In 2005 I bought Simplicity 5825, a sewing pattern for a teddy bear with variations to make a rabbit and a dog. The pattern cost $13.95.
I remember picking it out at Joann's and bringing it home. I was curious about sewing toys and I wanted to sew a teddy bear. I remember the thrill of pulling out all the pattern pieces and prepping the fabric. I had a few yards of green ticking my mother-in-law gave me. I washed it and ironed it, imagining the bear I would make.
I think you can see where this is going. When the baby went down for a nap the next afternoon I cut out the pattern pieces. Then I opened the big piece of newsprint with the pattern directions and read the first step.
"Make DART SEAM at lower edge of bear front sections."
Huh? What's a dart seam? Here are accompanying diagrams for steps 1, 2 and 3. No glossary. No way to find out about dart seams.
I still couldn't figure it out. What is a dart seam? Step 2 in the directions make no mention of sewing a dart, but there it is again in step 3:
"Make DART SEAM at lower edge of bear back sections. Press dart seam toward leg."
Ack. I felt helpless and really let down. After searching the pattern envelope and reading all the directions I gave up and put the whole thing away.
When my mother-in-law was down visiting us a few weeks later I showed her the instructions and she told me what a dart was. Even after I got that down, more confusion and frustration followed as I tried to figure out the next steps on my own. I was never able to sew the toy and put the pattern envelope away where it's sat, untouched.
I felt like the pattern was in another language. A secret language. A language that Simplicity didn't want me to understand because I wasn't already in the club. I didn't learn to sew sitting at my mother's feet and Home Ec. was only a semester long and that was back in 1988. I felt like I'd wasted $13.95.
I've spent the seven years since then teaching myself everything there is to know about sewing toys. I've read dozens of soft toy books and general sewing books, logged many thousands (!) of hours on the web reading sewing blogs, and I've sewn hundreds and hundreds of toys, including many teddy bears. I've designed teddy bear patterns and written in-depth about how to design patterns for bears (chapter 12 in my forthcoming book on soft toy design is all about bears).
Over time I have become a member of the club and I have learned to speak the language. And I'm in love with sewing and sewing patterns and sewing toys. So I guess I won the war even if I lost that battle.
This morning I pulled out Simplicity 5825 to reevaluate. Here is what strikes me about it. In some ways it is a good deal as far as patterns are concerned. For $13.95 you get full-sized pattern pieces for four toys.The directions still seem archaic to me. The language is robotic. "Turn bear RIGHT side out. STUFF along each stitching line." There are a lot of words in bold all caps, seemingly for emphasis, but I'm not sure why these exact words were chosen. The bold all caps words include: "SAFETY EYES" "BUTTON EYES" "LADDER STITCH" "DART SEAM" and "CLIP CURVES". To me these words are being said in a condescending voice by a little old lady who is looking askance at my lack of formal sewing training. And I'm wondering if I should try again to sew this bear. Maybe I'll give it another a go.
I know that I'm not the only person who wanted to make one of these patterns but couldn't crack the code and gave up.
Has this happened to you?
I want to hear your story. Have you tried a pattern from one of the mainstream pattern companies? What is your take on these patterns. I'm really curious. Will you share your story in the comments?