Today I have another guest post from Karen to share with you! This one is all about choosing patterns! Over to you Karen:


Let’s talk about choosing patterns, and all the things you have to consider before making your choice.  I have a considerable number of patterns in my collection, in every available format; books, paper patterns and pdf patterns.  Of course, I haven’t actually made all of them, but I have made quite a few.



Choosing a pattern to make a bag can be exciting and daunting.  There are thousands of patterns out there now, from the Big Names (Simplicity, McCalls, Butterick, Vogue, Burda, Kwik-Sew and New Look) books and a plethora of Indie Designers selling through their own websites or marketplaces like Craftsy and Etsy.  What should you consider when choosing, apart from the style of bag you want to make?


One big advantage with Indie Designers is that they do answer their emails if you have a query or problem with their patterns!  I once sent Christine a photo of my Stow-it-all under construction to ask why it was the wrong size.  She quickly pointed out I had used the wrong pattern pieces!  

I sent a query to McCalls as the Materials list for the Backpack pattern I was making included Hair Canvas and asked about which type of Hair Canvas, I was told “any sort” which did not help me very much when faced with horse, wool, lapped or lightweight versions!

Paper or PDF?

Choosing Patterns

Your next decision may be whether you want a printed paper pattern or a digital download.  Unlike dressmaking, the pattern pieces are on average small enough to print out on a domestic printer with only the occasional need to join bits together.  Here you can see pieces being joined during the Nappy Bag Sew-Along with Sewing Patterns by Mrs H

Sew Alongs

Often straightforward rectangular shapes are cut by measurements rather than a pattern piece. Christine gives both in many of her patterns, but I prefer to have pattern pieces so I can lay everything out, especially if I am working from recycled fabrics rather than bought yardage.  However, it’s no hardship to cut my own from the provided measurements!  You can also trace the pattern piece or use the measurements on clear plastic template for fussy cutting, or tracing around if you prefer that method.

The only real problem with printing out a pattern is making sure it is to the right scale, that is at 100% NOT ‘Print to fit page’!  Sadly I had got a bit blasé and printed my latest pattern out on my new laptop which has Windows 10.  It does not include a Scale option at all but it looked right and I carried on, only to discover my mistake later when it was too late, so ALWAYS CHECK THE SCALE before printing, then CHECK THE 1” SQUARE is 1” square!

Test Squares

When I whinged about it on Instagram, Norma of Norma’s Bag Boutique advised me to load Adobe Reader and set it as my default PDF printer, which solved the problem.  Pattern downloads have proved so popular now that the big companies are offering them too!  Some Indie Designers provide both printed and pdf versions of their patterns, some only do one or the other.  I like the fact pdf means no waiting, but I have bought paper patterns from the U.S., Australia and Canada and they didn’t take too long to arrive.!


Don’t be put off if there are a lot of pages, for one thing it means you get a lot of detail, for another you don’t have to print them out, you can just read them off the screen.  Christine’s  GIZMO GARAGE file has 90 pages, the first 40 give you everything you need to know to make the bag, then there are 4 pages of pattern pieces, followed by a Text Only version so you can save ink by not printing the photos.

Printing Pages

I prefer too much information rather than not enough, and some designers make you feel part of a sew-along by adding comments and tips along the way.  “Everyone likes a nice firm bottom, right?” Totes Ma Tote instructions, Emmaline Bags kinda sticks in my mind!  

I notice a few use smaller print on their paper patterns to cut down on the number of pages which I find quite difficult to read when I am working. Of course if it is a pdf my ipad let’s me enlarge it.  In some cases they offer links to tutorials on their websites and handy tips that they (or their testers) have come up with.


Do you like loads of colour photos like Christine uses? Photos

or diagrams and drawings like Swoon Patterns? Diagrams

I prefer photos on the whole, but I can work with diagrams too.  I sometimes think a bit of both can help!  Photo’s with arrows are good, so you can see exactly what they are talking about.  


If you looking for something suitable for a beginner, intermediate or advanced sewer, and need the patterns rated according to skill level check the drop down shop menu or pattern descriptions.

Image13EASY – These bag patterns are super simple and suitable for a beginner

Image6BASIC – These bag patterns are relatively quick and easy BUT assume some prior sewing knowledge

Image10INTERMEDIATE – These bag patterns require a little more time and patience and assume you have some bag making experience or are an advanced sewer.

Image15ADVANCED – Are you looking for a challenge? These bag patterns can take a lot longer to work through and can be quite challenging and suitable for the advanced bag maker. Please do not attempt these patterns if you lack patience and do not have time to devote to the project!


Apart from the cover photo, most designers show their Tester’s Bags and Customer Makes so you can see the pattern made up in a variety of fabric choices. A couple also include line drawings of their bag, like the Big Companies do, so you can see the basic structure without the distraction of colour and pattern.

Commercial Patterns

When I made Christine’s “Epiphany” I traced the cover photo to give me a blank slate which helped me realise I could use my “seaside” fat quarter collection!



I’ve drawn up a table for some of the designers I have patterns for, in alphabetical order, showing what they offer in the way of printed or pdf etc.

👈 means I have actually made their patterns!

☺means they are, or have been, a contributor to The Bag of the Month Club

Designer Printed


Photos Drawings Skill Level Tips Line Drawing Free Pattern Gallery
Amy Butler👈
Betz White
Blue Calla
Charlie’s Aunt 👈
ChrisWDesigns☺ 👈
Dog under my desk 👈
Emmaline Bags☺👈
I think Sew 👈 Craftsy
Sewing Patterns by Mrs H☺👈
Sew Sweetness Craftsy
Studio Kat Designs👈
Swoon Patterns☺👈

To help you find a pattern designer whose teaching and instructing style suits you best, several offer a free pattern that you can try out, like a taster!


Coco, Christine’s free bag pattern



The next decision can be the style of bag, (Shoulder, Clutch, Tote) and some designers have filters on their sites to help your search.  There are so many to choose from I am sure you can find something that is either perfect or near enough for you to hack it to your liking.  Make the bag as per the instructions the first time though, before attempting any structural changes, so you get a clear idea of the way it goes together.  Christine ran a Hack-a-bag-a-thon last year and this is the Serendipity Hip/Lunar bag mash-up by Elizabeth Widmayer.

Bags of Style!

I have made patterns bigger and smaller, added more pockets inside and outside, and added key fob, obviously other Bagineers are far more adventurous!  In case you wonder, yes my favourite designer is Christine, and I never have to add more pockets to her patterns!  

So I hope this has helped you think about what sort of patterns you prefer, and maybe try out some free patterns, or jump right in and sign up for the Bag of the Month Club and try out six different designers at a bargain price!  Sew Indie!


Thank you so much Karen! You can read more of Karen’s posts over at Sew What’s New HERE and visit Karen on Instagram – @auntystitches


Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *