It was only recently that I was introduced to the concept of a “tried and true” pattern — one that you enjoy making and like the fit and style enough to make again and again. I was always a try-something-new kind of girl, but as I’ve discovered everyday patterns that I really love, I’ve learned the value of go-to patterns.
Here are a few of my favorite patterns:
DOT TO DOT LEGGINGS
I came late to the leggings trend (not counting the leggings I wore constantly in 1993, of course). It was actually working at Sew News that finally got me — we had this leggings pattern, and it surprised me to realize that sewing their own leggings was something people did. So I decided to give it a try, and now I have a leggings problem. I’ve made this pattern at least six times, and it’s my first thought when I spot a new knit I love (even though I know that not all knits are suited for one’s legs).
I’ve altered the shape of the waist a little to better fit me and learned how to get the right amount of elastic so the waistband is comfortable. I’ve made them in capri length and with a flare below the knee, like faux yoga pants. I love them because they’re super comfortable as long as the fabric has enough stretch, and my non-sewing friends find them very impressive! This makes me giggle a bit because they’re really very simple — two hems, three seams, and a waistband. I can make them in a few hours, and honestly most of the time is spent switching between machines (I use the serger for the seams and the sewing machine for the hems and waistband) and changing the needle/rethreading (I like to use a double needle for the first and last steps).
My one bit of advice on these is to pay attention to the stretch of your knit — if you don’t have enough stretch, the leggings may not fit. One pair I made wouldn’t go on at all because the knit didn’t have much stretch (luckily I tried them on as soon as I sewed the crotch seam, so I discovered this before I finished them). Also take a look at the vertical stretch — while my 95% cotton/5% spandex leggings are the right length, some of my other knits with less vertical stretch don’t quite reach my ankles. So pay attention to that and add a little extra length to knits with limited vertical stretch.
If you’d like to try this pattern, you can find it at shopsewitall.com.
When our senior editor, Amanda, brought this pattern from Grainline Studio to my attention, my response was “yes please!” I love how simple it is — two main pieces, a couple darts, simple bindings at the arms and neck. It’s the perfect breezy summer top. It’s easy to make simple changes for the perfect fit. And it sews up quickly — I made my most recent Willow Top in about two hours.
As soon as I saw the pattern, I knew I would want more than one, so I got fabric for three tops that weekend. One is a lightweight cotton shirting with a bright tropical print. This one’s my favorite; the hand of the fabric is perfect for the pattern, and it’s fantastic on a hot day. My one complaint with it is that the armholes gape just a tiny bit — not enough to be a problem, but enough so I’m aware of it, even if no one else is.
In order to fix that problem, I altered the pattern before I made my next Willow Top, using a stripey, drapey polyester. I reduced the top half of the pattern by one size, then blended the side seam out to the hem starting at the dart. This took care of the gaping armhole while allowing the lower part, which fit just fine in the original size, to fit comfortably. I don’t love this top quite as much as the first — the fabric is a little drapey for the pattern — but I do like it. I have a skirt that matches it perfectly, so it’s easy to dress up or down.
My third top is in a cotton knit printed with butterflies. I used the same pattern as for the second top; I probably should have taken it in a bit to compensate for the knit fabric. It fits fine, it’s just a little loose. I also just folded back the neck and arm holes instead of binding them, so they’re a little bigger than I’d necessarily like. It’s still super comfortable and cute, but I’m toying with the idea of taking in the side seams a little to see if that helps.
If you’d like to try this pattern, it can be found at grainlinestudio.com.
UP IN ARMS BLOUSE
The Up in Arms blouse with the box sleeve could be my favorite pattern ever. It’s so cute and comfy, and it’s easy to sew, too. I love it in the summer because it’s so light and breezy. Though I haven’t tried it in heavier fabric, I imagine that a cozy flannel and a longer sleeve would make for a cuddly fall or winter blouse as well.
The blouse needs basically no fitting — you choose your size based on your upper bust measurement so the yoke and armholes fit, but since the main part of the shirt is gathered onto the short yoke, there’s no more fitting than that to worry about. This is also
why it’s so comfy — a fabric with any hand at all tends to fall away from the body, allowing for a freedom of movement you can hardly ever get with a woven fabric.
The pattern doesn’t have to be in a woven, though — it’s great for a drapey knit. In fact, I made a knit version for a Sew Along video a few months ago (find the video on craftonlineuniverstiy.com; the pattern is included so you can sew along with me). Unfortunately, I fit that blouse to a dress form rather than myself, so I can’t wear it comfortably. I can actually get it on, but the armholes are too small and they’re very uncomfortable. If it wasn’t for that, though, I actually could wear the top — that’s how forgiving the fit of this pattern is!
I need to make this pattern a few more times this summer. As it stands, I only have my original, made from a gorgeous Art Gallery Fabrics voile, and a nightgown that I made by extending the hem 10 inches so it reaches just above my knee. I haven’t worn the nightie that much yet, but it’s going to be great for hot summer nights.
If you’d like to make this pattern, it can be found on shopsewitall.com.
Now that I’ve discovered how much fun it is to make tried-and-true patterns, looking for ways to make them unique or just a perfect new fabric, I’m going to be on the lookout for new patterns to make again and again.
What patterns do you always come back to?