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Conversational Threads

Are you a pattern follower or maker?

Deana | Posted in Talk With Us on

Are you a pattern follower or pattern maker? Do you sew primarily from commercial patterns, or do you make your own?

Deana Tierney, Assistant Editor, Threads


  1. rodezzy | | #1

    I use commercial patterns and make alterations to them. 

    1. Playful | | #46

      Thats a great idea, do you purchse your items from wholesalers or as you pass them shopping?

  2. starzoe | | #2

    I taught pattern design years ago but sewing from a basic pattern that fits and designing from that point is a lot easier and a lot faster. I still occasionally see a picture of something I like and design from scratch.

  3. sewingkmulkey | | #3

    I've been sewing with commercial patterns for most of my sewing life (50 years) but always made a few changes and/or combined 2 or more patterns to get the desired design.  But, lately, since I've been sewing with vintage Japanese silks I've engineered a few patterns to accomodate the narrow widths of these silks.  The challenge has been easier than I thought and I can proudly add designer/pattern maker to my skill set.  An old dog can add new tricks and it's been such fun!

    I'm not ready to abandon patterns from the Big 4 or smaller companies but I've discovered a new freedom in making my own patterns.





  4. flossie | | #4

    I started learning patternmaking about 5 years ago and wish I had learnt so much earlier. I have used commercial patterns for over 40 years but was always frustrated because they were not quite what I wanted. This was particularly apparent when my daughters wanted  their own designs made up and the commercial patterns needed more and more adjustment. Nowdays I can make whatever they want. I still use commercial patterns occasionally as a base and adjust to what I want - understanding the principles of patternmaking makes it much easier to do this. It is great to see something in the shops or a magazine and know how to achieve the same look.

    1. michellec | | #68

      I am with you.  I am always frustrated by commercial patterns.  I wish I could learn pattern making.  I am in an area that doesn't have opportunities like that.  It is getting to where it is hard to find a place to buy fabric.


      1. User avater
        CostumerVal | | #69

        A really easy, fast and cheap way to get some experience is to use 1/4" grid notebook paper and draft to your measurements and make a 1/4 scale dress form.  It uses up some scrap fabric and you can pre-view designs with only a 1/4 yard fabric.  I'm trying to figure out how to add arms and legs to mine, might have to get some cloth doll making books.  Ooh La la.

        1. zuwena | | #70

          This is a great idea.  I shall try that the next time I am going to draft from scratch.  Z

  5. fiberfan | | #5

    Even when I used commercial patterns, I wasn't a pattern follower.  In the last couple of years I have refined a sloper and draft my own patterns.  I still buy commercial patterns for details and ideas.

    Joanne - so many ideas, so much fiber, so little time

  6. scrubble4 | | #6

    Hi Deana:  I have had a journey trying to fit patterns.  I stand very straight and my bottom sticks out a bit.  Trying to fit armholes, get side seams vertical and fit my back has been incredibly challenging.  Also for pants although I am fairly slim, I have large thighs and calves so fitting pants is also a challenge. I have read your magazine almost since it started and have tried all the suggestions.  I think it was the combination of changes that created the biggest challenges for me, rather than anyone alteration.  Figuring out the sequence in which the alterations needed to be done was just never quite right for me. 

    I built a dress form from the My Twin kit which was extremely  helpful but I still had lots of alterations to make.  I took a pattern drafting coruse but found it took a lot of time that I would rather spend sewing.  Last spring I bought the Cochenille software and absolutely love it.  The only complaint I have with it are the darts which I figured out are the only part of the software that doesn't move with your alterations.  The armholes are a dream.  So I guess I am designing my own patterns but I am not doing the drafting myself, the software does it for me. 

    This software combined with My Twin makes my sewing so much fun now instead of frustrating.  I was never tempted to just buy ready made as all the problems I have in fitting from a commercial pattern were right there in the finished product.  Alterations on the store bought clothes were so frustrating. 

    In your current article on creating a skirt I am amuzed to read put in the dart.  Some really specific suggestions about darts would have been helpful.  Where the point should aim, not hitting the fullest part etc.  I feel an article like this one on skirts just sets up for failure anyone who doesn't understand the architecture of darts and their purpose.  After you have that understanding, fun can be explored without huge frustration in why things are not working out as they do in the picture with the article.  Making sewing fun requires a foundation of understanding about all the elements involved and how they interact..  That is what your Threads magazine does such a good job of unpacking for all of us.  The reasons why things work they way they do from fabric characteristics to structural design in a garment.  Keep up your good work. 

    Thanks Scrubble4

    1. surlyhowell | | #54

      Just discovered this site and noticed your comment on the Coch---software. Will it work on an apple computer and where do I find it? Thanks.

      1. scrubble4 | | #55

        Hi:  Yes it will work on an Apple.  They have two different programs and you just specify which one you want.  These folks are amazingly helpful.  I must have sent them about 8 emails with different questions when I was researching which program to buy.  They were very honest always saying if there was something they didn't think the program excelled in and why.  For example they said the pants part of the program isn't as good as some of the other parts.  I have to tell you I have never had a pants pattern fit me.  I had my husband take all my measurements for their REFINED FIT (a bit of a hoot in itself) and then played around with the pattern a bit with some changes I thought would improve the fit.  It is a great pants pattern I can't believe how well it fits.  Then I made a funnel neck, 6 dart fitted top and 8 gore straight skirt.  Hitting all my problem areas.  Again pretty amazing.  Of course I made muslins for the pants, top and skirt and made some minor adjustments.  Then I could go back into the program and make the adjustments on the pattern for next time.  If the changes are significant you can go into your measurements and tweak them. 

        None of the other programs allowed the degree of designing that Cochenille does and most were a lot more expensive.  if you don't want to design they have lots of templates that you can use, but I love the designing part.  You can mess around on the computer trying out all types of things.  This program will make adjustments to adjacent pattern pieces so they all keep fitting.  It is really neat.  You can also put as many sets of measurements in it as you want so commercial sewers use it for their clients, Grandmas like me can use it for the extended family. 

        Source http://www.cochenille.com/garm.html   The actual program is called Garment Designer but it is cochenille I see each time I boot up so that is how I think of it.  Have a look, send them some questions and see what you think.  They also have sales throughout the year.  That is when I bought mine and was able to get all the add ons as well. 

        Thanks for asking Scrubble

        1. surlyhowell | | #77

          Scrubble4,Thank you so much. All of mail has been going into the junk folder & I didn't realize it and didn't check it! I will get right on the software you recommended. I am currently visiting my son, who is also my computer guru. He found all of my mail in the junk folder & is almost forcing me to take the apple classes. Thank you again.

          1. scrubble4 | | #78

            Dear Surlyhowell:  This is just a speedbump in your technology path.  This is the second response as I somehow was booted off my connection, so we all have them.  Young folks seem to intuit so much about technology, but those of us who were raised without need to plod along to learn each piece.  Be kind to yourself.

            Ask lots of questions before buying Garment Designer.  I really like it, but each person's needs and preferences are unique.  If you are a knitter, beader, petit point crafter etc, they also have a tasty software program for those.  I don't own it as I don't yet have time for those crafts, but it sure looks interesting. 

            I continue to make muslins of each new design.  I am a fitaholic and therefore I also am looking forward to Threads new fitting DVD which Amber said they will shooting in the spring.

            if you decide to buy Garment Designer, remember help is only an email away.  They are terrific at helping you along. 

            Good Luck   Scrubble 4

          2. surlyhowell | | #79

            Thanks for the encouragement on the tech issues. I have tried to contact Cochenelle by email, but with no luck. Of course, the time of the year has a lot to do with it. I need to know if I can return the software for a refund if I am unable to use it (for whatever reason). I will try to call them today also. Thanks. SurlyHowell

          3. scrubble4 | | #80

            Hi Surlyhowell:  They are a very small operation .... I think only one full time person answering (but usually promptly) emails.  That person may be on holidays.  I haven't checked their site, but it may explain that on it.  Good question to ask about returning if it doesn't work.  Scrubble4

          4. surlyhowell | | #81

            FYI Cochenille did respond and they have a 30 day return policy. I will let you know how it works for me. Shirley

  7. GailAnn | | #7

    I buy commercial patterns, lots of them, too many of them.  Like others, I use them mainly as a starting point.  The only reason I sew is to have clothes I can't afford to buy.

    I've said it before:  I can't afford the clothes I want and don't want the clothes I can afford.  It's been this way since high school, class of 1969.  Gail

  8. maggiecoops | | #8

    Both, if I see a pattern I like I'll buy it, if I see a garment I like I'll draft a pattern for it.

    I find it harder now as over the years I've added a few curves were they shouldnt be, my posture has changed, and I don't have long enough arms to get the back measurements I need. My DH used to oblige with that and the fitting, took a few years to teach him how. I have a fairly good library of pattern drafting books, all 30 odd years old, but the principles havent changed so I refer to them now and then as the memory isn't what it used to be either.

  9. rouquinne | | #9

    commercial patterns only - and i don't have the talent or creativity to alter or combine them to get something different.


    the only adjustments i make are to "petite" them!


  10. GailAnn | | #10

    I've already answered, but I have a follow-up comment. 

    In the past 7-10 years, I seem to have "pitched forward" somehow.

    I have discovered that BOTH purchased and self made skirt hems are no longer hanging level - parallel - to the floor.   That is to say the fronts now hang SEVERAL INCHES closer to the floor than the backs!  U G L Y !

    I put on a full slip, and tied a ribbon around my waist, just to confirm what I already feared.  It's not the skirts - it's me!

    When making my own designs (or sewing from a pattern) I can fix this - either up from the bottom or down from the top.  What if I had never learned to sew? Gail

  11. sewelegant | | #11

    I am a pattern follower ... I must be or I wouldn't have all those boxes of patterns I'll never make, but still have dreams about or can't throw out the ones I did make and loved.  It appears I am not alone in this.  Since growing out of the standard measurements I have a  terrible time with fitting these commercial patterns.  Even after all the books and classes I've taken, but I'm still determined because it is the process of making a garment that I enjoy.

    Years ago a very stylish neighbor who used a seamstress (I couldn't afford that!) borrowed my latest Vogue Pattern magazine and later came back to tell me she had "designed" her own dress and was having it made.  It turned out she had merely changed some details on the purchased pattern.  Hmmm ... does that make me a designer?

    1. Patmaker | | #25

      Yes- typically -  I work for Carters Childrens Wear in Atlanta, I have been making patterns for the garment industry for 30 years or more- and worked with a lot of "Designers"  I worked for Garan, Liberty, Izod, Buster Brown, and numerous others

      But very few of the designs we do are made from scratch- the Designers go to Europe and buy garments bring them back here and copy them changing a color of thread or removing some small item changing the neck  etc. So yeah your a designer-

      now if you could just get the money these people make...



  12. Tatsy | | #12

    Commercial patterns are a disaster for me.  I gave up on commercial patterns when the neck of a square-necked sundress I was making larger than the circumference of my shoulders. I have better luck with the Lutterloh patterns, the ones where you put in your own bust and hip measurements, but even those sometimes are far different than my frame.   

  13. Teaf5 | | #13

    Both:  I buy and modify commercial patterns, and I create patterns from ready-to-wear that fits well.   

    I'm an odd size--tall but petite torso, small-boned but full-busted, arms and legs 2-4" longer than typical but very narrow shoulders for the rest of my measurements--so I find rtw garments at deep discounts ($6. for tops, $8 for slacks, $3 for skirts) as no one else would fit them.

    Lately, I've been checking out ways of dealing with full bust/small frame; I can modify a commercial pattern to duplicate a good fit from rtw and create a good garment in a variety of fabrics and colors.  The rtw original often shrinks, fades, or disintegrates fairly quickly, but my copies with quality fabrics and techniques last a long time.

  14. HKMKB | | #14



    I'm new to sewing. So far I have made everything from scratch simply looking at pictures online or using existing clothes as a model. I am rather scared to start using patterns, but I know I must to be learn proper sewing methods.



    Love sewing! My newest hobby added to the list...

    1. jjgg | | #15

      Mellisa,PLEASE, keep thinking 'outside the box' continue to be creative and explore the sewing process before you start using commercial patterns. There really is no such thing as "proper sewing methods". some techniques are better than others in some situations. You will have a great advantage over those of us that were "taught proper sewing methods" sometimes it's hard to step out of them once learned. The more you can figure out on your own, the better off you are. If and when you get stuck on something, there are lots of resources to help you through it. Here, books, and sewing stores or other experts.I'd love to know what you have made sew far!

      1. GeekyDiorGirl | | #24

        I'd love to make my own patterns. I'm an aspiring designer that does NOT know how to sew or draw.  I still haven't drawn but I'm learning to sew. I can see things in my mind but I just can't put it on paper. any good pattern making tutorials?

        1. fiberfan | | #26

          There is a 1942 pattern drafting book on Vintage Sewing Info.  It has a lot of good information.


        2. Ckbklady | | #36


          I'd also suggest a couple of books:

          PATTERNMAKING FOR FASHION DESIGN by Helen Joseph Armstrong

          and the recently reprinted:

          MAKE YOUR OWN DRESS PATTERNS by Adele P. Margolis.

          Both books give good instruction in measuring oneself and drafting the corresponding pattern pieces. The first book is a design school textbook and is consequently expensive, but your library may have it. The Margolis book is out in paperback and is about $20. I've used both books. They have different strengths. The text is a whopping near-encyclopedic collection of every imaginable garment, while the Margolis book focuses more on the design of everyday clothes. Margolis' voice is warm and encouraging - I have a huge soft spot for this book.

          Now, these books focus mostly on getting the patterns made. If you're a sewing beginner you'll also benefit from a good book that shows you how to go past that - to take your completed pattern and cut out your fabric the right way and then to assemble your garment. There are scores of good intro books around. THE VOGUE SEWING BOOK is a good one, and the Singer sewing machine company has a complete series of books that show you with pictures how to approach each step in the sewing process. Taunton Press, who publishes our beloved Threads here, also came out with a very good book called SEWING BASICS a few years ago. It's super for starting out.

          You're a very ambitious beginner to be wanting to start sewing by drafting your own patterns. If you find that to be a big mountain to climb, don't give up on sewing - just spend a little time gaining sewing experience (with purchased sewing patterns) and work your way up to pattern drafting.

          Happy sewing!

          :) Mary

          1. leslee | | #48

            I agree about the Joseph-Armstrong patter making text. I have the 3rd edition and use it a lot. Though I have to say when I recently re-drafted the sleeve to my basic jacket pattern I used Kathleen Cheetham's deirections in the June/July 07 issue of Threads. It was much easier to follow and worked incredibly well. I then used the two piece sleeve directions from Morna Hollen's Pattern Making by the Flat-Pattern Method--again because it was easier. When I make patterns I need to keep reminding myself that it is part science and part art. I consider all of my sewing / designing to be experiments. That being said, I wear what I design and make for years.Does the book you mentioned "MAKE YOUR OWN DRESS PATTERNS" by Adele P. Margolis have instructions for patterns other than dresses?Leslee

          2. starzoe | | #49

            The book "Design Your Own Dress Patterns" is one I have had on my shelf and used since about 1971 when it was first published. If the one on the market today is a re-issue, yes, it does have a lot more than dress patterns. I think the "dress" in the title more refers to "dress" as in "dressing" and not a one piece garment. There is just a short paragraph about pants, but it refers you to a good book on pants fitting "How to Make Clothes that Fit and Flatter", also a Doubleday edition.This is an excellent book for beginners and experts as well. It really is worth buying. The size charts in the back may be out of date if they are included in the reissue but everything else is timeless.

          3. Ckbklady | | #51

            Oh, boy, does it! The Margolis book is a reprint of a book that was in print in the 80s, entitled "Make Your Own Patterns". Why they changed it I'll never know - it has patternmaking instructions for all elements of design - dresses, skirts, shirts, collars, cuffs, outerwear, children's wear - it is like a warmer and friendlier version of the Armstrong book. I love the book so much that I bought four copies for the sewers on my holiday gift list.

            I like your point about science and art - it is a mix of both.

            :) Mary

          4. leslee | | #52

            Thank You Ckbklady, Gailann, CustomerVal and Starzoe for you suggestions about pattern drafting books. Amazon, here I come :)Leslee

          5. Elizard | | #53

            For the first few years of sewing I bought commercial patterns, but recently I noticed that the back and sleeves fit horribly, since then I have been trying to make my own patterns, with no great success - they still don't fit. I found this danish video on draping patterns with paper on the person, very interesting, I have attempted it once but it didn't quite work out, I'll try again soon. It is made by the late Preben Hartmann of purple heart, Copenhagen (out of business). This is where you in theory should be able to get the videos from http://www.anatomisk-tilskaering.dk/html/forord___index.html , this other page tells about mr. Hartmann and his system http://www.anatomisk-tilskaering.dk/html/forord___index.html . As far as I know it only exists as a VHS in danish, but perhaps they can be persuaded to make a DVD. IN case you attempt a translation the word tilskaering means pattern cutting! If you like I could post my progress, even though I'd have to learn how to attach pictures first!

  15. User avater
    CarolW | | #16

    Hi Deana,
    Have been sewing off and on for more years than I want to admit, and have started trying to draft my own patterns in the last couple of years as I always have to make a lot of changes to commercial patterns. Got a book about pattern making and started trying to take my own measurements. Not too easy. Am still fiddling with the slopers I came up with. I was very excited to see the article in the latest Threads about drafting a pants pattern. I intend to try this method as soon as I get a chance.

    Edited 11/7/2007 6:58 pm ET by CarolW

  16. User avater
    CostumerVal | | #17

    I have to say that I do both.  I buy commercial patterns when they're 99 cents, but have never sewn one as is.  I always change something in the design, or fix a mistake in the drafting.   I learned pattern drafting from a book about 3 years ago and have incredible freedom now.  I can copy anything I see.  I have found the "standard measurements" on various web sites on the net and have made a chart.   I can produce a base pattern  for any body in any design with only a few measurements.  When I measure, I imagine the globe, with longitudinal and latitudinal lines, and just measure over all the "land formations".   Anything I miss I use the standards chart for.   Then I pin fit the pattern to make sure there are no gross errors, and I fit a muslin for fine tuning.   The muslin usually ends up being the interlining.  I have never taken a sewing class, or a pattern making class.  But I do alot of small scale experiments.  (I'm making a pieced cover for a lemon juice bottle to figure out how to move fitting darts into shaped seams)

    Speaking of which, no living person on the planet has a neck like my dress form.  I wonder if commercial patterns are made from a dress form that would fall over backwards if it had human head on it.  That would explain the constant need to fix the neck and shoulders.  I read that the U.S. measurements were taken from returning WWII women soldiers.  They probably had to stand at attention for the measurements. 

    1. trini13 | | #62

      Hi  could you please tell me what pattern drafting book use use I bought am looking for some book with not much high tech methods and not time consuming I did do a course years ago but cannot remember any thing  I tried commercial patterns that i just cannot follow

      1. User avater
        CostumerVal | | #64

        Trini, which commercial pattern did you use?    I think the easiest way to make your own designs is to perfect your commercial sloper and use some web references to show you how to copy, slash and spread your sloper to get your different blouses, jackets, pants, dresses, ect.  If you have one of the "basic shell" patterns, you might want to try the book 'Fit for Real People' by Palmer/Pletsch to get all the wrinkles ironed out.  http://www.vintagesewing.info has some really good books on line for pattern development reference.

        That being said.  I have Donald McCunn's 'How to Make Sewing Patterns' and Don has a yahoo site under the same name where you can ask him questions if you get stuck.  I've read a few other methods and they all get to same place, just a little differently.  Some might say to draft the neck curve 3" out and 3" down from CF.  Another will say divide neck measurement by 6 and that's how far out and down from CF.  Either way, you have to perfect the fit in a muslin fitting.  So I would recommend a good fitting book as well.  Good Luck.  Val

  17. Phoebe3 | | #18

    I can no more follow a pattern than I can follow a recipe when I'm cooking.  I always believe that I can improve it. I'm not always right about this, but I have to try. It's just too boring to simply follow instructions.

  18. beebuzzled | | #19

    Though I used commercial patterns for years, they never worked well for me as I could never sew anything from them without making major alterations. Lacking the know-how of a seamstress, these alterations usually ended up being so much work that I either ruined the garment or just pitched the pattern in frustration. The only things that turned out well for me were home decorating projects (how wrong can you go on a curtain?) and non-fitted children's clothing like track suits.

    I am in the process of becoming a pattern maker. An Italian design school has launched a pilot project here, in Canada, and a small group of us are learning pattern design according to their methods and our measurements. What an eye opener! So far, we have learned to draft a number of skirts and we are currently working on drafting the classic pant. Using our own measurements means we get sizing right the first time, with only minor adjustments needed to tweak our patterns to perfection.

    Pattern making is an invaluable skill that should be taught before the first stitch is made. I now consider it the basic foundation for sewing.


  19. idosew | | #20

    I use Lutterloh, ready made patterns, and draw my own. Below the waist I always draw my own. Above the waist Lutterloh or ready made patterns. Styles from ready made are better than the ones I draw but mine fit better. 

    1. GailAnn | | #29

      This past Thursday, I went to my 4th Lutterloh class, called something else now, Tru-fit, but it is the same thing.   The first time was in the late 70s or 80s.  I bought the "Program" in the 90's.  I probably wouldn't have gone this time, except a widowed friend of mine wanted to go, and didn't want to go alone.

      I love the IDEA, but it just doesn't work in practice for me!  I've wasted more $$, fabric, and time, than I care to remember.

      I'd LOVE to hear some success stories!  and I think I'd enjoy reading an unbiased artical in THREADS about Lutterloh/Tru-fit.


      1. Tatsy | | #30


        From previous posts, I think we have pretty much the same figure problems. What I found worked with the Lutterloh patterns was to draft both sizes above the waist and use the shorter set of marks to draft the shoulders, the higher set for the underarm, and run the sideseam straight up from the waist. I put the bodice front pattern against my body to mark the bust point, then fold and pin the dart in to get the correct angle for the dart cutting line.

        I know this is more messing around than most people have to do, but blouses and jackets fit better than anything else I've tried.  At one time, I had the pants perfect, but my weight's been goin up and down, so it's back to the round window pleats. Ugh!


      2. idosew | | #32

        What goes wrong when you try?

        I find that if you get the measuring correct it fits great. It also goes together better than any other pattern I have used.

        I have PMB software which I have never gotten a good fit from measuring correctly or not.

         The cut for the crotch used in Lutterloh and other pattern companies in Europe fit much better. I have 3 sets a 1974, 1985 and 2003. I have not gotten any of the newer quarterlies because I don't like low rise skirts or pants. Looking like a shapeless straight body is not my thing.

        I am no expert but I do draw pants and skirts patterns as well as use Lutterloh.

        1. GailAnn | | #37

          I might be hopelessly Math impared.  Gail

      3. leslee | | #61

        I went online and watched part of the Lutterloh system video. I hate to say it but it is a little gimmicky, though I can see how they based it on proportions. When you draft a basic pattern or slopper from your measurements there is a lot of "square a short line from J..." etc. With any pattern making the trick is to make enough muslins to get the fit right. I usually start with a commercial pattern and adjust the fit with a muslin then use that as my "basic" blouse or skirt or jacket pattern and do flat pattern design from there. If you had something that fit but needs adjusting because of a weight change (that happens to all of us) then I would start with that pattern and use the slit (or tuck) method to increase (or decrease) the size. I have been using the same jacket and pants patterns for at least 15 years and have just kept adjusting the fit and changing the style. Good luck.

  20. Meexhibits | | #21

    I use  all kinds of patterns, and then ,remake them.   I make my own from scratch purses/bags/scarfs,belts,and other assessories.

    1. trini13 | | #63

      hi how did you learn to do all that did you go to school for it can you tell me how to dothat

  21. zaller | | #22

    I love to get a pattern and make it my own. I will make the garment from the original pattern and then it is fun to break it down into various pieces. I then like to take those pieces and break it down further by selecting a color scheme and piecing strips or other shapes to form cloth to use for the various pattern pieces. I find that it is usually better to vary the sizes of the pieces used to make it more interesting and give it movement or select an area without much variation to use for a special treatment. I love to bead so I have quilted some areas and beaded to add interest. I have made beaded fringe one the bottom yoke with various beads to match or contrast with the fabric. It is also fun to use templates to make rubbings on the fabric and then free hand embroider select areas. Sometimes I add interest by cording with two different heavy threads or yarns. For me it is an advernture, a work in progress. It has actually taken me more time to prepare the fabric than to make the garment. But what great fun! NO ONE in the world will have what you are wearing. The downside is that enevitably someone wants to know where you got it and when they find out that you made it..."will you make one for me"? It is a great creative outlet. I wish everyone could have such fun!

    1. sewelegant | | #57

      I was reading all the posts this evening and Zaller's letter caught my eye!  And not because it was so much bigger!  I envy anyone who can do what she describes... I want to add my "can you make one for me" to her list.  I belonged to my local Bernina Club for a while and so many were becoming fiber artists I began to feel left out.  Even though I am crafty, I am not very imaginative and it seems more like WORK than fun.  You are very lucky to feel so much  pleasure in doing this art.  I love quilts too, but find the process of designing and actually doing it intimidating.  So I go back to what I love and feel good about ... sewing as elegantly as I can on beautiful fabric for clothing.  I have learned a lot about fitting and drafting, but am a long way from mastering it.  It seems like when you take a class too much is addressed and I get muddled and end up not learning as much as I'd like.  I have never heard of this lutterloh that is mentioned.  What is it?

      1. Cherrypops | | #58

        Lutterloh is a pattern making system.

        There is a video on this site which is worth watching here: http://www.lutterloh.com/

        Another informative site is http://www.dressmaking.co.nz/lutt_patterns.htm this is New Zealand

        I personally don't have Lutterloh, I was given the similar product Sure-Fit Designs, which I think is unavailable now....It was used by my mother-in-law when she sewed her work clothes. She says ..With time and patience these pattern making systems do work. I haven't used it yet either, I work from the big 4 companys patterns.


        1. sewelegant | | #59

          Thank you for the lutterloh information.  I have put it into my favorites to go back and explore more.  Isn't it nice to have so many choices to get to the same end.  It's a little like going into a huge discount store where the choices for a bag of coffee (for example) are endless and all I want is a nice cup of coffee or tea!  You have to try so many before figuring out they are really all the same.  It's how you brew it that seems to make a difference. Or is it?  Most of us keep looking for the secret.

          1. Cherrypops | | #60

            Keeping your options open is good....finding the right pattern company and how you proceed is personal choice.

            All the best with the Lutterloh System if you decide to use it.

            yes some secrets are best shared! but then that stops us looking for more adventures and keeping more secrets.

        2. zequeen | | #74

          The Sure-Fit system (and drafting supplies) is still available at:



          1. Cherrypops | | #75

            Thank you very much for letting me know. Yes this is one I have...a vhs came with my lot. I have also seen some advertised on Ebay. Cp

          2. zequeen | | #76

            Yes, there are, from time to time, a few listed on Ebay.  That's how I got mine.  It included the women's, men's, children's, and a fourth (women's pants, I think) set of instructions.  I later went to the website and ordered the vhs, drafting paper, French curve, etc.  Nice little system.  Much like Dusan, or Dusan is much like Sure-fit.  By creating a master pattern, I've been able to modify that by using instructions in Dorothy Moore's Pattern Drafting and Dressmaking, a very old book, but easy to follow.  I also have the Adele Margolis book, which I bought a few weeks ago through Dover Reprints.

  22. GinnyH | | #23

    Hi Deana,

    I have used hundreds of commercial patterns over the years and have changed/ altered and combined many.  Now I am finding that I am making many of my own patterns for projects for my family.   For instance, roman shades, tote bags, messenger bags and a wide variety of handbags.  I have also gotten into designing my own curtains, drapes, quilts and pillow shams. 

    As far as clothes go, I prefer to start with a version of a commercial pattern (why re-invent the wheel?). 

    I think I got this idea from an issue of THREADS...this past summer I took apart an old favorite pair of slacks and made a pattern from them... I am quite happy with the 3 pair I made from the pattern.  Next I want to change the pattern to add a fly front.  I probably won't get to this until the new year.   THREADS has helped me hone my sewing skills and keep current.     Ginny 


  23. SAAM | | #27

    I've mostly been a pattern follower, though over the years I've combined pieces from different patterns to get the look I want. Now, with daughters who are difficult to fit, I am looking at learning more about pattern drafting. I think it will be less trouble that all the alterations I'm now making to commercial patterns.

  24. Ibeateacher | | #28

    I like to use commercial patterns as a foundation for creativity. When I want to make something, I find a pattern with similar seam lines, say princess, A-line, etc, and use it to create the pattern I want. This way you can use a pattern to make nearly any size you want, and don't need to buy more than one pattern, even if you're making 6 bridesmaids' dresses in six different sizes. I buy the leftover rolls of newsprint paper from the local newspaper and use it to draw my new patterns. It's sturdy and cheap, and easy to stand in a corner when you're not using it.


  25. stitchagain | | #31

    I am both.  I have tried to start teaching myself to make patterns (and remember how I saw others do it) but I have also gone back and follow a pattern very carefully, more carefully than I have in the past and wouldn't you know it I usually learn something (even if its "I don't want to make it like that") and it fits better.  Pattern drafting is an on going teaching thing for me.


  26. Yvonnee | | #33

    Both!  I like to change a bought pattern, different sleeves, necklines, but I also work with sloppers.  My children like to give me a scetch and say "I need this tomarrow!"

  27. dionna | | #34

    I use commercial patterns i currently have 212 in my collection a few month ago I thew out about 50 or so but I should have kept them for a young lady that I'm teaching to sew I like commercial they are much faster to get the project done  

  28. cfisher | | #35

    I have a "base" of roughly 7 commercially made patterns for which I have made fitting muslins.  From my personally fitted patterns, I alter them for style.  For example, using my fitting pants pattern, I have learned to slim the leg for a more sporty pant or widen it and line it for dress pant.  I have added front pleats and cuffs.  All of my illiterations from the single pattern make me feel like a designer, even though in the real design world, I'm not much more than a "fitting and embellishment expert".  :):)

  29. User avater
    guinness12 | | #38

    I am a devoted pattern maker. After many years spent AVIODING learning how to draft patterns because I was afraid pattern drafting was too complex, I was forced into it by being asked to teach a beginners pattern drafting class. I had no choice but to learn it before I could teach it and it was a revelation! learning to draft my own patterns was an exhillerating experience. It opened my eyes to the creative freedom of being able to create exactly and whatever I wanted... pattern drafting gives you total creative freedom without the chronic sizing/ grading issues and altering of those messy tissue paper patterns! lots of luck...G.

    1. User avater
      CostumerVal | | #40

      I am so in agreement with you.  I have thought about teaching a course for a few years now, but I'm unsure how to put a lesson plan together.  Did you follow a book when you taught?  I use a few different methods and have developed a few tricks of my own, unsure where to start.

      Maybe threads (hint, hint) would consider an article on copy write law.  Just so we know who we can copy and what we can sell as our own.  For instance, my husband loves Skillers work pants.  They don't make womens.  If I marketed a womans pant with pockets identical to Skillers, can they sue me?  Not that I would, what woman wants 3 layers of pockets sticking out from her hips, but could they bring a law suit over it?  I know threads did an article awhile ago about selling craft items made from a commercial pattern, but we're talking about pattern drafting here, so we need to know about copy law.

      1. User avater
        guinness12 | | #41

        I have now been teaching pattern drafting for over 8 years in post secondary education. I teach Fashion design, pattern making, garment construction and Tailoring to young men and women who have minimal to no prior experience in Pattern drafting and/or sewing,, but loads of enthusiasm!.

        I teach my Pattern drafting class with an very simplified and quite adapted version that originated from Knopff: Designing Apparel through the Flat pattern, and we refer to Armstrong: Patternmaking for Fashion Design extensively for pattern manipulations. This last one is a great text and I highly recomend it.

        As to copyright laws...As far as I know, there is no way to enforce this in the rag trade & I would not worry about lawsuits over a pocket... think of China & the knockoffs that everyone does there. Copying and adapting is the basis of the fashion Industry. You would have to exactly replicate something and be pretty big about it to get any attention. 

        sincerly G

        1. User avater
          CostumerVal | | #42

          Thank you very much for the info and encouragement.   For pattern drafting I use Donald McCunn's methods exclusively for pants.  I use Rosemary Ingram's top drafting method, I use a combination of Ingram and Dusan Mrak for a "moulage" (the one piece sheath, as opposed to the 2 peice top and skirt)   So you can see, I've kind of gotten my own thing going on.   For turning the sloper into a fashionable design I refer to that dressmakers book online at  http://www.vintagesewing.com

          I guess I'll have to print up my reference material as a handout for a class.  Was going to start by doing a continuing education class with the local high school.

          I guess if you draft it yourself, they can't prove anything, like they would if you took their product and measured it and made a pattern from it for commercial purpose.  From what I understand, you can copy directly from someone's product as long as you don't sell it for profit.  Once you do that, they are entitled to a percentage.

          1. leslee | | #47

            Which Donald McCunn book do you use to draft pants patterns?

          2. User avater
            CostumerVal | | #50

            I use "How to Make Sewing Patterns" by Donald H. McCunn.  His pants drafting direction is the easiest I've seen and pretty accurate also.  He uses the width of the thigh to figure the crotch curve.  I've done the Hip/4/4 and hip/8 math and it comes out the same as my thigh width.  He also has a Yahoo site using the name of the book and you can ask him any questions directly. 

  30. kayle10 | | #39

    I use commerical Patterns all the time.

  31. leslee | | #43

    Like some who have responded, I make my own patterns though occasionally will buy them, usually to figure out a new shape. I have a suit jacket, blouse, shirt, skirt and pants 'basic' patterns that I am always working on improving the fit. I have taken classes from Kenneth King and his techniques shown in Threads have greatly improved my fitting technique. When I want a new jacket, etc. I start with my basic patterns and use flat pattern design to make style changes. Over the past years I have modified my suit jacket to fit more snuggly and changed the pleated front to plain front pants with a slightly dropped contoured waistband. Part of the fun of sewing and designing is developing the pattern. Leslee

  32. lself | | #44

    I'm sixty now and have been sewing since I was 14 and Daddy bought me my first Singer Slant-O-Mattic....I still have it and have only had to have it serviced about 6 times in it's 46 years (I only wish I had held up as well).  But I've about given up on sewing for myself.  I never learned the art of pattern drafting and apparently am not smart enough to catch on from the articles I've read.  Every once in a while I found a pattern that fit me with very minor and easy changes, but most of the time I wear what I make once or twice and then give it to Good Will.   I've settled for learning heirloom sewing and making Christening gowns and children's clothes.  The family loves it because there are always baby showers to go to and everyone loves to give unique gifts....but I still wish I could figure out how to sew for "me".

    I bought a Viking D-l embroidery machine and am learning to digitize.  I love it.  It partially placates my frustration about making things for me...At least now I can embellish what I buy and make it special.

    I have very rarely bought patterns for purses, curtains, pillows and craft projects, usually I do pretty well with those on my own.

  33. Playful | | #45

    I like to create my own according to how I feel at the time of momentum.

  34. BJB1929 | | #56

    I seldom ever buy a pattern.  I have been drafting my own for many years.  I have designed western suits, children's clothes and outfits for myself.  I am not particularly fond of the styles today and am more comfortable in my own designs.  I have had many complements on them.  It takes more time, but the creative juices are satisfied.  I used to buy special paper to draft them on, but I inherited a large roll of brown paper and I find it also works very well.  We are retired and the income is very small.  But even if that were not the case I still would prefer to design my own.  I have gotten many books on the subject over the years (I am 78)  they have been very helpful to me. I have been machine sewing since I was 11 years old when my mother got her first electric machine.  A Singer Feather Weight, which I recently had checked over and gave to our 10 year old great granddaughter who is learning to sew. Bev at busybs

    Edited 11/21/2007 7:47 pm ET by BJB1929

  35. mena | | #65

    I am a patterner a holic some times I draft skirts or I did a dressing gown for my daughter who has scoliosis and is 183cm tall once.
    As I get older I like patterns with detailed and differet ways of doing things, Sandra Betzina,Palmer Petch, Sewing Workshop

    1. Elizard | | #66

      I know someone who has scoliosis as well. Did you alter the pattern in any way, raising/lowering one shoulder?

  36. zuwena | | #67

    Both.  I bought a Vogue pattern recently because it was something I've wanted for years and really didn't have the time or energy to try my hand at drafting.  But, it was the first purchase in many, many years.   Of course I've acquired so many commercial patterns over the years that I really don't ever have to buy or draft a pattern again in life.

    I consider myself a beginner in the pattern drafting arena having been doing it now for only two years.   But having had to modify commercial patterns to meet my specific needs I can draft to a reasonable extent and I'm getting better all the time.  I know, however, that I prefer the drafting as it hones my sewing skills.   Z

  37. boppingbeth | | #71

    I'm a pattern maker for anything simple, or moderately complex--with the exception of tailored jackets and crazy collars.  I change lots of things about patterns, often.

  38. Sewmanysewers | | #72

    I have just read your email about patterns. I use some commercial patterns and adjust them but lately I rely more and more on my Wildginger software called Patternmaster. You put all your measurements in and you can print out patterns that really fit.

    I find the fit is great and this is important to me because my shoulders slope and I have a rather full bust.


    Mary from Victoria, Australia


  39. Ckbklady | | #73

    I just wanted to mention that I noticed in a mailer from Crafter's Choice book club a couple of days ago that here in the US there will be a book coming out shortly called MAKE YOUR OWN PATTERNS by Marie Clayton that promises beginner pattern drafting with an accompanying software disk. It promises that one will be able to type one's measurements into a computer program and print actual full-scale pattern pieces on 8 1/2" x 11" paper with accompanying markings on the pieces to tape them together correctly.

    I love Wild Ginger, but I'll be watching for this book. Of course, if Threads ever produces one of the kind, I'll be first in line for THAT one too! :)

    :) Mary

    Reading & Sewing in Redmond, WA

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