sewing, sewing patterns, vintage fashion

Let’s Talk About Sewing Pattern Prices

I hear a lot about sewing pattern princes on the various forums where I’m a member. Many people question why in the world prices are so high, so let me explain.

This is my process, which of course may vary from seller to seller. The order I do things may change from day to day, but the process is the same as far as what I have to do.

First, I choose what I’m going to list for the day. This is usually me, bleary eyed, grabbing a handful of something that looks cute, shortly after I’ve had my caffeine for the day. I may do this the night before, and take pictures at that time. Sometimes I take pics before I do the listing, sometimes after.

I take photos. I don’t have a real station set up, so it involves me finding somewhere where the light is right, which can be tricky in Indiana. I prefer natural light, but sometimes use a light to help out. I know that some people have a fancy station set up with a ring light, background and all that, but I have never found a space that I like every single time I’m doing pictures, so I tend to move around.

I edit the pictures. This involves multiple pictures. It takes some time to get them right. Why edit, you may ask? Well, Etsy is a little wonky on how the display thumbnails, so I crop the first picture to be displayed. I tend to crop the instructions as well, but I also include pictures of what the envelope really looks like, because I don’t want to misrepresent my stock.

I count the pattern pieces. This involves counting them, but also making sure that the pieces actually match the envelope (if it’s present), whether the instructions are present and complete, and noting any defects or alterations. This takes a lot of time. I sometimes count a bunch of patterns at one time and watch Netflix, but I always avoid ceiling fans, which can result in a huge mess.

Then I write the listing. This also takes time, though I have a template to work from. Again, I have to write what the defects are. I upload the pictures and make sure the first one shows a good thumbnail. Sometimes I have to do quite a bit of research, not just on pricing, but dating the pattern or finding out about the designer, or the style of the pattern. Some patterns have no description on the envelope, so I may have to come up with that on my own. Then I have to figure out a title. Don’t even get me going on that, but let’s just say it can take a LOT of trial and error to get it right so that you can find my stuff on search.

I upload the link to my listing to the Vintage Pattern Wiki. If there isn’t a page for it there, I create one, because it’s not about sales for me there. It’s about creating a resource of historical patterns because they don’t last forever. Paper is fragile and doesn’t last unless it’s taken care of, and a lot of people throw patterns away (again, don’t get me going), so they can be hard to find and quite rare.

I used to list every pattern on Instagram and Facebook, but I’ve streamlined my process and list more occasionally now.

Then I repair anything that I can on the envelope (depending, I may have done this before pictures) by using archival tape to repair it. Then the pattern gets filed. I have about ten pattern cabinets where my patterns are filed (and many, many banker’s boxes of patterns as well). This is the tedious part that I usually do all at one time, after I have a bunch of patterns ready to file.

This is why patterns are expensive. Patterns don’t find or list themselves. I am usually lucky to get five listings done in the Etsy shop every day, which is my goal, but I also have three other shops where I list several times a week or even daily. Sometimes if I get in the zone, I will get ten done. I also have to update the wiki weekly by taking the sold patterns’ links out. I have to do my bookkeeping and keep my inventory updated. This doesn’t allow for messages I get, reading I do to research, the posts I actually do on social media, or the blog. It’s long, tedious work that I absolutely LOVE, but it all takes time. Shipping takes a lot of time, plus daily runs to the post office.

So when people ask why patterns are expensive, this is a small nugget of why. I usually work for at least six hours a day, updating things, doing books, researching, scanning, photographing and more. I have four selling platforms (my webstore, Etsy shop, eBay store, and Facebook Marketplace. I dabble a bit in Amazon too). Pattern sellers are a different breed, and we take pride in not only our work, but in preserving this important piece of fashion history. Many of the items we have are probably one of a kind now. We price not only according to the rarity of our item, but also because it’s our income. This is how I pay the bills.

I get such a reward out of what I do. I hope people understand the work it takes though, because it’s not for the faint of heart. If you don’t love it, you won’t last long because it’s long hours, can be very tedious, and the reward is usually $10-$20 at a time. I’ve fortunate that since I do this full time, I make more than that, but still, Mama has to pay the bills, so I work hard, and it’s a huge payoff mentally to know that I’m helping to keep fashion history alive.


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