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!