Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Favorite Sources for Patterns

After having had two drawers' worth of standard commercial patterns at one time - now considerably pared down - new ones are not often investments that I make. Working from home means I don't have to continually update a corporate "uniform," so in general most of my patterns come from vendors at sewing exhibitions or at specialty sites, and are geared more toward clothing that can double as art, or vice versa. Here are a few of my faves!

Of the patterns available commercially, my long-time favorite has to be the New Look line. Originally from Britain but acquired along the way by Simplicity, their patterns are versatile and affordable, offering many variations from the same pieces. Back in the late 80s, one of their suit-patterns was my go-to choice for my trade show wardrobe: toss in a couple of skirts and silk tanks, and I could pack pretty light for a trip that would take me from setup to working the booth to the reception circuit to teardown.

If you had to choose another general pattern line, I'd give Butterick a good look. They are to Vogue as Target is to Macy's, and the designs share some commonalities.

It's in the specialty area that the pattern possibilities start to get really fun, though, and the grandma of them all is Folkwear. They're a source that every costumer knows for authentic details - I know I have several versions of the Kinsale Cloak in my costume closet, in everything from woolen to velvet, not to mention cannibalizing the Austrian Dirndl for the basics of an Elizabethan bodice - but it's also fun to play with their pioneer and recent-history silhouettes. This pattern, for one, I'm dying to make. Keep your eyes open on eBay for discontinued designs.

Two of my other favorites I first discovered at a terrific sewing show that took place every year in San Mateo when I lived in the Bay Area. Park Bench Patterns, based in San Diego, includes some really interesting jacket/coat designs that lend themselves well to mixing/matching fabrics and wearable art. I especially like the draping and flow of their designs.

And at the annual Sewing and Crafts Show here in Victoria (which I hope is still happening - the host site returns 404 errors right now on anything not cached!), I still encounter the latest from The Sewing Workshop. Like Park Bench, their silhouettes are often asymmetrical, but their range is on the whole much broader and includes many more top and bottom options. My last project there was the Haiku Two jacket shown below, in a beautiful slubbed silk with an overall stippled black/gray/white pattern, but strewn with little jewel-toned bits.

The other nice thing about these more "artisan" patterns is that they are generally multiply-sized for the full small to extra-large range, so you can cut out the pattern on the largest size line you expect to need, and scale as needed from there for gift-giving.

Looking for something a little different to try? Check out one or more of these pattern sources. They're guaranteed to spark your creativity as well as ensure that you won't meet your own outfit coming and going!


  1. What a great idea to blog about. I like Burda a lot, and I seem to have great luck with McCalls coming out well. I have been meaning to try New Look, though. Great post!

  2. The problem with the historic patterns you mention is that it is difficult to find anything nice in plus sizes. They just don't make them. I have redrafted smaller patterns into my size, but it is a royal pain, and I don't like doing it if I can help it.

  3. I can recommend this (and its sequel) as an excellent reference work, offering lots of drafting suggestions for every period:


    And, if you're thinking Elizabethan, you can't go wrong here:


    Gotta love the Internets! :-)


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