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This sleeve cap is not sized correctly. One needs to use the largest size sleeve cap with the smallest size bodice in this pattern packet.

Here are six complaints about home sewing patterns, all of which are true:

  • The patterns are difficult to use.
  • Home sewing patterns don’t fit. They are so hard to fit, many women have given up and now quilt.
  • The instructions are hard to follow.
  • The procedures take too long.
  • The final garments look home made.
  • Home sewing patterns are expensive. It costs as much, often more to make a garment, then it does to buy a garment in the store. When person buys a ready-made garment in the store they know what they are getting. If they are not satisfied, they can return it.

These issues are addressed in this and the next series of blog posts and videos.
Unlike most design-room personnel, I use home-sewing patterns because they save time.
However, I test and adjust home-sewing patterns before I ever cut any fashion fabric from them.

To make sure you don’t miss any of these posts, sign up for my email blasts at the bottom of this page, or at the bottom of any page on my website.

1. Home sewing patterns don’t fit

First: most women are probably choosing the wrong pattern size because the measurements on the pattern packets are incorrect. The patterns’ bust measurements are two inches larger than printed on the pattern packets.

Second: Patterns should be chosen by one’s chest measurement, not by one’s bust size. The  patterns are then adjusted to fit the bust, a fairly easy task. If one chooses one’s pattern by one’s bust size, half of the additional bust fit one needs is in the back of the bodice, plus much of the pattern often needs to be fitted.

Third: home sewing patterns aren’t supposed to fit. They are drafted to fit the pattern companies’ grade rules. Grade rules are sizing systems that present a full series of proportioned measurements for each size in the grade rule.

Because all pattern sizes are graded to the pattern companies’ grade rules, if one knows how one differs from one’s closest size, one can then draft in the same fit changes into any pattern in that grade rule in one’s closest size. The pattern and finished garment should then fit.

That’s the theory. If a pattern style is accurately drafted to the grade rule, drafting in the fit changes needed into the correct personal size will enable the pattern to fit.

Unfortunately many home-sewing patterns are not drafted correctly. The problem is especially bad with the true bust dart point and bust area. Often the true bust dart point is left off the pattern. And/or the bust area is not placed according to the grade rule. Sometimes it is drafted as much as an inch or more from the correct grade-rule location. The true bust point and bust area seem to turn up almost anywhere in women’s front bodice patterns.

Here is a little help: Go here to Learn how to position the bust area correctly.

Patterns may be drafted as much as an inch less than needed at the waist’s side seam. An inch too small at the side seam means the right-front, right-back, left-front, and left-back side seams are all an inch too small, causing the pattern to be 4 inches too small through the waist. Sleeve patterns, drafted for knit garments, may be put in pattern styles designed for wovens, causing the sleeve cap’s sewing line to be an inch or more shorter than needed for the cap to sew correctly into the armhole.

When there is a problem in the sample-size pattern, the problem automatically grades into ALL of that pattern’s sizes. For example: If the size 10 sleeve cap doesn’t sew into the size 10 armhole, the size 18 sleeve cap won’t sew into the size 18 armhole either.

Home-sewing collar patterns need to be modified if they are to produce professional results.
2. The patterns are difficult to use

The home-sewing collar pattern on the right is an excellent example.
Learn how to set up a collar pattern – watch our most recent video.
Consider subscribing to our YouTube channel.

The collar pattern presents three problems:

  1. . Only half of the top collar pattern is printed.
  2. One is instructed to cut two collars from the collar pattern, laid on the fold. This is a recipe for disaster. Cutting on the fold can cause a long list of disasters. NOBODY in the fashion industry EVER cuts anything on the fold.
  3. This is a top collar. There is no bottom collar pattern. Ever wonder why your collars never turn out well? That’s the reason – no bottom collar pattern, plus the collar is cut on the fold. Bottom collars have to be slightly narrower so they don’t extend beyond the edge of the top collar.
graded bodices
Grading enables manufacturers to produce clothing in proportionate sizes. Learn how to use grading to fit, as presented in Grading to Fit – 492 page book includes a down-load of fitting slopers, sizes 2 through 30.

A home-sewing pattern’s sample size is drafted to the pattern company’s grade-rule’s sample size measurements. Then the sample-size patterns are graded, using the pattern company’s grade-rule’s measurements.

All of the above issues, plus more, are addressed in Grading to Fit.

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© Laurel Hoffmann, 2021


3 Comments. Leave new

  • Mary Jeannette Antry
    February 26, 2021 7:53 am

    Great insight to a huge problem for those of us who love to sew and want to use the patterns we have access to. One other problem we face as home seamstresses is that we can’t anticipate how patterns will look on us when done with the work and cost they entail. They are as deceptive as the clothing catalogs that for ready to wear clothing.

    For sure knowing what styles will work for our shape is key to finding a successful pattern. I love using your program for addressing the fit issues. Thanks for helping me to understand this process. Jnetti.

  • Hello Laurel.I live in Germany and I use Burda magazin patterns.I always always must change them to fit me but I’m never satisfied. What do You think about them? Are they drafted correctly and how could I make them fit me well?


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