Style elements

Posted January 29, 2017 by sewingplums
Categories: pattern making for clothes, personal style

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

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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 😀

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Links available January 2017

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Dungaree dress / Overall jumper

Posted December 10, 2016 by sewingplums
Categories: current fashion


I was intrigued to see the pinterest board for a new Tilly and the Buttons pattern has over half a million followers. What is going on here ? Apart from the power of social media advertising.

As well as the relaxed comfort for nearly everyone, for the 50% of us with no defined waist it’s an easy way to wear a skirt. There are many patterns for small children. But surprisingly few for adults.

I thought I’d have a look around. I only found 3 patterns, and chris at makeandwear has pointed out another. But this style is ‘hot in the shops’, so no wonder a specific pattern is popular.


No obvious technical term to label this style.
The UK patterns are called ‘dungaree dress’.
The US patterns are called ‘overall jumper’.
There’s recently been a free pattern with UK ‘Simply Sewing’ magazine, and they call it a ‘Scandi style pinafore dress’.

A ‘jumper dress’ generally means a sleeveless dress which could be worn alone but is loose enough to wear as a layer over blouse or knits. The designer of this one calls it a “pinafore overall dungaree dress” !
Jennifer Lauren Handmade, Ivy


(mid 2017 – I’ve recently seen some US people using the word ‘jumper’ to refer to a jumpsuit.)

While in this post overalls / dungarees just have support from a bib and straps, not fabric coverage under the arms above the waist. Basically you’re unlikely to see these bibbed skirts worn without something underneath !

Though of course overalls / dungarees can also mean the wrist-to-ankle coverage of full protective workwear coveralls, often just called jumpsuits for women. I have fond memories of the very tough one I inherited from my father, worn for painting the bottom of boats. Many jumpsuit patterns. On a quick look I’ve only found a couple of true coveralls patterns, Kwik Sew 3389 and Lekala 6037.

A jumpsuit with shorts rather than pants is called a ‘romper’. Have just discovered, from the newest range of McCall’s patterns, that shorts with a bib and straps are called ‘shortalls’ !

I don’t think I’ve missed anything just because I didn’t use the right words !

Pattern hacks

Some simple ways of making your own pattern, if that’s what you enjoy.

Add a top to a skirt

Add a bib and straps to a skirt pattern.
Here’s a detailed tutorial for adults from Eggs and Daisies.

Change the bottom from pants to skirt

There are some bibbed patterns with pants, so simply convert one of those to a skirt, as in this image.


(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.)

Here are some patterns to try that on : Burda 06/2014 #106, Burda 07/2016 #109, McCall’s 7547, Named Clothing Ronja dungarees.


But what about the many of us who love sewing and loathe pattern work.

Here are 4 bibbed-skirt patterns in print. All have usable pockets.

Kwik Sew 4138 with back zip, includes pants (tissue, bust 31 to 45 in.).


Marilla Walker, Roberts with side buttons, includes pants, and a top to wear with them see photo (download pdf, bust 31 to 49 in.).


Tilly and the Buttons, Cleo with buckles or buttons on straps (tissue, bust 30 to 44 in.),
with some extra sewing tips here.


This pattern from BurdaStyle has a back zip – those buttons are decorative. This is between bib and jumper – does have some fabric under the arms, but probably not enough to be decent for most people. Burda 10/2016 #117 (download pdf, bust 31 to 38 in.).


Four very different styles – pretty, casual, classic, edgy ? I could wear a midi/maxi version of Marilla Walker’s design – which would you pick ?

I haven’t seen the instructions for any of these patterns, but from other experience with these brands I expect they go from most helpful to minimal in the order : Tilly and the Buttons, Kwik Sew, Marilla Walker, BurdaStyle.

January 2017. Here’s a new one from Mimi G, Simplicity 8301, with wide-leg pants and knit top included (tissue or download, video tutorial, bust 30 to 46 in.).


Here’s another one, with exposed zip pockets, from Kommatia patterns (pdf, bust 31-41”). They have another pattern with bib patch pocket.

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You haven’t got to do double rows of topstitching if the thought makes you shudder (as it does me, not either my style or a technique I can do well). Or make it in denim.
This style works perfectly well without those ‘heavy workwear’ associations. A fabric with some body or crispness is better, but you could use a decorative stitch or a pretty (or special occasion) fabric, and add a maxi skirt and some lace or embroidery to make a soft styled version 😀

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Patterns and links available December 2016

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Speedy Patterns – to sew in 3 hours or less

Posted November 19, 2016 by sewingplums
Categories: speedy sewing

These are patterns which the pattern companies claim you can sew in 3 hours or less. Mainly a list of all the timed patterns I found in print in November 2016. Since then I’ve been adding individual patterns when I’ve come across them.
These times assume you’re an experienced sewer !
And they usually only mean sewing time, not including preparation and cutting time.

I’ve posted several times on the topic of quick-make patterns, starting in 2010. My last post (March 2016) has now expanded so much it was getting unwieldy. So I’ve divided it in two :
– this post, on patterns the companies claim a sewing time for,
– a second post on patterns that are also very quick and easy, though no one makes any claims about how long you’ll need : Very quick and easy patterns which are not timed.

Obviously these patterns have to avoid any technique that takes time. So they’re very simple, with few added design features and little shaping. But there are designers who manage to respond to this need by providing interesting shapes and design features that don’t need much work.

It’s also helpful to know which sewing techniques you’re relaxed about. For example, most quick patterns avoid zips and buttonholes, collars and set-in sleeves, any hand sewing. But if you’re a sewist who can do those in a whizz, then why not.

Fabric choice can be crucial. Quality fabrics can give a luxury look to even the simplest of styles. Choose wovens with a bit of body, so they don’t need much support from interfacing and don’t change shape while you’re sewing them. Not slippery, don’t fray easily. Similarly with knits – choose stable ones, that aren’t too floppy. Knits have the advantage they don’t fray, so no need for seam finishing. And there are non-knit fabrics like this too.

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Big 4 timed patterns

These are the Big 4 time-limited patterns available in November 2016.

New Look 6816 capsule of knit top, skirt, pants.

Tops, Dresses, Shirts

All the dress patterns can be shortened to tops and tunics.

New Look 6483 sleeveless and sleeved woven tops.

Butterick 5948 Butterick used to claim these classic tops could be made in 2 hours, but they’ve changed the envelope.

New Look 6892 peasant style tops.

McCall’s 6558 peasant style tops and dresses.

New Look 6347 sleeveless dresses.

McCall’s 6102 short sleeved dresses with 3 cup sizes.

New Look 6936 cut on short sleeve knit dresses.

New Look 6889 sleeveless and short sleeved dresses.

New Look 6352 sleeveless and short sleeved dresses.

McCall’s 5893 sleeveless and short sleeved empire waist dresses.

McCall’s 6465 sleeveless and sleeved dresses.

Also for men :

Simplicity 8180 1-piece collar shirt, tie, shorts.

For previous editions of these patterns, Palmer-Pletsch claimed their unisex camp shirt and banded collar shirt patterns took 2 or 3 hours. They’re now not so optimistic !
McCall’s 6932 1-piece collar camp shirt (3 hours).
McCall’s 6613 band collar shirt (no time given).

Skirts and Pants

New Look 6399 woven skirts and pants.

Simplicity 1068 knit skirts and pants.

Simplicity 2414 tiered skirts and pants.

New Look 6843 skirts with zip.

McCall’s 5430 wrap skirts.

Butterick 5153 shorts and pants (also for men).

McCall’s 6568 slimmer shorts and pants.


McCall’s 2260 unlined vests.

McCall’s 6084 shawl collar cardigans, woven.

McCall’s 6209 ponchos.

Butterick used to have a quick pattern for waterfall front jackets, Butterick 4989, which is now out of print.

And they had an unlined blazer pattern that Butterick claimed you could sew in 2 hours ! but sadly that has disappeared from their catalogue 😀 Look for Butterick 4138 dated 2004.

McCall’s 6172, the famous Palmer-Pletsch 8-hour lined blazer pattern which sold over a million copies, is now also out of print.

Costumes for men and women

McCall’s 7229 nativity.

McCall’s 6142 clown.

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Independent pattern companies

Again these are just a few patterns I’ve found which claim specific making times.
There are many more independent pattern companies mentioned in my other post on quick patterns : Very quick and easy patterns which are not timed.

For modern casuals, try Seamwork download patterns from Colette Patterns – supposed to take less than 3 hours in total (a few for men).

For more formal modern classics in less than 3 hours, see Textile Studio Patterns. Shorten the skirts and dresses to transform the look. Or try the jackets at thigh, knee, or low calf length.

With a little more time – Decades of Style ‘Everyday’ patterns are supposed to be sewable in a day. Most are also rated ‘easy’.

Some individual patterns :

Fancy Tiger Crafts free pattern for a One Hour Top is a simple dolman shape knit top. They have a video class for it at Creative Bug showing how to make it on a serger/overlocker and a sewing machine.

And if you enjoy self-drafted patterns from a book there’s the 1920s One Hour dress by Mary Brooks Picken.

Sew Over It says an Intermediate sewer can sew their Ultimate Shift dress in 3 hours.

Silhouette patterns
600 classic blouse with 1-hour sew-along webcasts.
85 sweater wrap, basically a knit circle with added sleeves.

CNT jackets
‘A little somethin’ 3 hour shawl collar jacket.
‘Start after breakfast finish before lunch’ jacket with raglan sleeves.

Christine Jonson Studio Collection draped vest and jacket for knits.
She says the vest can be sewn in 5 minutes !

These free patterns from Camelot Fabrics are said to take an afternoon :
boxy dress – for variations : shorten to top / tunic, change neckline shape or finish.
cropped jacket – for variations : lengthen, change front shape.
pyjama pants – with elastic waist and side seams. Make a size smaller for a daywear version ?

Sewlidarity says she made 2 pairs of Sew Over It Ultimate Pyjamas in 5 hours (vlog starts at 1.50).

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Of course you may well have your own patterns which you can whip up in a short time. I’ve just been talking about patterns which the pattern companies are willing to make a commitment about. They show that everyone can make a garment quickly, not just people who have a serger/overlocker and are making a tee 😀

Incidentally you may have wondered why there are so few knit patterns in this post. There are many knit patterns in the next post, on quick but not timed patterns : Very quick and easy patterns which are not timed. Perhaps there are so many techniques / tools / notions for making knit garments, the pattern companies don’t want to guess the time you might need.

Whether you enjoy using these fast patterns may depend on your sewing style. I’m not a quick sewer, and I don’t do well under pressure. I need to spend time developing the fit of a pattern and getting secure about the techniques used before I can be sure of making it more quickly.
But there are many people who love to jump straight in for a quick reward to their sewing.

So Good Luck with developing a range of speedy Tried ’N True patterns, if that’s what you enjoy.

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Patterns and links available November 2016

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Very Quick and Easy patterns which are not timed

Posted November 19, 2016 by sewingplums
Categories: speedy sewing

My previous post was on patterns which the pattern companies claim you can sew in 3 hours or less. That post is here : Speedy patterns to make in half a day or less.

The patterns in this post are obviously quick and simple, but the publishers are not actually committing themselves about how long you need to make them !

The same comments about fabrics apply :
Quality fabrics can give a luxury look to even the simplest of styles. Choose wovens with a bit of body, so they don’t need much support from interfacing and don’t change shape while you’re sewing them. Not slippery, doesn’t fray easily. Similarly with knits – choose stable ones, that aren’t too floppy. Knits have the advantage they don’t fray, so no need for seam finishing. And there are non-knit fabrics like this too.

Some of these patterns may use less than ideal sewing processes to speed up the make. You can always choose to take a bit longer on better techniques, though it may take some thought.

(The patterns are tissue unless download is mentioned.)

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Some patterns for quick casual outfits

Here’s a very simple pattern for skirts and pants :
Butterick 3460.

For casual outfits, combine those with these free slouchy top download patterns from Tessuti :
Cut on sleeve, straight sides (sheers)
Cut-on sleeve, a-line (knits)
Boxy with separate sleeves (knits)
There’s also the free MariaDenmark kimono tee (link in right menu).

Pattern companies and special pattern lines

All the patterns from 100 Acts of Sewing are ultra simple.

And the ePatterns among the download patterns from Sewing Workshop. Add quick elastic waist skirts and pants for a complete wardrobe.

I don’t sew knits myself so I’m not very aware of patterns for them, but I know many people like Pamela’s Patterns and find them quick to sew.

If you like a flouncy / lagenlook style, and have tried the pattern so you’ve found the pitfalls, a few of Tina Givens patterns use simple shapes and techniques, and most are downloads. Though ‘buyer beware’, you do need to know enough to correct any gaps in the patterns and instructions. If you like a softer look but don’t want to go completely lagenlook, many of these can be shortened to thigh length and worn with other skirts, pants or jeans.

If you don’t need good instructions, there are the ‘one figure’ styles from Hot Patterns. Some are available as downloads.

And it’s worth searching for the gems among the dross in the free download patterns from (many of these are from Hot Patterns).

Also most of the styleARC patterns suitable for beginners are quick and easy.

Yet more simple tops and bottoms among the Sure Fit Designs Made in a Day styles. Most of these can be made starting from any basic top and pants fitting slopers, not just the SFD ones. Though you do need to do a bit of pattern work the first time you use them.

Quick and easy jackets are usually loose fitting with no collar. Maybe no closure, or use snaps, clasps, frogs, ties, cord loops instead of buttonholes. Often with cut-on sleeves. Or made from rectangles with square armholes. Sometimes raglan sleeves. There are patterns for these from many companies. Here’s my post from 2011 listing quick jackets from independent designers – most are still available.

MacPhee Workshop It’s Magic and World’s Easiest are ingenious simple casual patterns, though for my taste the techniques are sometimes over simplified. As they’re in Canada, there are many warm jackets and coats – not usual in quick pattern collections.
A couple of those are versions of the one-fabric-piece bog coat. Here’s Shirley Adams’ video about making a bog coat without a pattern.

I now have a pinterest board of patterns for very easy jackets and vests.

For a slight increase in skills and time needed, there’s a large range of Fast and Easy patterns from Butterick.

Very easy wardrobe patterns

Make the co-ordination decisions quick and easy by using a wardrobe pattern. Many easy New Look patterns for 2 or 3 items (most both tissue and printable on-line, see size menu), such as :

for knits :
New Look 6762, New Look 6735 (‘core 4’ of jacket, top, skirt, pants), New Look 6730, New Look 6461, New Look 6458, New Look 6420, New Look 6403, New Look 6402, New Look 6384, New Look 6216.

for wovens :
New Look 6428, New Look 6292.
This one isn’t labelled ‘easy’ (skirt and pants have darts and zips), but is nearly and has a ‘Core 4’ of jacket, top, skirt, pants : New Look 6217.

‘Learn to Sew’ pattern ranges

If you’re an experienced sewer, then you’ll probably find these patterns easy to make.

Kwik Sew Kwik Start
Simplicity Learn to sew
McCall’s Learn to sew (avoid the camp shirt 6972, or add a neck facing so you can sew the collar quickly and easily – video on facing pattern here from Louise Cutting)

Although these are ‘Learn to Sew’ patterns, many of them would be challenging as a first project for most complete beginners. But they do usually use simple techniques and clear instructions. I think the Simplicity and Kwik Start instructions are better for beginners, but that won’t matter so much for an experienced sewer.

Beware patterns labelled Easy or Beginner by many of the pattern companies, which may not be at all quick or even simple. Assess these patterns carefully for whether they use techniques that are trouble free and quick for you.
I think Very Easy Vogue patterns are a special trip-up point, they often use techniques which would be called ‘intermediate’ by anyone else 😀

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Lots of good options. But we do need to allow for our own way of working. People who often sew quickly will go “oh good, 1 hour. . . whizz. . .done”. Meanwhile I’m saying “hmm, I do need to make samples of that stitch on my new machine. . . hmm, I need to adapt that pattern for my x, y, z fitting issues. . . hmm, that style element may be quick to sew but often doesn’t work well on me, I’d better make a test garment. . .”. I can take months to make a 1-hour pattern 😀 I can’t happily sew quickly a pattern that’s new to me. If I want some quick sewing, it has to be a Tried ‘N True pattern, one on which all the testing and development work has already been done.

But the quick pattern choices are wide. These days the need for speed doesn’t restrict you to making very plain classics. Copy the well known designers who make very simple shapes in very special fabrics.

Good Luck with finding some speedy patterns which suit your clothing and sewing style. Then you can happily build a wardrobe with minimum effort 😀

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Patterns and links available November 2016

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