Amy Butler Patterns, and Why They Make Me Rage

1 Feb

I’m taking a tiny break from garment-sewing to do a little craft-sewing – specifically, I want a new handbag that is roomy enough to hold my Kindle Fire and maybe a little ball of yarn to knit on when I am stuck waiting somewhere. I don’t like big hold-everything-you-own-in-here bags and the going price of handbags makes me recoil in horror – you want me to pay how much for that fake leather thing that thousands of people have the exact same copy of because it’s from ~Target? Ew. No.

Do any of y’all ever sew stuff like purses & totes? I am all kinds of in love with the Sweet Harmony handbag and tote pattern from Amy Butler. I’ve actually made this pattern before and it’s the absolute perfect size and amount of pockets for me. LOVE IT. Unfortunately, it’s a little worse for the wear these days (aka: dirty) and I’m bored with that fabric so I’m making a new one.

amy butler sweet harmony handbag
Here’s my old one! More info/pictures in this craftster post if you are just dying over it or whatever.

I figured I could push one out and keep (mostly) in line with my fabric-buying ban – I already have the pattern, I could use the leftover wool coating from my lady grey, and I have all the notions on hand (including purse snaps!) so all I’d need to buy was a little piece of quilting cotton and some fusible fleece. Which I did buy, but here comes the title of this post.

AMY. What the hell is up with your fabric requirements?

My beef is that she just makes you buy way too much fabric. According to the fabric requirements (which are difficult enough to read as it is. I’m not even going to get into that today), I needed 1 5/8 yard of lining/cording/contrast fabric. After cutting my pieces out… I used maybe 1/2 yard. Fusible fleece – she tells me to buy 1 yard, I use about 1/3 yard (if that!). We are talking about quilting cotton that runs $13/yard minimum and fusible fleece that is about $9/yard. It adds up, especially when it’s fabrics that I don’t normally use, like quilting cotton. I don’t make garments with that stuff and I’m not too crazy about home decor sewing projects. So the remainder just sits on my shelf until I realize I’m not going to use and it give it away. The first time I made this purse, I had enough fabric left over to make a second one. Crazy.

My theory is that she is conspiring to make us buy more fabric – it can’t be a coincidence that she also has a (really amazing, btw)fabric line. Way to nickel and dime us to death, Amy. !!!CONSPIRACY!!!111!!

Does this piss anyone off as much as it pisses me off? I understand buying a little extra fabric to match patterns or weasel your way out of a sewing mistake, but I consider “extra” to be like 1/4 yard… not a full yard, certainly not more than that. Actually, the wool I’m using for the exterior of the purse was part of the same issue – I bought over 4 yards of fabric for my Lady Grey, as instructed by the pattern, and ended up with over a yard extra. That coating cost close to $20/yard, too! I don’t even pay attention to Colette yardage requirements anymore, to be honest… I cut out my pieces and measure what I need and write it on the envelope. Looks like I should be doing the same thing with Amy Butler patterns, ehhh.

Also, as lovely as Amy’s patterns are, I’m not really thrilled with the fact that I have to draft half the pieces myself & measure to do my own markings – uhhhh, isn’t that your job? You just made me pay $13 for the pattern, can you please just include the markings for the pocket placement with that? Ok?

Now that I’ve probably pissed off a bunch of Amy fans and I guess Amy herself, I’m going to soften the blow by pointing out that she does have some really cute patterns. And her fabrics are just gorgeous – yes, they are expensive, but it is quality fabric.


Rainy Days raincoat? I die.


The Weekender Bag is a personal favorite – I made this a few years ago, with my mama! I still use it all the time and it’s awesomeeeee. I should take a picture of it, huh?

Anyway, sewing this thing has been a total bore. I spent a couple of hours cutting the pattern pieces out (and grumbling to myself), then I had to trim seam allowances and corners off all the interfacing (again – these should be separate pattern pieces included in the pattern, in my opinion), and even more hours fusing interfacing to every.single.piece (sometimes twice!). Needless to say, that part sucked. Now I’m just in the process of wrestling all the layers under my sewing machine and beating the shit out of the seams with my clapper.

Lest you should think this entire sewing experience has been one complaint, I have been enjoying the bonding with my new Featherweight…
bonding with the Featherweight :)
See? It’s not all bad :)

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51 Responses to “Amy Butler Patterns, and Why They Make Me Rage”

  1. Lynn February 1, 2012 at 11:52 am #

    Good to know! I have an Amy Butler pattern for an apron that I’ve had for years, but every time I look at how much fabric I have to buy I get ill, so I’ve never made it. Now I’ll lay out the pattern pieces and check for myself before shopping!

    I’m a total conspiracy theorist, so I’m with you on this one!

  2. symondezyn February 1, 2012 at 11:54 am #

    Ooooh I’m so glad you posted this!! I am in desperate need of a work bag and I would rather carry ugly grocery store recycled bags than fork out the kind of dough that shops would have from me if they could, for a new one…. so the obvious solution is to make one right?

    After reading BeautifullySewn’s review on the Amy Butler book, and being encouraged that my addiction to sewing books was perfectly alright, I am thoroughly convinced I need this book, but I was appalled at the yardage requested for even the biggest bag… FIVE YARDS??? you’re joking right?? LOL Needless to say, i’ll be measuring the pattern pieces before purchasing, cause like you, i don’t do much crafting so I definitely do not need nor want extra home decor supplies ^__^

  3. Threadless February 1, 2012 at 12:01 pm #

    Completely in agreement! not sure if this is a case of squeezing every possible penny out of a punter, or just a really sneeky way for quilters to build their stash while appearing not to do it deliberately like us garment cobblers?

  4. Christine February 1, 2012 at 12:06 pm #

    A good reminder! I haven’t made her patterns in a couple of years, but I have a bag sitting to the side for one of these days when I give myself a garment break and finally decide to finish the project. Unfortunately I already bought the fabric (again, years ago) but maybe I’ll have enough to make two as well! Oh, and I totally have the same issue with Colette patterns but I make them so often now that I know to expect it, and thus always buy about 1/2 yard less fabric then she recommends. I double check of course, but it’s been my same experience. Love your bag by the way!

  5. Andrea February 1, 2012 at 12:14 pm #

    I’ve never sewn an Amy Butler pattern, though I do swoon over her fabric line, so it’s nice to know this ahead of time. I’ve noticed the same thing with Colette, as you said. Very frustrating, especially when you buy expensive fabric on top of the higher cost of the pattern itself.

  6. Jill February 1, 2012 at 12:15 pm #

    That Amy Butler raincoat pattern is sitting on my sewing table right now. I’m so glad you posted this about the yardage requirements because raincoat fabric is expensive! Now I’ll go cut the pieces out and figure out how much I really need before I mortgage my house to pay for it all!

  7. Janice February 1, 2012 at 12:16 pm #

    This is exactly why I don’t sew bags (or any crafts or any home decorating things). I don’t pay attention to fabric requirements either, because when I do i always end up buying way too much (which I just try to use up into something else until it’s all gone).

  8. CGCouture February 1, 2012 at 12:20 pm #

    I’ve never purchased an Amy Butler pattern, but that’s good to know, because I was considering the Weekender Bag as an alternative to my heavy (but tiny) suitcase.

    • LLADYBIRD February 1, 2012 at 12:54 pm #

      The Weekender bag is seriously perfect – I use mine so much, and it’s held up really well. Fair warning – there are a lot of heavy layers/piping to blaze through, so make sure your machine can handle that kind of sewing or you’ll get frustrated really fast. Oh, and don’t ever check it with the luggage if you’re flying – I’ve heard plenty of people say their Weekender bags mysteriously disappeared that way ::side eye::

  9. Emily February 1, 2012 at 12:20 pm #

    I totally agree! I was making the Spice Market tote as a work bag and saw I needed four times the amount of interfacing as fabric (over 7 yards of interfacing vs. under 1.5 yards of fabric). I joked to the fabric cutter at JoAnn’s that Amy Butler must own stock in Pellon, but my joke fell flat when she said she didn’t know who Amy Butler was, and wanted to know if she was related to her friend, Stacy Butler. Sigh.

  10. prttynpnk February 1, 2012 at 12:30 pm #

    I really need to keep 3 yards of ‘blah’ fabric at home and do a trial run lay out of some patterns before I go shopping- I have a bin in the closet of excess fabric from projects incase I lose a covered button or need to do some little fix, but some of those pieces get so big, I’m prepared for ‘wild dog pulled off left sleeve’ emergencies?!

    • LLADYBIRD February 1, 2012 at 12:55 pm #

      Hah! I have one of those bins too… I try to limit it to one small box that fits in one of the cubes of my Expedit shelf, but it’s starting to overflow :( I can’t bear to throw away the scraps, though – my luck is that I’ll immediately need it once the trash gets picked up.

      I buy sheets at the thrift store when they go on mega sale and use those as shitty fabric for quick mock-ups. Way cheaper than buying actual muslin!

  11. leahfranqui February 1, 2012 at 12:59 pm #

    Man, I hate when the yardage exceeds the reality of the situation. This happens to me with Vogue Patterns and I hate it. HATE IT. The only people I have found to actually be quite accurate are, and this will come as a shock, Burda! But I want to make that weekender bag, so I’m relieved to know it wont be as expensive as I thought it would be…..I just don’t understand why it’s so hard for companies to give accurate measurements. I know they don’t want you to run out of fabric, but this is excessive. I try to use the extra as much as possible, which means I get really sick of seeing the same fabric everywhere in my apartment, it’s the worst.

  12. Anna February 1, 2012 at 1:14 pm #

    hell yes, and like you I think it’s because she sells fabric. I guess it could also be so you can position the pattern of the fabric exactly where you want it on the bag but really, even doing that the patterns I’ve used of hers call for far too much fabric. I avoid patterns when I have to draft my own pieces as for some reason I am unable to get anything straight try to do that. Generally with an Amy Butler pattern I cut out the pattern pieces and then eyeball them to see how much fabric I think I’ll need and go with that, totally ignoring what the pattern says!

    I’ve had the Weekender bag pattern for years now (so long that the picture on mine is different to the current one!) and the piping and layers scare me so much I’ve never made it!

  13. Trisha February 1, 2012 at 1:15 pm #

    Agreed — I hate it when fabric requirements are waaaaay off!

    A question for you– when you’re sewing a bag, do you cut your interfacing the same size as the piece? Or do you cut it out smaller–without a seam allowance– so the seams aren’t so bulky?

    • LLADYBIRD February 1, 2012 at 1:24 pm #

      The pattern instructs you to cut all the interfacing with the regular pattern pieces, then chop off the corners (1/2″-1 1/2″ deep, depending on the piece) and THEN measure the seam allowance around the perimeter of the thicker interfacing (pellon, fleece, etc) and cut that off as well as the corners. It’s just as much of a pain in the ass as it sounds and it wastes a bunch of interfacing, which is why I wish she’d make separate pattern pieces for the interfacing.

      That being said, it’s a necessary step because the seams would be super bulky otherwise.

      • Trisha February 1, 2012 at 3:18 pm #

        Thanks for the response. That does sound like a lot of extraneous steps. Pattern tissue is so thin and cheap–would it kill them to include separate pieces?!?

  14. Meaghan February 1, 2012 at 1:18 pm #

    Good Rage! I love amy’s patterns and have been making them since the beginning. I have made at least ten different ones. Just finished the raincoat. WATCH OUT. Those sleeves are eeny meeny. I made the small for my daughter and it is too tight all over. It is even too small for me and I only weigh 105 pounds! It is my own fault as I did not make a muslin of the jacket. But boy, it is one expensive fail. Amy’s own vinyl coating fabric and flannel. Oh Well, I have learned my lesson. Thanks forletting me rant.
    Love your blog. Thank you for your great posts and pics.

  15. Sassy T February 1, 2012 at 1:31 pm #

    Aw a pain when that happens. If am going to buy expensive (which I don’t) I would measure pattern pieces. Some other patterns ask for too much – a big pain. My friend chose another fabric because there wasn’t enough of the one she absolutely loved. Yes and as you can guess, after cutting out, she could have bought the gorgeous red fabric after all and still had some left. The air was blue lol. I make the odd bag. Made V8568, its on pattern review, am the only one who has made it lol. Making another view of the same pattern with faux leather.

  16. eleanor February 1, 2012 at 2:24 pm #

    You are absolutely right ! What am I suppose to do with all that extra add it to my ever growing “stash”. As far as doing your own drafting save your money and either find a free pattern on line or just make your own. If your going to do the work yourself anyway might as while spend the bucks on more fabric.

  17. tinygoldenpins February 1, 2012 at 2:52 pm #

    You are definitely on the mark. What I do to counter against this is I wait six months or so for the fabric to go on sale — I never pay full price anymore, especially for Amy Butler. I have found this to be true for some Colette patterns — Clover, for instance — I had tons of that fabric left over, but I was just able to squeeze an Oolong out the other night. Maybe it depends on what size you are, I really don’t know. How about you make another one and give it to a woman in your life (who doesn’t live in the same town). That would be really sweet.

  18. Amanda February 1, 2012 at 3:11 pm #

    I’ve honestly never tried any of Amy Butler’s patterns as they are quite pricey to buy over here. Though after seeing that weekender bag I just may come around. Might check out the fabric allocations first, though!

  19. aliesje February 1, 2012 at 3:24 pm #

    Yes. To everything you’re saying. Totally justifiable rage. And thanks so much for the heads up on the A.B. yardage issues.
    I have the Amy Butler bag book – I got it deeply discounted – and after I took a look at the fabric requirements and mentally calculated how much a bag would cost, I just put it back on my shelf. Maybe it’s time to sort out how much fabric I *really* need for, say, a Weekender bag. It does look really cute.
    Like you, and others, I have the same issue with Colette, which annoys me a little because she’s always talking about the importance of using really high quality fabrics. I have my leftover scrap stash catalogued (I know!) so that I can make use of that yardage when need be.

  20. didyoumakethat February 1, 2012 at 3:39 pm #

    I can’t comment on Amy Butler patterns, but I’ve definitely noticed the extra yardage with Colette Patterns.

  21. kaitui_kiwi February 1, 2012 at 4:40 pm #

    Hehe, I love a good rage :) I’ve not used any Amy Butler patterns yet but I have the Lady Grey cut out and waiting to sew next winter and I had just over a meter of fabric left over from it. I thought it was because I was a bit more clever with laying out my pattern pieces but perhaps not…at least I like the fabric and 1 meter is a good amount, it’s super wide so I might just have enough to make a really nice winter skirt too.

  22. Caroline February 1, 2012 at 5:07 pm #

    Argh, rage rage.
    I just started Minoru, and was pretty annoyed to find that I had at least a 1/3 of the fabric left over. Granted, it was 100yen a metre, BUT i live in a tiny apartment in Japan, and won’t use it again, and then have to get rid of it when I leave in 6 months. GAH!!

    I feel your pain :D

  23. Sarah W. February 1, 2012 at 5:12 pm #

    I sewed the Amy Butler Birdy bag a couple of years ago, and it’s great! I like it so much, I often hang it on the closet doorknob to display it in the spring and summer. Your bag is cute!

    I did have some left over fabric, but not a yard’s worth. I made a checkbook cover with the extra fabric, using a free online pattern. I loooooove her fabric. My favorite knitting bag is a “paper crafting” tote by Amy Butler. I bought it at TJ Maxx for like $5. So wonderful!

    • LLADYBIRD February 2, 2012 at 8:36 am #

      Hee, I use my first Sweet Harmony handbag as decoration too. Her bags really are pretty and I love her fabrics… I just wish I had her eye for combining prints.

  24. symondezyn February 1, 2012 at 5:15 pm #

    You know, it occurred to me that we should all pool together and trade or sell fabric remnants with each other… especially for projects like this :)

  25. lynne February 1, 2012 at 6:56 pm #

    I agee…I just made the weekender bag and felt like the layout could have been planned better to use less of that amazing decorator twill fabric ( I am thinking of the huge triangles left after cutting the cording fabric).But I confess I adore her patters and fabric….

  26. Stacie February 1, 2012 at 8:32 pm #

    Me too! I have run into this on several Amy Butler projects! I am going with the same theory that she thinks it will sell more of her fabric. If you ever do her beach hat it has ridiculous fabric waste!

  27. Rachel February 1, 2012 at 10:35 pm #

    I’ve never used an amy butler pattern, but have had similar things happen with other patterns. When I bought fabric for my sorbetto I had enough left over for another one if i want to! That’s happened to me so many times, that often I do lay out the pattern pieces and work out exactly how much I need. Rather than needing scrap fabric for it i often use a bed sheet folded to be the width (or half width) of the fabric. Usually you’ll end up with a bit less needed (which is fair enough since they allow for different sizes etc in the cutting layouts), but when you have enough to make the item again it’s just ridiculous!

  28. Rachel February 1, 2012 at 10:37 pm #

    Oh and I forgot to mention, If i work out how much fabric i need and it’s vastly different from the listed requirements, I always try and write it on the envelope incase i want to make it again.

    • LLADYBIRD February 2, 2012 at 8:34 am #

      I do that too! God have mercy on the poor souls who end up with my patterns – the envelopes are written all over & tattered to hell haha

  29. delusionsofgrandeur February 1, 2012 at 10:45 pm #

    I’ve wanted to try my hand at making one of Amy Butler’s bags but the yardage requirement always made think twice. I think I was more annoyed at some of the interfacing requirements than the actual fabric (read: cosmo bag). Also, none of the patterns ever made me go “wow, I have to make this now.”

    I’ve managed to find other bag patterns that are cheap and use way less fabric. I’ve used patterns from http://www.ithinksew.com/ and they all worked out great.

  30. Kerry February 2, 2012 at 5:58 am #

    It’s really annoying to end up with loads of extra fabric – I have a metre extra from a vintage dress I made last year and it cost £9.99 a metre so I want to keep it, even though it’s so distinctive I can’t imagine using for anything for a looooong time.

    I’ve never thought of trying to measure my pattern pieces before I go shopping – that’s a great idea! Like others I’ve found with Colette Patterns I have a bit left over, but I don’t mind if it’s less than a metre, in case I need to re-cut anything.

  31. Michelle February 2, 2012 at 7:38 am #

    Thanks for sharing this information. I think it is so important in this great online community that we give each other honest reviews and get the word out on things like this. I specifically passed over this bag because the yardage seemed so out of whack, I wasn’t sure it was a very good pattern, but now I might buy it figure out what I need and use it.

    Thanks!

  32. Stephanie February 2, 2012 at 8:25 am #

    ugh. i’ve totally been there. i think quilting stuff in general is waaay overpriced. i mean, how easily – really – could you draft a weekender bag? it’s not that complicated. anyway, i’ve made three of them (ma, mil and gma) and loved the finished results, but cried, sewed my finger and had panic attacks during. ok, by the third one it wasn’t so bad.

    congrats on your featherweight! she’s darling.

    • Lauren February 2, 2012 at 8:33 am #

      You have a point – it would be ridiculously easy to draft the weekender bag. Or any of her bags, for that matter. I personally don’t mind paying for the pattern because I prefer to give my money to small businesses. But I totally understand why some people would want to be stingy in that area! Those patterns get expensive!

  33. Joan February 3, 2012 at 10:26 am #

    Geez I love your blog!! I appreciate your honesty and the frankness in which you blog. My favorite blog of all time was the one you did on the new Vogue patterns for last season. I hope you continue thoses posts! Hilarious and fun!!

    PS – I ALWAYS overbuy fabric, so this is a good thing to know. Thanks!

    • LLADYBIRD February 3, 2012 at 10:37 am #

      Welllll I wanted to do another one, but unfortunately (I guess fortunately for them?), Vogue’s spring line of patterns were disappointingly normal. Nothing to snark there. Hopefully summer will have something good.. >:)

      And thank you!

      • Nessa April 27, 2013 at 11:42 am #

        I think Amy’s fabrics call for so much because A) you can actually match designs on the amount provided on the pattern and B) they are aimed a wee beginners. Though, the damned instructions say to buy more if you want to match design. My ass. I can only presume that that is based on the fact that people can be stupid and there’s a strange school of though that you don’t use one cut edge for the next cut edge. I don’t know.

        I’ve gotten pulled into making bags for me, my Momma, and the dog and I either use scraps from a previous one or reduce that that shit (usually by a yard). I just made a Cabo Halter and only had part of a yard so the bodice lining (on the straps) is pieced. What, you can’t see it.

        Yes, I’m late the comment game.

  34. sophie (monbouton) February 4, 2012 at 6:01 am #

    I’ve never used an Amy Butler pattern though they do really appeal to me, so I’ll keep your advice in mind! I’d love to see a photo of your weekender travl bag!

  35. Michelle Becker October 11, 2013 at 8:00 pm #

    Couldn’t agree more with the yardage business as well as the rant about separate cutting patterns. I made a modified version of the Amy Butler Blossom Bag. Didn’t need anywhere near the yardage specified. I did modify it for a cleaner, crisper look (I didn’t like the excessively curvy front that reminded me of the Rolling Stones tongue sticking out logo) and used D-rings instead of the fussy and amateurish looking fabric ties. The cutting out of interfacing and Peltex, and THEN, trimming it again was such a gigantic pain in my ass that I screeched!!! I’ve since modified the pattern further, making the overall bag smaller (it is too big for me) and I made certain to make separate patterns for the Peltex pieces, not only a time-saver, with far more accurate results, but why cut anything twice????? I felt the handles were too broad and too squishy feeling. I reduced their width and used Peltex 60, a more rigid, less, well, ‘squishy’ material to create straps that felt more supportively and reliably straplike and less like a spongey papertowel about to disintegrate (not that they’d do that but that’s the sensation for me as it bouys from my shoulder). Also, in my humble opinion, the lining of the bag ought to be of a consistent fabric. The interior and contents of my handbag are confusing enough, I don’t need to add multiple fabrics to make it even more visually chaotic. I chose to use the same fabric for the lining and the dividers and the inside pockets (which I added to keep me organized, as well as a snap on key strap/carrier). Much more navigable.
    If interested, here’s a link to a picture of the completed bag:http://lettersfromstonewell.com/2013/09/12/the-handbag-project/
    Good luck, my fellow sewing friends. I appreciate all of your useful comments.

  36. moseleydeb October 25, 2013 at 2:24 pm #

    Totally agree with you. I bought 60 cm fabric because that seemed a sensible amount for the spice market tote pattern and it’s been enough, with some left over for a clutch or pencil case. If I’d followed the pattern suggestion, I’d have bought almost 3 times too much fabric. I’m also finding the instructions less than crystal clear.

  37. Tiffany Jenkins December 23, 2013 at 8:03 pm #

    I was told the reason she calls for more fabric in her patterns is in case your fabric runs a different direction. So if your flowers are horizontal instead of vertical, you’ll be able to turn your pieces sideways. I don’t know for sure if this is true, but it seems to make a little more sense? Right? I don’t know. :)

    • LLADYBIRD December 24, 2013 at 9:41 am #

      I can accept that, I just wish it was noted in the pattern! Oh well, we’re tryin’ here haha :)

  38. Garden Gal July 25, 2014 at 3:07 pm #

    Thanks for your honesty. I was thinking of the Weekender Bag but I read so many blogs about how painstaking it is. Not sure if my machine (or skillset for that matter) could handle the bulk. But oh, how I do love sturdy handmade bags. Maybe in the future…

    • LLADYBIRD July 28, 2014 at 9:31 am #

      I mean, yeah, it is very painstaking and there are a LOT of layers to contend with. But it’s actually worth it in the end – I loved making that pattern, and I’d definitely make it again. Someday :)

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. My blossom handbag « The Belmont Sewing Club - February 28, 2012

    […] (a smaller one), I would change a few things. 1/ I would check the fabric requirements. I join Lladybird in that comment : Amy, how come I have so much extra fabric ? I had enough to sew two linings !!! […]

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