How I Don’t Buy a Pattern

…Until I do!

Like many of us, I looove new sewing patterns. I also looove keeping my money (dragon-style in a big pile would be top preference). It’s a push-and-pull. So, how do I decide if a sewing pattern is worth the moolah? Obviously this will vary – when I was beginning I prioritized instructions and pattern support. My current priorities have evolved towards fit and value.

Value is simple: does it have a few views, or if it has one view, is that one super classic and useful? For me, that’s the Ginger jeans. I only sew view B but I sew it a LOT. If it’s a rectangle or a circle with some pleats or gathers, is it priced accordingly, or does it offer something else? The Raspberry Rucksack is a draw-your-own-rectangles pattern, but I’m a bagmaking newb and the designer shared a detailed sew-along, so I’m happy with that pattern.

Next, evaluating fit! I’m certainly not a pro, but I’ve figured out some ways of looking at a sample and seeing if it’s right for me. I don’t expect perfection right out of the envelope, but I hope to see evidence that some specific fitting needs have been considered. Come pick a nit with me.

Let’s look specifically at the MN Curve Dawns jeans, a recent purchase of mine. I’ve wanted them for a long time, but I procrastinated. I’ve seen dozens of people look like Flaming Hot Cheetos in this pattern and I want that spice, but the samples have fit issues – specifically, mine!

Don’t be distracted by this gorgeous Valkyrie’s glowing smile. First alarm bell: of the 16 images that show the front of the pants, 10 of those are posed with the model’s hand in her pocket. In the straight sizes, you can see the front in 15 images, only 1 of which has the model’s hand in her pocket. To me, this feels a little like camouflage – probably concealing drag lines, which I’m guessing means, they (and I) need a full stomach adjustment. Next, look at the yoke on the back of the shorts. It’s too tall, so it’s buckling. I only see this happening on the shorts sample, but I’ve made that adjustment before so I’ll probably have to remove height there, too (if it was a darted back I wouldn’t worry about it; it has to do with the particular shape of my bum).

Now take a peek this beautiful cozy angel.

Do you see those diagonal lines pointing towards her inner thigh? It looks like the pattern could use an accommodation for full inner thighs! I’d want to scoop the back crotch to be more of a “J” shape, as the need for a full rear/hungry bum adjustment is indicated, too. And finally, the back pockets are far too small for my taste.

So, was this pattern a good purchase? Well, I got it on sale, and it has 4 views with the potential for everyday usefulness, so to my mind, yes. Even though a close-read of the samples shows me a list of necessary adjustments, if I pull back for a second they’re still gorgeous. And I’m going in with a sense of what I need to do; prepared is half the battle. I’ll get a lot of bang for my buck once (if?) I fit them correctly!

Okay, now let’s do tops! While these patterns aren’t on my I-wanna list, they do have nice clear images. I don’t understand upper body fitting very well, but there’s one thing I can check right away.

First, the CC Cielo top and dress – look at the bust dart. Way too high, right? Again, it’s not that these samples aren’t beautiful; I’m just looking for indicators that the pattern needs more adjustment than I feel like (even something as simple as a misplaced bust dart can stop me from buying something; thanks, #Smaughordegoals).

Compare that to the Grainline Uniform tunic, where the dart is clearly too low.

Especially if the pattern is simple, I want to see that done right!

You might notice all of these samples were sewn in the higher range of each designer’s sizes. Most of my standard adjustments are made for convex curves – full stomach, full thighs, full biceps – so even if my actual size fits in either range, I get a better read on how it will fit my body from what many designers describe as their ‘curvy’ block. 

Of course, I’m not always this particular. I bought the RTS Papao pants more or less instantly. I loved sewing and I love wearing my two pairs (so far!). But if I give the pattern sample photos the business, I can see room for improvement.

There’s some pooling at the center back –the model may need a swayback adjustment. However, I usually don’t (by the way: a lot of suspected swaybacks are actually butts or hips that need more space! Something to consider). There’s also excess fabric at the thighs (more visible from the back), and sure enough, I get the same excess on my pairs. But that’s a pretty short list of potential changes, and if I had let that put me off at the time, I would be a sadder and less awesomely-trousered person today. So contrary to my pro-fussbudget propaganda, sometimes it’s fine to just let things go!  

This might be completely self-evident to all of you. And listen, I can always find a reason not to buy something; this is good, or I’d be up to my ears in mugs and novelty baking pans and seasonal cereals and pristine notebooks and sock yarn I don’t know how to use. Okay fine, that life doesn’t sound so bad. But if you want look at patterns with a more critical/thoughtful eye, and this was useful at all, I’m glad!

Here’s a few more tempting patterns I haven’t bought recently –

The Assembly Line V-Neck Jumpsuit – it’s over $20, only one view, and it wouldn’t go with the winter boots I wear nearly every day from December – March. Also, many of the samples are sewn in black, so I can’t see what the heck is going on. But I like it. This falls into the category of ‘maybe I’ll buy it with a gift card’.

The Sicily slip dress – it’s so slinky and lovely and dreamy and where would I wear this?! Ever? Professor Boyfriend suggested “to a murder mystery party” which, WELL PLAYED, PROF. BF, but that’s a post-rona discussion.

The Soho sweater – hey, it ain’t boring! But I doubt those sleeves would fit comfortably inside a coat, and I don’t have a source for full-bodied knits, so the likelihood that I could make this, let alone would make this, is extremely low.

Fibre Mood Leah jumpsuit – I have a pattern credit for this so it wouldn’t even cost money! Plus its name is a homonym for my name! Is it destiny?! Or is it riding up the model’s crack? I probably won’t use several yards of fabric to find out.

Well, that got wordy. Next time, another finished object – it’s a straight-lines-and-rectangles kind of pattern, but one I definitely got my money’s worth from!

Syd and Ruth

Once again I picked a sewing project by seeing a shirt on my TV and thinking “COME LIVE IN MY HOUSE”. In this case my jumping off point was the orange blouse worn by the character Syd in the season 2 pilot of Legion, a show that – it’s real weird. I like it, though! Syd in particular is a refreshing take on the trope ‘the girl who can’t be touched’. It’s the job of everyone else in the story not to touch her, and she doesn’t apologize for it. What’s not to like? : )


The show’s costumes are often wonderful and inspiring (Oliver! Tracksuits! Lenny!) but I’m a classic sucker for a camp collar. Ruth isn’t a complete ringer but it was close enough to get the ball rolling.


First things first: my shirt’s not orange. It’s not easy to find the perfect tangerine, especially as oranges in fabric stores lately seem to be skewing red (just me?). Also, this pattern has cut-on sleeves, not set-in sleeves, but I feel like that change (as well as pockets) is pretty easily added to another draft. You can’t see the bottom of Syd’s shirt, and I couldn’t find a still that showed it clearly, but hers fastens with a big bow over her left hip – totally achievable to add and sew, but I liked the skinny little tie and kept it! Bad copycat!


The only visible change I made to the pattern was hemming the top with what’s essentially a waistband, a long rectangle folded over itself. The official Seamwork blouse variation calls for a peplum but I scorned their pepluminations. My band features a single button. It’s doing most of the work of keeping the layers aligned.

But the real MVP is the safety pin tucked under the collar lapel at the center front!


Do you see that deep cavernous shadow where the shirt fronts overlap? You can tell it’s buckling like crazy. It’s at least 1.5” too long, probably more like 2.5”. I’ve avoided true wraps because of this ongoing problem, but reading bra blogs helped me pinpoint the issue. I have an extremely wide-set bust (I can lay four fingers flat on my chest before touching the nearby topography), so any shirt that has added length for travelling across a bumpier landscape is taking an unnecessary detour, let’s say. I don’t need any extra length to cover what’s essentially a flat surface. (Fun fact: it took us two tries to get these photos, because the first time we tried the ambient light was bouncing off the cloud cover and my sternum like a couple of professional-quality reflectors and blowing out all the photos.) Actually, and I shudder to admit this, the front length might need to be shorter than the back length because of my poor posture and habit of hunching my shoulders.

Did you just throw your shoulders back while reading that? I know I did while writing it!


The back is blousy even though it’s darted, which I like! Short ‘n’ wide is the name of my shirt game. It tends to ride up on the sides though. This is definitely a shirt I futz with while wearing, but it’s possible a set-in sleeve would mitigate its tendency to creep up when I talk with my arms.


I added a back facing because I guess duh, but also because I experienced full yawning incomprehension when reading the collar directions. I still don’t know what they were asking me to do, but surely a facing is easier?

Fun fact number 2: one of the first garments I sewed was a dress, and I was scared of sewing my first zipper. Surprisingly the zipper went in easily while instead the facing completely kicked my butt. It was years later when I realized I had traced the facing for a different neckline view than the one I used for the dress.

If you ignore the baffling mirepoix that was the collar installation section of the directions, it’s also really straightforward to French seam everything. So I did, yay!

I’m not usually a dress person, but I would consider sewing the Ruth dress as written. It went together nicely and despite my fit woes I like the shape. Even better, I’d sew this again as my tangerine dream, pop on some black gloves and call myself Syd.




Pattern: Seamwork Ruth

Pattern cost: $0.50

Size: 8

Supplies: 3 meters of block print cotton, Etsy, $28.47; thread from stash

Total time: 6.25 hours

Total cost: $28.97

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

Are you participating in Make 9? I never have in the past, but I’m dipping my toe in with a Seasonal 3. In all honesty it’s not even all that seasonal! It’s just the next three (new-to-me) patterns I hope to make! Keep reading for planning (and budget options for similar patterns)…

  1. Marilla Walker Roberts Collection, view A. £7.50/around $9.50 American (though possibly subject to change – good luck to you, pound).Marilla Walker Roberts Collection

This has been on my to-sew list for a while, but the most concentrated downtime I have is over winter break (academic schedules 4 LIFE, except I also teach in the summer), so this will be sewn and tucked away in a drawer until The Sweaty Season. I already have the fabric for this, a cotton ikat I purchased on Etsy. I bought the last of it,  but I’m sure there’s similar choices out there:


Hoping to sew something similar? The Peppermint jumpsuit isn’t, at first glance, too much like the Roberts jumpsuit, but they both have dropped crotches and an easy fit through the waist. Plus the Peppermint pattern is free! You can see my Peppermint jumpsuit here.

  1. Ready-to-Sew Jean-Paul boilersuit. €10.20/around $11.60.

Ready-to-Sew Jean-Paul

I’m a little psyched out of my mind about this one. I first saw this boilersuit on The German Edge. I haven’t decided whether I want a structured fabric like Edina’s, or a drapey fabric like the red one from this pattern’s inspiration roundup, below –


But I’m settled on long sleeves, so this can be my winter jumpsuit. I’m hoping to find a fabric I love in the spruce/ivy/evergreen range. “Do you…need…two loose green jumpsuits?” my boyfriend delicately inquired, a question with only one answer (“YES”).  I’m also hoping to get this finished in time to participate in the Sewcialists menswear theme month!

Some free options – this Mood pattern offers a fitted seventies silhouette (but caveat emptor – I mean, it’s free, but your time/fabric isn’t and I have no idea if their patterns are any good). And for a near-perfect match, try the JUMPSUIT! The JUMPSUIT is part of an art project I definitely have some quibbles with (they never talk about the fabric supply chain! At all! Also, does it fit anybody? I think maybe not?) but that article is well worth reading, whether or not you sew the JUMPSUIT!

  1. Peppermint wide-leg pants. ZERO SMACKERS, BABY. These ARE the free option!

Peppermint In the Folds Wide Leg pants

I’m planning to use the directions from my Morgan jeans to install a button-fly. I have heard that it can poke you in the pooch when you sit down, though.

Potentially I’d like to make these in a 14-wale corduroy, maybe in one of these colors by Robert Kaufman.

I don’t reach for yellow clothes as often as I think I will but I just love the name of that third color – cider! And it would look pretty killer with exposed brass buttons! Mmm, ciiiider. Realistically either navy or ocean would be a better team player in my wardrobe, though. I love that petrol/smoky blue in the sample, too, and I wouldn’t mind finding something just like that!

You might notice that I’m planning to add a lot of blue and green to a closet that, let’s face it, has a quite a bit of blue and green already. I think that will be easy to do. The 2019 Pantone color of the year is Living Coral.


And take a look at that first set of coordinates:


Forest Biome? Beluga? Um, yes PLEASE. I can’t wait for these to reach the fabric world! I might not use coral itself but I am going to be a big piece of murky ol’ seaweed if I have my say, oh yes.

Do you sew out of season? DO YOU OBEY THE COLOR AUTHORITY? ALL MUST OBEY. Just kidding! But do brace for coral.