Archive for the ‘pattern making for clothes’ category

Choosing core pattern blocks

May 22, 2022

How to choose a small basic set of patterns to use as the starting point for your hacking adventures ?

I’m surprised that I have at last got my own group of core patterns. I recognise that I have got to this point because I now feel relaxed about it. It must have been a concern for years, as I’ve written many posts about it, which I’ve pulled together here. I have written so much on this, it’s obviously not a topic for which there is an instant, or single, solution.

There are three main sections of this post :
– my own core patterns, as an example.
– I wrote many past posts about the possible choice of a small group of patterns to make a capsule, which I have brought together here.
– as most of those posts are a decade old the pattern links no longer work, so I have added links to some current indie pattern companies which offer stylish casual patterns.

– – –

My own core patterns

As in most aspects of sewing, there are so many pattern choices it can rapidly get overwhelming. So it’s well worth being secure about your own style, the clothes that you love to wear. Notice what it is that you always reach for, or that you regret being in the laundry.

The best patterns to use as a base for pattern hacking are very simple, they have few or no style elements. Those elements are added by the pattern hacking.

The following posts are about my own core patterns, the basic shapes I need for ‘stylish casuals’ :
cut-on sleeve top,
drop shoulder casual sleeved top (also basis for shirts),
on-shoulder casual sleeved top,
basic slim leg pants fit (scroll down).
I also have a well-fitting pattern for a raglan sleeve top, though that’s not a key shape for me, I need more shoulder definition.

The pullover tops can all easily be developed to other garment types :
– open the front : here’s my series of posts on doing that.
– enlarge to a layering jacket/ vest/ coat : I refer to Don McCunn p.154.

All the tops can very easily be lengthened into simple dresses (basically just extend the side seams, some notes on this process from Paper Theory).

I also have core patterns for, but rarely use as I’m not a dress and skirt wearer :
– fitted bodice,
– pencil skirt,
– a-line skirt (without darts).
For my body shape, I would do best with an a-line dress shape, neatly fitted at the shoulders and armholes with generous ease at the hips.
If I was a dress wearer with a more average body shape I would also have a core :
– sheath dress (fitted dress without a waist seam),
but my small busted wide hipped body would just look silly in such a style.

Once your core patterns are developed to fit well, then you can look at the pattern companies for style element ideas 😀 to add to the basics by pattern hacking (see the first post in this pair).

– – –

Past posts on small groups of patterns
I’ve written many posts which suggest a group of patterns for a core wardrobe. They were originally written as comments on wardrobe planning, so don’t include much guidance on hacking them to make different styles, such as :
Pattern books for wardrobe building
A core wardrobe from Sew Over It patterns

A wardrobe pattern might be simple solution to the issue of finding a basic set of patterns that co-ordinate, but they’re no longer available, just not economic I suppose. Some indie pattern designers have ‘pattern bundles’. I was fond of the long out-of-print 6-item Central Park pattern from Park Bench patterns, very easy to copy, either literally or in spirit.


Most of my posts about small groups of co-ordinating patterns refer to the work of 5 people who advise using a small capsule of key pieces as a basis for wardrobe choices : Eileen Fisher, Nancy Nix-Rice, Judith Rasband, The Vivienne Files, and Linda Lee of Sewing Workshop patterns.

Most of these posts on patterns for capsules were written around a decade ago, so many of the specific pattern suggestions are out of print. Though many of the ideas still apply. Although ‘fashion’ changes in detail every season, the basic styles which most of us wear are fairly constant.

These posts refer mainly Big 4 patterns, as they were easy to find out about at the time. Sadly those sites have changed, so most of the links in the posts do not work.
So these posts now mainly provide food for thought rather than usable links.

Eileen Fisher
here’s the 2022 version of her basics.

basic capsule.
revise the basics.
spring suggestions.
first part of Eileen Fisher’s holiday wear capsule, tops.
holiday wear dresses

Nancy Nix-Rice
Her set of posts referred to in my posts are no longer available. Her book has brief sections on all wardrobing topics and could be a good replacement, or she has a Craftsy class if you prefer video. She more recently emphasises that the styles in her core wardrobe diagrams are just indications, not required, such as : you need some sort of front-opening layer to wear in more serious situations, but it need not be a blazer !

NNR capsules
Some of Nancy’s capsule suggestions : 3 jackets, 4 tops, 2 skirts, 3 pants

first 8 items, there are 12 items in her core wardrobe, starting with a ‘Core 4’. The first 8 items are in dark and light core neutrals.
final 4 items, adding colour and print.
additions, the best items to add when you want more than 12. ‘Best’ defined as those items which instantly add outfits for many more situations, such as leisure if you’ve focussed your 12 on professional/ serious, or vice versa.
more comments.
accessories, no patterns.

Judith Rasband
author of college text Wardrobe Strategies for Women [terrible cover, rich content],
and the fitting bible.
While Nancy Nix-Rice uses similar shapes for the same type of garment, to make co-ordination easy, Judith Rasband deliberately makes several of the same type of garment as different as possible, to make different styles of outfit.
She has retired and her site is discontinued.

general capsule, she uses a ‘Core 5’ with 2 skirts.
summer capsule, this is 6 items with 3 tops.
variations for summer.

Vivienne Files
Janice has many bases for organising your wardrobe choices, see the Articles tab here.

wardrobe of relaxed basics [this post was written at the time of the Queen’s Diamond jubilee, in June we will be celebrating her Platinum jubilee – 70 years as Queen – amazing, good for her].
variations on relaxed wardrobe.
starting with smaller groups.

Sewing Workshop patterns
layering wardrobe.
Currently Linda Lee sews a new capsule each year, in the Sew Confident series.

other posts :
Holiday wardrobe plans, only 2 patterns suggested : classic tailored and casual wardrobe patterns.

suggestions for 3-item groups, each item claimed to be makable in less than 3 hours.

An early piece on my own minimal basics.

Fall season 2012.

More sources suggesting small groups of garments, not many pattern suggestions.

Wardrobe patterns 2012, there were more wardrobe patterns then.

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Indie pattern companies

The basic options for a casual wardrobe keep repeating. Nearly every company has patterns for a tee, tank, sweatshirt/ hoodie, cardigan, casual pants.
And the number of indie pattern companies has greatly expanded since the above posts were written (new ones daily). So there are many other sources of good casual patterns. It’s just a matter of finding ones that are right for you.

Here is a small selection of current companies mainly oriented to stylish casuals rather than activewear or dresses – my choice, other people could come up with a completely different list :

The Assembly Line.

BMann by Bridget – lagenlook.

Closet Core – famous for their jeans.

Friday Pattern Company.

Grainline Studio.

Helmersson – zero waste.

In the Folds – ‘Curated by In the Folds’ is a series of detailed written tutorials on intermediate level techniques for sewing, fitting, hacking.

Megan Nielsen.

Muna & Broad – will draft larger if you need it.

Paper Theory.

Rebecca Page.

Sew House Seven.

Sew Liberated.

Twig and Tale.

Wardrobe By Me.

mainly knits :

Christine Jonson.

Pamela’s Patterns.

There are many many more indie companies. The list of companies at Pattern Review goes into the 100s. As there are also many small companies which don’t appear in the Pattern Review list, there may be as many as 150,000 patterns, more if we’re interested in vintage patterns.

No wonder we get overwhelmed !! So it’s important to have a strategy for limiting the options.
What are the basic 3-4 garment types that you absolutely have to have in your closet ?

Are there one or two pattern companies you feel especially in tune with ? For me, if I was restricted to using only patterns from one company I might choose the relaxed styles at Paper Theory or Sew House Seven, or the crisper styles at The Assembly Line if I was still working, with Birgitta Helmersson for when I’m feeling especially planet-conscious. While when I’m going more ‘cottage core’/ sprite I choose Twig and Tale.
But I’m a pattern nerd, expecting me to reduce my patterns is unrealistic 😀
Okay, if you don’t keep up with all the other pattern lines you might miss something good, but that way madness lies ! I’m on many e-mail lists, but I keep away from all the aggressive marketing on Instagram.

Which would be your favourite pattern for each of your essential garment types ?

– – –

There are two aims to finding these small groups of co-ordinating patterns :
– simplifying your wardrobe planning and co-ordination,
– providing the starting points for your pattern hacking, as summarised in the first post of this pair.

Best Wishes and Good Luck for finding and fitting your own top ranking patterns, which you can use as a starting point for hacking to add your own favourite style elements. These can be your TNTs – Tried aNd True patterns – those shapes which are key in building your personal wardrobe.

♥️ 👍 ♥️ 👍 ♥️

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One Pattern Many Looks – pattern hacking

May 22, 2022

Having recently established my own group of core essentials patterns which I can use as the base for pattern hacking, I’ve been pulling together my previous posts related to this topic into a group of 2 posts :
– pattern hacking – this post,
– choosing a small group of core patterns to use as the starting point for hacking – separate post.

Once you have a basic pattern you’re happy with, there’s an almost infinite number of changes you can make to it. With the special bonus that, if the starting pattern fits you well, the patterns you make from it are likely to fit you well too. Here are some of the many books and patterns on the subject. Follow through with any of them for a huge range of ideas.

As my body is very non-average – developing some basic patterns that fit well, and then hacking them to make new styles, works much better for me than using a different pattern for every project. So this is a topic I keep returning to. The suggestions below are the options that come first to mind, so most are in my casual top-plus-pants style.

Most of the books include patterns, but I think it’s best to use their ideas to alter your own pattern blocks. Otherwise you just keep repeating the same problem: every time you start with a new book or pattern, you have to get the patterns to fit you before you can start making your own styles.

You can of course choose your own group of basic block patterns to use in your hacking. In this blog I have often chosen a group of patterns as the base for a capsule. I have linked to those posts in a second post, though they contain little hacking guidance. Perhaps like me you just need :
– blouse/ layering top (jacket)/pants.
Or your key choices might be :
– sheath dress/dress with waist seam/’french’ jacket, or
– tee/ cardigan/ jeans,
or any other grouping, depending on your personal style.

Once you have your base patterns, the sources linked from this post are ones that do much of the thinking for you about how to change them, they include many ideas and much guidance on both pattern making and construction.

– – –

One-pattern-many-looks books, patterns included :

This isn’t all of them, some others are mentioned in my other posts.

full size paper patterns :
Sonya Philip, Act of Sewing, patterns for cut-on sleeve and fitted sleeve tops, a-line skirt, pants. Half the book is on simple pattern alterations.

Kwik Sew Easy Sewing, patterns for tee, camp shirt, pants, straight and flared skirts. Many alternative styles for each, with pattern changes indicated.

pdf patterns :
Amy Barickman Magic Pattern Book, patterns for tank top, peasant style top/dress, skirt, cardigan, coat, accessories, with patterns for 6 variations of each plus many more ideas.

draft patterns from diagrams :
Rusty Bensussen, 4 patterns – top (also used for dresses, jackets, coats), pants, a-line and circle skirts.

Bordow and Rosenberg Hassle Free Make Your Own Clothes, mainly skirt, top, pants.

I don’t wear dresses and skirts, but this is one of several books about modular dress patterns – combine any bodice with any skirt : Tanya Whelan.

and there are several similar books about skirts, such as :
A-line skirts.
4 skirt silhouettes.
This is even easier – Sew What Skirts.

In the same spirit as the last skirts book, but about making simple items from fleece – Sew What Fleece.

– – –

If you prefer videos, these are some options.

A couple of DVDs by Angela Wolf at Threads :
One Pattern Many Ways One, and Two.

Many classes at Craftsy.
Many classes from Suzy Furrer on changing style elements. I do not recommend her classes on basic sloper drafting as she claims to help you draft personalised patterns, but actually uses many ‘industry standard’ measures, so the patterns are barely better fitting than any other.
I find when I have followed one of these pattern drafting methods (not just Suzy Furrer’s, any of the ‘personalised’ sloper drafting methods) I then have to do a huge amount of fitting work to get the draft to work for me, so I might as well do that on a starter pattern and skip all the drafting effort. I don’t have any problems with the geometry and maths of drafting, what does leave me spitting pins is that the supposedly well-fitting pattern I end up with after a lot of work actually has no relation to me whatever. And I’ve tried many such methods. See my fitting posts. And as you can see, whenever this topic comes up, I’m still so angry I can’t resist a rant !
But Suzy Furrer does also have many classes on how to change style elements, and you can use those ideas on your own base patterns that do fit you well.

(Much easier ways of getting core patterns that fit without drafting your own block :
cut-on sleeve top,
sleeved top,
basic pants fit.)

There are also Craftsy classes on changes you can make starting from a basic blouse and pants patterns (patterns not included).

– – –

Pattern ranges

Fit for Art has several basic patterns with detailed instructions on how to get them to fit well. Then many add-on patterns with the specific pattern pieces for making other styles.

There is a Simplicity hacking patterns range which includes the pattern pieces you need – not as many options in this range as there used to be.

– – –

The following sources refer to master patterns which must be bought separately. You can use many of their ideas on your own pattern block, so it is not essential to start from their master pattern :

from Judy Kessinger of FitNice, who has master patterns for top and pants :
tops, dresses, pants, jackets.
tops only.

from Glenda Sparling of Sure-Fit Designs : variations of her dress, shirt, pants patterns.

Or, if you want to be more in ‘official pattern making style’, the book by Adele Margolis starts from a fitting sloper and makes it all much easier than the big college textbook tomes.

– – –

Pattern hacking can be very easy to do. Don’t be put off trying it by looking at one of the huge college pattern making textbooks.
Many ideas in this pattern hacking post, which has :
– many suggestions for simple starting points.
– links to more patterns which include hacking instructions.

And yet more ideas in these hacking posts. More books and patterns to add to those listed above :
My sewing style is one pattern many looks.
easiest pattern changes.
more simple starting points for pattern changes.
more books.

– – –

Choose and develop the fit of your own core patterns (see some ideas on the patterns to choose in the second post in this group), and look here and at the hacking posts for ideas on what to do with them !

Once you find pattern hacking is something you enjoy doing, the range of options can be overwhelming. Explore to find which part of all this fascinates you, what lifts your spirits and warms your heart 😀

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The world of cut-on sleeves

January 22, 2022

I first posted this topic here, then decided it is more about tips for learners, rather than opinion for more experienced sewers, so have moved it my other main blog, Aim for Quality.

Do you still buy many patterns ?

October 13, 2021

What is your relationship with patterns ?

Dr.T has written an interesting piece about the state of the pattern industry.

I’m certainly not contributing to the health of the pattern industry as much as I used to. In my personal progress I’ve gone from being a pattern nerd, and buying every pattern I liked the look of, to having a set of personal blocks and doing my own hacking. Things have progressed so far that I’ve recently considered not following up on pattern releases any more. I certainly couldn’t write blog posts reviewing what’s available in the way I used to.

This has happened for many reasons.
Partly because I have many non-average body features, so it is much less trouble to make my own pattern than to make all the changes needed to someone else’s.
Partly because I’ve done much work on ‘finding my personal style’, so I don’t get tempted by ‘wrong for me’ patterns any more ! (or battered by ‘you ought to want to wear this’ thoughts. . .)
Anyway being up-to-the-minute is not needed around here. This area is mainly students and health workers, not competitive suburbanites or inner city dwellers with money to spare on following fashion.
And I know my wearing style tends to be a ‘uniform’, I’m not a ‘something different every day’ person in what I wear. My making style also doesn’t go for big variety. I’m ‘a 100 ideas before breakfast’ person, but that comes out in thinking of new ways of using the same pattern. I find I’m a one-pattern-many-looks person. I’m not constantly looking for ‘new ideas’ from other people.
And as I’ve learned more about pattern making, so I less often want to buy a pattern just to find out how it works 😀

So I find what I keep near to hand is my small pile of books which suggest variations around a few basic patterns, not my embarrassing number of boxes of patterns sitting in the far corner of my sewing space.
Though I don’t much refer to the books either. Most of my pattern hacking needs are very simple, and covered by the comments I’ve made in pattern hacking posts here – see this post on simple hacks to one pattern, or go to the index page on pattern making – click on ‘altering patterns’. More recent links here.

And partly it’s just the sheer effort needed to keep up with all that’s happening the pattern world ! Although I spend inordinate amounts of time on the internet, it’s not spent following pattern influencers on Instagram 😀 But as I’m not a fan of Instagram – perhaps that shows I’m not really the right person to comment on the health of indie pattern companies !

Dr.T comments on repetition by the Big 4 and pattern magazines. My big difficulty with indie designers is similar. Many of them show slight variations on the same shape – how many patterns does one need for a ‘kimono’ jacket, cut-on sleeve top, shift dress, elastic-waist pants, tee, hoodie, leggings, joggers. . . Such companies are either depending on customers who find it restful to stay with the same designer, or they need to be sure that their pattern offers something different.
I have pinterest boards of patterns for ‘kimono’ jackets, and some of the other styles.

And the webosphere is getting clogged with people who happily generate pdf patterns with only the most minimal help, if any, with how to make them up. Which you only find out by buying the pattern – aargh.

I do find myself following pattern designers who give much thought to their teaching role, and give extra support with making – detailed instructions with many diagrams, extra photo sew-alongs and videos.
Though again this is something that is not guaranteed – you need to try patterns to find the people who give instructions that work well for you. I know a couple of indie companies which claim to take extra care with their instructions but which I don’t get on with – they always seem to leave out what I want to know.

And then there’s fit. . .
I’m also more impressed by pattern designers who try to help with fit (such as Fit for Art, the Sew Liberated Mindful Wardrobe class, Curated by In the Folds, 100 Acts of Sewing in her book).

In contrast, there’s a pattern company which claims “Our patterns WILL fit you!” in bold. Well, that is simply impossible. It would have to be a very shapeless pattern to fit both people who are A cup and people who are G cup, people with a defined waist and people who are round, people who have a large rear and people who are flat there, people who have wide square shoulders and people who have narrow sloping shoulders. I could go on at length about this ! Presumably this company has a big enough customer base of people who are about the same shape as them to keep them in business. Well, about 40% of the population are rectangle body shape. I’m not, and anyway I don’t buy from this company on principle !

Long ago most indie pattern designers were well ‘below the radar’. Big4 patterns were sold in fabric shops, and indie patterns in quilt shops.
Now that has opened up more – the big UK internet sewing supplies company I use has an amazing range of indie paper patterns.

But the patterns I have bought recently mainly come from the more remote corners of the indie pattern world. I’ve become aware that some pattern companies are not mentioned at Pattern Review. I didn’t even realise it was possible for a pattern not to be mentioned at Pattern Review 😀 their list of indie pattern companies goes into the 100s !

Several of these not-at-PR companies sell their patterns in small numbers to private Facebook boards for unusual styles.

One of the patterns I wouldn’t want to have to do without is one of these, the Blanchette blouse by Alexandra Genetti.
This for me has almost infinite possibilities for change. Top left in this collage of 5 favourite items, which I set up in mid 2020 :
5 favourites
My ‘uniform’ is a loose pullover layer over that frilled blouse, with slim pants and lace-up shoes. Add a padded vest in winter. None of these are items that appear in stylists categories, let alone being mentioned by fashion stylists or capsule wardrobe advisors 😀 Well there is a good pattern for the frilled blouse – the Liesl Gibson Recital blouse. I once heard a top style advisor say no one should wear a small frill, yet this is my everyday ‘signature’ item 😀 Jalie used to have a pattern for a padded vest but, very unusually, the instructions were terrible, it took me quite a while to make sense of them.
So none of my choices are likely appear in any advisor’s top style or pattern lists 😀 hence perhaps why it took me such a long time to identify my style.

Other pattern companies are successfully offering support which is going unnoticed in the conventional sewing world. A couple of these not-at-PR companies sell their patterns in 1000s and get enthusiastic endorsements at Etsy from people sewing their first garment, who are surprised and delighted to find they can understand the instructions : All Well Workshop,
and 100 Acts of Sewing (she used to have an Etsy shop where the patterns got the same sort of reviews as All Well Workshop is getting now – she also has video classes at Creative Bug).

Comments on help with making patterns lead in to my personal big beef – the world seems to be full of winter coat patterns that have no front closure?!? At least the Big 4 have more common sense in this area. Maybe your pattern customers are frightened of buttonholes and zips – but in that case you need to offer good tutorials, or add fabric loops / poppas, not expect people to freeze with cold !

Well, obviously I can still go on at length about patterns, even though I don’t buy many any more 😀

Unlike many people, I don’t in theory object to the price of indie patterns. It’s difficult enough to make a living in any ‘design’ area. But in real life, although I understand the pricing I can be put off buying by it.

And of course as a recovering pattern addict, I do still find buying a new pattern is a relatively cheap way of getting a little treat – though that doesn’t happen as often as it used to 😀

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