Sewing Patterns As Just The Starting Point

Do you ever buy a sewing pattern knowing full well what you’re going to make won’t look much like the pattern photo or illustration? If so, congratulations, you’re thinking like a designer.

We actually love seeing our customers put their own spin on our patterns. We’re really impressed when you think beyond the pattern photo or illustration and make something that’s your own design. Look at Nikki of Beauté J’Adore, for example. When we saw how she was able to take a sewing pattern as a starting point and then turn it into a garment that looked like it came straight from the runway, we thought “gotta have her as a pattern designer!” And we’re pleased to say that her first patterns for McCall’s will be available in the Early Fall collection (coming soon).

Most of the time I’m happy to sew the pattern as is. But every so often I get the urge to play designer. That urge struck me this season when I saw this Céline resort ’16 collection in a store window on Fifth Avenue. I fell in love with the idea of combining cotton shirting with a minimalist design.

Céline sewing inspiration: On the McCall Pattern Company blog

So I took this Vogue® Pattern and let it be my starting point:
Vogue Patterns V9185With some cotton shirting I bought at Metro Textiles and Beckenstein’s in the Garment District, and V9185, I made this tunic:

Vogue Pattern V9185 as made by Meg Carter. On the McCall Pattern Company blog.
Vogue Pattern V9185 as made by Meg Carter. On the McCall Pattern Company blog.

If you want to make a top like this using V9185, here are the modifications I made:

  • Omit the back overlay (piece 4) entirely
  • Cut a single layer of fabric for the front overlay (piece 5)
  • Omit the lining
  • Omit the center-back seam (place the CB seam on the fold)
  • On the front overlay, stitch a narrow hem around the top (shoulder), the outer edge, and the bottom. Don’t finish the neck edge or the part that is sewn into the front seam
  • Add sleeves if desired (mine are bracelet-length)
  • Finish the neckline using your preferred method. I bias-bound mine
  • To make an opening for your head, you can make a decorative facing like I did. Cut a rectangular piece of contrast fabric and press the side and bottom edges under 1/4-inch. Pin the right side of the facing to the wrong side of your top, at the center back neck. Stitch a narrow opening, slash between the stitch line, and turn the facing out. Press and stitch in place on the right side of your top

Follow all other directions as is. Here’s a closeup of the neckline:

Vogue Pattern V9185 as made by Meg Carter. On the McCall Pattern Company blog.

What about you, readers? Do you stick to the pattern as is most of the time? Or do you feel like a pattern is just the opening chapter for you. Discuss!

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  1. Very nice inspiration and interpretation! Thank you for sharing the details of your project.
    Yes, I do often make things with the intention of changing the fabrication of the design.

    1. PS. I would love to see your top on a dress form.

  2. Occasionally. I always look at the line drawings of patterns. That way you can see where you need to add. So excited to see Nikki’s new patterns!

  3. I usually set out with the intent of making the pattern as it is, but somewhere along the way usually diversify.
    I recently made Butterick Pattern B6106 and decided I had to make it finger length instead of hip length.
    I am always adding things to clothes I buy as well.

  4. I almost always imagine making a garment at least somewhat different than the pattern envelope illustrations, especially in fabric and color choices. I like to do mash-ups, too… the sleeves from pattern A, bodice of pattern B, skirt of pattern C…

  5. Meg, I love what you’ve done with this pattern. I rarely (and I’m a creative person!) change much in a pattern, so I really admire who really go to town with patterns. Now I would like to see your version of Vogue 9185 on a human. 🙂 Any chance we can see that soon? Pretty please with turbinado sugar on top?

  6. I totally agree!! A pattern is a starting point. And going through fashion magazines or Pinterest (my new obsession) have the courage to take a pattern you already have and elaborate on that. Fun. Fun!
    Good luck !

    1. I listed 6 new patterns from Pinterest last night…..oh no!

  7. Gosh, I think I want that pattern now! Actually I just want to take your shirt and hang it in my own closet. I’d love to see how it looks on, as well. And to the question you posed: a little of both. Sometimes I have a great twist in my mind, but many times I want the exact look from the pattern cover.

  8. I tend to stick to a pattern most of the time but usually try to put my own fabric spin on it. I will use a pattern as my starting point when I am trying to “copy” a design.

  9. Pattern is starting point. I’ve been trained to draft my own from scratch, but it is so much simpler (and less expensive) to use a printed pattern and make alterations to it! Plus, the alternate views on most commercial patterns offer even more design possibilities than are dancing around in my own scatterbrain.

    The art of “frankenpatterning” is an ancient and revered one — that is, taking desired elements from more than one pattern and re-combining them into a previously undreamt-of garment. I have lots of blouse patterns in which the finally-fitted-to-me bodice benefits from sleeves that are from another garment pattern envelope. It’s so boring to sew the same thing over and over, exactly the same way every time. Useful for perfecting sewing skills, but boring. And who wants to be bored?

  10. I love adding length or adding some other tweak that makes it your own! I use the CAD on the back of the pattern to sketch the changes that I want to make. I actually prefer looking at the images on back to see the design. Love how your top turned out. This pattern is on my list of projects!

  11. I love how you took something you saw and made it your own. My mom was a seamstress and would do the same thing when I was young. She made my prom dress from a single picturein a magazine. I never thought I would be doing the same thing almost 20 years later. I took a kwiksew pattern to make a Valentino dress from the 2016 spring summer collection. I’m still new to sewing garments (I just started sewing my own stuff a couple of months ago) but there is something scary and fun about changing up a pattern to make something special. Thanks for sharing your work with us. You have inspired me to do some changes to some upcoming work.

    1. Thank you, Monica! That’s so great to hear. Keep sewing and just trying things all the time.

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