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Sewing Pattern Survey: Results Are In!

Common issues with sewing patterns - What do you dislike about sewing patterns? - Sewing pattern survey - The Creative Curator

Many of you know that my background is in fashion design. I have been sewing and pattern making for years, with pattern cutting being my big passion. I have a gazillion patterns in my cupboards that I have developed over the years and I could really do with going through them all. You know, have a real sort out! Maybe with spring finally on it’s way here in the UK i’ll find the time?

Sewing Pattern Survey

Anyhow, in the process of building my business to incorporate sewing patterns, I ran a sewing pattern survey related to sewing patterns and those who use them. There were ten questions, covering different things from reader height and dress size, to pattern information. It was incredibly informative and has really helped me to build up a better idea of what my readers – and other sewists out there – would like to see more of.

Should I Be Creating Sewing Patterns?

There are so many fantastic sewing patterns available now, and the indie sewing pattern arena seems to be getting bigger and bigger everyday. Should I really be investing so much time and energy in a potentially saturated market?

My answer to that is yes. The sewing pattern survey results showed me quite clearly that there is a huge need for patterns in certain sizes and styles that aren’t being met.

So today, I thought I would share the questions and the results of the sewing pattern survey I ran so that YOU can learn what I learnt. I have been told by my email subscribers that it is fab that I shared the results with them. I have others who say I’m a fool for making my ‘market research’ visible to all. But in this world, we are all in it together right? Making our own clothes for a variety of reasons, but ultimately because we love sewing and love wearing something different.

Sewing Pattern Survey Questions

  1. When using PDF patterns, how do you like to see the sizing options?
  2. Would you like to see a variety of paper sizes?
  3. Seam Allowance. Commercial patterns usually use 1.5cm / ⅝ inch seam allowance. Which do you find best as standard?
  4. Sewing Instructions. Which do you find most helpful?
  5. When looking for new sewing patterns to try, do you prefer..?
  6. Would you be happy to share the dress size you are on the high street?
  7. What height range are you?
  8. Do you fit the standard B-cup used on most patterns?
  9. When having to adjust patterns for size do you like too see added instructions on the process within the sewing instruction guide?
  10. Is there anything you can think of regarding sewing patterns that would be useful for me to know?

As you can see the questions were varied, yet still specific enough for me to get some real valuable information from the people who responded. And over 150 took the survey throughout the few days I made it public.

Lets take a look at the responses and overall results!

Q1: When using PDF patterns, how do you like to see the sizing options?

Sewing pattern Q1 - The Creative Curator

  • Separate pattern sizes so I only have to print the size required – 38%
  • Nested together – with different coloured lines – 34%
  • Nested together with different weight lines (thin/thick) – 2%
  • Nested together with different stroke styles (dotted / dashed) – 24%
  • Skipped – 2%

Q2: Would you like to see a variety of paper sizes?

Sewing pattern survey Q2 - The Creative Curator

  • A4 – 61%
  • US Letter – 18%
  • Not bothered – 21%

Interestingly enough, the one thing I didn’t think to put down as a response was the option to print at full size from the copy shop.

Q3: Seam Allowance. Commercial patterns usually use 1.5cm / ⅝ inch seam allowance. Which do you find best as standard?

Q3 Sewing Pattern Survey - The Creative Curator

  • 1cm – 31%
  • 1.5cm – 61%
  • 2cm – 5%
  • Skipped – 3%

This was the most frustrating for me. I have worked with a 1cm seam allowance for years and had dearly hoped that the survey respondents would feel the same way as me. Yet they didn’t!

I’m not sure how to work with this! 🙂

Q4: Sewing Instructions. Which do you find most helpful?

Q4 Sewing Pattern Survey - The Creative Curator

  • Text with colour photographs of the step by step process – 48%
  • Text with detailed illustrations of the step by step process – 52%

This was a very close result. In terms of production, it is obviously a lot easier to create photos of the sewing construction process when making up the samples. Illustrations do take time, but maybe they are just that little bit more technical and so more understandable? I think for my first pattern – the Jude shirt – I’ll stick with photos and see how they go down!

Q5: When looking for new sewing patterns to try, do you prefer..?

Q5 Sewing Pattern Survey - The Creative Curator

  • A photo of the garment on the front – 52%
  • An illustration of the garment on the front – 11%
  • A technical drawing of the garment on the front – 12%
  • Pattern difficulty / sewing level – 25%

This question was multiple selection rather than a single choice option. And there were several other things I should have thought of but didn’t. Thankfully, the final question allowed people to share with me other elements they’d like to see.

I will be adding  on various measurements as well as suitable fabric types too!

Q6: Would you be happy to share the dress size you are on the high street?

Q6 Sewing Pattern Survey - The Creative Curator

  • UK8 (US4) – 5%
  • UK10 (US6) – 11%
  • UK12 (US8) – 14%
  • UK14 (US10) – 20%
  • UK16 (US12) – 10%
  • UK18 (US14) – 8%
  • UK20 (US16) – 2%
  • UK22 (US18) – 5%
  • Not Say – 2%
  • Other – 28%

One thing I ought to have considered here were how many readers from around the world don’t use the term ‘high street’ nor know their UK size equivalent. It didn’t occur to me to add the US equivalents in the survey, so we have a large proportion of ‘other’ results. Doh. Fortunately, there was the option to expand upon the answer which many did.

One of the reasons given was that the body areas measured up at different sizes. Maybe the bottom was a UK 16 but the top would be a UK 12, further reinforcing that not one of us are the same. We are all unique.

Q7: What height range are you?

Q7 Sewing Pattern Survey - The Creative Curator

  • Up to 5’2” – 29%
  • 5’3” — 5’6” – 51%
  • 5’7” — 5’10” – 18%
  • 5’11” or more – 1%
  • Rather not say – 1%

This was astonishing to me. As someone who is tall – almost 6 foot! – I walk around and see everyone as the same height as me. I assume that people have the same issues I do when shopping for clothes, that the available options are all just that bit too short. Yet, the opposite appears to be true?? Or maybe it is that the woman who is above 5’8″ is well catered for in clothing stores, and it is the more petite ladies of the world that turn to sewing their own clothes as they just cannot find anything that fits them. Is it that clothing stores undercater for the slightly shorter ladies??

Q8: Do you fit the standard B-cup used on most patterns?

Q8 Sewing Pattern Survey - The Creative Curator

  • Yes – 22%
  • Almost – I have to tweak the pattern a tiny amount – 23%
  • No – I always have to do a full bust adjustment – 52%
  • Rather not say – 3%

Again, astonishing! That patterns are still made to a standard B-Cup measurement when there are so many ladies in the world who wear a D-Cup or bigger.

Q9: When having to adjust patterns for size do you like too see added instructions on the process within the sewing instruction guide?

Q8 Sewing Pattern Survey - The Creative Curator

  • Yes – 81%
  • No – 11%
  • Not relevant – 8%

Just as I suspected, if a pattern does need modifying, it seems it is a wise idea to include the process in the sewing instruction guide. One person did suggest having the pattern adjustment process as blog posts so that they wouldn’t add unnecessary pages to the sewing guide for those who didn’t need the extra help. This would be a fantastic way to keep the information available to anyone else in the world that might need it.

I could also add it in as a separate printable guide too.

Q10: Is there anything you can think of regarding sewing patterns that would be useful for me to know?

Now, this is where it got REALLY helpful. It was in this open text box that I got the most information back. From the problems people have with current sewing patterns, to what people wish would be included to what people would like to see more of. I’ve highlighted a few of the best for you below.

Comments related to Sizing

More larger lady designs – not just standard designs up-sized, but designed to flatter a larger, curvy size. And I don’t just want shapeless shifts either! I also subscribe to several sewing magazines. It is really maddening that the patterns they supply with the magazine are always much too small for my use without very significant re-styling. I wish pattern sizes reflected shop sizes – I am big enough without having to go three or more sizes larger in patterns!

 

As a total beginner and teaching myself by trial and error I find it hard to understand the sizing lingo on the back of the package and what the different types of fabric to use i.e. Cotton types so maybe a  explanation in to how to and what is would be great. I’d be happy to buy this separately to keep as a learning aid

 

I think all patterns should be sized up to plus sizes. Because a woman is big doesn’t mean she should be limited to clothes that look like sacks or clown suits. All big women do not need wide legged pants with elastic waists. Thank you!

 

I’d love to see more indie designers show their made-up patterns on different shaped models. Also…PLEASE give cup options, so few who make clothes are actually a B cup.

 

Catering to plus sizes would be lovely; I’m sick to death of grading up because pattern makers don’t think some of their patterns are useful for plus sizes. Another thing I love is different options in one pattern i.e. Sleeves & necklines

Feedback Regarding Printing

I love layered pdf’s so I can restrict printing to the size or sizes I need

 

I live in a country that does NOT sell patterns…at all…Shipping from other countries is expensive, so having access to online .pdf’s would be great.  I must admit that I have never actually tried on. I see more and more pattern companies putting all the sizes on one print. This means I have to make a pattern of the pattern before I even start to protect the original and then draft from there. Being able to print pdf’s by size would be OUTSTANDING! and save that whole step. Thanks!!

 

Comments On Pattern Information

Accurate technical drawings (front and back) are incredibly important, and a wide range of body measurements and finished garment measurements on the pattern (see Thread Theory patterns for examples of measurements – the more the better!) is really useful for determining fit. High bust measurement especially isn’t used often enough.

 

Better advice on laying out the pattern to make the best use of the fabric

 

And My Favourite Response?

In cases of beginner sewists, like meeee, it is so helpful when there are detailed written instructions to hold my hand and walk me through with availability to refer to the total package of photos, written detailed instructions in addition to the basic pattern information!! I am 5’1″ tall and weigh about 90 lbs and run into difficulty locating patterns geared towards my size, I don’t have big boobies either and the accommodations for the little people, ??, just aren’t there. So would you consider creating mini meees?? Thank you, Eve!! I’m so glad I registered for your emails, I love them all!!

This is only a small selection of the incredible responses I received – and I send my heartfelt thanks to all who took part. I will be using all the information gathered to create the perfect patterns for you, so watch this space!

Finally, I am curious to see if you feel the same as the survey respondents, or if you have other ideas. Is there anything you agree or strongly disagree with? Let me know in the comments below! 🙂

RECOMMENDED READING: If you found this interesting and would like to start creating your own patterns, why not check out this link to my dedicated pattern making posts?

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Comments (11)

  • Elaine Sabin-Simpson

    February 18, 2017 at 6:59 pm

    Interesting post- I can’t actually remember if I did the survey or not, but here’s my input.
    I’m 5’3″, slimhipped, fatbellied, and fairly busty. I tend to choose styles that let me get away without an FBA where possible, but otherwise have no trouble doing one.
    I frequently use PDFs, but love my tissue patterns too. I’m very experienced, but like traditional, diagram based instructions to check back to from time to time. I have never bothered with cutting layouts, as long as all pattern pieces are CLEARLY marked with what is needed, I have no worries.
    Lots of finished measurements on the pattern pieces really do save a lot of fuss.
    I discovered Truly Victorian patterns last year, when I got into steampunk. Their sizing method is a revelation- you select pattern pieces according to various measurements, rather than all one size for every piece. It basically deals with narrow or broad back issues at the cutting out stage, and often negates the need for an FBA altogether. TAke a peek, it’s very interesting!

    1. Eve Tokens

      March 5, 2017 at 11:14 am

      Hi Elaine, thanks for popping by! You thoughts are really helpful – I appreciate you taking the time to give such a thorough response! I haven’t heard of Truly Victorian patterns.. I’ll definitely have to take a look. I love that everything is dealt with at the cutting stage, this will be right up my street! 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  • Tracey

    February 18, 2017 at 11:41 pm

    Yes! One of the reasons I sew is that I’m not a standard size: I’m 5’2″, busty, but with slim hips and legs. A traditional size 10 in ready made clothes fits most of me except the bust. A size 12 accommodates the bust but is too wide in the shoulders, long in the body, etc. As I’m putting on a little middle age weight (which I refuse to feel guilty about!) I now have to make a full arm adjustment as well. It would be great if pattern descriptions were more detailed in the fit of areas such as arms, length of bodice, etc. I have never attempted a pair of fitted pants because I worry about being able to adapt a pattern for my full belly but flattish bottom. I’d be interested in tutorials on how to make a sloper and then use it to modify commercial patterns.
    Happy sewing!

    1. Eve Tokens

      March 5, 2017 at 11:16 am

      Hi Tracey! Thanks for taking the time to comment! It’s interesting thinking about all our different body shapes and how as individuals we have to make adjustments to patterns to make them fit – we still can’t win in the sewing world, just like in the stores! 😉 I am starting to focus more and more on pattern making techniques as I see a lot more questions in my readers emails about pattern cutting and fit issues, rather than sewing, so i’ll definitely be getting a post up soon about drafting a sloper / block from scratch! 🙂 Thanks for popping by Tracey!

  • sonja

    February 19, 2017 at 7:42 am

    Interesting to read. Pattern drafting really isn’t an easy job. It’s impossible to create something that suits everyone. I personally love some designers because they design clothes suitable for my body shape. Good luck with all the information and I’m looking forward to your first design.

    1. Eve Tokens

      March 5, 2017 at 11:19 am

      Hi Sonja! That is so true re creating something that suits everyone! My first pattern is from a shirt I created years ago as part of my graduate collection. It is oversized and relaxed with a mandarin collar. It won’t appeal to everyone as it has no shaping; on me – a size 14-16UK it is a tad ‘tent like’, so I am positive that others who come up bigger than me will be put off. That said it is super comfy and works well as a relaxed shirt to just get stuff done! 🙂 May I ask which designers in particular do you find work well with your body shape?

  • Elizabeth

    February 24, 2017 at 6:41 am

    One reason I sew is that I am difficult to fit well with RTW. I’m 5’10” tall, I have a short waist and a long torso, a slim ribcage, large breasts and a squishy tummy. My shoulders are narrow across the front, and I have a bit of a high round back.
    Having clear, accurate drawings, written descriptions of the fit, and comprehensive measurement charts are important to me.
    I don’t need or want long fitting or construction instructions for conventional garments. I think it’s wonderful if you provide them, but I already know how to sew garments together and I know how to make my fitting changes on most patterns. I prefer not to wade through 30 pages of instructions to parse out the bits that I actually need to know about a pattern, or pick out any special techniques that the designer may have included in the instructions. A short version of the instructions is much appreciated.
    Thanks!

    1. Eve Tokens

      March 5, 2017 at 11:23 am

      Good morning Elizabeth! Thanks for popping by and leaving such great feedback! You have made a great suggestion regarding instructions. Currently, I have been concerned at creating lengthy instructions. I have a lot of sewing beginners who would find such detailed instructions invaluable, but as you say, the more experienced sewer will not require such thoroughness. It is quite possible a good idea to have a ‘beginner’ and an ‘experienced’ version, whereby the latter has any specific techniques demonstrated. Hmmm… something to consider. Thank you! 🙂

  • Heidi

    March 4, 2017 at 11:43 pm

    I have only recently started reading your posts. Very informative.
    I also have fitting issues with RTW. I am 5′ 2″, in my mid-50’s and let’s just say ‘not slender.’ Always have to do a FBA and lower the bust points, have a stomach but not much tush. I have been sewing for a long time but there are lots of things I have never done such as use a PDF pattern or sew pants with a front fly or any tailoring. In choosing a PDF pattern, I would find it helpful to change sizes in different body areas with a nested pattern. I think making a sloper would really help me get a better fit result. I prefer illustrations to photos but frequently only look at the instructions if there is something new or difficult on the garment. I do reference youtube videos for trouble spots. I would love having a link to a video in the instructions. Sometimes photos are not clear. I like seeing patterns made up with different fabrics on the envelope but think a technical drawing really helps me understand the design. In looking at PDF patterns recently, having a gallery to see different versions and fabrics is really helpful. I hate when there isn’t a line drawing of both sides of the garment on the pattern envelope. It is hard to see design lines in a lot of photos.
    Thanks for all you hard work.

    1. Eve Tokens

      March 5, 2017 at 11:28 am

      Heidi! Thanks for popping by! I hope you are finding the posts helpful – if you do have any specific requests please do drop me a message using the contact form! Making a sloper / block to work from is my idea of pattern perfection. Ultimately I would love to teach everyone how to create and modify their own sloper so that they can create designs for themselves… I hope to do that in the near future! 🙂
      The overwhelming consensus does seem to be that a tech drawing is important to really understand how the garment will look / be constructed. I better brush up further on my CAD skills! 😉 The one thing I worry about is fabrics. I am not conventional when it comes to using fabrics. On Friday I finally got my hands on some ‘ponte roma’ which the whole sewing world seems to love – and I disliked it immensely. It will be interesting to see how I deal with this aspect as I move ahead in my commercial pattern creation! 🙂
      Thanks again for popping by Heidi!

  • Bunny

    March 11, 2017 at 12:00 pm

    Just found your blog, Eve, and it is fabulous. I am five feet tall, an aging hourglass and always have to do a FBA. I am on the side of not having all the hand holding info in the pattern as I have been sewing for over fifty years. I do think your idea of a beginner and a more experienced version of a pattern is brilliant and rather groundbreaking. As far as fit info, as long as grain lines are clear on the pattern pieces I am good to go. I am with you on the spongy ponte de roma. I just can’t see myself wearing it as I am a lover of natural fibers, particularly linen and wools.

    One thing really important to me before buying a pattern is to have great tech drawings. I really want to see where all those seam lines are and they are not always visible in photos. I won’t buy a pattern without good tech drawings. While it doesn’t apply to you, I am sure, I am tired of seeing Indie pattern photos styled so the pattern problems are hidden, for example , long hair draped over the front armscye, odd positions, etc. Give me honest photos on the model, who could be any size, BTW, and I am happy. If I see a photo styled to hide issues or photo shopped to perfection, I run like a fire is chasing me. Great blog and post. Thanks.

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