What Big 4 Pattern Should I Try?

In my Goals for 2018, I declared that I would sew at least one Big 4 pattern each season – and I need your help picking patterns and brands! It’s such an unknown world to me, and patterns aren’t cheap here in Canada, so I want to choose wisely!

No, in my goals post I said I had only made two Big 4 patterns before… I’ve since remember two more! Voila:

Big 4.jpg

From left to right:

  1. 2012: McCalls M5974 was an oversized and badly fitting disaster, which was refashioned into a Renfrew right away!
  2. 2012: McCalls M5890 was a hit! I’ve made it at least 5 times, including once this fall as a sleeveless long vest. 
  3. 2012: New Look 6022 According to my post, I liked this one… but I also reshaped the side seams and back seam and armscyes… so did I really like the pattern??? Here’s a hilarious quote from my review though: “I’m never sewn a dress with this loose shape, so wasn’t sure how it would fit.” AHAHAHAHA! If only 2012 me could see 2018 me rocking an Ebony swing dress!!!
  4. 2016: Lisette/Butterick B6244 Again, I theoretically liked this pattern, but looking back, I made the following changes: shorten 6″, reduced the fabric drape at the front, reset the sleeves after I’d inserted them to bring the shoulders in, and added darts in the back! Oh, and I sized down from the recommended size to start with. After all that, I still don’t wear it much because it feels like too much fabric.

So is it any wonder I stick to Indies? That’s not a stellar track record. People who like Big 4 talk about getting a reliable fit and knowing exactly what adjustments to make, but I have always been turned off by the chance of excessive ease.

I’d like to access the huge range of patterns that the Big 4 offer though, so I’m hoping you can guide me in the right direction! What pattern should I try for winter?

Here are my criteria:

  • Knits! (Duh!) Or stretch wovens for pants.
  • A design I don’t already have in an Indie TNT
  • Simplicity aren’t sold in Canada, though I could order online and have them shipped internationally
  • I love the idea of wardrobe patterns or patterns with lots of variations. I’m also interested in cup sizes or curvy-fit pants!
  • I’m also fascinated by patterns with interesting drapey cuts or asymmetry, which tend not to be so popular in Indie patterns. I don’t want to go full Lagenlook, but “weird Art teacher” is good!

That’s a pretty vague brief, isn’t it? I’m hoping you know me and my style well enough to make some suggestions. I really want this Big 4 experiment to be a success!

Thanks for your help!


54 thoughts on “What Big 4 Pattern Should I Try?

  1. Vogue 8817 is a Kathrine Tilton design. You might be tempted to do the longer version but I am curvy and love view A. You can have a lot of fun mixing fabrics. Also for pants Vogue 1411 check out the interesting seams.

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    1. That is cute! I just made a sweater in a similar style but I didn’t get the drape to hit me in the right place and it looks a bit odd… your sister looks great in it though! Hmmm…

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    1. I’ve always wanted to try one of those patterns with a big peplum hem in the back of a cardigan! Good suggestions, thanks!

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  2. I think you should go for Sandra Betzina’s “puzzle pants” https://voguepatterns.mccall.com/v1411 – this is my very favourite pattern EVER for stretch pants. She drafts for a Burda style crotch curve and there are so many opportunities to get these to fit perfectly. I’ve made these a couple of times I just love them 🙂

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    1. Someone else suggested that pattern too, which must mean it’s a good one! I’ve never tried pieced legging/pants like that!

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  3. It’s not the big 4 anymore!!! The company that owns Mcvogerick (CSS) just bought Simplicity. So they are all under the same umbrella.

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  4. I like Burda, but I think it’s because I got lucky with a pants pattern. From experience, I would stay away from Simplicity- they have WAY TOO MUCH ease, their patterns aren’t beginner friendly (I know you’re not a beginner, but still good to know) & they’re pricey for how much work they need.

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      1. Don’t go by the recommended sizing! Check the finished garment sizes, and go by those. Back before I knew to do such things, I made a “semi-fitted” dress with over A FOOT of ease in the bust!

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  5. Honestly, the new Lisette-Butterick 6526 has made my list. I have only sewn one Butterick/Lisette 6358 (both views for my “fits out of the envelope” daughter.) The instructions were very good.
    Sheila-CTK just had a post that McCalls Activewear or athleisure patterns have become her TNT. she mentions several of them (inspirationally, I might add) and she has some interesting observations.
    I think the big opportunity with the Big 4 is designer patterns (like Rachel Comey) and retro patterns
    While I have a lot of Simplicity in my queue (3 different 60’s style A-line dresses-all wovens), the only ones I might recommend given the difficulty getting them in Canada, are the Mimi G ones. I haven’t seen much like hers among the Indies and she has video tutorials that go with most if not all of them.

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    1. I”m really curious about Mimi G too! i bought one issue of her new magazine but the pattern really wasn’t my style… but I would be interested to try her stuff out this year! I just can’t pick which pattern to try!

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      1. I was also going to recommend the Mimi G patterns if you can get Simplicity. She drafts for a curvy figure and her designs are all close-fitting, so no worries about excessive ease. Her moto jacket from 8174 is a truly RTW quality piece.

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  6. Fun!! I heart McCalls – hands-down my most sewn pattern company. Like others have said, get really familiar with the finished measurements, especially with knits. The few knits projects I’ve seen have come out large (which I don’t encounter as much with wovens). Big 4 also have a fit scale (very fitted, semi-fitted, etc) and corresponding wearing/design ease per category. I would also read the instructions all the way through, esp for knits, they have some odd finishing methods. The Tilton patterns for Vogue and Butterick walk the line between art teacher and lagenlook – I’ve always meant to sew some up! Also check out OOP designs on Etsy or eBay – the number of designs out there are staggering.

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    1. Sometimes designs seem to go OOP so fast! It’s a pretty crazy pace that they keep up to constantly bring in new patterns and get rid of old ones. What is it you like about McCalls? I’m curious about the differences between pattern lines!

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      1. Style seems to be the big differentiator of the different pattern lines. I seem to find 2-3 McCall’s patterns per release that I like, style-wise – interesting design lines and details, garments that fit my lifestyle. Sometimes they take the trends too far for me; right now there are several patterns that are piled high with ruffles around a cold shoulder! My most recent purchases from McCall’s were m7659, m7695, m7663, m7694, m7628 and m7246. With the $2.99 Big 4 sales in the US, I don’t exercise a lot of restraint and I’m totally fine with not sewing them.

        Funnily enough, I just bought two indie patterns today! Trying out Papercut for the first time.

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  7. I wouldn’t think having to tweak fit counts as a pattern problem, no??

    I have so many Big4 faves…since you’re a cardigan wearer, M6996 is fantastic (as is M6884 but I hands down prefer that one with ponte vs a jersey or lighter sweater knit).

    Dresses: M6886, V9022, M7538, S8014
    Tops: V1522, S1280, M7542, S8216, M7194
    Pants; My personal TNTs are V9032 (made 8 times!) and S2700 (now OOP)

    WHEW!

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    1. I don’t think small adjustments are a problem… but taking inches out of several places is an issue for me!
      Thank you SO MUCH for all the great suggestions – I appreciate the help!

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  8. Look at the Pattern Review “Best of 2017” (2016, 2015, etc…) If a pattern makes that list, there’s a good chance you’ll have success with it. Also, if you want someone in the states to buy you some sale patterns at JoAnn’s and ship them to you, I’m game…

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    1. I think I can picture the one you mean! Your blog is marked as private right now though, so I’m hoping you approve me to see it! 😉

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    1. Those are GREAT suggestions! I recognised a few of them as soon as I looked them up, and I’m really digging the weird skirts on those dresses! Hmm… I might be sewing more than 4 Big 4 this year! 😉

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  9. I so wish I had my pattern inventory here because I have lots of big 4 success stories. Mind you, most were altered within an inch of their lives (so did I like those patterns?) BTW, I think 3. above is hilarious. What a difference 6 years makes.

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  10. I just tried Butterick 6494, a knit top, dress, vest and pants and I loved it! I made view B. I made all my regular adjustments and it fit PERFECTLY. I would also consider any of the Palmer/Pletch patterns. I haven’t made any yet but I have McCalls 7694 in my cue, a Melissa Watson pattern. The Palmer/Pletch fitting tips in those patterns are amazing so I think they are excellent value. I used to be a Burda girl but my body has changed as I got older and the Vogue/Butterick/McCalls work for me now. Check out Sandra Betzina’s Today’s Look from Vogue for some interesting Art Teacher Chic! I like her sizing and styles. I look forward to seeing what you come up with!

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  11. You know what… you should give me a list of patterns and I’ll go grab them on a US sale, and ship them to you. Like… in a birthday card lol. I wonder if I shipped it as a “book” or just a large letter if it would really be all that much? I’m game to try.

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  12. I don’t know Big 4 patterns. I too am thinking of sewing more in 2018 – having recently asked my husband to measure me to adjust shop patterns I realise just how non-standard size I am in every way. I think the way to go might be to start from scratch and get inspiration from shop patterns, however much I like them, esp Indie designs. My other issue in the UK is finding great fabric – certainly a challenge. good luck!

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  13. Gagh! Not sure if the blog ate my comment, or it’s waiting moderation – delete this one if they are both in the queue! Summary: big-4 do have sales regularly online ($2.99USD except $5.99USD for Vogue) with batch shipping ($15USD for 10 patterns, with $5 and $10 options for fewer) which brings the price down even shipping here. Fabricville/Fabricland also run sales which may or may not run around the same with the exchange (depends on the sale). Yes to the checking finished measurements, but I just learned the hard way to measure my bust/waist/hips both front and back separately and measure the pattern pieces to check – often the total measurement is fine, but not distributed the way I am!

    Good luck! I often find the big-4 inspiring (well, more often the line drawings, I’m not sure who does their styling but it often doesn’t speak to me) – with the amount of new patterns coming out every season, as well as the detail in some of them compared to many of the indies.

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  14. If you really want to learn how to fit woven pants, I recommend McCalls 6901, which comes in straight and curvy cuts for sizes 8-26W. This pattern uses the Palmer-Pletsch method to fit pants where you do a tissue fitting, a muslin and finally a version in fashion fabric. The pattern is printed on more durable tissue and has lines in key spots along the pants so you can easily ID your fitting issues and remedy them. The pants themselves are not the chicest things you ever had – they’re just a front, back, waistband, side-seam pockets and mock fly. But you’ll learn fitting techniques you can apply to any pants pattern. Well worth the time invested.

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  15. I would suggest you look at the Simplicity Anazing Fit range – multiple cup sizes and fit ranges in the patterns (the trouser pattern I tried came with 3 variations for different crotch curve lengths!)

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  16. Not sure if I can offer any suggestions as our styles are so different. I do like Big 4s, especially Vogue, and I never have ease problems, I cut a 10 in Vogue and 99% of times, it’s fine (maybe I’m actually a 12 and that’s where the ease is going). However, I wanted to add a thought on the Butterick coat. I made it last year and didn’t like it until I added a belt (with belt loops), wrapped myself in and closed it off with it. I LOVE it now, wore it all autumn and got countless compliments. It only needs pockets, but what doesn’t? Also, if I want knits in a pattern that I like, I darn well make it in knits! Like the V9075, my TNT, which I never actually made in wovens (it’s a wovens pattern). Good luck with the search!

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  17. Good luck! I’ve stuck with the patterns that have made it to “Best Pattern” status on Pattern review- my favorite is New Look 6150 cross over knit top!

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  18. Ha! You are one of the bloggers that has seriously convinced me that Indie patterns are worth the expense -and the time it takes to tape all those .pdf pages 🙂 Your Indie-makes just seem to be a great fit on you and so flattering and your reviews indicate that the patterns are so much better crafted than the Big 4 with far less alterations needed.

    I’m in the States and I would suggest watching Jo-Ann fabrics website. They mark down the Big 4 all the time. Butterick, McCalls, and Simplicity often go 5 for $5 or for $1.99 each. Vogues often go down to $4.99. If you can mail order at a time when they’re on sale you might save considerably. (I think the Canadian dollar is still pretty close to the American dollar right now…)

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  19. Can’t wait to see what you try! I’d say look for silhouettes you like but don’t have in indie patterns. Just make sure you wait for the sales! Fabricland usually has at least one or two brands on sale each month, only for a week or so each though. Vogue will likely be the source for crazy art teacher patterns. Butterick is more classic, McCalls more simple/fun/youthful patterns (But I still struggle with the fit in McCall’s most). There’s a McCalls cardigan with a cowled back that I could totally see you rocking, though—though I haven’t sewn it so I can’t comment on the fit. I’ll get to it one of these day. Also don’t forget the Burda envelope patterns! The website is almost unusable, though, so I’d recommend browsing through the pattern book at your store.

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  20. There are some good suggestions here…. just thought I’d mention to be sure to check the pattern’s finished measurements when picking your size as you can better estimate which size to make. Good luck!

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