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NVL's new sew along: The Plain Pattern Project

Ah, girlie colors again. I have missed thee.

First off, I would like to thank everyone who participated in my Make and Mend sew along. It was the largest group I've ever had for a sew along, so thank you all immensely. I still have a couple of projects to finish up (the burlap bag included) so stay turned for those. 

Now that we have mended some stuff, perhaps we are all in the mood to make some new stuff!?

I often tout the virtue of the basic and plain. I love how it can be exceptional and beautiful despite more elaborate or even glamourous things being around. Even in life, I look for the clean and efficient, the streamlined and intentional. I guess it's my nature. 

Not to say I don't like a bit of flair now and then, I most certainly do, but when that translates to patterns, elaborate ones can all look the same no matter the changes done to them. It's that one detail, that main highlight that made us gravitate toward that design in the first place. When you are working with basic styled designs, there really are no limits like that because  you can change or flair it up as you see fit.

We all have patterns like that. We all skip over them thinking, "I'll get to it later. It's 'too boring' for what I have in mind." Well, later is now.

That's what I plan on doing with this sew along. You have until the end of the year, so that's plenty of time to make three different garments. The rules are as follows:

1) The pattern must be plain, basic, whatever you want to call it. 
No real frills. Try and find a pattern with no yokes, or fancy sleeves, or asymmetrical anything.

2) It has to be a pattern you have never made before. 
The challenge in this will be to make the garment fit well starting from scratch.

3) One of the three garments should be made as close to the original design as possible.
I feel in order to respect the original design, and to garner appreciation for the idea of the plain pattern, we should make one up as it was originally intended. After that, go nuts. Cool fabrics, button treatments, alterations, whatever!

These are the patterns I'm thinking would fit well for this project. 
I've passed by a few of them for far too long. 

So what do you all think? Right now it's an idea just to get everyone's feet wet. This would also be a great chance for people new to sewing who want to get started. I'll be posting more about this in the coming weeks. I think this could be really fun! 

For those who are interested, here is a banner you can use.
And the Flick Forum is up :)
Happy sewing!!


  1. I think this is a fantastic idea! Thank you for having such a long deadline, I actually think I might be able to participate that way. I'm assuming from your pictures that we could select anything-- blouse, dress, skirt, etc?

  2. Hi, I've been following your blog for a while. I love this idea. In fact, I picked up a coat pattern last year (Burda 7548) and have altered it once for a slightly different coat and again for a vest. I was pleased with the results each time. The one thing I haven't done is make the coat exactly to the pattern provided!

  3. This sounds like a lot of fun. Now I just need to find a pattern in my current size. I would love to make a few dresses for the fall.

  4. Wow I love your sew along, with 3 kids is hard to follow any of the sew alongs I have seen, but I guess I can follow yourse, I have to look tonight for that perfect pattern for this am thinking a dress, I will know for sure tomorrow!! again Thanks!!!

  5. I really like this idea! And that it runs through the summer into the winter allows a lot of leeway - imagine something made up in light linen for summer, but in a lovely wool with more dramatic sleeves for winter!

    As you can no doubt tell, this I'm excited by this! Now to see what patterns I could use...

  6. I think this is a great idea. I'm still pretty new to sewing and could definitely use more vintage basics in my wardrobe. Plain is good, given my skill level at the moment. So then I have to decide what to make. Skirt, shirt, pants, dress... Not really up to jackets and more complicated stuff just yet. I could really use three new pairs of pants. Of course, I could also use three new blouses and skirts are always a good idea... Oh dear, please don't make me choose!

  7. I'm glad you all are liking the idea. I know a lot of people who sew who don't like to make up a garment more than perhaps twice. Me, if I get a good fit, I'll make it up ten times or more!

    I think this will give people great perspective on the subtleties of how a dress can fit if made over and over.

    And yes, you can pick a never made before jacket or blouse or dress. A skirt too, I guess, though I think a skirt might be too simple.

  8. A blouse. Definitely a blouse. I have the pattern and the fabric for the first copy. I know the alterations to make for the second copy. Not sure yet what to do for the third. But I'll figure something up. Cool idea!!

  9. I really like this idea. Some of my favourite sewn garments are the third and fourth versions of a simple pattern.

    Would you like the pattern to be vintage or can it be vintage repro?

  10. PepperToast, the era (or lack of) is your choice. Use a modern pattern if you like, I'm cool with that :)

    For those who are interested in doing the sew-along, Ill add some rooms to the Flick group so we can show the patterns we want to use and progress. I'm really looking forward to seeing what everyone is gonna be doing.

  11. I think I work through dresses much more slowly than most people, but I'm going to use this as inspiration to pull out my first vintage pattern and stop being afraid of it! Mail Order shirt dress, here I come!

  12. I love this project idea! Think it'll be just the thing for a novice like me. I recently bought a few new patterns (2 dresses, 1 skirt) so I'll need to seek some advice on the most basic one of the three. Thanks Shelley, you've given me a perfect excuse to buy some fabric tomorrow!

  13. And I should have added in there - thank you for Make and Mend 2011. My first sewing challenge, but definitely not my last. I really enjoyed it - cheers!

  14. Thanks for the feedback Shelly. I'll sift through the patterns this weekend! The reason I asked is BurdaStyle has had some nod to vintage styles lately and they come in my size. A while back I scored a lot of lovely vintage dress patterns on Ebay and when they arrived, I loved all of them but most of them are size 40 - 42 which is quite a bit too large for me :(

  15. I have what has become known as my 'forever dress' because I made the jacket part of vogue 8146 and have never got around to making the dress because I thought the fabric I had chosen was too boring. It matches the pattern picture perfectly. I have never made a dress of any kind before. This now gives me the inspiration to finish this dress and do more exciting things after. Thanks.

  16. This is a really good idea. I find that with "plain patterns" there tend to be great construction details that I would have missed if I was flustered with a more complicated pattern.

  17. I'd like to join, but I don't blog - I have a flickr account though. I've spent the last two months with one pattern (four blouses and a shirtdress so far) and I love it! Changing trims, working out the best construction methods, it's great. For this project, I'll move on to another shirtdress pattern.

  18. Hi Shelly,
    I was so happy to find your blog tonight. I am really excited about the plain pattern project. Please count me in..
    I love the idea that we will be using one pattern. Great idea.
    I cant wait to get out my pattern stash and choose one.
    Are we to post our pattern and fabric choices.Or wait ,until we finish the first item?
    Sew excited!!! Happy sewing, Judy

  19. Hi Judy,
    Please post pattern and fabric choices, that would be splendid.

  20. Hi Shelly... I will get them posted this weekend. I am looking so forward to this challenge. thanks for having it.
    Happy sewing, Judy

  21. I need dresses and would definitely like to try this project! I was thinking to use vintage Butterick 4125's dress pattern. I'm finishing up one in linen and hope to make one in peachskin poly and another for winter in black knit. And would a princess-seamed "8 great looks one easy pattern"dress work for the project too?

  22. This sounds like an awesome idea! And I second the thanks for the long deadline. I usually have trouble participating in sew alongs because the deadlines are too short for me. I am going to rummage through my pattern stash now and pick a pattern. Does it have to be vintage? Can it be vintage inspired?

  23. I would love to join your sewalong. I often make the same dress a couple of times in a row because it's so much quicker the second time. I already have a pattern in mind. Butterick 3736 which is a 40s shirtdress.

  24. I absolutely want to do this! I've been putting off my own sewing and this is the perfect impetus! Thank you!

  25. hi just came across your blog (it's lovely I must add) but I'm really liking this sew-a-long, think I may give it a go 9it would be my first) especially with the long deadline just have to get a few things on my list ticked off first then a rummage in my pattern stash to see what i can find :)

  26. This sounds really interesting! I tend to gravitate towards projects with "special" details (and I love adding in trims/modifications) but they stand out so much I don't wear them as often as the plainer, usually store-bought, things in my closet.

    I might make the dress from Vintage Vogue 1137 ... there's a very plain option, and then one with pockets which might be fun to play around with after making the simple version.

  27. Oh this looks fun! I have recently been pulled back into sewing and this sounds like the perfect thing to get back into the swing of it. I'll have to rummage thru my patterns to find the perfect project. :)

  28. I often sew more clothes according to a pattern which is my current favorite.I'm in!!

  29. Woo hoo! We got a great crowd going. Can't wait to see everyone's projects!


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