Sewn Magazine – Review

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?


8 Responses to Sewn Magazine – Review

  1. Marianne says:

    Thanks for the review! I had heard of Sewn, but had never seen a copy. It’s easy for me to buy pattern magazines, in our village I can choose from at least 8 or 9 different titles. No sewing magazines however. If I’m lucky I can find a copy of Threads in Amsterdam but that’s about it. Looks like Sewn is a little over priced, and cookies? I raise my eyebrow too!

    • Pendle Stitches says:

      It’s a real shame that it’s not higher quality.

      I see that Lisa Comfort of Sew Over It is launching a new magazine. It will include a copy of one of her patterns (in the first edition it’s the Cocoon Coat). The price is similar to the cost of a pattern, so that represents real value, I think.

      As I’ve been eyeing up the Cocoon Coat for some time (having seen something similar in John Lewis that didn’t go past a size 14) I may have to get a copy.

  2. I am definitely not the target market for any sewing magazine, although saying that I kind of miss buying Burda as I really looked forward to seeing the clothes. The sizing made me a bit cross though so I stopped. I started buying Ottobre when I could instead as at least I don’t get frustrated by the patterns I like being too small. I saw the website for “Sewn” and read some of the pre-launch hype. A grown-up sewing mag that wasn’t twee or frumpy would be great. Pity this one isn’t it. Maybe they will find their feet with the next edition? Thanks for the very honest review. I raised my eyebrow at cookies too. How do you sew one of those. 🙂 Xx

    • Pendle Stitches says:

      I have to say that I’ve stopped buying Burda too. I’m a bit cross that the plus sizes are shoved to the back of the magazine like an afterthought. And that you can’t get Burda Plus on the newsstand any more. Sigh!

      Maybe Lisa Comfort’s new mag will be better. At least there’s some value with the pattern. We shall see.

  3. Kim says:

    This is new to me, and it may be worth seeing how it progresses, but it doesn’t say ‘buy me’ from what you have shown.
    I do still subscribe to Threads, and I am given Patrones magazine from friends when they come back from Spain, but I have yet to find a sewing magazine in the UK that really excites me.

    • Pendle Stitches says:

      I am so hoping that they find their groove, as there is a real need for quality sewing magazines that celebrate diversity.

      Patrones is a real treat if you can get it. I also like Knipmode. But, if I’m honest, I need more patterns like a hole in the head at the moment. Hopefully I’ll sew more next year!

  4. Thanks Evie for this thorough review. I was getting all excited about this but I am not so convinced now…especially for that price. I’m trying to cut back on my magazine purchases because I have way too many and don’t manage to make what I bought them for… La mia boutique releases a full plus size magazine too If you ever see anything you like let me know.

    • Pendle Stitches says:

      I’m really hoping they find their stride with this. I’ll certainly keep an eye open to see how it develops.
      Thanks for the link to La Mia plus sized. That’s good to know!

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