Sunday, January 13, 2013

Fact or fiction? Each pattern company is different.


I used to think that each company had it's own particular "fit". Although it's true that independent pattern companies do get to chose whatever measurements they see suitable for their standard size (and they do) big pattern companies are all the same. (Sewaholic patterns, for example, are drafted for a pear shape, while Colette patterns are drafted for a bigger bust, and a broader torso.)

Now, independent pattern companies are very dear to our heart within the online sewing community, but the advantage of the Big 4 pattern companies -- Butterick, McCalls, Simplicity, Vogue -- is that they all use the same measurements for each size.

Wait a minute? This can't be true!

Yes! See for yourself! "Living proof that pattern brands fit the same!"
Fit for Real People, Palmer & Alto, p.21
The authors of Fit for Real People tested out the bodice bloc for each of these companies and found virtually no differences.

This is because since 1972, the Big 4 agreed on a set of measurements for each size. These very measurements are still in use today. The exception is Burda, which stands alone in using different measurements. This is why, you may get frustrated if you're used to working with Burda and you switch to a Big 4!
Fit for Real People, Palmer & Alto, p.27
The beauty of that is, if you order the "basic pattern" from any of these companies, you can figure out your maximum number of alterations, which will come up again and again and again. Once armed with this knowledge, it will be much easier to understand your fit problems!

This was a big breakthrough for me this week! I feel like the world of commercial patterns has suddenly opened up to me!! One of the reasons I've been mostly drafting my own patterns lately is that I was getting very discouraged with the fitting process. Now I'm thinking that my lack of experience with patterns was probably more to blame than the "uniqueness" of my figure.

What about you? Do you enjoy working with patterns and are you satisfied with the fit you are getting from them? How long did it take for you to feel comfortable with the fitting process?


  1. Interesting. Their basic bodice block may be the same but their fit differs substantially even within each 'section' (I'm using section to refer to V/M etc as they are owned by the same company now). In fact as far as fit goes, it seems like McCall's incorporates a lot more bust ease than Vogue (however all the above incorporate not only a lot more wearing ease and style ease as well compared to Burda, Patrones, and La Mia Boutique). I've had this discussion with other bloggers (why for instance, finished measurements of a slim fit tunic from new look are 38 inches for a bust size of 30.5-when the image on the pattern cover does not indicate this in any way shape or form XP). I get around it all by avoiding the big four as far as possible XP
    Out of interest, how old is that image up top? Would be interesting to know when they did the 'experiment'.

    1. The first edition of the book was published in 1998, with several editions thereafter (mine being a fourth edition from 2005) so I'm guessing before 1998.

  2. This is great information! Thanks so much for sharing. :)

  3. It's one thing to compare a basic bodice block but I think there are still changes in fit between each company due to the different amounts of ease added into each different style. I no longer use the size charts apart from as a guide. Now I check the tissue pattern for finished measurements, decide how much ease I want and choose my size that way, it's been very successful for me.

    1. Very true -- the only way to know how much design and wearing ease is included in the garment is by looking at the finished measurements.

  4. Wow, this is so interesting. I find though, that I still need to make adjustments on most patterns, depending on the style. But I have found that the big 4 are very similar (compared to indie patterns).

    BTW, I know you've been nominated a lot already, but I nominated you for some awards:

    Just wanted to acknowledge you for being inspiring to a newbie on the scene (me).

    Happy Tuesday!

  5. I agree with what another commenter said, the big four may use the same measurements or block, but they add different amounts of wearing ease in the same garment style, and they put it in different areas. I have found that McCall’s builds some of the bust measurement into the side seam, angling the seam out as it goes from waist to armhole. I make this seam more vertical, an modify darts because all my bust is out in front. One of the big four assumes most of the hip measurement is carried in butt and thighs, but for me it is evenly split between front and back. There is no perfect fitting pattern and even if you do find one, your body changes as you age. It is definitely worthwhile and fun to learn how to fit.


Thank you so much for taking the time to share your thoughts! Comments are moderated on posts older than 20 days, so they won't appear immediately. :-)

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