Tuesday, June 6, 2017

WEEK 1: One Pattern, Many Looks

newspaper clipping attached to pattern is a reminder
My title for this post was also the title I gave to the very first class I taught for the American Sewing Guild many years ago. I had 45 minutes to show students how one pattern can become so much more than what you see on the envelope. I know there are many more instructors greater than I that have taken on the same challenge too. So where does a new idea come from? Can creativity really be taught, or are we all really just following the examples of others?

How often have your projects started with an idea from something you've seen in the store or a magazine or on a blog and then you look for a pattern to match that idea? This is only one example of following.  There is certainly nothing wrong with that tradition, but it does have limitations, especially if you are living within the confines of current trend which may or may not be on your side in terms of taste or body type. 

Where real creativity begins is when you start with what feels like a limited scope (one pattern/one view) and then must reach outside of that perimeter to turn it into something different than it was before. This type of creativity does take practice. Research for ideas, and then pick ONE theme. Think of ways to develop your idea from there. 
How to Do it:
 For this sewalong, we are going to use the Sew Chic LN9005, Fantasia dress as our base to build from. The cover suggests this dress style belongs only as a formal.

But take a good look at the line drawing on the back of the cover. Consider the silhouette and the style lines. In what ways can we invent something new from this style?
OPTION 1: Do nothing. The easiest thing to do is nothing. We can create a whole new illusion, feeling, or purpose with patterns and colors using fabric. Have you twice made a garment with completely different fabrics and no one knew they were the same style? What about color blocking? This doesn't look too bad.... it's easy stuff.
OPTION 2: Interior Changes. Things like lengthen and shorten, you do all the time for fit. Why not for style? With this pattern, it can totally give you a whole different silhouette. The rule for this alteration is anywhere below the hip, or at the hem. Be sure to choose a location that will not interfere with  any design details. In the back, we have a "V" seam detail that we want to keep, so lets avoid that and place our "lengthen or shorten here" lines above or below that location. But what if you didn't want to keep that "V"? Then cut your skirt off above that detail and lengthen as needed by adding to the now cut off hem. Now you'd have a straight skirt with no high/low hem. Of course you must measure your pattern to be sure that you will alter in the same location both front and back. The easiest way is to walk your pattern at the side seam and use a lined mat and grid ruler to keep it perpendicular to the grain.  For this example, I'm going to shorten in two locations, both above and below. Let's see what shortening in two places is going to look like:
Let's assume that if you know how to lengthen or shorten, you also know how to true your work to correct that jog. How you true is another opportunity to change the silhouette of your style. If I true up to the hip, the style becomes an A-line rather than a tulip, trumpet, or fit and flare skirt.
Before we go on though, I first have one more interior alteration to make:
Because I'm going to stay with my color blocking idea, I want to add an interior seam. This seam is going to cut across my bodice side front at the same location that my cross over seam hits so that my color can extend to the sides as well. Simply walk your pattern to the bodice front along the seam line you've drawn in, and make a mark where that seam will cross. Draw a cut line across your side front pattern, and then a GRAIN line that extends to match the original. Cut apart and add seam allowances to both pieces and label. Now let's see what that will look like:
OPTION 3: Exterior Changes. Those are alterations to the edges of your pattern. Lengthening or shortening at the hem is one of those choices. In my case, I've added length to the sleeve to make it 3/4 length. It's a easy change to make that doesn't require to much effort. Lowering or changing the neckline would be another one of these changes. What do you think so far? Is it heading in the right direction?
OPTION 4: Last but not least is adding on details or creating external pattern pieces that match to the edge, such as collars, cuffs, ruffles, etc. I've added a button theme to my color blocking. These buttons don't have be functional, and neither do your external details, they can be just decorative. Hand stitch anything to your dress, it could be tubing, or flowers, or beading, or embroidery, rick-rack, etc. Experiment!

Make this dress I've just designed for you in a soft crepe for a 1940's vibe. Wear with your victory rolls, and black side set hat with seamed stockings and pretty black pumps and you are set! Are you headed for a hoedown instead? Imagine this dress in denim with flat felled seams, patch pockets and lots of buttonhole thread top stitching. Match that up with cowboy boots and you can take this dress to the rodeo! Inspiration can come from everywhere, so look for themes that appeal to you and then use these steps to come up with ideas that work with your theme.



  1. Wowsers! They say one way to tell a professional is they make things look effortless. Exactly what you have done with these concepts.

    As I sit here, reading, visualizing the information I was with you then got a hiccup with the "adding a seam on the bodice" and the vocabulary "walk the pattern"?

    On the one hand color blocking was not a consideration for me so I was thinking "don't worry about that then". On the other hand my purpose is to learn, to extend my horizons with this SAL. Therefore, I am going to give that part more thought. Perhaps even trying it with a tissue copy of my Fantasia.

    Meanwhile I am off to think of my "theme" to know which direction to go. 😀

    One thing I picked up on and please tell me if I am right. Armed with the skills from our SAL, there will be considerably less need to continue purchasing new patterns! I mean I am of the habit of buying and buying often for minor differences. 😒. Looks like soon that will be a thing of the past.

    1. "walking" is matching two adjoining pattern pieces, end to end, along the seam line. Of course you must first draw the seam line on your pattern (usually 5/8") to accomplish this. "Adding" a seam is simply cutting one pattern piece into two sections, then adding in a seam allowance to both sides. Sew them back together and your pattern is the same shape as before, but in two sections.

      Yes, you are correct. Improving your creativity and skill with pattern changes allows you to make better use of the patterns you have rather than buying them all (dare I say such a thing! :-).


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