If you’ve ever walked through a pattern section at a fabric store, you may notice they’re neither selling patterns for exposed-seam crop tops, nor patterns for sequin high waisted pants. Most of the patterns available are fairly outdated. Once you open them up, the directions can be confusing and leave much room for error. This is the problem that inspired pattern maker Flora Sayers to start her own pattern business, Right Side Patterns.
Sayers is a 20-year-old philosophy and religions major at the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom. Sayers has been sewing since she was a child and within the past year launched her own small business making easy-to-follow and trendy patterns. Sayers main goal with creating Right Side Patterns is to inspire the younger generations to make their own clothes and to combat fast fashion for both human rights and environmental pollution reasons.
Sayers, like many people in 2020, turned to sewing to pass time during the nationwide lockdown brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Before this point, Sayers had used patterns available to her by the art studio where she originally learned to sew as a child. Sayers described these patterns as user-friendly, which was the opposite of the commercial patterns she ran into last year. As an experienced seamstress, it was alarming to her that even she couldn’t fully understand the commercial patterns she found in stores. In addition, these patterns seemed to be outdated and didn’t follow the current trends the younger generations favor. As a resolution, Sayers looked into making her own patterns.
After a while spent making patterns as a personal hobby, Sayers realized she could sell the patterns digitally for customers to print out at home. She started using Etsy rather than a personal website because of their seller and buyer protection and the easy process of selling digital items without having to calculate taxes. The process starts when a customer buys a pattern on the Right Side Patterns Etsy shop, let’s say the “Tie Front Dress,” pattern for example. The customer prints out the dress pattern they downloaded. Then, they cut out and tape together the pieces according to the directions provided. This is where the customer can decide which lines to cut on, depending on what size they want. Next, the customer should look into finding a fabric they fancy for the dress. Sayers suggests looking to small business fabric stores on Etsy and to local thrift stores. Sayers says thrift stores are a perfect option to keep the process both sustainable and affordable. Sayers notes that if you find a piece at the thrift store that has a fabric you love, it may have enough fabric to make a smaller piece of clothing from it, such as a crop top.
The next step for customers is to follow the simple instructions on the pattern. Of course a sewing machine and some thread are necessary, but the patterns that Right Side Patterns provide are user-friendly and should work with any sewing machine as long as it can zigzag stitch.
The Right Side Patterns website displays the patterns available and the company mission, in addition to sewing help. Sayers created a blog that she hopes becomes a trusted go-to for novice seamstresses. Sayers says, “I want someone to say, ‘Okay I want to make something. I’ll go to the Right Side Patterns website and decide what to make,”’ rather than having to spend hours scrolling through an overabundance of patterns with complex instructions.
Sayers says she is astonished by the fact that she spends time teaching 6-year-olds how to sew, yet there are 20-year-olds who have no idea where to begin. She hopes the blog can help combat this unfortunate trend with her generation.
Sayers is currently working on launching a Youtube channel with how-to videos to follow along with the patterns she sells. In addition, this channel will provide help with simple sewing basics, such as sewing a hem. Like the pattern industry, many of the Youtube sewing videos Sayers has come across she views as outdated and complicated. Sayers asked her Instagram followers a while back what they wanted to learn from her in the website’s blog. To sum it up, Sayers said “They don’t know what they don’t know.” For this reason, she plans to launch “Sewing 101,” videos and blog posts that contain both beginner and intermediate level tutorials.
Although Sayers sees all of her patterns as user-friendly, she suggests newcomers try out her latest pattern, the “Reversible Open Back Crop Top.” This will create a top that is reversible, so you get two tops for the price of one. Even better, all of the stitching is on one side, so it doesn’t need to be perfect. Sayers says, “It doesn’t matter if you can’t sew in a straight line, it doesn’t matter if it’s messy because you’re not going to see any of that which is quite helpful for beginners.”
As a business owner who relies on trends to create her products, it can be difficult for Sayers to compose new patterns that keep up with the fast-moving trend cycle. Sayers said, “From the time of the design to actually having the pattern available, it’s a two to three week, sometimes a monthlong process.” So, if the trend is not so trendy by the time she completes the pattern, Sayers says it can be frustrating. By sticking to basic staples and broader trends that seem to stick around longer, Sayers hopes she can get around this problem.
The recent trend cycle is dangerously fast, with trends that last only a few weeks. Because of this, many consumers are turning to fast fashion. One of Sayers goals as a pattern maker and small business owner is to help stop the fast-fashion industry in any way that she can. Sayers says, “When you make a top, you suddenly realize how much effort goes into making that top. You know how much time it took you cutting out the fabric, pinning it together and sewing that top.” Sayer hopes this makes customers think twice about how long it takes to make their clothing. Even though many people look at fast-fashion pieces and think it’s great that the clothing is so cheap, there’s a dark reality behind why full pieces of clothing can cost only a few dollars. Sayers says even if you factor in the price of buying fabric wholesale and laser cutting the pieces, “still, someone is definitely being exploited down this line.”
Of course, being able to buy a sewing machine, patterns and fabric is a privilege that not everybody has. Sayers know that making your own clothes can get expensive, which is why she tries to keep her prices as low as she can while still supporting her business. She also hopes the low prices of her products will help inspire the younger generation to start making their own pieces. “It’s less intimidating than spending tons of money on a pattern that could potentially go wrong if you miss a step,” Sayers says.
With a website, a blog, an Etsy shop and multiple social media pages, Right Side Patterns has expanded far more than Sayers thought it would. She said it started out as a personal hobby, but she can’t wait for the growth to continue. With upward of 4500 sales in 55 different countries, this small business is on the rise.
Sayers aims to provide accessible, affordable, user-friendly and trendy patterns to her customers. Although making clothes is seen as a pastime for some people, Sayers hopes this will have a larger impact on the culture surrounding fast fashion both in regard to human labor exploitation and climate pollution issues.
Although Sayers recognizes that there is much talent and skill that goes into the fashion design industry, making basic clothing doesn’t take as much expertise as many people may think. Sayers says, “If I can teach some terribly behaved six-year-olds to do it, I think anyone is capable of making their own clothes.”