sewing small talk: how do you choose a sewing pattern?

Hello friends!

OK, here’s a question that may require a little thought on your part. What attracts you to a sewing pattern?

Think back to the last few patterns your purchases and see if you can find a trend in your choices. Do you buy because it seems like a pattern that will be easy to sew? Or because it suits your style? Or because it includes a technique you want to learn? Or something else? Or a combination or elements? We’re curious.




  1. Lisa

    Definitely something that suits my style. Every item that I have sewn because it was my style I have worn over and over. Other times it’s because I can’t find what I want in the store so I end up making it.

  2. Lara

    In the past I’ve purchased patterns because I liked the style. Recently things are much different. I’m dealing with arm injuries and haven’t sewn for more than a year, and won’t be able to sew again for some time. You have the best instructions in the business as far as I’m concerned, and they are the main reason I purchased the Rush Hour dress pattern. I doubt I’ll ever wear a sheath dress, but I wanted your take on lining a dress. A bonus for me is the blouse that is included, which I do want to make when I start sewing again. The fact that you’ve included sleeve and blouse options adds tremendous value, which I really appreciate. Additionally, Robin’s post about modifying the skirt makes the dress an option as well. If there are any nervous sewers reading this, I highly recommend Liezl + Co. patterns!

    1. Oh, thanks so much! I wish you full and speedy healing!

  3. I tend to get bad cases of “ooh, pretty, I want!” That first reaction is important to me but before actually buying the pattern, I run through a few questions. Is this truly my style? Is it different enough from a pattern I already own? How practical is this in my life? If it’s a kids’ pattern, will my kids wear this? And finally, do I trust this company to have good drafting, grading, and instructions?

    1. All very sensible questions! You sound like a savvy pattern shopper. With a nice selection of useful patterns!

  4. The first thing I do is check the technical line drawings. I’m looking for lines that will flatter my pretty average slightly chunky body. I have a large bust so I’m also looking for simple lines that will lengthen my body and minimize my bust.

    If that checks out, then I’m probably clicking to buy LOL. If it’s complicated to sew, I’m probably moving on even if it’s a great pattern. I feel like the less there is for me to sew, the less there is for me to mess up. I love great simple patterns (and surprisingly don’t have many) and I like to focus on quality fabric.

  5. Just adding that bust cup options draw me in.

    1. Sandy

      I agree! I hate having to make adjustments for a large bust, when I could just buy a D cup pattern!

  6. Barb

    This is an interesting question. Sometimes you see the pattern envelope picture and you are just smitten. I felt this way about the Gelato Blouse (made 1 blouse and 1 dress…so far!). But sometimes you are looking for a pattern that will give versatility and be a classic. The Classic shirt (I’ve made 5!) and the Extra Sharp Pencil Skirt (made 2 of these so far!) are wardrobe basics that have the ability to be jazzed up and changed up to give different looks. I purchased the Rush Hour pattern for this reason, although I haven’t gotten to it yet.
    I agree with some of the other comments, that the Liesl instructions are amazing, the cup sizes are a great bonus, and the patterns just seem to work. I have a lot of fit issues with commercial patterns but I find these patterns easier to work with and easier to fit.
    Add in great tutorials, blog posts with ideas for fabric, fitting and styling and you’ve got a winning combo. I’m telling everyone I know about these patterns and how great they are.

    1. Carolyn Nicewarner

      I usually look for a pattern that is easy but cute. I love your patterns and have had no problem completing a project. With more practice and even more practice, I will move onto patterns that have new challenges.

  7. Emily

    I’m not very concerned with how easy a pattern is. I’ve never made anything TOO complicated, but in general I’m pretty confident that if I go one step at a time it will turn out. And if it doesn’t, that’s okay too. Better to try…
    I look for things I will want to wear, and sometimes I impulsively see a version of something and will jump on the pattern at once.

    Seeing things made out of different fabrics and for different types/sizes really helps me be inspired to try a new pattern.

  8. Kim

    Style. If I like the style and don’t have something similar then I buy it.

  9. Joslyn

    I think number one is wether a pattern will suit my style, my body shape, come in my size. Then I look to see if there is something interesting about that pattern that’s makes it unique and worth sewing myself- something I can’t just pick up at a store. If I learn a new technique then that’s a definite bonus. And, of course, it has to be drafted and written well.

  10. Penny

    I’m definitely looking for pattern designs that are my style and fit my lifestyle. I’m not afraid of a challenge and would love to see more patterns on the market that aren’t part of the loose fitting, “easy to sew” trend that has been happening in recent years.

  11. Becky

    Depends on how much time I have to sew before outfit or sewing project is needed.

    I buy a pattern based on”why” I am sewing the pattern and I look specifically for number of seams, types of sleeves, needed trim or 2-tone color needs, zippers vs buttons velcro or snaps, facings vs. bias tape, and ease of pattern fitting to body shape, et cetera. I like complex sewing items but ONLY if I have the time to put it down and come back when frustrated.

    If sewing for grandkids, I also consider easily altered hems and the ability to add cuffs, underarm ease, et cetera for alterations based on “growing”.


    I like something that looks unique. Or it can be a new take on an old style. The best thing about some patterns is how they go together- or tips and tricks that are used to make something complicated much easier to figure out! I refuse to buy store patterns anymore because I think they make the instructions so complicated that no one will ever actually make them- and they are so spendy! Another thing I do is go to youtube and search for what I’m thinking about making- if I find a video with a product I like, I check to see if they list the pattern they used. I am probably 75% more likely to buy a pattern if there is a video of it being made!

  13. Nancy

    100% Suitability! Usually, I’m looking for a particular thing. Sometimes I’m blown away by the pretty pictures (which begs the question, why do pattern companies use ill fitting clothes on the models? but I digress.) It’s a lovely bonus when I learn a new technique, which happens surprisingly often (considering how long I’ve been sewing) with Oliver+S patterns. Ease of sewing hasn’t been an issue for me in a long time – practice makes everything easier – but I remember when that came a close second to suitability.

  14. I *try* to pick patterns that I think will suit my figure and my lifestyle (and my kids’ lifestyles – but I have bought so many dress patterns and now my daughter doesn’t want to wear dresses!). But sometimes I’m just like ooooh, pretty!! 😀 And sometimes I buy a pattern because I see, like, everyone on Instagram wearing it and I can’t resist!

    I like a pattern that has SOME complexity or interesting details, Something different I haven’t tried before. I like the cup size options for me, but I have to say, since I’m an F cup, I have to do a FBA on a d-cup pattern anyway, so it’s less of a deal breaker for me. Personally, I am not that interested in some of the current trends (jumpsuits, huge sleeves, etc.) and I have a more traditional/minimalist style, but I do love interesting seaming and details!

  15. Trish A.

    Aside from obvious (it has to suit me or the person I’m making it for), a pattern has to be unique and chic and, most importantly, be proven to be well fitting. I always check to see if it has been tested by lots of people – Dr. Google is my friend!

    Also, it’s a must that the size range is accommodating. Depending on the maker, I run a US14-16 (UK18) so the fact that a lot of makers are expanding their ranges is a huge bonus for me. It really bugs me when I see pretty patterns that stop at size 14. Argh!

    I also appreciate it when makers reveal what cup size their patterns are drafted in. This makes it easier for me to do an FBA. Or better yet, like many of your patterns, I love it when the patterns are available in multiple cup sizes. Yay!

    While it’s fun to find to “quicky” pattern that you can whip up in a day or so, I love it when patterns have techniques and details that are challenging and give the garment a more couture look. Particularly, things like tower plackets on button cuffs, collar stands, welt pockets, etc.

    I usually like to buy paper patterns but when that’s not possible, I’m perfectly happy with PDFs. In a perfect world, I like it when they are “layered” and you can print off just a particular size. I use a trick I learned somewhere (can’t remember where): I trim only 2 edges of each page and them tape them together on my big living room window (like a giant light box). Bam! it’s done in less than 10 minutes. Then I trace it out on Swedish Tracing Paper, or if I’ve run out of it, I use Burda tracing paper. Each page is really big and it’s not very expensive. I store the folded up tracing paper (or tissue paper) pattern pieces in large plastic ziploc bags marked with the pattern name in Sharpie pen.

  16. Elizabeth Louros

    I try to buy patterns I think I will make more than once, fit my style, and look comfortable. When thinking of buying a pattern I use instagram to see how the pattern looks in different fabrics and on different people. Clear instructions and fabric suggestions are also not important to me. I try not to buy a pattern which is similar to one I already own but sometimes the pictures on instagram are so pretty. I will also buy a pattern if it has an interesting detail.

    1. Elizabeth Louros

      Sorry— clear instructions and fabric suggestions are very important to me. I recently bought a pattern which had rough sketches to accompany the directions- now I know that I will not buy patterns from that designer again even though I love her style ! Also, if directions on a pattern are missing steps or leave a little too much to prior knowledge I will not buy another pattern by that company.

      Needless to say I fould your patterns to have excellent instructions.

  17. Barbara Kugler

    The first thing that I consider is how the style will look on me. Second, I consider how many and what type of adjustments I will need to make to the pattern, with fewer being the best. I definitely favor patterns that have pieces for different bust sizes.
    Third, I consider the type of fabric needed. I only sew with natural fabrics. Fourth, I consider versatility. Although I like dresses, I wear separates much more so I make more blouses, tunics, and knit tops than dresses. Only recently have I made pants.
    Fifth, I evaluate how many variations of the pattern I can make because once I have made the adjustments it is a lot easier to sew another garment from that pattern than to start over with a new pattern.
    It is very helpful to see the pattern on different body types. I also appreciate tutorials for new techniques and illustrations of variations to the pattern.

  18. For myself I buy patterns for two different reasons: firstly when I know it will be a well drafted, well explained pattern that I can use as it is (a classic style) or that I can adapt for what I want. All of the Liesl & co patterns fall into this category.

    Secondly, when it is an outlandish design which I simply can’t imagine how the pattern becomes the garment and I want to go along for the journey! These tend to be my Vogue designer patterns (remember how much that Vena Cava dress looks like a giant squid mid construction? 🙂 )

    Oh, and I confess there’s a third reason. I buy as a collector. I will endeavour to have every Oliver + S, Liesl & Co and Thread Theory paper pattern because I love them on my shelf even if I don’t get around to sewing them.

    For my kids I can pretty much make what they want by using my Oliver + S patterns, but I also buy Jalie patterns for gymnastics leotards and swimwear, and recently Ottobre because they had tweenage boy jeans Patti. So I guess I buy to fill a gap in their wardrobe.

  19. Paula

    I purchase a pattern mostly from the line drawing and what I see on the internet. I am always interested in the Liesl and Lisette patterns because I think they are very good patterns. I was not interested in the most recent Butterick 6708 but then I saw a You Tube video on the new Butterick releases and several ideas were put forward for this pattern such as a play with stripes, subtle texture change (matte vs. shiny) on the sash part, and using the sash part as sequins or shiny fabric for a dressy dress. It got me to thinking and now I am past the blue/orange version and am seriously looking at this pattern. I love it when you show all the ideas you have for a new pattern. It helps me to look beyond the picture on the front and see how much potential there is in a pattern. Thanks so much Liesl!

  20. Nancy Olson

    I am 72 years old with a sinking shape. Today I shop for minimally shaped designs that look comfortable and are not too complex. I also am aware to watch for designs which are age appropriate. I don’t worry about altering too much as I find it unrewarding. I also feel that there is a tremendous focus on altering patterns almost to the extreme. Perhaps this can be attributed to my age and shape. I am glad to see more patterns with different cup sizes as I have found this helpful. I have been sewing my own clothing for over 50 years. I stopped for a while as I aged over 60 but started again because RW clothes are really poorly made and, in my opinion not appropriate for me. I have to admit it was much easier to sew for myself when I was younger. Thank you so much for listening.

  21. Janine

    Why do I buy a particular pattern?
    – It fits my style, it’s is something I will actually wear
    – The pattern fits my fabric (you know, impulse buying of pretty fabric without knowing what to make with it….)
    – Good instructions, a new way of doing things
    – Special features like multiple bust sizes, different drafting for small or big sizes, options (sleeves, necklines etc)
    – Suggestions for fitting alterations
    – Reputation of the designer/company

  22. Christy Campbell

    Classic style, easy (as I began sewing this summer), many posts on Instagram or reviews searchable on Google so I can see it made and worn by lots of people.

  23. Liz

    I buy patterns that fill a gap in my wardrobe and fit my lifestyle and climate. Increasingly I buy fewer patterns as I have a pile of unused patterns (eek!). I tend to stick to a small list of independent companies that suit my body shape including Liesel and Co. I don’t really buy any children’s patterns any more as my children outgrow clothes quickly and have strong opinions about what they will or won’t wear (!!). So I tend to save my precious sewing time for myself and for the patterns that fit!!

  24. Karen Bridget

    Hi Liesl,
    An interesting question that made me stop and think . My recent purchases have been from Jalie, the Tania jacket and the Eleanor jeans, I follow the Sew What Yvette blog and Yvette was doing a sew along with these patterns , I have never sewn these type of garments before and thought I would learn new things which I have.
    I also bought the Jasika blazer from Closet Case pattern as they have a paid for class in tailoring it ,which I also thought would help me with new sewing techniques.
    The big 4 pattern companies, I look for them having a choice of cup sizes and positive reviews on Pattern reviews . Silhouette patterns , pattern of the month occasionally too. I don’t think I want them until Peggy sews them up
    Perhaps too many patterns, methinks?

  25. Karen Bridget

    PS forgot to say, I buy your patterns, I love the styles and fabulous instructions!

  26. Ginger

    I mostly buy because it suits my style.

  27. Ann

    Mostly when I see a timeless design I can use more than once, a design with just that extra special detail. It has to suit my style and I check the technical line drawing. A pattern company wichI trust is very important.

  28. Katheryn

    I chose patterns that fit my style. For me, that’s means it’s a design that has lines I like, its by a pattern maker whom I trust, it has a design that I can adjust for my bust, waist, and hip measurements, and a it’s a piece of clothing that will have a versatile role in my wardrobe. If I am going to invest my time in a sewing project, it’s because the end result will be a high quality, timeless piece, one I would be hard-pressed to find ready made.

  29. Michele Svedberg

    Necessity. I’m making cardigans for my daughter who needs basic work clothes. She has also requested a second halftee (self drafted) because hers is always in the wash. I like to sew at least one new dress a year for the specialness of the project. We are going through the fabric stash to use it up and picking patterns to go with each fabric.

  30. Elizabeth

    I love adding to my pattern ‘collection’ and I make repeated purchases from those pattern designers that I find are skilled in drafting, preferably offer bust cup size options in the smaller sizes (I am small framed but have a D cup bust) and styles that will suit me and fit well.
    I also like technical drawings that are true to the finished product, good instructions, finished garment measurements, height the pattern is drafted for, and bust cup size details that are used in the basic block, particularly when different bust cup sizes are not offered. I love Liesl & Co patterns and find myself gravitating, more and more, towards the quality independent pattern designers such as yourself. Thank you Liesl.

  31. Mindy

    I’m trying to be more conscious of my pattern buying these days. When I first got back into sewing, I bought a ton of dresse patterns because they were pretty, but it turns out 1) I rarely sew for myself and 2) I don’t wear dresses often enough to justify sewing a bunch of them. So now I focus on simple basics that I can customize. Though sometimes if I’m in a rush and Joann’s has a sale on the big name patterns, I’ll buy a one-off pattern.

  32. Hannah

    Hello, I don’t often comment in stuff but this is something I’ve been thinking about recently in an attempt to become a more conscious sewer. Firstly I look at the design, after all I wouldn’t want to make something I wouldn’t wear. But now I’m looking at the details and whether I’d learn something from the project. For example, I choose the Classic shirt pattern over the Archer shirt because of the tower placket sleeves on the classic shirt. The Lissette funnel colllar coat over the Clare Coat as I much prefer set in sleeves to raglans. I definitely buy patterns for new techniques/advancing my skills and for design details.

  33. Eunita

    I don’t buy a lot of patterns like I used to because I have a lot of it. Sometimes, I get really inspired by someone online wearing a new/old sewing pattern on Instagram and I buy it. Lately, I like patterns that include non-woven fabric because l like the feel and look of it. I don’t mind if the sewing pattern is slightly complicated if it’s well written like yours!!

  34. G

    All of the above, and then some: I have bought Patterns because I was intrigued and wanted to read the instructions to find out how a certain detail is achieved. I may or may not go on and sew it up.

  35. I choose patterns either because I want to know what it would be like to make that type of garment or (most often) because it’s a style I want to wear. It helps if it is unique among the many other patterns out there (which is probably easier said than done). I buy patterns that intrigue and excite me.

  36. Michelle

    I like to buy patterns that you don’t see all the time. For example, if I already have a pattern with the same bodice, I am unlikely to purchase. Cup sizes are also a huge draw. When Kennis released her Kallispell dress, it was so unusual, with different options And cup sizes that I purchased immediately. Same with the Cinema dress, it was such an unusual and beautiful style that I had to have it.

  37. Slouchy

    That’s a scary question, Leisl! I buy too many patterns.. guess I am a bit of a collector. At the moment on a pattern diet: no more than 2 new ones for every one made up! I collect designers: you are a rare designer with different “outlets”. Imagine my excitement when a lady in my sewing group happened to bring in the collectible, rare Portfolio dress! I heavily over-prepare my sewing as I don’t get much time on the machine; more time on the go (researching on the smartphone), in between work/family chaos. So I like researching ideas for making up patterns, e.g. your fabric combos for B6464, different makes esp 2 for 1 (curvy collective do this really well), and sewing reviews. Very helpful when models are a similar shape/age to me (eg Claire!) Also, am keen to support Indie designers (& ethical clothing in general), with good drafting & instructions. Am on the lookout for “kind” patterns that once made up will adjust in and out to the ebb and flow of sizing fluctuations. You have a few patterns like that. Am wanting to sew for teen boy but “cool” patterns are hard to find! Finally, I always check out the line drawings, and seek patterns that teach (me, not a beginner nor advanced, but somewhere in between). I love the sewing adventures you provide a little at a time (as I relearn and expand skills, after 2 decades of not sewing) via interesting, clever details in otherwise simple designs, like: your horizontal fisheye dart in the boxy top, the exposed zipper in the princess seamed top, sneaking a Ponte skirt pattern in with woven jacket & top.

  38. Holly

    Open closet: I need pants, 2 pairs for winter, 2 button down shirts, a jacket and a raincoat.

    So, I start by need. Then I hunt. Zipper pants? Nope, they’re never going to fit. So pull on pants. Now I go out and look at 5 or 6 independent pattern makers. Oh look, Hollywood pants, just the silhouette I am looking for, but alas, I can tell that they will not fit. Oh look, Sewhouse 7 has some pull on pants. They have been reviewed well by several sewers I respect, so I buy those. Button up shirt? Liesl has cup sizes. Buy pattern. Jacket? Hmmm, lots out there on the Wicksten Haori, buy pattern. Fall down rabbit hole and now I am on my third. One for me, 2 for spouse and now dear son wants one. I must finish these and get on with shirts and pants, or it will be spring..and that will make this start all over again.

    Wash rinse repeat

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