Hack Yes! – Big Love for “Pattern Hacking” in Sewing

April 20, 2017

I’m excited to say I have a little feature in the May issue of Sew Magazine discussing “pattern hacking” and my favorite patterns for this type of inspired sewing. Also mentioned in the article is the new line of Simplicity patterns developed specifically for hacking, which I thought was a really interesting marketing angle, so I figured now would be a perfect time to elaborate on one of my favorite things about sewing – hacking stuff up! …but, you know, constructively. With intent šŸ˜‰

Check me out in ‘Pattern Hacking 101’ found in issue 97 of Sew Magazine! ^^

So What Is Pattern Hacking:
In the simplest terms, pattern hacking is when you take a basic, commercially or independently made sewing pattern and use it as template to make your own customizations and inspired designs. You can also take two existing patterns and combine them to get a totally new look. “Hacking” patterns is similar to starting with a self-drafted pattern block except you’re skipping a lot of extra steps by altering the existing design and wearing ease, implemented by the original designer, instead of having to invent your own. It’s a much easier way to get from Point A to Point B, especially if the pattern you’re hacking already fits you really well. That becomes your pattern block.

Shown above: A hacked Grainline Studio Archer Button-Up

Why Hack A Pattern:
All of my inspirations for pattern hacking stem from design ideas I have, or garments I’ve seen in stores, and can’t find ready-made sewing patterns for. I can also save a little money by not buying a brand new pattern if I know I can easily alter one that’s already in my stash. If you have a well-fitting sewing pattern that you’ve previously made alterations to (or even better, found one that you didn’t need to make any fitting alterations to!), there’s really no need to work backwards and draft your own pattern block. It’s much easier to make design changes to a pattern you’ve worked through before instead of starting all over again from scratch with an unfamiliar pattern.

Shown above: A hacked Lark Tee

Which Patterns Work Best For Hacking:
I like to stick with simple, basic patterns like plain t-shirts, button-up shirts, simple shift dresses, and other plain wardrobe staples. They provide a great canvas for adding your own unique customizations. The two patterns I’ve ā€œhackedā€ the most are the Archer Button-Up Shirt and the Lark Tee, both by Grainline Studio. I love Grainline patterns! Jen has so many beautiful, uncomplicated silhouettes that are perfect for building on.

Shown above: New Pattern Hacking collection by Simplicity – a tee, a dress, a cardigan, and knit pants

Some Of My Favorite Hacks:
The Anthropologie inspired shirtdress I made two summers ago is definitely one of my favorite Grainline Archer hacks but I also really love all of the variations I’ve made with Lark, each with a different hem length or sleeve style. Shown below is a Lark t-shirt dress I made last Fall.

A Word Of Caution:
There’s definitely a fine line between altering the design and altering the fit of a pattern. Sometimes making too big of a design change can totally throw off the fit and balance of your garment, making it disappointingly unwearable. It’s definitely possible to over-hack a pattern! If you try to make fitting changes and design changes at the same time you might be less than thrilled with the results. Make sure you start with a simple pattern that already fits you really well and use that as your base, and always always always trace the original pattern and make all of your hacks on a separate copy! When in doubt, make a practice version on cheap fabric before cutting into your precious stuff.

I use Pellon 830 pattern tracing cloth or Swedish tracing paper for tracing all of my patterns.

Pattern hacking is a really great way to explore your creativity, plus you get to feel a bit like a pattern designer yourself. Pattern Hacks don’t have to be elaborate, often times I make very subtle changes but there’s a lot of satisfaction in tweaking something so it’s suits your personal taste exactly. There’s also potential to save money when you buy a basic pattern and make many different variations using just that one pattern. I really enjoy taking a capsule approach to both my wardrobe and my pattern stash. It feels good to get more out of less!

What are some of your favorite pattern hacks? I’d love to see them!