Are You A GTS or a Rebel?

Goody Two Shoes.jpg

I’ve noticed there’s one particular in which I seem to be very different to other Sewists out there. I’m a right old Goody Two Shoes! Whatever the pattern tells me to do, I darn well do it.

detailed instructionsYet all around me I read the most revolutionary details. ‘I took the bodice of X and hacked it with the skirt of Y, changed the gathers into pleats, raised the neckline…’ Here‘s A Stitching Odyssey mixing vintage and contemporary sewing patterns in one make and nary a thunderbolt of Sewing God Fury!

I am not happy about this state of affairs. I feel that I should have more creative vision and the confidence to take the building blocks and hurl them out of the window. I do like the bodice of the Anna dress. I wonder if I could hack it with the skirt of the Lilou?

But that would mean breaking the rules!

Are you like me? Butter wouldn’t melt? Or do you have a devil sitting on your shoulder? Any advice for the Sewist who needs to relax her approach?

Oh, and if you’re interested – the patterns in the first photo were a gift from my best friend’s partner. That’s right. I’ve trained grown men to source vintage sewing patterns, buy them, and transport them several hundred miles to hand overย toย me. I can’t be that green, then.

ongping sewing

My current project. I’m obeying all the rules.

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68 Responses to Are You A GTS or a Rebel?

  1. Jenny Lester says:

    Not exactly a rebel but find that once cut out I rarely look at the advice from the pattern sheet ( unless it’s the strange pieces of the dress worn at Minerva Blogg day!!) as the experienced sewer which we all know you are you can surely mix and match tops and skirt patterns, rule of thumb is where they meet I.e. Waist or bustline must measure the same!, easy peasy. Sleeves from one pattern can easily be adjusted to fit another garment, just make a toile beforehand to ensure a good fit. Go on Karen get those devil horns on!! you know you can!! ๐Ÿ‘น

  2. sewbusylizzy says:

    My mother is an absolute GTS stitcher & cook. As a result I often throw my instructions aside (especially if I ‘think’ I can do it better), change the method – and ALWAYS think ‘that’s close enough’ when measuring for cooking.
    She doesn’t approve but loves my creativity!

  3. ooobop! says:

    Im Generally a GTS but a dirndl or a circle might replace the skirt section if I get ‘lazy’! Love the fabric of your current make. Is it Liberty or Sainsbo Man? x

  4. Oh dear, I think the Rebel Rebel riff just started. I tend to only glance at the instructions for the type of garments I’ve made very often (dresses) and just do it my own way. I’ll mess with necklines and hem lengths and add things from other patterns without even thinking about it. Following the rules and instructions to a t is great when you’re sewing something new (shirts! coats!) but once you get the hang of it and found a way to sew something you’re happy with I think it’s a-okay to follow your own instructions!

  5. IngeMaakt says:

    Generally I look at the instructions but don’t always follow them. I usually follow the same order of construction, because that’s the way I like to do it. And now that I’ve made some patterns myself, there are no instructions so I can sew them up however I want ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. A rebel – but usually out of ignorance of or lack of resources: Not enough fabric? I’ll just leave that out or shorten this. No zip, I’ll just put in buttons… Oh but now it pops open every time I bend down. How I wish I’d followed the rules…

  7. redambition says:

    I find that I do what I want! I have to make so any adjustments that sometimes it’s easier to change something completely!

    Case in point: for a recent vintage dressmaking class, I wanted the dress to hit just below the knee. That meant lengthening the pattern, as I’m taller than average. When the teacher and I tried we discovered the skirt pieces were oval, not circle. Rather than faff around trying to lengthen the original and keep the right proportions, I just drafted a new skirt for the bodice in the correct length, with a shape that I preferred.

    I also have no qualms at changing the length of any part of the garment, or adding sleeves, removing sleeves, changing necklines etc. if I’m going to invest the time in a garment, I want it to be what I want ๐Ÿ™‚

    That said, there can be something comforting about following a pattern exactly. To have everything laid out, no tearing out of hair when you try to do something not in the instructions (that may be a new thing for you), support if you need to find help. There are times where I just love to follow along exactly as the pattern intended.

  8. Kate says:

    I’m with you Karen. I’m such a scaredy cat! Having said that I picked up four lots of fabric from a sale shelf, none of which amount to enough to make a single garment but put together creatively……who knows.

  9. stargateinky says:

    Rebel rebel without experience :-). I seem to always think I can make it better like so but I am relatively a beginner. Equals many many “never mind, no one will tell ” I have just cut out a Jasmine that I shall try my best to absolutely follow instructions. :-(.

  10. Janet says:

    I usually read and follow the instructions, as the previous commenter mentioned, there is something rather comforting. However, I can see myself as I get more experienced or confident -going more freestyle. I like being creative.

  11. annie says:

    I’m a bit of a rule breaker. Just making a suit wherein I have a jacket from one vintage Vogue and the skirt from another. So not tooooo crazy. Love that flowered blue fabric.

  12. kathminchin says:

    I have to adjust patterns – I’ve not yet found anything to fit me out of the packet. However I managed my very first pattern hack making a Violet blouse where I used the sleeves from Tilly’s blouse in her book.

    I’m now working on a box pleat skirt – unfortunately the necessity of adding in 4 inches has resulted in my miscalculating the pleat sizes so I need to redo them. But it’s all good learning.

  13. stitchedupsam says:

    I’m definitely in the rebel camp! I love mixing and matching parts from 2 different patterns (if not 3!), I rarely follow instructions to the letter and sometimes don’t even bother to read them. I had to force myself to follow the instructions for a top I’m making this week, only because I might be using the pattern to teach a class and thought I ought to know how it’s intended to be made!

  14. Bellbird says:

    I’m like you! If I’m using a pattern, I do it all by the book. But I usually ignore instructions that involve basting….

  15. Rebel all the way, I haven’t read instructions on a commercial pattern in years. Once I got the hang of construction I didn’t worry about them anymore.
    In the end it’s only fabric, we can get more of it and try again so being a rebel isn’t so rebellious at all when you look at it like that?

  16. fabrictragic says:

    Rebel for sure. Might follow instructions for a toile but I’m already redesigning most patterns to suit my vision before I’ve even bought them. On a less cocky note I also don’t have an overlocker so I’ll often change the order of construction or slight details to be able to do french seams or make sure I’ve got super nice finishes on the inside. Being creative and flexible is honestly one of the things I love the most about sewing! One of my favorite makes ever is a frankenpattern of a new look, a colette and self drafted pockets. Bliss!

  17. I think it was learning to Pattern Cut that enabled me to ‘throw the rule book out’ however; I’m not sure we are doing that. If anyone is like me, it feels like I know the rule book so well that it wastes time to look at it!! I do still do things in a very specific way- and often get laughed at for it- but you do what works for you, y’know? My Mum follows that Pattern religiously and y’know what? She got a better finish than me for years so there’s nothing wrong with it. I say get some cheapo fabric and go to town ๐Ÿ™‚

  18. Charlotte says:

    I’m a bit of a rebel…mainly because I’m a novice sewist and dont always understand all the terms on patterns and decided to improvise – I’ve not had any major issues yet but I do have a particularily tricky (well, tricky to me!) dress for next months Minerva Crafts make…never made a dress before…or installed a hidden zip…or made a fitted piece of clothing…this should be fun!

  19. modistegirl says:

    I am a mix, I like the technical stuff and I want to make something as well as I can. But my art background has made me quite experimental by nature, I like a challenge, I like the processes involved in making stuff – including the bits where you think “oh god why did I do that?”. In the end we all come out with a garment that is unique, my approach is just more of a sideways one. I even printed some fabric to make a garment with, just because I could.

  20. I knew that fabric was Liberty! So, so pretty. Anyway – I often combine patterns, sometimes new and vintage, sometimes vintage and vintage. It is usually successful!

  21. Jen (NY) says:

    Well, I mostly make Burda patterns, so following rules is often impossible!

    On the positive side, I think that my Burda magazine subscription led to breaking rules (since I could not understand them anyway). Since then I have been teaching myself about fit and finishes, most of which are not provided in pattern instructions. Back pre-Burda, when I used to make mostly big 4 patterns, I did follow all of the rules, in order. Now I rarely read them. I think that projects are turning out better for me because I feel free to make the adjustments that I need. However, it also tends to take me quite a bit longer to complete a garment.

  22. Stephanie says:

    I loooooove the fabric you are working with right now….but then I’m a bit fan of everything Liberty or “stile Liberty.” I find I don’t look at the instructions when I’m sewing until I run into some kind of an issue, but when I do follow them I’m happy I did as I inevitably am given something to think about (particularly when sewing with vintage patterns). I completely understand your reluctance to jump away from things as designed. I was like this for thirty years as a knitter and when I first decided to jump to making my own designs I found it shockingly difficult to switch to knitting “without a net,” even though I obviously knew all of the techniques and even do math for a living! I kind of think I need to do some personal introspection on that one. Perhaps because I’m less experienced as a sewist, in sewing I feel more inclined to adjust patterns and I’ve been experimenting a bit, even thinking of completely drafting a dress from a drawing I made the other day.

  23. I was a total goodie-two shoes with sewing until late this spring, when it suddenly occurred to me that a hack is sometimes the way to save a wadder. I’m still pretty cautious about making changes to things, though. I’m a little envious of Oonaballoona who just seems to hack and drape and sew her way to fabulousness all the time.

  24. Oh dear, when you put it that way, I think I’ve always consorted with the Devil. Sometimes I do try to set out to follow instructions (usually with a heavy heart and because I KNOW I can learn so much from following instructions) but most often there is a corner of my brain that just dares me to see if I can fit my fabric placement into my remnant with more to spare than you…let alone chopping, hacking or whatever else my brain tells me to do. There’s a very good reason why most instructions are there…because they work…! I very much admire GTS sewists – it’s being a GTS that helps you develop that solid background knowledge (from following instructions in the first place) that it takes me more time to learn (as a hacker).

  25. liza jane says:

    I drive my husband crazy with the fact that I never follow directions. He is by the book to a fault. I figure we balance each other out. I’m a terrible cook because I look at all those measurements as suggestions. And I do the same with sewing patterns.

  26. Angela says:

    Ohhh…. somewhat a rebel I guess…… My mother was an absolute stickler for following the directions precisely when sewing a pattern. Well, since I’m taller than average, especially in the torso, nothing ever fit that involved a torso with any sort of close fit at all. As an adult, I finally decided to be brave and learn to alter patterns (gasp!) and after that realized that patterns weren’t the law of the land, and I was free to use them in whatever manner worked best. (ahem… that has involved chucking them in the trash bin a few times)

  27. Claire says:

    Just do it! Breathe deeply and be creative. You sort of do changes anyway…. Didn’t you recently post something about changing bust darts into two darts? That was a change. So, you are on the way…. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  28. i used to do a lot of historic costuming, which meant selecting a historic piece to copy, scaling it to fit whoever i was making it for, drafting my own patterns, figuring out how to put it together, creating trim, piecing, adding padding, underlinings, linings, etc etc. so no directions. when i use commercial patterns i read the directions and then toss them. been sewing since i was 8 or 9, self-taught. i taught all my kids, told them there was no reason to make the multitude of mistakes i did when i was young.

  29. Melizza says:

    GTS here. Very hard for me to think outside the box. I wish I could but I enjoy the handholding of good instructions.

  30. Naomi says:

    I’m definitely a rebel, with a cause! I like doing things my way. I’ve never ever done a pattern as suggested. I switch skirts, lengthen or shorten, add pockets, add elements from other patterns, lower the neckline, draft my own facings etc. But before I make something up I usually scour the web for pictures so I know what I’ll probably like/dislike with the pattern. And I always read the instructions before deciding to discard them though ๐Ÿ˜‰

  31. scotty says:

    Yep, GTS all the way around. Love that fabric you’re using!

  32. Leah says:

    I am a total rebel. I almost never follow a pattern to the letter. When I buy patterns, I buy them with changes already in mind.

  33. Rachael says:

    Heya Karen – that’s an interesting question! It’s one I’ve asked myself a lot recently – how far should I modify a pattern? I do usually break the rules (for time saving reasons) but quite often my best makes are the ones where I’ve followed the rules. I think this all comes down to geometry. If you’re a confident geometrist and you have a good understanding of how to modify a pattern so that all the notches match up AND you’re patient enough to make a dozen toiles to check, then, yes, rebellious makes can come out quite nicely. But I’m not sure I’m there yet, so I guess GTS it is then.

  34. Lynne says:

    Turns out I’m a rebel! I’ve mashed the Anna bodice with two different skirts, but not the Lilou skirt – that sounds like a great idea. Thanks for the inspiration, and take the plunge!! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  35. stgilbert says:

    Utter Rebel. I never muslin (I hate it!) and rarely follow the sewing instructions. I may glance at the illustrations for guidance, but I tend to follow my own path. Plus, I am an avowed pattern hacker!

  36. Ayida says:

    Definitely a rebel! I love to mix up patterns and pieces and throw in something of my own. I guess I’m too stubborn to follow the excact instructions too, which leads to failures as well ofcourse. My attitude to sewing reflects my general view on life I have discovered, that’s why I love it so much ๐Ÿ˜Š

  37. I think if you see a style in a magazine you like, take a look at your pattern stash and see if you can mix and match existing patterns to create it. I think that would help, you’d have a vision of what the end product should look like. I’m probably a rebel, I draft most of my own patterns.

    • Ayida says:

      That’s exactly how it works for me! I’m kind of forced to do that anyway, since I can almost never buy paper patterns and my measurements expand beyond those of most commercial or even indie patterns haha! And I find that I don’t like the styling of a lot of sewing patterns, so I have to change them into something I’d actually want to wear.

  38. Fadanista says:

    I’m getting better at being a bit more creative, egged on by all those bloggers out there. I do break rules when I run out of fabric, and I will modify a pattern mildly, especially when it comes to removing facings and substituting binding, but I have tended not to do mashups. I rarely follow the instructions but am always pleasantly surprised by the better result when I do!

  39. alison says:

    Love it! Your a master sewist! (Like master builder in the lego movie) challenges need setting and achieving!

  40. When I started sewing, and then for years after, I was the kind of person who would sew up the pattern exactly as it was written. It’s only recently that I’ve started going crazy with mixing different patterns and doing extra fitting alterations. I think for me, the thing that made me loosen up was reading lots of different blogs and seeing how good it turned out for some people when they relaxed and mixed things up. Kudos to you for getting people to send you vintage goodies. Keep it up.

  41. Nikki says:

    I tend to follow the instructions for muslins and then do my own thing if I think I could get a better finish. On my 70’s patterns I have to shorten the bodice pieces, with a bit of guess work as there are no helpful lines! I haven’t really pattern hacked, but I would do if I thought something else would work better.

  42. helen says:

    I’m a rebel! I’m definitely happiest whwn sewing without instructions and hacking up patterns. Of course it doesn’t always work out….and trying hard to learn new things so do try hard to do things properly…

  43. mlm247 says:

    I am an ultra Goody Two Shoes, and not only with sewing patterns. I assure you that this is not a good state of affairs. Here comes Hercule Poirot!
    So how do I get around it???
    First of all, remember that each brand of pattern will always have the same body shape and measurements in mind for your size. This means that a Vogue sleeve will fit any Vogue pattern armhole etc, within reason. Transfer this to all brands. Think in pictures and shapes.
    Secondly, I usually draw my own patterns. Yes, not draft but actually draw. Years ago I took some drafting lessons and then had cardboard templates of a perfectly fitting back bodice, perfect skirt, etc.Then I changed shape. Now I look like sack of spuds so I combine bits of patterns (sometimes my own) with new ideas and am prepared to make changes if desperate.Think in shapes.
    Do I follow instructions? Demonically and definitely yes. If for some reason I am using a purchased pattern I follow it exactly. Even for the simplest garment. If there are no instructions, it is like a recording playing in my mind telling me exactly what to do minute by minute, millimetre by millimetre.
    Do I allow differences ever? Yes. The choice of fabric is allowed to vary from that stated on the pattern packet. This is because of where I live and the access to good anything-at-all. The postal service is not reliable either. I have learned to buy what I see and touch. What is available today may never be available again here.

  44. Stephanie says:

    Not a rebel but not a GTS either. For me it is fear. Not being a great sewer, I find I struggle if I can’t follow the instructions and sewing on the fly is very difficult as I panic.

    I would love to be a rebel… One day.

  45. I started out as a GTS but I have done things that veered off but nothing major: drafted my own neckline, added lining, pockets, etc. I still read the instructions – or most of them – and follow them for my muslin. I’d like to try some mashups or frankenpattern projects but haven’t done that yet.

  46. Regrettably I’m a rule follower…in sewing and life….should’ve joined the defence forces!!

  47. Nakia says:

    I’m just starting to emerge from being a GTS. I previously ALWAYS followed ALL the instructions to the point of stressing and wanting to pull my hair out when I knew a little change here or there would take a project from “I like to it” to “I love it”. Now that I’m more confident in my sewing skills, I finally feel comfortable (and like the world won’t end) if I change something in a pattern here and there.

  48. colleen says:

    I’m a rebel but my rebellion usually comes either through making mistakes, not understanding what the pattern wants me to do (a problem in the Big Fours but never in Indie patterns), or finding out that doing it the right way ends up looking horrible on me. So, I can’t exactly claim my rebel status with a big sneer on my face!

  49. Sheree says:

    First time using a pattern I am, without doubt, a goody two shoes. The same when I first try a recipe. I figure that the person that came up with the design, knows best. However, once made, I am then quite happy to change things around, should I remake it.

  50. Eileen says:

    Hmmm. I used to be a rebel.

    I assumed I could “just figure out” how to sew things without patterns and with no experience using that particular type of fabric. To be fair, this came from experience doing just that making Halloween costumes. But there’s a pretty big gap from worn once costumes to worn every day regular wardrobe garments.

    I quickly learned that patterns are my friend and became a born-again GTS.

    But now? Now I’m somewhere in between. I understand that to go off the rails and make alterations requires a good foundation of experience with patterns. I’ll do full bust adjustments, alter necklines, change sleeves, go my own way with finishing details, but have yet to try a full-on Franken-pattern.

    As for advice, toiles are a GTS-turned-rebel’s best-friend.

  51. amcclure2014 says:

    I’m in between. I started trying to follow patterns, as a new sewer, but quickly realised they didn’t work for me – being taller, fuller etc than average. So I was altering bust point, torso length, full bust adjustment, lengthening skirt/trousers/sleeves, widening sleeves, lowering armscye etc. I often felt I might as well have started from scratch. Then my daughter requested an altered neckline which I managed. So now I have a basic block and want to get started, from scratch. Not a rebel, no, I think most/all sewers make fitting changes, it’s just a little further step. I also was following pattern instructions until my sewing tutor at class would say ‘this is a better way…’. I don’t get have experience to go without instructions – yet – but would love to be a true rebel!

  52. Melanie says:

    I wish I could be more like you and follow the rules, which would mean I create magnificent pieces every time. Rules work! Instead I bumble along and then break ALL the rules. The odd success keeps me at it. I look forward to seeing your hack job!

  53. Sewer from across the Pond says:

    I wouldn’t use either label, as the first (“Goody Two Shoes) is condescending and childish and the second (“Rebel”) overly dramatic. I tend to follow the rules suggested unless I’m familiar with other techniques that I know will work better. Some patterns provide “home sewer’s” instructions, which are not the best way of doing things.

    I strive to be “competent.”

  54. Rachel says:

    As my dressmaking skill levels have increased I have found myself moving towards the rebel side. I do tend to play around with my patterns where I can as I get a real sense of enjoyment from making something unique. If I think the overall design (pattern and fabric combination) is best served.from a few amendments I’m more than happy to make them.

  55. Jane B says:

    You know I really don’t think it matters which camp you fall into. I’ve been following you for a few months now and I have to say that your sewing is beautiful. I appreciate the finish on your makes – there’s none of this – ‘it didn’t quite meet / match up ‘ stuff. Keep doing what you’re doing because you’re doing it beautifully. ๐Ÿ™‚

  56. I’m a rebel, sometimes I even make it up as I’m going along or don’t use a pattern at all!! I know some skirt styles won’t suit me so I will quite happily swap the bodice around, line or not line, put sleeves in, take sleeves out, I’d like to say it’s all about aesthetics, but it’s probably to do with how lazy / time poor I am! Everything you make is really lovely, I can see how much time you invest in each pattern. I’ve just dragged out my pattern cutting notes and made some skirts and dresses from scratch, exactly how I want them, that has made me really think about what I am making, but it also gives me complete freedom to do what I want which is quite liberating. I would say – give it a whirl!!

  57. Definitely a rebel. I was taught that way by my mum! Lesson number three or so, was a top that I wanted with a round collar, not a square. So she just got me to use the round collar from another pattern instead of the square. With lessons like that while still knee-high to a grasshopper, I have no hope of ever becoming a GTS.
    However I think the satisfaction with the results is the important bit. And I humbly believe if you start with gorgeous fabric you’re 90% of the way there. Like your new make! I’m totally loving that fabric!

  58. I’m like you, follow the pattern rules when I make the pattern first. If I love the pattern and feel I can tweek it. But not often as I choose patterns I love the shape and will suit my shape, only times I veer off is lining – I’m big on lining and not facings!

  59. I think I’m definitely on the rebel side of the fence. Once I have found a pattern that I like and have worked out the fitting tweaks to get it to fit my body, I love hacking it – which is why the Anna bodice has been grafted onto many different skirts, as has the Elisalex bodice, and the one from S2444… I’m starting to experiment a bit now with changing the shapes of things as well, just to see what happens. It’s nice because I have the security of knowing what I’m doing and the interest of trying something new. It’s a winner!

    And because I basically only sew dresses, I rarely use the instructions given now. I have a construction order I like. I do READ them though because you never know when you’re going to pick up a nice construction technique.

    Oh an Annalou/Lilouanna? DO IT. They’ll work beautifully together. I have paired Anna with a pleated skirt before and it’s lovely.

  60. Pingback: 1939 Vintage Simplicity Dress | ooobop

  61. Julie says:

    I am no rebel! I have enough trouble getting my patterns to look good when I follow the rules ๐Ÿ˜‰ Can’t wait to see this current project once it’s finished. That fabric looks gorgeous.

  62. I am a rebel but often with catastrophic consequences – sleeves which don’t fit the holes, gathers so thick I look 9 and a half, a baggy zip at the back – i just dust myself off (or bury it in the garden) and try again! Jo x

  63. LinB says:

    Rebel yell, y’all! There is almost always more than one way to accomplish a task. Some sewing techniques are time-savers for some stitchers, others find the same techniques to be a tedious and time-wasting bore. Sometimes the old ways are the best ways, sometimes not. Best thing for stitchers is to explore all the ways he/she can find to do whatever it is he/she seeks to accomplish, then keep the best-for-them techniques up his/her proverbial sleeve. And always remember that practice makes perfect; new techniques might take a bit of time to get used to. That said, there are some GTS practices that make perfect sense to this old rebel: 1. Making muslins or toiles is nearly always worth the time on a very fitted garment. 2. Basting saves more time than it wastes. 3. Throw away dull pins and needles. 4. Sharpen your shears. 5. Clean the lint and dust out of your machines, and lubricate the moving parts. 6. Pay attention to fabric grain lines.

  64. Ahaha! Love how you named me as the ‘rebel’ when I’m always wishing I had more creative vision! Granted, I was relatively brave with my vintage Vogue, but I wish I took more risks like that!

  65. I always felt like a goody-two-shoes as a kid but as a sewist and cook I’m definitely a rebel. I’m not sure what makes me brave enough to go my own way but I think it’s part experience, part being from a family of creators and partly a willingness to fail. I know that something might not turn out just right but I’ll never know if I don’t try. Thanks for such a great topic!

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