Once upon a time, complicated patterns prompted many women to abandon their sewing machines. But today, fabric stores are full of patterns--many on the cutting edge of fashion--that won't break your heart. Easy shapes--floaty dresses, flowing wide-leg pants and elongated vests--are the latest look. And they are simple enough for a novice to sew at home.
An even greater lure for sewers who want the best is the expanded availability of patterns by new, hot designers as well as access to the same fabrics they used in their collections.
Sewers can now buy designer yardage at stores including Left Bank Fabric Co., with several locations in Southern California, and F&S; Fabrics in West Los Angeles.
Alice Leo, manager of Left Bank Fabric Co.'s Newport Beach store, estimates that at least 50% of her clientele regularly request designer fabrics. Among those carried in the store: Emanuel Ungaro, Gianni Versace, Calvin Klein, Yves Saint Laurent and Donna Karan.
"Our customers are very educated about designer clothing, and many come in wanting to duplicate something that they've seen on the runway or in a magazine," Leo says.
Among new designer names in the pattern books, Vogue offers the greatest selection. In addition to such stars as Bill Blass, Oscar de la Renta, Donna Karan, Calvin Klein, Ellen Tracy and Ralph Lauren, are designers Tom and Linda Platt, Todd Oldham, Gordon Henderson and Jennifer George.
McCall's offers only a few recognizable brand names, Jones New York among them. McCall's also has a selection of brand names for kids, including Mousefeathers, Gitano and French Toast.
Simplicity offers patterns with celebrity connections--Christie Brinkley and Hammer, to name two, have lent their names to styles.
Amy Yanagi, editor of Threads, a bimonthly fashion sewing publication, says women who re-create designer clothes on their own sewing machine see real savings.
She estimates that a jacket and skirt in a wool fabric Donna Karan used in her collection would cost about $300 to make. Karan's fall jackets are priced between $1,100 to $1,400 and skirts are about $600.
The home-sewn version of a Ralph Lauren red-and-blue Douglas plaid jacket with wide-notched collar and fit-and-flair princess seams (Vogue Pattern 2780) costs about $113 to make.
The breakdown includes: $75 for the Lauren fabric, $17.50 for the designer's pattern, $12 for the buttons, $6.25 for the lining and $2.50 for the shoulder pads. The jacket sells for about $750. The same designer's red cavalry dress that retails for about $1,400 can be made for $208 using Vogue Pattern 2782.