NYC Part 2: Touring the McCall Pattern Company

25 Aug

Ok, y’all, time for part 2 of my NYC journey – touring the offices of the McCall Pattern Company! Whoop whoop!

McCall Pattern Company Tour

Before I get too far into this post, there are a couple of things I’d like to address, as I’ve had some emails and comments about this:
– The McCall Pattern Company did NOT fly me into NY to visit their offices. Umm… I wish? I paid for my plane ticket all by myself, sorry!
– I did not come to NY specifically to visit The McCall Pattern Company – I was here to teach a workshop at Workroom Social. As soon as I announced my impending visit, I was emailed by Meg from McCall’s and offered an invite to tour the offices while I was there.
– Meg is the new Social Media Pro at McCall’s. If you’ve talked to anyone from McCall via Twitter, Instagram, their blog, etc – you were likely talking to Meg. I personally have known Meg for a couple of years now – well before she went into working for McCall’s – which is why she reached out to me to visit while I was in the city. Much to some the butthurt anonymous commentary on my blog, McCall doesn’t have a grand scheme of shutting me down (I mean, let’s be real you guys – I’m not hurting their sales when I post commentaries. There are a WHOLE lot of other sewists out there who don’t read my blog/don’t read blogs/don’t care about my opinion on Koos Van Den Akker. They still buy the patterns – some of the traffic coming directly from my blog. So there’s that.). They simply wanted to reach out and let me see the company, so, (in their own words) that when I’m talking my shit, at least I’m getting the facts straight šŸ˜‰
– I’m sure there are people who are thinking about what a sellout I am right now. That’s totally fine. You do you! I got over that whole ~sooo underground anti-coporation~ shit when I was like 17. DGAF.

With all that being said – OMG! Longtime dream – accomplished! I’ve ALWAYS wanted to lurk around the offices of this pattern company (as much as I poke fun at them, it doesn’t excuse the fact that we are still talking about dream job territory here. Nevermind that I’m not a patternmaker in any sense of the imagination, nor do I plan to become one), so this was an absolute treat for me! Full disclosure – I went into the offices with every intention of taking lots of photos (hence my phone in my hand in, well, every picture haha. Wish that dress had some pockets!), but since I never end up doing what I planned, all the photos you see in this post were taking by Meg. Thanks, Meg!

McCall Pattern Company Tour

I got the grand tour, you guys – I saw every department, met sooo many people (except the CEO, who was unfortunately in a meeting when I arrived. Oh well! Next time!), and a few of them even knew who I was! So crazy!

One of the biggest things I learned was just how freakin’ small this company is! Sure, they had a hell of a lot more employees than any of the indie designers we know and love – but it’s not like there are thousands of them, scattered across the world in giant corporate offices, with a big fat CEO smoking a cigar in his silk bed jacket and laughing all the way to the bank (I mean, I know I just said I never actually met the CEO but I’m just gonna ASSUME here, you guys). Everything is done in-house in NYC – they produce the patterns for McCall’s, Butterick, Vogue, Kwik Sew, and even do Vogue Pattern Magazine. Each individual department is very small – some only having a couple of employees at most. It’s also one of those companies where everyone is basically family, which I just think is really nice and feels good to be around. Everyone was extremely friendly and clearly very happy to be there.

There are a LOT of rooms and departments – the fabric library (where they keep zillions of swatches, plus buttons and trims and notions and, oh god, it was heaven in there), drafting, dressmaking, customer service, in-house photography (complete with racks of clothing and even more racks of shoes aieeee), etc etc. All in all, I think I was there for about 3 hours – flitting around, chatting everyone up, getting all grabby hands on the various fabrics (and apologizing every few minutes. Forreal, my mom hates shopping with me because I’m incapable of not touching things. This is why I hate museums and love flea markets, haha).

McCall Pattern Company Tour
McCall Pattern Company Tour
Checking out the fabric room and perusing the samples was one of my favorite parts. Sooo much eye-candy!

McCall Pattern Company Tour

This look of wide-eyed wonderment was pretty much plastered to my face the entire time I was in there, ha!

Another highlight of my tour was getting to finally meet the famed Vogue Pattern Designer, Carlos Correa (I didn’t get a photo with him, but you can see him chatting about some of the designer pieces in this McCall blog post). The very first thing he said to me was, “I LOVE YOUR BLOG!” hahahahaa!! Apparently, he reads it and loves the pattern round-ups (and I reckon he’s reading it right now, so HI CARLOS!). I spent a long time in his office, talking about the pattern and their styling vs how they look in real life, and saw some of the new designs for next season as well. I can’t say much about those, but what I can say is I kept going, “Oooh! I want one of those!” haha!

McCall Pattern Company Tour

I also stopped in the Vogue Pattern Magazine offices, to chat with the Editor and LURK THOSE DESIGNER DRESSES.

Did you know that the outfits on the Vogue American Designer pattern envelopes are actual designer garments? That was news to me! Take Vogue 1409, the Saber-Toothed Tiger dress, for instance. This dress literally came from the Donna Karan Collection – and McCall’s based the pattern off it, then used the actual dress in the photoshoot. It wasn’t sewn by them, nor did they choose the fabric (since it’s from Donna Karan). If you look inside, you’ll see all the tags – including the original price tag. This is much better explained on the McCall Pattern Blog, but that’s the general gist.

McCall Pattern Company Tour

With that being said, the next order of business was to try on the $10,000 Ralph Rucci coat.

Me: If it fits, that means I get to keep it, right?
Everyone else: lolololololol

Damn, that thing was a work of ART! I know I hated on the arm holes at one point (that’s such a random thing to hate on, ha), but seeing it in person absolutely made me change my mind (and I still think it looks weird on the envelope photo, maybe it’s just the way the model is standing?). The inside is amazing – all bound seams and even some hand stitches! Apparently there’s a whole Pinterest board for lurking the inside of the designer garments, so we can all drool from far away.

After that, it was obviously time to play dress-up. Because, duh.

McCall Pattern Company Tour
McCall Pattern Company Tour

In another Ralph Rucci original (pattern is Vogue 1404), featuring the wind machine šŸ˜‰ Also, those shoes are like 4 sizes too big.

McCall Pattern Company Tour
McCall Pattern Company Tour

Obviously I had to try on the Guy Laroche purple nightmare (that is actually silk chaurmeuse) (pattern is Vogue 1416. The sleeves were cracking me up to no end.

McCall Pattern Company Tour

(side note: holy shit I need to touch up my hair color)

McCall Pattern Company Tour

Ughhh WANT THIS COAT (pattern is Vogue 1419)

I had an amazing time visiting the offices and meeting all the wonderful people who work so hard to produce all these patterns (whether you personally love them or not, I think we can all agree that the sheer amount of patterns they put out every year is quite impressive!). I did bring up some personal beefs – the excessive ease, the styling situation – as I feel like these are areas that do need some improvement. My opinions were definitely heard, and some things were already in the process of being addressed before I even brought them up, thanks to customer feedback. The McCall Pattern Company is absolutely interested in what the consumer has to say, and they’re making a huge effort to reach out to the online sewing community and bridge that gap. I know it’s really easy to hate on the ~big guy~ for just being there (especially when it’s a faceless corporation), but at the end of the day – I want to support the sewing community and it’s future! I’m absolutely invested in doing whatever I can to bring home sewists more options, and that includes supporting the Big 4. It was such a treat to visit the offices and get to know the people who make things happen there.

If you have a question or a complaint about a pattern from the McCall Pattern Company – contact them! They don’t know there is a problem unless you tell them, and their customer service department is extremely dedicated when it comes to helping. Follow their blog to learn more about the company, Like their Facebook page, lurk their Pinterest. Don’t be afraid to reach out and chat them up if you have a comment or concern. I’d love to see the gap close between the Big 4 and Indie pattern companies – I mean, we’re all in this for the love of sewing, right?

McCall Pattern Company Tour
(me hanging in the styling room. I was told to pretend I was fixing my hair – I promise I don’t sit at every available mirror and preen, haha! Although my hair did look really good that day. Minus the whole I need-to-redye-it situation)

Now, I can’t stop thinking about that Ralph Rucci coat…
So, like, if I paint it... I have to sew it, right? ā¤ļø
I am definitely going to sew the shit out of that pattern. Just need to find my perfect red wool.


117 Responses to “NYC Part 2: Touring the McCall Pattern Company”

  1. 66stitches August 27, 2014 at 3:12 am #

    “Iā€™d love to see the gap close between the Big 4 and Indie pattern companies”
    This is a really interesting comment and I’d love to know exactly what you mean by it. In a way, I think that blogs like yours are creating that gap, when most of us are just out there sewing what we like. I’m not a hater by any means, I think your blog is great (and I love a scathing review as much as anyone). But as someone who’s sewn big-4 patterns I adore, and indie total disasters (and vice versa) I do think the “gap” is pretty arbitrary.

    • LLADYBIRD August 27, 2014 at 7:07 am #

      You’re right, I fully admit that I was one of the gap-creators – and in an intentional way, at least at one point. I still think there is definitely a gap, at least in my sewing circle, where you have Team Indie and Team Big 4 (not much different than, say, Team Apple vs Team PC. Both products are good, but both parties are diehard fans of their brand. Actually, I think Big 4 and PC users kind of dgaf and it’s the Apple & Indie that are rapid fangirls, at least in my experience hahaha). Think about how the indie designers (and customers) will band together and support one another, even though they are technically “competition,” but you rarely see them pull in any Big 4 (except in the case of OOP vintage patterns), nor do you see much interaction coming the other way, from Big 4 to indie. These are just my observations, and you’re right that it’s probably arbitrary. I guess I just want to see us come together as a whole, across the board, instead of having each side that we stick to. You might not see it on your end, but there are definitely some Indie-Sew-Or-Die sewers out there (again, I can say this because I was totally one of them! haha!).

  2. Colleen August 27, 2014 at 7:48 am #

    My mother died two years ago. She was the kind of sewist who made her friend’s wedding gown (train and all) at the age of 19. My whole childhood and adolescence was spent with her in fabric stores looking at McCalls and Simplicity. I can never hate on the Big 4. They are my bond with my mother and my life. I do wish they would change their sizing, though, to conform to the Indy pattern companies….

    • LLADYBIRD August 28, 2014 at 7:17 am #

      I’m so sorry for your loss ā™„ Thank you for such a lovely comment! I totally understand the bond of looking at the big pattern catalogs with your mother – that was a big part of my childhood too šŸ™‚

    • laurajane August 28, 2014 at 10:58 am #

      Colleen I feel the same way! I lost my mom about two years ago too. She was almost 90 years old and had taught me to sew when I was young. We spent many happy hours in fabric stores, through my teens, looking at pattern books and planning projects. I still miss her so much! I think of her often when I sew, and always when I look at patterns. What a lovely memory. And what a lovely thing to share. Thank you, Colleen. And thank you Lauren for this amazing post. What a dream day! I wanna make that yellow dress. And the coat! You look amazing, as always!

  3. Ally August 27, 2014 at 9:46 am #

    McCall’s Instagram feed has actually given me hope for them! I have bought a couple patterns from those suggestions! But fo real. They stepped up their social media game hard. Go Meg go!

    • LLADYBIRD August 28, 2014 at 7:18 am #

      Dude, their Instagram is so much fun now! Awesome things happening in that company right now:D

  4. Karrie August 27, 2014 at 11:45 pm #

    That is SO AWESOME. I was kinda upset at the beginning of the post. Of all of the things that popped in my head when I saw your other blog post with that pic, those mean things didn’t even come close to what i was thinking!!! I haven’t read the comments on your other post so I’m not even going to talk about that, but I really look up to you as a beginner sewer (in garments) and I believe that you know what you are talking about. I LOVE how much you are honest. Seriously. I know that you aren’t hating on the people or doing it to be mean, you are hating on the garment. And that’s why there are so.many clothing stores to make all of us happy. I’m super picky about what I like and wear, and my tastes/thoughts are a lot more pickier than yours most of the time! And you are hilarious.

    I think it’s such an awesome thing that you got to do! I know that you were teaching a class, so I didn’t think that is why you were going to NY, but I’ll be honest, and tell you that one of my thoughts was: “NO WAY!!!” I was kinda hoping that you were going to either release some patterns, or be involved in the process for you to come out with a mini-collection/collection of cute stuff that people our age would love to wear. Or I guess I should say: young women with similar tastes šŸ™‚ I’m kinda bummed that wasn’t what it was, because I would be so behind it!!

    I think you hair looks great in those pics, you are worrying for nothing šŸ™‚ If they don’t collaborate with you soon, they should definitely ask you back as a model! I don’t want to be a creeper here, but you look so pretty!! I love your outdoor pics, but you look like a model with the professional lighting.

    One thing I love about this community (sewing/quilting), is that I get to see people’s dreams really come true. I started as a quilter, but before I got done with my first quilt, I found out there was a ton of women my age making their own (super cute) dresses/clothes, and have been wanting to do it ever since. I don’t have the fitting thing down quite well, but I’m planning on taking a class next time one opens up in my area. I get your blog emailed to me, and you are definitely a big inspiration. I just wanted to give you some positivity for the negativity. Seriously, people are just jealous. We all know what it means when a person is hating, but still people do it. It’s too bad that they don’t have the balls to say it to your face. SO. I can’t wait until you go back. McCalls: If you are reading this, PLEASE do yourself a favor and collaborate with this lovely lady! Even if she just sketches something someone should made. This girl knows what she’s doing and talking about. You could be the first of the Big 4 to bring your company to the 21st century!!!


    • LLADYBIRD August 28, 2014 at 7:22 am #

      Karrie, thank you so much for your lovely comment! I got to see this right when I woke up and it was an awesome way to start my day šŸ™‚ So THANK YOU!! ā™„

      As far as me collaborating with the McCall Pattern Company… well, I don’t design or draft patterns (not a skill I possess, sadly!), there’s not a lot of room there. But I’d love to have a hand in other areas of the business, so we will see šŸ™‚

  5. mertxelasierra August 28, 2014 at 1:44 am #

    Lovely post, here! Really interesting. And it is a really lovely coat. I am curious to know if the comercial pattern can lead to such a beatiful realization as the sample you tried on. How much in on the pattern and how much is on the sewist expertise. I would love to watch you make it!!!

  6. Kelsey August 28, 2014 at 8:35 am #

    Where did you get the shoes you’re wearing with the cherry dress? I love them.

    • LLADYBIRD August 28, 2014 at 4:53 pm #

      I bought them on the sale rack at DSW… they brand is GH Bass & Co. Hope that helps šŸ™‚

  7. Kelly August 28, 2014 at 10:39 am #

    I love this post!! The big companies seem rather ancient, faceless, and monolithic, and it’s so neat to get a glimpse into what it’s really like.

  8. Tasha @ By Gum, By Golly August 28, 2014 at 12:06 pm #

    GAH, all your New Yorkness looked amazing!! I think it’s so much fun that you got to go their office, and even play dress up! It’s great seeing the inside of something that *can* feel a bit nameless/faceless. And haters…stupid. You rock on with amazing jet-settin’ sewin’ self. šŸ˜‰

  9. Rebecca August 30, 2014 at 8:18 am #

    Can’t wait to see that coat, especially as it’s going to look amazing in red.

  10. jumliana September 10, 2014 at 7:25 pm #

    I looooove this post!
    feels like we were there with you.
    I applause you being so respectful, aware and clear with your thoughts and words.
    I love this!

    thank you!

  11. sewcookgardenrepeat September 11, 2014 at 6:52 am #

    Wow, that looks like so much fun!!! Glad you enjoyed yourself, especially wearing DESIGNER FREAKIN CLOTHING!

  12. Duffle September 21, 2014 at 2:12 pm #

    OMFG I am sooo jealous!! I would love to have a day trip to McCalls!! Tell them they would make a fortune doing tours for (sewing) tourists lol!!!! oh and f*** (i can’t commit to a full on curse sorry!) the nay sayers, some people get stuck on one way of thinking and can be too proud/ignorant to try and see another point of view, delighted to see that you are not that way inclined šŸ™‚ love your blog btw


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