Pattern Play

Since I started teaching sewing classes last year, I’ve noticed a trend from many students who have taken classes from me. We’ll discuss fit and how it can be quite an ordeal to get a sewing pattern to fit you the way you want it to and inevitably it always moves onto, “I want to know how to make my own sewing patterns, how to create my own designs because what I see in the pattern books these days, is not what I want to make.” Admittedly, I know there are some tragic sewing patterns out there and with other sewing patterns it can be hard to see past the envelope cover – a topic for another day.

Though I would love to talk more in depth about fit, I feel that this can be a fairly personal issue and it can change quite a bit from person to person. I say, get yourself a good fitting book, like this one, and start learning how to go about fitting your handmade garments better, especially basic patterns (more on this to come). As for what’s about to come up here, I think the realm of design seems to many, nothing less than mysterious. From the standpoint of a sewing enthusiast – someone who has never gone to fashion design school but is a mega geek about sewing (that’s me!) – I think it can be a tricky road to finding out just how one goes about trying to knock off looks and styles that inspire (and work) and even come up with a unique design all their own. So I’ve decided to start a new series here.

Pattern Play. I’m going to show you my progress as I start to create my own sewing patterns. Now wait a minute – Hold the phone!!!! Does this mean that I’m starting up my own pattern company? NO! I’m just going to show you my progress as I tackle designing my own sewing patterns for personal use.Ā  Additionally, I’ve decided to do this from the vantage of the home sewer because quite frankly, that’s what I am and I’m proud of it.

I think the idea of playing designer appeals to so many of us that sew our own clothes because its one more outlet in the creative process of sewing. Not only that, but playing around with sewing patterns is really really fun. This series is all about exploration into new and exciting territory and about making it personal. Its also going to be about liberating oneself from the confines of the offerings in the pattern book and using your own imagination to come up with a design all your own.

I do hope that you are as excited as I am about this venture. Do you ever long to create some of your own designs or even recreate some of the designs from the pattern book with a pattern that already fits you? I have loads more to show and discuss with you so stay tuned for more excitement and fun!


42 thoughts on “Pattern Play

  1. I love this idea for a series! It’s so true that more and more home sewers want to know about pattern making. I think adding ‘designing’ to your home sewing arsenal is just really freeing. You can make what YOU want, when YOU want it, and it’s practically free (you know, besides the cost of paper…) I can’t wait to see your progress. Will you be sewing up any of your designs? Or just doing pattern manipulation?

  2. I have started making my own patterns for basic items, such as skirts, that I make for my petite daughter. Once I get something that fits her well, I often will use it as the basis to get a great fit from a Big 4 pattern with the design elements she likes. I am so looking forward to this series!

  3. I can’t wait for this series.

    I have been working on a TNT knit top (and soon on a TNT woven top). I’d like to use that as a base to create more designs. After all, that’s how designers do.. they super-impose their designs on their basic block. So, why can’t I do it?

    The advantage is if I work on getting the right fit on my basic block, then not many fitting challenges with the new design.

  4. YES! I’ve been meaning to start work on this for myself. Getting a proper sloper fit takes ages… I don’t like doing all that work every time I break out a new pattern, so I’ve been working some stuff up off my slopers – frankly though, it’s been hit and miss.

    If you can address the fitting issues you have to change as you increase wearing ease, that would be FABULOUS – slopers are tight, and I’ve learned to my sorrow that wearing ease is not just a matter of increasing a bit of seam allowance, or at least not on a full bust (the effect is comical and tragic at the same time).

  5. @sallie – Yes! I plan to sew up my designs – some in muslin for testing depending on how tricky the design is and most in a final fabric. Sooooo excited!

    @Jean – a great base to work off of Jean and something that I’ll be talking about more in depth too.

    @KayoticSewing – Exactly! There are many different types of patterns – knit tops, pants, dresses, skirts, jackets – that can be used as a beginning block for creating your own designs. Yay! This will be fun!

    @Hearthrose – I agree. Something I’ve tried with not so much luck either. I think it comes down to fitting a sloper with the amount of ease you plan to have in most garments. If you fit it skin tight then consider it as the sloper for evening wear – strapless dresses and such – instead of your daily wear.

  6. I would love to hear more about your adventures in personal pattern making!! I just signed up for a Craftsy class so I can get the basics down and I can’t wait to start making my own designs come to life šŸ™‚

  7. I’m so looking forward to this! Fit is really personal – what works for me (and to my eye – on myself or on others) is not necessarily what you will like. But being able to fit your own body in the way you choose is so liberating!

  8. I can’t wait to see more on this series!
    I like to go with my personal patterns, mostly from pattern tweak and mix, and sometimes I wish I know more about designing and shape…

  9. I would really enjoy this series. This is the direction that I have gone with my home sewing. It is hard and time consuming at times….but oh, the satisfaction of creating something completely from scratch! Also, the possibilities become limitless, and it is very freeing not to rely on pattern companies for designs that you may or may not like. Plus, I can design garments with just the proper amount of ease for my frame.

    The starting point is a few great slopers. Mine are always a work in process, but I have a jacket/coat sloper, blouse sloper, skirt sloper, jeans sloper, t-shirt/knit shirt sloper, and a trouser sloper. From these I try to manipulate my slopers to create the pattern I want. I have also become very aware of proportions, since these become so important when making your own patterns.

    Yay! I look forward to all you insights on this topic!

  10. This is super exciting!! I can’t wait to see this series unfold! I always see things online or in stores and think ” I can make that better and the way I want it!”, but I always seem to get stuck with how to execute it.

  11. Yes, this is so exciting! I’ve been trying to do this on my one, sometimes with success and other times not so much. I rather hate paying $15-20 per pattern and even when I do pay up, I don’t like that I have to modify them. When I see patterns, I’m merely inspired because “Wouldn’t it look better if…” Although, yes, I do know that I need to learn how to see past some of the awful drawings and photographs on the cover – I’m working on it!

  12. This sounds like a great series, I can’t wait. I dabble in making my own patterns and I find the hardest part is drafting the little bits – collars, cuffs, plackets etc – and then getting everything to match up at seam lines. But I love playing with the big bits and moving darts around!

  13. Another great series from you this spring! I drafted a shorts pattern using Weekend Designer’s instructions back when I was a fearless beginner and they turned out pretty well, considering. Adele Margolis’s “Make Your Own Dress Patterns” has been a huge inspiration as well, but I get stopped up by not having a good basic bodice block (and my one attempt at drafting that went so horribly wrong). Every little bit I’ve learned about pattern making has been so freeing though, and I’m really looking forward to being inspired by all that you do!

  14. Ah, youth! I spent some years in the early 1980s learning to draft my own patterns for everything, only to come to the conclusion that commercial patterns are far cheaper to find something close and alter it. You sweet young things keep on doing what you are doing, though. It takes a deep understanding of the whys and wherefores to even begin to know how to edit someone else’s work. And if you are a truly weird shape (three arms, extra ribs, neck as wide as your shoulders, etc.) you’ll probably have to draft your own pattern, anyway. Even if you draft all your own basic slopers, it’s nice to have pre-drafted details of pockets, collars, and such to borrow from a commercial pattern.

  15. Oooh, this sounds great! As someone who never quite seems to get up the nerve to crack open those pattern making books and figure out what to do, I can’t wait to see it being done by another (braver, more experienced) home seamstress.

  16. Hurrah! I’m excited that you’re tackling this, and especially from the home-sewing viewpoint. Like others have said above, I’m often tempted to just make slopers and ignore patterns from then on… but wearing ease, fabric personalities (ha), etc. complicate stuff.
    I’m hoping to learn more about where the actual size of bits comes from in patterns (does that make sense?) because the amount of ease hidden in modern patterns often makes garments unwearable for me, particularly when my size is the last or next to last in the size range. Sewing deeper seams all around doesn’t always work. I’m pretty sure that learning more about patterns will make them more useful to me, even if I don’t end up drafting all of my own.

  17. I’m very excited that you’re doing this! I can use a pattern just fine and dandy by this point, but successfully altering and especially drafting them has completely eluded me. I haven’t even been able to manage a standard FBA successfully at this point! So I will most certainly be following this along with interest.

  18. Sunni, I think I’m on board too. I really don’t need fancy schmancy things. I want/need basic pieces that fit well and have a classic look about them. If I wanted designer things, I’d have bought them by now, but I really just need basics that are timeless and classic. I’d love it if that could be the end result.

  19. Following so many sewing blogs, and recently starting to sew/study fashion has made me realise how long it is going to take me to get to this point šŸ™‚
    People who don’t sew, really don’t understand how long and exactly how much effort goes into making a garment, lead along designing one.
    Looking forward to your posts šŸ™‚

  20. If I want to recreate a ‘look’ I’ll find a pattern that’s close enough then tweak it as I’m not skilled enough to start from scratch. (I’ve tried and anything more than a simple vest or a dirndle/gathered skirt turns to disaster). I’m actually working on a project now where I saw the cover of a vintage pattern and thought I want that dress so have used a modern pattern with tweaks to recreate ‘the look’.

  21. Sunni I’m so excited to see you’re going to do this series, what a great idea! When I sew I copy the pattern onto either big pieces of felt or old cotton sheets, then I can pin them together and also as I sew the garment I can go back and easily alter the pattern I cut. This way I also retain the original tissue for reference. The felt has been great because you can really pin it together to try on.
    I hope you also talk about how different fabric types can come out totally different with the same pattern.
    I can’t wait to read your posts!

  22. I am a new reader but incredibly excited to share in your journey, because I feel like I’m in the exact same boat as you! Who needs fashion school? Everyone knows that experience is the best teacher, anyways. I have a basic pattern making book (McCunn) lying dormant in my sewing room and I just need the motivation to start working my way through it!

  23. Sunni, I am ecstatic about this plan you have. I have been TRYING to get a pants pattern to fit me for far too long. I have, just recently, purchased a sloper pants pattern from Vogue that I am hoping to get the fit right. I have been interested in getting a set of basic sloper patterns worked up in the hopes of using them to compare against other self drafted patterns or commercial as well as independent pattern companies. I have dabbled in pattern making using Helen Joseph-Armstrong’s book “Pattern Making For Fashion Design” and have been pleased with the process; however, with pants was not able to get the fit “just right” in the end. The whole crotch thing is perplexing.

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