Decision Guide to Buying Patterns

Some people are absolutely obsessed with patterns, and it is fun to see them sew up each new item. Others are very inspired by new patterns releases, and use that as a jumping off point for their garment. When it comes to buying patterns though, I find that I am more conservative: over the years, I have often found that I do not need to buy a new pattern to get the design I want.

For those looking to cut back on your new pattern purchases, I thought I'd share my process for deciding whether a pattern is worth getting. I'm hoping to use this to keep my pattern-buying in check during grad school! With so many new patterns coming out all the time, this chart is designed to help you decide when to buy a pattern and when to skip it.



Here are my thoughts on some of these questions:

Do I already have a pattern with similar style lines? 
I've seen indie designers lampooned for releasing patterns that are similar to others out there, but even the Big 4 often rely on a few base patterns which they update with new trends. Take this basic princess-seamed dress for example, which was used in at least eight different Simplicity patterns. Because there are so many variations on a theme in the fashion world, I'll shop around for a style that I like, and just buy it once. The key is to look at the line drawings and determine if this is a new style or not. Using some great basic patterns works well for me, because my style contains a lot of basic shapes that can be mixed and matches.

Can I frankenpattern it?
I don't know who coined this term, but I started frankenpatterning very early on in my sewing adventures. If I didn't own the exact pattern I wanted, I would often try to combine two or more that I had on hand: adding a circle skirt to a t-shirt top, lengthening a tank top into a dress, borrowing a hood from a pattern, and so on. I especially love this technique because you can use a pattern that you've already fitted to your measurements to create a brand new pattern. You also don't have to be a fancy-smancy pattern drafter to get your very own designs, which I find very inpsiring.

Is the design unusual, new, or interesting?
These are the main reasons I end up buying new patterns. If I don't have it and I can't frankenpattern it, I try to think about the value it adds to my collection and the complexity of trying to draft it myself. You won't see my trying to replicate a Japanese drape drape dress or Marcy Tilton Vogue Pattern by myself! I bought patterns last year to make my hooded rain cape, Burda trousers, and Ponte Blazer, all of which I'm not skilled enough or patient enough to try to replicate on my own. BUT, with the exception of maybe the rain cape, these patterns have also proven to be useful additions to my stash. Unless I find the fit does not work for me, I know I will use them again and again.


What are your reactions to this? Does this sound like a plan that works for everyone, or do you have your own system? 

12 comments:

  1. This is a great idea - very clear and I totally agree with your reasoning! I am less caught up in the excitement of new pattern releases these days, but I do keep an eye open for anything a bit 'different'. It doesn't happen too often!

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    1. Right? I feel like the last time I bought a pattern was for something practical, like my bike rain cape, that I didn't want to draft myself. Maybe I've reached pattern saturation.

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  2. I love your analogy! I am a pattern collector! Lol. In your analogy you state do I have a pattern with similar lines, in my head I hear my mother "if you want a garment with a v neckline, buy a pattern with a v neckline". I don't know if she didn't know how to change a pattern or didn't have time to show me. She could create a pattern with old newspapers, so I think she could have. Maybe she heard her mother say the same thing. I blame this on my giant hoard of patterns!

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    1. I know my mom's opinions stick with me FOREVER, even things she no longer remembers saying. Sounds like you need some pattern therapy ;)

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  3. great explanation of your thought process - and I agree. especially about not buying the same pattern over and over from various manufacturers.

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  4. I have to say my own pattern buying decisions are quite erratic, I'll buy none for ages and self draft or use ones from my stash, the suddenly get bored and buy a bunch of new ones. It's also totally random whether I feel motivated to frankenpattern/self-draft or want the ease of a new design straight out the envelope. Overall though I buy mostly indie because I trust the drafting more and the designs are more unique - I wouldn't buy the same big 4 silhouette over and over. Oh, and I can't resist a quirky vintage bargain!

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    1. Vintage patterns are definitely fall in the more "unique" pattern category for me, although unfortunately I can rarely get them to fit me straight out of the envelope :(

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  5. saved image to my desktop! very smart. I probably do this anyway a lot of the time but it's brill to have it in black and white. Just need to find a way to employ it into my Burda magazine buying addiction too...

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    1. Or my fabric buying addiction...

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  6. This is a great post Meg. I so agree. I've seen so many women purchase the simpliest of A- line skirts and shift dress patterns because they've been marketed well. It's a shame as they could have traced off an existing garment and more or have have that pattern licked.

    Nothing wrong with a bit of Frankenpattern or giving a simple draft a go.

    Cheers

    J.

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    1. The styling can make things so tempting! I think if a lot of these pattern companies had been around when I started sewing, I would have blown all my money on them!

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