Hoppo Bumpo (n): A children's game. Played by folding one's arms and hopping on one leg. Aim is to bump opponents, so that they lose their balance. Last person standing wins.

March 30, 2009

Making the grade: trialling a customised pattern service (part 1)

A little while back I stumbled across the term "sewbie". It refers to a newbie sewer; a beginner. Being newish to sewing myself, I quite liked the term. Its kind of cute.

As a sewbie, my journey from stitching innocent to enthusiast, has traversed a standard sort of path.

It started with a bit of cutting and sewing and a pair of pyjama pants. Then a few button holes and a bit of easing and a matching pyjama top. Next came facings, darts and zippers and et voila there was a skirt. Then there was a period of consolidation: sewing from commercial patterns; drafting a few little projects.

All along, though, I knew I'd soon arrive at that sign-posted fork in the road. The big one, where one direction points to "Comfort Zone" (on the flat, of course) and the other to "Real Pattern Alterations" (up a steep hill).

When I did finally arrive, uncharacteristically I chose the hill. You might still see me there sometime: I'm the one puffing asthmatically and puce in the face.

There is, however, a little endorphin rush every now and then. Its exhilarating learning how to be the master of your own sewing destiny. To make something that fits properly; looks flattering; feels comfortable. Recently there's been a flurry of grading and slashing and spreading and redrawing of seam lines on paper patterns. My sewing space is a jumble of calico, tracing paper, pencils, rulers and tape as patterns are redrafted and toiles trialled.

In the midst of my latest class experiments on Misses' tunic top Simplicity 5409 (requiring an FBA, grading on the side seams and a change to the neckline), I received an e-mail. Something that really caught my attention. It was from sewingpatterns.com announcing an innovation: the Perfect Fit Pattern. This new service allows you to input your details (measurements, posture type and photos) when purchasing selected Butterick, McCalls or Neue Mode patterns. The pattern is then altered for you within 7-working days.

"And the cost?", I hear you ask breathlessly (if you are on the same hill as me, that is).

Well, I should say that the finished pattern isn't cheap. At the time of writing its US$24.50 (AU$36.10) for a downloadable version or US$27.50 (AU$40.53) for a paper pattern. This is at least US$10 (AU$14.75) more expensive than a standard paper pattern. However, if you consider the additional cost is really for a service - which I am assuming involves human intervention - it seems relatively inexpensive.

So it all sounds pretty nifty, huh?

At least, I think.

I can't help but wonder whether this will be a little bit like introducing the calculator into schools. (Call me old-fashioned, but does anyone really remember how to do long division, when it counts?). Can a remote pattern alteration service really dispense with the need to make your own changes? Will it be possible to sew lovely fitted clothes without ever knowing the theory or practice of pattern alterations?

I have decided to see.

In the name of "research" I have just purchased McCalls pattern 5758. Its a semi-fitted, hip-length jacket with princess seams. And I'd never have a shadow of a hope of making this jacket without alteration. Substantial alteration.

My measurements between shoulder and hip, includes 4 separate sizes and a bust-line that is 2 cup sizes above a standard, commercial pattern. Without going into inappropriate levels of detail, pregnancy, two gi-normous babies and c-sections, have not been at all kind to my shape. The words tummy and tuck were once uttered in the same breath by my very sensible and conservative obstetrician. (Whilst I sound somewhat grotesque, the reality is that I probably look quite similar to many other slightly overweight 5'4" mums!)

Now if all that doesn't all spell trouble for fit, I really don't know what does.

Anyway, I feel that with my dimensions, I am able to throw down a suitable gauntlet for sewingpatterns.com. Stay tuned - I'll look forward to telling you in up-coming posts about how I have found the service and showing you how well the end garment fits.


  1. How amazing!
    I can't wait to see if it actually works. If it's a success, then it's definitly an extra $10 very well spent for sure.

  2. Oh my goodness, this is super exciting - I can't wait to hear if it works! I would definitely spend the extra money to make sure a pattern could fit me properly - I have to do my own pattern alterations and they are SO dodgy ...

  3. That's so cool! Pattern alterations can be so hard. I have a body shape that's all over the place too. Will look forward to hearing how you go. :o)

  4. Sounds fantastic, and the price isn;t bad if it's for a service that really does save you time and a bundle of calico and pattern sheets. I stand in awe at your efforts to teach yourself sewing properly. I am still so 'dipping a toe' in the puddle end.
    Go, girl!

  5. Interested to see how this turns out. I have just sewn a top to bust measurements to find it is way too big across my upper chest and shoulders. I thought I was ready to give up dressmaking as a bad joke, but now...

  6. Good on you ! Hope it all works well for you .
    clares craftroom

  7. I can't wait to see how your pattern turns out. If it works out well than I would definately spend $10 to save the time altering the pattern.

  8. Fingers crossed! Do they sew the garment for you too? Perhaps then I should give it a go... or join a sewing class? ;)

  9. Wow that does sound like a "service" I wonder if it comes with a smile. Can't wait to see how it works out for you, might inspire me to sew more than straight line quilts! Gives hope to those of us out there with normal shapes to get home made clothes that fit without all the sweat and tears!

  10. Good luck with your sewing :) I have yet to make a garment from a pattern, just made it up as I went :p The first thing I want to try is a corset, which might not be a good idea lol

    Paying the extra money is not bad if you can't figure out how to adjust the pattern yourself, and its really not that much money compared to the time it might take a person trying themselves.

  11. I think the service sounds fab for those that would like to make sure it fits with no hassle.
    There is a name for me I am a sewbie! I like it!

  12. That sounds awesome and just like how a meal always tastes better when someone else cooks it. Loved your post, had this scary morning monster chuckling!

  13. Can't wait to see if it works either. My body shape doesn't usually fit patterns either

  14. I am absolutely fascinated. Can't wait to hear your verdict.

  15. hmmm interesting. Very cute jacket too by the way.

  16. That sounds so interestin! I'm keen to see how you go with it!

  17. Sounds great - I'll be interested to hear how it is. I am also in the "grossly disfigured by pregnancy" camp and, though my kids love touching Mums soft squishly tummy cushion, the fact that my stomach is at least 2-3sizes bigger than the rest of me makes buying clothes kinda tricky. Thats why I love sewing so much - clothes that fit - woohoo!!

  18. I am utterly compelled to follow this one through with you to the bitter end. I am so fascinated by this 'fitted pattern service' but have wondered if it could actually live up to all of it's marketing hype.

    And I have to say I have been hovering at that same fork in the road for quite some time now, wanting to make tracks up that hill (albeit alone) and always stopping at the sign that says 'too hard - requires good fitting skills to continue'...and totally wussing out.

    But it is the year for no fear I keep telling myself. Thanks for some inspiration from this post.


Thanks for dropping by! I love hearing what people have to say. Leave a comment if you like.