Friday, November 20, 2015

5 More: Tried and True Shirt Patterns

It's Day 20 of the Bimble and Pimple Sewvember on Instagram. If you've been playing along, you know that today's photo prompt is tried and true. As I was mentally sifting through my mountain of patterns looking for the "best", I was feeling a little guilty about picking just one. It's like choosing a favorite ice cream. My favorite depends largely on the season, or my mood. So as not to hurt the feelings of any of my beloved stable of indie designs, I've whittled it down to a small group. Whether they are the most worn, or the most sewn, these are the 5 shirt patterns I come back to again and again.

For me the value is in the versatility. Often the simplest design, the kind you scratch your head and think "do I really need a pattern for this?" are the best because they leave the most room for you to modify them. It's an added bonus if the designer offers modification tutorials for a that pattern.

When looking for a pattern to become your "tried and true" look past the bells and whistles to the core structure. I think about the design lines I'm looking for and decide which core features I need to achieve the look I want. If you want a set in sleeve, or bust darts, find a pattern that offers them because they are crucial to the fit. If you want a scoop neck, or a hi/lo hem those can be easily added without significantly impacting the over all fit.

1. Basics Tank from Cali Faye Collection
Image from Cali Faye Collection
Core Features: Tank top, No Dart

This top fits me like a glove with very little alteration. It does not have a dart, but makes me feel like a million bucks so I don't mind. The elliptical neckline and curved hem flatter my best features. It is amazing that something so simple can do so much. This is my very favorite woven tank tee.

Modifications: Elastic Waist Dress (you can purchase the dress as a separate pattern, more experienced seamstresses can add their own). I would love to lengthen this into a shift dress, haven't done it yet.

2. Lou Box Top from Sew DIY
Image From Sew DIY
Core Features: Dolman Sleeve

Perfect simplicity. Easy to add a skirt. Simple sewing at it's best.

Modifications: Elastic Waist Dress, Cover Up, Button Back.

3. Scout Tee from Grainline Studio
Image from Grainline Studio
Core Features: Set in sleeve, no dart
I've never made this pattern as directed. I tinker with the edges (the sleeve length, hem shape, and neckline), but at the core it's still a Scout Tee.

Modifications: Knit Scout, Long sleeves, Tiny Pocket Hem, Split Neck, Button Back (I did this, but haven't blogged it yet.)

4. Archer Button Up from Grainline Studio
Image from Grainine Studio
Core Features: Button-down, cuffed sleeve, collar with collar stand, back yoke, no dart.

I love this pattern for the sew-a-long instructions on the Grainline blog. The pictures are very detailed, allowing the novice to achieve a very polished finish. I recommend a crisp cotton for your first try. I once made with a 10 ounce denim which is so thick it made the finishing a hot mess.

Modifications: View B is well worth the sew. I modified the ruffle placement to be more flattering on me.

5. Alder Shirtdress from Grainline Studio
Image from Grainline Studio
Core Features: Button-down, no sleeves, collar with stand, back yoke, dart

I consider this to be an extension of the Archer Button Up because the mix and match possibilities are great. Use the Grainline tutorial to add the Archer Sleeves to the Alder and you have a pattern for all seasons.

Modifications: View B is just as good as View A. Add the Archer Sleeves. View A as shirt. View B as shirt.
1. Alder + Archer 2. Lou Box Dress 3. Split Neck Scout Tee 4. Broken Stripe Lou Box Top
Sure, my "tried & true" is pretty heavy with Grainline patterns, but if they were crap I wouldn't keep buying them. Actually, there are many great top patterns out there. Look for a pattern with good instructions, and good support information as part of the pattern or offered on the designer's blog. Make the pattern based on your actual measurements. Maybe you'll love the fit, but probably you won't, fit is subjective. Use your rough draft to tweak the pattern to your own specifications. Do you need a full bust adjustment? Are darts always a little low? Do you grade between sizes? It's worth the effort to figure out these modifications, then you can whip up a top that makes you feel like a million bucks over, and over (and over) again.

What are your tried and true patterns? What makes you sew the same thing again and again?

Check out #bpsewvember on Instagram for more tried and true pattern idea.


What's up with 5 More? 
I suspect that if I'm up into the wee hours of the night searching for a certain style of sewing pattern, others are probably shopping for it, too. With the 5 More series I try to sift through the mountains of patterns, and possibilities in search of 5 safe bets, for good results. 


  1. This is incredible and so inspiring! Thanks so much for sharing this with us!❤️

    1. Thanks Rachel! I'm a little obsessive about sorting/collecting patterns by type, glad the information is useful. :)

  2. Great roundup. I bought the Cali Faye based on your love for it a while ago. I've a couple of knit tops I adore - like you my finished versions are well and truly tweaked away from the originals. I love the tessuti Mandy top (free) - perfect for work tops and play tops in different fabrics, I love the liesl and co maritime top, just a recent make. I love the style arc Elle pants - not for everyone but great work pants for me.

    1. Great suggestions! I would love a go-to pants pattern, will have to try the Elle. Tweaking is definitely the key to a great fit, but pants seem like such a hassle to tweak. I've gto to get over that hang up!