Monday, September 2, 2013

Why is Sewing for a Tween so Difficult?

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Let me apologize in advance for my lack luster post. I've been in bed all weekend with a head cold and a fever...not very much fun on this long holiday weekend.
Edit--I should have said this is Sally...part of the duo behind this blog. Blame it on the brain fog from being sick.
So what was supposed to be a fun tutorial on how to make a boy's button up shirt into a feminine and cute shirt for my 10 year old, is now just a picture and a quick how to.
This project is reminiscent of my first sewing project that was 'me' driven and not something I had to do for least when it comes to clothes.  I was in 8th grade and it was inspired by something I saw in some teen fashion magazine.  It was simply a white button up shirt, cropped at the waist line and a big (4-5 inches) panel of lace sewn all the way around.  The sleeves were cropped to 3/4 length too. Once I found a shirt and some lace in my mom's stash, I sewed myself one and wore all through 8th grade and probably longer.
When I approached my daughter with this idea (just happened to have one of her brother's outgrown white shirts laying in the give-a-way pile), she asked for something other than white lace. I had this orange flowered trim (now that she's more grown up, her favorite colors are green and orange...I think as a way to 'distance' herself from her 5 year old sister whose favorite colors are pink and purple), which she picked out. We are also going to change out the buttons to something more colorful, pick out the collar but leave the collar stand and crop the sleeves to 3/4 length.  And she'll have fun, casual, but some what feminine shirt to wear with jeans or a skirt.
I'll post the exact tutorial, when I'm feeling better.
Now I do have some questions to ask you and I would love to hear what you have to say.
Why do you think there is such a disparity in the amount of patterns when it comes to the up to 8 size and the tween sizes? 
Is it really because tweens are too opinionated and won't wear home sewn clothes?
Is it because their changing bodies are really too hard to draft for?
I'm curious to see if this mind set changes with the advent of sewing blogs.  It seems that most people that have started sewing blogs, started because they are sewing for their young children. Do you think as these kids grow up, they'll still want home sewn clothes?
Thanks for putting up with my lack luster post and let me know what you think!
And don't forget to link up to the linky party and keep on passing the on the word about us! We are amazed at the response we've been getting to this little venture!


  1. I think it's a bit of both. A bunch of us have been begging Liesl Gibson of Oliver + S to design teen/pre-teen patterns and here's what she said:

    "I'd love to add pre-teen sizes to our range. But I have to be honest; it's very unlikely that we can do this. Here's the reason why:

    It takes a lot of time and energy to develop a sewing pattern, and it costs us quite a bit to do it when you factor in all our fixed costs like rent, insurance, utilities, etc. and our variable costs like supplies to develop a pattern, payments to freelancers and testers who work with us on the project, and printing and warehousing. In order for us to make any money at all on a pattern we develop, we need to be able to sell a lot of copies. And to be honest, the volume of Oliver + S patterns we sell allows us to do only slightly better than break even. That's the honest truth. We don’t make enough of a profit on Oliver + S patterns to be able to support a family. That’s why we’ve had to diversify our business over the last few years.

    If we were to develop a pre-teen line, the market for those patterns would be even smaller than the market for the Oliver + S patterns. It's just a fact. Fewer pre-teens are willing to wear home-sewn clothing, it's harder to appeal to the taste level in this age bracket, and there are fewer sizes (and thus, fewer sales opportunities) within this range. So it would cost us just as much to develop a pattern as it does to develop an Oliver + S style, and we'd sell far fewer patterns. We'd end up losing money developing pre-teen patterns. A lot of money.

    So as much as I'd love to do it, I'm afraid the likelihood is very slim. I’m sorry to disappoint!"

    Perfectly understandable but still disappointing!

    Since it seems that most independent children's clothing pattern designers started their business when their children were young, I wonder if their designs will change as their children grow. I know Patty Young has started offering a few tween/teen patterns.

    Sadly, it's too late for my older 2 kids (14 and 12). But we've had luck with upsizing certain patterns and using Ottobre Design patterns that go up through teen sizes. It's been really frustrating for me as my oldest daughter is too big for children's clothing yet too small for women's. And that's not just sewing patterns but also RTW. Thank God I can sew or else she would have a very limited wardrobe!

  2. I agree- however we as the consumers control the market. If there is a demand for a product, someone will make it. It's all about money-there's a big group of tween clothing sewers but the demand just isn't big enough yet. Whatever the reasons are for that-as the demand grows, so will the market.

  3. Cindy--I've heard the same thing from the pdf pattern makers that I've talked to as well. I too have a daughter on the petite side and will be facing the exact same problem of being too old for children's clothes but too small for women's...I'm glad I sew for that reason alone.
    Amy--Good point...I am very curious to see what happens as some of these bigger blogger/pattern makers kids get older. I wonder if they will expand their market because they will then be a part of the demand. However, looking at the big name retail patterns, there is still a huge void.
    I had someone comment to me that it's also to do with the size difference in that age. You can't call it a true 11 because one 11 year old might already have hit puberty where another is still years away from developing physically. She commented that it's just too hard to size, grade, test patterns for that age group.
    Thank you for your comments!

  4. Yes! I found that my daughter's shape changed almost daily. I kid you not, we had to buy new (used) jeans for her once every two weeks. There wasn't even consistency for just our one girl. I couldn't imagine trying to design a whole general pattern for all tweens.

    My daughters both love handmade clothing (even my teen), but sizing was so hard for the tween set.

  5. Ok, I don't have a daughter, but I do sew with a tween and work with kids alot. One thing I've noticed besides the other things you've mentioned is time priorities. At the tween age kids are starting to get involved in a lot more activities like, music, sports, friends, etc. Sewing and fitting takes a backseat to these other activities and pile on they want to blend in with their friends and all the other reasons and sewing for the tween doesn't get done.

  6. I would have to agree on the time factor. Sports seem to take a lot more time these days. My son seems to have practice and games 3 times a week and then my daughter has her activities. Then there is school work. I can't get them to bed and have a few hours left to sew because bedtime gets later and later. I am so tired by the time they are in bed that sewing isn't usually my first inclination!

    As for pattern makers...I guess I understand where they are coming from. I like that Ottobre has tween patterns, but they usually only have a few. If you have enough issues, you have a chance of creating a good wardrobe. They do have some unique patterns, which is very nice to find.

    I don't think the drafting is really an issue, as long as the fit measurements are accurate. When I trace out Ottobre patterns, I usually trace the width and length I need. They are always different, so I just grade them together. Maybe the lack of patterns will just force more home sewers to learn some drafting.

  7. I agree with the other comments - the difficulty sewing for teens and profit margins are both factors for fewer patterns. I believe there are more PDF tween patterns now than ever before, based on my sewing & pattern testing in the past 5 years. Many indie designers are expanding their size range and even adding womens sizes. I'm very vocal about asking for larger sizes and think we are being heard. Commercial patterns still have good basic patterns for tweens, so learning to tailor and modify pattern blocks is something I need to work on to make more tween-friendly clothes.


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