alter - create - recreate
Hi there, I’m hacking
About 2 years ago, I learned of the term pattern hacking from the Instagram sewing community. In my early years, I associated hacking with coughing or severing; and much later, with illegal access to someone’s computer. The funny thing is, after understanding its connection with sewing, I realized I’ve been a hacker for as long as I can remember.
As a child, I learned to sew by trial and error, using neither patterns or muslins. In fact, I was oblivious to their existence; many people around me sewed but no one used them.
fresh looks from the same patterns
Until my thirties, I made most everything by measuring and cutting directly on fabrics. Then, when I started using patterns, I would cut all the pieces and used them in entirety. But by the time the novelty wore off, I went back to using whatever worked, mixed with some pattern pieces. Unawares, I was a natural hacker.
Getting more from what you already have
Now that we’ve established I’m a seasoned hacker; here’s why I think it’s a great idea: It allows you to create more with what you already have; it boosts your creativity and your confidence.
I couple that with two simple rules: Be fearless and fail forward.
Rule 1. Be fearless - If you are new to pattern hacking, invest in paper and muslin. They are accessible and inexpensive and they will allow you to test-fit, make adjustments and mark as any times as you need. Too, when you make mistakes and do it over, you’ll gain expertise.
Rule 2. Fail forward - Failing is an integral part of success. Treat it as the path you trod while travelling to your desired destination. Simply put, keep going no matter what.
Do it enough and you’ll eventually skip the paper and muslin most of the times.
Modify, alter, customize, make new versions
If you are new to pattern hacking, it’s best to start with a pattern that fits. When using multiple patterns to create a new version, I try to use the same brands -not always. Most times notches and markings match and work like a charm. That though, happens primarily when style lines are similar.
Simple ways to hack/customize your patterns
Tops and blouses - Measure down and extend lengths to create blousons, tunics, dusters and dresses - Measure up and cut for crop tops - Change the shape or length of sleeves - capped, drop, kimono, dolman or omit them - add a yoke or a collar
Necklines - Make a neckline higher or lower or change the shape - add a keyhole or insert - Create a cold shoulder or a cowl
Swimsuits and underwear - Use swimsuit patterns to make underwear or vice versa
Skirts - Change a pencil skirt to an A-line or vice versa - Add a yoke - Shape a hemline unevenly
Details - Ruffles - straight or bias - fulness, ruching, shirring - Add buttons
how to hack your patterns to create new ones
Reposition or omit darts replace with gathers and sew a tie belt
Relocate or expose a zipper
Make waistline higher or lower
Add trim, pleats, tucks or gathers
Colour block a plain pattern
Add or remove collars and cuffs
Add contrasting facings on right side
Combine bodices or blouses and pants to make jumpsuits
Add or remove inches to pants to make them baggy or skinny
Change pants length to capris, shorts
Add or remove pockets
Modifying your made for woven patterns for knits
Because of the stretch factor, knit patterns are generally drafted smaller than those created for wovens. Keep that in mind when making pattern adjustments. If your knit fabric is washable, it’s a good idea to prewash before cutting. That way you won’t have to compensate for possible shrinkage when you cut.
Note: Knits come in different weights and have varied degrees of stretch. Stable knits will need the least amount of adjustments when working with patterns created for woven fabrics.
Moderate stretch knits and Two-way stretch knits will require a greater amount of pattern adjustments.
Below left: The dress pattern recommended moderate stretch knits only. I found the right type of knit but it was the last bit on the bolt. I decided to take it and make do. Also, the pattern sizes were larger than my model. So, I had to make reduction adjustments.
Baby’s jumper: Here, I used a pattern meant for wovens. The recommended fabrics were Cotton, Broadcloth, Batiste, Pinwhale Corduroy, Challis, and Lightweight Pique.
I incorporated 3 separate knits. For the yoke, a lemon yellow lightweight knit overlaid with blue mesh; I also cut the sleeves out of mesh and for the body of the jumper, I used the moderate stretch knit.
Working with what’s on hand
As I was working with less fabric than initially planned, I had to make some changes.
Here are some of the decisions I made before cutting the fabric:
To ensure I’d have enough material to make a jumper for the baby, I trimmed about 10 inches off the 60 inches wide fabric along the entire yardage.
Reduced the amount of gathers and the depth of the wrap on the adult jumpsuit. With a shallower than intended wrap depth, I inserted a modesty panel to keep the back portion from separating during movement.
I also trimmed a few inches off the long sleeves and eliminated the thought of a matching tie belt.
Take away: Approach your DIY sewing projects with an explore options; and try ideas mindset.
To conclude, pattern hacking does mean at some point you’ll spend less. But if you have a creative heart, you’d probably buy those you think you’ll learn from.
It never kept me from purchasing the patterns I wanted. But I’ll tell you what it did: I look at every pattern as a sloper/starting point.
If you are unfamiliar with slopers, they are blocks or templates for basic garments that are used to develop patterns.
I hope you found something useful to take along your sewing journey. Happy and successful pattern hacks await you.
Thank you for stopping by.
If the Lord will, see you next time.