taking customizing to the next level

If you’ve been following our blog for any length of time, you know that customization is a big theme here. Sometimes people call it “pattern hacking,” but I’ve always preferred to use the term “customizing.” To me, customizing is a positive term that conveys the act of thoughtful crafting while hacking has negative connotations.

Whatever you call it, many of you have become quite good at altering sewing patterns to make them your own. During the eight years that our company has been in business, I’ve shared many customizing tutorials with you, and many of you have contributed customizing ideas and tutorials to the blog as well. For that we are grateful.

You’ve made some wonderful things using these tutorials, too! Customizing patterns is one of the ways in which the community has grown around our patterns and our small company. You ask questions (our discussion forums are a great place for them), share ideas, and post photos of the things you make. Sharing inspirational images and sewing ideas is a great way to find, learn, and develop new skills.

muslin-1

Customizing patterns has been on my mind a lot for the last couple of years (more than I have let on here), and I’m going to be talking a lot about it this fall. But, first, let me tell you a little story about me that may help you understand why I’m so passionate about the topic.

Twenty-five years ago when I first landed in New York to take an entry-level job with a book publisher, I regularly haunted the garment district and its many fabric stores after work. (This was long before Project Runway, which made this a more mainstream pastime.) New York was new to me, and the culture shock was real. I had grown up shopping at JoAnn Fabric stores, where you could find everything in one place: fabric, notions, books, tools, and cabinets full of sewing patterns. But the fabric stores in New York’s garment district served real-live fashion designers, and the fabric selection was like nothing I had ever seen before.

The trouble was, though, that while I could get amazing fabrics it was nearly impossible to find sewing patterns in Manhattan. I quickly realized why. Designers would envision a style and then make a pattern for it themselves. They didn’t need or want sewing patterns. So the fabric stores that served them didn’t carry patterns.

Oh, the possibilities that were open to you if you knew how to drape or draft flat patterns yourself! Once I realized this, I was determined to learn these skills. I stalked the bookstore at FIT until I found the school’s basic (and very expensive) patternmaking textbooks, which I purchased and brought home. My pattern-making education was about to begin!

Except that it wasn’t. The books were so technical and used so many terms that I didn’t understand, that I couldn’t even begin. If I was going to learn this skill, I needed to take classes. But Todd and I were scarcely able to pay our rent with my tiny publishing salary and his graduate student stipend, and we couldn’t possibly afford patternmaking classes. My dreams were dashed. For the time being.

Flash forward eight years. Todd was done with graduate school and had a job, and we had saved a little money. I had worked my way up the career ladder a bit, only to realize that I didn’t want to work in publishing or in finance anymore. I really wanted to work in fashion, but there was only one way to make that happen. I quit my Wall Street job and applied to a special degree program at New York’s famed Fashion Institute of Technology. This time I was going to learn patternmaking properly, once and for all. I was going to be come a clothing designer.

And I did! One year later, I walked out of FIT with a diploma, confidence in my skills, and an astonishing wealth of knowledge I couldn’t have assembled from books or from teaching myself. I had worked harder during that year than I thought possible. I had studied with professors who had decades of experience, and they shared their knowledge with us every day.

I took tailoring from an Italian gentleman who was as old as my grandparents and who taught us all the traditional techniques. I learned draping from a lovely elderly gentleman who was on a first-name basis with all the important fashion designers in New York. I spent hours learning to express my designs in fashion illustration classes. And I took extra courses in patternmaking because that was the skill that fascinated me more than all the others.

tracing

While the coursework was phenomenal, my learning wasn’t limited to the classroom. FIT ran a series of lectures and demonstrations where they brought in fashion greats to speak with us. I got to hear legends like Pauline Trigere, Diane von Furstenburg, and Isaac Mizrahi speak. And I got to meet fashion journalists, CEOs, industry lawyers, and manufacturers. During my program’s capstone course, Bob Mackie worked with us individually to put together a tailored collection. It was an incredible experience and worth every all-nighter I pulled that year.

Since ending my time at FIT, I’ve put that education to work for fashion houses large and small. I’ve worked in sample rooms, conducted hours of fittings, and learned more about the technical side of the business as well as the creative side. It’s all added to the knowledge and experience that I gained in school.

But it wasn’t until I started working with all of you that I began to realize that many home sewists have the same design gene and creative craving that I had. You demonstrate it every time you take a pattern and make interesting and fun customizations to it in order to make it unique and your own.

As I thought through your eagerness to go “off-label” with sewing patterns to realize your own creative vision, I had a thought. I began to wonder if I could teach you the pattern making skills I learned without requiring you to quit your job and go back to school. As I pondered the question, I began to realize that I could, indeed, do it. And I could do it in a new, innovative way that would give you the ability to do things you never thought possible! And so I undertook a new and different kind of project—with you in mind. I’ll tell you more about this project next Tuesday.

Like my first boss at Ralph Lauren used to say, “Come back later. It will be fun!”

But while you are waiting for Tuesday, tell me a little about your own sewing customizations. Do you have a favorite tutorial? Have you ever been really surprised that you were able to make something you thought would be much more difficult than it actually was?

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81 Comments

  1. Ha ha, I’m constantly surprised at what works. My imagination is seemingly always ahead of my skill level, yet I can mostly keep up with myself!
    I put that down to tips and tricks I learned from Oliver + S patterns, but also due to the confidence that I gained from learning to sew with them. Going “off piste” doesn’t scare me a jot – even when I crash and burn. 🙂
    … Can’t wait for the new book.

    1. I’m so glad to hear that, Lightning! You’re an excellent customizer. If that’s a word…

      1. Oh, and I forgot to say, that even if this book puts me out of a “job” then I’m still excited to see it!

    2. always love your cycling references! your sewing is an inspiration. I’m too scared to customise – maybe Liesl’s book will help me!

  2. Darcy

    Can’t wait for Tuesday! Before I found Oliver + S, I had never thought of modifying patterns (I don’t know why). I was always on the search for a pattern that matched my exact vision. After buying my first Oliver + S and reading through all the pattern changing ideas, it let me look at patterns in a new light and now, I’ve never made the same pattern the same way twice! My favorite modification is to swap out knit fabric for woven and vise versa. it makes a totally different garment and making the changes to the pattern to make that swap happen is a fun challenge!

    1. I’m so glad to hear that it’s changed how you look at sewing patterns, Darcy! Thanks for the kind words.

  3. María

    Everytime I finish something done with one of your patterns I feel absolutely amazed that something so beautiful has come out from my hands…. I’m afraid that customizing is still two thousand steps ahead of what I’m able to do.
    I was wainting for your weekend links, but this is much better… Can’t wait Tuesday comes with more information!!!!

  4. I’m glad you’re happy with our patterns, Maria! And it’s nice to know that you like the weekend links. I’ll be back with more next Friday. But in the meantime, I think you’ll be surprised at what you can do with customizing–I’ll explain more next week! xo

  5. Penny

    My favourite customizing tutorials have been about fitting and finishing techniques. After years of sewing, always carefully following directions and taking designs as they were, your patterns for both my daughter and myself have opened up a whole new world to me. Your teaching has given me so much confidence to grow as a home sewist and taught me so many techniques for construction and modification. I love hearing a bit of your story and am so inspired by your spirit to follow your own heart and passions and follow a dream that many of us cannot even begin to think possible. Thank you for sharing your amazing talents with us all and I look forward to hear your announcement next week.

    1. Thanks for all the positive feedback, Penny! I’m glad you’ve learned so much, and I think you’re going to have fun with this next step we’re taking!

  6. This is so exciting! Whenever I come across a RTW garment I like, I always think of how I could replicate it using an Oliver +S pattern. But I don’t always end up doing it because I SO lack any pattern drafting skills! So I am really looking forward to Tuesday – so glad you are starting a series like this!

    1. Soumya, I think you’re about to have a LOT of fun! Cheers.

  7. Megan Bradshaw

    Hi Liesl, I haven’t yet made any of your patterns (though I do have the Cappuccino dress + tunic pattern at home waiting to be made) and I’m so new to dressmaking I haven’t had a ton of confidence to do too much customizing. But I love your site and your brand, and I can’t wait to hear your announcement.

    1. Megan, I’m so glad you’re here! We’re all about giving you the confidence to sew and to tackle new challenges as your confidence increases. I hope you’ll stick around and try some of those customizing tutorials. You’ll be surprised at what you can accomplish, I can almost guarantee it!

  8. I took a Craftsy class on how to draft your own A- line skirt. I haven’t actually done it yet. But I keep reviewing the class because it embeds the concepts more deeply in my brain, and I have a better understanding of translating 2d (flat) into 3D (fabric sculpture).

    I also saw a Gymboree dress I wanted for my daughter but not quite. It was an eyelet dress lined in white. I wanted that. And I wanted that in family reunion in pink….. And I wanted it colorblocked and I wanted lots of things…

    So I went back to my craftsy class because the dress and the skirt are a-line and it helped me learn how to slice and dice up the pattern correctly, to do the color blocking. It was hard work to be sure. It is one of the most satisfying dresses I ever made because I did so much on my own.

    And to this day, it is still among her favorites and she can’t bear the thought of giving it up, although far too short.

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/cybele727/13849960184/in/album-72157643953253724/

    1. I’m glad it worked out, Cybele! The more you try, the easier it gets, right? The hardest part is getting start, I think. My goal is to help you with all those challenges so you have the confidence to do it!

  9. Patricia Hersl

    I am such a huge fan so I think, why change a thing? It’s always so joyful just to complete a pattern that I never think of any changes. Really a very low confidence in my ability to do this, in my imagination (which is nil). I call my self a pattern perserver for that is what I do. Still, I wish you much success. Just don’t leave the rest of us.

    1. Aw, Patricia, thanks! I’m so glad you like our patterns that much. Believe it or not, I suspect you’re also going to like what’s coming more than you think you will. And don’t worry–if you’re happy sewing the patterns exactly as they are, that’s great too. I’m very flattered, and I’m glad you’re here. We’ll carry on together, ok? xo

  10. Sounds grrrreat!!! I’ll be awaiting for more info
    thanks!

    besos
    Diana

    1. I’m glad, Diana. Besos!

  11. Kathleen

    Well, I cheated and checked to see if there way anything by you for “preorder” on Amazon. I’m delighted that you’ll be leading us through sewing pattern alternations – as I have something in mind for my new favorite, the Gallery shirt/dress. I hope that you’ll have hints for adult sewing as well as children’s patterns.

    1. I’m glad you’re happy, Kathleen! Yes, our big announcement will have plenty for women’s sewing, too. Don’t spill the beans yet, ok?

  12. I can’t wait for Tuesday! What a really interesting and challenging topic. I have seen the cover of your new book on Amazon and I really like what I see.
    My favorite customization of an Oliver + S pattern is the Sailboat dress from the Sailboat top (blogged here: http://autempsautomne.canalblog.com/archives/2016/01/30/33296238.html). This customization was inspired by Lightning McStitch, who made a similar customization for her daughter.
    I really enjoyed the part when I was planning the modifications on the original pattern. Since I know the Sailboat pattern by heart, it was great to sew the same-not the same pattern!

    1. That’s a darling customization! It’s fun to imagine and try new things, isn’t it? I’m glad you’re excited.

  13. I feel like you are speaking directly to me Liesl. I have loved fashion design since I was 11-12 when I would watch the fashion shows on CNN’s Style with Elsa Klensch and then sketch my own ideas. I am kind of sad that I did not go to design school as you did. I am in awe at the designers you got to study with at FIT. I continue to love sewing and making patterns my own in small ways, with my limited technical skills. Your patterns have helped me to learn new techniques, for better fitting especially. I am super excited to hear about your new venture!

    1. I’m so glad, Addie! I think you’re going to like my post next Tuesday. And it’s wonderful to hear that our patterns have helped you so much. That’s exactly what we’re here for! xo

  14. I loved reading your story, Liesl. What an adventure!
    I absolutely love customising patterns and experimenting to actually realise the idea that I have imangined. I took pattern design classes a couple of years ago but customising is what I like most. I am not good enough at pattern design to be challenged as a sewer (I am a sewer in the first place, not a designer; and drafting takes to much time to really enjoy it), but customising does take me out of my comfort zone. It challenges me to try out new sewing techniques or to really think and envision the steps that I have to take.
    I’m very curious and impatient for next Tuesday.
    Warm regards!

    1. Thanks, Nele! I’m glad you hear that you’re excited.

  15. Janell

    I love this! Almost every pattern I touch for myself I have to customize – my legs are crazy long, my breasts small, and I prefer my necklines high. I just can’t wrap my head around how to drafts armsythes and sleeves. I purchased some craftsy classes, but I just haven’t had time to enjoy them.

    1. Fit can be a big challenge, can’t it Janell? But once you get that fit you like, you can do all sorts of fun things with the pattern. I’ll tell you all about it on Tuesday.

  16. Sarah

    Thus far, I’ve only had the guts to customize items for my kiddos. I like to take pieces of your patterns and mix them up – a pocket here to there, changing tops to dresses or shorts to pants or skirts. However, I’d love to take on some women’s patterns this way. The fabric investment is more daunting, and I’m picky about things being too “homemade” looking to wear. I did recently alter the Cappuccino dress for maternity wear for myself (still sewing), and I’m planning to alter the Cinema dress according to some of the community comments, next.

    I also took the pattern drafting course online from Whipstitch, and that has given me a really big confidence boost to figure things out and try different alterations and strike-offs. Deborah goes over the basics of how to set up blocks and create your own basic slopers. A little pattern drafting knowledge can make a big difference. I can’t wait to see what you have coming up!

    1. I’m glad you’re excited, Sarah! This will be fun.

  17. Kelley

    So excited about This! Eagerly looking forward to more info.

    1. Thanks, Kelley!

  18. Exciting! I would love to go to classes for more intensive training on drafting and grading patterns, but I’m thankful for all of the classes and help available online so that I can learn while I educate my children at home. Looking forward to hearing more about your project!

    1. I’m glad you’re interested, Sara. Thanks for being excited about it!

  19. Tamara

    I have pattern making books in my sewing library. I have used them – on occasion but one particular time I drafted two dresses for a competition, to fit my eldest daughter’s measurements. One also had a princess seamed jacket with a shawl collar – lined of course. I thought it was gorgeous! i still have that ensemble in the sewing wardrobe as a reminder of things I can achieve yet need more honing – I didn’t even make a place in that competition but I was so proud of that little dress and jacket (the other one I cut up because it shouldn’t have been enetered it turned out so bad).
    And like another reader who commented above, I also have patternmaking classes on Craftsy – but haven’t had the time to sit and actually work through them.

    Because I am a different shape to “industry standards” it would make sense to make my own patterns but instead I sit there and alter those already done for me. I think it is. Combination of confidence and lack of the skill to actually do it well.

    I am so glad Tuesday is not too far away!

    1. I completely understand, Tamara. It’s challenging but rewarding, isn’t it?

  20. I love how I can search an Oliver + s pattern name on Google, click “images” and see it made up in so many different fabrics and often many different modifications or customizations as well! A few more clicks often gets me to a blog post or tutorial on the modification, and off I go! I don’t consider myself a pro customizer like Lightning McStitch – I am more likely to buy a new pattern that fits what I want than to reach towards something distantly related that needs a lot of work, but I make little customizations to Oliver + S patterns – adding pockets, changing shape, etc., All. The. Time. I do feel that if I were on a desert island, I could create an endless desert island wardrobe for my kids using your patterns, and that is a huge part of their appeal!

    1. Too kind Inder I’d say it’s less work for me to take a pattern I already know and trust and have on the shelf then tinker with it, than try the “great unknown” that is other indie patterns.
      Desert island patterns for sure!

  21. Deidra LeQuire

    When my son was born I wanted to learn to sew. I kept a little neighbor girl and her mother was truly a coutour seamstress. She could sew anything and make it. I found a fabric shop and took sewing lessons. In that class we made master patterns, then garments from those. I cannot find anything like those classes anywhere or even online. I hung up my sewing for 25 years and I am beginning to sew again, not for myself but quilting and I long for grandchildren to buy your patterns to sew for. I feel like I have forgotten all the skills I learned and would love to learn again. I will come back for more. I love learning from your blog.

    1. That’s a wonderful story, Deidra! And what a great way to learn. I’m glad you’re here.

  22. Elisabeth

    One of my sewing goals for the upcoming year is to try to replicate some RTW dresses for my daughter by customizing a few Oliver + S patterns, so I’m very excited for the announcement! I’ve used a lot of different tutorials on the website to customize the school bus t-shirt (a-line, colorblocking, faux layered long sleeves) and have loved the results.

    1. Oh, Elisabeth, this will be so great for you!

  23. Karen

    I have been sewing off and on since I was in high school back in 1970. We still had Home Ec in those days and learned the basics of pattern construction. That being said, until the advent of the internet, I never even reallized that there were two different aspects of sewing that mattered. Sewing the pattern pieces together properly and with a professional looking finish, and making alterations to the pattern before you even cut the fabric! Of the two, this is critical.
    Some people can sew a garment straight out of the envelope and it fits them. Other people have to make many adjustments to get a good fit. Yhis is assuming, of course, you know what to do to make those alterations. For the most part, home sewers do not have any background information to go by.
    For example, I have noticed over the years, that bodice back pattern pieces are a little bigger than bodice front. I have been told that it was to allow for ease of movement as youuse your arms, but, is the difference between back and front a straight half inch (for example), or does it change incrementally by size? I watch those diy videos of young (slim) girls making up ballgowns using a tee shirt as a guideline and don’t know whether to laugh or cry. You know that that outfit will start creeping where it doesn’t belong because some basic rules were ignored (i.e. grainline).
    It would be good to find out the reasons behind the design of at least the basic pattern outlines and how it changes as you go up or down insize.

    1. Karen, patternmaking and fit can be so daunting! My goal is to make them simpler so you don’t need to worry too much about those issues. I’ll explain more on Tuesday. Glad you’re here!

  24. Lori R.

    I learned to sew at an early age, from my Grandma and Mom. My grandma, mostly, because she was far advanced in her sewing, and encouraged me to “play” with patterns. By high school and college, I could take all kinds of patterns and “mash” them together into something unique. Then, I became complacent as a Mom, and sewed for needs, although I played a little bit. Now, I am sewing for a great-niece who is showing talent with imagination at age 5. She is a little shy, but is really starting to say, can we do this? to the clothes I make her. I am playing again! I look forward to your blog, as I have no formal training….but, good basic knowledge. See you Tuesday!

    1. Good for you, Lori! A willingness to experiment is such a great place to start. Thanks for being here!

  25. Heidi

    If I can visualise it I can generally modify at pattern to it. It was interesting to realise this week that while I’m often very happy to modify the kids patterns, I’m often willing to do much less customisation for my own clothes. Unless you count lots of flat pattern fitting 🙂

    1. Heidi, it’s great to start with kids clothes, and many of the things you learn there can be applied to women’s clothes as well. But I’ll be talking about that more next week. Cheers!

  26. Love learning more about you! Glad you found your calling! I have learned sof much from your patterns and blog. I am so excited about your new book! I am going to try to use “customizing” from now on. My favorite thing I’ve ever seen is this dress. I pieced the circles since applique did not look right. https://www.instagram.com/p/BBlbUxcAh3O48XjDRoeY9VMwqlPvGqrrwlCfaI0/

    1. Emily, that’s stunning! Well done, and thanks so much for sharing and for being excited.

  27. Juliet

    Yay! This is a very exciting idea! I have had soooo many customizing fails 🙂

    My most used customization was learned from an Oliver & S blog post about making the lullabye layette bodysuit, sleeveless. I have used that technique on so many projects, including a sleeveless cinema dress for myself!

    1. Juliet, I think you’re going to like what’s coming! Thanks for being part of this.

  28. Betsy Howard

    I’ve only made two patterns in my life. One was for my favorite shirt that I couldn’t bear to throw away, even though it had sweat stains!
    The other was for a simple dress I wanted to make for my nieces. I could t find a pattern anywhere. Finally, I bought a dress of the right style at a boutique, brought it home, made a pattern, and returned the dress. I struggled over whether this was ethical, but decided it was probably okay.
    Both turned out pretty well. I’ve never tried to make a pattern from measurements.

    1. Wow, Betsy, you dove right into the deep end! Good for you. xoxo

  29. Mary

    Thank you for all you do, for all your wonderfully creative blog posts and my favorite, the weekend links. What I really love about other pattern companies is when I can take a bodice from one, a sleeve from another and a skirt from a third and make something truly my own! I am looking forward to learning more about your new book.

    1. Mary, I’m glad you’re willing to experiment like that! It’s fun and gives you a great sense of accomplishment, doesn’t it?

  30. Linda

    Looking forward to Tuesday! In the last year I have gotten back into sewing clothes, something I haven’t done in years. I have been mostly sewing home dec and always quilting. But a new grandaughter has changed all that! I love your blog and have learned a lot already from you. This is something I really need to know and look forward to learning. It’s really wonderful today the resources we have to make us better sewists!

    1. Oh, Linda, I bet you’re having fun! Here’s to lots more fun and adventures now that you have someone little sew for. xo

  31. I’m still new enough to sewing that your patterns as-is are like mini classes for me. For example – pleats: music box jumper, zipper and darts: fairy tale dress (which took me months), etc. The playtime tunic is my go-to for nightgowns for my girls and I’ve sewn it in flannel a lot. I’ve lengthened it clear to the floor, left the sleeves off, and turned it around backwards so the button placket is just a floppy-open neckline. Those are the only changes I’ve made so far to any of your patterns, aside from basic lengthening on a lot of dresses and skirts (my girls are tall).

    I’ve only done children’s clothing so far. I’ve not attempted any adult clothing yet. For customizing adult clothing, I just want to make things that fit my body correctly. Regardless of what the scale says (not that I was ever thin anyway), having 5 kids changed my body shape and nothing ever fits right. If that’s what you mean by customizing, then I will be paying attention even though it’s intimidating as hell. How does one even figure out how to measure for their own bodies – don’t you need a 2nd person to do that?

    1. Treen, you’re already doing a little customization. That’s great! I think some of what we’ll be talking about next week will be helpful to you, maybe in unexpected ways, too! Stay in touch, ok?

  32. I learned the very basics of sewing and pattern drafting in school — those pedal machines!
    When I got married I originally wanted to wear my mom’s dress but altered to fit my obviously larger body — she had been 98# and it was an empire waist. That didn’t happen because the fabric pretty much crumbled. So instead I had a dress made to my design of how I had wanted to alter it.
    My husband got me a machine to hem his pants, etc.I started sewing again after my kids didn’t fit in store-bought clothes that were way too wide… they’ve developed their own tastes, especially my daughter, who draws what she wants with the complete faith that i’ll be able to make it :D.. my favorite customization to date has been the Evie jacket I made for her Halloween costume last year, which was part School bus, part field trip raglan, and mostly sketching and pin-fitting!

    1. Good for you, Reeni! This is going to be lots of fun.

  33. Marsha

    What a wonderful post and such an encouraging story you bring to readers. I feel like the patterns are, as another poster wrote, mini-lessons in how to finish garments in more elegant ways. I always learn something. I’ve only worked on learning how to cutsomize your children’s patterns, but most of the adult patterns don’t have my size.

    I bought the Gallery Tunic with high hopes of being able to adjust the pattern to my measurements. Oh boy. It was a disaster and I gave up. There were just too many problems for me to figure out where I should start. But I loved learning how to make the neck placket despite my other failures.

    Did you just read the Washington Post editorial by Tim Gunn? https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2016/09/08/tim-gunn-designers-refuse-to-make-clothes-to-fit-american-women-its-a-disgrace/?utm_term=.c58f43ce43b1 He so capably expresses about the lack of RTW clothing for plus size women that I also find in the pattern world. So it is my dream to learn how to take a beautiful pattern like the Gallery Tunic, which I would love to have in my closet, and size it up in a way that retains the beautiful design and still fits me!

    I know, it’s a lot to ask. I didn’t say I expected to learn it in a week or a month or even a year. I consider this a multiple year Dream to find customizable patterns, how to do the hacks and then to execute those moves reliably. I am excited to see what you’ll be releasing on Tuesday and hoping that it might help me on my learning path.

    1. Thanks, Marsha! Fit can indeed be really tricky, and I love to teach people how to approach it in a way that’s not intimidating or overwhelming. We’ll continue to address that topic in a variety of ways, so please stay tuned! xo

    2. Sara A.

      There’s a wonderful book and Craftsy class by Barbara Deckert about sewing for plus sizes that I’ve found invaluable! Her method of pattern grading makes it really easy and she explains common fit issues really well. The book makes it seem really precise and intimidating, but watching her grade up a pattern in real time was really helpful. The two work really well together as she covers more in the book, but seeing it and having it verbally explained was helpful too. They also have a fitting series by Kathleen Cheetham that has helped me with my figure variations.

      In terms of photo tutorials and pattern reviews, the Curvy Sewing Collective is really on point. They run fitting tutorials, including things like FBAs for over 5″, FBA on princess seams, low belly adjustments for skirts, large arm adjustments, narrow shoulder adjustments, etc. They also review popular patterns and bloggers personal Tried and True patterns for things like ease of construction, size range, and results. It’s just an awesome site and I really recommend checking it out.

  34. Kelly Utke

    Thank you so much for this thoughtful post! I had plans to move to NYC after college until my husband swept me of my feet and set me down on his family farm in the middle of the country! Over the last 2 years I have begun to sew for my children and make quilts and cannot get enough of it – it gets me through such long winters in the country. Instead of attending classes to learn new sewing skills, I rely on the Internet and my growing collection of patterns. I thank you so much for your desire to teach skills through your patterns – the instructions are so clear and the results make me feel like I can do anything! I’m on to making my first Gallery Tunic next week!

    1. Kelly, I wish the internet had existed when I we moved to NYC! It’s changes everything, hasn’t it? I’m glad you’re learning in a way that works for you. Thanks for letting us be part of it!

  35. Kim

    I don’t customize, but I find myself looking at what others wear and uniqueness in design always catches my eye. I find myself saying to myself I would love to go home and recreate that look. Last week at the farmers market in Pasadena, CA, there was a little girl wearing this adorable vintage looking dress. It was darling. The skirt was gathered full and cut shorter, a couple inches above the knee. The hem was unusual. It was shorter in the center and tapered out longer toward the side seems. The long sleeves had reverse cuffs and the dresses bodice wasn’t fitted . The cute round collar and men’s dress shirt button detail down the front was darling. I wish I would have asked who the designer was or where they bought it. I haven’t seen a dress like that anywhere ever! I am now just waiting to make it myself, but I have no idea how to even draft a simple pattern to start.

    1. Aw, see, Kim? You’re already thinking about it! I think you’re going to be surprised at what you can do. xo

  36. Sara A.

    My size means that I have to grade up before I can start to change up things. Most of my customizing is in response to fit issues and done after construction, things like adding tucks or a box pleat to a gaping neckline or adding a faux yoke seam to a shift dress with too much ease in the armscye. I’ve begun to play with dart rotation in tops to get a different look/effect, pleating a gathered skirt, gathering a pleated skirt, or inverting box pleats. I have a bad habit of hacking long sleeves off at the elbow since I’m always rolling my sleeves up anyway. One thing I keep meaning to do, but getting distracted, is to make a babydoll shirt from a shell pattern I’ve made a few times.

  37. Victoria

    The most useful thing I’ve learned to do is change sleeve styles, using the directions in Donald McCunn’s book How to Make Sewing Patterns. I don’t do it quite fearlessly, but it always works out. When my kid was younger, the most useful thing was giving her three-quarter length sleeves with elbow darts — a style that meant she could keep wearing her dresses even as she grew taller. A long sleeve with a cuff looks too short fast, but not a 3/4-length sleeve!

  38. Lorrie

    Can not wait for this! I already tinker with your patterns because my daughter is the width of a one year old, but the length of a 7 year old…..but it has not always gone very smooth!

  39. I’ve made a couple of your Liesl + Co patterns, just finished a Gallery Tunic. I think your combination of pattern draft and instructions is the best I’ve come across in a pattern line – some companies do one or the other well, or neither, rarely both. So I’m looking forward to checking out this book. I’m confident it will be a quality product!

  40. rose-maria

    Looking forward. Is there also how to make pattern for men. My son so often want me to design other clothes for him

    1. Once you learn the basics of how to alter a pattern from the book, you will be able to alter any pattern you have. So if you have one for men that you want to use as a jumping off point, you can do that!

      1. rose-maria

        Sounds really good. Is It an e-book or real book.

      2. This will be available in paper only.

  41. Michelle

    I love where the social media of today has caught up with my frustrations! A community who has questions and knowledge that I don’t have!

    I long to have the perfect crisp, white shirt, skirt and pants but the current day patterns can’t help me – the fit is wrong, the size is wrong. Until, very recently I never thought to alter a pattern but my knitting (of all things) helped me understand that I could alter. I’ve been altering knitting patterns, and then the light bulb went off.

    I am frustrated that there are no local options for today’s sewers in my area. In fact, I’m starting a very small idea to maybe make it happen one day. But, for now, I am trying to learn. I’ve read books and bought video series which is helpful. I look forward to reading your future posts too!

  42. Jessamin

    I grew up being taught how to see from my mother and grandmother but never really loved seeing, like it was my passion, until my first daughter came along. I just suddenly had an itch to see cute little dresses for her. And at the time what I really loved were old 1940’s and 50’s patterns. Those apron dresses make me melt with how adorable they are. The challenge came when I realized that they came in one size only and my daughter was long and petite. So even if I had what would be her size I had to madify it so much that I basically ended up drafting some completely new pieces. That is where I began really. Every dress I made it was the same. I became more fearless and now find myself taking everything and making it my own, even if it would fit just fine the way it is. I think it is the designer in me. I want to design my own little dresses. But as I can draft from scratch one or two sizes, it is the grading that gets me.

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