Twice is Nice: Easy Sewing Patterns

Thanks to my mom's skill–and patience–the first garment I ever made using the sewing machine was a gathered skirt. It seemed quite mysterious to my eight-year-old mind, but for my mom this was truly an easy sewing pattern. And now that I've sewn a bit, I see the beauty in the simplicity. Here's the pattern.

I first made this zippered top in a bold, linen
print. Once I had the construction figured out,
I knew it would be perfect in a solid color.
I'm so pleased with the collar shaping on this
zippered top. This pattern is now one I will go
back to again and again.






First cut fabric. You'll need a waistband which is one strip of fabric 3" x waistline + 2".

Then cut the skirt body–one piece of fabric using the waist-to-knee measurement + 2" x twice the hip measurement.

Then construct the garment. Gather the skirt. Add the waistband. Insert a zipper. (True confession–my mom put the zipper into that skirt for me.) And then hem.

Easy–and for a second grader–high fashion.

Even though I don't wear a lot of gathered skirts anymore (thank goodness), I still have found a way to make even complex patterns easy.

Want to know my secret? Don't ever make anything just once. That's the secret. I learned this at a workshop years ago. The premise is that all the pattern's "problems" get solved the first time through–fit, construction details, closure choices, and fabric options, to name a few. Just think of all the decisions you make when you use a new pattern.                

The second time through you don't need to think about any of the logistics, and you can simply have the fun of the making and adding your own customized touches. When I look through my favorite wardrobe pieces, many of them are similar in style. I wear tank tops with blazers year round. I only use one tank top pattern now. It fits and I can make the changes in the neckline, color, and trims without having to go to another pattern. I've narrowed my blazer selection down to three. I barely need to read the instructions anymore. Even though an individual technique might take some time, the whole process, from cutting to hemming, is now easy.

Why? I don't run into any surprises along the way. 

Because of this, I find myself willing to take a few more risks with fabric choices or notion options since I have a good sense of how the pattern is going to work out in the end. It's the equivalent, I guess, of rereading a good book. By having an understanding of where the story is going, your mind and heart can glean other bits of wisdom along the way.

So pull out a pattern you've tried before. Try it again. It may be your easiest sewing pattern yet.

And if you need a sewing book for new projects, inspiration, or sewing techniques, check out the downloadable eBooks in the Sew Daily Shop. it's instant sewing gratification.

I'm wondering if other Sew Daily readers find that using patterns more than once puts them into the "easy" category. Do you re-use and revise? I'd love to hear your stories.

Happy stitching,

Other sewing topics you may enjoy:


Easy Sewing Projects, Sewing for Beginners, Sewing Patterns and Projects

11 thoughts on “Twice is Nice: Easy Sewing Patterns

  1. Yes I do use the same pattern over and over again for my daughter. She found a pattern she liked and I have made at least 6. I don’t need to read the pattern and can turn one out in a couple of hours since I don’t have to read it and figure it out.
    Thanks for the article. It was very nice!

  2. Hi Rose! I loved your article as it did remind me of my first sewing project in a 6th grade crafts class. It was for a short sleeve blouse you pulled over your head – one of those “jiffy” Simplicity patterns that only involved a front and back, with a round neckline and one button over the back keyhole. Little did I know then that this little project was teaching me a lifetime lesson in some great basics on how to read a pattern envelope, laying out the pieces, cutting fabric, tracing darts, pinning, using a sewing machine and how to hem by hand. It was a 5-week project that gave me the prettiest little pink cottony-satin blouse that I wore at least once a week, I was so proud of it! I then did a lot of sewing in high school and college, using the same patterns over and over for skirts, pants and peasant blouses – I had a very boho look back then! I later also had the honor to make 2 wedding gowns for my friends, both very different gowns and each quite elaborate, but I got the bright idea to first baste a mock-up using inexpensive fabrics to tailor to the bride’s measurements and then taking the mock-up apart to use the revised pieces as the final pattern. It was so helpful to make those mock-ups and experience the difficulties involved. It also took away the fear of cutting into the final pricey fabrics for the real wedding gown. I do have a few favorite patterns I use over and over, and you can be sure that I first made mock-ups of each. There’s nothing like a personalized pattern, isn’t there? 🙂

  3. Yes, I agree! I’m always amazed at how easy a tricky pattern is the second time around. And the second try usually turns out a nicer result too. I sew a lot for my 2 daughters who are close in age, so repeating favorite patterns but just adding length to skirts and dresses is an easy way to make things they like again after they grow out of them. However, I don’t think I re-use patterns often enough, I am usually inspired by something new!

  4. my mother was a, um, substantial woman. and very curvy. she was an excellent seamstress, but found herself unable to fit herself or work with knits. i found a pattern with princess seaming front and back as well as side seams and a center front opening, which allowed many seams to alter from. i was able to adapt the pattern to fit her and we eventually created a wardrobe of 12 dresses from that one pattern– including the formerly un-doable knits. the first dess was difficult to fit properly, but once that one was adjusted, the other eleven were easy!

  5. I’m still using patterns I had in the 70’s, a couple of good basic patterns that you are happy with the fit and the variations are endless. Same with sewing for my husband there is a pants pattern that he likes, a golf shirt and a dress shirt and they are probably 80’s patterns and I still have some of my mum’s patterns from the 50s.

  6. I’m sewing a salwar kameez without a pattern for the second time. It’s much easier this time & I’m much less stressed 🙂 I tell my son (he’s almost 10) that the more you do something the easier it gets! Of course things that you enjoy are easier to do than thinks you aren’t interested in, but don’t tell him that 😉

  7. I, too, reuse patterns. I’m short and curvy, with really narrow shoulders, so I’m difficult to fit. Once, I get the fit right, I depend on fabric, trim and detail variations to change the look of my clothes. Most people have a hard time believing it’s the same pattern, even when I point it out!

    I have a basic skirt pattern, a curvy sheath, and a jacket I’ve used over and over with different fabrics and combinations. I made the sheath, with the pleated ruffle from the skirt pattern, and 3/4 sleeves on the jacket in royal blue silk dupioni for my daughter’s wedding; the skirt with a back pleat and same jacket in navy linen for a summer suit, with a cotton print sheath that coordinates with it; same skirt, with big box pleats, and long-sleeved jacket in grey wool, with black velvet trim, and another set in black velvet to mix and match, and I have plans for more!

    Alas, the patterns are all discontinued, but I reinforced the pattern pieces with fusible interfacing, so they last.

  8. Thanks for this obvious-in-hindsight and much needed reminder. I love the challenge of figuring out new patterns, adapting, customizing, but I forget that sewing doesn’t always need to be that challenging! I riff on my standard repertoire of recipes in the kitchen; sewing doesn’t have to be any different!

  9. yes! actually, rose, if i find a pattern that i like the way it fits me, i might make it up as many
    times as i need a blouse, skirt, dress, etc. this also goes for crafts that i give as gifts. a big hurrah for TNT patterns!–anne