how Lisette sewing patterns are developed

Since launching the Lisette brand last week, we’ve gotten several questions about how the sewing patterns are developed. I thought it would be useful to answer them here.

As you know, we have partnered with Simplicity to produce and distribute the Lisette patterns. We chose to do this for several reasons, two of which are worth sharing.

First, Simplicity will give Lisette patterns an immediate global presence. You can purchase them everywhere Simplicity patterns are sold, in almost any country around the world. The instructions are provided in English, French, and Spanish–automatically expanding the potential audience for the brand.

Second, Simplicity provides a well-known and understood set of fit and sizing specifications for women’s apparel. Developing these standards is much more time consuming and difficult than you might imagine. Being able to work with a company that has these standards in place ensures a quality product from the start.

So let me explain for you a bit about the process of how I work with the good folks at Simplicity to develop the patterns in the Lisette line.

All commercial sewing patterns, regardless of the designer’s name appearing on the envelope, are drafted by the sewing pattern company that distributes them. If you purchase a pattern with a designer’s name on it from Simplicity, McCalls, or any other pattern company, the style was created by the designer while the pattern was created by the pattern company using their own proprietary construction techniques and sizing specifications.

For the Lisette line, I design a number of different styles and then work with Simplicity’s wonderful creative director to make a final selection for the line and decide which views will end up in each pattern package. After we’ve finalized the styles, I write the technical specifications for how I want each garment to fit. Simplicity then uses this information to draft the patterns for each style using their sizing and fit standards. Once the patterns are drafted, we schedule a first fitting to review how each pattern has come together.

I attend every fitting at Simplicity’s offices here in New York. We go over each garment in great detail to ensure that the vision I had for the design has been realized. At this stage in the process, most sewing patterns are fitted and tested on a mannequin. I know from experience, however, that a mannequin just isn’t sufficient for achieving proper fit. So we also test the fit of all Lisette styles on real people as well.

I work with the team from Simplicity to tweak the first version of the pattern so that it fits the way I want. You’ll discover, for example, that the Lisette styles tend to be slimmer fitting than most commercial sewing patterns and feature unique fit details such as higher armholes. It’s important to get these things right at this stage in the process, and I’m intimately involved to make sure that my preferences and vision for each style are realized.

What does this mean for you? Since bodies come in all shapes and sizes, one of the wonderful things about sewing for yourself is that you can customize your clothing to fit you and your preferences. Here are a few tips to help you achieve a good fit when you sew with Lisette patterns:

  • Be sure to take your measurements accurately before deciding which size to make. Pattern sizes are different than ready-to-wear sizes. Simplicity allows a little extra ease (or room for movement in the garment) in all their patterns, so if you prefer a slimmer fit you may want to do as I do and sew a size smaller than your measurements indicate.
  • It’s always a good idea to make a muslin before cutting into your good fabric. A muslin is a “first draft” of a garment, made with an inexpensive fabric and usually basted together, eliminating details like facings and finished seam allowances. Having a muslin allows you to concentrate on adjusting the fit before investing time into making a finished garment.
  • As with any ready-to-wear clothing, you may find that adjustments need to be made in order to achieve a proper fit. There are a number of helpful books and guides available to aid you in this area. We’ll offer some tutorials and tips on the Lisette blog, but for in-depth examples and explanations I recommend buying a book about fitting which will help much more than a short tutorial or blog post.
  • If you are between sizes, or different parts of you measure different sizes (don’t worry; this isn’t uncommon), the general rule of thumb is that for dresses and blouses you select the size according to your bust size. For pants and skirts you select according to your hip. Again, this is just a rule of thumb, so use your own judgment and preferences. (And see the point above about making a muslin.)

Once we have the pattern style and fit finalized, it’s time to create the sewing instructions.

Just as with the patterns themselves, Simplicity has a well-defined set of standards that are used for their sewing instructions. All Simplicity patterns, no matter which label, include these methods and basic construction techniques.

Lisette patterns, however, offer additional elements that I add that aren’t found in other Simplicity patterns. You’ll find special Lisette tips and hints throughout the patterns, giving you information about a technique or a useful method that will help as you sew. Lisette patterns also indicate when and where to finish the seam allowances, since this is a common area of confusion for new seamstresses. I think that you’ll find these additional Lisette elements helpful in your sewing and that your skills and confidence level will improve by using them.

In the future, we’ll be compiling a list of common questions about Simplicity sewing steps to help you understand them if you’re not already accustomed to sewing with Simplicity patterns.

I hope this gives you some insight into how the Lisette patterns are developed. Try one out and provide us with your feedback by leaving your comments or questions in the discussion forums section of our website.


Carley Struve said...

Hi Liesl,

Thanks for the informative article! I’ll be watching for Lisette patterns in the fabric stores. I teach beginner sewiwng and it sounds as though these patterns would be wonderful for teaching! I like that you will be adding in tips, especially for seam finishes. The other pattern instructions assume that the sewer knows these things! It is confusing for the beginner.


Angela B said...

Thank you for the interesting article. I enjoy how you give your readers behind the scene info on this blog and your others. I was glad to read that the Lisette patterns will have tips and hints by you! Thank you!

Rachel said...

I’m excited to learn about this. My local JoAnn Fabrics already has the patterns in stock. I plan to start with the Traveller dress.

Is anyone else having difficulty regsitering for the forum? I can’t get it to work.

Nicole said...

I can’t wait-muslin fabric prepped-sewing up to date-just filling in time-come on postman!

heather jane said...

I am so flipping excited about these patterns I could embarrass myself jumping for joy. There is such a LACK of stylish and functional patterns out there for women. I can’t wait to get sewing for spring. THANK YOU!!

Johanna Olson said...

It’s nice to know how these patterns will vary from some of the other Simplicity patterns. I’m back stalking my mailbox to see if they have arrived yet.

Sandi said...

This is what I was afraid of. I really dislike Simplicity patterns. They seldom go together well and instructions are anything but simplistic. I’ll be interested to see how you all like sewing with these. I’m really disappointed that these aren’t pure Liesl patterns, because then I know they’d be great!

Liesl said...

Sandi, I hope you’ll give the patterns a chance. I’ve invested a lot of time and energy in them, and the initial feedback we’ve gotten has been very positive. Here’s a review from someone who made the Market skirt and was very happy with the instructions:


Sandi said...

Thank you, Liesl. I didn’t mean to criticize your new patterns! 😉 I’ve just had unusable patterns from Simplicity in the past. I love your patterns so much and hope that these will be just as wonderful to sew.

ELISE said...


Yeah for the grown-ups ! I simply love these patterns!
Purchased one this very moment, I’m THRILLLLED I tell you.
:)-< Me doing a Happy Dance

Thank you,

anna said...

Thank you for explaining this all. I was very curious about how the fitting would be compared to other simplicity patterns. I had purchased a couple of the patterns and I think I’m going to start with a muslin and then go forward more confidently! 🙂