One Pattern Many Looks – pattern hacking

Posted May 22, 2022 by sewingplums
Categories: pattern making for clothes, personal style

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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Posted January 22, 2022 by sewingplums
Categories: pattern making for clothes

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 ?

Posted October 13, 2021 by sewingplums
Categories: pattern making for clothes

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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Building a wardrobe capsule

Posted September 12, 2020 by sewingplums
Categories: co-ordinates, wardrobe planning

A ‘capsule’ wardrobe is a small group of co-ordinating clothes that can be mixed and matched to make different outfits.

If you only have a small number of clothes, you want to be sure they all fit the needs of your lifestyle. And that they’re all items you love to reach for in the morning – they suit your personality and make you look and feel good. Hence the whole area of ‘wardrobe planning’.

There are many on-line style advisors who suggest the items to make a capsule. For example, Leanne Blackmon at Classy yet Trendy suggests seasonal capsules in 6 different styles.
And if you like to be dazzled by capsule wardrobe ideas, there’s The Vivienne Files.
In both, the styles are mainly ‘normcore’ so it’s easy to find patterns to copy the suggestions.

These stylists have good success because some people find it daunting to make a capsule for themselves.
But actually doing-it-yourself is not difficult.

Wear what makes you feel special

It’s not difficult to choose a capsule, so long as you have some clothes that you love, that make you look good and feel good when you’re wearing them.

If you haven’t got about 20 items you feel like that about, then finding some clothes that warm your heart, lift your spirits, and make your eyes shine and your skin look healthy has much more priority than developing a capsule.

Only follow style advice that makes you feel life’s possibilities are expanding.
The important thing is not to wear any garment (or follow any style advice) that pulls you down, makes you feel lesser or uncertain, diminished or defensive.

As April Grow of Stunning Style says : “If you’re trying to talk yourself into anything you don’t genuinely love, just put it away.”

Another similar saying seen on an FB board : “In case of doubt, there is no doubt.”

An idea for the simplest possible base capsule

Anne Whalley’s approach to easy styling is to have 5 basic pieces (without any added style elements) in the same flattering neutral colour/ fabric. These are : sleeveless top, skirt, leggings, pants, dress.  Add short and long sleeve tops to increase the options.

They make a basic background column, to which you add a star layering item which has all the outfit interest.

Here’s a demo video.

She uses very simple patterns for the basics, so you could quickly sew a group of ‘good for you’ items.  In the demo the basics are in knits or stretch wovens, no reason why you can’t use non-stretch wovens if you prefer.

Many people like Pamela’s Patterns for knits.  

While Alison Glass’s fitting pattern for knits gives you tops, skirts and dresses.

Tips for building a bigger capsule

A complete ‘wardrobe’ capsule is typically about 25-30 items, which could provide you with enough different outfits for an entire season.
Some stylists insist a true capsule is smaller, see later about a travel capsule.

Go through your current clothes and pick out items that you love wearing : 7 tops, 5 pants/skirts, 5 layers, 5 shoes, 3 bags.
If you can’t find these numbers, then find one less. Or pick items that are okay – not ideal, but not ones that make you feel or look bad !

Next remove any item that cannot be worn to make a good combination (one that you are comfortable with) with at least 3 of the other items (not all at the same time!). E.g. does this skirt look good with at least 3 of the tops, at least 3 of the layers, at least 2 of the shoes, at least 1 of the bags ? If not, replace it with something else you like.

If you find combining difficult, consider simplifying :

– choose one main darker neutral, such as :
– – black or navy if your skin colouring is blue toned and your colouring is generally stronger,
– – brown and grey are more difficult to choose but more adaptable, as they can be either blue or warm toned, either light or dark.

Here’s Imogen Lamport on choosing your best neutrals.

Some colour experts say a colour is a ‘neutral’ if it’s not on the colour wheel. I think that is a limiting definition. A wider definition is that a colour is called ‘neutral’ if it’s a colour that can be worn with everything else in the capsule, so makes a good starting point for many outfits (so your starting point colour could be shocking pink if your other colours are lime green and purple 😀 ).
Another criterion for a ‘neutral’ is that you would be willing to wear pants in this colour.
And your ‘neutral’ may depend on what you are choosing your capsule for – so shocking pink for a holiday trip but not for a business one !
You’re nearly always wearing this neutral colour, so it needs to be flattering and well-loved.

– add a lighter neutral – how much lighter could relate to the natural level of contrast you have in your colouring. Many people need a softened white, if they look good in white at all. Creams for someone warm toned.

– add not more than 2 accent colours or prints.

– choose everything with the same silhouette, such as :
– – top and bottom the same width,
– – wide tops over narrow bottoms,
– – narrow tops over wide bottoms.

Imogen Lamport has written a whole range of posts on issues that may come up in choosing items for a capsule wardrobe.
Here is her advice on what to consider if the above way of simplifying things doesn’t work for you : wardrobe basics.
And here’s an interesting post from her about choosing the colours for a capsule.

Classy yet Trendy also has a guide to devising your own capsule, mainly norm core styles and not free, but covers the basics to consider (with a little guidance on getting away from black, white, and denim blue !)

But try to keep things simple. And :
Hey Presto, your first capsule 😀

Some comments

Trying to build a capsule for the first time is not something that’s instant. Make small steps and enjoy your discoveries.
No need to get an ‘ideal’ capsule from the start. It will gradually ‘improve’ as you try things out.

Of course different stylists have different criteria for what a capsule should be like. Imogen Lamport of Inside-Out Style has fewer layers (she lives in a warm climate) and insists that everything co-ordinates.

This capsule idea doesn’t work for everyone. You may be someone who needs to choose an outfit on the day, whatever feels right at the time. What felt right yesterday evening when you were planning may not feel right this morning !
But you can pre-plan outfits, take photos of them, and choose which suits your current mood. Many people find it useful to take selfies of successful combinations, so they don’t have to do much experimenting in the morning.

Even a few steps towards achieving a part capsule can be useful and interesting. A ‘learning experience’. There’s no need to rush.

As you make progress, and learn more about your favourite garment colours, shapes, styles, co-ordinates, many people find that new items fit in without having to give it much thought.
Or if they don’t, don’t buy them !

Put these items at the front of your closet, so they’re the only ones you choose from when you’re getting dressed, and see if you find the capsule idea helpful.

If you love wearing makeup or jewellery, sprinkle on your favourites for even more joy and fun 😀
You could include them in try-out sessions too.
Or would you like to add into the mix : 5 hats, 5 scarves, 5 belts, hair ornaments, gloves ?

A small travel capsule

Choose 3 tops, 2 bottoms, 2 layers, 2 shoes.
In 2 different styles, such as casual + evening out, or work + dressy evening out.
With such a small number of items, it’s best if every possible combination looks good.
Take heavier items with you by wearing them for travel.
Jewellery, scarves, make-up are small light-weight ways of adding more looks.
And if you’re away for more than a few days, what about clothes care – do you mind hand washing in a hotel room ? If you would hate that, add more light-weight non-bulky tops.

If you’d like some more help with this, here is Janice of The Vivienne Files on what to keep packed for unexpected travel.

I’ve mentioned a few capsule stylists I’ve enjoyed following. Many more come up if you do a web search.
Enjoy your discoveries 😀

first published September 2020

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