Are you ready for the first Sew Over 50 sewing challenge?

SewOver50 has been going strong on Instagram for nearly 6 months now, since Judith Staley set it up last August, and it seemed like it was time to consolidate its success by setting up a new challenge for dressmakers to join in with.

Judith and I, along with Sandy in Brisbane, have been working on ideas for a while and eventually we hit upon the notion of asking anyone who wanted to join in to choose a pattern which featured an older person modelling it in the advertising ie: on the packaging or accompanying artwork. This proved to be even more difficult than we had imagined because it only went to show just how few pattern companies feature older models, never mind women of colour or larger sizes! Unlike some recent publicity elsewhere we’re not intending to shame pattern companies who don’t include us as part of their demographic because it isn’t helpful, we want to highlight and commend those companies that already do, even if it’s to a very small degree, and hope to encourage those that don’t to follow suit. It does seem though that a few companies have been falling over themselves to apologise to people of colour who sew (POC) or those who fall outside the ‘normal’ size range for excluding them, whilst we as older sewers didn’t merit such an acknowledgement-perhaps they actually don’t want our custom? Are we being too polite? Whatever, onwards…

Let me set out the challenge to you (should you choose to accept it…) it is this…

To sew a garment either for yourself or someone else using a pattern which features an older person ie: over approximately 45-50, on the cover and/or in other original supporting marketing. This doesn’t include a company sharing of other people’s versions of their patterns on social media. The point is to highlight how few patterns we think there are like this and to encourage designers and pattern companies to think outside the box more and include over the age of 50 in their advertising because we’re such a large part of their buying public. We feel that there is no valid reason to side line this particular audience especially as we often have more disposable income to spend. 

  • The challenge can include any adult garment, for women or men, it can simple or advanced, outerwear or underwear, tops, bottoms, dresses. Only the garment which uses the older model in it’s artwork/advertising should be made, not any other garment by that company if it’s the usual situation.  
  • We have decided to include patterns which feature in books or magazines (probably from within the last 5 years or so) too because there may be more opportunities available there. 
  • If you feel strongly about using a genuine vintage pattern (as opposed to a modern take on vintage) which features an apparently older person then go ahead but it can be so hard to tell because everyone looked old back in the day, even teenagers!
  • Share what you’re up to as often as you like for the duration of the challenge, we all like to see what others are sewing and if you have a great pattern then let’s get it out there for all to see, someone else may want to choose it too! Make sure you follow the @SewOver50 account and use the hashtags #SewOver50 and #So50Visible so that we can all search for and see them too.
  • We’ve had several generous offers of patterns as ‘prizes’ from a few designers which will be randomly awarded at the end of the challenge. This isn’t really intended to be a competition, it’s more a sharing of ideas and inspiration and highlighting our presence.
  • In no particular order the ‘prizes’ are as follows-
  • The Maker’s Atelier-Holiday shirt and top. 
  • Seamwork- 1 of 3 PDF patterns
  • Paper Theory-Olya shirt
  • Alice & Co-pattern bundle.
  • You don’t have to make a brand new garment for the challenge but ideally it will be one you’ve made relatively recently (within a year, say) and haven’t already shared lots of times. Why not take a new photo of it though?
  • When you’re ready to enter then you must include a shot of the original pattern as well as your finished make. If you don’t know how to do multiple images or collages on Instagram then just include the pattern in the shot with you (or your chosen model) Judith will share regular posts and information and you have plenty of time.
  • Post your photos any time between February 1st and March 15th 2019 on the @SewOver50 account and make sure you include the hashtags so that we can see them.
  • The Challenge is open to EVERYONE regardless of your age, size, gender, ethnicity or orientation.

Once we started searching we realised that although there are MASSES of pattern companies now there were very, VERY few using older models [the slight exception seems to be for men’s patterns where an older man is deemed to ‘distinguished’ the same does not seem to apply to women] Judith and I trawled through The Fold Line’s huge database which was very helpful as it collates so many pattern companies but it was often extremely difficult to tell if the model was in the over 45-50 bracket or whether they just appeared that way! We decided to err on the side of caution so as not to cause offence but if you feel the model (or the illustration) is ‘older’ then go right ahead. 

There are doubtless more pattern companies existing in a small way where you are-SewOver50 has a global reach with followers all over the world-so if you know of a company, or are a pattern company, probably producing PDFs, then please highlight it on Instagram or message Judith directly and she’ll share it on the account. 

We’ve compiled a list for you to look through [it isn’t that long and it isn’t definitive by any means] so hopefully you’ll feel inspired and want to show some love to those companies which already acknowledge we exist!

Paper Theory-Olya pattern

Maker’s Atelier-several to choose from

Colette-several to choose from

The Thrifty Stitcher-Dawson Coatigan


Pattern Union-various

Sew Me Something-various

Simple Sew-Zoe dress and topAlice & Co-Intrepid Boiler Suit

Sew Over It-Coco jacket


Tuesday Stitches-various

Blue Dot patterns-most patterns, Diane does her own modelling

By Hand London-Orsola dress and skirt

Dg patterns-Patricia

Cashmerette-Washington dress

Pauline Alice-Romero trousers

Designer Stitch-various

The Sewing Workshop-various

Fresh Press-various

Sew This Pattern-various

Sinclair patterns-various

Wardrobe By Me-various

Merchant & Mills The Workbook Curlew dress only

Sew Different patterns-Cocoon jacket and possibly a couple of others

Elbe Textiles-groovy old guy, same old, same old with the women though

Simplicity #8607 #8163 absolutely dismal showing by the big companies!

Everyday Style by Lotta Jansdottir -this is a book

Wendy Ward-Beginner’s Guide to Sewing with Knits book

Any pattern created for a sewing or dressmaking magazine and which is modelled by an older person could also be deemed eligible.

As I’ve said in previous blog posts, I know full well that some smaller companies want to keep a tight rein on the image that they are projecting and I respect that completely. Sadly, as a wider community, we’re noticing that some of these companies don’t ever acknowledge any of us, via social media, who don’t fit into their ideal demographic. They are more than content to encourage us to ‘share your makes’ and ‘share the hashtag’ etc. so that they get lots of lovely free advertising from us but this is starting to get galling and I’m thinking of no longer naming, or indeed reviewing, any pattern by certain brands if they can’t be bothered to acknowledge the actual community that they rely on! #NoLikeNoMention

There are a quite number of other groups that are under represented in sewing community terms too so if you feel you are in one of those; people of colour who sew, curvaceous sewers and people with disabilities are just a few examples, please take it as read that you are absolutely invited to be a part of this too, the #SewInclusive hashtag would be pointless if it didn’t actually include anyone who wants to be involved.

We really hope that you’ll want to join in with this challenge, and that by doing so, as a community, we’ll encourage more pattern companies to choose carefully the models they use. Many of them must have stylish Mums or Aunties who would be up for a photo-shoot, or there are plenty of beautiful people right here in the sewing community who would volunteer I’m sure.

We’d love you to be a part of this challenge and help demonstrate that there are many of us who, whilst we’re a bit older, we still take a keen interest in fashion and great clothes, and we make stylish things which deserve to be seen and acknowledged by a greater section of the home dressmaking market. I want to stress that other than the pattern ‘prizes’ which have generously been donated this post is not sponsored, endorsed or affiliated by anyone and the @SewOver50 account isn’t either. We’re really looking forward to seeing what you all come up with so get searching, begin sewing and start sharing.

Happy Sewing,


50 thoughts on “Are you ready for the first Sew Over 50 sewing challenge?

  1. Well said, I’ve long thought, why don’t they ( the pattern companies) hardly ever show our age group. They are indeed missing a trick and lots of revenue. I’ve been reading all the posts regarding inclusion waiting for a view on age & disability to be mentioned.. unless I missed it I haven’t seen any 😡 I also have two millennium girls but I’m not ready to hibernate in my ‘granny shawl’ yet! I sometimes think, will I look like mutton dressed as lamb so I usually wait to see one of our lovely mature ladies post free advertising for these companies before I decide. Just because we’re mature doesn’t mean we don’t want to wear fashionable garments. I’ve tried on what I’ve made for my daughters & then made them for myself. My daughter regularly borrows my clothes so I can’t be that past it. The lovely people who design patterns must know people who borrow mums clothes so why hasn’t it dawned on them to capitalise in it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. exactly! thank you for your thoughtful and considered reply. I’ve got two twenty-something girls too and whilst we don’t share clothes, (I think) they like the fact that I’m so interested in modern trends, even though I don’t necessarily wear them. Over 50 doesn’t have to mean ‘over and out’ does it!?


  2. Hi Susan, I think this is an absolutely brilliant challenge you guys have set up! I look forward to the day when I can hire a proper studio (instead of my current ramshackle living-room set-up!) and get together a whole team of ladies for my photoshoots! Not every small pattern company can cover all areas in terms of representation all at once (but hopefully we can make small steps in the right direction thanks to discussions and challenges like this) but I’m glad that you’re applauding and highlighting the companies who’ve already got this. Nina (Lee)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for responding Nina, we’ve tried to pitch this in such a way that it isn’t too strident and taking a cosh to crack a nut because, as i said in the blog, we appreciate all the hard work that goes into small companies and you can’t possibly cover all the bases every time (in spite of best efforts I’m sure) I’m sure there would be plenty of willing models (and testers) whenever you need them! Sue x


  3. I am interested in participating in this challenge and helping support my age group. It would be helpful if you could list the names of the patterns that are in the photos shown in this post. I’m drawn to a few of them. Many of the companies that are listed have “several” or “various” patterns, and some sewists may lack the time to go through all of them looking for a suitable pattern. Thank you.


    1. hello Jeanette, I’m glad you’d like to join in with the challenge. I’ll have to direct you back to the first two Instagram posts which featured the collages which Judith created especially. If you tap on the images all the pattern company names should appear so that you can follow up any that you’re specifically interested in. I’m sure you will appreciate that we’ve already done a considerable amount of work for you, and other sewers with limited time, and it wouldn’t be right to expect us to break down further the limited pattern choices available to us all. Where I’ve said ‘several’ or ‘various’ it generally indicates there might more than 2-3 to choose from, as opposed to single patterns where I’ve named them specifically for you. I hope that helps and that you’ll find a pattern you want to make.


  4. Since I check all of the boxes – POC, plus size and over 50 – I understand the challenges faced by seeing myself represented on a pattern front or website. I am interested in participating in the challenge but want to add Cashmerette Patterns to the list. Here is an example of an older sewist featured on the website: because honestly quite a few of the patterns on your list wouldn’t work for me because they don’t serve the plus size market.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for responding, We honestly don’t know how Cashmerette slipped through the net and it was a very welcome sight, I’ll edit the blog to include it. It would be really lovely if you were able to join in with the challenge, I love seeing what you get up too. I’ve just come home from the Victoria & Albert museum in London where I’ve been to a preview of the Christian Dior exhibition-it was fabulous! I’m quite envious of you visiting the Metropolitan to see the various fashion exhibits there. Thanks again, Sue


  5. I think we all agree that for some pattern companies, a younger model is exactly the image they want for their brand. Their product is “hip and edgy”, thus the face of their brand must also be. And that’s absolutely their right. But what gets me is the miserable lack of representation among the Big 4 (or 5 with Burda). Thousands of patterns, thousands of models and you can count the ones over 45 on the fingers of two hands (more or less). It’s mind blowing.


    1. That’s exactly right. We were sure we’d seen plenty of older models in the catalogues but Sandy patiently sat down in her local store for us and went through every one of them and came up with just TWO patterns in those particular books! They simply must try harder if only because they have huge budgets that the little companies don’t have.


      1. My daughter and I have a number of Burda magazines and are using some of those patterns. We went through them to see if we could find a pattern to join in this challenge, as I’m over 50, petite and slim, but need to make full bust adjustments; we couldn’t find any older models. It wasn’t just Burda, we also went through the Dorling Kindersley and Sewing Bee books as we have the first three, and could only find one older woman modelling a pair of leggings, which are not on my current make list. In fact, we didn’t own any patterns, from a shelf of patterns, that fitted the criteria.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. they make it such hard work for us don’t they! Or they just throw us crumbs with garments that are unattractive and unappealing. I hope you both find patterns you’re happy with in the end…


  6. Hello my lovely Susan. Thank you for including Designer Stitch in your list of companies that feature pattern tester pics of all ages. I try to be a diverse as I can but it depends on what sort of interest we get when we run tester calls for our various designs. I would love to hear from anyone interested in joining my tester team. I love curvy, luscious, gorgeous women of any age.
    Love to you xx. Ann at Designer Stitch.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hey Susan. Ann again from DesignerStitch. Would love also to offer a prize or 2 for your challenge but I couldnt for the life of me find a contact you interface. Let me know okay. Xx
    Ann xx

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I will definitely be taking part in this challenge! Such fun! And you really need to check out Love Notions. As one of their testers (and definitely waaaay over 50!) I know for a fact that they include a variety of ages and sizes in their testing. All the newer patterns include models over 50 and now they’re venturing into men’s clothing.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Hi Susan
    I just wanted to say a big thank you to you and Judith for doing all this preparation. There are many pattern companies listed that I had not heard of or heard of but not checked out. This is an excellent idea for a challenge and may well lead to changes just as the Curvy Sewing Collective have found. Brilliant work!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Hello Susan. I’d love to add that CKC also uses over 50 models in several patterns. My lovely mother is on the cover of a jacket pattern and is over 50. Winter Wear Designs and Love Notions Patterns both use many women over 50 in their pattern promotion pictures as well check them out. I’ll share this with my mom. She would love this I think!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Hi,
    I’m Suzanne of Winter Wear Designs… Many of my patterns have gorgeous women over 50 in the listing images. I love women of all ages in my testing groups and have a few above 50 on my blog team too. I’d love to be a part of this great endeavor and am happy to provide patterns as prizes. You can reach me directly at I’m always looking for new testers in my Facebook group and have patterns going into testing on a regular basis, I hope to see some of your talented ladies over there!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Wonderful idea Susan! Just noticing you’ve featured one of Thread Theory’s patterns in your inspiration photos, but I don’t this company in the list below.
    Also, love your take on not bashing, but rather showing appreciation for a company’s uniqueness for range and inclusiveness.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Dale, you’re absolutely correct and that’s a complete oversight on my part-I’ve mixed my Thread Theory patterns and my Paper Theory patterns and left it out by mistake! Thank you for bringing it to my attention, no one else had spotted it, kudos to you! Sue


  13. I have Wendy Ward’s book. Not every design has an over 50 model (though I’m hopeless at judging age). I’d like to sew the Kinder cardigan but don’t think that model is over 50! So question – there are a lot of over 50 photos modelling the garments – does this mean I could sew the Kinder?
    I like the size range in the book as I’m tall and plus sized (absolutely average size according to CSC) – many designs stop short of my size particularly on the bottom half of my body. I do have the Cashmerette Washington so could sew that though I’m not honestly so keen on the style – I’m not sure why I bought the paper pattern.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Anne, if I’m sticking strictly to the rules that Judith, Sandy and I discussed at great length I’d have to say that only if you’re fairly certain that original model of that garment (and I don’t have the book to be able to judge) in the book looks to be aged 45-50 then go ahead. If it’s re-sharing others versions of the garment from social media sources then that doesn’t count because they didn’t use an older model to start with. If you’re happy in your own mind that she isn’t a teenager then off you go, there’s been a few cases where we have erred on the side of caution so as not to cause offence where none is intended. Does that help?
      Could you ’hack’ the Washington pattern in some way so that you like it more-we love to see a good pattern hack, is the a #sewingwashington or similar tag perhaps where you could find inspiration? Good luck, Sue


  14. Hi Susan! Joanna here, from Fresh Press Patterns… Thank you for being kind enough to include me in your list of companies for this challenge. As a woman about to dip my toe into the age of 45, I’d love nothing more than to find mature and experienced sewists who have honed their craft. Looks like I’ve found them!

    Liked by 1 person

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