Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Why do we buy so many patterns?

Every time my non-sewing friends come to my apartment and see my pattern collection, they ask: “Why do you have so many? Will you ever have time to use them all?” My answer is no and, in all honesty, I don’t even know why I have so many sewing patterns. I realized the real price of my hobby when, during the move from Japan, at least three of the moving boxes were full of patterns.

When I had just started sewing, I felt overwhelmed by what the pattern world had to offer: Burda Style, Vogue patterns, vintage patterns, and independent pattern designers, which had only started to emerge! The options and possibilities were endless!  So my natural reaction was to buy a little bit of this, and a little bit of that. I did not know back then that each pattern designer, whether industrial or independent, uses different sizing and body standards. Take, for example, Tasia, a designer behind Sewaholic patterns, who clearly states that her patterns are for pear shaped girls. The “Big 4” patterns include big seam allowance and ease while BurdaStyle does not. As a matter of fact, many of these patterns have never ended up on my sewing table and probably never will!

In Japan, I discovered a whole new world of Japanese sewing patterns and books. I would spend hours in book shops leafing through the pages of numerous sewing books and, of course, many of the books followed me home, until one day, I realized that the designs were 95% repeats. I kept on buying Japanese sewing books for their aesthetics and cuteness.

It is very difficult to resist buying a new pattern from an indie designer, especially when, literally, every month a new brand appears on the horizon. New modern designs, very detailed sewing instructions with step-by-step technical drawing, sexy packaging: what’s not to like! I felt equally good giving my money to a small business rather than to an established house.

You can’t neglect the fact that when you see your favourite blogger post about a cute dress or skirt you instantly want to buy the same pattern. Seeing a garment made by a talented blogger immediately makes me cover their pattern. As a result of such compulsive buying, some of the patterns turned out quite nicely while others did. This happened because I did not take into account my body shape and proportions while admiring a finished garment.

Personally, I am a big fan of PDF patterns. Do I have to say more? If a pattern designer offers PDF patterns, the chance that I will buy more than one is super high. The amount of them I use after remains a mystery though.

With this in mind, a few months back, I put myself on a pattern-buying diet. Before buying a pattern or a sewing magazine, I try to answer a number of questions. If the answer is ‘no’ to most of them, I avoid buying. Here they are:

  • Do I like the pattern?
  • Do I want the pattern?
  • Do I need the pattern?
  • If I buy the pattern and spend little time adjusting and modifying it, will I still enjoy working with this pattern?
  • When it comes to buying a magazines: do I like more than 5 patterns from it?
  • Does this pattern suits my body type?
  • Is it a good use of my money?
  • Now, do I really need this pattern?

Then I think about my existing pattern library and try to remember whether I have similar pattern. Maybe, I can modify a pattern instead of buying a new one? Can I combine different elements of patterns to make it look like this pattern? Would I be able to draft this pattern myself?

This little exercise has worked pretty well for me. Since I started being more pattern-conscious, I have spared my apartment from new wave of pattern hoarding and I’ve saved a couple hundred euros.   

Quite often I go back to my BurdaStyle collection (I own approximately 20 issues) and I find a lot of inspiration there. I think about the possibilities of combining different patterns, mixing and matching various elements of different designs to make it work for my body or drafting my own patterns. Since leaving Japan, I have not been drafting patterns due to the lack of space, but this is something I’d like to change.

Let to tell you why I decided to write this post. The straw that broke the camel’s back was this flounce top by Salme patterns which I purchased on a whim, mainly because it’s a PDF pattern. Once the top was ready and I put it on, I looked absolutely hideous in it.

Have you ever felt like this?


  1. My pattern collection has grown like 500% over the last two years, and now I'm at the point in my sewing where I feel like I could probably combine pattern pieces to morph something into something else. I quite like the packaging of the indie patterns, so tend to want them more than the PDF but if I'm in a 'want it now mood' then PDF it is. I do think about whether it will suit my body shape and whether I like the line drawing before I actually buy it. I want to learn how to draft patterns - my next challenge. In saying that I do have a skirt block but did buy the Moss Mini skirt because I wanted to see what her technique for inserting a fly zipper was. Definitely more conscious about buy patterns than a couple of years ago!

  2. such an interesting topic, and great thoughts about it. when i started sewing, i'd buy patterns from the big 4, just picking designs i like. when i discovered indie designers, i wanted to buy ALL of them. now i rarely buy big 4 anymore (mainly because they are hard to get, or are just as expensive as indies) and really try to restrain myself when i comes to indie designers. i really do want to support the designers, because they are oing something awesome and i want them to continue, but i spend a few minutes pondering wether i really like the pattern and wether it will suit me and my style. for example, i love everything that named has put out there, but it is just not me. and i would much rather buy a paper pattern. taping all those pages kills my entusiasm everytime. so it really has to be a pattern i really want for me to buy a pdf. i like though that more and more companies are offering both!

  3. I totally have been thinking about this! I've just written a post to shame myself into using more of the patterns I've acquired recently. I find if I'm not sewing I seem to compensate by consuming ready for the times I do have to sew. Then I get overwhelmed by the sheer amount on my sewing list. I've been away from home for a few weeks and have nearly finished two garments and I felt so much better focusing on one thing at a time without looking at Stash mountain!

  4. I feel the same about the Japanese books, whether the sewing or knittings ones, I love their aesthetic and I could buy one by one just to flip through them once in a while. But they take space. So I may buy one or two now when I have the opportunity, but refrain from getting a lot. When I think about my Burda collection from a few years, oh well... They take space! *^v^*

  5. I'm trying hard to make things with the patterns I have instead of buying new ones. I subscribe to Love Sewing magazine, so I get a new pattern each month anyway - I haven't made any yet, but some are nice, so I will get round to it one day!

  6. I had a very similar revelation as you! I started to feel really burnt out on new patterns and asked myself why; the answer was that I wanted to spend more time creating and less time muslining and fitting. I've become a fan of modifying a pattern that I've already invested time into fitting, and try to save my time and money for what I consider to be unique patterns. I still buy some patterns for fun, but it feels more special and I'm excited to work with them.

  7. Great post! My pattern stash is starting to spill out of one large hefty plastic box. I think I buy patterns I like when I see them because what if one day I really want it and its not available (read:not a hoarder). Personally I am getting to the point, where I would rather fork out extra for an already taped together pattern, mostly because my sewing time happens around mummying and it makes me irate that I am spending it cutting and taping on the floor. Maybe I am the minority here! Such a good little list of q's you ask yourself, I'm getting better at not splurging. Last year, I bought nearly every one of the Named patterns from the previous collection and do you think I've made one? This collection, I've had a look a few times, avoided the impulse buy and will probably go back for one or two at most.

  8. I'm actually quite a conservative pattern purchaser. I have very few printed patterns and don't know how many PDFs but not too many. I only buy a pattern when I have fabric and a project in mind already and am ready to use the pattern. I never buy patterns to store and use later unless its something that's going out of print, but that's rare. I find everything can be had so instantly these days that buying and storing patterns seems inefficient. And a lot of the time I find that the pattern I really wanted to sew six months ago when it came out has lost its appeal. I do like my burdas though - and love, love, love my drafting books - so good for inspiration. I will hoard those!

  9. Oh, I hear your pain :( I am the same. Now I really think ten times before I make a purchase.

  10. So so true! I have tons of patterns, I don't even know how many. Lately I've been trying to only purchase a pattern after I have amassed all of the necessary fabrics and notions and am really ready to sit down and sew it. I think there's a lot to be said for distinguishing between a 'right now' project and a 'sometime in the future' project. If it falls into the latter category then I don't buy it!

    By the way your Dotty top post totally inspired me to buy that pattern.... I have real intention to start sewing soon! Did you pre-wash your silk or are you going to dry clean only? Do you think that top is washable or is the style too delicate? I have a silk georgette. Sorry off topic!

  11. Personally, buying many patterns (and fabric for this matter) leaves me with the same feeling as impulsive shopping. So I decided to stop blaming myself but rather become more mindful about every sewing-related purchase. And I could not agree more about using a sloper or a well fitter pattern in order to create new outfits.

  12. Once my fabric stash is over (in 156 years) I'd like to become exactly like you!

  13. аххх, Инна! Ты такой животрепещуший вопрос подняла, что я просто не осилю писать коммент на английском! Я давно про это думаю, хотела себе в бложик написать пост, но никак не напишу. Вот я тоже привезла коробку журналов с собой(у меня бурда в основном), и Семен все мне говорит. у тебя так много выкроек, зачем тебе еще, зачем ты еще журнал покупаешь или чего-то такое? А я прямо и не знаю. Вроде ж понимаю, что я и того что есть, не перешью(у меня точно больше 20 журналов), но вижу и прям вот надо мне и все:)) Тут еще проще, что журналов мало и та же Бурда стоит 14 долларов(а не 3, как в Питере), поэтому еще более придирчиво выбираю и чуть меньше покупаю:) Но совсем перестать не могу:) Такой шопоголический кризис:)

  14. Like Stephanie in the previous comment said, after a while a pattern can loose its appeal and you find yourself without any desire to sew. I know that some of the bloggers organize The Pattern Swap event. Next time when I see it, I'd be super happy to participate.

    RE:Dotty. In general, I don't prewash silk but steam it with the iron once or twice: this is enough for silk to shrink. I also hand-wash all my silk outfits in lukewarm water.

  15. Oh that list of questions to ask yourself prior to a pattern purchase are excellent. When I first started sewing... I had this 'urge' to buy and acquire patterns... everything was so new and exciting! I of course ended up with lots of patterns that weren't really me. Even up until a year ago I was still easily influenced by a pretty picture, a sewing blogger with a new finished make or the release of a new pattern. Then I had a big clean up, gave away most of my patterns in swaps and starting trying to focus on pretty much what you've got up in your question list here. That, and we're saving for a house, so an extra good reason to put off that purchase :) It certainly has had an impact on my expenditure!

  16. I'm quite a pattern hoarder. But these days I try to restrict new buys to things with unique details, and my Burda subscription. It's much cheaper to buy things in the sales so I wait for those and then buy a few that I hope I will still like in a month or two. It certainly helps not to buy them when they first come out. If I still like a design when the sales come round then I probably won't go off it later either.

  17. Ой, дорогая Света! Этот вопрос, я так понимаю, нам, простым смертным, решить так просто не удастся. Хуже всего то, что большинство выкроек по сути одно и то же!

  18. So far, I don't plan to buy a house but if I stop heavily investing into sewing then, maybe, I may find enough money for it ;)

  19. So many temptations! It sounds like you are becoming a reasonable seamstress ;)

  20. I don't buy many patterns, partly because I need to draft it myself to be able to sell my creation. I do buy patterns though for my personal use! I have so many patterns that I drafted that I don't know how to store. My pattern files are getting bigger and bigger, and I'm not sure what to do with them. I can't throw them away in fear of needing them in the future. Do you recommend any system in organizing patterns?

  21. Да, по сути, это скорее как вдохновение, что ли, новые журналы и т.п. Не знаю! Сказала Света, думая купить сентябрьскую бурду или нет, а то у меня нет 101 выкройки платья:)

  22. Saturnino Estrada3 May 2015 at 21:47

    Hello ...

    I would like to share my experience with patterns. I never liked to get in a sewing course and the teacher says copy mold magazines ... I think the best dressmakers those who have some notion of modeling.

    So what I do is grab a piece of clothing that fall me well and dismantle it. From this I have the "mold bases." If you want to make any changes, just cut parts from the mold bases and make new molds ...


    Note: You are beautiful. You have a boyfriend?