My name is MaLora, and I would like indie designers to include more marks on their patterns. I’d like to hear from you, especially about what you would like to see on indie patterns!
Having just helped organize a Seattle-area Sewing Trivia Night, I know that sewing patterns didn’t have any printed markings on them until 1919 (McCalls, good job!), and it took decades for home sewists to get actual printed instructions included with their unmarked pattern. For those who haven’t sewn vintage patterns, they were typically just tissue with punched holes and no lines on them at all. Back then, it was assumed everyone knew how to sew expertly. It took many years for the sewing industry to start including instructions, pattern lines, and common adjustment descriptions in their patterns.
The “Big Four Pattern Companies” — Simplicity, McCalls, Butterick, and Vogue (all now owned by CSS Industries, see Abby’s article here for some interesting reading) — learned to put marks on their patterns by the mid 20th century. Patterns changed to include cutting lines, seam allowances, construction markings, and written instructions for making the garment. The Big Four patterns also contain my favorite thing: fitting adjustment marks! Fitting adjustment marks often include bust point, waist line, hip line, and lengthen and shorten lines for arms, body, or legs. These fitting adjustment marks are crucial to making your garment fit your body.
Here are some examples of modern fitting marks on a Big Four patterns
I am putting out a call to all pattern designers to please include fitting adjustment marks on your patterns. It would be helpful to include finished garment measurements on the pattern pieces as well.
For experienced sewists, many pattern alterations are done before you even make a muslin. These are often called flat pattern adjustments. If you are a beginning sewist, the marks will help make your first sewing experience a success because they give you the opportunity to learn about specific points of fitting. Since one purpose of making our garments is to get something that fits our individual bodies, these marks are essential.
The joy of indie designers is that they make unusual patterns, in sizing and formats more accessible than ever before. And the best part? The creators themselves are often so easy to connect with through social media. We can reach out to them, follow along, and develop a relationship. There’s a real community between the designers and the home sewcialists. The indie sewing scene is a global community!
It is hard to define an indie pattern company now, ten or so years after the indie pattern scene really exploded. Some indie pattern companies are one person, likely working from home, releasing one pattern at a time. Other companies have teams who release regular collections, books, video tutorials, and more. Many of the businesses are clearly making efforts to consider inclusivity, diversity, sustainability, and longevity of their designs. It is an industry that has grown exponentially over the last decade and while it is amazing, it is a whole lot to maintain industry standards.
I was just listening to the Love To Sew podcast episode with Kate from The Foldline, and Kate mentioned there are approximately 50 new indie patterns released every month! I can see the pressure of being a small business, especially one that is an artistic creative pursuit. However, I am asking that you keep in mind that not everyone sews the same way, many of us are self-taught, and all of us are still learning new things! Wouldn’t a bust point help you fit your first blouse, or ensure that the fabric you’ve chosen lines up well?
Sewcialists, what marks would you like to see included on indie patterns? What have I missed here? I am not an expert for sure. I’d love to hear what other Sewcialists think! I have reached out personally to a few companies, but I am sure more companies would benefit from hearing directly from you. If you have been sewing for years or if you are starting your first pattern, fitting marks will help you make the best fitting garment possible.
Which indie companies do you think do a good job including fitting adjustment marks on their patterns? I’d love to financially support them with my purchases. I want to make a professional looking garment when I sew, and to do that, I need a professional looking pattern that sets me up for success. Please, indie designers, include these marks!
MaLora Ann / Bird and Bicycle likes to ride her bike, eat cake with no frosting, and serge her way through garments. Preferring the ocean to the plains, she is still looking for the perfect hoodie pattern to wear in the awesome Pacific Northwest. Shout out to her local Seattle Sews Garments group!
Great post! The waistline would help me out – I’m petite so it’s sometimes difficult to know how much to shorten. How about the knee-line too? Is that a thing? Just looping off 6” isn’t always going to get you the most flattering result!
Thank you and yes! Shorten/lengthen lines for leg/arm would be great I think!
You wrote a great article, thank you for it. I vote for Jalie, a Canadian company, their patterns have all the markings and the directions are clear and concise.
Thank you! I just got three of the new Jalie patterns in the mail yesterday. They do make great patterns.
I love this!!! So many indie patterns have scanty markings and no adjustment or fitting lines. As an experienced garment sewer, I just shrug and do my own thing, but it would nice to know where a garment designer wanted things to line up or found the best place to shorten a garment.
Exactly! I find those marks really help me understand the garment itself.
Hi. Loved your article. I would agree that having bust, hip and waist markings on patterns would be helpful and often I have to guess where those might be on indie patterns. But as far as including finished measurements on the pattern pieces I think the indies win over the big 4 in that department. They almost always have the finished measurements on the pattern packet or instruction sheet which I feel is much better to having them printed on the paper. Especially given the huge ease on big 4 patterns. I fall in the area where the size ranges for big 4 patterns break and have often bought the pattern that fits my measurements only to discover that it is huge on me. In order to know the finished pattern measurements on a big 4 pattern before I purchase it I need to ask someone in the store to take it out of the packet, unfold multiple sheets of tissue and go looking for those little dots so I can see the measurement. Not even knowing which piece I need to look for to find it. I wish big 4 would include finished measurements on the envelop like the indies do.
Excellent point! I’d be happy with the finished measurements always on the envelope too!
I agree that finished garment measurements should be on the pattern envelope. Also, the bust point, all lengthen/shorten lines, and lines for elbow and knee.
Thank you for commenting! Excellent idea about the elbow and knee!
I agree. As a full busted women, it also really helps to have either the high bust and full bust measurements (hello, Helen’s Closet!), or the cup size that the pattern has been drafted for. It makes calculating the FBA so much easier.
I don’t think any of this is rocket science, so am puzzled why it’s not an industry standard!?
It’s so strange to me that despite giving so much ‘outside help’ with their patterns in the form of sew alongs, blog posts about adjustments, hacks etc, independent pattern companies don’t give the basic ‘inside help’. Bust points and waist and hip markings should really be an industry standard.
One of the things that frustrate me as a short person is the lack of lengthen and shorten lines. If there is one, it will be near the bottom/hem of the garment, when a lot of people need to add length or shorten above the waist as well.
I agree, shorten/lengthen lines would be so helpful!
Of the indies I think Closet Case does a great job. I also like Hot Patterns for their fashion forward styles and their block is easy for me to adjust to my figure. Otherwise my needs are met by Vogue and McCall’s. I never have a perfect fit out of the envelope, but those I mentioned are the easiest for me to adjust and are most consistent with their drafting (in my opinion).
Oh thank you for mentioning patterns! I have quite a few Closet Case patterns and do find they are an excellent example of a well made/designed pattern. I have one Hot Patterns top which I have made several times. I should look at them more closely! Thank you for that suggestion!
I would love to see bust, waist, hip, thigh and calf markings. I am long from shoulder to bust so I struggle to get cross over tops to fit, and I love them as they are great for breastfeeding. I also have big thighs and calves so I have to grade out for that and I am always guessing where they are.
It would also be nice if all pants patterns had short, bicycle short, capri, and full length lines on them.
I’ve noticed some of the patterns from Greenstyle Creations have lengthen and shorten lines which are great! Their Stride pattern also has an extra long length for it you are tall.
I would love to see Greenstyle start to include waistline, bust apex, and a few other markings as well on their patterns. They do a great job of having longer length options on their workout pants that’s true!
Thank you so much for bringing this up – it’s been a pet peeve of mine for years that indie designers often leave off these markings. Bust points, waistlines and hip levels should all be included as standard, along with lengthen/shorten lines above and below the waist, on sleeves, and on the legs of trousers.
Most indie designers do a good job with notches and all the other markings you need to sew things together but often let themselves down on the fitting markings we rely on for alterations. It can be really frustrating having to sew an extra toile (instead of just doing a flat pattern adjustment) because someone forgot to mark the natural waistline/write where the waistband is supposed to sit.
Yes exactly Janet. My continued frustrations drove me to write this article. I hope more indie companies will begin to include some of the fitting marks!
Let’s hope they’re reading!
I agree – though for many of them, the simple addition of notches would be a big step!! Bust points, waist points would be a huge addition to many of them! Lengthen/Shorten lines (or information in the pattern instructions on where that should happen) are also important to me.
I have made my own notches before, to keep things lined up!
Oh same here! 🤣
I would like to see bust, waist, knee/elbow markings on all the patterns. I’d appreciate it if the indie patterns had reliable drafting, it can be a bit of a lottery. I’d really like to see all (not just some) PDF patterns tiled for A4 and A0 printers.
Most of all, I want centimetres. I would buy so many more patterns if all the measurements were in centimetres. I gave up on inches-only patterns some years ago. My life is too short to print – tape – translate – adjust, before even getting to the fabric!
I am in the USA but I prefer centimeters too! I taught myself to sew on Ottobre Designs patterns, and found the precision of centimeters very easy to work with. Everyone should include them!
I never thought about that, because I am more or less just used to the indie patterns.
But I can totally see your point!
I normally just have to grade between sizes and didn’t dive deep in to alterations.
But you are absolutly right! That would help a ton.