Choosing The Right Sewing Pattern

Before you invest in a pattern and fabric, be sure the style, fit and fabric choice is right for you. Learn how to evaluate a pattern for your unique figure and style needs. Identify hidden design pitfalls and ensure your finished garment will be everything you expect.

You've shopped and shopped the ready-to-wear racks and can't find the "perfect" outfit so you've decided to make it yourself (or have it made for you). Determined, you storm the fabric center and begin scouring the volumes of pattern books. So many patterns, so many styles, so many great looks.

But be warned. Before you choose a pattern for your own, remember this: Just as in ready-to-wear, models for pattern companies are hired to look fabulous in anything. And as great as they look, you might be terribly dissappointed (not to mention a little poorer) with your finished product.

With some careful evaluation and attention to detail, you can avoid a garment disaster. You'll use many of the same principles you would use to critique a ready-to-wear garment except that you'll be doing it in the abstract.



1. Take inventory of your figure. Know before you search for a pattern which parts of your body you might like to accentuate or camouflauge. Do you have a long neck? great legs? heavy middle? Is your bosom large, small, or average? How proportioned are you? Your answers will automatically discount certain styles and make your search quicker. For instance, if you have a long neck, you'll need to be mindful of the neckline cut. If you have a large bosom, you'll steer away from button-up blouses or styles with lots of chest detail.

2. Evaluate the pattern. The model in the picture might make the garment look great but it may not be so for you. Look at the style with a critical eye from top to bottom. What is the basic cut? Does it have a dropped-waist or a high-waist (the seam that falls horizontally around your middle)? Is it meant to be tailored and fitted or loose and flowy? Do you like the waist treatment (elastic waistband, no waistband or fitted with a zipper)? How are the sleeves set? With lots of gathering or little or no gathering? Does the pattern require shoulder pads? Would you alter the "˜look' if you didn't use shoulder pads?

How about the hemline? Is it above the knee or below? If it's too long, can you easily shorten the pattern without altering pleats or special cuts (or vice versa)? Are there ruffles in places you would prefer not to accentuate? How about pockets? (Watch especially for big pockets placed around hips and bosoms.)

3. Check for alteration possibilities. It's especially difficult to make a pattern fit if you are a petite or large or have any disproportionate features (relative to your "˜regular' size). Look for patterns that make it easy to alter. Some companies even print alteration guidelines to make a pattern "˜petite' for instance. Watch out for lots of detail, openings or complicated seams in areas you might need to change.

4. Look at the fabric suggestions. If that fantastic dress requires satin and satin makes you look wan, better to forego the pattern. Look for patterns that suggest fabrics you are already comfortable with. Trendy styles and fabrics may be cute but if you generally dress in classic styles and textures, you'll be disappointed.

5. Never forget the rear view. A common mistake in choosing a pattern is to overlook the rear view, generally drawn on the back of pattern envelopes. Style pitfalls are often found here in the form of elastic gathering, gaudy closures, funky back lines and buttons or pockets you could do without. Remember, although you will only see your frontal image, the rest of your public will see you from all sides. Choose your style accordingly.

© High Speed Ventures 2011