{Blog Series} How patterns compare? Prices of sewing patterns in the UK

Sewing isn’t a cheap hobby. Add the cost of the pattern, fabric, notions and the bill is sky high. So price may be one of the parameters when picking a sewing pattern. For sizing comparison, wait until second part of this series.
Unlike the USA where Big commercial patterns like Vogue, Butterick, McCall’s, Butterick, Simplicity, New Look go on massive sales ($1.99//£1.20) when those patterns go on sale here (UK) is generally about 20% to 40% off. That means that an amazing Vogue number on sale still going to cost £9//$14.48 Once or twice a year an online retailer will go as low as 70% but the range isn’t complete. We do get pattern sales but we will never get the chance to pay only $1.99 for a new pattern. The closest we can get to pay this low are a few bargains found on charity shops. With the resurgence of sewing now they seen to be increasing in price too. 
It takes about 3 to 4 weeks for a Simplicity pattern launched in the USA to reach the UK market and not all the designs are made available. There a few of new Cynthia Rowley (I love them) patterns not made available at all.  Similar delay with Big 4. There is always an option to buy directly from US websites. Unfortunately royal mail cap expenditure to $20 and there is a hefty fine if you go over. Unless it’s a book.
There is a way to get Big 4 patterns cheaper if you buy a lot. If you are a subscriber to Sew Today (Quarterly cost of £7.49//$12 – Similar to club Bmv) you can buy Butterick, Vogue, Kwik Sew and McCall’s half of the retail price. That means some of the cheaper patterns can go under £5//$8. I had this subscription for a year and confess I didn’t use it to it full advantage.
Simplicity UK do offer a pattern of the week for £2.99//$4.81 on their website so if you keep an eye and can wait, the pattern you desire may be there, maybe be not. This week is a great one 1589.
So no wonder PDF’s are turning to be a good choice for sewist out there. I used to dislike using PDF in the past but grown to appreciate some of their advantages, price being one of them.
Burdastyle is far the cheapest option. The magazine cost £4.99 but PDF patterns can cost as low as £1.99 for individual pattern downloads. My favourite coat only costed me £3.99//$6.45 
The most expensive paper pattern is Named. Buying locally their most expensive patterns will set you back £17.50//$28. If you buy online the cost go over £22//$35. Ouch!  That’s make my wallet very sad because they offer my dream style. I choose to pay extra for the quality of the design and personally I do think is worth it. I don’t mind the instructions (I do mind a little the tracing but their layout has improved). That’s when value for money becomes so subjective. I work harder, pay more but still my experience is of a happy customer. 
The average cost for a printed indie pattern here in the Uk is £13//$21. Let’s compare how an American and British pattern cost overseas. We know the cost of a Colette pattern is $16 (USA) and for us would be an equivalent of $20// £12.50.  Turning around, we pay £14//$22.52 for BHL, and in USA they pay $21//£13.  Similar with another Brit pattern company, only £0.50 difference less from what you pay for Tilly and the Button patterns. If we take consideration the fluctuation of conversation rate, we get the same product for the same price.
Same for Big 4. If we picked a McCall pattern in the UK we would be paying £8.25// $13.27. Not so different from USA $12.50//£7.80. 
We can establish that patterns retail cost almost the same but the sales available in the USA make the biggest impact on the prices. During this research McCall’s patterns are $3.99 //£2.50- Can I say I’m crying right now. Indie patterns when on sale don’t go over 20% ( unless I missed something)
The average price of an indie pattern PDFs is £8, which will sit at the same range of a mid range big 4 printed pattern. 
Prices are pretty much matched between the companies so other decisions like personal taste, availability, instructions, brand, sizing may play bigger part of picking a pattern.

 I’m very curious to know if the same price scope happens in other parts of the world. Do share what you know.

  • Pattern prices look pretty much the same here in Australia. It used to be that the Big 4 was never on sale, but in the last while the Big 4 have sales periodically at the big fabric chain Spotlight. At the moment they have Vogue for $5. Aussies, stock up!

    • I LIVE for the $5 pattern sales at spotlight….makes the designer and vintage vogue patterns actually affordable! I cannot bear to pay full price.

  • The Sew Essential website frequently has sales on one of the big 4; right now a lot of New Look patterns are £2.95 and they have some Buttericks at £1.95. It’s not the whole range, but they’re often worth a look!

  • I only ever buy Burda patterns in the UK, really. I’m lucky in that my mum and dad live in the US, so i send my mum to JoAnn’s every time there’s a sale with a list.
    Here in Chile, you can’t buy any of the international patterns. You can buy amazing catwalk knock-offs, but I have yet to buy, or have my students buy, a single one that is well drafted. They are usually one size only, and I assume completely computer drafted.
    I make the same patterns over and over again anyway, but now I just do it out of necessity as well as habit!

  • Anonymous

    AUSTRALIA!! expensvie fabric, expensive patterns , great beaches…!!?? I live on the West Coast where there is very limited brick and mortar shops that are within my budget. We get $5 paper pattern sales at our big chain store but they NEVER have the ones you want as its usually late in the season and they often only get 1 of each pattern to start with. PDFs have made sewing an affordable hobby for me and for that i can accept the printing and taping !

  • Oh Racheal,I am so sorry..I didn’t realize there was such a difference in our cost to UK cost..
    Great Post.

  • This was definitely something that escaped me, being in the US. I rarely pay more than $5 for a pattern (and that’s for vogue!) so is near impossible for me to spend $25-30 on an independent pattern. I bought two indie patterns last week which is pretty big for me! 🙂 I also own a couple of Sewaholic patterns and am considering the latest Closet Case Files pattern. I kinda of want the Bruyere but will have to see.

    Great discussion.

  • I feel your pain. Patterns in Australia are also very expensive and rarely go on sale. However, I was happy recently to find that I could buy the Named Wyome jeans PDF from Pattern Review for US$11.88 (non-member price $13.20), which is way better than 13 Euros (US$16.50) on the Named website. No excuses not to buy Named now!

  • This is brilliant, thanks so much for the comparison. I’ve been wondering about this for some time. Your pink coat is divine, by the way. 🙂

  • The cost of patterns does put me off, so I subscribe to Burdastyle and draft my own patterns as well. I’m always on the look out for charity shop finds.

  • Very nice post! I live in Italy and as paper patterns we have only the magazines: Burda, La mia Boutique etc and some (few) imported ones. However there is a selection of big4 patterns available as pdfs via Print Sew – and when the big4 go on sale these patterns go on sale too. I bought my NewLook Wrap dress with $2.99.

  • Rachel

    You’ve not mentioned lekala? They do PDFs and some great designs specifically tailored to your measurements for only Just over £1 which is surely the best price out there, have a look!

    • I did made a note when I was researching but completely scale me when I was writing.

  • Very interesting to read about the differences around the world. I might be wrong, but I think that here in Finland home sewists use mostly patterns from magazines, like in Italy. There are two major Finnish pattern magazines, Suuri Käsityölehti and Moda. Burda is translated into Finnish again, and you can also find a range of sewing magazines in foreign languages. One difference might also be that we buy our sewing magazines from the grocery store. Where I live you can buy individual Vogue and Burda patterns at fabric stores, but I don’t remember how much they cost. I’m ashamed to admit that I had never even heard of an independent pattern company before I began reading sewing blogs! Either I’m really out of fashion, or they haven’t hit it big in Finland yet. I sincerely hope that Named will change that though!

  • New Zealand is even worse than Australia and the UK. Big 4 patterns run at about $25-$35 each. That’s about 12-17 GBP. So we love pdf indie patterns.
    I hardly use patterns – I am either taking a pattern off an RTW garment I cannot live without, or drafting/free cutting my own. I use them for menswear but most of those patterns are old ones I got for a few dollars. If you wonder why these patterns cost so much more outside the US, it will be because of the distribution network. Having a distributor between the product and the retailer adds another layer of ticket clipping.

  • Thanks for an interesting post! i find my Sew Today membership pays for itself easily but then I am a huge Vogue fan.

    I’ve got into the habit of tracing because of pattern prices, and was surprised to find when I made a PDF pattern this week I regretted not tracing that too. the multi size markings were annoying.

  • This was really interesting Rachel! Thank you for doing such thorough research. I wonder why the prices are generally lower in the US? Maybe because the market is bigger over there, and because people generally have a lower income? Looking forward to more posts in this series 🙂

  • Yes indie patterns here are expensive, but oh so nice, plus I do love paper patterns, it’s easy enough for a childs PDF, but man ladies ones, I really dislike sticking all those bits of paper together. I think it all comes down to the population of the USA versus any other countries, more people, ergo cheaper pricing perhaps?

  • Hello, so I tersti g to read you post and all the cimenta. I am a Brit that lives in Australia, I can get $5 dollar patterns from spotlight quite often and rarely spend more than that on a paper pattern. But being in rural Victoria , my acsess to a wide range of patterns is limited and I never get independent patterns because the shopping is too high.

  • Interesting regarding Royal Mail capping expenditure – this must be a new thing because I always purchased directly from the US McCall Company website when I lived in the UK without any problem & having moved I still do. Shipping is kinda expensive (I wish they’d review that) but it still works out much cheaper if you divide shipping per pattern – ie. I buy 7 at a time!
    Here in Austria there are NEVER any sales so Im forced to look outside of my country & purchase either from the UK or the US directly (postage is a killer though). Its always going to be cheaper than purchasing here.
    Indie patterns are expensive but I support if/where I can & generally try to hold out & purchase a bundle at a time to lessen the blow on shipping one pattern with postage costs.
    Great post!!

  • Great round up of price comparisons. I’ve heard of the huge price difference between McCalls, Vogue, ect. but it seems really strange that Simplicity doesn’t even offer it’s full range outside the US. Are Burda envelope patterns (i.e. not from the magazine) available in the UK? In the US the only way to get them is through Simplicity.

    • Yes we do, the designer ones are the ones that don’t come to the UK

  • I agree with what the other Australians have said. I use sewingpatterns.com to order a few big 4 every now and then. If you don’t order many at once the postage is not prohibitive and you can get downloads from them too.

  • Mickey

    Have you thought of friending someone in the USA to send you patterns when they are on sale? It might be even better if you send several patterns at one time to save on mailing costs. This is how I feel when I want Liberty fabric, not only is the fabric expensive but then you have to pay shipping costs. I bought one small piece to see what it was like to make a top. Now I am in love with it!

    • I was wondering this, too. I’m near a JoAnn and can usually stop in and get patterns, if you’d like.

    • Mickey Newman

      So you now have two people who will help you out. Let us know!

  • Anonymous

    Burda patterns are available in most Hancock’s and Joanne’s fabrics in the United States.

  • When I 1st started in a town with burda style in library so that was great. I moved but still sew most things from burda style mags or occasional download. Increasingly tempted by indie downloads but atleast instantaneous ness of them does mean I actually make them right then. Good post.

  • Great post – I was actually about to write one similar, haha! 😉

    Prices here in New Zealand are similar – like Mrs C said above, Big 4 are usually around the $20-$35 mark each, and when they go on sale usually only go downt to half price (Vintage Vogue reproduction would then be around $17.50 each. Yeah. Still not cheap.)

    But then with the indies, while their baseline prices are better than the baseline Big 4 prices for us, the international shipping is crazy expensive. Seriously folks, to get one Colette pattern for example) sent to New Zealand costs over $10 USD, bringing the pattern price up to $28 USD. Compared to Papercut, where $30 NZD gets you the pattern and postage. (Current exchange rates for $30 NZD = $23 USD.) Which is why it frustrates me at times when people complain about the price of Papercut patterns without taking into consideration that they’re postage-included worldwide – unless you’re living in the same country as where the indie patterns are sent from, postage really costs a heck of a lot.

    And yeah, yay for PDF patterns! And for little stockists who import indie patterns so we can buy them at reasonable prices! If it weren’t for both of those things, I wouldn’t own nearly as many patterns as I do. (Hmmm… maybe that wouldn’t be a bad thing…. :-p )

  • In France, patterns cost around 9, 10 euros for Mccall’s, Simplicity, Butterick and Vogue patterns cost around 14 euros and up.
    Indie patterns are about 16 euros.
    Most of my patterns come from BMW and Sewing patterns.com website because it way cheaper.
    I do buy lots of pdf patterns too.

  • Shipping to Asia is really costly and in Singapore we are only able to purchase the patterns online which can be really costly. So i’ll say its the shipping cost that kills.

  • I live in Japan, and I can only find burda patterns here (and not so easily). I don’t really like Japanese patterns, they don’t fit my style, although they are less expensive and usually very well-explained. Is Ralph pink patterns also a British pattern company?

  • Glenda

    Wow, I had no idea patterns were so expensive in the U.K.
    I always wait for the Hancock or Hobby Lobby sales here in the U.S. Most of the time I purchase patterns for $1.99, for Simplicity or McCalls. Vogue, Kwik Sew, and Burda might run between $2.99 and $4.99, depending on the sale. Sometimes, Hobby Lobby, will have a .99 sale on Simplicity or McCalls.

    Since the pattern catalogs are online, it is easy to view the patterns, make a list of the one’s desired for purchase, then take the list into the store during sales. I have no idea what shipping a package to the U.K. costs, but it seems if a seamstress has friends in the U.S., it might prove prudent to e-mail a list of the desired patterns and have the friend purchase them and mail them. Just an idea ….

    • My brother lives in NY but I don’t think he would be buying any lol…

  • You have put a lot of work into this fascinating post ! So much information, its great, I have never heard of named so i am off to have a look at their website thanks for the links…
    bestest wishes
    Daisy jones..

  • Sadly, the terms of the Sew Today membership has changed. You now get 40% off the patterns, not 50%. As a member I was never informed of this change – I happened to notice it in the magazine. So it’s not such a good offer any more. I’m thinking of cancelling as the ridiculous amount of typos in the magazine drive me nuts too! Great post 🙂

  • You guys think you have it bad. I live in Malta, where there are basically two fabric stores left – one extremely pricey “occasion” wear full of silk and spangles and lace, and the other a mix of nice stuff/soso/rubbish, with really sweet staff who however mostly don’t know their fabrics. Imagine asking for knit/jersey and being told – here you are – spandex. Or – asking for gabardine and asking what the fibre is and being told with a duh! look “gabardine”. Yup. Re patterns, it’s basically Burda mag since I was a kid, or La mia boutique. So I have to buy practically everything on line. Including clear elastic. I jumped for joy when I found stretch needles recently!
    Anyway – I used to buy more from the UK because of duty, but have discovered that when the Vogues/McCalls etc go on sale in the UK – now that’s a sale!, my usual limit of three patterns (because the shipping for those is $15 and then it goes up) still works out cheap enough to get thru customs. I have also bought not just vintage but modern patterns from ebay and etsy. So there’s a tip for you :). I usually buy my indie patterns from Sewbox, who is brilliant.

  • I’m not sure if it’s different buying through a shop than a big 4 company directly, but most of the big 4 patterns in my local sewing shop are around £4.99 or £5.45 for past season patterns. You’re right most of the recent season patterns are £8.15 though. I usually buy second hand patterns on ebay (as long as they are uncut) as I can’t justify the cost.

  • Despite the fact that we live right next door to the U.S., us Canadians get rooked pretty bad on pattern prices (and fabric, for that matter) because of a) currency exchange, and b) MASSIVE shipping costs! In many cases, it’s been cheaper for me to order indie patterns from the UK and NZ than from the US. Big 4 can sometimes be obtained at sale prices here in local fabric stores for maybe $5-$6 on a good sale 🙂

  • prices for swing these patterns are different in many country,i live i india and here are prices quite less then mentioned above.
    thanks for sharing!!

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