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FreeSewing

December 10, 2019
by joost
Close-up of a dandelion against a pink background
Close-up of a dandelion against a pink background

Wow! What a year it’s been for FreeSewing. In August we released version 2.0 which was nothing less than a complete rewrite of our entire technology stack. For our users, the most obvious change is that you get to see your pattern adapt live in your browser as you tweak options and preferences. It’s one of those things that I knew should be possible with the state of web technology today, yet seeing it actually happen still boggles my mind somehow.

Scaling is hard, but we made remarkable progress

Cool as our new technoglogy stack is, it is not the most important work we’ve done over the last year. Yes, it’s pretty neat, and yes it’s only possible because of the work done on 2.0. But that work itself is what matters most. The main reason for the 2.0 rewrite was to allow the project to scale horizontally. Or to put it bluntly, to allow FreeSewing to go where I could not carry it on my own.

In a way, FreeSewing has grown up as a (software) project. We have several people making regular contributions, an active chat room, a dedicated website for developer and translator documentation, a plethora of packages we publish on NPM, we’ve contributed fixes and improvements to upstream software we depend on, and we now also have other people and teams who depend on the packages we put out.

We (currently) have 23 patterns available, we publish 62 packages on NPM (the Node.js package registry). Since putting out version 2.0, on average 450 people sign up every month, and our total tally currently stands above 15.000.

Translation has never been easier

Since v2, we’ve also switched to Crowdin for our translations. Translation is arguably the best way to democratize access to our platform, and I’d like to give a shout-out to all people who have helped and continue to help with these efforts.

It’s perhaps also a good time to point out that you too can help with this. Our documentation for translators is a good place to get started, or stop by our chat room dedicated to translation.

What we’re planning for next year

Our next year plans roughly fall apart into two categories: improving our platform, and adding more patterns.

As the project grows, so does the amount of work required to keep everything running smoothly. We still have more performance improvements to do, as well as auxiliary tasks such as writing more tests so we can go ahead and change things with confidence, rather than risk that rolling out a new feature causes bugs down the line.

We also know there is a lot of room for improvement of the user experience (UX), as well as design and user interface (UI). We’ve been doing the best we can, but it’s not really our field of expertise, and we’re hoping to find more contributors who can help us in this regard.

v2.2 will include a ladies bodice block

But hey, you want more patterns, right? So rest assured that that’s high on our todo list. We are going to apply some affirmative action towards the ladies who have so far been under-served. Not only by making existing patterns available to them (as we did recently with Simone, a ladies version of our Simon pattern) but also by developing a dedicated ladies block to develop patterns on.

We have earmarked this as a must-have for FreeSewing v2.2, which we hope to be able to release sometime in January.

We’re also looking at ways to get more designers on board with FreeSewing. One plan on the drawing board is to offer pair-programming sessions to designers where they walk us through their vision, and we implement their design in FreeSewing. We’re even thinking of live-streaming these sessions so anybody who is interested can drop by and follow along.

‘Tis the season for giving

Thanks to our awesome patrons, revenue was up this year too. As you may or may not know, FreeSewing donates 100% of its revenue to Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders. So this morning, I had the great honour to write a 4109.38€ cheque to MSF.

That felt real good so thanks to all our patrons for their continued support. If you’d like to join this awesome group of people, you can do so here.