Colette

Rue updates, mistakes, and a new sort of growth

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If you just need to print the corrected pattern pieces and view the updated finished garment measurement chart for Rue, please visit our errata page here, where you will find all the necessary links.

First, Rue Updates

If you bought the Rue pattern, you should have received an email from us letting you know that this pattern had mistakes, and we were going to fix them. You should also be getting an email with an updated, corrected version for you to download.

If you didn’t, all you need to do is go to our shop, log in to your account, and download the pattern from there. If you purchased Rue in a shop, please email us with your name and mailing address so we can send you the corrections.

If you want to know about the nitty gritty – the whats and whys behind the scenes – I’m going to get into that today. But first, for those who have been awaiting the changes, we have a new version addressing your feedback, both in terms of style lines (specifically, the placement of the yoke seam – it has been lowered to sit below the bust) and the fit of the pattern through the upper bodice and sleeve (the sleeve, armscye, and shoulder were redrafted).

Here, Delaney models the version she just made in purple shot cotton.

delaney-full-length

delaney-bodice

If you purchased a print version, we will be sending you a new printed copy of the pattern. This may take several weeks, since we need to get them from our printer, but they’ll go out to you automatically when we receive them – no need to do anything.

Second, an apology

I want to be clear: this was our mistake.

No, actually… it was a series of mistakes, and I want to start by taking responsibility for that. I’m really sorry.

As terrible as I feel about it (and we all feel pretty bad about these issues), I want to do more for you than fix the immediate problem and express my regret.

Because regret is a very useful thing, but not all on its own. Regret has to be turned into action.

It’s like when you stay up late to finish sewing, and you find yourself tired and hungry and just when you think you’ve reached the home stretch… you realize you just sewed your sleeve in upside down.

Ok, it’s not exactly like that, but in some ways the thought process is the same. At first, you feel upset, maybe angry with yourself. What a dumb mistake. You should have paid attention, you should have seen it coming.

You grab your seam ripper and start to fix it. But it’s what you do with your feelings about it that make the biggest difference. Do you turn it into a judgment? “This project is cursed,” “I can’t do this right,” or “I hate sewing”?

Or do you look at the circumstances that got you there and fix the real problems? Maybe you don’t sew late at night in the future, or you make sure to always align your notches, or you double check every sleeve. And you become better that way.

Anyway, that’s how I see things. It’s why we always have a post-mortem after we put anything out there, and try to suss out what went well and what didn’t go so well and how we can improve.

We do this constantly, but I have to admit that the post-mortem discussion for Rue was much more somber than most. We knew a lot of things had gone wrong, that we’d made some bad choices and had some serious challenges ahead.

But again, we want to turn that into action, not a bunch of hand wringing. That’s not useful to you.

So today, I want to discuss the pieces we are putting in place (or have already put in place) to face these problems. In other words, this is what we are doing with our regret.

And perhaps this will be helpful to other pattern companies (or any other small business, really) if they face some of these challenges at any point. Because I think this is a question of maturity, of growing up.

Change #1: Overhauling processes

I’m a very process-oriented person. I believe in documentation and checklists and standards and that if you have the right process in place, the right results will follow.

We have fitting checklists, we have technical editing checklists, we have tech packs and measurements that get updated and all the nifty things that are supposed to keep you organized.

The problem is, sometimes having an elaborate process does NOT mean you have the RIGHT process.

In our case, the processes I had in place worked just fine for a couple people. But when the number of people working on our patterns grew (it’s now 6), those processes were no longer sufficient. We adapted them little by little, but clearly there were holes. Gaping holes.

For example, with 6 people participating in creating a pattern, it’s been difficult to track changes. Has the pattern been updated? Why doesn’t it match the spec anymore? Was that a conscious choice or a mistake?

I’m sure you can see how these kinds of issues can lead to bigger problems. For Rue, there were changes going all the way up to the very last minute – and beyond the last minute.

This messy process was error prone, plain and simple. It caused over-corrections that just should not have happened.

We needed help, and we needed experience. More process wasn’t the answer. It had to be the right process. We needed to talk to people who had this problem nailed already.

This brings me to the first step, which is bringing someone with way more experience in managing this kind of process – especially with a team.

We were lucky enough to get in touch with Sabrina, an experienced patternmaker who has worked as a lead technical designer at some of the largest, most well-known apparel companies in the area. Most recently, she’s worked as a senior tech designer and fit lead at Nike. I’m sure I’ll introduce you to her and tell you more in the future as we work together. But I can tell you she’s excited to help a small company like ours to scale things and get better.

So piece number one is designing a better flow, one that works for a team of contributors. We need to have the structure in place to prevent errors in the first place.

Change #2: A better fitting process – with help

Have you ever worked on a team? If so, you’re probably pretty familiar with some of the issues that plague groups of people all working on the same project.

One of those problems is the “kitchen sink” approach to problems, in which a bunch of solutions are thrown out and tried at once. This is a real problem for fittings, because problems tend to be interrelated and they really require a strategic approach.

As a leader, I definitely failed in guiding this process.

So, in addition to the help we’re getting from Sabrina, we’ve also enlisted the help of another experienced patternmaker and fit expert, Claudia. Working with Claudia has been amazing already – she’s been generous in sharing her knowledge, explaining things clearly, easing the team’s workload, and offering her advice on how to achieve the best fit.

ETA: In case my original post was unclear, these two are here to offer guidance and support. We have a full-time patternmaker on staff, who is working closely with them.

Here are some shots I snapped of Claudia guiding a recent fitting.

claudia-pinning

claudia-group-fitting

I’m also going to share more about Claudia later, because her approach is pretty great. She embraces all kinds of technology, including the use of a body scanner, which is pretty darn nifty. But she’s also great at diagnosing, giving a much more solid framework to our fitting process, and the expertise that really drives it.

Change #3: Updating our blocks

The last time we updated our base patterns was a few years ago.

One of the biggest changes since then is that we have changed our fit models.

For those who aren’t familiar, a fit model is a professional who is hired for his or her specific size, usually in the middle of a size range. They try on garments so you can fit on a real person who matches up with the size you’re designing for. They can also move around, sit, and even offer opinions about how things feel.

We started working with our current fit model a couple years ago. Her name is Hilary, and she’s absolutely fantastic, a total pro, and a great match for our sizing (and many RTW companies’, since she does this professionally).

And though she is technically the same size as our previous model, there are definitely differences, ones we need to account for as we do fittings.

In addition to Hilary, we also have a wonderful size 20 model who we do just as many fittings with. But again, although we’ve always used a size 20, there are even more variations in curves with size 20 ladies.

So we are working hard on refining our blocks, with help from our lovely fit experts. The result is more consistency between fittings and a much smoother process.

For Rue, this would have meant fewer fittings and, again, far less room for error. We would have started from a much more secure place.

Change #4: Better understanding of feedback

Here’s another problem, which I’m pretty sure plagues most customer-facing businesses. The problem is understanding and correctly interpreting feedback.

Listening and caring can get you pretty far, but doing that alone doesn’t get you all the information you need, necessarily. If all you do is wait to hear feedback as it comes in, all you can really do is look for patterns and hope that you’re interpreting it correctly. You might get conflicting feedback, you might not hear from everyone, you might not pay attention to the right feedback.

And of course, there are the normal human biases too. Everyone likes to pay more attention to opinions that match their own, that are favorable and self-serving.

The antidote is to get real, structured, clear feedback. It’s to be consistent in collecting it, to find ways of measuring it, and to track it over time.

This is, in my opinion, something that separates a mature company from a ragtag startup. Meg and I are creating a system to solicit direct feedback (as unobtrusively as possible) from everyone who buys a pattern. If you sew a pattern, we want to know what the experience was like.

And we want to track that over time, so we have a constant gauge of how we’re doing and what areas need improvement. This is a project I am very excited about, because this is the heart of it all. This is the information that will let us know if all the other parts are working the way we want them to.

Change #5: Look on the not-so-bright side

There’s one final thing that I’ve been thinking about, which goes a little deeper. It’s my own tendency to be overly optimistic.

It’s a trait common to almost every entrepreneur I know, because you sort of have to have a crazy amount of faith to think you can make it work. But that’s not an excuse.

In many situations, it is a big shortcoming. I tend to believe that things will work out, that if everyone tries hard and has good intentions, that will be enough.

I need to get better at looking at the worst case, at finding the gaps and holes in my own plans, in becoming more skeptical, and recognizing where I (and our team as a whole) need help.

There’s a term used in Japanese manufacturing: “Genchi Genbutsu,” which means “actual place, actual thing.” It means that when you have a problem, you don’t just talk to people about it and accept what they say, you actually “go and see” how the work is being done. I admit, I’ve let people flounder when I should have been observant, and I’ve failed to see when folks on the team needed more help.

Going forward

This is a straightforward glimpse into my thought process and what I think went wrong and how I want to fix it. I really do want to apologize for the mistakes.

And I want you to know how seriously we take them, too. That’s why we took Rue and revised it over the last few weeks, and that’s why we’re dedicated to turning this into major improvements.

But I don’t want this to be a band-aid, either. I want to continue the conversation by writing more in the coming weeks and months about our processes, our lessons learned, and what we’re working on as we continue going through these changes.

I see this as the next real stage of growth for us… not a growth in people or projects, but a growth in maturity. I hope you’ll follow along, because it’ll be a fascinating journey.

Sarai Mitnick   —   Founder

Sarai started Colette back in 2009. She believes the primary role of a business should be to help people. She loves good books, sewing with wool, her charming cats, working in her garden, and eating salsa.

Comments 135

Rhea Bolton

Thanks for posting this, it’s really refreshing to see a company being so honest with their mistakes and trying to be transparent with their customers. Do the existing sewalong posts still correlate to the updated pattern?

Sarai colettehq.com

Yes, Katie paused the sewalong until the pattern was updated so that she can make sure any adjustments match up to the updated pattern. You can take a look at the schedule here and see that she has some “2nd edition” adjustment tutorials coming out this week for the updated pattern.

Robin Champieux

Thank you. I appreciated and even learned from this honest and detailed post (being a process nerd myself). As a Portlander, sewist, and Seamwork subscriber, I feel very connected and invested in your and your team’s work. I’m excited to see the new practices and expertise you’re harnessing reflected in the patterns…yeah!

Cookie

If politicians were as honest, as straightforward, as transparent and as willing to acknowledge and address problems as you are, the world would be an infinitely safer, saner and sustainable place. You could teach many of our leaders a lesson in leading. Congratulations on your ability to find a way through the the problem to the solution.

Betty Jordan Wester nouvellegamine.com

I don’t want to pile on about Rue for the sake of piling on, but I was bummed. I really like your company and I want you to succeed. I’m sure I’m not alone. I think adding another experienced patternmaker in Sabrina is good. I think adding Claudia for fit is really good. And I think updating your block is essential.
I’ll be looking at the new reviews for the new Rue. It was on my “to buy” list and I’d like to add it back. Good luck. I’m hoping for the best for you guys.

Ryann

Thank you for your honesty – great to see you learning (and getting support from others to help with the learning!)

I had frustrations printing the Rue pattern (and one other from another pattern company) after having printed many patterns w/no issues on the same printer. Mentioning it here in case you want to incorporate this in ‘how to print’ instructions for PDFs. After playing around with several settings & printing the 4×4 grid page many times, what finally worked was *unchecking* the box that said “choose paper source by PDF page size”. Not sure if I randomly checked that box one day or what, but it had caused the ‘frame lines’ not to print & threw off the fit of a test garment because I wasn’t sure the pattern pieces were actually the size they were supposed to be.

Sarai colettehq.com

Interesting! I’ll send that over to Meg so we can look into that one. We recently made some improvements to our PDFs that allow you to toggle on and off different sizes, so I wonder if that could be related somehow.

Rachel Felix thewildstitch.com

Hey! Just wanted to say that I LOVE that you’re offering this now. Will this new change be reflected in all new patterns going forward, or will the old ones be updated as well?

Sarai colettehq.com

We hope to be able to add toggling to older patterns in the future, but right now we’re definitely incorporating it into anything new.

Meg colettehq.com

Thanks for mentioning this, Ryann! I just looked into it, and you’re right. It affects our new digital pattern layout only. I just updated the printing instructions on our help site. If you still experience issues with the borders on your pattern when this box is unchecked, also make sure that the option for “Auto portrait/landscape” is checked.

Debbie Cook stitchesandseams.blogspot.com

I will be watching with interest. I am still concerned, though, that I see nothing about actual testing in your new processes. And I can’t help but wonder that if Rue was thoroughly tested before going to print (vs. sending out patterns to “promoters”), a lot of the fall-out could have been avoided. I would be happy to be corrected on this concern if I’ve overlooked something.

Sarai colettehq.com

I’ll talk more about that in subsequent posts when I go into the step-by-step process in more detail. The fit process is different from the testing process, which is something that we do with both patterns and instructions. We’ve used various methods to do testing, and currently work with some really talented and professional people to do both technical editing of the pattern in different sizes and copyediting of the instructions.

But testing is not going to work right if you don’t have the right process to handle the changes, and to stop things from being introduced after testing is done. That’s part of what I mean when I talk about the holes and sloppiness in the process. It’s a matter of doing it right.

Jessica alwaysacraftylady.com

I really hope once you iron out the wrinkles in your process you will do some actual pattern testing. Not by your employees or the technical editors, but by people who are looking at your patterns with fresh eyes. And hey, then maybe they can be your promoters too if it works out well. But putting out a call for testers, then using them as a promotional tool was really a pretty shitty move.

I will say I’m happy to see you thoughtfully evaluating your company. You’ve been in the game longer than just about every other Indie and it is my sincere hope that you will come back with a stronger and better fitting product.

Suzanne

I also agree.

Meg colettehq.com

Hi Jessica. I have also replied to Suzanne and Alexandra below about this issue. I really do appreciate your honest feedback, and I’m always reachable if you have additional thoughts.

Sarai colettehq.com

Oh, and it was also a mistake to use the word “testers” when we put the call out for folks who’d be interested in advanced copies of the pattern. It wasn’t really testing, we just thought that was the language people were familiar with for that sort of thing. But it definitely gave the idea that that was our testing process, which was wrong.

But again, that isn’t to say this process doesn’t need work – it really does.

Alexandra coffeeandclementines.wordpress.com

I’m a bit confused about how you can say that ‘it was also a mistake to use the word “testers” when we put the call out for folks who’d be interested in advanced copies of the pattern.’ when in the blog post where you ask for testers, you say: ‘We’re looking for a bunch of testers for upcoming patterns and products, so we can get your feedback about our instructions and the product itself. This is partly to help us make our products the best they can be, but we also want to showcase your makes.’ It DOES sound an awful lot like you’re SAYING you want the feedback, but in actual fact you’re just after the promotional images – especially when you specifically start the post with ‘Do you have a blog?’

I’m glad you’re evaluating how you work, and are trying to improve things, but I will admit to feeling rather leery of buying any of your patterns right now.

Meg colettehq.com

Hi Alexandra. I also replied to Suzanne below, but I do want to add that the feedback was the most helpful and important part of working with those who made Rue in advance of the release. I understand how that post read differently, and that is not how we will be seeking feedback or examples of finished makes in the future.

Suzanne

I’m even more confused than Alexandra. On your blog post where you asked for testers Christina asked pointedly about this very question in the comments section. And Meg, your employee, answered specifically that you do use the “testers” for instruction and pattern feedback. Even going on to say its helpful in the drafting.

Christina
June 16, 2016

Do you actually amend the pattern after they have been tested? Seems to me like this pattern testing business has more to do with marketing than anything else.
Author
Meg @colettepatterns
June 16, 2016

Yes, we use the feedback for both the patterns and instructions! We used to have pattern testers, and are returning to the process again. Not only is it helpful when drafting, but it’s also just fun to see finished makes as soon as a new pattern is released.

Meg colettehq.com

Hi Suzanne. That post was a mistake, and we will not use that approach to showing finished examples of our patterns or collecting feedback again. As the person who answers all of our emails and spends most of my day connecting with our customers, I really did not mean to mislead you or deceive you into any kind of dishonest marketing. That was not the intention, and looking back, I can see how it felt that way. I have worked very closely with the group that sewed Rue before its release, and I will continue to work with anyone who is willing to share feedback about our patterns and products. While I was unclear about the role that feedback would play in our drafting process, the feedback is still extremely helpful when evaluating our designs, instructions, and the content we are putting out there for you all.

Jane

I’m still a little confused. If the feedback didn’t play a role in the drafting process how did it affect the design and instructions?

Meg colettehq.com

Feedback about the design is used to make sure we are designing patterns that you love—do you like vintage details, what are your dream patterns, general style questions—to make sure we are designing in line with your wants. Our instructions and PDF patterns were also just redesigned with Rue, and we wanted specific feedback about those changes, which so far has been really helpful. I hope this clarifies!

Alieke

You don’t have to be sorry! It was an honest mistake, and you listened to the feedback and did something with it! That’s the most important thing in my opinion. You then make sure that everyone who bought the pattern gets the new one for free! There is absolutely nothing more you could have done! You just keep drafting awesome patterns!

I have never bought a pattern from you company, but I’m eyeing a few! So I hope there’s going to be a sale in the near future so I can get them all (including the Rue).

ginger

I am in the process of making the “original” Rue and I have had no problems, in fact, it fits me perfectly. However, I do feel the changes you’ve made make much more sense and I am definitely going to make the “new” Rue as well.

Rachel

Thank you for posting such an open and honest account of this process. You’ve got real class, lady! I often read your blog for pure pleasure – but this was really something. Thank you again and good luck!

RebeccaHoward

A very interesting post. It’s great that there is a platform so we sewers can see the behind the seams issues. You’ve done a great job of explaining the problem and your extensive considered approach to the solution. As a customer it makes me feel confident that if I have a problem you will be there to help.

suus

Thanks! I really appreciate the way you handled this. That’s what a good business is about, the things that are done when something goes wrong.

Toni archmom.com

Thank you for taking the big step of putting this out to your customers. I had started Rue, then stopped Rue, then heard there was changes and am so excited to start Rue 2.0 now. I work in a small architecture firm (somewhat of a new startup) and we’re experiencing some growing pains in a similar way. I found it very helpful to see what you’re doing and how you’re doing it and translating it into our company. It’s the hard days of realizing you dropped the ball a bit/missed the mark, but I too try to be as honest and open with our clients when it happens. So they don’t just remember I/we made a mistake, but instead we are still committed to making it right for them and all future clients and projects. Well done Team Colette!!

Rachel

Funny, I also work for a small architecture firm and was reading in part for ideas about how we can implement processes that promote quality design documents. It’s hard to get all the parts writing together, especially when people don’t have the capacity for self reflection that Sarai displays here.

Kim

Thanks so much for your transparency. I was planning on making Rue for a wedding and attending a dance performance. I rushed out to Fancy Tiger and purchased the paper pattern. When I heard of the issues and put it on the back burner and did another make. I can’t wait to make this dress for a future occasion. Seeing as I purchased from a retailer, what are my next steps in getting a corrected pattern? Thanks again!

Meg colettehq.com

Hi, Kim! To get the corrected pattern pieces, you just need to send me an email with your name and mailing address, and we’ll send them out to you when they’re ready.

Sarah Peel coolcrafting.co.uk

Hello, Meg – is this the same for the UK – we sell the Rue pattern instore. How will the new pattern be identitfied as different tot eh original on the packaging?

Meg colettehq.com

Hi Sarah, thanks for reaching out! Do you order from our UK distributor (Hantex)? If so, they will be sending replacements as soon as they are ready. It sounds like you haven’t heard from them, so I am going to send you an email with all the details right now. Keep an eye out!

beckyjpdx sewbeckyjo.com

what a breath of fresh air. Good for you. Admitting fallibility is too rare a trait, sometimes more so in our city of abundant creatives. I admittedly haven’t been looking at the Rue, but I have been reading the reviews on Dalia, and although I love the style of Dalia, the reviews scare me away. I’m so glad you’re taking your growing pains with such responsibility. Look forward to watching you mature more!

Kelley

Hi Sarai!
Thanks for such a great update and transparent look into your company. I think it’s a real sign of strength to say when things didn’t go well and try to fix it. That said, will you also be thinking through Seamwork patterns with the same eye? I was an original subscriber from the first issue but recently canceled my subscription because I felt like the patterns needed too much work from a fit perspective. I’d love to subscribe again if the blocks were being updated for the Seamwork patterns as well.

Sarai colettehq.com

Hi Kelley, all these changes will affect everything we do.

Shelley

Just focus on making patterns as you did in the beginning. Include a beginner and intermediate level patterns in each release with good instructions. I think one of the greater benchmarks was when you included plus sizes.

Miranda

I’m pleasantly surprised by this and wish you well. I unsubscribed from Seamwork last week because I was no longer interested in dealing with the Colette block and had a very bad taste left over from Rue (and what I’ve felt was an increasingly tone deaf marketing plan). I love that Colette stands for getting people into sewing and all the benefits that come with that, so I’m hopeful this will be a great new track for you. Best of luck with all the hard work ahead.

Karen Johnston Colclough

I am just learning to sew. I followed the Pattern Review contest using the Rue pattern. I saw and read the problems that accomplished seamstress had with this pattern. I admire you for fessing up to mistakes that were made. When I get past pajama pants I will consider buying a pattern.

Karen

Kudos to you for taking the time to think through this. It takes a lot of guts to put all this out there. For the record, Delaney’s version of the dress looks awesome on her, and it matches what I hoped from Rue the first time around. I’ll be psyched to see what some of the new versions look like made up!

Penny Hooper

I’m so glad to read this and see you have fixed the Rue, every photo I saw of it made me go, WTF? I hope you will be able to change the photo on your website where you purchase your patterns from as I would never buy it after seeing that ill fitted shot. I’m wondering now if anyone else has had trouble with the https://www.colettepatterns.com/catalog/phoebe
My front cross over did line up right with the princess seams? But it did match my skirt so I was a little confused?

Ninon mysweetsetting.com

I love your company patterns and magazine – I live the patterns sewn- their figure friendliness- and what you do to revitalize garment sewing-you are so innovative and thoughtful —
I also appreciate the importance of processing and evaluation- some of the most valuable lessons are learned from very painful mistakes- so good on you-
One thing I hope you will consider if you haven’t already is to have some age diversity in your counsel- I know your main target group is reflected in your staff but there really are a lot of us that are older fans and have some experiential water under the bridge to offer regarding process without taking away from the bright youthful input of your primary demographic- I remember the call for testers being opened and closed in a really fast turn around that made me wonder if you missed out on some of the less tech attached folks in your pool of followers-

Barb Brandt

Thank you for the explanations. I have every confidence in Collete Patterns and enjoy Seamwork. I am about to start my first Collete project and am looking forward to wearing my new cute top!

Michelle

I have to say that I usually like Colette patterns but this did not do it for me. I don’t think those darts on the bust area flatter any busty gal. I have a 40DD chest and that is not where I would want to draw the eye to. Aside from that it’s not an unhorrible design. I hope the next pattern flatters better.

SewSouthLondon

Like others, I applaud they way in which you have approached the ‘Rue’ issue. I also welcome your transparency around leadership and process. This will resonate with many of us as we grapple with different but related issues in the workplace.
My own observation is around pattern testing and fit. I had assumed that the early Rues that popped up on blogs and Instagram were people testing the pattern on different body shapes to inform your design process. It was clear that there was a wide range of different aesthetics and I think this should have been fed back into the design process. The feedback from customers was more revealing of the issue than the internal fit process.
I had a similar experience with the Dahlia, which was marketed as a beginners pattern, yet once customers began to sew it up (myself included) we encountered significant fit issues with the gaping neckline. One suggestion would be to use ‘real world’ pattern testers to ensure these glitches are ironed out before the pattern is released into the wild.
That said, I am a huge fan of your products and styling and have pressed pause in my Rue til now…. best of luck with the changes.

Trish

There is no wisdom without scrapes and bruises, alas. I applaud you for owning the mistakes and striving for better processes. That’s not so easy to do! Anybody who has ever been in charge of something at work experiences something like this, and it’s painful, but this painful part is going to lead you someplace where you will be a better leader, with a better product and a better team. I have faith in you. You’ve done SO much and I’m amazed by what Colette Patterns has accomplished since I started reading the Coletterie back in 2008. Hang in there, and remember, you’re only human-we all make big mistakes somewhere. You can become something greater than you were yesterday because of those mistakes. Someday, it will be something you look back on and see everything you learned from it and how it changed you. I have a few of those mistakes, too.
(And I want you to know I made an Akita top and a Mesa dress and I wore them all summer because they’re awesome. And now it’s cold and I’m going to wear my Oslo sweater and my Laurel dress because they’re awesome, too. Then I’m going to make a Rooibios and Beignet. And they will be awesome. )

Hari

Thankyou for acknowledging the problems and correcting them. I was excited initially at the aesthetic of the Rue dress and highly disappointed at the actual results of the pattern IRL. One thing I really wish you would address is your policy of deleting ‘negative’ comments on your blog. Will you be continuing with this? I do believe if you had actually allowed these comments to be published on your blog AND actually addressed the concerns at the time you may not have found yourself in such an escalated situation.

Carolyn allspiceabounds.wordpress.com

I second this. I am eagerly awaiting an acknowledgement, explanation, and apology for the persistent deletion of critical comments on this blog. Attempting to cover up mistakes by deleting customer comments that address them is a much more egregious error than the drafting problems with the Rue itself. Treating your customers with respect is critical to earning their business, and I believe there is some deep-seated resentment in your customer base over this.

Sarai colettehq.com

We do have a commenting policy (it’s linked above the comment field). The intent with our policy is to make our blog a comfortable place for everyone, a place for discussion. That means we maintain policies against anonymous commenting (which 90% of abusive comments are), or comments that seem intentionally hurtful rather than constructive. Of course, this is subjective, so there are definitely times that a message might be interpreted differently by different people.

I do get what you are saying, and agree that it must be frustrating for anyone who feels they aren’t being heard. I do think a commenting policy is necessary, so I choose to treat this as our living room. I’d like to think we can have a space where what is said is the same as what would be said face-to-face.

Hari

But that’s the thing Sarai you are a business, out to make a profit from me, not my best friend. Even if you were my friend sitting in a living room I would hope and expect we could discuss anything clearly and honestly. To suggest that previous comments were deleted only because they were anonymous or offensive is dishonest. Without integrity there can be no trust or longevity in any relationship, either business or personal.

Jennifer

Yes, you own the site and can hold the discussion to nothing but rah-rah Colette if you choose. However, although protecting other commenters might be good for community, I don’t think protecting yourself from criticism has benefited you or your customers. This is exactly why the Rue discussion on Pattern Review (a nice-to-a-fault crowd) is sixty pages long and heated. I can only believe if that discussion hadn’t boiled over, this apology and accompanying changes would not have happened. You may as well host these discussion and face criticism head on, because they will pop up somewhere.

Sarai colettehq.com

Perhaps you’re right, I’m sure there have been times that we’ve been overzealous. I am going to discuss this with the team so we know where to draw that line. Perhaps the commenting policy itself needs clarification too. It is rather subjective, which makes it easy to cast a wide net when something sounds combatative.

Sally Y

Good post. One thing, you mentioned Hillary’s name as your fit model and that you also have a lovely size 20 fit model. No mention of her name. Why no name mentioned for the size 20 model?

Sarai colettehq.com

That’s true. I think because we have been working with Hilary much longer, and with Teka only a short time, so I feel that I know Hilary better. They are both wonderful to work with.

Jessica alwaysacraftylady.com

This might seem like a small omission to you, but to me it shows your bias against sewers using the larger sizes. Something to be aware of in the future. The way you worded the section on fit models made me feel like the size 20 model was an after thought.

Jessica alwaysacraftylady.com

Who is your size 20 fit model? Is she not also a professional worthy of using her name and speaking to her experience? Shame. Have you seen Mallorie Dunn’s “I’m Your Size” project? There is a variance in figures of all sizes, not just plus sizes.

http://www.smartglamour.com/inyoursize-campaign/

Josephine

Hi team!
For what it’s worth, I just wanted to say that I made the first-release Rue, subsequently wore it to a wedding, and never did it occur to me that there was anything wrong with the pattern?! I was very pleased with the fit (I’m a broad-shouldered 10-12) and I love the style. I’m sorry to hear you have experienced so much drama over it. I look forward to making a more casual version for the southern hemisphere summer with the amended pattern to observe the differences.
I have long been a fan of Colette and have made a number of your patterns. May the force be with you in the future!

Diana

There is nothing wrong with failing as long as you recover fast and learn from it. I believe that you have done great in admitting not everything was perfect and there were some problems with the processes. Admitting failure is never an easy task, not to mention how expensive it can be. But then again, who is perfect? Nevertheless, I am very happy with all my patterns from Collete (I also own Rue, but I didn’t get a chance to sew it yet). I have so many Monetas, Laurels, Wrens and Phoebes in my wardrobe that look great on me, that I can’t but trust that I will also like the Rue.
Collete is a very cool company and I will definitely continue to buy patterns from you.

Mary Lynne Foster

Mistakes and failures are inevitable and are really the only way we learn. They are positives if you react to them positively which it seems this group has done.

Katie katiemakes.co.uk

Thank you for this, I run a small business (running sewing workshops) and I really struggle when I mess up and definitely go down the route of apologising profusely and hoping it’ll all be okay! This has inspired me to get my teeth into making changes to fix the original problem, rather than just ‘trying harder’!

Anne sewanneuk.blogspot.co.uk

Your welcome apology has allowed me to consider Colette patterns in the future, perhaps. I saw so many ill -fitting garments in your books and promotional materials and read so many bad reviews of the fit of many patterns (Rue in particular as I entered PR Sewing Bee and read of all the problems in fitting the dress – I was glad I was knocked out just before this round! ) and many bad reviews of your company’s response and lack of response to problems.
I don’t fall into the age group you cater for but do like the idea of some of the shapes. Maybe in the future…
I’m probably more interested in your (nameless) size 20 fit model than the smaller size model. Does that mean you use different blocks for plus sizes rather than grading up which doesn’t work? That’s great if so.

Meigan getmystitchon.blogspot.com

Congratulations on hiring a professional pattern maker and fit expert. I was a PR Sewing Bee Round #3 participant and have been following this Rue conversation with great interest.

Sarai, you said that you were guilty of being overly optimistic, when in reality, you should have been your own worst critic. That is the way to improve. Glossing over fit problems , deleting negative comments, or “we’ll talk about that in the sew-a-long” comments are disingenuous and deceitful. When your plaid Rue was noticeably different from your red version-and I do NOT believe it was a happy accident–you should have put the brakes on the pattern and revised it, not put it up for sale. Duplicity starts at the top–that’s you.

Tonya

I understand COMPLETELY why you feel so badly about what happened. But please also know – mistakes DO happen. You are obviously doing everything you can to rectify the situation, and your customers appreciate and respect that. Don’t beat yourself up too badly – you are a great company life would not be life without all the craziness and ups and downs that accompany it.

fat lady thefatladysews.wordpress.com

I really don’t give two hoots about how sorry you might or might not feel, but am concerned about the expense incurred by those unfortunates who bought a blatantly-faulty pattern and attempted to make it up; and by those small independent retailers who – at least in the UK and some other countries – are bound by law to provide a full refund to purchasers of faulty products.
Will you be offering any recompense for the wasted money spent on fabric by sewers, and the worthless stock held by retailers? The paper version of the Rue is still on sale at many European retailers, with nary a mention of any problem. What are you doing to recall it from sale?

Sarai colettehq.com

We’re working with our retailers to send out replacements as soon as we get them. We’re trying to get in touch with everyone, but there are some we haven’t heard back from. Meg is working to get a hold of everyone.

Shannon

I was surprised to not read anything about any sort of compensation for people who spent time and fabric on a pattern so flawed that it got this response. I understand that refunds can be hard on a small business, but at least offering PDF pattern credits would make people feel better. A PDF pattern must cost you close to nothing.

When I worked at a restaurant, whenever a guest was upset about anything, we would take their $2 Coke off the bill. Costs the restaurant next to nothing and makes the customer feel valued. The customer’s happy, and the restaurant is better off because they’re more likely to come back.

Diana

I purchased the printed pattern from your store. Will you still be sending the updated pattern without the cover? Thanks

Sarai colettehq.com

Yes, the tissue paper pattern will be shipped out once we get them from the printer.

Lois

We learn and grow, hopefully. Good for you for looking at yourselves so thoughtfully. Please don’t be hard on yourselves personally. You made mistakes, you are moving on by making amends, not by simply apologizing. Setting an example!

Mary Lynne Foster

I have done very little clothing sewing over the past many years, but I enjoy your blog and I keep thinking that I need to explore this aspect of needlework. As a teacher (second grade-newly retired) your article resonated with me in terms of how a similar process works in the classroom, although it is mostly an individual teacher, not a group process. Basically you are looking at a much more data driven process. In teaching it would look like this. I have 5 children who are reading below grade level- they should be on level J but they are only on level E. I also have children who are successful at level J, but are lacking certain skills. I could group them by reading level, the J readers together and the E readers together. However, if I look deeper into the information I get from reading with them individually, I see that two children on level E and one child on level J actually read the words successfully but do not remember or comprehend what they are reading. Two more E children and several J children don’t know what to do when they make a mistake. They either ignore it and go on or don’t even realize they’ve made one. Finally, one child on level E and one on level J are from a different language background and can read words but don’t have the background knowledge to understand them. If I group them by level, I can have everyone reading out of the same book, but although they look the same at first glance, they actually need instruction in different strategies. The better way is to group them by the skill they need to learn even though they are using different levels of books to do it. Same for math; not every child who gets a problem wrong is making the same mistake and the teacher needs to figure out what mistake each particular child in making and how to address it. It is a fascinating and much more interesting way to teach, and I’m sure you will enjoy and be renewed by your new process too.

Beth

Thank you for your transparency, both in admitting the mistakes and talking about what’s being done to fix them. I have had fitting issues with a couple of your patterns, but they also gave me the confidence to do something beautiful when I first got into sewing again. Until I found you, I had no idea that there was anything other than the Big 4 pattern companies. I love your printed patterns with their beautiful and helpful instruction books. Best wishes to you as you move into a new phase. Organizations always have growing pains. Keep up the good work.

Viki

Sarai, sharing your process is encouraging, and has given me confidence to continue being a Seamwork subscriber and purchaser of Colette patterns. I wasn’t going to make any comments but since you put so much effort into your post I wanted to show my appreciation by sharing too. I have been participating in the Rue sewalong, making a number of posts about my Rue from the start. Like others may have felt, I was getting frustrated with trying to make the change in style lines like your beautiful dark plaid Rue, which I preferred the look of, to my pattern so it actually fit. Since I wasn’t having success with that, just before the sewalong was paused I had decided to go ahead and make the original Rue, which amounted to making 4 labor intensive muslins of the bodice by the time I got the perfect fit. Unfortunately I had already just cut out my fabric when the sewalong was paused, which was really a bummer and I felt disappointed with the company in general. However, since I try to be positive in general, I made a decision to get over all that and be happy with my Rue which I have now finished, worn 2 times, and have had many positive complements on. Though I’m an experienced sewer of 40 some years (yes I may be the oldest Rue sewalong participant!) I thought it would be fun to participate in a sewalong for once. Honestly, if I did not have as much experience as I have had sewing, I think I might have simply thrown in the towel with this project. I’m glad I stuck it out and I love my dress. I’ll certainly be posting pics at the end of the Sewalong!

Wendy

Hi
Thank you for the apologies and the explanation, just a thought. Too many folk working on one task and it all goes wrong. Less is sometimes more. You are clearly a very forward thinking team but sometimes over thinking ( too many folk) is as bad as not enough thought.

Francesca a

This has been my thought for a while. I feel Colette has grown too fast, lost its vision for a while, and has a bit too many people on board… too many chiefs etc. I had hopes when I saw Rue but didn’t like the weird placement of the seams on the boobs so didn’t get it.

Sharon deeming

Thank you for your honesty and integrity . Blessings to all the team through this time . I love what you do and how you do it. You have given me the confidence to make two tops in the last 3 months from not making anything at all. please be encouraged
Love Sharon

Katherine

I’m very impressed by you guys– both your willingness to be transparent about your design process, and by your products themselves. I haven’t had any problems with Rue so far (I do have a long torso, so I lengthened the bodice a bit… but I have to do that with everything!) and was honestly surprised to hear that you were redrafting it. In any case, I’ve enjoyed reading about your process, and look forward to your future posts– partly because I can’t imagine what a challenge it would be to design a clothing pattern so that it not only fit, but flattered a diversity of body types and sizes!!

Annemarie

I’m glad you’re finally addressing your poor drafting and fit methods. I swore off your company after buying and making the the Aster.

Best of luck. Wish it had happened sooner.

nothy lane

Look, Colette patterns is the reason why I sew. Sewing for me has always been about making changes to fit – I try to make a wearable muslin but generally I have to make at least one that ends up in the garbage. Sewing is frustrating but, if you keep at it, it is exhilarating!!!! Thank you for everything Colette Patterns, you will always have a customer in me

Ann M

Excellent post. Holding yourself accountable for errors, fixing them as quicckly as possible, and restructing a, possibly, outdated process, is the sign of a great business. Your honesty and openess are appreciated. Thank-you.

Deanne annie-dot.com

Wow great job. I’m sure this was very frustrating and an extremely vulnerable time for you. I will definitely stand by a company that is open and apologetic about its mistakes. Congrats. Being humbled is a lesson most people avoid learning but they don’t realize the rewards that come from it.

Stella

Thank you for your statements. I am from germany and im a love of your patterns at first hour. I like the clean and fresh looks you and your team create. Rue at first sight was an error, and so the german groups of sewers were discussing the pattern. ..but one mistake is Not a reason to unsubscribe all of your company. Don’t be sad. Take a look a the mistakes and go forward, you can keep it. ..I wish you the Best and i’m looking forward for any pattern you will create.

Brenda Kimberlin

This post reminds me why I feel so much loyalty to the Colette brand. Your Sorbet pattern was the first piece I made for myself after picking up sewing again as an adult, and that tiny little success was what encouraged me to keep going. Sewing is so damn humbling, but we’re all in this together. The fact that you care so much about your customers and the craft is the reason I will always turn to you first when I need a new pattern.

Becca Ray

Why did you leave pleat-y parts in the front of the boob? The adorable plaid version from Sarai has that on the side of the bust, which seems so much more flattering?

Tina

This is such a great blog post to read. Great job!
Everybody screws up from time to time, minor errors, big things.
What I want to hear, as as customer, is: I am sorry, and I will do my best to get it solved. You even go one step further, by analysing why it went wrong and what to do to prevent the same thing happen again.
I really wish more people would think this way, and act this way.
Love it. That is great marketing. and Being a good person.
Hugs!

Sarah

Though I appreciate your honesty I’m worried when you say you’ve been using the same block as in other patterns. Are you implying those are affected too in terms of fitting? I’m also confused it took so long to get two experienced professionals to assess patterns. I feel the indie scene could do with less aesthetics and more professionals. I hope your post will help others to review their processes and products. So thanks for posting

Sarai colettehq.com

The block is a starting point for any pattern, but they go through many rounds of prototyping and fitting from there. What I’m trying to say is that the stronger they are to begin with, the less variation and changes needed. Greater consistency, in other words.

It would be interesting to hear from other companies about their experience, but one thing I hear a lot of (and my experience bears out) is that many experienced pattern pros in the US are at retirement age, and are not being replaced when they decide to retire, as both manufacturing and product development moves offshore. That means fewer and fewer patternmakers in the US, and in our case, many of them are engaged with a local big activewear company (Nike). I feel really fortunate that we’ve found two people that not only have experience, but are also interested in mentoring and helping grow young talent. Anyway, maybe that’s too much context, I don’t really know.

Kaelyn

I had no idea that your customers seemed to be so displeased with this pattern. To be honest, I did not purchase the pattern because I thought the bust lines were odd where they hit and cut the bust in half. (as a small chested lady, cutting the bust in half is not good) Situating the lines underneath the bust is much more flattering, so I’m glad to see you made that adjustment. I also think it’s refreshing for a company to own up to mistakes that were made and let customers know that you are trying to fix the issue. Just remember, you can’t please everyone! ;)

Jenny Sandoval

Honestly, so not a big deal (at least for me.) This whole explanation is unnecessary, as you’re all human and humans make mistakes.

I do have a couple of questions, though: 1) It said the paper pattern will take several weeks to ship out; however, that was stated a few weeks ago. How much longer is it going to take? 2) How will we do adjustments to the new Rue? Will there be updates for bust adjustments, shoulder/back adjustments, etc? 3) The new one looks as if there’s pleats in the bust, or 2 darts; is this the case with the new pattern?

Sarai colettehq.com

Hi Jenny, I’ll answer in order. (1) The usual lead time from our printer is 3-4 weeks. The moment we get them here, we’ll begin to ship them back out to you guys and shops. (2) If you check out the sewalong timeline, Katie’s got some new posts up with new adjustments. If you have other questions about adjustments, that’s a great place to ask. We have the original ones there as well in case anyone needs them, but they’re differentiated. Hopefully, it’s clear, but let us know if not. (3) Both the original and the revised version have two tucks at the bust for fullness.

Jen

Thank you.

Patty S. masteryourmachine.wordpress.com

What a great post. I think one of the very most difficult things facing small companies is scale. Once you enjoy some (or a lot!) of success, you are needing to scale your business, and that is not an easy task for a whole lot of reasons too complex to go into, in a blog post. It is probably the #1 reason most small businesses end up stalling, and going into a tailspin. How refreshing to read such an honest, transparent post. This is a lot like standing in front of the mirror, naked: Sometimes you don’t so much like all your see! Well done, it’s hard to have to make yet another investment in your company when you’re probably enjoying your first real profit, but I think it is money extremely well spent! You are very inspirational, Sarai, thank you for sharing. Makes me appreciate how hard you and your team are trying to make things good and right for your customers! May I offer up a little “wishlist” item? You may already have this on some of your newer patterns, but I’m currently making up an Isla for myself, and in the .pdf pattern, I noticed you didn’t use Adobe’s Layers option. That is a cool way to be able to just display your one size (and hide all other sizes), if you assign each size a layer. That way, you can print just your size, and not have to try to see your size line. For those of us with “mature eyeballs”, that can be a little challenging trying to see the size line, especially where all size lines converge in curves! That would be an awesome feature to include in your .pdf patterns!! Love your patterns, love what you’re doing, and just keep doing it. You have a very loyal fan base!

Sarai colettehq.com

Hi Patty, we have started doing this in our newer PDFs! Wallis suggested it and really championed getting it in our newer patterns.

Patty S. masteryourmachine.wordpress.com

Fantastic, Sarai! I think this is just such a cool feature! Figured you probably were already on it :-)

Kate

Sarai, well done. I love your company for many reasons; I love the overall aesthetic, I love the beautiful and substantial packaging of printed patterns, and I love the educational, informative instructions. Yours are some of the first patterns I bought when I first started sewing garments in earnest a few years ago. To me, they are the gold standard of sewing patterns. But what really gets me coming back, again and again, is your heart, your intention, and this–your openness. It is so rare to get an honest “behind the scenes” glimpse into process and thinking, and you do it so well. And I think it is so productive and good. Thank you and best of luck!!!!!!! xoxoxo

fitch

No need to be so harsh with yourself. The originals were cute, there was just so much variation where the seam hit it was unclear where it was intended. Anyone who doesn’t like the design shouldn’t make it, duh! I absolutely do not want to read negative comments about figure types or sewing skills, so thank you for your editorial policy. I am frequently shocked that people say such mean comments on the internet, it is unnecessary. Thanks for your work, I enjoy it!

Suzanne

I also don’t want to hear mean comments about someone’s figure or a hobbyist’s sewing skills. But those were not the comments referenced by Hari or Carolyn. They were talking about comments about the product, where there was actual constructive critique about the quality of the business’ pattern or samples or business practices. This isn’t about comments picking on someone who has a different body type or someone who doesn’t know how to install a zipper. And those comments that reflected poorly on the business were deleted so others could not share in that critique.

Stephanie swoodsonsays.com

I clicked over from the While She Naps newsletter so don’t have much background on the issues at hand but felt compelled to point out how awkward it reads to only share one of your fit models’ names. (Maybe it is her request to not be named? But thought I’d say something in case it was an oversight.)

CitricSugar

This is a thoughtful response to what happened, complete with an action plan and a sincere apology – thank you.

I must say that I didn’t purchase Rue as it just didn’t grab me. I was disappointed that the survey popular descriptor “classic” had been interpreted as “vintage” and just couldn’t get on board. It sounds like I saved myself a great deal of frustration with the fit.

I wish you success with your changes, and sincerely hope that the new blocks work as well for me as the old ones as I found them so consistent and reliable, across both Colette and Seamwork patterns. Growth rarely comes without growing pains and you’ve undergone significant growth in the last few years. Remember to breathe!

SJ Kurtz erniekdesigns.blogspot.com

I don’t know that you need to apologize for a style choice. Some people liked it. Some did not. You cannot be everything for everybody all the time; you’d be nothing for no one at all.
I was surprised by the differences between the different models shown on release; the bust line on Sarai’s plaid was so different from the others, and your business is a model of consistency.
I am glad that any process issues have been worked out and you can grow on it. Change is hard. Good on you for sharing the process. I surely appreciate it.

Lynda

Hi All, Hoping someone can allay my confusion. I wasn’t affected by the problems with Rue, I really wanted to make it but decided the style and skills involved with fit weren’t suited to my ?intermediate beginner status. I do feel for your team and purchasers experiencing this problem though :).

I’ve been a subscriber to Seamworks from the beginning and while most of the patterns aren’t suitable for me (59yrs) I stay subscribed to support Colette as I really appreciate the generosity offered by the company and want them to thrive (kinda like crowdfunding?).

I’ve just made a muslin for Hayden which is my first Seamworks make and have sewn Selene and Mabel and own some other Colette patterns and the books.

I read some negative Hayden reviews re the fit and drafting online (and other SWks and Colette patterns) and wondered if this was just due to different bodies or (yikes!) were the patterns not the standard I’d assumed they were?? So after some of the comments above re SW patterns I’d love to know is there an inherent flaw in them or just individual bodies not suiting that particular design?

It is very confronting as a beginner to fitting garments to spend lots of time and angst sewing and assume problems are due to me/my body but actually may be the pattern drafting. Not sure if all the SW/Colette patterns are ‘flawed’ and if I should save myself much angst and abandon plans to sew a few eg Moji, Adelaide, Laurel, Osaka, Astoria etc. If one of the designs fit OK (Hayden size 4 wasn’t too bad except the armscye fit not as good and neckline too high even for me) can I assume all are OK for my shape (considering tops and ‘bottoms’ separately of course)?

I’ve read online comments like “xxxx indie designer is good for pear shapes” etc. Is there a certain body shape as the Colette standard? I have narrow shoulders/torso and measure 34,27,37 so I think this is pear shaped but fitting around the shoulders and neckline have always been my fit issue (and gaping back waist on pants) with RTW. This is why I wanted to sew but are now realising buying patterns is a bit hit and miss also :)

Thanks for all Colette does :) and tia for any replies/clarification :)

Dee

Hi Lynda,

It doesn’t look like anyone else responded, so I’ll take a crack at it, hoping to help. :-)

I would not assume that other patterns will fit ok, just because Hayden wasn’t too bad. I’ve seen several people comment that different Collette patterns didn’t fit in the same way (some of that may be due to the design, not necessarily a problem with the pattern). Pattern Review is a great way to see what people’s experience with different patterns has been – if it suited their body type, whether fitting & making went smoothly or not, etc.

Regarding body type – I think your measurements would fall into the pear-shaped category (fellow pear, here). But people with the same general body type and even the same measurements aren’t always shaped the same, if you know what I mean. Some pears might have wider hips, and some might narrower hips with more prominent derrieres, for instance. The general idea that I’ve gotten from most reviews of Colette’s patterns is that most unaltered Colette patterns are best suited for figures which have: broad-shoulders, C-cup bust, short waist, straight hips, and a flat derriere.

To be frank, lots of people do see problems with the drafting in the neckline and armscye area on some Colette patterns. I hope this is being addressed with the development of the new blocks. The recent blog post with the “perfect armholes make perfect sleeves” quote is encouraging in that respect.

The gaping in the back waist of RTW pants is sometimes due to there not being a very big allowance for difference between waist and hip measurement, sometimes the waistband might be cut too straight. Or it might be partially due to swayback. You might want to check out the sway back post at patternscissorscloth (which includes info on other things that can cause excess/gaping in that area).

Good luck with your sewing!

Lynda

Thanks heaps Dee for generously taking the time to reply to my post. I’ve been feeling discouraged and haven’t sewn much since, apart from some mending. I do hope to get back on my ‘sewing horse’ though.

I appreciated all your comments but particularly “The general idea that I’ve gotten from most reviews of Colette’s patterns is that most unaltered Colette patterns are best suited for figures which have: broad-shoulders, C-cup bust, short waist, straight hips, and a flat derriere.” This is very helpful as this does not describe my body :) I’ll definitely read the sway back post also.

thanks again, Lynda

Colleen

Please do get back on the sewing horse, Lynda. Try some other Indie patterns if that’s where your heart is. Sewaholic patterns are beautifully drafted as are Victory patterns and I’m sure they’ll be some sales coming up. I, too, have struggled with the Colette wide neckline but I’ve had some luck with their earlier patterns lIke Ceylon and the Crepe. I think a lot of Seamwork patterns.have been hit or miss for a lot of folks and hopefully Colette is fixing that. I always Google the patterns as there are tons of reviews out there. Do NOT give up!

Dee

You’re welcome. I hope you feel like sewing again soon. If you need a break from fitting, maybe try some home projects? Or perhaps bags/totes?

Rachel

I was interested in sewing the updated Rue but I noticed that the bust and waist measurement of the finished dress are a good two inches above the measurements of your other dresses with fitted bodices. I’ve already had to move down to a size 0 on your other patterns (and nothing about me is a size zero) so with Rue I’m not even included in the sizing, which really sucks!! Should I expect these changes to the sizing for future patterns? I really hope not because I love your designs!

Naheema

I had no idea there were major issues with this pattern and it’s commendable that you’ve addressed the issues and have taken action to rectify them. I didn’t buy the Rue as it’s not my style but I have a few Colette patterns and subscribe to SW. The overall discussion has made me really think carefully about choosing future patterns (from all patterns companies).

Fitting issues are my main problem at the moment as I’m fairly new to sewing. I’m really happy with the Moneta and Myrtle dress patterns; both are simple and easy patterns to make and I’ve successfully made a few of them with minimal fitting adjustments. Due to these I was eager to try the Wren dress pattern when it was released. Unfortunately the sleeveless version I made had a long armscye that I couldn’t adjust. I ran out of fabric to try to make sleeves to hide this issue. This really knocked my confidence and although I need to learn the necessary fitting and adjusting skills required for custom fitting garments, I don’t know how to overcome issues like this (is it a fitting issue or something wrong with the actual pattern drafting)? I know very little about drafting but I also had no idea that some Indie pattern designers don’t use professional pattern testers. Again learning this will make me take more note of the design and drafting processes each design company has, in particular Indie patterns.

This post has encouraged me to restart sewing (maybe not all fitting issues are due to my body shape!). I’ve decided to attempt a few SW patterns I have first, but I’ve got to be honest, if I’ll be experiencing too many major fitting issues with these, I’ll have to unsubscribe. I’m not trying to be overly critical here as I do like the your patterns, but I need to start investing in patterns that I can create beautiful custom fitting clothing, with an justifiably fitting adjustment effort and also enjoying the process. Overall I will not be impulsive with my future pattern buying and will now wait to read reviews, check other versions online, etc. before purchasing (patterns companies in general).

Stephani Miller fearlesssewing.wordpress.com

A good fitting book will stand you in good stead as you continue your sewing adventures. There are many available to choose from, including some written by noted sewing instructors such as Sandra Betzina, Sarah Veblen, Joi Mahon… videos, too, if you prefer “live” demonstrations, on PatternReview.com and Craftsy. And Threads magazine is a wonderful resource, too. Learning how to adjust patterns for fit can be a big hurdle but there are a lot of resources out there to help.

Monica

Hi Sarai,

I am a senior TD/patternmaker working in the industry and my experience has been that most technical designers coming right out of school do not have much patternmaking experience. I had quite a bit in school and feel like I still have so much to learn after 10 years in the industry. I would say it’s accurate that most experienced patternmakers in the US are nearing retirement age. Last I heard, FIT has also discontinued their patternmaking technology degree as most patternmaking is now being done in Asia.

On a side note: any forays into 3D technology? I’ve worked with it in the past and the technology has come a long way!

Sarai colettehq.com

Very interesting, Monica, thanks for the perspective.

Yes, 3D is something we’re working to incorporate! Claudia recently used 3D to build models of our real-life models prior to fitting. She also has a body scanner, which is neat, but we haven’t needed to use that yet. She did scan me to show me how it all worked, and it was really interesting to see myself in 3D.

Monica

Awesome! We had a body scanner at my previous job and it’s so helpful for measuring models. 3D has come so far since I first started using it about 8-9 years ago. It used to not be very reliable for fit, but I’ve been able to use it much more for fit in the last year. Wish I lived close to you guys- would love to collaborate! I’m out in the mid-Atlantic though :(

Siobhan chronicallysiobhan.com

Thanks for explaining Sarai, though I feel a bit confused on some points. Hope you can clear them up for me.
– Do you think accidentally sewing a sleeve in the wrong way is akin to deliberately releasing a sub par pattern, for which you charge a premium?
– You allude to too many cooks spoiling the broth. Do all 6 of your employees work on the pattern drafting?
– Following this, does the fact that you are now hiring a professional pattern maker mean you did not employ one before this point?

I’m glad to see you are bringing in some professionals to address some criticism brought against Colette, and hope this means a better future for your company and its customers.

Carol

Since Rue is still on my wish list I had no issues with the pattern. What was so helpful to me was how as a business you chose to address these problems and keep it from happening again (within reason, mistakes do happen!). As an entrepreneur in a completely different field, I still found a ton of value in this post. Thanks for continuing to be a leader both in the sewing world and as a business woman.

Grace restlessgrace.blogspot.com

I’m also a TD with over ten years industry experience. I completely agree with your thoughts on how fittings and process can change when more people are involved. Sometimes it feels like there are too many cooks in the kitchen, with too many opinions and not enough focus. It’s easy to miss something obvious while overworking something else. It sounds like you have a good plan for steps to take to improve your process and I think having some people with more years of technical experience will help the fit and pattern making process immensely. Good luck!

Charlotte englishgirlathome.com

This must have been very hard to write – and, as a small company, I can imagine that the last few weeks must have been scary. We all make mistakes in our working life – but for most of us they aren’t so public. Tons of best wishes for the future – I’ll be buying the revised Rue pattern & continuing to subscribe to Seamwork. Looking forward to see what comes next. xx

Colleen

I have been a customer of yours from the beginning and have bought all of your patterns but three: eclair, cinnamon, and phoebe. As someone who works for a small company, I understand how things can snowball and get out of control. I was one of the first to write you after the Rue s***storm to cheer you on and share mistakes from my company.

BUT, reading Sarai’s explanation has really given me pause. I have long been under the impression that someone on your team was a professional patternmaker. Is that not so? I’m not angry, but I’m terribly disappointed. I won’t make Rue, have unsubscribed from Seamwork, and I’ll probably start selling my patterns off. I thank you for helping me at the beginning, but that was a long time ago. My skills have broadened and it makes me sad to think that you’ve built your company on cotton. I do wish you luck and I urge you to bring an experienced and full-time pattern maker on staff.

Sarai colettehq.com

Colleen, we have a full-time, professional patternmaker on staff. She has both an apparel degree and experience in small production environments.

However, being the only person in that position is difficult. It is highly technical, and when she gets stuck on a CAD problem for example, she doesn’t necessarily have the support she needs. That’s why we’ve found outside mentors who know the CAD programs we use, and can offer solutions from their experience with medium and large size apparel companies.

Colleen

Thanks for answering, Sarai. I realized today that I probably shouldn’t have been as negative. I just feel a little spent by this, trying to figure out how I feel, feeling as though I’m overreacting, then feeling like a dupe. I think I need to stop feeling for a while and that’s why I cancelled Seamwork. I was just sitting here this morning rememberin how much fun it was to sew the Roobois. I think, for me, I’ve had this weird compulsion to buy everything you’ve put out, even knowing that I don’t look great in waist-y things, even knowing that maybe it’s too young of a style for me. I think I’m wrestling with why I feel I need to buy everything from a certain brand. It’s like always voting Democrat or always buying the community produce box even though I don’t like what is in it for the week — I just can’t NOT do it. So……unfortunately, because I don’t have a blog I find myself here, confused, replying to your reply. Sheesh. Look, here’s the thing: good luck, good luck following through on transparency, and let’s all love our lives more than we love griping about the things that are small to us, personally. Peace.

Krystle

I appreciate your honesty and vulnerability! I am also looking forward to the improvements and growth you are working towards.

Karen Hunt j

I am new to sewing (just under a year) but I have made three of your patterns, the macaron dress a straight size 10 with no fit problems. The dahlia dress which needed a dart in the centre back neck but this was easy to do and I love the dress even made a second one. The Selene skirt which I made following the sewalong. Sorry you have had issues with the fit of the Rue but pleased you are sorting these out.

Karen

Krista

My heart goes out to everyone at Colette. I hope that you all at Colette HQ are able to put in some time and effort toward nurturing and strengthening your relationships there. I’m not a pattern designer or even a professional, but when our family recently went through a “barn burning” of hopes, things were pretty tender at home and needed time to heal. I’m sure this whole situation has had its difficult moments; it’s worth it to get whatever extra help you need to help you through it while you are helping your customers.

Jillian whisperandhowl.com

This is so interesting! I haven’t made the Rue so I don’t know what the issues were, but I’ve always loved that you give peeks behind-the-scenes, and this is a fascinating look at the workings of a growing business. Keep up the good work!

Sally

Good luck guys and thanks for fixing the problem, one little mistake won’t change my respect for you. I have cherished my crepe and chantilly dresses and I look forward to more. I’m so glad you are getting back into vintage style dresses again, they were perfect!

Mae

Hmm had no idea there was so much discussion about Rue – I didn’t like the dress (only liked the Sarai plaid version), so I didn’t buy it, end of story for me! I’m a Colette fan in general – made Anise, Mabel, Moneta, and have a few old patterns I haven’t made yet. But since I know Colette drafts for a C cup, in general your fitted dresses are not for me because I’d have to make a major SBA. If you draft for a specific shape, it would useful for consumers to know what in order to avoid major fitting woes. I bought a lot from another pattern company since I knew they drafted for a pear shape and their sizing was consistent across patterns.

My takeaway is: I wonder why we hold Colette to a higher standard than other pattern companies, where it is expected you will hire a technical designer from Nike and use professional fit models – When we don’t expect stellar customer service from the Big 4 patterns, nor decent instructions from Burdastyle, nor perhaps the best drafted patterns from bloggers turned pattern companies. Maybe because you are the biggest indie company? Or people feel more emotionally connected to Colette? I don’t know. All this to say I recently bought the sewing planner and am very excited to use it! People are always motivated to speak more loudly when they are displeased than pleased, just take a look at Yelp reviews :)

The only part that I was surprised at was the explanation of “pattern testers”. As an sewing enthusiast, when I hear a call for testers, I hear a call for my volunteer time + sewing skills + experience using the pattern to be heard, for my efforts to possibly impact the sewing pattern. It could be that those putting out a call for testers has fewer resources than Colette, so they rely on the volunteer feedback. But the term does imply there is testing going on.

Stitch

I think because Colette bills itself as “Sewing Patterns That Teach”, which implies that they hold themselves to a higher standard. Customers expect the drafting to be better than it is, and for them to NOT recommend picking a dress pattern size by one’s waist measurement (WTF?). Many of us have been turned off by the dumbing-down of Colette patterns over the years and the endless blog posts about cakes, river-tubing getaways and yoga sessions during the workday. We’re not Colette’s friends, we’re customers, and we expect a degree of professionalism. We don’t want long mea culpas, we want well drafted patterns that justify their expense.

Jeanne

Replying to this to share with Sarai and Meg (and the whole team) that I truly enjoy all the non-sewing things you share on instagram and the blog. I find it provides more personality behind the company and employees, making all of you more relatable and genuine. I really love seeing personalities shine through clothing preferences and even writing styles. I follow many of your employees’ personal instagram accounts for that very reason. Also, featuring non-sewing topics gives us opportunities to see what your employees have made. I know flickr and instagram allow us to see what others have done with your patterns, but there’s something special about the alterations (and lack thereof) that your own employees choose to make.

hvalur

Will there also be an update to the Moneta pattern to address the excess underarm fabric issue?

Meg colettehq.com

We always welcome feedback, even for past designs. I just sent you an email to get more of your feedback about Moneta!

Casey F fitzsimmonsabroad.wordpress.com

I’m still learning how to sew for myself properly fitting garments, but I do love sewing for my kids! And i love how honest you were in this post

Have you heard of and/or listened to the podcast Start Up from Gimlet Media? At first it might seem unrelated because season 1 is about starting a podcast company, season 2 is about a dating service, and season 3 is a mix of businesses, but the insight and thought processes they go through could be really helpful! I run a department in a very large company and I find it helpful too.

Colleen

But, we will be receiving the printed pattern piece as well?

Sarai colettehq.com

Yes, that is correct. We’re still waiting to get them back from the printer, but will start sending them the moment they get in.

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