Today’s Patterns..Do Most Only Provide The “Shortcut Instruction Set”?

I spent the weekend before last sewing a little dress for my grand baby Charlotte. She was baptized last Sunday and my daughter thought it would be nice for her to have a special dress to wear out to eat after church so she could change out of the heirloom gown she wore for the ceremony.

So I got started by picking out McCalls M6015. She’s a little smaller than their 13-18lb pattern but we figured it would fit okay especially since there’s a sash where we could pull it up on the sides. After getting it all cut out one evening, I decided that I would sew it up on Saturday and it would be just that easy.

Since this is for a special occasion, I really wanted to do it up nice and I thought this little dress would be just perfect, but once I got into the construction, I realized that the instructions that came with the pattern were just not going to do the trick.

I remember when I first started sewing, 40 years ago, I ALWAYS followed the instructions that came with the pattern exactly. And if I strayed away at all, it was because the instructions made me do way more than I felt necessary for the use I was going to get out of the garment.

Isn't she a cutie?

Somewhere along the way things changed! It must have been gradual over the years and most people have just gone with the changes or just kept using the techniques they learned ‘way back when’. And that’s a shame for those who are just now learning to sew, as they will never benefit from the instructions included in a commercial pattern in order to learn the craft properly.

This pattern had a full lining, and for the sleeveless version, with exception of the zipper, all the seams were enclosed in the lining. However, in the version that included sleeves, instead of sewing the sleeve to the outer fabric and then slip-stitching the lining at the seam (which would enclose the seam) it just instructed me to sew in the sleeve treating the outer and inner layers as one. That left the seam exposed. It also instructed to do the same with the zipper, treating the inner and outer layers as one.

Char Char Dress INSIDE OUT!

I was horrified. First, this is for an infant, I really didn’t want the seam and the overlock treatment to rub up against her soft little skin. Second, it would have really looked bad. Now if this hadn’t been for a special occasion, maybe, just maybe, I would have followed the instructions… but for this special occasion, I just had to do it right. It took me a little longer, probably an extra 30-40 minutes to turn under the lining’s edge at each sleeve and at the zipper and then sew it by hand, but it was so worth it. That dress now looks as good on the inside as it does on the outside, if it had a two-way zipper, it could almost be worn inside out!

Other changes I made that were not covered in the pattern instructions include, french seams for the skirt and skirt lining (those were the only seams that were exposed), trimmed and overlock stitched all other seams (all these seams were enclosed in the lining), put a deep 2″ hem on the lining, as well as the skirt, making the skirt look much fuller.

I must say, it turned out beautifully and was a fabulous dress for Char Char to wear on her special day.

Do you find pattern instructions give you the “shortcut instruction set” more often than the “better clothing instruction set”? Do you make the appropriate changes when the use for the garment calls for a better version?

I’d love to hear your experiences with a pattern that you thought could be better, comment below!

Until later ~



  1. Lori says:

    Just a note. I recently purchased a Burda pattern #9737, a toddler overall and sundress. No shortcuts here. It had been several years since I had sewn anything other than a pillowcase, so I ran into a few problems, not because the instructions were bad., but because I was out of practice. This pattern did not cut corners. I have not used Burda enough to endorse all their patterns, but this one was designed to produce a professionally finished garment. I was very pleased with the result.

    • Reba says:


      That’s good to know. I’ve never used a Burda pattern, I may give them another look. Funny, the first dress I picked out for this project was a Burda but the JoAnn’s store I go to didn’t have it, so I chose the McCalls.

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