We sewists sew for all sorts of reasons — some of us sew for therapy and creativity, some for business, some to help out the household budget. We have all sorts of budgets for sewing — from the sky’s the limit to spending only a small amount each month.
I know there are plenty of sewists out there who don’t have a pattern addiction like I do and are looking to make sewing as affordable as possible. Well, this post is for them!
One thing I’ve noticed over about the last year or so is that there are an increasing number of well-done multi-sized free patterns available. So many, in fact, that you really could make a complete, varied wardrobe spending only $34 total on patterns ($24 if you’re not interested in athletic wear).
T-shirts and Tunics:
There are so many options here! T-shirts are by far the category with the most free options. This is not an exhaustive list of free t-shirt patterns, but a few that I think would nicely round out a wardrobe:
- The Love Notions Laundry Day Tee (affiliate link) is free to members of the designer’s Facebook group. It has a top and tunic length, 2 neckline options, 3 sleeve options, and is nice and flowy. It can easily be lengthened into a dress.
- The SBCC Tonic 1 and Tonic 2 easily fit the bill for a more traditional t-shirt. These are a little more form-fitting and could be made in performance fabric for athletic wear.
- The Deer & Doe Plantain Tee. Similar to the Laundry Day Tee without quite as many options, but also not quite as flowy through the middle. It’s a nice middle group between the two above. It can also be lengthened into a dress — I know because I’ve done it.
Dolman Sleeve Top:
If you’re on a strict budget, you really should never pay money for a knit top! Between the t-shirts and dolmans there are so many free ones available now.
I’m including the Fancy Tiger Crafts One-Hour Top. This one looks really put-together and would be great for a work wardrobe as well as casual. And as with t-shirts, there are a number of other free options.
It’s much easier to find free patterns for knits than for wovens! Woven tops typically need darts to fit over a bust, and the armscyces are harder to draft and fit, so they generally just take more work. But most wardrobes need at least some woven pieces, even if they’re just for special occasions.
Colette does actually have a free woven tank pattern. The Sorbetto was actually one of the first free patterns on the market, so you can find lots of inspiration pictures. You can even download a free sleeve pattern for the Sorbetto here.
Another woven tank option is By Hand London’s Polly Top. It’s multi-sized with some fun color-blocking options.
The Swoon Scarf-Neck Cardigan (affiliate link) is a free multi-sized (S-XXL) version of those drapey cardigans that are so popular right now. I have a couple of RTW ones and I do find them to be incredibly comfortable and versatile.
The Patterns for Pirates Peg Legs leggings pattern is free to member of the designer’s Facebook group. This is a very nicely done pattern that fits most people really well. It’s multi-sized from XXS-XXXL with 4 length options. They can be done in performance fabric for athletic wear also.
Most wardrobes need a skirt or two. Itch-to-Stitch has a good knit pencil skirt pattern, and it’s free! The Lindy Petal Skirt (affiliate link) is multi-sized from XXS to XL.
The Megan Nielsen Veronika skirt is a rare free pattern for a multi-sized woven circle skirt. I really like Megan Nielsen patterns — they’re well done, and this one also has nice big pockets.
Ages ago, Zoe from the So Zo blog offered her panties and camisole pattern for free. The SoZo Panties and Camisole are basic workhorse patterns that sew up quickly.
For something a little fancier, check out the Cloth Habit Rosy Ladyshorts. These are a free boy shorts pattern designed to be made in stretch lace.
The Maya Bra is a free underwired bra pattern in a huge array of sizes. The tutorial for this bra is in a language that I don’t recognize, though it looks like the site is slowly being updated with English translations. I’ve seen many iterations of this bra in a bramaking Facebook group and it is beautiful. And it’s so rare to find a free underwired bra pattern, which typically falls into the category of patterns that take so much work to make that they’re not offered for free.
Now it would be nice if we could get everything for free, but there are certain types of garments that demand so much work and detail by the designer that they justifiably refuse to give the patterns away. The most important of these garments for a well-rounded wardrobe would be woven pants (including jeans) and button-down shirts.
I’ve tried to include in my list patterns that I have used before so I know they’re good and can vouch for them. If you’re spending on a very limited budget, the patterns you invest in need to be worth that investment. Obviously there are other options out there.
It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of the Ginger Jeans ($12 USD for the PDF) from Closet Case Patterns, and that’s the pattern I’m going to recommend here. Good luck finding a quality jeans pattern for free. Woven pants take a ton of work to develop and I would never feel comfortable recommending a free pattern since I have a hard time believing a designer would put in the work necessary to develop a quality pattern and then give it away for free.
I’ve made 4 versions of the Ginger jeans, including a pair in stretch twill for work, and I love the pattern. It’s really well done and has a great fit. You can easily change the pocket shape and type for a more formal pant too.
(If stretch wovens aren’t your thing, then I’d go with the Sewaholic Thurlows ($14.99 CAD), which are a traditional trouser. If you’re on a tight pattern budget, I’d say go for one or the other of these pants patterns. Each is versatile enough that you could get by without anything else.)
Again, there are several options out there for button downs, but I’m going to include the Grainline Archer ($12 USD for the PDF) here. I’ve made several versions, fitted the pattern, and I love it. Grainline patterns are universally well done.
Disclaimer: I have never made a sports bra, so I can’t vouch for these patterns from personal experience, but these are reputable pattern designers known for quality work.
The Peekaboo Patterns Vitality Racerback Tank & Sports Bra ($9.95 for PDF) (affiliate link) has a traditional sports bra option, which is necessary if you are a workout fiend. It also has a tank bra option.
The Greenstyle Jillian Tank ($10 for PDF) does not appear to have a true sports bra option, but it has some fun options and variations The tank might offer enough support for a small-busted lady, though definitely not for most of us.
So there you go! For a total of $34, you can take care of almost all your pattern needs for a complete wardrobe, leaving all the rest of your hard-earned money to spend on fabric 🙂