… and a brief mention of codswallop …


In law, ‘caveat emptor’ conveys the principle that a person who buys something is him or herself responsible for making sure that the item is fit for the purpose intended, in good condition, works properly, etc.cat_bag

A statement often used alongside it was the warning ‘Don’t buy a pig in a poke!’ 

A pig in a poke was, in our forefather’s times, too often not a piglet in the bag as claimed by the seller, to fatten up and feed the family, but a very angry cat – which was only discovered after purchase and upon opening the bag.

These old sayings are largely irrelevant nowadays, so effective and all-encompassing are consumer protection laws here in the UK when buying from a retailer. There is even consumer protection for digital purchases in the recent Consumer Rights Act 2015/

What has all this to do with sewing? I can hear you ask.

There’s one item that most of us here will  have bought, at least occasionally. Its cost is a not-insignificant part of  sewing budgets in Europe. It is widely available in both digital and ready-to-use form, in both bricks-and-mortar and on-line retailers, and is truly a pig in a poke.


Sewing patterns – both paper and digital – seem to be well and truly established as one of the last acceptable bastions of ‘buyer beware’.

I call this codswallop. No more, no less.

A sewing pattern is a perfect (from the seller’s point of view) ‘pig in a poke’. The buyer can’t see what they’re buying before it’s paid for, and can’t return it once it’s been bought (or so the seller – almost without exception – will tell you) however faulty or unsuitable it may turn out to be. An additional trick played on us by the seller is that once we’ve actually handed over hard cash for the thing, and the seller has got their money, that seller will often then attempt to dictate what the buyer can or can’t do with the item they’d bought!

I call this codswallop. No more, no less.


Now, don’t misunderstand me. I’m not advocating for the use of a pattern and then a refund just because you didn’t like the style, or you don’t have the skill to make it fit your wonky body, or whatever. Any finished article is irrelevant here. I am referring only to the pattern itself, those uncut printed sheets of tissue which you unfold with such eager, but careful, anticipation, or that pdf or plotter file which you watch print out with hope in your heart.

Just those lines printed on the paper. 

Plastered all over the pattern catalogues in the shop, or on the seller’s website, or even stamped in purple ink on the envelope itself, defacing our new purchase, the following charming statement or similar: ‘Patterns are non-returnable once the envelope has been opened and/or the pattern unfolded.’ 

The flimsy paper of a pattern envelope holds its secrets more securely than many an international spy agency! Just you even try to open one in a shop for a perfectly legitimate reason before you’ve paid for it, and see how fast you’re ‘attended to’!

I call this codswallop. No more, no less.

Sellers of PDF patterns, meanwhile, take cover behind the digital nature of their product to deny any responsibility for it once they’ve got their money. They well-nigh  universally make the claim that ‘by their nature’, digital patterns are not refundable – as if the passage through the internet’s ether ‘by its nature’ somehow applies a magical coating of perfection to even the most substandard product.

I call this codswallop. No more, no less.


I’m sure I’m not the only person to have bought patterns which have been of such poor quality that they are frankly unusable in their brand-new, as-purchased state.

Seams that haven’t been trued. Notches that don’t match. Measurements that are incorrect. Missing pieces. Mislabelled pieces. Grading which I can only describe as deformed. 

These are all purely technical errors which should’ve been picked up long before the pattern was printed (if we are discussing a paper pattern) and most certainly before distribution; any of them make the pattern undeniably faulty.

Broken, in fact.

And there appears to be no real recourse for those of us unfortunate enough to have wasted our money on an item which is broken – and thus not fit for its intended purpose – if that item is a sewing pattern. Oh, we can have a mild moan on one or other of the many sewing forums that exist – but not too much of a moan, because most of these forums operate on the saccharine motto  ‘if you can’t say something nice, best say nothing at all’

I call this codswallop, too. No more, no less.

I believe that this apparent lack of recourse, and the claims of no returns, no refunds, with no prior inspection permitted, are all CODSWALLOP – and the stance of UK pattern sellers is untenable here in law.

More soon.


2 thoughts on “CAVEAT EMPTOR

  1. I’m looking forward to reading about the purchase that lead to this post. And it will probably re-enforce my hesitation about buying pdf patterns, besides all the printing & taping.


    1. Oh, goodness me JustGail, I’ve not begun to even collect my thoughts about pdf patterns. Reading – and trying to understand! – government Acts has a very odd and stultifying effect on the brain. My next post is about paper patterns.


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