Have you tried Sprout Patterns? I have no affiliation but recently ordered a custom-printed pattern from them and wanted to share with you how that experience went. (Yes, Sprout, you’re welcome for the full-length infomercial.)
Sprout is an offshoot of the custom fabric printing service Spoonflower, which allows you to upload your own fabric design — or choose from thousands of designs already uploaded by others — and have it printed on the fabric substrate of your choice. Sprout takes this one step further by allowing you to select a pattern from some of the Indie pattern designers you know and love (Named Clothing, Papercut Patterns, Cashmerette, Hey June Handmade, and By Hand London, to name a few), and have the pattern pieces printed directly on the custom fabric of your choice. Cool, eh?*
Spoonflower and Sprout are American companies, so prices are in US dollars. Having to add about 30% to the total cost to convert to Canadian dollars was a significant disincentive for me. But a couple of months ago Sprout was offering 15% off everything so I just had to try.
Sprout’s interface is fantastic. You can select the pattern, then apply any fabric design from their catalog and it will render both a 3-D mock-up of what the garment would look like as well as a 2-D rendition of what the printed fabric would look like. You can actually change the pattern placement on the fly and see how that would affect the pattern matching and final look of the garment. You can even choose different fabric designs to go on different pieces of the garment. A-plus to Sprout on the interface front.
There are a lot of fabric types to choose from. I recommend ordering a swatch book ahead of time from Spoonflower so you can actually fondle the fabrics and decide which will work best. It only costs $3 and shipping is free.
Shipping for my custom-printed pattern, on the other hand, was really steep! My package was rather tiny, containing only about 1.5 yards of fabric, but it cost $14.73 US ($18.70 Canadian) for shipping. Massive disincentive there. But I pushed on, dear readers! I had to discover the mysteries of Sprout for myself and share them with you! The things I do for you, eh? 😉
I ordered a Named Inari Tee Dress, size 2, printed on Organic Cotton Knit Ultra, using the design “Tides #3” by Marcus Nyberg. Those of you who have perused Sprout’s site will know that I had a complete and utter FAIL of originality and ordered a copy of the sample garment! What can I say? It was love at first sight. I ADORE large-scale photographic prints on fabric. Plus, I find the thousands of design choices available at Sprout to be overwhelming. I’m the kind of person who likes to test out every possibility before making a decision and that was clearly going to lead me to an early grave. Therefore, COPY CAT!
So then it took a month for my fabric to arrive from the time they emailed me to say it had shipped. I have no idea why there are such wild variations in delivery times for things I order from the US….a recent shipment from Fabric.com in Georgia arrived here in Toronto within 2 days while this package from Spoonflower in North Carolina took a month. AND THEN I HAD TO PAY THE CANADIAN GOVERNMENT THEIR POUND OF FLESH. $18 more freaking dollars for import duties! FML. So total cost for me was over $100 CDN. And ain’t nobody payin’ me to sew the damn thing, so this baby is EXPENSIVE! Cripes.
Anyway, after I got over the feeling of violation like I’d been pickpocketed, and waiting an eternity for the fabric to arrive, I got to sewing my Named Inari Dress, which was a super-satisfying, super-quick experience.
The Organic Cotton Knit Ultra feels great on. At 5.8 oz per square yard, it’s on the heavier side for jersey, and the dress therefore has a lot of body. (I wouldn’t recommend this for a summer t-shirt, for example.) You can see how the dress doesn’t lay flat around my body but rather has a lot of structure of its own from the weight of the fabric…eh?
Here’s my list of positive aspects of my Sprout experience:
- Shrinkage is calculated into the sizing — yay! Sprout knows how much each type of fabric will shrink with prewashing, so they print the pattern factoring in the shrinkage.
- Once you’ve prewashed and you get to sewing, you don’t have to worry about laying out your pattern pieces or matching up patterns…you’ve already done this part on Sprout’s website before you hit “Order”. So it’s pretty much a no-brain exercise from this point…just cut and sew!
- Seam allowance is included in the pattern pieces. Just cut on the black line, lickety-split.
- Notches are printed as inverted white vees into the seam allowance, which means you don’t have to cut those annoying little outward-facing triangle notches (my usual method, but I always resent how cutting them slows me down…DAMN NOTCHES), nor do you have to clip notches into the seam allowance. Just cut straight past the notch and you will still be able to see clearly where they are printed and match them up easily.
- You get a PDF copy of the pattern for your library, so you can re-use the pattern as much as you’d like. (I had a moment of panic where I thought, Oh shit, did I just pay all that money for a pattern that I can only use this ONE TIME??? But no, A-plus on this front, too, Sprout.)
And some cons:
- If you normally grade between sizes or make other fit adjustments before cutting your fabric, you’re kind of out of luck. You have to pick your out-of-the-box size when you order. And the pattern pieces are printed right on the fabric with a white border around them so you wouldn’t be able to, say, make them bigger if you wanted to. Sprout recommends sizing up if you are between sizes.
- If you choose a pattern that has darts or other complex markings, these aren’t printed on the fabric, since no printing is done on the wrong side. Sprout recommends that you use the PDF pattern provided to figure out where to mark the fabric, which sounds like a WORLD of PDF-printing-and-taping PAIN just to place the darts correctly. (Luckily this Inari dress didn’t have any darts.)
- You can’t do any creative pattern layouts in order to save a little extra fabric for another use. However, my fabric had enough leftover space on it that I could cut 4 pocket pieces, and enough to cut one or two more neckbands if that had been needed. (And believe me, I usually go through a couple of neckbands before I get the fit right!)
- This Organic Cotton Knit Ultra has fairly poor stretch recovery. I realized after I had serged the side seams that I should’ve added in-seam pockets. So I picked out a few inches and inserted a pocket and by the time I was finished it was one hot wavy mess. I applied my usual iron-the-shit-out-of-this-thing technique and it helped a bit, but I decided not to bother with a second pocket. I also had to rip out the neckband (you knew that was coming — STORY OF MY LIFE, PEOPLE!) to shorten it so it would lie flat. Again, the unpicking caused a lot of stretching out of the fabric and it didn’t spring back on its own. I would not use this fabric for a close-fitting garment as it would quickly pooch out at elbows and knees and any other bendy-points. (That’s the anatomically correct term, right? Bendy-points?)
Funny story about that antler necklace pictured above: it was a wedding anniversary gift from my husband. Or rather, I bought it the day before our anniversary for myself and announced that I had done him a favour and handed him the package to give to me. The next day I put the necklace on and exclaimed that he always knows exactly what I want! (Because this is not the first time I have done this.) But the arrangement seems to suit both of us really well. 😉 The necklace is by a local — as in right around the corner from my house local — jeweller by the name of Ivane Thiebaut. Click the link for more info if you’re as in love with it as I am. (No affiliation; just giving props to a local artisan.)
My mods to the dress: as I mentioned, I added an in-seam pocket. I also had to take in each side seam from the armscye to the waist by about an inch. I didn’t realize before I started sewing but I’ve discovered through fitting over the years that I seem to be a bit of a pear shape. Good booty-news.
Another side note: included in my package was a Spoonflower catalog that contained a lot of inspirational projects and showcased a lot of available fabric designs. I enjoyed looking through it but couldn’t help but notice that almost all of the people photographed in the catalog were white. What’s up with that? I live in a city in which more than 50% of the population is made up of racialized persons, so our local governments and businesses have figured out that to exclude people of colour from their advertising and marketing is nonsensical. So it’s always a bit of a culture shock to me when I see almost exclusively white models, and it’s always a disappointment that this seems to happen a lot in the world of sewing (see, for example, BurdaStyle pattern models). So D-minus on that front, Spoonflower. You can do better.
My take on the finished dress? I *love* it. I’m usually more of a fitted sheath dress type of gal, but this roomy cut with the subtle forward curve of the side seams is a real winner for me. This dress is absolutely SECRET PYJAMAS. I wore it for two days straight and would have gone for a third had I not spilled barbecue sauce on it late in the second day (a happy accident for the people within sniffing distance of me). I would love to try sewing it in a drapier fabric just as an experiment as I suspect it would change the look and feel of the dress completely. The pattern is designed to be used with either wovens or knits, but bear in mind you would have to choose your sizing accordingly, generally sizing down for knits.
Would I use Sprout again? Maybe if I won the lottery. This dress may be the most expensive thing I’ve ever sewn. There’s something to be said, though, for paying extra for a custom garment, something truly unique. Hahahaha! That’s ironic coming from the girl who ordered a copy of the sample garment, EH?
Have you ever tried a Sprout pattern? Or would you? I’d love to hear about it. Leave a comment!
Thanks for stopping by!
*Cultural note: “eh” is the Canadian word for “What I just said there, don’t you agree?” According to Urban Dictionary, it’s been referred to as a “politeness marker…indicating the speaker’s willingness to accept dissent or to invite further discussion.” How very Canadian, eh?
14 thoughts on “Thinking About a Custom-Printed Sprout Pattern? Here’s What You Need to Know”
That dress is very cute on you! But I was already thinking “I can’t do this”, even before I read your cons list. It’s pretty much impossible for me to sew anything “out of the box”. I always alter a pattern to fit my peculiar shape, even a simple pattern like this one. One of my least favorite aspects of sewing is the hours I spend altering patterns. 😉
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But *sooo* worth it in the end, right? When your finished garment fits you perfectly? Sorry this wouldn’t work out for you but on the bright side it looks like you just saved yourself a boatload of money. 😀
Cute dress! I like the idea of this service quite a lot, but being forced to go with a straight “envelope” size just doesn’t work for me. Outside of that, the cost!!!!!!! Holy crap!!! I spent less than that on the supplies for my wedding dress!!!! Eep! Glad you got such a great result though, that certainly takes some of the sting out of the cost. 🙂
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Come to think of it, same here re- the wedding dress! Yikes!
I like the concept! pattern and design pre-printed and ready to cut. Are they the only company doing this? If so, the cost could come down if it catches on! Excellent review!
Hi Julie! Thanks for your comment. So far in my interweb travels I’ve seen a few companies that do custom fabric printing but I haven’t come across any other companies doing the custom fabric AND pattern printing thing. Keep me posted if you hear of any. 🙂
Cute dress! I hadn’t heard of spoonflower/Sprout, but now I’m going to have to check it out.
I had to comment on how much I loved the “Cultural note” at the end of the post. I live in beautiful Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia, so “eh?” certainly isn’t foreign to us here… I wouldn’t have thought to explain. 🙂 Lovely dress, but ouch! the price… Duty is the worst, it always sneaks up on me, but by then the lovely post-mistress is holding out my package to me, how can I resist paying the duty. And then grumble all the way home!
Freaking love this!! I love the print and pattern. It’s too bad they don’t also print on the back side of fabric. Marking a dart would be insanely hard.
your dress looks great, very cool on you and the fabric is so interesting. But as for the custom printing on the fabric, to me that sounds terrible. No option for fit, you have to do your own markings, deal with a PDF etc. I think the clothes that this would maybe work for are only the most simple (read shapeless) items. I wonder how many people order more than one time, the cost seems prohibitive and it is more of a novelty than something a sewist would rely on.
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I love the fabric design you picked (copycat or not!), it makes a fabulous Inari! I also love the Inari pattern, so you probably could have made it out of actual human flesh and I’d be here to fawn over it. 😉
I have seen plenty of reviews/mentions of Sprout, and it’s a hard pass from me. Between the cost, the lack of fitting flexibility (and having to put the pattern together to transfer darts–WTF?!?), and what I’ve read about quality with some of parent company Spoonflower’s fabrics, I could never justify it. Maybe–and it’s a BIG maybe–for a bag it would be a good choice, but then again there’s still the price point. (I know sewing isn’t really a money-saving strategy for many of us, but that doesn’t mean I’m happy to put up that kind of $$ for one project.)
Thanks, Mads! That reminds me of The Silence of the Lambs where psycho dude wants to make a dress out of skin…ew! Lol. I love this design, too, and I actually want to sew a nightgown with it…not so secret pyjamas! Gotta get my $$$’s worth out of this after all!
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Love it! I won a prize awhile ago in a knitalong and I got the Portside Dopp Kit from Sprout. I haven’t touched it yet because it was way beyond my ability with the zippers and such.
I’m curious if you received a copy shop file with your PDF for reuse. I am fortunate to have a friend in the US who comes here regularly for work so I can order things to her house if I’m not in a hurry for them and I avoid customs charges and can get cheaper shipping. I also have a friend with a plotter at work so I don’t have to cut and tape PDF patterns!
Hi Ramona! Thanks for your note. Yes, the PDF comes with a copy shop version. It’s nice to have a border mule from the US, isn’t it? I just got notification that Sprout has a 15% discount on all their patterns until this Sunday in case you were thinking of ordering.