I remember that a long time ago, when I was a kid, my mom was sewing stuff out of magazines. So Burda was a thing, and it had all those papers inside with all the patterns together and I remember that as a magical and such a complicated thing!
Fast forward to my teenage years, my mom’s a busy career lady that doesn’t really have time to sew from patterns. From time to time she helps me with a costume for a costume party, but we mostly use existing clothes to clone.
Fast forward to now – I’m learning to sew. And Burda, apparently, is still a thing. I ask my mom to send me a couple of Burdas in Russian but by the time I get them I discover the incredible world of pattern websites. Apparently, you can buy patterns online and print them at home! Using your own printer!
Needless to say, the Burdas were left unused. The designs in there were ok, but it’s so much easier to find exactly the clothes you like online. The web is flooded with patterns. You can always buy the old schooled envelopes too, but the ease of how people can put their own designs out there, because of technology, made this world so much better in my opinion.
It’s not only the privilege of the big pattern companies anymore. It provides a platform for small designers too to share their ideas with the world – and when I say the world I mean THE WHOLE WORLD. While I usually buy patterns from English speaking designers, I found some European and Russian designers I really liked, and also some english speaking designers that work from Costa Rica!
And all of that from the comfort of your own house, without going out and looking through physical magazines or envelopes. While this can also have a certain charm, I believe that during the pandemic we all learned the importance of digital communication and having access to patterns online, especially if you’re quarantined and have time to develop your hobby/business, is really great for mental health.
The problem with that is that it may seem that there are way too many patterns out there already. How to choose a website that you trust? How do I know which one is good and which one is not? Will it fit me?
Here I collected some tips about where to start.
Check your local sewing community
And I’m not even talking about a “real” community. Facebook is a great source of that kind of information. Join your local sewists group and ask! This is mostly the way I am using now to discover new pattern companies. There are many discussions in those groups about this or that pattern, and when I see something I am not familiar with I check it out to see if it’s something I would like. I discovered so many websites this way, just from reading from the group posts.
Usually, when you’re looking for a pattern, in the first couple of results from google you’ll find a link to a pattern review site. This is extremely helpful not only because you can read reviews, but you can also see people with different body types wearing that pattern, and have a general idea of how it will look on you. You can always make a muslin but I, personally, find it to be a little excessive in most cases.
Another way to see how it looks on different body types is to look at Instagram and the original blog post of the pattern company. A reputable designer will usually have a blogpost about the new pattern they created, which will have the pattern testers photos included. If you don’t know what it is, those designers have a community of pattern testers that check the pattern before it’s officially published and give their feedback to the designer of the pattern. This process makes the pattern more calibrated, better written, but also produces a (usually) large amount of photos of people with different body types wearing the same thing. Those testers are usually professionals or serious hobbyists that also have a blog, a YouTube channel or an Instagram where you can often find an in detail review.
To be honest, I read about this method but I never tried that. A free pattern on a pattern website is suppose to help you see if you like the style, fit and the way it’s written. For me – it takes an excessive amount of time to even print/trace the pattern to sew with, so I only do that with pattern I really like. Most of the free patterns are basic and I’m usually not interested enough to try them. You should check those out though – some companies publish extremely generous free patterns with multiple views and options to try.
Another place I found kinda surprising to find patterns at is Etsy. I bought some kids patterns there and some lingerie that I plan to try. What I find good about Etsy is that:
1. It’s pretty cheap. I found kids joggers pattern for $5 that looks pretty basic but exactly what I need. It’s super clear and has finished measurements that are useful for robust kids like my own.
2. Etsy has its own reviews system so you can easily see how many people bought it, read all the feedback and see the attached photos so you can estimate the size and fit.
3. It’s a pretty safe platform to buy from. I feel protected as a customer from fraud or issues with my order. I also never had technical issues with communication or delivery of the patterns.
4. Since people who put those patterns out there are usually small businesses, you can be proud to support local. But also, you have a connection to the seller. Let me give you an example; when I bought the joggers pattern for my kid, it only came in a print at home pattern. A couple of months later I purchased a hoodie pattern from the same seller and I was surprised to see that she added A0 and even a projector pattern to the hoodie. I contacted her personally and said that I’ve purchased the joggers a while ago and if it’s ok to have the A0 patterns for them as well. She answered almost immediately with the needed files, for free! That was an incredible customer experience.
I hope you’d find those tips useful, and if you have any other ones please leave a comment! I will be testing some new patterns in the near future and posting a list of my favorite pattern websites with full reviews.