Let’s talk about patterns.

One of the biggest differences I have noticed since returning to dressmaking, is the vast array of choices of patterns.  I sewed frequently and with enthusiasm right up to returning to teaching at the beginning of the 1990s.  At that point, the choices were simple: Vogue (much loved by me!), Butterick, McCalls and Style and Simplicity.  If you were adventurous you could buy Burda, a German pattern manufacturer, who sold their patterns via magazines with multi-sized centre sheets for use to create their styles.  You had to be brave!  No seam allowances were included and all the patterns were printed on top of each other so cutting out the pattern pieces was a challenge in itself.

Today, much has changed.  Style has disappeared and Burda, having been bought by Simplicity, has gone over to the traditional method of selling patterns through catalogues and using envelope-style packaging. Their magazine still exists for the die-hards! But beware – their pattern block is designed differently and favours those with broader shoulders and upper chest area.

There are now sites where you can get really good discounts on the traditional “Big4” as they are known. The one which I use and find really helpful is Sew Direct.  This site really  comes into its own if you become a member. Initially it seems like a big cost:  £37.50 but this can be spread out with a quarterly direct debit of £8.  For this you get:

  • Six issues of the magazine “Sew Today” showing the latest pattern releases made up in different fabrics as well as information on yardage etc at the back of the magazine. The magazine is delivered in the post.
  • 2 free patterns of your choice worth up to £15 each – when you join
  • a minimum of 40% discount on all patterns purchased
  • A free Vogue label to sew into finished garments with each Vogue pattern purchased.

As most patterns with Vogue work out at about £15, this is more than worth my investment.  I probably buy at least 4 patterns a year which means that I save £6 each time and then of course the magazines technically only cost me about £1.50 each.  What’s not to like?

Independent Pattern Designers

And what a range of these there are!

This is the area where there has been the biggest change. Today there are literally hundreds of different designers producing their own range of patterns.  Some come in the traditional form: sold packaged in an envelope and offering several sizes in one package.  Others come via the medium of the internet.  You can buy an on-line pattern which will be sent to you as a pdf for printing (digital format).  This has its challenges but they are easily dealt with and also have advantages too.

Over the coming weeks, I would like to introduce you to some of these designers, give you some feedback on the successes or otherwise of their designs and more importantly their instructions and also their fit.  I will also give you tips and suggestions for how to manage the printing of pfd files. (I speak from sorry experience in this area so would like to prevent you from experiencing that as well.)

Here are a few of the “big hitters” in this arena:

  • Stylearc – an Australian pattern house which supplies patterns through pfd files.  They do sizes up to 32 and you can buy them on Amazon who will supply them ready printed but it is worth noting that not all patterns are available through them.

  • The Makers Atelier – a designer from Brighton, Frances Tobin, created the brand and designs these classy and classic clothes.  They come ready printed on great quality paper and with great instructions.  Most of their patterns come in a variety of sizes up to Size 22.

  • Oliver and S and Liesl and Co – an American company that designs for men and women but also for children. (I love their designs for kids!) The link I have given you takes you to the children’s page and from their you can navigate to the adult section. They sell in both digital (pfd) format and paper but the packaging from the States and delivery etc is prohibitive and you may have to bit the bullet and go for the digital offering.

I hope that has lifted the lid a little for those who are newish in this area and I will give you more information in the coming weeks.

It’s a wrap!

My first post is about this dress.  It is a Very Easy Vogue pattern: Vogue V8784.

The dress was made for my mum who no longer finds it easy to buy clothes.  She has arthritic shoulders and despite shopping for a new dress, none could be found to suit her.  I decided to make her one which would be able to be fitted to her shape and also address the problem of needing to fasten at the front for ease.

I will post a photo of her wearing it in the fulness of time but it is for a special occasion so will wait until that takes place.

The pattern is a lovely shape.  The fitted pleats/darts at the waist give it a beautifully fitting shape.

Mum chose to have the three-quarter length sleeves and collar with the full skirt.

The fabric is John Kaldor from John Lewis and is a linen and cotton mixture.  The dress is fully lined (as per the pattern) except for the sleeves. I used the standard John Lewis lining and sewed using Gutermann thread.

What size did I make?  I cut a size 16 but added extra to the waist as mum is short waisted and always needs extra added at that point for comfort.

Did I make any major pattern adjustments?  Yes.  I added  an extra 7 cm at the top of the arm.  I adjusted the pattern so that the sleeve-head and cuffs remained the same.

Where there any difficult stages in the making of the dress? No.  It went together very well and I am pleased with the outcome – as is Mum!!!

Any thoughts for next time? Yes. The pattern can be made in a knit and I shall make it again for her in a knit for the winter.