Simple Sew: Personalising your Patterns

Lorna Malkin Tips & Tricks 2 Comments

One of the great things about sewing is the freedom we get to express ourselves through the garments we make. While we can usually individualise our handmade clothes by the fabric we choose to sew with, sometimes it’s fun to take things a step further by personalising your patterns. Personalising your patterns can be a lot of fun, and much easier than you might think. If you’ve ever come across the term pattern hack or Franken-pattern it’s likely you’ll have seen examples of unique adaptations of a commercial sewing pattern. Read on for hints and tips on how to personalise your makes and our advice for creating your very own designs!

Pattern Hacks

Pattern hack is a term used to describe alterations you make to a particular sewing pattern. For instance, this could be something really simple like extending the length of a hem or adding belt loops and a waist-tie for a more defined silhouette. You could also try more dramatic alterations to really alter the look of the original garment. For example, using the bodice pieces from a dress pattern and transforming this into a top. Or separating the bodice and skirt of a dress to make a two-piece outfit. Check out some recent pattern hacks from our Simple Sew bloggers below.

Ideas for Pattern Hacks

Jenny, aka The Wardrobe Architect used the Simple Sew Sophia Skirt, shortened the hem and added a smart, button-front placket.


Below Klarke, aka Urban Seamstress, created this stunning maxi dress using the Simple Sew Juliette Tie-Back Blouse. 


Marie of Marie Stitched-up extended the hem and removed the drawstring tie for her take on this comfy Simple Sew Utility Dress.


Vicky of Sewstainability eliminated the front seam, rounded the neckline and added a belt for her version of the Simple Sew Cocoon Dress.



When it comes to a Franken-pattern, things get even more interesting. While this term may initially conjure up images of Mary Shelley’s infamous literary monster, a Franken-pattern is in fact a mélange of various elements from multiple sewing patterns. Sewists use various pieces or details from more than one pattern to make something completely unique. So for instance, you may want to use the bodice from one pattern and the skirt piece of another to make a dress. Or you may decide to mix and match pattern pieces from three or more patterns and make further alternations to these. This is great for experimenting with style and boosting your confidence in making alterations.

Fabric variations

Every commercial sewing pattern will list fabric recommendations to help you pick the best material for your make. However, as you become more confident it can be fun to experiment with different fabric types. This will help your makes really stand out form the crowd. Could you swap a woven fabric for a glamorous stretch velvet for a ultimate party dress for instance? Don’t be afraid to play around with options as this can really broaden the various looks you can achieve using one sewing pattern.

Designing your Patterns

Of course, if you want to make something truly unique then it might be worth looking into pattern drafting. Drafting patterns requires a high-level of skill but there are plenty of resources available to sewists eager to give it a try. Books are a great place to start so you can glean the key skills required. Check out Pattern Design: Fundamentals by Jennifer Matthews-Fairbanks to brush up on the basics or try How to Design Your Own Dress Patterns by pattern-making expert, Adele Margolis. Take a look at this useful post by the sewing directory for advice on what type of software to use for drafting outlines and where to get your patterns printed. 

Tools of the Trade

Whether you’re making slight alternations to a pattern or designing something new, we have plenty of sewing tools to help over on the Simple Sew shop. Check out the Burda Tissue Paper which is perfect for tracing patterns. We also have this Bohin metric ruler to guarantee precision when measuring your pattern pieces. Plus, discover our range of marking tools – essential components for any sewist’s arsenal.

We hope you enjoyed this post on personalising your patterns. Don’t forget to check our exciting competition! We’re asking you to submit your design ideas and become the creator behind our next Simple Sew pattern! Find out more here.

Comments 2

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    1. Post

      Hi Francoise,

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