The Savvy Sage of Sewing Stimulation

A Perfect Commercial Pattern

I’m going through some stuff from Peggy Sagers and found this great quote:

There’s no such thing as a perfect commercial pattern.



I love this.  Cause once you realize this, all the pressure disappears.

Here’s the deal.   A lot of these patterns are strictly meant to be a starting place.  The real facts are that, like RTW, clothing can not be made to fit every body out there.


And to try for  something like that is just not going to work.  RTW is really in a bind, cause aside from some minor alterations, there’s really nothing they can do to fit even some of the bodies – so they take a different path.

Commercial patterns have more of a competitive edge here, cause the purchaser can then take them home and alter the garment before they
europeanpatterns even cut it out.

Still, it’s not fair to say that you should be able to fit yourself straight out of the pattern envelope.  This just sets yourself up for failure before you even start.  What you should say, is that this is a place to start.  Granted, it is way further down the road than if you were to have to draft up your own pattern from a sketch or an idea in your head, but it’s still just a starting place.  Thinking that a commercial pattern is more than what it should be, is like expecting the steak to cook itself once you bring it home from the store!  It just ain’t gerna happen, no matter how much you look at the steak and tell it to cook itself, and no matter how often you keep trying to make the steak cook itself!


Realizing that the pattern is intentionally not perfect, should make you feel a whole lot better, and take a lot of pressure off you.  Now, you know that the pattern designers, created the pattern knowing that the sewist would be making the final touches to the pattern to make it work just right for the individual sewing the pattern up.


There are companies that fit differently – not perfectly, no one does that – and that can make a impact on which pattern you buy and from what company.  It’s comforting to know that if you don’t fit to a pattern right out of the envelope that nothing is wrong with you.  That’s the way the patterns were designed and that’s the way they are supposed to be.   So open up that pattern and take the short cuts for what they are designed for and enjoy the head start that a pattern will give you.  It won’t take you totally where you need to go, but most of the time it will take you 80% of where you want to go.  It’s better than having to draft from scratch!!!



  1. And yet, pattern companies *seem* to keep pushing the idea that they produce the perfect pattern. Some (McCall Palmer-Pletsch line for example) have done much better with including more alterations instructions, but mostly….not so much. At least the Big 4, I haven’t yet taken the plunge into indie patterns. Somehow I doubt any pattern company will make “We’re a good starting point” as their slogan.

    Question – I’ve read a few opinions that once you get past the learning curve, making patterns from scratch is easier than altering commercial. I’m wondering why I should buy $18-$25 patterns when maybe learning to draft my own would save money & time in the long run. When I have to alter commercial patterns, it often takes me at least 3-4 hours due to the number of alterations I usually need. And how many people make 2-3-4 versions of a pattern before getting it totally right? That is if they don’t give up and say “good enough” first.

    So, I’m wondering why your opinion is commercial patterns are better than learning to draft from scratch? Other than the Joann & Hancock pattern sales making patterns so cheap for us in the US to use as a starting point. Or was your “easier than drafting from scratch” opinion more for those who only need 1-2 alterations? I do not mean for the questions to sound snarky and “poor me, I need so many alterations”, but I’m pre-coffee and floundering for words 🙂

  2. JustGail, I’m no expert, like Claire and others, but for me, I think I have the skills to draft a pattern, with help from online tutorials, YouTube and books, etc. but so far, I prefer to buy a few patterns (never at full price for Big 4, always at the $1.99 for Butterick and Simplicity and $4.99 for Vogue sale prices at my local Hancock’s) and then use them as basic outlines and alter and adapt them for my needs. It’s just simpler than trying to draw out a sleeve curve, add darts, figure out pockets and etc. Claire and others recommend making your own slopers or whatever other names they are called, and going from there. If you really look at most patterns, you can see they are all built on a few basic shapes that you can add details and change a length here, add a pleat here and widen a leg here and you have a whole new look. I don’t feel a need to buy a lot of patterns because I have a library of those shapes to adapt. It’s really a personal choice, in my opinion, if you wish to start from scratch and draft your own, or, as I sometimes do, take a piece of clothing I like and like the way it fits, and use that as a pattern. I also bookmarked a page recently that shows how to measure yourself and make custom leggings. There’s also sites that ONLY show how to draft the patterns they show, giving measurements and guidelines. It’s really up to the individual!

  3. Great post. Some commercial pattern companies are developing blogs where people can comment as well as learn about the pattern making process. I wish they spend a little time on educating people on making the patterns work for real people on real bodies. Thank you. I enjoyed this article.

    • Cennetta – saw your scope the other day and loved it – love your passion for teaching – We share that!!! Love the idea of being able to get feedback on a pattern, but I guess I’ve altered them for so long, that making up a pattern right out of the envelope isn’t going to happen. I always think I can make it better!!!

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