Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Repeated Patterns

Well, here we go again.  I loved my first version of Vogue 8685 so much, I decided to make another.

The only changes that I made for this version were to shorten the sleeves and add length to the skirt.  Because the below the knee skirt pieces are 60" wide at the hem, I had to take a little bit of width out of them when I extended the length by 2.5".  I am slowly becoming accustomed to my serger and knit fabrics, although I am not sure I will ever prefer knits to wovens.  This rayon blend ponte was also very easy to work with, so that helps with the process.

But what I wanted to talk about today is using the same pattern multiple times.  Perhaps it is my guilt over not using the many, many other pattern options in my stash, but I suspect my issue with repeat pattern usage is for another reason entirely.

I started my sewing journey with hand embroidery, mostly counted cross stitch when I was probably four or five years old.  I didn't begin using a machine and making clothing until high school (and to this day, I prefer the control of a hand stitch to a machine one), so when I went to college I had very few pieces of hand made clothing in my wardrobe and only a few patterns in my possession.  Two of my early projects included two cotton sundresses from the same pattern, although they were made from different fabrics and had different style straps.

My college theatre department employed an incredibly talented but rather tough taskmaster who was the costume designer for the theatre and also taught a few classes related to her craft.  I vividly remember one day when I arrived at her costume history class in one of my cotton dresses; she made an offhanded comment asking if I knew how to sew any other pattern (she had previously seen the other "matching" dress).  She knew I had some sewing skills as I also worked for her in the costume department, and the words stung.

Now, looking back on the moment, I see how ridiculous it was that I took a flippant remark so personally.  But the comment has stuck with me all these years.  And I still feel as though I am cheating or being lazy by not trying something new.

But why not take advantage of a great pattern and get the most mileage out of it that you can?  In the last few years, I am getting more on board with using patterns over and over.  Maybe swap out a sleeve, or simply change the length of a hem; then again, why not make two or three of the same skirt.  A different type of fabric, or even a different print is probably enough to make most people think you have two entirely different garments in your wardrobe.  And some of the most chic people I can think of wear what is basically a uniform.  When you find a style of silhouette that works for you, why not use it to your advantage?!

All this to say, I am still working on getting Kristine's voice out of my head when I use the same pattern for a second or third time.  My impressionable mind gave her words a little too much weight.  And she did entrust me with a number of complicated projects over the two years I spent working for her, so her comment probably had more to do with her rather sharp tongue than any deficiency in my abilities she may have seen.

When I started sewing apparel a couple of years prior, another woman told me to avoid zippers at all costs because they were horrible to install.  That same lady didn't shy away from set-in sleeves on my very first dress project, so go figure.  And I should say, I have never been afraid of setting in a sleeve, but it took me years to get over the fear of installing a zipper.  It's funny the things that make an impression . . . sometimes for no real reason at all.

What do you think?  Do you have any sewing hangups that you attribute to some random comment you heard when you were starting out?  I have heard my fair share of stories, usually something about sleeves, or buttonholes, or zippers.  So silly, right?!  Just start at the beginning and work your way through.  Although, I have probably scared some people away from polyester.  I have strong words for synthetic fabrics, and I am not afraid to let people know what I think of the fiber.  Maybe I should take it easy on the synthetics.  But then again, maybe not!


  1. very cute dress. I love that you show us photos of your steps along the way.

  2. So sorry "Kristine" made such a hurtful remark. Words do hurt us often more than physical contact. You do a wonderful job on all your garments, repeats or not.

  3. Wow! That theatre designer was so ignorant as well as mean! Using a pattern again elevates its status to a TNT pattern which is a real plus to sewists. You've worked out all the fitting issues then you can spend your time making creative decisions. Your dress is lovely! Karen

  4. WOW its funny how hurtful remarks last our lifetime. I too use a pattern forever !! Your dress is fabulous !! Keep sewing what makes you HAPPY, I really love the classic polka dot fabric.

  5. Your teacher's remark was off-base. Most of us who sew are not professionals. We hve to fit our sewing in between working, dealing with our kids, doing the laundry, running errands, and finding time to socialize. Most of us also cannot sew a pattern straight out of the envelope! It takes time to adjust to get the fit right or to learn a new technique. That's why SO MANY of us rely on our tried-and-true patterns. Don't you feel one bit guilty for returning to those patterns you know work well on you and that fit into the rest of your lifestyle needs!

  6. Since most sewing patterns are a combination of elements that are not exactly unique - sleeves, darts, pleats, etc. I'm surprised that it bothered you about the repeating or not.
    I just feel like so many patterns are exactly the same these days and thus using repeats is a good thing, plus I am a cheapskate so I love to do it :)

  7. Laura Mae,

    You are an amazing creator of beautiful things, including your writing and photography. You will work the polka dots overtime; in a perfect world finding hosiery with dots running up the back, either on a visible seam or floating. Could a barrette be the hair accessory for this dress?

    Had you a blog in college, every one of your readers would have shut that shinola down. We admire you, each in our own way.

  8. Oh dear, I can only imagine what that designer would say about my wardrobe- when I find a pattern that I like and that fits well I make it in pretty much every colour. There are times and projects for developing skills and trying new things, and there are times and projects when you want something familiar and reliable.

    I think we all forget how fragile and self-conscious people can be when they're less experienced at a skill. I make it a point never to tell someone that a particular technique is scary because it might put them off doing it. If they don't know then they'll try it and probably master it. As a new knitter I was quite surprised how many more experienced knitters were scared of cables. I'd learnt how to do them before I'd learnt that they're supposed to be scary. (Which they aren't, at all, especially with a cable needle)

  9. I’ve got an 8th grade home ecteachers voice in my head every time I wash dishes- “We do NOT leave suds in our sinks! I think yours stinks more though. I love, love your well worn cutting board. I took commercial art for a semester and the instructor had us working over the same damn drawing all semester- pencil, charcoal, pen and ink, water color, tempra paint, more ink.... I got very sick of that drawing, but it sure went through some metamorphoses. I think a good pattern can be so much more productive than one sketch.

  10. Dear Laura,

    I think your work is inspiring and beautiful! I am a trained fashion designer and am in the process of training to be a professional pattern and sample maker, so I know something about the subject matter. True mastery of any subject means repeating it! So keep going with your self discovery for finding and developing the perfect dress/skirt/blouse. In addition, as someone who teaches design, I know that a lot of teachers, particularly in creative fields, use their power over their students in order to feel better about their own creative achievements. And I still remember that nasty ballet teacher that I had! The trick is develop a new mantra that lets you take on tough tasks (for me, it is the zipper fly or a coat) and to allow yourself to make mistakes and try again! Keep on! And am looking forward to your Oscar outfit roundup!

  11. I started sewing as a teenager and was self taught (with the help of the internet, thanks everyone). I didn't know which techniques were "hard", so I just tried stuff. It wasn't always successful but I learned so much. In my erarly twenties I took a sewing course at a local fabric store and many of the ladys there were so afraid of things. It was really weird for me to see those "grown up" ladys shy away from things they wanted to do, because they had apearently been told those things were hard or they couldn't do it.