Adding Variety to Your Favorite Pattern

creating variety

Have you ever found a sewing pattern that worked up so perfectly you wanted to wear it every day for the rest of your life? Or spent hours and hours achieving the perfect fit on a pair of pants? Sometimes it can be difficult to dream up variations on your favorite patterns to make them different enough from what is already in your closet, while still taking advantage of a pattern that just “works” or one that you’ve invested hours in. Here are some ideas of how to add variety to your favorite pattern:

Fabric choice. This is one of the most obvious ways to add variation to a pattern. Of course you can choose a different color, but what about trying stripes or a print instead of a solid? You can also experiment with different types and weights of fabric. For example, your favorite shift dress pattern might work just as well in a wool blend for fall as it does in a crisp cotton for summer. Or what about corduroy instead of denim for those perfect fitting pants? It’s probably best to stick with the fabric types suggested on the pattern envelope, unless you are prepared to rework the pattern in terms of fit and drape.

Lengthen or shorten. This variation might require a bit more trial and error, but it’s worth it; especially if you are hoping to reinvent a piece for a different season. You could add length to a favorite blouse to turn it into a summer-y tunic, or shorten a pants leg into capris or even shorts. A more subtle place to play with length is in the sleeves. This can make a big difference in the look and function of a top or dress, especially if you are adding sleeves or making it sleeveless.

Embellishments. You don’t need to break out the BeDazzler, but consider what embellishments you can add to the fabric to kick things up a notch. Interesting trim, a bit of lace, or well-placed embroidery can make a big impact. It’s worth a trip down the notions aisle; just don’t get too carried away (unless that’s your style).

Collars, pockets, and closures. Take a look at the item you’ve already made from the pattern. Is there anything you can add, take away, or hide? What about adding a collar, or replacing the peter pan collar with a mandarin collar? How would an invisible zipper (or an exposed zipper!) change the look and function of your favorite dress? What about a bold button choice or adding pockets? It might be worth it to make some rough sketches to see how potential elements will work together.

Don’t forget the tiny details. Even a small detail like using a contrasting bias trim can make a big difference and keep the project interesting even though you’ve been there, done that.

How do you add variety to patterns you’ve made time and time again? Let me know in the comments!

Come back to the Craftsy blog tomorrow for a wonderful May giveaway!



When I want to change up a pattern I love, I create my own fabric. It is a fun and easy way to get something original and a completely different look every time.

Lay out the panel after you have cut it and lay over it a texture like lace or crochet, then spray a colored dye over entire piece. Remove lace. Pattern is left on your fashion fabric. Rinse thoroughly. Dry and Sew. Nice topic, Thanks Crafty!


Melissa, what a fantastic idea! Do you have a favorite product for this application?

nita ragan

WOW!!! that’s a GOOD one!!!….LOVE it!!! will SURE TRY!!!….THX!!! xxxxxx


I’ve gotten a lot of use out of a favorite pants pattern by adding details to it. It’s a basic pattern with darts, no waistband, and a side zip, but it fits well. I’ve altered the look by creating a waistband for it, adding belt loops, creating a fly front, welt pockets, patch pockets, side seam pockets, wide legs, narrow legs, and next I want to try adding pleats down the side seams. I’ve gotten a lot of use from that pattern!

Robin Burns

I like pleating or shirring a fabric section, such as for the bodice yoke, before cutting out the pattern. Doing ragged seams inside out also can add a modern touch without changing the dimensions of a perfect pattern!

nita ragan

GREAT!!! —THX!!….I’ve done most of these & MORE!!…The creatve part is the FUN part!!…

nita ragan

There was a lady on PBS several years ago on “Sewing Connections” named Shirl Adams & this was her main philosophy!!.—-she’d use ONE basic pattern, restyle it & embelish it!!….She was MY FAV… of AAALLLL of the sewing shows!!…, ‘coz that’s definately also MY WAY of creating!!…I could write a book on my ideas!!…I was just looking @ some of her books this past week……


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