How to Find Unusual Sewing Patterns
Beyond Simplicity, Butterick, and Vogue
Before Ebenezer and Ellen Butterick invented the modern tissue dressmaking pattern in 1863, women had to draw the patterns on their yard goods after consulting dressmaking charts and diagrams in women's magazines. Once they had a pattern that worked, they traced it on muslin or newspaper and used it again and again. These hard-working women quickly embraced the convenience of a ready-made pattern as most of them still sewed almost every dress worn by their families.
I have in my own collection patterns that span fifty years. I have learned to alter patterns and to draft my own patterns when I can't find a commercial pattern. Still, I will use a printed pattern whenever I can to save time. I'd like to share some of my favorite non-traditional pattern collections. These patterns fall into several categories:
- Modest clothing, ranging from Amish modesty to just-not-trashy modesty,
- Costume patterns for church and school plays,
- Outdoor clothing and accessories designed for modern performance fabrics, and
- Historically accurate clothing for reenactors or costumers.
Check out the following and perhaps you will decide to add some unusual and fun patterns to your own collection.
Make Patterns from your Favorite Garments
Pattern Shopping Links
- Green Pepper Outdoor Patterns
Seattle Fabrics provides outdoor fabrics, patterns, hardware and notions for all your sewing needs.
- Folkwear Sewing Patterns
Folkwear sewing patterns for ethnic clothing, period costumes, historic clothing patterns, art to wear
- Past Patterns
Historically accurate patterns for living history or theatre.
- Sewing Patterns - Simply Modest Swimwear
Custom made modest swimwear, sewing patterns and products for swimmers of all ages. Excellent for sun protection!
- Amish and Plain clothing patterns from Friends Patterns
Shop online at Friends Patterns for Amish and Plain Clothing Patterns.
Learn to Design Your Own Patterns
Melly Sews offers a great tutorial on creating your own PDF patterns. For a more comprehensive academic approach, look into the textbook Pattern Drafting for Fit and Fashion by Vivian Katherine Cizeski.
When I am working out a pattern, I use a gridded cutting board as a work surface, a yardstick, and my trusty T-square from engineering school. I also have a dressmakers rule that helps shape armholes. Rather than fragile tissue paper, I draw my patterns on waxed paper or freezer paper for smaller patterns and packing paper (available at a U-Haul establishment or a UPS Store) for larger pattern pieces. For pieces that are just simple rectangles (like some skirts) I will not make a pattern piece, but simply record the measurements to be marked on the fabric for cutting.
Be sure to keep good records when you make a pattern and store them in an envelope or clear bag that includes information such as yardage required and size of pattern. Once you make an item with your new pattern, take a picture to keep with the pattern, too.
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