The Eleven to Rule Them All

Remember how I told you that I was going to work on fitting a few basic patterns and just use those over and over again? I wasn’t really aiming for any number in particular. I was more concerned with covering all my basics. That’s why I’ve ended up with such a random number.

It turned out to be an involved process of figuring out what clothes I normally wear most and what the most basic patterns for those clothes would be. Which patterns did I already have? Which patterns had I already made? Which patterns did I need to find? I did a lot of switching out and rethinking. And a ton of chiding myself to “Be honest–are you really going to make multiple versions of that dress??” Some choices were obvious; others took some deliberation. And I’m not even certain that the choices I’ve made will make the final cut.

There were two questions to answer about each pattern choice: 1. Will this fit into my wardrobe? Do I already have or can I make something to go with it? Is it the type of garment that I will wear regularly? And 2. Can I customize the pattern? Does the pattern come with options? Can I make simple modifications to create something completely new? I think that when you’re choosing a handful of patterns to rely on, you need something that not only fits your style as is but also can be changed to create variety in your wardrobe.

Let’s start with the patterns I already know I love, the patterns that have passed the wardrobe test.

1. The Lady Skater

Navy Lady Skater 3

You knew that was coming, right? This is THE knit dress pattern. I could make a dozen more of these (and I probably will eventually) and not grow tired of it.

Customization options: the pattern comes with three different sleeve lengths. You can also make a peplum top. You can modify the bodice into a t-shirt (very, very good to know!). I suppose if you so desire, you could also use the skirt pattern to make yourself a skater skirt (which is apparently a thing). You can shorten the waist to an empire. I have a few other ideas for modifying the bodice and neckline. Oooh, a hoodie! A Lady Skater hoodie dress for lazy days–what?!? You can also modify the neckline into a cowl. So many options for such a simple pattern.

2. The Grainline Archer


Oh, man–I love the Archer so much! Now that I have found it, I cannot live without it.

Customization options: Okay–so, how much can you really customize the Archer? Well, for starters, the pattern comes with two versions–one has a butt ruffle (which, I’m not super interested in, but you never know). Jen has done a pullover version as well. And I’m also thinking that you might be able to do an Archer shirt dress with the right fabric (we all know I’m thinking challis) and probably a belt. You could also simply eliminate or change the pockets. You could do welt pockets or shaped patch pockets. I suppose you could also play with sleeve lengths as well–or do away with sleeves altogether and bind the armholes with bias tape.

3. The Grainline Moss


Another favorite pattern from what is fast becoming my favorite pattern line.

Customization options: You can change the length or add the hem band. You could nix the pockets (if you’re a crazy person). You could use the hem band to play with color blocking. You could fit the skirt at your waist or below (as it is intended to be).

4. The Colette Sorbetto

Sorbetto Collar 1

You know, I had forgotten about this pattern until I started compiling this list. Probably because it’s winter, and I don’t typically sport sleeveless tops in freezing temperatures. However, when thinking about what I like to wear in the summer, I remembered this top. I’ve made it three times now. The first two were disasters, yes, but the third is one of my favorite tops ever. I probably could have listed it in my 2013 roundup, but I forgot. Because it’s winter. Here’s the thing about the Sorbetto–fabric is key. My favorite fabric to use is challis. It’s just the best. But anything with enough drape (nothing even remotely stiff) will do.

Customization options: I think the most obvious mod is to add a collar (like with my super cheerful Sorbetto from last spring). You can remove the center pleat or embellish it with buttons, lace, or other trims. It’s possible to add sleeves. I think it might also be cute with a small patch pocket.

5. Self-drafted A-line skirt

Birdie 1

I am very proud to be able to put this pattern on my list. It may be silly since drafting an A-line skirt is quite possibly the easiest pattern to draft. Anyone can do it! But still–I’ve used this pattern once very successfully and once as an exercise in determination–and it came from my own brain! So great!

Customization Options: You can change the length and fullness of the skirt. You can use a yoke or a waistband. You can add in-seam pockets or patch pockets–maybe even inset pockets. Plus, this is one of the few projects where I will use adorable quilting cottons without hesitation!

Now, let’s look at some patterns I own but haven’t made yet. I have chosen these based on their potential. Of course, this means they may not make the final list.

6. Vogue 8766

So many options! It even says it on the envelope.

This is the pattern that comes with Lynda Maynard’s “Sew the Perfect Fit” class on Craftsy. If you look beyond all the lace and ribbon, it’s a very basic bodice style with very basic skirts. So, while the styling is very formal, I think you could easily make this dress in a nice chambray or lawn which would be much more relaxed. Just get the bodice and fitted skirt down and you’re golden!

Customization Options: So many! Sleeves or no sleeves? Straps or no straps? Straight skirt or full skirt? Long skirt, short skirt? Formal, informal? Pretty much whatever you want, you can do with this simple pattern.

7. Simplicity 1776

When I look at this pattern I think “shift dress.” But everyone on Pattern Review was defining it as an “A-line dress.” Can someone explain the difference? Is an A-line dress just a type of shift? I’m going to keep calling it a shift until some intelligent person corrects me.

I have never been one to want a shift dress. I’ve always thought they would make me look thicker than I actually am. But now, I’m not so sure. Every time I see someone in a shift, I think she looks really good. Everyone says it’s a very forgiving, flattering style. So, I am officially willing to give it a try.

Customization Options: The pattern comes with three sleeve lengths and two necklines as well as the option to change the length or add patch pockets. I think you could also play around with the neckline and perhaps add a collar. I imagine this dress would also work in a knit, with a few modifications, of course.

8. Jalie Jeans

Okay. I know that I said several months ago that I don’t like pants. I should explain. I don’t like jeans in the summer, and since I wrote that post in the summer, at the time, I did not like jeans. Now that it’s all nippy outside, I really enjoy wearing jeans. I especially love pairing my skinny jeans with my Archers.

What I do not like is all other pants. Maybe I’ll eventually graduate to colored denim. But right now jeans are my leg-covering of choice. So, of course, I need a good pattern. I have read really great things about Jalie jeans. And what is most inspiring is that if you do a Google image search, you’ll see women of all sizes and body types that really look good in this pattern.

Customization Options: Do you really need options when you have a great pattern for jeans? Well, maybe not. But, I think you could still play around with leg width to make boot cut, straight leg, or skinny jeans. You could even change the length to make capris or shorts.

9. McCall’s 6696

I have been for several months now searching for the perfect shirt dress. I have four or five in my stash that just don’t measure up. And then one day. . . I found it. Almost everything about McCall’s 6696 is exactly what I want. And just–just LOOK AT THOSE POCKETS!! I love the straight skirt version more than I can possibly say. I finally picked it up during Jo-Ann’s most recent McCall’s sale. I made a pre-sale scouting trip to see if they finally had the pattern. They did, but it was in the wrong spot. Making a note of the number, I left it there and there it remained until I came back for it.

Customization Options: The pattern comes with three sleeve options: 3/4 length (with cuffs!), short sleeves, or no sleeves. You can choose straight or full skirt. You can remove the pockets if you wish (So crazy. Why would you do that?). Belt loops–so cute! You can change the skirt length, of course. I want the straight skirt/long, cuffed sleeves option in chambray. I want a sleeveless/ short, full skirt option in a crisp white cotton. I want a short sleeve/ shorter, straight skirt in a red and white oversized gingham. I want a long sleeve/ full skirt version in cozy flannel for next winter. I want them all.

Finally, there are a couple of patterns that I’m very strong considering but haven’t purchased yet.

10. Grainline Maritime Shorts

Yes, I know it’s winter, but it won’t last forever (right, summer? You’re coming back again, right???). And when the temperatures soar as they are wont to do here in the ATL (is it weird that we refer to ourselves by our airport code? Because it seems weird. . . ), I will be ready with my breezy Archers and some adorable shorts. At least, that’s the plan. I have tried two other shorts patterns that did not work for me, but based on my high success rate with Grainline (two for two! Okay, maybe not “high” per say. . . ), I am now coveting the Maritime shorts. I’ve read and seen good things, and when I’m ready to sew, I will feel confident purchasing this pattern.

Customization Options: I feel about these like I felt about the Jalie jeans–do you really need options? For shorts, I don’t feel so much that I do. I never wear shirts tucked in to shorts (learned my lesson), so very little of the shorts gets seen. You can, of course, lengthen the shorts or change up the back pockets. That’s really all you need. I’ve learned that I prefer very simple shorts.

11. Colette Jasmine

I had originally put New Look 6808 in the “blouse” spot, but after a lot of lurking, I really started to lean more toward the Jasmine. The silhouette and sleeves are much nicer, and I like the idea of a bias cut blouse.

Customization Options: I think that the collar can be modified–you could nix the bow and do something more Peter Pan-ish. Sleeves can always be lengthened, shortened, or re-shaped. And I think that it would be possible to make this a button-front–even a faux button-front would be cute.

I am also considering the Renfrew. I know that I could use my Lady Skater to create a t-shirt block, but everyone raves about the Renfrew so much that I feel like I’m missing out. Am I?

Also, do any of you have a favorite cardigan pattern? I’m not talking about crochet or knitting–I want something for knit fabrics. In particular, I’m looking for a cropped cardigan to wear with anything fitted at the waist. I’m tired of tying thick knots in my cardis. Drapy, boyfriend, or cropped–these are the only cardis I shall wear. (I have spoken.)

So, what patterns do you find yourself reaching for over and over again? Any recommendations for my list?


18 thoughts on “The Eleven to Rule Them All

  1. Such a good selection! I think I have just fallen for Vogue 8766 – you can make any number of dresses from that and always look different. Great choice.

  2. That is such a great idea to list out your TNTs (or potentials)! It’s funny – but I can look at your list and almost know that it’s coming from you! All your faves look great on you and I can totally see you in the others! Before you know it, it will be MMM so you should get on more sorbettos and those maritime shorts now! 😉 😛

    • Two things I’m excited about: 1. Maritime shorts. 2. Maritime shorts weather. Sooooo tired of winter 😦
      That’s great that my list seems to reflect my style! I think that means I’m on the right track.

  3. I’m also thinking of making a Lady Skater with a cowl, I think it would be so comfortable when it is cold outside. For the Archer I think it might also be nice to play with a contrasting collar and button placket. I have made the Renfrew once and I think I still need to tinker a bit more with the fit because I’m not really happy with it right now. If you are happy with the fit of the Lady Skater I would first try to convert that to a t-shirt. I find the Renfrew also a bit expensive for a t-shirt pattern.

    • Thanks for the suggestions! I really like your idea for the Archer. I was just wasting some time on Pinterest and saw a white button up with black details. Very classy!

  4. Great selection. I’ve done a similar thing over time too – developing basic patterns that I can easily modify and build a wardrobe with. Archer is so on my list. I must be the last person to not have an Archer!

    • Yeah, I held out for a long time, too. I just had no idea I was a button up sort of person! Turns out, I’d just never worn one in the right fabric.
      What are some of your go-to patterns? I’m always curious about others’ TNTs! 🙂

      • Hmmm… maybe I’ll do a blog post about my go-to patterns too 🙂
        Hey, I was thinking… what about making your own cardigan pattern? You’ve got some T-shirt patterns that fit and really a cardigan is just a long sleeve T-shirt with a front opening. Just make it a 1/2 to 1 size larger than your normal T-shirts so that it fits over your clothes.

        • I was just thinking about that! I came up with a potentially great idea for a Lady Skater cardi.
          Definitely write the post. It’s always interesting and inspiring to read about what patterns other people always reach for.

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