Adapt or Buy?

Have you ever got to the point when you’re looking at patterns and thought that you could get the same dress by tweaking a pattern you already own?

I bet quite a few people have, but do you actually do it?  What would you prefer to do – spend the time tweaking a pattern you already own or shell out for a new one?

I’ve been looking around on Etsy and eBay for scooter skirts, or skorts – shorts with an overskirt.  In this very narrow field there is little in the way of variation; your choices are basically this:


or this:

Do a search for ‘vintage shirt dress pattern’ though and the variations are amazing!  Pleats on the bodice, vertical and horizontal, collar styles and sizes, sleeves and their million and one forms, skirts…

I am increasingly ‘franken-patterning’ to make the garment I want.  My dress for Harry’s Christening and my current shirt dress project are the two that have really shown me the possibilities that open up when combing patterns.  I can take the elements that I love / want and combine them into one garment.

The next logical step up, I guess, from mashing two patterns together is to redraft part of the pattern, or draft new pieces.  I’ve started adding Etsy items to my favourites based on a design detail rather than because I want to buy them – they’re there as future inspiration.  My intention is to take an element I like such as a sleeve or collar and add it to another pattern that I own to make whatever is floating around in my head into a reality.

The vintage patterns that have mini drawings of the pattern pieces on the back are particularly useful in this regard.  They’re great should a piece go missing as you know what you’re aiming at, but they’re also fabulous as a starting point for that perfect bloused sleeve with a deep cuff…

Click on the Simplicity 8698 pattern above.  This pattern’s been sold now but you can see the technical drawings of the pattern pieces used to make the garment up.  I find this really interesting and useful.

I’m not sure whether using the images shared by someone, with the intent to sell the item, in this way is really fair though.  Could I get the same information else where?  Should I or is it OK to use the images even though I’m unlikely to buy the pattern?

However, if it looks like there’s an unusual or interesting construction technique, I will shell out for the pattern.  I’ve just bought a scooter skirt pattern (Simplicity 9332 for £2 inc P&P) on eBay; it’s the wrong size and would need grading but my motivation for purchase was actually to see how the overskirt is attached to the shorts.

I want to learn about the mechanics of it all so that I can apply it myself to create my own version of the garment, with my ideal elements (short design, length, etc etc).

What’s your take on all this?  Do you like mashing patterns together or would you rather just sew the garment as designed with your fit alterations?  Have you tried drafting – your own original designs or using a technical drawing as a starting point?  I’m curious!

15 thoughts on “Adapt or Buy?

  1. I’m apparently either too lazy or too timid to re-draft my patterns to change the details of a pattern. This is why my pattern collection is starting to take over my house.

  2. I have actually just done a mini version of this. I wanted to re create a particular skirt style, and saw a perrfect pattern from colette patterns. but i already own a skirt pattern that comes close to what I wanted to achieve. So i started by just changing the waistband a litlle bit. Soon I want to draft my one things but not quite yet.

    I think a good way to practice is to up cycle an old item and add something like pockets or sleeves. I am blogging about my adventure in adaptation tomorrow. I will mention your post. 🙂

  3. I am much too lazy to draft extra details. Its something I should do, especially as I went through a phase of buying pattern drafting equipment. Just this evening, I was looking for a pattern for a skirt, just because the straight skirt I bought yesterday turned out too tight. Apparently as a Pear shaped woman I am not supposed to wear straight skirts. So I spent a good couple of hours hunting skirts appropriate for my body type. Selected a couple of Burda patterns, then decided to check my VERY large stack of Burda magazines, and sure enough, all the patterns I choose are inside the magazines. I think its time I start using my Burda patterns, and stop buying new patterns. oops, what a long reply. But yeah, I think the way forward would be to learn how to draft the special details you want in an item. At the end of the day, most of the patterns nowadays are just a rehash of each other, with a few tweaks here and there.

    1. That’s what I think!
      And I’ve only got a few months of Burda but I can never remember what on earth is in them! Gonna have to have a think about how I can keep them in mind really….

  4. I’d love to have a go at mixing up patterns as you suggest but I never seem to have the time. There are too many good patterns out there I want to make as drafted so I never seem to get around to do anything more adventurous.

    1. It can be time consuming, but I do try and stick with mixing like with lik so far. So simplicity with simplicity as the block they started with will at least be the same….

  5. I think Dibs is right. Most patterns are an adaptation of a previous one. If you have a collection of basics the possibilities are endless I’m sure. I do want to do more pattern drafting, but I also want to make things quickly so I think thats whats holding me back. I’m constantly doing little drawings of frankenstyles. I’ve just got to stop faffing and do it! Loving the idea of a skort!

    1. I’m really hoping the skirt idea works out… I’m forever sketching – the age old problem of too many ideas and not enough time or resources!

  6. I can’t be bothered with the pfaff of frankenstyling patterns together! I am lucky in that I can do a sketch of what I want and draft the whole thing to suit. Putting different ages and styles and makes of patterns together is a lot of hassle, depending on the amounts of ease included etc. And body shapes differ so much, especially when comparing vintage to modern.

    1. Wow! I think it’ll be a while yet until I can draft a pattern from scratch! If I had the skills, that’s probably the way I’d go, but for the time being, franken patterning is the most appropriate for my skill set… It’s a good point regarding body shape and there fore pattern blocks changing, thankfully I’ve only mashed elements, such as a sleeve with a more modern bodice which hasn’t been too bad.

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