Today I want to write more in depth about something I shared a little bit about on Facebook in the spring, but haven’t really shared on the blog, because things were planned, and truth be told I was still sorting out how I felt about some of this. More on that in a bit – first, let’s do the exciting part – 4 (soon to be more) of my patterns have been published by McCall’s Patterns and are available at Joann stores nationwide! You can also order these paper patterns online here.
How did this happen? Well in May of 2013 (yes, that long ago) I was getting ready to go to Tater’s preschool graduation when I checked my email and found one from McCall’s, wanting to discuss publishing my patterns. !!!!!!! This resulted in a crazy text then phone call to my friend Heather to determine if this was legit and how I should respond and what things I needed to make sure and discuss.
And then…lots of emails went back and forth. Finally, in August, I signed a contract.
And then…they told me which patterns they wanted to start with, and that was where the mixed feelings started to creep in. You see, all along I had been operating under the assumption that they would only want my children’s patterns, as at that time the Rose T-Shirt was the only women’s pattern I was doing. But we got to the selection emails and they wanted the Rose T-Shirt.
(Note: Things are going to get a little deep and I might end up on my soapbox for the next few paragraphs. Feel free to skip on past that next big chunk of text and look are more photos of the new paper patterns instead)
Why was this a problem?
Well, this was the cover photo for the Rose T Shirt at the time:
And I’m the model. Now I won’t go into all the things I think are wrong with that picture (in terms of lighting, branding and showing off the pattern), but suffice it to say that I already thought I needed a new cover image and this just lit a fire under me.
But then I paused. Because the thought of me being in print on the cover of my patterns freaked me out.
You might ask why – I mean there are photos of me all over this blog, which is on the internet, which anyone in the world can see, right? How is a limited run of printed patterns anywhere close to that? And I admit, my thought process didn’t make a ton of sense, but I figure that if you see me on my blog you were searching for something I have here. So you’re a friend, and as a friend less inclined to judge maybe? Whereas if my face is on a pattern cover, you don’t have to be searching for me, any person who walks by that pattern in the store can see it. And if that’s the case, what’s to stop them from judging me as not young/thin/tall/pretty enough to be on that cover in the first place?
So I went to a group of bloggers I know online and asked, should I hire a model for this? And the answer overall? Yes. Models do the best job at presenting clothing, that’s why clothing manufacturers use models.
But then I paused again…
See, I don’t have daughters. But I am a woman, I was a girl, and I do get frustrated with this media ideal that my blogger friends and even I apparently had internalized: to be in print, you must be young, thin, tall and gorgeous. Except here’s the thing – I know dozens upon dozens of beautiful women – like those bloggers I talked with, like women I went to school with, and women in the MOMs group at church, and women I worked with, and even women I taught when they were in school. Not one of them is a model. Nor was I. And those women – those lovely women leading everyday lives – are the women I’m hoping buy my patterns and sew themselves something that makes them feel as beautiful as I know they are. Those women are my target audience. Not professional models.
Plus, I have sons. And I want them to see all kinds of beauty, not just one cultural ideal that someone picked out that doesn’t resemble most of the beautiful women I know personally. I know now that I’m not alone in believing, up through my late 20s, that I just wasn’t good enough in the looks department, before finding a tentative peace with my appearance in my 30s. And I want the girls in my boys’ age group to be able to find images in our commercial society that are shown as beautiful even if they’re outside the current cultural norm, so that maybe they don’t grow up with their psyches as damaged by comparison as mine and many of my friends were in high school.
So that maybe their first thought upon finding out that someone wants to publish something they were, up until that point, quite proud of, isn’t, “I can’t put that picture on the cover, no one will buy it.”
And after that kind of soul searching, well how could I not put my money (literally) where my mouth was and put myself on the cover?
So I called my product photographer, Alison, and explained the situation and asked her to take some photos. Which she did, and that is the story of how I ended up on the cover with this photo.
And, in a nutshell, that is also how I chose to call my friends C and J to model for this photo, and others now on my site, and why I will continue to use the beautiful women I know personally, and not professional models, for my pattern images.
Alright, soapboxing aside, after I dealt with my own turmoil about the cover, the rest of the process seemed easy. I got to work reformatting my patterns and illustrating the instructions, and sent off files, and then I waited. And then in late March, these appeared.
And I have to say it’s sort of surreal to see my patterns printed just like the ones I grew up sewing.
Just for my mom, I even took a photo with my cover. After a soccer game, with messy hair. As real as it gets. And I made Tater do the same for his mom 🙂
So if you happen to see my patterns at Joann, and you want to snap a pic and tag me on Instagram or Twitter (@mellysews) – believe me, I haven’t gotten tired of it yet. Thanks for reading.
what a great post! i still get excited every time i see your pattern in the stores. so excited for you!!
wow congrats! and i love that you decided to not use a model. you are beautiful and so right that there’s much more beauty out there than the one of super thin models!
Congrats! I wholeheartedly agree with your sentiments, and I’m glad you were brave enough to put a picture of yourself out there. Good for you
I remember when you decided to go ahead and model for your pattern. You look beautiful in that photo on the envelope and I have to say I was so wrong as I think I may have been one of those who recommended getting a model. Plus you are have a great figure anyway, and look great in the clothes you make!
THANK YOU!!!! You know, I appreciate you sharing your thought process of making this decision…I was just in JoAnn’s two days ago, and I noticed your patterns, they look adorable! I only saw the children’s patterns, now I have to go back and find the women’s top. Congratulations! As I was looking for a new skirt pattern in the catalogs, I hesitated time and time again to choose one, because when the clothing is pictured on stick thin models, I have no idea how the clothing will fit me! In the end, I just came home and decided to make a skirt based on my measurements…at least then I know it will fit.
This is why I like you, Melissa. (Thank you.)
Proud of you Melissa. So so proud. This is the right decision!
Thanks for posting this. I love that you use real people. I get the idea of what might, and might not, fit because the models aren’t stick skinny.
I am excited to grab the coastal cargos and blazer patterns. I have wanted them for such a long time. Just really lazy when it comes to pdf patterns.
Congrats!!! How exciting 🙂 Happy for you…
Good for you! Your confidence is a model for daughters AND sons ( and grown women as well)!
How great! I really appreciate this and the other posts I have read from other bloggers talking about this, and they are one of the main reasons that I myself have the courage to put my own photos on my blog. I also think that seeing pictures of real people, real bloggers, on the internet all the time has actually changed my own instinctive impressions about what is beautiful. I find that now, when I come across something on Pinterest that is photographed with perfect models, I find myself thinking “that looks fake”, and wanting to see the clothing on someone real.
Wonderful, wonderful post! As one who falls outside those cultural ideals of beauty (and doesn’t buy patterns because of this) I am thrilled that you choose to use REAL women and your beautiful self on your patterns and blog. I love your blog! Now if only there were a JoAnn’s near me….. 🙂
P.S. Loving the rose colored dress in the picture above!!! What pattern is that one? It might even work for me (size 14 petite…) without making me look like I’m playing dress up!
That’s the Pocket Full of Posies dress (http://blankslatepatterns.com/collections/women/products/pocket-full-of-posies-dress)
I love this. I’m so glad you made the choice you did. It was the right one for sure. I just saw your patterns at Joann’s for the first time this week and I showed them to my daughter. She said ‘you know someone famous!’ Lol 🙂
Congratulations! That must be so awesome to see your patterns in print and carried by a major retailer!
I am so darned glad you put yourself on the pattern! I am copying this article to my fb page!!! AND I’m super excited for you from the business perspective! Huge congratulations!!!! I can’t wait to go to Joann’s and point to the photo and say, “I’ve emailed with this lady right here and she is awesome!” I would even mail you the pattern and have you sign it for me, if you would. 🙂
marissa | Rae Gun Ramblings
Love love love this post. I have to say when you were deciding I felt like you helped me really question my assumptions too. I am SO glad that you made me aware of my silly wrong bias. I’ve thought about this topic a lot since you first brought it up and I am so so glad that you shared this here so other people could benefit as well. I really do think these “little things” make the most difference. I hope my nieces and Teddy will be able to break down media silliness easier than I was.
One of my biggest pet peeves about patterns and store-bought clothes is that they only ever advertise with rail thin models. If I’m going to spend my hard-earned money on a piece of clothing (or money and time on a pattern), I want to have some idea of what it looks like on a normal person’s body. It’s so disappointing and disheartening to think “wow, that’s cute!” and then realize that you’d look like some kind of sausage in it. And I don’t even qualify as “plus size.” Ugh. Media. Go away.
Great job and congrats on the patterns! Can’t wait to see more!
Love this post Melly!!! You are amazing and I’m so glad you’re patterns are out! You are gorgeous too!!
Melissa, Very proud of you and what you have achieved so far. As a woman who is a plus size, I get catalogs and magazines for plus size women’s wear and guess what, the clothes are being modeled by tall, thin women. It is awful how we have to conform to fit what society thinks we as women should look like. Beauty is more than what we look like. It is also what is in our hearts, souls and minds, how we treat others and how we accept who we are. You have always been beautiful, inside and out, and I thank you for being you.
You are awesome. And beautiful. And I’m so happy you decided to put your photo on the cover. We all truly do need to see more “real” women in media. The end.
great post, melissa. i’m glad you modeled it too. the best thing about our little sewing world IS how supportive all of us women are of each other! even when i’m feeling overly critical about my own appearance, if i end up posting photos of myself people tend to be so nice in their comments…it turns into a little boost to keep me going even if i was doubtful. and really, as a pattern buyer, i want to see these clothes on non-models; that way i know if it’ll look good on my body type!
best wishes with the paper patterns – that’s so cool! i haven’t been to a joann lately but the next time i am, i’ll definitely be on the lookout. 8)
I just picked up the Rose tshirt and basic blazer this weekend at Joanns. I’m thrilled you used your own pictures for the reasons you’ve already gotten feedback. I think I would have missed the patterns in joanns if I hadn’t recognized your friendly face.
P.s. the store was liquidating, otherwise I’d normally buy directly from blankslate patterns.
How totally awesome!!!! I will have to go to the store just to see them. Congratulations!
Well said. And congrats on all of the patterns!
Good for you for doing this! There needs to be more real life out there in the fashion world — and what a super compliment to have a Big Four pattern company contact you about publishing your patterns!! Congratulations, I’ll look for you next time I’m at Joann’s!
Lindsay Wilkes - The Cottage Mama
Great post, Melissa!! And I think you look beautiful 🙂
lisa annette lee
You are such an inspiration! Your post should be everywhere. People really need to understand that truth and honesty trump everything else out there. Keep being real! ps–the patterns are adorable
Great brain in this one! I’m happy sewing is your life! Rather than high school drama….. lol!
I really respect you for being real enough to speak on this subject, and also to consciously select real women to represent your pattern company. In a world where it feels like there is little we can change- you did. You took the high road and stood for your morals and for that i applaud you. Congratulations, i hope my daughter or son will be sewing a pattern of yours someday. <3
You know I love it Melissa. That inner voice of self doubt needs to pipe down. I am SO excited to see your patterns in the store and point those babies out to my girls every time we are there.
The best part about indie pattern designers is how they share their unique personal style. Who can convey that better than you? Love that you kept yourself on the cover, the images are beautiful. Congratulations!
Congrats Melissa! I think it’s really, really cool. And I loved your thoughts 🙂
This is awesome.
I think you are absolutely right not to use a model for you pattern. If your pattern is for real women, then that’s what your target market want to see. Someone they can relate to, a look that is achievable. Just like if a pattern was for plus size you use plus size women etc. But I did prefer your hair straight, lol! Only joking 😉
Helen // Grosgrain Green
Well done. Difficult decision and I’m glad you made the choice you did! Good to see how the pattern looks on a “real” woman! Congrats too!
Thank you for sharing this Melissa. It’s so funny how we think of ourselves compared to how others see us. I’ve always thought how perfect it is that you are able to use yourself as your model. To me you fit the bill completely so it’s crazy that you had all of these negative thoughts. But you’re right that it’s sort of put in all of our heads at such a young age that maybe we’re not the right shape/size/color. I love that you use “real” kids and “real” women in your patterns.
I don’t have a strong opinion about whether you should model your own pattern or hire a model; whatever you’re comfortable with works for me. I will tell you that I passed on this pattern the first time I saw it and that your new cover shot is making me take another look. I still don’t think this will work with my figure (size 16/18 – the front gathers create a kind of “uni-boob” shelf look that I don’t like) but you should know that the new cover worked. Congratulations!
Congrats! Thanks for sharing this…and being on your own cover, I love it 🙂
As someone who new to your site I’m so happy to see this post. I try to tell everyone that all bodies are good bodies, no matter the size, shape, color, sex, age, gender, orientation, etc. We are all special and wonderful in our own way.
Really well written, and I do like the idea of non-model models for these patterns. I actually saw the patterns out of the corner of my eye last weekend at Joann’s as I was hurrying away from the cut table (and trying to get out of the store – I wasn’t even supposed to be in there!), and I stopped because I recognized your face. I backtracked and realized your patterns were right there in print and thought a) that was pretty darn cool and b) how awesome that you were still the cover model!
Thank you for such a beautiful and honest post!!!!!!!!! I might look comfortable in front of a camera, but I’d really rather be behind it; and every image I post of myself on my blog or the internet, I pause, wondering if this will be the time someone says something cruel. You are a gorgeous woman full of creativity, love, and joy – it shines through, and I would rather buy that any day than a ‘perfect’ model!
As a 62 year old mother of 5 beautiful daughters, I say, good for you! Great work! Keep it up!
Oh, I will not cry. *wipes a tear* dangit. I love that you use real women for your patterns! … Ladies that have had kids and don’t have time to go the gym 24/7. It bothers me seeing the patterns in stores on ladies that never had a kid, because it won’t fit the same on me, I just know it. Thank you for all that you continue to do Melissa!! Your patterns are cute and flattering, and you’re a true inspiration! 🙂
I remember seeing your patterns at JoAnns and getting excited because I was already following your blog!
Good for you. I wholeheartedly, 100% support this. You are beautiful anyway, and what better way to alienate real women by putting a ridiculously tall/thin/beautiful/made-up/professionally-lit/photoshopped image of a woman who wakes up looking like the rest of us anyway. This makes me more inclined to purchase your patterns (if that’s possible). Good for you.
Congratulations! I would be taking a photo too in the store if it were me! Have to say, Clean Slate Pants my new favourite pattern for my 18mo son. Blog posts coming soon! Love your work.
Sometimes we just need a good SOAPBOX and good friends to help us make good decisions! Well done! Thanks for your honesty and sharing your thought process. WE your readers need to hear that too!
Best wishes on all the great news about your awesome patterns! 🙂
Good for you! Not just for getting your patterns published by one of the Big 4, but mostly for deciding to use non-professionals for your patterns! You look great on the cover.
I’m amazed at how harsh we are about our looks. A couple years ago, my husband came across a photo of me from 30 yrs earlier, while we were still dating, and commented on how great I looked. I nearly cried because I remembered how insecure I was, always feeling not tall/thin/pretty, etc. I’ve finally gotten to a point where I’ve accepted that I’ll never be tall, highly unlikely to be thin (unless very ill), and who cares whether I meet some societal standard of “pretty” because I have family and friends who love me for just being me.
Well done Melissa! I love this post and everything you said!!
Congrats! And a wonderful post -t hank you for sharing and for keeping your models real people. It is so much easier to envision what a pattern might look like on me when I see it on someone who is closer to my size and shape. Thank you!
Pam @Threading My Way
Fabulous decision to use real people and not models for the pattern covers!!! And congrats on having 4 of your patterns published by McCalls.
Thank you for that post! And congrats on your patterns, they are beautiful!!
I just read this now, because you linked to it in your post about your book, and find it really inspiring and sooo beautifull, I really like your ideas and find it to be so true what you were thinking! So good you did this your way! I just moved to the USA a few weeks ago, and am trying to find my way in sewing and fabric shops and all that (sooo different than in Belgium!!), but if I find myself a Joan’s shop (I did know this name and already looked it up, but since we don’t have a car, there seemed to be none of them really close…But one day I’ll be there 😉 ) I will try and remember to take a picture! So nice! Hope your patterns are doing well!