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Everyone is a cover girl - (Over)thinking about representation on pattern covers

Updated: Oct 31, 2022

My cover designs on the patterns up to now have been illustrations by the amazing Lisa Rose (@thelisabelle on Instagram). I could not love them more.

We worked together to create illustrations that are strong, real and, above all, inclusive. As soon as I started thinking about making patterns those three words were exactly what I aspired to. I quickly realised that, especially in a pandemic and with almost no money, I just wouldn't be able to get photos of as big a range of people as I wanted to represent. So illustrations it was. The brief was to include people of different ethnicities, body types and sizes. People with features that actual human bodies have.

My week was made the other day when an Instagram follower commented that they loved the inclusion of back rolls on the Hadley cover drawing. That is exactly what I was hoping for. When people see themselves in these illustrations it brings me so much joy. The women in these images are all different in how they look, just like real sewists. We had plans for future pattern covers to also include disability and body hair as features of some of the 'models'.

But they're being replaced from November 1st with photos that I have from a recent photoshoot by Stokes Croft Studio (@scsproduct on Instagram). Now, don't get me wrong, I absolutely love the photos. I was delighted as soon as I saw them. There's so much joy and fun in the photos and I think that's a brilliant thing to put across in the patterns and my social media. It was essential that I had photos taken of the pattern garments so that people could see them on real bodies so that was a priority of mine.

In an ideal world, I'd keep the illustrations on the patterns and use the photos for social media and other promotion. But I'm sure it's escaped no one recently that prices are going up and money is getting tight. I'll be honest, Lansdown Patterns currently makes less money than I spend on it. That's totally to be expected at the start of a small business, especially one that takes so long making products and is being run alongside a busy full time job. So the hard decision had to be taken when the yearly licence came round for the illustrations to not use them for the time being. I want to be super clear - it's a really reasonable fee and Lisa's work is worth that and more. It's just not money I have. I might as well be real about the situation - I don't think seeming slick is really for me!

The models in the photos are friends of mine who very generously donated their time to take part in the shoot, paid only by me buying them a pint afterwards and by keeping some of the clothes. Those ladies are absolute legends. Since doing the shoot, I've been working with another friend of mine as fitting model to expand the size range and she has generously agreed to take part in the next shoot. She is the largest size that I currently make. That was really important to me, that sewists in my full range can see themselves in the cover models.

So all good then? Well, not perfectly. As someone who didn't grow up in the city I live in and working in an industry where people don't stick around in one place for long, my pool of lovely friends to rope in to help me is kind of limited. I am so grateful for the women who have stepped up to help but it's had an impact on diversity. Body size and shape wise, they are all varied, which is amazing, but they are all able-bodied white women. So where I go from here I guess is tracking down some more generous women to model for me and help make my photographic covers as diverse and representative as my illustrated ones.

If anyone wants to be a cover star then you know where I am....

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