Consumer Advice – Confusing Advice?


Paper pattern puzzlement

I received a reply on Tuesday from Consumer Advice to a further question about my legal rights when I buy a paper sewing pattern. Sadly, not from the helpful Daniel, who seemed to understand what I was asking about, and translated nigh-incomprehensible legalese into an easily-understandable answer to my question. Instead, it came from someone who was, I am sure, trying to be helpful, but who seems to have just quoted what I can only assume are the relevant paragraphs of the applicable law. I am not unintelligent, but I simply do not understand what it means.

I have tried for four full days to untangle the answer to my question from within the email response I received, but I simply cannot. So, I am going to have to ask again, and rephrase my question. And hope that the helpful and understandable Daniel gets to answer me!

In the meantime, then, to more interesting things …

Fabric delights.

I was feeling annoyed at someone today, so took myself off to buy fabric in the nearby city; my favourite stall on the open market – a fabric stall, of course – is always manna to the soul, and never more so than today.

‘I know what you’ll like’ said the proprietor, ushering me round to one side. ‘Look, I’ve got three bolts of this. I’m sure it was a mistake, it shouldn’t have been in the junk bin at the wholesalers! But it was. So …’

It is the loveliest, silky-soft, highest quality, light dress weight/medium shirting weight, 100% cotton, high thread count chambray in a perfectly-traditional mid denim blue.

I bought some – actually, I bought quite a lot. I have a couple of summer dress patterns I’ve toiled already, but it’d make wonderfully-soft summer pj tops, a perfect shirt, or a cool, drapey, gored or panelled skirt. It’d also make simply glorious, luxurious bedlinen.

I also picked up a couple or three metres of a high-cotton-content polycotton in a turquoise polkadot, at just £1.50/m, and was given a small piece – just under a metre – in a powder-blue polkadot by the stall-holder.  Then I walked down to another shop, and brought back several pieces of colourful, unususl cotton prints.  These – and probably some of the chambray, too, are all for a charity project in which I hope shortly to become involved. All the fabrics – bar the chambray – are currently drying on the rack outside, having gone through a good hot wash.

I am so lucky where I live – fabrics galore within easy reach!




My advice – OPEN your paper pattern as soon as you get it home, and check it as thoroughly as you can.catsew

As I mentioned in my previous post, I wrote to Consumer Advice – an arm of the much-respected Citizen’s Advice.

I’ve received a very helpful, informative and positive reply from them, in which they encourage me to disseminate the information they have provided among the hobby dressmaking community. There is more – considerably more! – than I have written below – several posts’ worth! – but I wanted to get this first valuable piece of information out there pronto.

I do want them to expand  further on a couple of matters so I need to compose my query with examples – these people aren’t sewers, after all!  In my email to them regarding the right of refund for faulty patterns, I mentioned missing or mislabelled pattern pieces as faults I have personally experienced, and also told of a not-entirely-fictitious situation where a skirt pattern was described as sitting at the natural waist – but was actually drafted to sit on the hip – and had a finished garment measurement at the putative ‘waist’ significantly larger than the one stated, clearly demonstrated by flat pattern measuring. 


What are my rights in law if a paper pattern I buy from a UK retailer is faulty or misdescribed, given that I am unable to, or prohibited from, inspecting the pattern prior to purchase? (Examples given of faults and misdescription as above) Pattern retailers almost all state that refunds or returns are not permitted once the envelope has been opened.

Response from Consumer Advice

*** please note the information below applies to ENGLAND AND WALES. If you are not in England or Wales, you MUST check locally ***

Dear Ms FatLady

With reference to blah blah We understand that blah blah and you wish to know blah blah …

Faulty and misdescribed goods

The situations you have described would fall into this category. 

Where goods are faulty or misdescribed, your rights are not affected by whether you bought in-store or online. Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, all goods supplied by a trader to a consumer must be of a ‘satisfactory quality’ – among other requirements, they should be free from faults and be fit for the purpose they were made for.
Goods should also match any description that was provided.

If the goods do not meet these requirements, then you have 30 days to reject the goods and ask for a full refund.  

The fact that the goods have been opened would not prevent you from pursuing … the above remedy – the law allows for the need to open and inspect the goods before any problem can become apparent.

Yours sincerely

Consumer Advice 

(my bold and my italics)

*** please note the information above applies to ENGLAND AND WALES. If you are not in England or Wales, you MUST check locally ***

Some pattern facts of life

Paper patterns

When I come across (mainly) Americans wondering why on earth anyone ‘wants to’ pay $20 for an Indy pattern, or spend time and trouble tracing a pattern from a spaghetti-junction of lines, or  tediously match and tape dozens of sheets of paper, it makes me ‘want to’ scream, or rip the pattern catalogues from their ungrateful hands!

Do our American friends  really think most of us actually  want the extra time, trouble and opportunity for error in taping or tracing? Lots of us don’t want to spend $20 on a pattern, either.

But you know what?

We do it because we have to.

What you in the US refer to as ‘Big 4’ patterns which you can buy for a dollar or two in regular sales or with coupons, are, here in the UK and everywhere else in the world that I know of,  expensive, often seriously so, if they are even available for purchase.

As there is so little price differential between Indy patterns and Big 4 patterns, they’re a much more attractive proposition than they would be in the US. When a Simplicity pattern costs more than £8, and a Vogue pattern £15, a $15 (~£10) Indy pattern seems  perfectly reasonable!

This high cost of paper sewing patterns in Europe and elsewhere – often, even, their unavailability – also serves to explains  the popularity of pattern magazines. These seem to be considered a bit of a mystery or curiosity in the US, and the use of Burda magazine patterns is often looked on with trepidation by even many skilled and experienced sewers.

A pattern magazine  costs most people in the world us less than a single paper pattern, and contains anything from half a dozen to a couple of dozen or more  different patterns, each covering a range of sizes. Is it any surprise, then, that so many of us ignore Big 4 patterns, even in countries where  they are widely available?

Pattern magazines – not just Burda!

Burda (from Germany) is probably the best-known pattern magazine in the world, and seems to be the only one widely known or fairly easily available in the US.

It is  distributed worldwide and published in several languages. Burda also publishes ‘specials’, usually once or twice a year – Burda Easy, Burda Plus, Burda Petite and Burda Kids. (Also Burda Quilting, but we’re talking clothing patterns here). Burda was the first glossy Western womens magazine which was  legally available behind the Iron Curtain in the days of Soviet Russia; when I went to work in Berlin just a few years after the Wall came down, I remember a colleague of mine, an ‘Ossi’ (former resident of  East Germany), telling me about her mother getting the occasional smuggled copy of Burda, and how very precious it was. Marion also told me why bananas were such a scary fruit, but that’s a story for another time.

Burda, though, is far from being the only sewing pattern magazine available.

Sewing and cutting

Where shall I start? I think I’ll go from north to  south. Bear in mind that this is by no means an exhaustive list!

In Russia,  Diana-Moden seems to contain (as far as I have seen) Simplicity or Simplicity-type patterns for tracing off. Another pattern magazine called “ШИК: Шитье и крой” ( CHIC: Sewing and cutting) appears to contain mainly re-issues of La Mia Boutique (Italy) and LOOK! (Argentina) patterns.

Ottobre, from Finland, publishes editions in Finnish, English, Dutch, German and Swedish. It publishes six issues a year – four for children’s wear and two for women.



Back issues, single issues and subscriptions can be purchased from its website. Here in the UK, it’s only occasionally seen ‘in the wild’ at newsagents.

‘Sy’ is a Danish pattern magazine which contains all sorts of sewing projects from dolls clothes to evening gowns and craft items.

Germany is  a hotbed of sewing pattern magazines. Näh-Style,  Fashion Style,  Meine Nähmode,  and Sabrina Woman are all pattern magazines from Germany and most of them also publish occasional plus size specials. Fashion Style provides all its patterns in German sizes 34 to 56 inclusive.

From the Netherlands comes Knipmode, Knippie (for children),  My Image and B-Inspired.

La Maison Victor is a Belgian magazine which seems to be getting increasingly popular all over Europe for its quality patterns, drafting and styling.



In France, we find Elena Couture and Fait Main – which latter is a direct translation of the previously-mentioned ‘Sy’ magazine from Denmark.

Patrones is published in Spain, as is The Sewing Box Special.

La Mia Boutique, Special La Mia Boutique Taglie Forti (ie plus size),  and Modellino are Italian-language  pattern magazines.

Staying in the Northern hemisphere, but zooming eastwards, Mrs Stylebook and Lady Boutique are just two of the many Japanese pattern magazines. If you have a Kinokuniya near you in the US, you should be able to find them there. When I lived in Sydney, NSW, I spent half my time and salary in Kinokuniya. Sadly, there’s no Kinokuniya anywhere in Europe. 😦 sad face 

South of the equator, Brazil publishes several pattern magazines, naturally enough in Portuguese. Manequim is possibly the best known; two others that I know of are Moda Moldes and Molde e Cia.

Still further south, in Argentina, ‘Look’ is  published in Spanish.

The very best styles, though, in my opinion at least, come from the furthest south.

Snappy dressing and style which is  suitable for all occasions,  which  will carry the wearer from a casual fish supper and baby sitting, to an ocean swim or a formal photoshoot with equal aplomb, is the prerogative of the penguin,  who needs  no outside help in design or colour choice – they always look good!

How to be smartly dressed for any occasion!