Miss J Sews in her hacked version of the London Reign dress

7 Fantastic Pattern Hacking Tips


Miss J sews in her hacked London Reign Dress in Black with the header " 7 Fantastic Pattern Hacking Tips"

Seven Fantastic Pattern Hacking Tips

 I think as an enthusiastic garment sewer, you’re always on the lookout for creative ways to put your sewing skills to the test and create unique, personalized pieces. While following sewing patterns can give you beautiful results, getting into the world of pattern hacking means you can really make what you want! Pattern hacking allows you to customize your sewing projects, transforming them from standard designs into one-of-a-kind creations that reflect your personal style. In this blog post, I’m going to give you 7 pattern hacks that help you to get the most out of your existing sewing patterns and put your swag on your wardrobe.


Why Pattern Hack?

I’m not ashamed to admit that I like to spend my money wisely and I always feel great when I am getting the most out of something. I like to work the most out of sewing patterns and why not?  It’s awesome to get multiple looks from one pattern! The wonderful part of it is that you can meet someone wearing the same garment, and yet it looks so different because of the tweaks that you made.Miss J Sews holding a pair of scissors whilst sitting in a sewing room

1.Save the original

Before you cut your commercial paper sewing pattern to pieces, I suggest you trace it off first so you always have the original pattern to hand. When you're altering patterns, it's important to preserve the original pattern pieces while creating new ones. You never know when you might want to make the original again.  Of course with a PDF pattern this isn't an issue, you can always print it out again.   The easiest method to save the original is using tracing paper over the original pattern and tracing with a sharp pencil.  I find mechanical pencils give a lovely clean line.  Keep your curves clean and your lines sharp by using rulers. A generic set of curved rulers can be quite useful.

Another effective method is to use a needle wheel along with carbon paper to trace the pattern onto fresh paper and preserve the original pattern. Using a ruler for pattern hacking

2. Mix and Match Pattern Pieces

The beauty of sewing is in the details, and a simple swap of necklines and sleeves can completely change the look of a garment. Most sewing patterns provide a variety of neckline and sleeve options. However, why limit yourself to just the ones suggested in the pattern?  Experiment by combining different necklines and sleeves from various patterns to create a truly unique design.

For example, take a basic bodice pattern with a round neckline and short sleeves, and swap them out for a boat neckline and bishop sleeves from other patterns. This can instantly give your garment a fresh look without requiring complex alterations. Remember to pay attention to seam allowances and pattern compatibility while merging different elements. This is often called  a Frankenpattern after Mary Shelly’s famous monster who was composed of the parts of different people.

3. Add or remove Pockets

Adding pockets to a garment can be both functional and fashionable. Whether it's a dress, skirt, or pair of pants, incorporating pockets can instantly make your creation more practical and user-friendly. Simply choose a pocket style that complements the garment's overall aesthetic. A cargo pocket might not look cute on an evening gown! Think about the fabric too. Patch pockets for example, can go real droopy real quick if the fabric isn’t sturdy.  Think about how the pattern will look with the additional pocket. If it's a pocket sewn to the outside of a garment consider pattern matching with the main garment so the pocket doesn't look like an afterthought.

If your pattern doesn’t come with the pocket of your dreams, you could repurpose a pocket from another pattern to make things easier or you might want to omit a pocket that is placed on an area that you don’t find flattering or reposition a pocket for a better look.


4. Adjusting Lengths

Playing with lengths is another straightforward way to modify a pattern and create a new look. Whether you're sewing a dress, top, or skirt, altering the length can significantly impact the silhouette and style of the garment.

Experiment with different hemline shapes, such as curved, asymmetrical, or high-low, to add visual interest. For instance, transforming a knee-length skirt into a midi or maxi length can give it a more elegant and sophisticated feel. Similarly, shortening a jacket into a cropped one can make a huge impact. Changing the length works fantastically well with sleeves . An easy hack is to lengthen a sleeve to fingertip length and then adding elastic to the cuffs – it gives a voluminous effect. I did this with my London Reign sewing pattern, in fact I made the skirt longer and switched out the kick pleat for a vent.Miss J sews in her hacked London Reign dress

5. Experiment with width

You know how sometime you see a design and think ‘Well that would be cute if the sleeves were wider?' Playing around with the width of tops, skirts and sleeves can really make some interesting new looks.  Ensure that any adjustments you make are symmetrical on both sides of the pattern piece. This is particularly important for garments like sleeves, where asymmetrical adjustments can result in an uneven fit.

 6. The thing about changes

Every change made will have an implication somewhere else on the pattern. When making adjustments, consider how the change will affect other parts of the garment. For example, if you widen the sleeves, you may need to adjust the armhole as well for a proper fit. If you shorten one part, you’ll have to remember to shorten the corresponding piece. If there is a lining, changes will need to be made there too. The lengthen and shorten lines on the pattern can help to give an indication of the least problematic place to make these changes, 

Think about how any alterations will affect the pattern placement of the fabric.  If your fabric has a pattern or print that needs to match across seams, be mindful of how your adjustments will affect this matching. Changed necklines could involve changed neck facings.  

 7. Test on Muslin:

Before cutting into your final fabric, it's a good idea to make a muslin or toile (a practice garment) in calico using the adjusted pattern pieces. You can make fit notes directly on the fabric using a permanent markerThis allows you to adjust fit without wasting expensive fashion fabric.

Miss J Sews in a muslin of her new garment 


Pattern hacking is a fun way to exercise your design creativity and put your own stamp on your sewing projects. These five easy pattern hacks tips are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to customization possibilities. Remember that there are no strict rules in sewing – experimentation and learning from your outcomes are key to mastering the art of pattern hacking. So, whether you're a seasoned sewist or a beginner, it’s fun to watch as your garments transform into bespoke pieces.



Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase at Amazon.  This is at no additional cost to you. 

The information contained above is provided for information purposes only. The contents of this blog are not intended to amount to advice and you should not rely on any of the contents of this blog.  Professional advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from taking any action as a result of the contents of this blog.  J.Hensell disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on any of the contents of this blog.


Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.