When I heard that Michelle from That Black Chic was launching a new sewing magazine, I was, as you can imagine, really quite thrilled.
The current offerings for sewing magazines really don’t hit the mark for me.
Threads is the gold standard as far as I’m concerned, but it’s demographic, in my opinion, trends towards a slightly more conservative sewer, and the techniques demonstrated, whilst interesting, are oftentimes ones I won’t use. I think if you love reading about the techniques just for interest, or you love constructing slightly more artisan garments (think Marcy Tilton, then Threads is right up your street.
I’ll be honest that I’ve cancelled my subscription, as I simply don’t have the time to read them at the moment. But, never say never, when life is a bit quieter, I’m happy to revisit that decision because Threads is full of content.
The British sewing magazines swing in quite another direction. We have Simply Sewing, Love Sewing, Sew, Sew Now, and Sewing World.
Each of these is a monthly publication, that invariable hits the newsstand in a cellophane wrapper with at least one, but often two or three, free patterns. Sometimes the patterns are Big 4, sometimes they are an “own brand” pattern.
All of these publications feel aimed at a younger market than I sit in. They can also run to twee, although I find Love Sewing to be the least of these. They also mix dressmaking with fabric crafts (stuffed unicorn, anyone), which isn’t really what I’m looking for.
So, as a white, middle-aged, middle class Mum, whose taste runs more Hobbs than Cath Kidston, I’m not really served by the current sewing magazine offering.
It seems that Michelle feels the same way, and decided to do something about it:
I felt they (the current sewing magazines) didn’t reflect the culturally diverse world that we live in today”
I found that an exciting and enticing proposition and decided to bite the bullet and order the first edition of her new magazine, Sewn.
It arrived last week and, over the weekend, I made a cuppa and curled up to be delighted.
First, the positives. The main one being that the models in the magazine are predominately women of colour. Even as a white women, I’m appalled at the lack of diversity in all mainstream magazines. Not just colour, but size, age and style. We are not all Victorias Secret Angels, and I need to see that diversity represented in my media. It’s one of the reasons I love instagram. I can curate what I see. I can also vote with my wallet, which is why most magazines don’t make it into my shopping basket.
Secondly, the magazine is printed on thick, smooth paper, so it’s a nice tactile experience when reading it. You can feel the quality.
Finally, there are no advertisements.
However, there are also some things, that for me, are negatives.
My copy of Selvedge magazine dropped on the mat on the same day. It runs to 96 pages. Sewn is 82. It just feels a little light, but that’s OK as long as there is sufficient content. More on that later.
I appreciate that a proportion of Selvedge is advertising, but those advertisements actually have value for me. Similarly Threads magazine carries advertising, and it’s useful to me as it allows me to identify products and resources to which otherwise that I might not have access.
Secondly, the look and feel of the magazine is somewhat fragmented. Most mainstream magazines (in fact most mainstream media) has a clearly defined “look” which carries across the different articles. Again, comparing with Selvedge, that publication is tightly edited and cohesive.
Sewn isn’t so tightly edited. Most of the pictures are great, but the article about decorating cookies (insert raised eyebrow here), in particular, has really dark photos that aren’t that good at all.
Finally, I found the magazine lacking in the content that Michelle sets out to achieve, namely:
“that showcases excellence…in the world of sewing, fashion, DIY and art…that tests and stretches all boundaries in the sewing community”
The articles aren’t particularly in depth and the projects are either really quite simple, for example, sewing rick-rack trim around the hem of your jeans, or a bit “Becky Home-Ecky”. I’m looking at you Felt Christmas Bulb Pillow and denim ‘necklace’.
All in all I was left feeling really quite disappointed in this edition. Especially as at $14.99 for a single issue, this isn’t a cheap publication. For comparison, I buy Selvedge on subscription. Thats £48.00 per 6 issues. Sewn on subscription is $89.94 for 6 issues.
I know that Selvedge is an established publication with a higher budget and an editorial team, but it’s a premium product, which is what Michelle has set Sewn out to be. This is something we seamstresses see a lot of in the indie pattern market. We pay a higher price for a product that is sold as something different from the mainstream, that is beautifully packaged, and which we sometimes purchase because we want to support indie designers, thus ensuring the diversity in the market. But sometimes the product doesn’t match the hype. Colette’s problems with pattern drafting over the last year springs to mind.
It’s really obvious that Michelle has worked very hard to pull this together, and I absolutely applaud her for having the chutzpah to actually do something to fill a gap in the market (whilst holding down a job and family….never an easy task without throwing a magazine launch into the mix). It’s a hell of an achievement and not one I could pull off any time soon, that’s for sure!
The price will also reflect the cost of low quantity printing and the lack of revenue from advertisers.
Finally I’m pretty confident, having had a copy in my hand, that I’m not the target market for Sewn, and I have no doubt at all that a different demographic will have a significantly different viewpoint. For me, it misses the mark, and, sadly, I won’t be buying it again. However, I’m hoping that it’s a success with those it’s designed for, because, for sure, we need more voices celebrating our diversity.
But what about you? Have you seen Sewn? What did you think?