A little bit of imagination – creating a pattern hack!

Nowadays with indie pattern companies like Colette, Megan Nielsen and Doe and Deer creating their own designs there are some really modern patterns just waiting to be printed out and made up. It is a modern dressmaking revolution but the more traditional companies making patterns like, Simplicity, Vogue or Butterick still have a lot to offer, sometimes you just need a bit of imagination.

Often at first glance the pictures on the front of the pattern pack can seem out dated, the fabric choice hideous and the models are, well, difficult to identify with! This is where the imagination comes in – in a recent project I made for my little girl I decided to dip my toe into the art of pattern hacking with Simplicity pattern 1673!

Pattern hacking – changing a pattern to create a unique item of clothing based on, but deviating from an original ‘base’ pattern.

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Initial impressions

I am not a frilly person and this just has way too much going on. Whilst on their own they might be okay when put altogether the yellow broderie anglais, the flower shaped buttons and the frill are too much for my taste. But looking behind all that what you actually have is an interesting structure for a child’s dress; the loop button closure at the back, the circular yoke and the tucks at the top (hidden by the frill) are all nice features which I think deserve to take the limelight.

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My hack…

First, although the pattern recommends using light weight fabrics I decided to make the dress in a light denim which would show more of the structure of the dress off. The frills in the pattern were added on top of the yoke so I did away with them and added a patch pocket in deck chair striped fabric to the front with a contrasting pocket band and a small gather. I used pink, homemade bias binding on the arm holes with contrasting red stitching to tie in with the pocket, and matched that in with the closure on the back. I decided to make the dress more of a tunic length to be worn with little leggings and did two rows of top stitching around the hem in red thread which took the place of more frills on the base pattern.

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Overall I’m really pleased with the look of the dress and it’s definitely a million miles away from the picture on the pack and I’ve made a bespoke item of clothing. It’s boosted my confidence – I might try and draft my own dress pattern next time!

Project summary

What went well.

  • The overall look of the dress is great, I love the way the tucks at the front look in the heavier fabric
  • I’ve done a bit of pattern drafting from scratch in the past but using a pattern to start of with is a great way to get back into it without all the head scratching and frustration that can come with creating your own pattern
  • I couldn’t use French seams with the denim because it would be too bulky so I used bright red seam tape to finish the insides

Room for improvement?

  • In the end it worked out fine but choosing to use a heavier fabric did cause a few problems. The method of construction for the yoke on this dress was really designed for cotton and getting the circular shape out of denim was a bit tricky…there’s still one or two dodgy bits which I would liked to have done better!
  • I just wahse dit and the band a the top of the pocket ran a little…doh!

Top tip – 

Rather than looking at the photo on the front take a look at the pattern diagram on the back of the pack. From that you will get a better idea of how the pattern is constructed and it will give you more of a ‘blank canvas’ to build up your own design from.

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