3 Simple Steps to choosing Sewing Patterns

Updated: Dec 22, 2020

Sewing patterns are a great tool for making your own clothes but there are so many out there it can be daunting to know how to choose the right one.

So I wanted to share 3 simple but key steps that I use when choosing sewing patterns to help you narrow down your search and pick the best pattern for you.

Step 1: Do your research

When trying to decide which pattern to start with it can really help to see if others have made it before you and if so, if they have any tips or advice on what fabric they used, how the sizing came out and any hacks or modifications they made.

One of the challenges with dressmaking is that you can’t try it on before you have made it, so the next best thing is to take a look at it on other people. The joy of the internet and the increase in people blogging and reviewing is that you can often find others that have made the pattern before you who are willing to share photos and sometimes tips about the pattern.

Search for the pattern name in Google and use the ‘images’ tab to see photos then if you see one you like click to see if it links to a blog where the creator may have shared tips on the fabrics they used, the sizing they chose and any modifications they may have made. Even if you see a version you don’t like it can be worth clicking through to find out more so that you know what fabric not to choose.

Google Search Images Tab for Cashmerette Appleton Dress
Google Search Images Tab for Cashmerette Appleton Dress

When looking at the photos, observe how well the finished garments fit even on the picture on the pattern itself. Is it pulling or baggy, does it hang well on different body shapes, do the fabrics used work well with the design? Even if you are a great dressmaker, if the pattern is poor it will be challenging to get a good fit. Unfortunately not all patterns are created equal and some definitely are more tested and better fitting than others.

Read the reviews of the patterns. There are lots of blogs out there where fabulous people have made a pattern and then given details about their experience of it - how well it fit them, how easy it was to make up, how true to size it was and any adjustments they needed to make. This can give you clues as to how easy the pattern is to use.

Step 2: Check the description/design details

If you haven’t made many/any garments before then one great secret is to pick patterns that play to your strengths i.e. don’t try to start with complicated design details like lots of zips, buttons, linings, pieces. Some of the most elegant designer garments are simple designs made from great fabrics.

Read the pattern description (usually in the web page notes if buying online, or on the back of the pattern envelope) and also check the ‘fabric suggestions’ section for ‘notions’ which will often tell you if you need zips or buttons.

Pattern envelope
Back of a pattern envelope with description at the top

Also check the front of the pattern as many will state ‘Beginner’ or ‘Easy’ on the front if they are designed for beginner level.

Things that make a garment more complicated are:

  • Zip fastenings

  • Buttonholes

  • Lots of panels - if you can see that the design has lots of seam lines (check the technical drawings which are often also shown on the pattern) then it will have more pattern pieces and be a bit more challenging

  • Lots of pleats

  • Plackets at the neck or sleeve openings

  • Collars on stands

  • Fully lined garments

Step 3: Measure up

A common mistake that beginners make when dressmaking is to pick the pattern based on the size that they are in shop-bought (ready-to-wear) clothing. But just like in many shops, the sizing that they use for patterns can often be unique to that brand so picking a ‘14’ might not correspond to the measurements you are used to.