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
- When using PDF patterns, how do you like to see the sizing options?
- Would you like to see a variety of paper sizes?
- Seam Allowance. Commercial patterns usually use 1.5cm / ⅝ inch seam allowance. Which do you find best as standard?
- Sewing Instructions. Which do you find most helpful?
- When looking for new sewing patterns to try, do you prefer..?
- Would you be happy to share the dress size you are on the high street?
- What height range are you?
- Do you fit the standard B-cup used on most patterns?
- When having to adjust patterns for size do you like too see added instructions on the process within the sewing instruction guide?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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..?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
Want to join in the fashion creation fun? Grab my free sewing guides, patterns and weekly email update too!