Archive for the ‘fit + patterns’ category

Simple pattern altering

July 4, 2017

Do-It-Yourself ‘pattern hacks’.
Last year I wrote a post describing the easiest types of pattern changes.

Beginner (no need to re-draw pattern pieces) :
– change length of hems and sleeves,
– omit patch / inseam / welt pockets, collar piece of 2-piece collar,
– use a larger size for a layering garment (not the best technique for making a pattern for a layer, but it is easy).
Advanced Beginner :
– change edge shape of collars, patch pockets,
– add seamlines, e.g. for yoke, colour blocking,
– change neckline, cuff, hem edge shape (also change facing if used),
– omit collars or sleeves – may need to make facing patterns,
– omit slant pockets – need to combine pattern pieces.
Intermediate :
– open or close the front of a pattern,
– make a skirt from a pant pattern.

There are of course many other possible pattern alterations, those are just some easy ones.

That post was based on one specific pattern, but it had a final section on other patterns and sources of advice you might use. That section has kept spreading, so I’ve made it this separate post.

This is a developing area of sewing support, so this is just a selection of the possibilities.

Written instruction

Pattern pieces provided for all the variations

Of course many people don’t want to do their own pattern making. Would much rather just find a pattern they like where someone else has dealt with the variations. We all have different skills we enjoy using when we’re making clothes.

Lotta Jansdotter’s wardrobe pattern book Everyday Style just uses fabric or length changes to make her style variations. Traceable paper patterns. BurdaStyle-like brief instructions, not for beginner sewers.
Sew Serendipity by Kay Whitt is a wardrobe pattern book which includes the pattern pieces needed for the style variations. Tissue patterns.
The Magic Patterns Book by Amy Barickman also has pattern pieces for all the variations. Pdf patterns.
BurdaStyle patterns magazine often has the same block as the base of several different garments.

If you are interested in learning about pattern making, you can learn much by looking at how these pattern variations are achieved (it’s often very simple).

Pattern pieces provided for components, and you choose your combination

Fit For Art patterns provide a half-way house. There are basic tissue patterns for knit top, pants, and jacket. Then many further patterns with the pattern pieces for other styles.

There are also several books which provide you with patterns for components. These are a couple of them :
Pattern making templates for skirts and dresses by Alice Prier
Sew many dresses by Tanya Whelan
I don’t sew dresses myself, so can’t comment if these do the job well.

Given how interesting tunics can be these days, The Tunic Bible is remarkably dull, just one basic style.

The basis of doing this is to use patterns which match at the seams, so you can change the shape of the pattern each side of the seam, such as pattern pieces with the same length of :
– neckline seam : add different collars,
– princess seam : change neckline or draping in centre panel, without having to re-draft anything else,
– armhole seam : combine different bodies and sleeves,
– waist seam : combine different tops and bottoms for dresses, jumpsuits, peplum tops, jackets, coats. . .
If you want to combine pattern elements which haven’t got the same length seams, it’s often simple to trace the matching pattern edge from the other pattern.

Do your own simple pattern altering

Easy re-drawing of pattern pieces.
There’s no need to be daunted by the huge pattern making college texts. There are many simple introductions.
See my post linked above, on easy pattern changes.

Many ideas for what to do with the shirt, pants and a-line skirt patterns provided in Wendy Mullin’s pattern book, Sew U.
The styling booklets and leaflets from Sure Fit Designs have clear instructions for many options, and can be used with most basic pattern blocks, not just hers.
The FitNice System has 2 very simple base paper patterns and many pdfs about style changes. The basics are knit tee, elastic-waist pants – the free pdfs show what the blocks are like. Again the base blocks don’t work well for me, but you can use the pattern altering instructions on any personal block.
Cal Patch’s book DIY Clothes has you start with simple basic block drafting, then there are instructions for patterns for many current styles. Sadly it doesn’t work well for me as there are few diagrams. Minimal sewing instructions. She now also has a video class at Creative Bug.

Several of the independent pattern companies have a blog with easy ‘pattern hacks’. I’m not going to try to list those, as any list of independent pattern companies changes daily !

Combine simple pattern changes with good sewing instruction ?
The oop book Easy Sewing the Kwik Sew Way has many easy variants from tee and shirt patterns.
Alison Smith’s book Dressmaking step by step (12 patterns, 19 variations) is a selection from her big Dressmaking book (the same 12 patterns, 31 variations) (these Sewingplums pdfs show the patterns included : US letter, A4).

Video instruction

These all show how to draw your own changed patterns.

Many of Peggy Sager’s webcasts are about simple but effective pattern variations. She talks about Silhouette patterns, but most of the ideas apply to many similar patterns.

Angela Wolf has 2 Threads magazine DVDs/downloads on alterations to specific patterns :
1. wardrobe pattern with dress, skirt, pants, jacket
2. classic sheath dress and jacket pattern

Here’s an on-line course from Cashmerette on changing a sleeveless top pattern to make multiple styles. Emphasis on pattern changes. A curvy pattern, but the same ideas apply for all shapes and sizes !

There are Craftsy classes on varying the style details of shirts and pants.

If you want to learn ‘professional’ detail about pattern making, Suzy Furrer has Craftsy classes with some suggestions for designing tops and pants.
She also has specific classes on patterns for : darts and seam lines, necklines, collars and closures, and sleeves.

Those are all about making the patterns for specific styles.
Peggy Sagers of Silhouette patterns has 2 useful more general DVDs :
– her basic pattern making DVDs are very clear, tho expensive.
– she also has a DVD on combining details from different patterns.

I find that, while I love videos for sewing technique, when I’m learning about pattern making I prefer written instructions with lots of diagrams to ponder at my own pace.

Some places to visit which have no pattern altering instructions, but many ideas about what to do

This pinterest board shows some patterns that are particularly easy to make changes to.

Not sure what you want ? This post links to pinterest boards with many style elements for different types of garments.

A few years ago I wrote a post on some patterns which show a range of other options for simple pattern and style altering. And it’s partner post on more casual styles.
Those posts are not solely about pattern changes, but there are several good examples of small changes which can make a big difference.

There are also of course many ways you can alter a garment without doing any pattern work.
This post has many starting points for combining fabrics or adding sewn embellishments.
This pinterest board has many inspiring examples of fabric combining.
Diane Ericson has published a new version of her ‘Just Pockets’ pattern, with 60 pocket ideas !

What a wealth of possibilities. It can be bit overwhelming. Definitely a good incentive to get clear about your personal style.

It used to look so easy just to leaf through a print pattern catalogue and spot patterns you liked ! But I usually didn’t see anything that was ‘quite right’. Now I’m happier taking elements from different patterns and knowing how to combine them.

Can you see why commercial companies of cheaper clothes make one basic block, and then make many small changes to give different looks ?
It’s developing the basic block which needs the main work. Then the potential for tweaking it to make different styles is almost endless.

For us home sewers with far from average shapes – get the basic pattern blocks to fit, and that’s most of our fitting challenges sorted.

Then, if that’s what we enjoy, we can have fun with playing the changes 😀

= = = = =

Style elements

January 29, 2017

This is such a visual topic, but yet there are no images in this post as there’s no easy way of summarising 100s of style elements. So here are quick links to my pinterest boards :

Jackets / coats
Yokes / smocks
Pants / trousers
Skirts / dresses

– – –

I have a huge pattern collection – I’m a pattern nerd – and I enjoy them in their own right, as a treasure trove of style ideas, pattern making solutions and sewing instructions, rather than actually using them to make things ! I’m one of those people who reads the instructions and looks at the pattern pieces for fun 😀 (and gets upset with mistakes). I do know this is the opposite of many people.

The starting point I sew from is influenced by several factors.

I have a good collection of body shape features which are not ‘average’, so my personal fitting blocks are nothing like the base blocks used as starting points for commercial patterns. This makes it hard work to adapt commercial patterns to fit.
I find it much easier to start from my own personal blocks, and add style elements to them, often taking information about silhouettes / proportions / details from commercial patterns.

Admittedly it helps with this problem that I’m interested in pattern making, and have a good collection of books and on-line classes on it. As well as patterns to copy the style elements from. People who don’t enjoy pattern making would need to find a different solution for this situation.

So what style elements are there to choose from to make your own design ?
And what did I learn from collecting them together ?

Style elements and proportions

I’ve recently been using pinterest as a way of collecting information about style elements, very easy to do as several sites have done a good job of pulling them together.

I’ve made several pinterest boards of my own.
Of course these images only cover representative versions of each style, there are infinite possibilities for varying proportions and combining details.

Those boards show clearly different styles, such as high or scooped neckline, flat Peter Pan collar or high banded collar, dolman or fitted sleeves. Within these styles, quite small changes in the proportions of silhouette and style elements, and in the fabrics and support structures used, can make a big difference to the look of the final result.
For an example, see my post on my ideal shirt.

Which is why many of us prefer to use other people’s designs rather than make our own. We can see from their illustrations if the proportions they’ve chosen are the ones we’re looking for.
Usually photos give the most reliable information about proportions. Fashion drawings and line illustrations may be good for seeing style elements, but they’re sometimes quite mis-leading about the proportions used in a pattern.

Specific style elements

Jackets and coats

After I’d collected these together I realised several things.

These lists must be compiled by fashionistas, as there’s a distinct lack of basic formal classics like the French/‘Chanel’ jacket, or basic casual classics like the jeans jacket or the waterfall collar. So I added some images of my own.

These lists are about styles for woven fabric, I didn’t find any ready-made lists of casual knit cardigan styles, so I compiled my own. And some hoodies, as they’re also rarely included in the lists.
Another oddity, the only section of BMV that has many patterns for cardigans is McCall’s !

Cardigan styles

Tops, including blouses and shirts. Also knit tees and tops – it’s not so obvious that their features are included, but they are there :

Use these necklines and sleeves also for the bodice part of dresses and jumpsuits.

Again the fashionistas don’t pay much attention to a personal favourite, which is yokes. So I’ve added a board of patterns which show the variety of options.
Yoke styles

For bottoms I prefer wearing :

Pants / trousers

For completeness I’ve added :

Skirts / dresses
although I rarely wear them myself.

And I haven’t seen guides for fashion students about jumpsuits. So here’s a selection of patterns for them, though only ones with sleeves and waist seams.

What I’ve noticed about my own style

Once I had made these pinterest boards, I had several interesting realisations.

There are many styles missing from the stylists’ reference lists. Many of us feel most ourselves when we’re wearing styles which are ignored by the fashionistas and the sites which support fashion design students. It’s not surprising that some people feel un-recognised, even alienated, by ‘fashion’.

And I have realised there are very few of these silhouettes and proportions or details which I want to wear myself.
I wouldn’t say that I’m a classic dresser or a conservative dresser, as those words imply a particular type of style elements, which I don’t wear.
But I am a very ‘unvaried’ dresser, repeating the same proportions, silhouettes and details rather than exploring all the possibilities.
I’m the same about accessories, nearly always wearing the same shoe style, bag shape, necklace length. I get uncomfortable with too big a change. Though I do admit to a variety of scarves and brooches/pins !

Well, I could wear most of the yokes and many of the cardigan styles – some of the styles the fashionistas ignore. . . So perhaps I do like variety, it’s just within a smaller range than the fashionistas consider, and styles they don’t think of !
Have you got your own ‘signature’ style element ?
Have you made a pinterest board to celebrate it 😀

So there aren’t so many variations that I want to make. That’s another reason why it’s easier for me to start from my own blocks, rather than needing ever more patterns.
I’m a quiet person, and I like subtle variety. I get my interest from small changes in proportions, and subtle changes in fabric colour and texture.

Again I know that many people are the opposite of this – and want to explore all the possibilities and wear / make something different every time.

Where do you come on this ?
Do you find looking at these images and picking out the ones you like and enjoy wearing is a good guide to your personal style ?
Or is what you like to wear missing altogether from these images ?
Or is your style eclectic, and you like all of them 😀

– – –

Links available January 2017

= = =

Make everything from one pattern ?

November 12, 2016

Interested in the challenge of making everything from one pattern ? And I don’t mean a wardrobe pattern !

The Pattern Review One Pattern Many Looks contest for 2016 is currently running.
For this contest, you have to choose one view of a pattern. They only allow you to make changes in fabrics and trims.
They specifically exclude doing any pattern work, apart from fitting.

Personally I find it more fun to do some simple pattern work. I know many people don’t want to change patterns, but the alterations suggested in this post are simple.

And an advantage of a DIY version of this pattern altering process is that you don’t have those lengthy legalistic discussions about what meets the rules and what doesn’t, which take up most of the contest discussion 😀

A starter pattern

Several years ago I wrote a post on using one pattern for a dress, top, jacket, vest, coat.
The pattern I used is now out of print.

This time I’m starting from Simplicity 8060, a Mimi G jumpsuit pattern.
There’s a link to a sewing video on that page.


If a shirt isn’t your style, you could do these simple pattern alterations starting from many other jumpsuit patterns with sleeves and waist seam.
I’ve collected some of the current ones on this pinterest board.

Or of course you could instead work the other way round, and use your favourite top and pants patterns to make a jumpsuit. Make the length of the top pattern at your personal bodice length (nape of neck to waist) plus 1-2” / 3-5cm, to allow for movement. If you’d like a tutorial, here’s a video from Wonder How To.

Most of these pattern altering ideas don’t just apply to one pattern. They’re general pattern altering skills which can be applied to many other patterns as well. I’ve begun a pinterest board of some patterns that are easy to change.

Some simple ideas for what you can make from a jumpsuit pattern

(Apart from a jumpsuit !)

Use top and bottom patterns separately.

Use a larger size of the top for a bomber / blouson jacket.
Use the casing and drawstring for the waist.

Make a dress with a waist seam, by adding a gathered rectangle of fabric below the waist instead of the pants. Any length from mini to maxi. How about using some special occasion fabric ?
Several examples of commercial patterns which do that on this pinterest board.

Use the pants pattern pieces to make gathered waist pants.
Use the casing and drawstring for the waist.

For simple re-styling :
– move / omit / change shape of patch and slant pockets,
– change the shape of the collar : round the corners, or use only the band.

With very little pattern work

These changes can be made direct with the pattern tissue if you want to.
Or for more speed there are even easier methods.

Change hem and sleeve lengths – see instructions for lengthening and shortening the pattern tissue, given on most pattern sheets including this one.
If you’d like more detailed advice, there are detailed examples of lengthening and shortening in this post from Tilly and the Buttons.

Lengthen the top to make :
shirt / tunic / shift shirt dress without waist seam.
Use a size larger for a shirt-jacket, longer for a duster.

If the top pattern is the same width all the way down from underarm to hem, you can just mark the added length onto the fabric when cutting, with no need to change the tissue. (Well, I need to check that’s big enough for my hips !)

Lengthen or shorten the sleeves.

Omit collar / cuffs / sleeves.
Make sleeveless tops, vests and sleeveless coats.
Add a bias binding or bias facing to the remaining edge.
Or make a facing pattern, see about 3/4 of the way down this post.

Shorten the length of the jumpsuit pants to make a romper.
Shorten the pants used without the top, to cropped, capris, bermudas, shorts.

For speed shortening, just fold back the unwanted part of the tissue when cutting. Though remember to allow for the ‘turn of the cloth’ at the hem (see angle at hem of pants pattern below for an example).

With a little more pattern work

For these changes, it’s best to trace the pattern and work with the tracing.

Change neckline.
Here’s a post on changing necklines.

Close front of top to make a pullover top, perhaps with a variety of half plackets (henley, polo, zip).
Extend that to a shift dress.
Here’s a post on closing the front of a pattern.

To make a skirt from the pants pattern – lengthen downwards from the vertical part of the crotch seam.
Use the casing and drawstring for the waist.
I’ve extended the stitching lines in this diagram, as I tend to make my own patterns without seam allowances. You can of course extend the cutting lines.
Remember to add hem allowance.
On this image I took it easy and used straight lines. But hem and side seam need to meet at a right angle. So if your pattern piece has sloping sides, you need to curve the hem shape.
(Going from pants to skirt is much easier than the other way round.)


Hmm – what about a coat ? Use 2 sizes larger of a lengthened top pattern, and add a lining 😀
See this Threads magazine download book on drafting and sewing your own lining patterns.

This post focusses on all the things you can do to make different garments from one particular pattern.

This post used to end with a section listing some other sources which show how easy it can be to alter a pattern.
That section has expanded so much, I’ve now made it a separate post on Simple pattern alterations.

If you love patterns, this can be a fun thing to do 😀

– – –

Pattern and links available November 2016

= = =

Changing a pattern neckline

October 22, 2016

You like a pattern except for the neckline ? or you want to try a different shape ?
Changing a neckline is quite easy pattern work.

First draw in the stitching lines on the existing pattern. It’s easy to do this with a transparent French Curve with 5/8 inch marked round the curved edge. These stitching lines show the position of the shoulder seam and the finished neckline edge.


The crucial point to identify is where the neck edge meets the shoulder seam, sometimes called the neck point.

So long as you draw your new front stitching line-finished neckline through this point, you won’t have to alter the back neckline (or vice versa).


If you want a wider or narrower neckline, draw in the new finished neckline position. Then measure how far the new neckline is from the old neck point, along the shoulder seam. Use this measure to find where to start the new back neckline.


To add the new cutting line :
– make some marks 5/8 inch from the stitching line.
The ends of both a tape measure and a seam gauge are 5/8 inch.


– Then join the marks into a smooth curve – easy to do with a French Curve.


Changing the neckline of a wrap top/ dress is a bit more complex. Here’s a tutorial.

Neckline finish

You could simply finish the new neckline with a bias binding or a bias facing.

If you want the added structure of a proper facing, that involves a bit of easy pattern making.

See instructions for making a facing pattern about 3/4 of the way through this post.

Here’s a video from Louise Cutting on how to add a back neck facing to a pattern that hasn’t got one (facings do make collars very easy to sew on).

– – –

There’s a Craftsy class from Suzy Furrer on drafting necklines.

Again, many possibilities to think about and try out. But once you’ve decided what to do, the pattern work needed can be very simple.

– – –

Links available October 2016

= = = = =

To get to main blog, click on red header.