemon Grove Dress

Post 2 – Constructing the Lemon Grove Dress


Refashioning Couture – Constructing the Lemon Grove Dress | Champagne Twist

Refashioning Couture

refashioning couture icon

The Lemon Grove Dress

The dress that has featured on many a fashion blog is soon to be homaged. Using no less than 2 By Hand London patterns, I attempted to create a dress inspired by the  D&G lemon print dress, at a fraction of the cost.

Dolce and Gabbana lemon print dress.
Dolce and Gabbana lemon print dress.

Picture source:

The aim of this project is to prove that it’s possible to make a couture style wardrobe, without needing a millionaire’s budget. Check out the previous posts here, Post 1 and Post 2.

Fabric selection and notions

The choice was simple – the 100% cotton lemon print, on a black background, has been selling in several haberdasheries for months I purchased mine from Pigeon Wishes’ etsy shop at £7 a meter.  I purchased 4 metres, but used less than 3.

I also used a high cotton content mix lining from my stash, which was purchased at approximately £2.50 a meter, of which I used approx 2.5 metres. It is light weight with a lovely, soft feel.

Material for the Lemon Grove Dress by Champagne Twist
Fabric selection for the Lemon Grove Dress by Champagne Twist

Notions used from my stash included a 40cm long invisible zip and 1 reel of black machine sewing thread.

I hacked 2 By Hand Patterns – The bodice from the Charlie Dress, adding the Charlotte pencil skirt, with flounced hem.


Picture sources:

Fabric cutting

Cutting the main fabric was, thankfully, an uneventful process. Having previously made the Charlie dress bodice and drafted my own pencil skirt, cutting the pattern didn’t pose any issues. Unusually, I didn’t bother much about pattern matching, just ensured that the print didn’t cover or highlight things it shouldn’t!

Pattern alterations

Like the Charlie dress, I lengthened the bodice by 5 cm. I excluded the decorative collar, to leave a plain neckline.

lemon grove dress bodice detail –


I changed the skirt back zip opening to a left side opening, to match the bodice and for ease of wear. I cut the back skirt pattern on the fold, instead of cutting 2 separate pieces. It also resolved any need for pattern matching.

lemon grove dress by Champagne Twist
Back skirt view – lemon grove dress

The skirt was shortened by about 15 cm, to rest above the knee. This was for ease of walking and so I could attach the flounce. As the flounce is made from light weight cotton, it should have a nice movement as I walk. This is the only selection of the dress which will be unlined.


Note to self, don’t sew when you’re tired. At one point the lining of the front bodice was attached to the back skirt lining. I like to add my own spin to my clothes, but even that for me would have been a little avant garde! Still, my unpicking skills are improving, and it now only takes me 2 minutes to rip out a seam. In effect the black lining became a silver one (worse pun ever).


The main bodice was as easy to make as for the Poppy Dress.

I changed my mind in regards to the elongated straps, opting for plain shoulder straps. I felt that the elongated bow straps added too much detail to an already busy piece. It would be also difficult to wear with a cardigan or other cover up in cooler temperatures.


The Charlotte Skirt required a little more thought, as I changed the back zip to a side zip, and needed to ensure the waists of both the bodice and the skirt matched. I eliminated the skirt waistband, which meant the skirt waist was a few mm longer than the bodice waist. However, this extra fabric was easily absorbed into the seam allowance.

One thing I did not anticipate when adding the side zip opening, due to the shape of the skirt, I can’t pull the dress over my head. Instead I have to step through the side opening in order to put the dress on.  It’s no big deal, but it does take a little getting used to.


Adding the lining was simply a case of duplicating the patterns in lining fabric, then attaching to the main fabric from the neckline.

I completed the dress by hand stitching the hem.

Next time

The construction process has ended and it’s time for the reveal. How did the dress turn out? Why not subscribe so you’re notified as soon as my next post is published. Thanks for reading,