What type of sewing pattern should I choose?

Make choosing a sewing pattern easy - we discuss paper, digital, printed fabric sewing patterns, as well as drafting software and other pattern sources

It’s exciting times for sewers as new sewing pattern companies have sprung up making pattern choices much more interesting. But what type of pattern do you choose? Choosing the right pattern is important, it’s the first building block to a successful garment

Tracing a paper pattern


This has been the most longstanding way of making and sewing your own clothes. Printed patterns usually have 3 elements: the envelope, the tissue pattern and the instructions.


  • You’ve a tangible pattern that can be used time and time again

  • Comes in an envelope that can store everything together

  • Many have multi-sizes so you can cut out the size that best matches your measurements.

  • Making adjustments for a better fit can be marked on the pattern


  • Well-used patterns become tatty and torn. Although you can make a duplicate pattern from freezer paper or from special squared pattern paper as shown in the photo above.

wild ginger patternmaster.jpg


Pattern drafting software is a digital computer programme that allows you to input your own measurements and print out a personalised pattern block and eliminates some of the fitting issues. Here's a couple if you are considering buying software:

Lutterloh - The pattern system consists of written instruction an instruction DVD, sewing hints, fashion styles with its corresponding sewing patterns, a cardboard tailors curve and a tool-set.

Soft Byte - Fittingly Sew is a UK based company whose main products are built-in pattern and body blocks for woven fabrics. The software gives you full control of where to place darts, tucks, pleats, as well as  seam allowances.

Wild Ginger - PatternMaster V5 software has a host of software packages for pattern drafting and looks like pattern envelopes with each CD-ROM containing one garment with a variety of variations much like a regular. The come with tutorials to show you how to save the patterns with your won measurements, and there's no size limitations! You can get a demo to download before you buy which is really useful.

TIP: Do make sure that any software you buy is compatible with your PC before buying!


Most of the independent sewing brands now offer the digital choice and being able to download a pattern from the internet is becoming a very popular way to buy patterns.

  • There's no print production or postage charges so these can be a cheaper way to buy patterns
    (but not always).

  • Pattern is immediately downloadable

  • The pattern can be saved on your computer and printed out as many times as you need for making different sizes or alterations.

  • Many of the patterns are exclusive

  • There can be a much wider range to choose from

Some sewers don't like to join the printed A4 pages together to form the pattern pieces but this should take no longer than 20-30 minutes.

Waffle Patterns PDF sewing patterns are particularly good quality PDF's and have arrows on the pages to help line up the pattern.

Here's just a few of our favourites: Designer Stitch, Waffle Patterns, Go To Patterns, Lekala, Sewaholic, DG Patterns, Tilly and the Buttons, Sew Over It, Megan Nielsen, Liesl & Co, Burda Style, Tessuti, Victory Patterns, Jamie Christina.


Fabric or pattern first
This is the age old question. The pattern has been designed with specific fabrics, fabric weight, drape and stretch in mind. If you’ve a certain fabric in mind, make sure that you choose a pattern that includes it on the back of the envelope. Fabrics are usually listed from the easiest to the more difficult.

Easy, Intermediate and Advanced
Most patterns will have a sewing rating to show how difficult the pattern is to sew from beginner (easy), intermediate and advanced. The rating can be quite subjective and can vary between the pattern companies but it’s a good stating point. To understand more about the pattern, you should read the insturctions to see whether it has techniques that you’re happy to tackle buttonholes and adding a zip.

skirt printed pattern kit from clothkits.jpg


Some companies offer their patterns printed directly onto the fabric providing a kit that contains everything needed to make the garment. This makes the dressmaking process quick and easy, and it's ideal for beginners and experienced sewers.

Clothkits has a fab range of fabric kits. This skirt is designed exclusively by Minimodern and has a fun pet and sounds fabric design that's been printed with a special pattern  guide so that you just select the size you want and cut! Available in sizes 8-20 for £38 and along with many other skirt and dress designs from Clothkits.


  • Very simple to make and follow

  • the kit contains printed fabric ready to cut and sew, zip, thread, label and the step-by-step instructions


  • Can be more expensive but remember this does include fabric and everything you need

  • You are limited to the fabric chosen

Magazines that come with full sewing pattern pullout


Magazines with pattern pullouts
There are a wide selection of books and magazines that feature patterns including Burda style is a beautifully laid out magazine with over 40 patterns in each issue that offers a whole world of fashion for sewers. All patterns are rated by sewing expertise and there’s something for everyone, from the beginner to the more advanced. A great magazine bringing the craft of sewing to a new generation of fashion designers, fashion enthusiasts and DIY’ers. Priced at £9.99 per issue.

Others to look out for our La Maison Victor, My Image and Ottobre Design.

If you have just started to make your own clothes, choose a relatively simple pattern with a not too fitted style such as an A line skirt or tunic top. Many sewing patterns companies will have their own collection of patterns for beginners, trust us, you’ll make something you’ll love forever.

Other features you might find useful

How to take accurate body measurements - Simple tips to help you get the best fit possible!
Threads to get good results - How to choose quality threads that are right for the job
Dress for my body shape - Learn to balance your silhouette and choose styles that suit it!
Beginner's guide to sewing pattern - Get to grips with pattern lingo.