Why I don’t Love Sewing

Wow, that’s quite a revelation for a headline, isn’t it? Don’t worry, I’m still attached to my sewing machine, but I’m going to spout some opinion today, so strap yourself in.  I will prefix this by saying I’ve been stewing for a couple of days wondering whether to post this or not. There’s so much positivity in the sewing community that it feels weird to be posting something critical – I’ve tried hard to be constructive so I’m sorry if it doesn’t come across that way.

I went back to the UK for a wedding last weekend and while killing time in Heathrow I picked up the latest issue of Love Sewing (no. 41 – June/July 2017). I was looking forward to a good read, but I ended up disappointed and exasperated.

Front cover

Don’t get me wrong, there’s much to like in Love Sewing. Since it’s been under the leadership of Amy of Almond Rock, there’s been more focus on bloggers and the online sewing community. It’s great to see familiar faces sharing their makes alongside experts like Alison Smith or Wendy Gardiner. There’s always at least something I’d like to make in each edition and when I have made something it’s turned out well thanks to some great instructions. I also really like The Dressmaker’s Diary series by Elisalex from By Hand London. She’s an engaging writer and when I’ve tried her projects they’ve always been well thought out and clearly explained.

But reading through the latest issue, I found myself wanting to cover it in red pen. Many of the articles and features look like they haven’t been proof-read or are so poorly written I wanted to do a complete redraft. The A Brief History of Shoes piece is a case in point. It sounded like the unnamed author was paraphrasing the only source cited, a book analysing the Victoria and Albert Museum’s extensive shoe collection.  It would have been great to see an interview with an expert to give a little more colour to the information. There’s a detailed description of a boot but no photo – I reckon most won’t know what a Louis heel looks like, so why not show us?  Two paragraphs are given over to contemporary designers, but don’t explain what is it about their design that makes their shoes so different and so covetable. I know it’s difficult to fit such a broad subject into the word limit, but it felt like the author went into almost too much detail in some places, but not enough in others.

Shoes

Another example is the book review section, In the Good Books. This month it’s an interview with Jenniffer Taylor, a former contestant on the Sewing Bee, to promote her new book Girl with a Sewing Machine. The only reason I know this is because there’s a picture of the book on the page – it’s barely mentioned in the rest of the piece. The article’s subheading is “Our pick of this month’s new sewing and dressmaking books” but the interview fails to tell us much about the book. It’s more of a catch up with Jenniffer and what she’s done since her time on the programme. There’s all sorts I’d like to know about the book, like what patterns are included or whether it’s suitable for beginners or more advanced sewists, but this basic information just isn’t covered.

In the good books

Elsewhere there are basic spelling and grammar errors that any sub editor should spot, which makes me wonder who’s proofing before it goes to print. For example, a picture story on pastel colours came with a 55-word introduction with a poorly constructed opening sentence littered with grammatical errors. I know from experience that spelling mistakes (e.g. “concious” instead of “conscious” on page 64) can be easy to miss in your own work, but most publishing programmes include a spell checker and you would expect an issue to go through several rounds of checks before going to print.

 

Pastel colour story

I did take my red pen to this one.

I also find the way the content is organised rather confusing. I don’t like the way projects are interspersed with articles seemingly at random (though I accept this may just be a matter of personal taste). I’d prefer separate sections for things like projects, skills, community news, inspiration and reviews – at least that way things would be easier to find. The shoes piece is the first big story you come across in the magazine, making it essentially the lead article but it’s not even advertised on the front cover. A few pages further on there’s a piece about the free gift this month (McCall’s 7536 – a dress) followed by a blogger review, but the two are separated by an advert over a double page spread. Admittedly I don’t know much about where adverts should go, but I would have thought it sensible to keep articles on the same subject in the same group of pages.

I could go on but I think I’ve made my point. Perhaps I have too much time on my hands and am reading too much into this, but when you compare it to other magazines I just think Love Sewing could be so much better. It seems that the money goes to pay for the free gift rather than the actual quality and content of the magazine, and that’s a real shame. If we’re paying £6.99 for an issue, we should expect more. Love Sewing is available here in the US, but based on this last issue I’m unlikely to buy it regularly unless the free pattern is worth having.  What do you think? Which magazines get it right?

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32 thoughts on “Why I don’t Love Sewing

  1. Katie Writes Stuff says:

    Thanks for writing this. I can admit to having similar feelings about a different magazine… to the point where I’m tempted to email them and offering my proof-reading services! It’s such a shame when great publications fall down on such a basic level. I do know that compiling a magazine is a bit of a crazy race – and all of that racing is done right at the end when people finally realise their deadline is near (or even past). But even so, priority needs to be given to the presentation of the publication. Honestly, I’d rather a magazine made do with fewer articles that were free of errors, properly edited and written to a high standard. In my experience, people don’t miss a deadline twice if they realise there are consequences!

    • Jo Laycock says:

      Until I moved to the US I worked in internal comms and was responsible for the staff newsletter so I felt the pain of the deadline race, albeit with lower stakes. Even if I was pushing the deadline, it never went out without going through at least two rounds of checks first. I realise that publications like Love Sewing don’t have the luxury of a softer deadline, but that shouldn’t be at the expense of quality. I think I upset a few people when they missed copy deadlines too!

  2. Lynsey says:

    I’m with you too, unless the pattern is lovely I don’t buy it, I did subscribe for a while but ended up flicking though within half an hour, it just didn’t appeal to me. I’ve not brought a copy in about a year, such a shame.

    • Jo Laycock says:

      I often think the free patterns are a bit meh anyway – more often than not it seems to be a variation on a fit n’ flare dress or a tunic. I’d like something a bit more interesting! Having said that, though, I did like the look of the culottes they had last issue – I’ve seen loads of nice versions in the last few weeks. Shame that seems to be the exception rather than the rule.

  3. Elena says:

    I have similar reservations about Vogue UK. Each country does their own version of Vogue, and the UK one doesn’t even bother to show what went on the catwalk but features High Street “translations” instead. If I want to see what’s in the shops, I just go shopping, right? I buy Vogue because I want to see what big designers have been producing, and make my own translations into every day… So disappointing.

    • Jo Laycock says:

      True. When I bought fashion/women’s magazines (I stopped buying them a few years ago) I liked to see the clothes from the catwalk but I always found it useful when they included a “get the look for less” section straight afterwards. It’s less of an issue now I can sew though!

  4. craftysewandsewindorset says:

    Totally agree. I have subscribed for a long time but recently cancelled as the content wasn’t interesting me. Most of the patterns I pass on to others as they are too safe (I did keep the culottes though). Not sure there are any good magazines to inspire me so tend to stick with blogs and instagram for inspiration.

  5. Trisha says:

    I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with sewing magazines although I still buy/subscribe to them. My beef with the shoe article is that I want to read about sewing not shoes! Also recently in Sew Now they had a page titled “Father’s Day gift guide”, which included a barbecue, what has this to too with sewing, just lazy and quick to fill a page I suspect, nothing related to sewing.

    • Jo Laycock says:

      I think that’s probably because some PR agency sent them a press release. It happens all the time throughout the press – I wouldn’t be surprised if 80-90% of the products magazines feature are off the back of a press release. But yes, fewer shoes, more sewing please!!

  6. Leigh says:

    I’m not really a fan of any of the sewing magazines and typically only buy them if I like the pattern. I am glad Love Sewing magazine has stepped away from Simple Sew patterns though as I’m not really a fan. I bought Threads a few months ago because it had an article on understanding ease for a better fit. That’s the sort of thing I would buy a sewing magazine for. Projects don’t really appeal to me. Like Lynsey above I flick through the magazine in half an hour, sometimes quicker.

    • Jo Laycock says:

      Yeah, I’m not the biggest fan of Simple Sew either, though I do have a trouser pattern I’ve been meaning to try. They’re a bit too cutesy/girly for my taste. I haven’t seen Threads but that sort of article does sound useful. Is it a new magazine?

  7. Rita says:

    I used to work on magazines. Poor layouts and poor editing and poor concepts pain me to no end. However, in their defense, the reason why it is probably bad is because editorial probably has almost no budget. I haven’t flipped through a Love Sewing mag (I’m out in California and haven’t seen it pop up on any local newsstands), but I’d be willing to bet that they have one or two full-time editorial people at most, and maybe one art person. There’s a pretty good chance that none of these people are pretty young and don’t have a lot of experience in these fields. And their freelance writers probably get paid a pittance. You get what you pay for, and unfortunately, we are currently in a time where editorial skills usually aren’t valued by the people running the business. There’s a reason I’m no longer in editorial–my experience didn’t translate into any additional pay, and you’d be amazed at the number of people who ask you to write things for free, saying, “It’ll be a great resume builder!”

    Magazines also have extremely diminishing returns these days–most make their money on a combination of subscriptions and advertising. If your subscription numbers are pretty low–and on hobbyist magazines, they are–then you can’t charge as much to your advertisers, and you’ve got to make up the difference in your subscription costs.

    I get the frustration–it doesn’t sound like it’s worth the money. But I’ve lived on the other side too, and they’re probably trying their hardest. They just don’t have the skills or experience to provide the level of work that should be there, because they’re probably being paid a pitiful salary.

    • Jo Laycock says:

      Thanks for posting this, Rita – it is helpful and interesting to see it from the other side, particularly on how the business side of things can affect the overall quality of the magazine. The cynic in me wonders if having bloggers as contributors saves them money while also supporting the online community.

      I think you’re right about the size of the team, too. Looking at the list of staff it seems that there’s only about seven people in editorial (including art/design) while the rest of the list is filled with the publishing company’s marketing/advertising team and sales execs. I have no doubt that they’re doing their best with limited means but I also wonder if the book review article I mentioned could have been resolved with a better brief? As you say, this probably comes down to experience, and perhaps what I think of as being obvious isn’t necessarily so when you’re just starting out.

  8. lulusews says:

    I agree with you. I used to subscribe for a year, but recently have stopped buying the odd copy unless the gift is great. I often end up feeling it all seemed a bit amateurish.

  9. jennystitched says:

    I agree with all of the above – mags like Love Sewing are expensive when you consider how cheap patterns can be on sale, and the freebie is often similar to the previous freebie offering… I also don’t much like that all the models are predominantly thin white women. Sewists are a diverse bunch but we arent represented well in sewing mags, including Love Sewing. My favourite sewing magazine is La Maison Victor which has just launched in English in the UK and US – much better patterns and, in my opinion, a much sleeker, more coherent layout. Maybe give that one a go 😊

    • Jo Laycock says:

      Yes! Like many other sewists, one of the reasons I sew is so I can make clothes that fit me better than what I can find on the high street. It would be good to see that reflected in Love Sewing (and other sewing mags too). Again, I wonder about the use of bloggers – is it an easy way to get a bit of diversity into their pages?

      I haven’t seen La Maison Victor yet but will keep an eye out for it next time I’m in town. I’ve spotted their tour on Instagram, though, and it seems promising!

      • jennystitched says:

        Using bloggers would be a great way to represent all sorts of shapes and sizes – but only if they pick all sorts of bloggers. The bloggers I’ve seen features in mags are often (not always but mostly) of a type and I appreciate magazines are selling their own brand but I for one want to see more diverse body types in published media as too often mainstream publications don’t offer any diversity at all!

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