Wardrobe pattern books – casuals

Part of getting a easy co-ordinated wardrobe is to have everything in similar shapes (see my post on reducing the number of shapes). And an easy way of achieving that is to use a wardrobe pattern.

The advantage of wardrobe pattern books is they have space to discuss building a wardrobe of co-ordinates. Plus instructions for altering the patterns to make different styles. So they’re good starting points if you want to try this. Get the basic patterns to fit, and then any variations you make are likely to fit well too.

Some books emphasise wardrobe building, some pattern altering. A few have advice on fit. Some have guidance for sewing beginners. Unless otherwise mentioned, all have a pack of full sized conventional tissue paper patterns. Most go up to 44 or 46 inch/ 117 cm bust, BMV sizes 24 – 26.

There are now many books which include full-size patterns. I started by thinking I knew them all, but now know I don’t ! This is a rapidly expanding area of sewing publishing. I’m focussing on books with patterns for a wide range of garment types. I have collected rather a lot of these 😀 so this topic spread and spread and I’ve divided it in sections. My next post is planned on books which emphasise dresses. Then there’s a third post on out-of-print and Japanese books.

There are two starting points used for pattern making (see dartless block post). One is a fitted block. The other is a looser fitting block without darts. This post is about pattern books with casual styles. The first are based on the casual dartless block, the others are more fitted.

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Your personal preferred wardrobe plan

Does the ‘Core 4’ idea meet all your wardrobe needs ? – top, jacket, skirt, pants. Wardrobe patterns may be the best starting point for that type of wardrobe. There’s only one book based on a Core 4, and it’s for a petite plus body type. And it has a woven blouse top, not a knit. There are many wardrobe patterns with knit tops.

Several pattern books don’t include a jacket. So they’re not sufficient for people who need to layer, unless you’re happy with shirt-jacket style.

Some pattern books don’t mention dresses, so aren’t for people who like to wear them. Books with dresses are mainly in my second post.

If you wear multiple layers (top, shirt, vest, jacket), there’s one out-of-print pattern book by Sandra Betzina with all these. If you’d like a wide range of garment types in one book and enjoy a challenge, there are Japanese pattern books in many styles. Those are in my third planned post in this group.

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Patterns for casual classics

Design It Yourself Clothes
A book on simple pattern making using personal measurements, by Cal Patch.

(not all to same scale)

Basic patterns for knit tee, dartless shirt, skirt, pants, dress.

The special feature of this book is you draft your patterns to your own measurements ! Mainly words with few pictures. Minimal sewing instructions. No discussion of wardrobe co-ordination. Basic patterns are classic casuals, many suggestions for adapting the basic patterns to make modern styles. More dresses from the shirt and tee patterns.

Some other simple books for making your own patterns

Sew What Skirts by Francesca DenHartog

Sew What Fleece by Carol Jessop and Chaila Sekora. Good if you want easy warm jackets, vests, coats, robes to add to a wardrobe book which doesn’t include them.

I like these books. They make a good starting point for beginners. No very poor reviews at Amazon.

A different take is Make your own clothes by Marie Clayton. This includes software for making personal patterns. Sorry, I don’t think much of either the software or the sewing instructions for beginners. Here’s my review at Pattern Review.

P.S. Rosie Martin of DIY Couture has a new book of simple make-it-yourself patterns which don’t involve complex drafting, plus illustrated sewing instructions for beginners. Haven’t seen it yet but it looks fun.

Easy Sewing the Kwik Sew Way
By Kerstin Martensson.

(not all to same scale)

Simple basic patterns for knit tee, dartless blouse, 2 skirts, pants (elastic waists). Kwik Sew type patterns on thick white paper. Up to 45 inch/ 114 cm bust, 47 inch/ 120 cm hip.

Many simple instructions for changing the patterns to make other styles, from zip front hoodie to nightwear. The dresses shown are all two-piece, but you could extend these patterns to simple shirt and shift one-piece dresses. Good for beginners, with Kwik Sew’s simple clear sewing instructions. No discussion of wardrobe building. Fit advice only about changing length. Universally good reviews.

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Wendy Mullin’s books

Many modern casual styles are more fitted and do have darts. Wendy Mullin’s books are bursting with excellent pattern altering ideas, but the patterns and sewing instructions sometimes need care.

She has her own RTW clothing line and used to design patterns for Simplicity. There are 4 pattern books, which build into a comprehensive wardrobe (though there’s no discussion of that). All books have 3 basic patterns.

The first, Sew U, has patterns for skirt, shirt, pants. (I’m disappointed there’s no pattern for the bag on the cover :D) Up to 38 inch/ 98 cm bust, 42 inch/ 107 cm hip, BMV size 18.


Many suggestions for changing the style elements on these patterns. Advice for sewing beginners, though these styles are perhaps a bit much for timid learners. Fit only mentioned in passing. Rightly well known.

Home Stretch Knits


Patterns for :
– set-in sleeve tee.
– raglan hoodie.
– dress with waistline seam.

Pattern alteration and sewing instructions for 6 versions of each style – changes in neckline, length, shape. . .

Good knit sewing instructions for beginners, but no advanced techniques such as stabilising or using a double needle.

Some people like close fitting knits. Some like their knits loose and baggy. Reviewers say these patterns make up large. So check for your preferred level of ease. And some think the result doesn’t look like the picture. So do make a trial version.

Wendy Mullin also has a book on Dresses. I’ve put that in my post on books for dresses.

Built by Wendy Coats & Jackets


Patterns for :
– armhole princess fitted jacket.
– dartless casual jacket described as ‘not-too-snug’ and used for loose styles like a parka.
– raglan sleeve dartless outerwear coat.
A good range of basic shapes for outerwear. Most styles have neckline and front opening interfacing, but no more complex support structures. Many have linings.

Sadly these jacket and coat patterns are tiny, only 1 – 2 inches/ 2 – 5 cm ease. Barely movement room, certainly not large enough for layering. Here’s my comments at Pattern Review.

The pattern altering instructions for jackets and coats are good and inspirational, with multiple variations. But the sewing instructions are not always clear and the patterns are unusable. These are exciting styles – what a disappointment ! You need properly sized patterns and a technique book if you want to try these jacket or coat styles.

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Perfect Plus
by Kathleen Cheetham of Petite Plus patterns.


Patterns for blouse, jacket, skirt, pants. This is the only wardrobe pattern book I know of which covers a ‘Core 4’. Sized for petites 40 to 50 inch/ 117 cm bust, 42 – 52 inch/ 132 cm hip, BMV sizes 18 to 28. Lengthen lines on the patterns, so you can alter them for height.

Much good discussion on using the patterns to build a wardrobe. Only simple pattern changes, such as different sleeve lengths, a small choice of collar shapes, some trim changes. 14 pages on fit, covering all the main issues. Good sewing instructions with many photos and diagrams.

Final mention for
Sew Everything Workshop by Diana Rupp.
For sewing beginners not wardrobe planning. Over 100 5-star reviews at Amazon, but look at the 3 star reviews to get some heart felt comments. I have seen this but ‘handed it on’ as the projects aren’t my style and I didn’t need the guidance. That was some time ago so I can’t now comment in detail. With patterns for several garment types.

P.S. Sewing Machine Basics by Jane Bolsover is a learners book which gets enthusiastic reviews from beginners who have made the projects. Leads up to making simple pants, skirt, and blouse. Full size traceable patterns up to 42 inch hip. (Nothing on pattern altering or wardrobes.)

– – –

It’s Stitchers’ Guild ‘Sewing With A Plan‘ time again, so many people are thinking about wardrobe co-ordination.
Would any of these wardrobe pattern books give you a simple starting point for your own co-ordinates ?

Second post planned for the books mainly with dress patterns. Is that more to your taste 😀

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Books and links available January 2012

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Explore posts in the same categories: co-ordinates

9 Comments on “Wardrobe pattern books – casuals”

  1. sara Says:

    I have all of the Wendy Mullins books and I find them very inspirational, but most of the patterns don’t work for me. I think the trick is to use these books with other, tried and true basic patterns. I made a coat which was very much inspired by one in her book but I used a Burda pattern as the starting point. I made the knit dress using a McCall pattern as the starting point, etc… I’m still looking for a good basic raglan sleeve T pattern. Of the patterns in her books that I tried, the only one that worked out for me was the “dirndl” dress. The bodice needed only minor alterations. I also made an XS version of it for my daughter and it turned out very well.
    If you put all her books together, it’s an excellent inspiration for a sharp urban wardrobe.

    • sewingplums Says:

      Good point Sara. I have all the books, and they’re so full of ideas I have no regrets about using my own basic patterns instead of hers. If this is your style, it can be a good guide to what you need in a set of personal starting point patterns 😀

  2. Lynn Mally Says:

    Thanks for this wonderful overview! I ordered the Kwik Sew book–even if I don’t use the patterns, I always am inspired about how authors change basic blocks for different looks.

    • sewingplums Says:

      Thanks Lynn. Hope you enjoy it – I think the Kwik Sew book is very good on showing how simple it is to make small changes and get a very different garment.

  3. ejvc Says:

    Nice, Lisanne. I think the Mullins books are really inspirational in terms of understanding how some simple changes to basic blocks – including stuff like fabrics and topstitching, not even pattern changes – will really change the way a garment looks.

    O to find a pattern/book/etc with a proper “Core 4” — for me it would be more like the KwikSew you review (though with waistbanded trousers) plus a jacket (though that’s 6).

    Also very helpful would be a series on how to chop and change the standard T pattern. Perhaps that’s why your neckline post is so popular?

    • sewingplums Says:

      Thanks Elizabeth – good points.

      Reply on t-shirts :

      I’m not the right person to write on altering t-shirts, as I don’t wear or make them myself ! But I have noticed these sources :

      – Wendy Mullin’s Home Stretch Knits has 2 chapters on variations to her basic tee.

      Marcy Tilton has two t-shirt CDs and a gallery of alterations to her Vogue patterns.

      – Peggy Sagers Terrific T-shirts DVD is on different embellishments for tees.

      Shirley Adams’ Alternatives 501 pattern for variations of a woven shell is oop. But the drawing of all her suggestions is still on her site here.

    • sewingplums Says:

      Elizabeth – reply on Core 4.

      I wonder why these wardrobe books include so few jackets – perhaps because structured ones can involve a more advanced skill set.

      As I need to add a vest for my basic wardrobe, that gets the Kwik Sew group up to seven !

      There are easy Kwik Start patterns similar to everything in the book, but there aren’t suitable Kwik Start jackets and vests. There are a couple of easy vests among the Kwik Start patterns. But they aren’t good styles for having a jacket layered over them.

      A recent classic vest is Kwik Sew 3899.

      Sadly there are no longer any easy Kwik Start jackets (I have a couple of oop ones).

      There’s a dozen possibilities among their jacket patterns that would go well with the styles in the book. The full range of Kwik Sew jackets is here.

      A recent jacket pattern in the same style as the book is Kwik Sew 3890.

    • sewingplums Says:

      Third comment – you’ve really got me thinking 😀

      I think the problem with a ‘Core 4’ book is that, although the basis may be – top, jacket, skirt, pants – when it comes to it we all prefer a slightly different style. Otherwise we would each happily choose one of the many wardrobe patterns with this group of garments, and would have no more problems. . .

  4. Beautiful work thank you

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