Following a couple of discussions I had with a friend recently, and reading some recent reviews on the wonderful Purse Pallooza over at Sew Sweetness, I’ve been pondering patterns of late.
The conversation I was having started with the idea of following patterns. When I thought about it, I realised that I’ve not made a pattern in years that I haven’t altered in some way, whereas my conversant was merrily following her chosen pattern to the letter. After that conversation I was looking at the Purse Pallooza reviews, and I had a real giggle counting up the number of reviews that said something along the lines of:
‘I really loved this pattern, it was perfect, it’s just that when I made it I added a pocket/ removed a pocket/ lengthened the strap/ shortened the strap/ made it bigger/ made it smaller etc’
I thought upon this a bit more, and realised that as a pattern writer I tend to write a pattern for something that would suit me at the time, whether it’s the size, shape, strap length, number of pockets and so on. The same applies for quilt patterns that I create for myself, they are made to be a size that suits the recipient of the quilt. I imagine I am not unique in this, but feel free to tell me otherwise if any of you are pattern writers.
Possibly writing patterns to suit oneself is somewhat short sighted (although the Whole Lotta Bag contained every technique that you, my dear readers, requested, and that might have been a little mad!) but should I put out a survey every time I write a pattern on what people want instead? I can only imagine that I’d end up with a technique laden pattern every time that would scare the bejaysus out of my prospective makers if I tried to suit everybody, and really, everyone has their own very different idea of the perfect bag/quilt/clothing etc.
I have absolutely nothing against people altering my patterns – add a bit, remove a bit, make it bigger/smaller, I really don’t mind, you bought the pattern, do as you wish with it when you come to make the thing (although if you switch out the interfacings hell mend you ;o) ), but if you write patterns do you get annoyed if people alter them? I mean presumably at the time you wrote it you thought it was perfect, so does it bother you?
If you are a maker, do you religiously stick to a pattern, or do you deviate to suit your needs? As a quilt maker I’ve used a block shape and then made my own sized quilt off the back of that, with whatever sashing I had to hand, the Retro Flowers both big and small spring to mind:
And then there was my fleet of Aeroplanes:
Do you like pattern writers to show you various options? This is most common in clothing patterns, where there are often different ‘views’ where a skirt might be longer, or the fastening different, a dress may have a variety of necklines and so on. Some quilt patterns do come with different sized options, but for quilt and bag patterns you tend not to see many variations (the 241 tote in my picture above being a notable exception with its different outer pocket options). When I did the Whole Lotta Bag Along I showed options, but would you rather have worked that out for yourself?
on a postcard in the comments box please :o)
I'll be interested to read the comments and will come back later. I think that it is best if you write a pattern as you would like it to be, maybe with a few variations rather than try to please every person. I sometimes follow patterns to the letter to see what the writer was trying to teach me, and often I make adjustments to suit my needs.
Not dissimilar to cooking a particular dish to suit your palate/what you happen to have in your cupboard or fridge/ the allergic conditions of the people who might eat it…….
I did buy the whole lotta bag pattern, but it was so large and a zip file that I haven't actually been able to download it or open it onto my iPad. With all its options, it might be just the pattern I need for a bag I need to make for a Christmas gift, so maybe I should try again in OH's laptop! I like patterns that give options, but I also like to play around a bit for instance if I want a particular size, and I will frequently not include or add pockets or piping. I think it's a confidence thing – a pattern needs to be full enough for a beginner to be able to follow it step by step, with more experienced, confident makers being able to adapt it as they choose. I think the use of the advice of which level the pattern is suitable for should indicate that – if it needs you to have some knowledge of dressmaking, for instance, in order to know that a random notch is where it should be lengthened, without any other information given in the pattern or instructions, then it should not be billed as beginner level! It's also frustrating when there are glossary terms referred to in the pattern instructions but which then don't appear anywhere in the pattern! So, concise, clear, accurate and fair indication of level seem to be my requirements from a pattern ☺️
I like a pattern to show some options – for example, if a designer has a pattern for a quilt that could be made in different sizes, it's useful to see the fabric requirements for different sizes before I commit to purchasing the pattern. On the other hand, when it comes to quilts, I'm quite happy to resize things by myself, but I know there are a lot of people who aren't (and should head over to Leanne's blog to learn how to!). The only tutorials I follow to the letter are zippy tutorials – but now I'm more familiar with them, I perhaps not quite as careful… As a designer it's up to you, but you'll never please everyone all the time, so best to please yourself first and foremost! 🙂 Great topic!
I don't think I have ever followed a pattern to the letter, I use it more as a suggestion/template I suppose. It is nice to see some suggested variations (e.g. pocket options, size options), but not too many because then it gets very confusing, especially for a beginner. A more experienced maker would be able to work out more variations themselves if they want to.
I like as much detail as possible in patterns and a lot of options too. I rarely use patterns for quilts but when I do I just use the general block idea and work out for myself what size I want the finished article to be and adjust accordsingly. For something like bag ( which Im not so good at making ) I follow things to the letter , but like having a lot of different options for size and additions , because Im not confident about being able to work that out. LOTS of pictures helps!
I think if I was writing a pattern I'd assume people knew nothing much and put in as much information as possible- people can always ignore the bits they dont need.
I did both but it was always what I needed and what i wanted to get. I think you should not and you can not please everyone. Mostly I change patterns on the way as I want to add a pocket or do stuff differently but at the end I have the bagstyle or quiltpattern I bought. Choises are great but not neccessary. Editing a pattern for yourself is giving something your style. Otherwise you can go in the shop and get what all the others have ….
An interesting post, options are good but with more time and experience I tend to adjust the pattern to suit. I have a copy of one of Lisa Lams bag books which has been useful for adding in different things to bags. I know someone who found it really hard to read and follow a pattern because of the different options in it, but I think that comes with attention and patience!
I think any pattern writer who gets upset at people adding their own touches to their patterns are holding on too tight and should get a hold of themselves. Do some people seriously get upset about that? I think it's amazing when people take what I've written and then run with it, making it their own. I love to see what people make with my patterns, and am continually inspired by that. I also love to take other patterns and do my own tweaking/do my own thing with colours, etc.
As far as options in patterns, I don't expect a lot, maybe notes on one or two things that could be done but I don't necessarily expect full blown instructions for that – after all, I've paid for ONE pattern, and that pattern has taken a lot of time to create. To expect complete instructions for something else as well is probably a bit much. What I really love is seeing something made up in a variety of colour/fabric type options. I love seeing something done in solids, then patterns, then half fabric/ half leather (talking bags here), a patchworky option and so on. I love seeing how changing the fabric completely changes the way a pattern looks!
"I think any pattern writer who gets upset at people adding their own touches to their patterns are holding on too tight and should get a hold of themselves".
Ha ha! I completely agree!! I hate seeing designers grumping at what a seamster/ress has done to their pattern to make it more suited for them. If they don't want to enable sewing enthusiasts to create something personal then maybe pattern writing isn't for them and they'd be better suited to selling the finished items!
– Mrs H x
(Sewing Patterns by Mrs H)
I don't tend to alter them much (maybe strap length) because, frankly, I'm not that good at spatial/3d visualizing. I like seeing how people change it up, but it doesn't feel like something I can do on my own yet.
We are all different and have different needs. People are quite at liberty to change the pattern to what suits their needs.As you say it is there pattern.
I think that if you are selling to creative people patterns writers should acknowledge that adjustments and alterations are going to happen. We can so we will, if you like. I know that in the beginning I followed patterns to the letter, but with experience I know where I can and cannot change things a bit here and there to suit me. Eg I almost always make bag strap longer to accommodate for an ample bosom! TMI? I also think that a few suggested options are a good idea in some patterns but don't think a pattern writer needs to produce too many detailed options, otherwise where does one draw the line? It's a tricky business. The creative protection writers feel over their patterns is fairly natural in some senses too. I read an article on this very thing by a songwriter who had a very popular Christian song but everywhere he went people kept giving him ideas for additional verses. He said he kept thinking why wasn't the song good enough as he wrote it that people should want to change it. Bit like when I slave over a meal and hubby gets up to rifle the cupboard for a more spicy sauce to mix into it, not that I have issues you understand ;-). Anyhow, good solid instructions with a little option here and there sounds like a good balance to me.
I'm a bit of both! I do follow some patterns to the letter, like the quilt I'm making now. As it was from a fqr class and i bought everything to meet the requirements, I've just gone along with it….but I'm terrible at just going with what I've got and adapting the pattern to what I need.
I really agree with Mary, as you grow at sewing I think you have the confidence to pick at patterns and change them!
I'm also someone who will search Flickr and the internet to see what others have done with patterns!
Hiya, what a lot of questions. Firstly, if someone altered one of my patterns I'd be fine with that and don't think I'd be offended at all. I very rarely stick exactly to any pattern. For bags etc, especially, I don't think I ever have made it to the exact pattern. Part of the fun is making it how I want it and putting my own stamp on it. I think I have only used a quilt pattern twice (and one isn't finished yet) first one I changed size quite significantly and second one, so far, is as per pattern.
I'm not sure what the solution is. maybe a couple of different ideas linked to tutorials on the blog…..might work well especially for bags – different pockets etc? I think I'd prefer a clearly written pattern, possibly with a couple of options but not a mammoth one. Juliex
We were discussing something similar at a photography workshop on Saturday. A camera will give you its best guess at the correct exposure and most of the time that's fine, but that best guess is an approximation based on the 11% grey card, so in any complex scene it's a compromise. In most cases I'm content to take the camera's word for it knowing that I can make adjustments later provided the detail I'm after in either highlights or shadows is actually there. Immediately I start making on screen adjustments I'm not taking what the camera gives me but adding my own zip to it if you like.
Seamus Heaney the great poet was asked if he minded how his poems were used and he said, "No, once it's in print it doesn't belong to me any more. What people do with it is their affair."
So I guess close (I nearly said slavish, but that's unfair) following of patterns works best for those who are uncertain of their skills, but in most skill situations, once one gains a degree of facility, alteration or addition to the basics because the norm.
However, as you will remember from Grandad, some modifications work better than others!
Interesting – I want to come back and read the comments too. But a couple of thoughts… 1 – I usually follow patterns to the letter on the first go. And there's been many times I learned a new technique to add to my repertoire. Next time I may do it differently, but generally, I like to see a pattern through before I make that determination. Saying that, I do often tweak a pattern to make it my own, or use a portion of a pattern to do my own thing (like a quilt block). 2 – On one pattern I wrote, alot of folks didn't like how I had them finish the project, and I must say, my friend's 'alternate ending' is pretty popular, and gets referenced alot when I read about folks using my pattern. But when I went and made more of my pattern, I found I still preferred my original ending. Just to say that different folks like different techniques etc. and we can't please all of them. So totally make your pattern to suit you, and if it's feasible to include options then do. And if you do, yes, I enjoy seeing them.
Interesting conversation – thanks.
I don't generally think patterns aren't perfect even though I chose to make a couple of modifications… but were you giggling at the subtext of those particular reviews? ;D
As a pattern designer, I don't mind at all when people alter my patterns. The only time I mind is when they take a design, make a couple changes and then call it a whole new pattern. That I have a big problem with. I think it is similar to clothing patterns. They usually provide you an option to lengthen certain parts, and I would lengthen sleeves for myself, just like I would lengthen a strap, simply because as far as women go, I run on the tall side of the spectrum.
I rarely follow a pattern to the letter and love to add my own twist to a project. The exception would be if I'm learning something new ….
I have to confess that I am a great one for altering patterns……..either the order in which I prep bits, put them together or reading other peoples experiences and then adding things in that I know will suit me (especially on bags and clothes). I think like others have said this does come with experience, but I think it's nice when designers provide different options/ideas. For me, one of the key benefits of making my own things – other than the satisfaction! – is being able to make it totally unique and suited to me 🙂
I'm not good at following instructions- maybe that why I mostly stick to a variation of a few bags I can make almost with my eyes closed. I love your bags but probably would never make one unless I had a tutor in the room with me … So let me know next time you are teaching one!!!!
I am not great at following instructions but did generally follow your instructions on the Whole Lotta Bag, except for the strap. ….. and guess what, the one piece I am unhappy with is the strap
The more experience I have the less I follow patterns 🙂 I just like to do little changes here and there to make it my own.
What leanne said!!!
I write bag patterns and over time I've come to put in specific features that most seamsters/resses want. Zipped internal pockets & cross body/adjustable straps (where possible, but not at the expense of the design) for example. However, if I'm writing what I consider to be a beginner's pattern then I'll write (Optional) next to the zipped pocket as not all beginners want to dive into the exciting world of zips on their first bag.
I think the whole point of being a pattern designer is to enable, yes enable, those who love to sew to create something new. I love seeing what people have done with my patterns and can't wait to see my testers bags when they've been working on a new pattern because it spurs me on to finish it up and get it released!
Don't even get me started on designers now allowing sales of items made from their patterns….
Mrs H x
(Sewing Patterns by Mrs H)
If I'm using a pattern from a designer I'm not familiar with, I follow the pattern to the letter. If I like the results, I'll make it again as instructed; if I don't, I'll make it again making my own adjustments.
Heh, good thought!
I don't tend to follow patterns but will pick out techniques or aspects from several patterns and put them together to make what I want (or I make it up and then try to work out how best to tackle it!) and this goes for quilts, bags and other fabric-y things. I like to see different options for projects but I'm like Joanne and will search Flickr, etc. to see what other people made and then combine lots of ideas/features to get what I want. Most of the time I spend more time thinking about and changing the original pattern than I do making the thing!
P.S. My mam recently used your excellent zipped lining pocket technique (from the Quilt Now nautical bag) to make a pocket in her bag – thank you!
P.P.S. I've just read your post about not being well. I hope that you're starting to feel a little better and that you're being kind to yourself xxx