What comes first: The pattern or the fabric?

Hello dear readers,


As I was organising my fabric stash this weekend I was wondering about the way others sewists plan their sewing. 

I want to know if you choose a fabric before a specific pattern 
or you buy the pattern and them hunt for fabric?
For me, 99% of the time fabric comes first! That is mainly because where I live. The local fabric shops are very expensive and poor of choices so I must gather what I can on fabric shopping trips. So rarely my outfit starts with the pattern. It’s all about fabric first.
During those shopping trips, I either got a little wish ‘list’ or I just buy what I fancy in hopes for a inspiring moment later.  When there is a pattern I fancy doing, I would go “fishing” in my stash!
If you wondered what metreage I go without a pattern in mind, I keep it simple:
Fitted Skirt: 1m- / Semi fitted skirt: 1.20m
Dresses:1.50- 2m ( long sleeves)
Jackets and Pants:3m
If a specific project needs more then it goes to my ‘wish list’ notebook.


How about you. Pattern or Fabric first?
  • I would say an idea of the sort of pattern I’d like, then the fabric, then the actual pattern. The fabric tends to get me more enthused about the item I have in mind than a pattern does. I blame the fact that I can touch it. 🙂

  • At first I had much more success with fabric first. These days it varies but I don’t compromise on fabric. If I can’t find what I need for a particular pattern I make something else instead. I also tend not to buy fabric without a very good idea of what I want to sew with it.

  • I’m in a similar area to you and have the same issue with finding reasonsbly priced fabric or much choice. So, if I get the chance to buy fabric I stock up. I tend to buy 3ms if I think a dress is on the cards – I can use up leftover bits for my little nieces. I’ve not yet got the skills for a coat or jacket! However, I’m always on the look out for patterns, especially in charity shops where I’ve found some lovely 60s ones. I have swatches of all my fabrics in a book (with a few details of length, width, condition etc) so if I see a new pattern I’ll know if it will work), this also stops me getting carried away if I have something similar already. Also useful for picking up accessories. I used to keep details of patterns written down too but now have far too many! 🙂

  • I hoard fabrics and then when I am in the mood to make something I pick out something then stare at it for a while until I can decide what I want to make out of it! I hoard patterns too so I can normally find a pattern that fits the bill. lol. Probably not the most sensible way of sewing but I enjoy it 😀 xXx

  • I’m so-so. Lucky for me, I live just a few minutes walk away from fabricland, who have a great choice of reasonably priced fabrics – but of course, they don’t always have *exactly* what you want. So often my thinking goes: Jeans – corduroy – black would be nice. Then I go check what they have, and there’s not black. So I might settle for some black denim instead. Or maybe an aubergine corduroy.
    Occasionally, I see a pattern and “know” what kind of fabric it needs.
    And then, of course, there’s just the fabric lusting: “I need to make something with tweed!” Then I go fabric searching (there are a few more shops in town who sell fabric, and of course the big, wide internet) without having a very clear plan what pattern to use, just a vague idea what kind of garment it should be, like a skirt or a jacket maybe.

  • For me the fabric is the inspiration – I buy because I adore it an the pattern comes later, often from the middle of nowhere with a great AHA! moment. I am fussy with patterns and can never imagine my own finished version if I don’t know the medium that I am working with, if you follow. Saying that, I usually have some vague notion when buying fabric of what it is most likely to become, so can buy accordingly.

  • Fabric is first for me too, I usually shop on the discount/clearance table so if something is good I’ll grab it. I really like the idea of your wishlist notebook though!

  • Fabric usually comes first for me. Just yesterday I went with a friend to help her choose fabric for a specific project and found 2 pieces that had to come home with me. I know I will make a top with the silk piece, and a pair of trousers with the wool, but have yet to decide on a pattern, or even if I will just makea pattern from scratch..

  • Fabric first usually but not if I know I’m making clothes, usually pattern first in those cases

  • I’m in a similar situation up here in the boondocks. Quality fabric is only available in NH and Mass. when I go visit my daughters so I buy with future possibilities in mind. Otherwise I wouldn’t have much!

  • I’m definitely an impulsive fabric buyer 😉
    And, when I have a pattern to make …. Of course nothing on my stash will do!

  • Sometimes a pattern speaks to me first, but then other times the fabric is just calling my name so I would have to say both 😀

  • normally the pattern first. fabric is so expensive that i only buy something without a pattern in mind if it is a remnant or close to the end of the roll. i find if i buy something without a pattern, it sits around for ages before i work out what to do with it! i don’t have too much of a stash tho, so unlikely i can decide to make something and find the fabric in my stash.

  • It depends – sometimes I buy fabric/patterns if I like them and they’re at a good price. Sometimes I’ll by fabric with one pattern in mind, and then use it for something else. I know I basically use the same few patterns for tops, and that they take between 75cm and 1.5m of fabric, so if I like a fabric and know I’ll use it for a top, that helps (the more expensive, the less I buy!). I need to be more disciplined – my stash is a little bit out of control!

  • I wish I bougth fabric with a pattern in mind or even visa versa! Sadly, I’m a spontaneous buyer so I shop for fabric or patterns just because they’re pretty….this is why I have such a huge stash now though!

  • Like many, I am a 50/50 person. Sometimes I will see a pattern that I must have. It could be the design lines or the way it happens to be fabricated or styled in the catalog, it speaks to me. Fabric has always been a great starter as well. Finding unique fabrics is a challenge for most of us I think. I have discovered a few on-lines sources that consistently provide high quality and interesting pieces. I tend to believe that if you so, even a button can start the process.

  • bit of both. I usually have patterns that I want to make and will then look for fabric to suit the style, sometimes I have a definite type of fabric in mind, otherwise I may be open to suggestions.
    I also buy fabric on the whim, especially if it’s something that really catches my eye. If I do this I usually buy between 2.5 and 3m of it, as I know it will meet most fabric requirements – then I put it in my stash and wait for a suitable pattern to appear. – or make my mind up!

  • I started sewing pattern first but have since gone the other way. I shop fabric sales to get my hands on quality fibers in my palettes, then if they sit there waiting for the right time & pattern, it’s ok 🙂

  • For me it could go either way. Sometimes I see a great fabric and know right away that it’s going to be a dress, or blouse or even a suit without knowing what pattern I’ll choose. Then there are times when I find an “I’ve got to have” pattern and then later shop for a certain fabric. It just depends…

    • I’m like this, too. It really depends on the project. And occasionally I’ll have a garment in mind and then search for both a pattern and fabric.

  • Hey Rach!
    I’m with you, fabric first.
    I don’t buy patterns that frequently, I only buy a pattern if I really like it because I already have my favorite patterns that i use over and over and make changes to them.

    Once I get the fabric, I’ll got through my stash of patterns and decide what I want to sew up. I usually buy about 1.5m for a dress, 2m if I really really like the fabric 🙂

    • Oooh, I’d like to add that PATTERN comes first when I’m sewing at class. I pick a new pattern to learn new skills, then go shopping for the fabric.

      When sewing at home it’s fabric first, get inspired, then I get a pattern from my stash 🙂

  • It’s fabric first for me. I absolutely love fabric and I have a closet full to prove it!

  • So far, I’ve mostly gone pattern first. But I’d like to be the other way around. I just don’t have that much fabric stashed up (yet) because I’ve hesitated buying it without a plan and knowing how much I’ll need. So thanks for the tip on how much you usually get when you don’t have a pattern in mind!

  • For me it seems to be fabric first almost everytime. I also have limited options when it comes to shopping here, so I feel like I have to buy anything that I like quick smart! Of course, this has resulted in a mini hoard which I am currently trying to diminish.

  • Its so lovely to be able to know what others do, thanks so much I found it very interesting! xx Love Rach

  • I could say that in this matter, my head is always totally crazy … I always let me carry impulse, although I have to confess that I have a complete addiction to buy fabrics …. I can not control this!

  • Off topic – Let me know when you will be in my neck of the woods and we can get some bloggers together!

  • Ooh, fun question! I think mainly the pattern comes first for me, then I decide what kind of fabric would be most fun! I always have a couple of patterns in mind when I go fabric shopping.

  • I am a fabric first girl.. I hoard fabric [terrible hoarder,ha]. I can’t resist fabric [especially on sale], So, I buy it and put it on a shelf. I also buy lots of patterns too.. But….the good part of this is……….When I decide to make a certain garment, I go find a pattern [from stash, normally] and then go to “Judy’s fabric store and decide the fabric.. So, I guess ,you could say, I do it both.lol
    Such a good question.

  • Anonymous

    I`m in love with beautiful material, I can`t resist buying and have quite a stash. I dream and visualize what style will match the fabric and when I find it, bingo! It`s spot on.It`s very rewarding to put one`s heart and soul into making a garment and the result goes well. By the way the few local fabric shops are expensive and I have to travel far to the fabric district of Tel Aviv
    to purchase affordable fabric which is a blessing in disguise.

  • I first choose the fabric, and then I think what can I do with it, looking for the perfect pattern, but when I find the pattern, I realised I have no fabric enough!!!