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Are you really a beginner?


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The first time I decided to survey readers and customers several years ago, I got a bit of a shock.

I realized, I really had no idea anymore what "beginner" truly meant.

I knew what it meant to me. But it clearly meant something different to my readers and customers.

The many meanings of "beginner"

When I asked people what they considered their skill level to be, I heard from:

  • True beginners who were just getting into garment sewing for the first time.
  • Women who had been sewing for 5-10 years and still thought of themselves as "beginners."
  • Women who had been sewing for 10+ years who thought they were "advanced beginners."

I’m using "beginner" as an example, but this held true for other skill levels too. In fact, the only people who called themselves "advanced" were women who had been sewing for at least 40 years. Wow!

At first, I thought this was due to a lack of confidence. I mean, if you’ve been pursuing a hobby for 30 years, and don’t claim the "advanced" label, what else could it be?

Over time, as I talked to more and more sewists, I realized that confidence itself was not the issue. These sewists were plenty confident in the skills they’d acquired.

But what I realized is this: sewing is not a single skill. It’s actually a collection of highly diverse (but related) skills.

There’s the manual dexterity of actual stitching. There’s knowing which technique to use when. There’s fitting. There’s fabric understanding. There are specialties like tailoring, knitwear, or bra-making.

With all these skills under one umbrella, it’s easy to recognize how much you don’t know. Who wants to call themselves "advanced" when there is so much they haven’t even had a chance to try yet? Or techniques they just don’t have any interest in?

All of this has made labeling patterns with a simple skill level rating sort of difficult. I know other pattern makers have thought a lot about this too. It’s tricky.


What is a "beginner" pattern?

With our upcoming pattern (next week!), we hemmed and hawed a bit. Are the categories we’ve been using – beginner, intermediate, advanced – actually meaningful? Do they mean the same thing to most people?

What made it doubly frustrating is that the pattern has multiple versions, some of which have details that are more challenging than others. Some versions are pretty quick and easy, while another version has some cool details that take a bit more time and skill.

In the end, we decided to round it up rather than risk frustrating a beginner. But I still feel our categories aren’t really adequate.

Here are some alternatives we’re considering for future patterns:

  • Points on a scale: To get a more nuanced rating, we could rate the difficulty on a five point scale. We could use numbers, pictures, or even abstract terms ala Knitty.
  • Difficulty instead of skill: As our friend Christine pointed out a few years ago on her blog, in some ways focusing on the pattern rather than the skills of the person makes more sense.
  • Skills used: Knitting patterns often do not list difficulty, but instead include a list of "skills needed" or "skills used" in every pattern. With her background in knitting, Kris suggested this and I do really like the idea. It’s much more specific and also has the advantage of letting you know up front what you might learn!

Your thoughts?

Do any of these ideas make sense to you?

Do you think there is a consistent concept of what various skill levels mean? Or does it vary as wildly as I think it does?

Would a skills list be more helpful than generic ratings? Or would it just make it more complicated to find the pattern that’s right for you?

Sarai Mitnick   —   Founder

Sarai started Colette back in 2009. She believes the primary role of a business should be to help people. She loves good books, sewing with wool, her charming cats, working in her garden, and eating salsa.

Comments 172


I like the idea of emulating the style of a knitting pattern by listing skills needed rather than difficulty level (which is so subjective); I struggle with identifying my skill level too, for many of those reasons you mentioned – but I never shy away from attempting a more challenging project as long as I know what I’m facing :) Plus you can always google skills you don’t know ^_^


I really like the idea of listing the skills required for a particular pattern. Personally speaking, this makes far more sense to me. I have been making my own clothes, on and off, for over thirty years, and yet in some respects still see myself as something of a “beginner” when I consider the range of skills I have.
However, when making the wedding dress for my elder daughter some years back, I found myself tackling a Vogue pattern labelled “Advanced”. Scary. With the assistance of a Craftsy course, I completed it. I just needed the skills required for a boned corset.
It is very confusing trying to decide whether to attempt a “beginner” or “advanced” pattern, so these days I tend to go for patterns I feel might suit me, and ignore the label. After all, there are plenty of sources around (Craftsy, youtube, etc) where skills are explained in detail. I also have copies of both your books. So helpful!
I look forward to seeing what categories you decide might be more useful than the current “beginner”, “intermediate”, advanced”. It is a discussion well worth considering.


I agree – I actually tend to ignore the “difficulty rating” now. Or at least, I don’t look for it. I think a list of skills needed would be much more helpful for both beginners and more advanced sewers


skills used sounds like a practical way to do it. Also, when people want to build certain skills they would know which patterns to use!


I definitely like the idea of listing techniques used, the way knitting patterns do. The reality is that what each person finds difficult is relative to what they’ve done before! Not everyone learns techniques in the same order, so I think many beginner sewers might have the odd ‘intermediate’ technique just because of their choice of first projects. And different people find certain techniques easy or difficult just based on personal preference, sometimes.


I really like the idea of listing skills too, it seems more concrete, and as you say it would show you what you might learn. I’ve been sewing for just over a year, so I guess I am a beginner, but I’ve never taken much notice of the beginner/intermediate/advanced ratings. I tend to just sew things I’d like to wear. I’m not much of a perfectionist so I don’t mind if things are a bit messy in places (though I’m getting better at that!), and I think I’m much more likely to push on if I’m aiming at something I really want. So to me the list-of-skills idea would be more of a “these are the hurdles you’ll have to jump if you want to get there”, not something prohibitive (which maybe a rating of ‘advanced’ could be). As Mandy above says, you can find out how to do pretty much anything on the internet now, so why not have a go!?


A list of skills required makes perfect sense to me. As the previous commentator points out, if someone sees a skill listed that they’ve not tried before, it’s easy to Google it, to see how easy it might be to tackle.


Skills used really resonates with me. Users could look at a pattern description and consider whether or not they want to purchase it based on their comfort level(s) of the skills needed to make the pattern. I definitely consider myself an “Advanced Beginner” even though I’m sewing more than ever. Hopefully my skillset will grow as the umbrella of sewing skills/area continues to grow!


I think listing skills necessary makes a lot of sense. We don’t really know what beginner, etc, means either! If I had to label myself, I’d probably say intermediate, but with a fair bit of internal hemming and hawing… That the sewists around me think I’m intermediate is most of what gives me the confidence necessary to not say advanced beginner :)


I love the idea of skills being listed. I knit too and decide on patterns based on the skills required and if I feel confident enough to try them!


I love the idea of including the skills used. It would be a great way to remind myself to try new skills and realize the skills I already have.

I’ve been sewing for about 4-5ish years (I just dabbled at first), and I think I’m finally starting to think of myself as less of a beginner. Intermediate… here I come :)


Another vote for skills used! The categories of beginner, etc can be helpful, but the problem is simply that people aren’t sure what makes a pattern deserve that rating. With Vogue patterns as an example, it would helpful to know that a pattern is considered advanced because it requires the use of boning, or tailoring, or whatever. Maybe beginning patterns would be certain to never require zipper insertion or buttonholes, things like that….

With that type of understanding, a new sewist would still have the option to only look at beginner’s patterns or those marked easy or whatever system is used, for example, knowing that they wouldn’t need to tackle zippers or make buttonholes. Someone with more skills might be comfortable considering the advanced patterns, but still be able to look at the pattern information and see that “Oh, ok, I need to be able to use boning, insert an invisible zipper and line the bodice.” – and decide if they have the skills needed (or desire to learn those skills) to complete the garment.

Betty Jordan Wester

I consider myself a solid Intermediate. Things I can’t or haven’t done, largely bc I’m not interested in them are: sewing leather, making a padded puffy parka, activewear, drafting pants, smocking & quilting.
I can & do Frankenstein patterns together on a regular basis. I think adding a “skills needed” to the patterns would be great & super helpful to a lot of seamstresses.


I don’t pay attention to the difficulty rating, except maybe as an indication of how long it will take to make something. Inherently, I realize that a pair of trousers will be more difficult than some pajama pants, but that isn’t going to keep me from trying it. Also, making something labeled ‘advanced’ doesn’t mean I’m that great, just that I have tackled a challenge.


This is how I feel too. I think perhaps these skill level designations are mostly helpful for beginners, to know which patterns they might not be ready for yet.


I’d agree with Angela about ratings = time as well. I was looking at a Rebecca Taylor pattern from Vogue patterns online not that long ago, rated advanced. It’s a pretty dress, and (I realized) nothing I couldn’t do, if I had enough time (always the rub). But the hundred thousand pintucks across the bodice (including the bust, making my FBA more difficult) and the pieced trapunto straps just seem way, way too time consuming for a mother of two small children!

Having said that, I do like the idea of listing skills. After having sewn for 10+ years, I can look at the line drawing of a pattern and see – trapunto detailing on the straps! Pintucks!


Yet another vote for skills. I consider myself a pretty solidly “intermediate” sewist, but I have a limited amount of time to sew (full-time job + toddler = not much sewing time), so a lot of the time I’ll choose quick and easy projects. BUT there are also times where I want to stretch my skills, and I’ll purposely seek out a project that’s more advanced and time-consuming.


I like the idea of a skills list, but it might be hard for a beginner to understand. Often a beginner does not know all the terms (my first shirt, I couldn’t figure out what a “placket” was) and can’t assess whether or not they could take those things on. I like how some pattern designers use the term “confident beginner”, because that makes me think it might be a little more complicated than a super-simple pattern, but a relative beginner could take it on.

It might be good to use two indicators: like a five point scale, supplemented by a list of skills.


Great feedback, I like that idea as well.


What might be the most concise way to combine these ideas is to list the skills organized by level, e.g.,
Skills required:
Beginner: gathering
Intermediate: button holes
Advanced: boning

That way even the true beginners sewing their second garment can have a reference for what to expect.


My thought was also 2 indicators, either a pattern difficulty rating and skills needed, or maybe even skills needed and skill mastery rating. It’s one thing to tackle a new skill, but it can be daunting or frustrating to start a new pattern and realize that it wasn’t a pattern to learn a new skill, but one needing an already mastered skill.


I’ll add to the piles of request for the listing of necessary skills. Generally speaking I feel a bit like a beginner. That’s because I’ve learned a large variety of skills to realize exactly how much I don’t know. I know that if I saw a list skills I needed to execute for a pattern, I could tick off a whole bunch of them even if they are an “advanced” pattern. Like others have said, there are a lot of free resources available to learn skills or determine if one wants to tackle said skill.

When Ravelry updated their pattern database everything was categorized on stitches, techniques to knit/crochet and to finish on top of all of the other categories to search for (like yarn type, yarn amount, gauge, needles, shapes, category of project etc).
This has been helpful for me as a knitter, who likes to try new techniques and enhance my abilities as a knitter.

There has been some blog chatter about not many “advanced” patterns available, and I think the lack of self confidence is keeping sewists from sewing/demanding them because they don’t think they are skilled enough. With a skill set listed the situation could be avoided.

I know I would feel more confident knowing what skills are required and I can evaluate if I am prepared to contend with something new to me or I have little experience with. Even if I might discount it as too advanced if the pattern company calls it that.


Yes it makes a lot of sense. I consider myself a beginner, but I have tackle a couple intermediate patterns successfully and on the other hand I have struggle with some beginning patterns…. go figure!


I love patterns that list the required skills. Not only is it a quick way to see whether it’s a pattern I’m capable of completing, it also makes the instructions themselves clearer. I know to be on the lookout for specific techniques and that tends to make the pattern fall together in my mind more clearly before I even begin. It also makes it easier to skip projects that include techniques I really dislike.


I echo others in saying tha a list of skills makes a lot of sense – it gives you a road map of what is inside the pattern before you purchase it.


ooh interesting post. I totally related to this – I think of myself as a beginner/intermediate because there’s still so much to learn & scope to improve! Love the idea of listing skills required.


I think a combination of a broad generic rating followed by a list of skills involved would be really helpful. That way you could narrow things down and decide how big of a challenge something would be for your personal skill set?


I really like the idea of a skill list. Lisa from Paprika Pattern does that with her patterns ans I think it’s very handy. Every sewist can say which skills she (or he) has, so it’s simple to decide if you could handle that pattern or not.

Dobbin’s Bobbins

You make such a valid point. I have a degree in Costume and feel confident that I can make all manner of things, from a frock coat to an 18th century gown, to a high standard. However commercial patterns really intimidate me and when it comes to traditional home sewing I think of myself as a beginner. Crazy! I think that listing skills required is a great idea- it would certainly ease my mind and make me more confident to give things a go!


Great post. I’ve been sewing for 20 years, although I really only took it on with gusto about six years ago, and even then I sewed more for my kids than for myself. I am a fairly confident seamstress, but feel intimidated by: very fitted clothing, tailoring, trousers. Because of that, I do not feel that I could call myself advanced, although “intermediate” probably fits. Just because you’ve sewn for 20 years doesn’t mean you’ve diligently pursued sewing knowledge the entire time – it has always been a hobby and something I did for fun and I have picked up plenty of knowledge along the way but it’s far from my main gig, if that makes sense.


I LOVE the skills listing idea (wish all pattern-makers did this) as it is so much easier to find this kind of info in knit/crochet patterns, but so much less so in sewing – I often have no idea what to expect before seeing the actual pattern.

I also like, in addition to skills, the rating scale – I have seen this used in many applications where you might have 5 blocks and the # filled in (and color they are filled in) help to advise difficulty level. Even on Revelry for knitters/crocheters, there is a 5-star rating system for pattern difficulty. It’s actually filled in by ratings from people who have made the patterns, not the pattern-writers, but it’s still helpful when looking at the most advanced patterns.


There’s a lot we can learn from the hand knitting world. (and vice versa, I’m sure)


I’m making my first garment now, and it’s a beginner Colette Pattern. I can say that as very much a beginner sewist, the pattern is more challenging than I expected. I think points on a scale is the best idea for those of us who are just starting out, because if say, there was a 10-point scale (1-3 beginner, 4-6 advanced beginner, etc.), I would’ve chosen a 1 or 2 pattern. The list of skills used is a good idea coupled with the scale. I remember reading one of the Coletterie’s post about how to start out in sewing, and the writer mentioned to add one skill for each project. So this is where the list of skills would be perfect. I agree with what Nicole said about not knowing all the terms, that’s why I think it would work great in conjunction with a scale.


I think you are on to something with the skills rather than experience ratings. It also seems more helpful when assessing how much you’re going to have to learn (or not!) when tackling a pattern. And I do think higher experience ratings deter buyers who are perfectly competent sewists but don’t think of themselves as such.


Add me to the list of people wanting to see Skills Needed For This Pattern. I’ve been sewing for a couple of years, but I tend to do the same things over and over – not too many new skills, and definitely very few new skills *mastered* in that time. Oh, sure, I did one skirt, fully lined, with a separate waistband that had a button and button hole, decorative buttons, and a zipper. But that was *once*, with a *lot* of help, and hey! My machine has an automatic buttonhole feature! Right now, I can’t see ever doing this skirt again.

OTOH, a pattern listed as “intermediate” because it’s got buttons? My machine will do those, no problem! If I see the Skill listed, I’m more likely to do it. If I see “intermediate”? I’ll probably skip over it.

Something else I’ll consider – how *many* new-to-me skills are on the list? If I can quickly see the list of Skills Needed, I might see that “hey, there’s only one or two skills I’m not as familiar with. I can manage this!” as opposed to “whoa! five or six new-to-me skills in this one pattern? I think I’ll hold off on this for a while”. Far more useful to me than “intermediate” or “advanced”.


Also, I find the “this pattern takes X hours” guide to be pretty useless to me. Well, not useless, but completely inaccurate. When I see that it should take 3 hours to make, I have the crazy notion that it should mean from the time I lay my material & equipment on the table to completion. I think it’s disingenuous to say “oh, no – I meant 3 hours of *sewing* time”. I am also endlessly frustrated that the “3 hours” does not include the cutting of pattern, cutting of material, the piecing of material, the pinning of material. As a beginner, I know that my sewing time will be about 2-3 times that of almost any other sewist. So not only am I counting in cutting, piecing, and pinning, I’m also adding in time for YouTube videos (finding them, watching them, re-watching them, starting the technique for real then going back to the video, going back to the technique, going back to the video, finishing the technique), asking real-life friends for help, taking pieces apart and reworking them, realizing I screwed it up *again* and taking the section apart and reworking it again. This doesn’t even count the ‘help’ I get from the cats. But I understand why you wouldn’t factor in cat-assistance on the pattern envelope info.


To make the time indicator even more accurate, add in time for swearing, throwing the mess against the wall, taking a cool-down walk around the block, having a glass of wine, all before picking out the stitches and re-doing. THAT would be a useful time guide indeed!


I really like the way Oliver + S kids’ clothes are classified. First they are rated on a 4-scissor scale, though interestingly enough, no patterns have a 4-scissor rating, they are all 3 or below. Then, as part of each pattern description, there is a ‘Skills Used’ section that will say something like the following: “After successfully sewing this pattern, you will have developed the following skills: bias binding, gathering, set-in sleeve.” The website also lets you sort patterns by difficulty level, so that you can compare what you’ve already sewn, to all the other patterns.


I was also thinking about the skills not just as skills needed but also as the potential for skills to learn. Not that I necessarily master skills as I tackle new patterns (sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t). But sometimes I tackle something because I want to try something. I’d probably class myself as intermediate but there are basic skills that I’m a bit wobbly on (straight lines have always challenged me and sometimes I wobble on seam allowances) but I also jump in and try things like sewing trousers or bras because why not?

Commercial patterns I tend to find hit or miss when they rate patterns. Sometimes the rating depends on the fabric you’re using or even the machine. I sewed a custom Santa suit for my dad last year and the pattern wasn’t challenging. Sewing it in velvet and faux fur, however, was. Especially with my “beginner” Kenmore machine and a friend’s temperamental serger that I didn’t really know how to use.

Heather Dawson

I was scanning through the “yay skills!” Comments and thinking about O+S the whole time. I like their ratings and skills list, too. None of her patterns have justified a 4 scissors to my mind yet….


I am fascinated with social psychology and it makes total sense to me that people with a far more advanced skillset than beginner may consider themselves one. When I was just starting out, I had no idea what I didn’t know and just correctly tracing a pattern and sewing it together was a challenge. The concept of using different seam allowances in the same garment (like a collared shirt) made me feel overwhelmed and things like topstitching seemed tricky because I want sure if I was going to mess up the order of operations with garment construction. I’m sure you’ve heard of the Dunning–Kruger effect. I think it’s also easy to really forget your first few cumbersome attempts and how much every project helps solidify your skills.

Last month I sewed a collared shirt with a hidden button placket that required careful alteration of a swayback without a back seam and a narrow shoulder adjustment. This was done in a polyester georgette. My biggest concern was making sure the placket lay flat since I needed to use topstitching instead of pressing to keep things looking crisp. I genuinely stunned myself with the result. I managed to create a perfectly fitted shirt that drip dries without a crease or wrinkle. It looks expensive and disregarding my labor, only cost me $15 in fabric, thread and needles.

It was the project that made me realize I’m no longer a beginner. I’ve been sewing less than five years and I’ve gotten to this point by choosing slightly more challenging projects to build my skills. I read sewing magazines, books and blogs which really helps. I buy patterns of the clothes I want without regard to skill level, although there are things I’m not yet willing to tackle. I would sew things for my son ( simple pants, collared shirts) which required less fabric and gave me an opportunity to practice construction before moving on to myself and tackling the greater challenge of fitting the garment to my body.

I think first comes knowledge of sewing together a garment (pattern, needle and fabric selection, manipulation through your machine, appropriate finishes and closures) and then comes knowledge of fitting (which includes not just adjusting the pattern but selecting more specific fabrics for a particular visual effect and having a discerning eye for design and how ease plays into that). I think a skills list is super useful and the idea of “hacking” a pattern can be a turn off or an asset depending on the sewers’ confidence. I felt amazed when I’d read a blogger casually mention they used a zipper instead of a button placket before realizing how it’s actually an easier change.


I really like the idea of listing sewing skills or, to further that idea sewing skills that may be acquired during construction of that garment (depending on variations). I think Liesl G does this. Also nice to know how many pattern pieces are involved. Often the number of pattern pieces can raise the sewing difficulty (as in taking longer through construction). Just some food for thought….


oh!! “Skills used” sounds a really good idea! Then one could perhaps practice putting a zip in or whatever before getting to the crunch!


Skills needed seems like a great solution, especially since beginners may not be able to see what is needed to sew the garment i.e. zippers, buttonholes or frenchseam. I also agree that as a “seasoned” sewer who can handle most sewing without problems I have a buttonhole phobia that I am trying to overcome…so having the confidence to say I am advanced sewer would seem not quite right.

Jen R

I find that I can follow every single indie sewing pattern/tutorial I’ve tried…. as long as it gives a step-by-step I can figure it out. I like to see the beginner/intermediate/advanced mostly to tell if it is a quick sew or not. Sometimes it will look a lot more tricky than it is! A bulletpointed skills used would be really great to have in addition to this though.


This makes me wonder if info n the pattern about the amount of time it takes would also be helpful?

I think it would probably be really hard to estimate for anything that takes more than a few hours, though. It seems like the more complicated the project, the more variation among sewers there would be in how long it takes. Something to think about, though.


I agree that indicating the amount of time that it might take to make a garment using a particular pattern would be useful however, a couple of years ago I used a pattern from one of the ‘big four’ pattern companies that stated it would take one hour to make. What they don’t tell you is that is how long it takes to sew up AFTER you’ve cut out the pattern pieces and even then the time estimate was very optimistic on their part so you’ll need to be realistic about how long it will take to complete a pattern. As an example, late last fall I started a Chanel type jacket for my daughter (who lives in another city) using a Claire Shaeffer Vogue pattern. I expected that it would take a while to make but I had no idea that in May I would still be working on it. The major time bandit in this case is the amount of hand sewing involved and the fatigue that could set in, some days I just had to set it aside and do something unrelated to sewing. Add to that having to mail muslins to my daughter and then a partially finished jacket for fittings and waiting for her to mail them back to me ate up a lot of time. In the end, I’ve spent well over 100 hours actively working on this and I’m not done yet (I’m sure Claire Shaeffer could make one of these a lot faster). I expect the jacket will be finished for my daughter to wear this fall, thank goodness that the Chanel jacket is a timeless classic. The time needed to make a garment along with the skills needed would be very helpful for any pattern.


Another vote for a list of “skills used” from me. I think this is a great idea and would be very helpful for home sewers. I’m just finishing making my wedding dress, and one of the first things I did after settling on a design was to make a list of the skills I would need. I found this really very useful as I could then assemble all the necessary equipment, resources like tutorials and books, and also materials for practice versions of the more complicated things.


A list of skills necessary to sew a project would be really useful. Sometimes you can tell what skills you might need by looking at the line drawing (zippers, buttons, pleats) or reading the description or seeing what sorts of fabrics and notions you need but it would be nice to see it all listed in one place.

I think one reason pattern ranking is so difficult for pattern designers is that once you achieve a certain skill level, it’s hard to remember what it was like for you when you first started sewing. Can you really remember what it’s like to stare at your buttonhole foot with dread and wonder if it’s somehow going to eat your garment? Or looking at a zipper after you’ve ripped it out for the fifth time and thinking maybe it might be easier to sew yourself into the skirt every time you wear it? Or that the only way you’re going to get the waistline seam to match up across a zipper is to staple it? Or maybe none of that is a problem but you are seriously considering getting a prescription for valium before the next time you set in a sleeve?

So, while listing skills on a pattern would be useful to your customers, as a designer, if you are deliberately trying to create patterns that are good for beginners, you need to know what people think are difficult skills. Perhaps you could do a survey might be to have a list of skills and then ask people to rate them in order of difficulty (“Rate the difficulty of installing an invisible zipper on a scale of one to five, one being easy-peasy and five being ‘makes me want to drink hard liquor'”). That might give you a better idea of what sort of design features would make a sewist run the other way.


Fantastic idea, Elisabeth!


Count me in as another that likes the idea of “skills used” – that is what Liesl does on the Oliver + S patterns (though I didn’t see that on the Liesl + Co patterns) and that, in conjunction with her scissor ratings (1 to 4 in order of complexity) is a very reasonable way of ranking things. Depending on what I’m making (and especially when I was newer to sewing) I would do projects based in the skill I wanted to learn. This would assist with that!


I am in the “skills used” camp … maybe combining it with the traditional ratings. Personally, not having one of the skills listed wouldn’t necessarily deter me from a pattern. But if I’m lacking three or four of them, I might hesitate as my time and money is valuable to me! Thanks for being so thoughtful with your patterns!


But also maybe don’t necessarily listen to me because I am absurdly confident when it comes to sewing. I’ll start sewing almost any type of fabric and then be like, “oh … that was tricky! huh!” It’s both good and bad … :)


Ha! You learn so much faster that way though. :)


i still consider myself a beginner although improving with every project. I’ll add my vote to listing the skills required to complete a project. A list of skills would still enable me to challenge myself to learn something new without the words ‘advanced’ which can be quite off putting when you are fairly new to dressmaking.


From reading all the comments it looks like “skills used” is hitting the right note. And I totally agree. One of the reasons I think it sounds like a better way is it is black and white. You can see right in front of you all the skills you will need to finish the project. There isn’t going to be any, “Am I am beginner?” or “What do they mean by advance?”. There is no question, if you don’t like putting in zippers or using bias binding, you will have to find another way or find another pattern. For new/beginner sewers I think it will cut down on frustration levels too. No surprises. And if you really want to make the pattern, as others have commented, there are plenty of tutorials to help you study up!


I would definitely vote for a skills list. I’ve been sewing nearly since I could walk (thank you Gramma!) but the longer I do it, the more complex it becomes. I might start with a “beginner” pattern and add more “advanced” techniques to get the result I want or vice versa. Before I buy, I generally try and figure out how many pieces will need fitting adjustments, the basic order of construction and whether there are any tricky details I’ll need to practice. Sometimes, I’ll buy a pattern I don’t intend to use because it has good instructions for a technique I’d like to incorporate into a project. So the skills list would be super helpful to me. That said, it would be nice to also include some sort of message that would encourage relatively new sewists to take the leap with confidence or let them know they’ll need to be up for a challenge. You’re doing a great job with Seamwork in terms of keeping things simple enough to complete a project in a single day. I also really like what you’re doing with Seamwork patterns in terms of estimating sewing times. That information can make a difference to someone who has time constraints.

Anne Lyth

I like both the idea of the point scale and the skills list. I can’t see why you can’t have both.
I once sewed a Vogue pattern labeled “Easy” and it’s the hardest thing I have ever done. Mostly because I made the dress in super slippery silk satin, -and to someone else, not for me. (And also having to do a full bust adjustment for the first time ever)


Another Skills on the pile. If they are skills I know well, then it’s easy. If it’s skills I haven’t yet mastered, then it’s a harder pattern.


I like the idea of a skills list, that way I could determine what I’m comfortable with and what I’d be learning to determine if the pattern was right for me to tackle or if I should wait and sew something else first to learn some of the new skills so that I’m not too overwhelmed.


I have to say, I’ve never really looked at difficulty ratings, on sewing or knitting patterns. If I like the pattern, I know I’ll figure it out. (:


I really like the idea of “Skills used” for each pattern. Then I can judge whether it is something I am already capable of without additional learning, or decide to wait a few months until I have more time to devote to learning-while-doing.

I’ve used Ravelry’s difficulty rating system when I write up a project/pattern, but I’ve realized that what I consider hard might be easy to someone else. I need to know what skills are needed to complete it.


What Christine says about the pattern rating reflecting the sewist is something I’d never thought about before! I think a skills list would be great, but I don’t know if I would want that to be the only way to evaluate a pattern. Being able to quickly process easy, average, difficult is often how I decide which patterns to tackle and when. A combo of both sounds like the sweet spot!


Only the true beginners are probably having problems determining whether a pattern is appropriate for their skill level. And its usually pretty apparent from the pattern envelope if it involves things like buttons or zippers or linings. Intermediate sewers have enough knowledge to figure it out without a list, and are usually willing to tackle it, and advanced sewers don’t care, except to see if they have a chance to learn anything new. So I think there should be a true beginner pattern (pajamas and wrap skirts kind of deal) and then the advanced beginner, intermediate, and advanced. I think those categories work just fine. I’m intermediate, and I don’t even look, since I’m willing to learn whatever the skill is and I can tell when something is complicated.


I’ve been sewing for 30 years and only started to classify myself as an intermediate in the last year or so.

I like the idea of listing skills needed in patterns. I find them really helpful in knitting patterns as it gives me a clear idea of what will be involved and if I’m feeling up to tackling new skills vs. relaxing with established ones.


I too think the skills list would be an awesome addition. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen the word “beginner” on patterns that suggest using hard to sew fabrics.

Nancy K

Definitely skills or techniques needed. I consider myself advanced and yes I’ve been sewing for more than 40 years, 53 to be exact. But, while I’ve used quite advanced techniques over the years, there are things I’ve never done and things I haven’t done in years. Skills fluctuate with use and if you don’t use them you get rusty. People have different definitions of skill levels so stating what a sewer needs to sew the pattern should be very helpful and a great marketing tool.


I like the idea of listing skills used as well as your current beginner/intermediate/advanced ranking.

I don’t like unique labelling scheme’s like knitty’s at all. Sure, it’s cute, but I never have any idea what tangy and piquant and whatever the words they use actually mean! Sticking with standard terminology is clearer.

laura G

I vote with the “skills” group. If skills are identified, then the sewist can determine can I already do it do it or do I want to stretch myself to do it.

Jennifer Williams

Ooh, definitely skills! I am a very baby beginner sewer, and even sewing your Sorbetto tank found there were skills I had to watch on youtube as I went along. It would be nice to be able to do the study first, so you can approach the sewing knowing you have the skills, rather than having all the little frustrations along the way.

And then you can make a decision – whether you want a quick and easy sew that you know all the skills for, or if you want to learn something new!


List of skills is the way to go. I looked at patterns recently that had this in the description and it was very helpful.


I’m in with another vote for skills used and a difficulty scale, a la Oliver & S. I can figure out most things given enough tutorials and time, but want to know what I’m getting into. I’ve avoided zippers so far until my sister convinced me to do one for an Easter dress this year. I could tell from the descriptions if there were new skills that I hadn’t done before. Even if the pattern is a ‘1 scissors’ rating, it may be a new technique I’m not ready to try.

To me, that information is infinitely more valuable than a single rating of ‘beginner’. It is information that can sometimes be gleaned from tutorials or pictures, but a simple list of skills used is much simpler and, hopefully, comprehensive.


Great discussion! I for one rarely look at a patterns difficulty rating. I look at the line drawings, notions list, fabric suggestions, etcetera.
One can make a simple pattern complex if they have a lot of fit adjustments to make, or choose a difficult fabric (a common rookie mistake), or just add some couture finishes. Likewise a difficult pattern can also be made easier if you change the elements to suit your skill set ( if you have experience).
So a list of skills or techniques taught would probably make the most sense to the largest audience.
Keep in mind even a pattern that you feel you failed at, adds up to a real learning experience, and our skills increase either way!


I love that you are really giving this topic consideration because I do choose my patterns based on beginner, intermediate, advanced rating. I agree with what everyone is stating, I think about the different skills necessary to complete the patterns. When I was started sewing, I considered zippers or buttonholes difficult and stayed away from those patterns. When I think of beginner, I think of someone who can more or less so a straight line and the fewer pattern pieces the better. I own several of your patterns (Myrtle, Laurel, Moneta, Ginger) and I would personally consider them Advanced Beginners because they do require some special skills and familiarity with sewing techniques to complete. Prior to taking classes at Modern Domestic to help me build my sewing skills and confidence, there is no way that I could have completed your beginner patterns with ease. I also think that there is some specific knowledge that goes with knowing how to sew knits (such as using a walking foot and changing the tension) and I consider your knit patterns more advanced beginner.


Oops, I should have proofread. Sorry for the grammatical errors. “So” should obviously be “sew.”


I’m in the last catagory as an advanced beginner. I consider it fitting since I’ve never sewn a jacket with lining and often sew knits, which tend to be more forgiving than wovens. Jackets I’ve never done since I don’t do dryclean and they just don’t fit in my lifestyle.
I think the skills list idea would be better too, so there’s no surprises. That way you can tell if you’ll need more time on the project because it requires new skill.


I think the pattern terms – beginner, intermediate, and advanced are useful as if you are sewing for the first time this will give you an indicator – and it will save you jumping in at deep end and being forever put off- whereas if you are sewing a long time, you can gauge the amount and type of sewing and skill required from the cut and seams etc.


I like the idea of “skills used” with no other ranking. I’m not a very experienced seamstress, but I can do some very advanced things because no one ever told me that it was “advanced”, so in essence, I had no idea that I wasn’t supposed to be able to do it. I wanted a tailored suit, so I made a tailored suit, sort of thing. I have had the same experience with knitting. I made MASSIVE steps in terms of my skills because, well, I wanted a thing with lace and those nupps things looked great, oh and p5tog is supposed to be hard? I’m sorry what it’s just a thing I did, I guess it was fiddly, but whatever. I’ll decide how hard something is myself :)

Janome gnome

thank you so much for thinking about this so carefully. Really, I appreciate it. I sent some feedback on this by email the other day and was really hoping to feed positively into this thought process and was worried I’d sounded too negative. I love th idea of listing skills -or techniques perhaps – that are definitely needed, but also outlining what would be involved in the most likely adjustments fo body shape (much like you said for the different versions ). It’s also great to keep indicating where extra support is, or is going to be with sewalongs etc, so it’s clear when we are supported and when it’s assumed we can do stuff. Personally, while I can see the value in categories and labels or levels, it’s the practical info I really need to make good choices. So I’m really pleased to see this post, I really am. Thanks for being so thoughtful and communicating it all too!


I think there’s a big difference between the skill levels of a pattern and what you consider your sewing skill level to be.

I’ve been sewing for a few years now and still consider myself an „advanced beginner“ or „intermediate“. I’ve sewn men’s shirts and trousers and dresses and knits. But I’m still not very confident about zippers, occasionally mess up a a button hole and still learn so many new techniques every day.

Yet, when it comes to patterns, I pretty much ignore the skill level and just sew what I like. I feel like most patterns companies don’t release super-complicated patterns anyway and found that if you work slowly and thoroughly, you can make your way through any pattern. Especially considering all the tutorials, sewalongs and craftsy classes out there.

However, I feel like skill levels could still be helpful as an indicator for absolute beginners, while an additional list of required skills might be great for everyone else.

By the way: I recently read a sewing blog that warned its readers to be careful about Vogue Pattern’s skill level rating: „Because at Vogue, advanced really means the patterns are hard“ :-)


As a knitter who aspires to become a sewer, I think the “skills list” is a perfect solution. It helps you ID what may be within your range and what you have a chance to learn. As a true beginner, I am often intimidated when I read about people with years of experience giving themselves the same rating.


I would love a skills list on patterns. I ignore beginner, etc. ratings because they mean so many different things. Off topic, but what I would love are a line of patterns like yours, but scaled for the vertically petite.

Amy Gallagher

I like the idea of listing skills involved too. I have only sewn 8 garments so I feel comfortable in my description of myself as a beginner but I’m a very different kind of beginner to the one I was before I sewed anything at all, or after say one or two garments. I’ve made a pattern marked advanced (Sewaholic Robson) and whilst it took me aaaaages it didn’t have skills in it that I couldn’t manage so it didn’t matter what the label said.
I must say I really don’t like it when things are marked with how long they will take to make. This is far too variable from one person to the next and yes it might be indicative when comparing one pattern to another, but it also creates a sense of not being good enough if it takes you longer.

Ms anna zummo

i have taken some classes and have some knowledge of sewing but still consider myself a beginner. I have set up a sewing room, tons of fabric n possibly a sewers dream but cant get myself to keep going. tried to make a kimono baby jacket n made the size of a doll lol! my husband said this is practice n u will learn as u go. my suggestion for beginner patterns is to include a cd from start to finish with pattern instructions in paper too. do not ask me to measure out garment yet, I would rather use the tissue for now. just some thoughts.


This is such an interesting topic. I learned to sew when I was very young and was wearing clothes I made by age 12. Then I studied fashion design, dressmaking and tailoring after high school. This was in the early 80s when it was definitely not cool to sew your own clothes. There were no jobs for my skills here other than alterations in a bridal shop and I quickly lost interest in that. I let my skills get covered up in dust and I only made curtains or other easy home decor projects. I have renewed interest in sewing clothes thanks to you and keep picking up simple patterns. I actually have no fear of being able to tackle any step on any pattern. The thing I fear is fitting. So I am calling myself a beginner again because I am afraid of picking patterns and not being able to get the fit right. It is really the thing that is stopping me from creating my own clothes again. I guess this doesn’t add any helpful suggestions but just a viewpoint of what some consider their skill level.


i like “skills used” because i can assess if it will be something i can confidently tackle – or if there is a new skill i’m interested in learning, i know the particular pattern might be a way to expand my horizons!


i love the idea of listing skills needed and difficulty. I have sewn for over 50 years and while I have many sewing skills, I may not want to use them at any given time.


I love the idea of listing skills needed! I’m at the stage where I’m referring to different reference books (your printed book & ebook of seams in particular are very helpful) to figure out which techniques I want to try for different garments. A listing of skills needed would help me match techniques, fabric, & patterns together more easily at the planning stage, as well as letting me know if it’s within my comfort zone.

I am also so pleased to hear that you have someone on staff with a knitting background – independent knitting patterns have so much clarity compared to the average sewing pattern I’ve tried. For instance, noting up front the intended ease of the garment and letting us know what size the model is wearing (& how much ease he/she is wearing it with!) is IMMEASURABLY helpful in imagining if the garment will fit my body type & lifestyle. If you have time, take a look at Brooklyn Tweed’s lookbooks – the same garment in the same size is often styled on different sized people so knitters can make a better decision about what size they want to make.


I love the idea of listing skills used! I like to try to tackle one new technique with each sewing project, and seeing a list of all necessary skills upfront would make that even easier.


We had this exact same problem recently when we built a website to help people find sewing machines to help their skill level, and I’m sure we’ll have to fine tune our descriptions further to get the right balance. How to explain that a beginner may want a simple “beginner” machine because they don’t have to splurge to get started on a new hobby, yet they may also enjoy an “advanced” machine because the more expensive models have all the bells and whistles to make threading faster and may be less temperamental?

Agreed on using lists of skills to help sewers find the right patterns, this is what we plan to use for future Assembil projects – let’s make this the new standard!


There are so many factors that make something easy! My mother taught me to set a sleeve when I was 10 so I think of that as something a 10 year old can do. However she would never buy Vogue patterns because they were “hard.” A friend of mine with much less experience knows how to do invisible zippers and I don’t!

I’m learning to knit and the skills used is just. The. Best.
But, maybe a blog post on the inherent difficulties of different fabrics – with a chart? Please? I love charts. Or maybe you’ve already done that and I missed it. But one thing’s for sure: experimenting on scraps builds your confidence faster than (insert Southern idiom)!!!


I’ve always thought it was pointless to try and categorize/rank sewing skills. I certainly always recognize a beginner by someone exclaiming “I know how to sew!” It’s a lifelong pursuit.

Listing skills needed is a fantastic idea! I hope it becomes standard.


I absolutely love the concept, I’m also a beginner with” some skills”–but not enough to be considered advanced. You go Girls—Thank you


It looks like I agree with the majority of comments I read above. I agree that the “Skills Used” option is the better option. However, it may be beneficial to also create a glossary of skills when more technical terms are used. I am self-taught and I try to pick up any proper terminology along the way but there may be a skill I possess but may not know the proper terminology for or may know it by another name. But just as another pointed out, regardless of skill, if there is a pattern I want to make I will dive in regardless of the level indicated although I may get more frustrated (and curse a lot) I will garner new skills along the way.

Sheila S

Being a knitter myself, I would love having the listing of skills needed for a pattern!! Although, your listing “beginner” on some patterns has given me the confidence to try it. :). (I even teach sewing and battled (in my mind) when the place I teach at called my class Advanced Sewing. I thought, I don’t even think of myself as advanced. Lol.) I’ve been sewing for many years now. You are right. I didn’t think of myself as advanced because there were things I haven’t even tried yet. Thank you for thinking about using the “skills needed” idea! That would work!

Billie Geist

Wow, this is difficult to answer. It depends on definition of the range of techniques being measured. I have been sewing garments since I was 10 in 4-H, more than 50 years ago. But, sewing skills are very different than a much broader view of garment making techniques. For example, advanced fitting and adjusting for figure differences as well as tailoring techniques and knowledge are completely different on a scale to measure proficiency. In some areas I am quite competent in others not so much. I also agree that the rating of knitting techniques and skills required may be a better gauge. Knits, however are much more ‘forgiving’ in the fitting issues sense.


I vote for “skills used”. Take the Big Four patterns – you’re forever seeing “easy” on a shift dress that we all know will look like a potato sack if it’s not fitted correctly, and “hard” on an easy-to-fit item with interesting details.

So – if you differentiated ease of fit from knowledge of a particular skill, or even how easy it is to wrangle the suggested fabrics… that would be useful.


Fab idea.

Tilly and the button’s patterns list the skills required and you can easily order her patterns to your abilities. As a returner to dressmaking I have gone right back to the beginning and have been using her patterns to build my confidence skill by skill pattern by pattern. Her patterns then become a whole teaching course! I’m finding I’m filling in the gaps my knowledge from my desperate teenage years to get that outfit off the machine to wear that night!

It would be great to be able to assess your patterns by skill it would really help in being able to choose which pattern I can tackle.

Beginner, intermediate and advanced are so subjective and deceptive and an advanced label can put you off attempting a pattern when you may only have to learn one skill or it may take a little more time and concentration and working out. It builds confidence when you can start ticking off all the skills and it makes you want to sew more because it positively reinforces what you know and makes you acknowledge it.


a list of “skills needed” or “skills used” in every pattern sounds perfect to me! I am new to sewing garments, but am adventurous and not afraid to take lots of time to finish a project. Knowing what techniques I will encounter offers me the opportunity to dig into YouTube or blog tutorials, and assess if a project will challenge me, but still offer me a successful finished garment. I picked up a dress pattern last week that might normally be considered above my skills set, but I was able to talk through the techniques with one of the shopkeepers. I think she liked my attitude of ” sounds FO-able, I just know it will take me longer than a weekend!”


This is such an interesting discussion! I’d echo the votes for skills needed before starting and also skills you’ll learn. Lots of patterns I attempt have techniques I don’t know how to do, but I wouldn’t ever learn them if I didn’t try.

I also think there’s a difference between skills (like installing a zipper or sewing a blind hem) and garment-specific techniques (like making a placket or setting in a sleeve).

Also, when choosing a pattern, I don’t often look at the difficulty rating, but I do pay attention to the reputation of the pattern designer. For example, I know I can trust your patterns to explain things clearly and thoroughly so I don’t feel nervous if there’s something in it that I don’t know how to do.

I teach knitting and have thought about this a lot for labeling class levels. Very few people would sign up for anything beyond a beginner or advanced beginner class, but we couldn’t just label everything “beginner” or it would be completely meaningless.

Isaboe Renoir

I’ll add in that I like the idea of a skills list, but perhaps just “techniques for this pattern”. If you list it as “skills needed” then that might discourage a beginner, whereas “skills you will learn” makes it feel a little kindergarten and might turn off someone with more confidence.

But I think a list of techniques is very good for every sewer so we can quickly decide whether we want to use one pattern over another: “I need a frock for tomorrow afternoon, do I want this one with facings and pockets and hidden zip, or this one which is a wrap dress with essentially two side seams?” I know this is on the back if you stop and read the whole envelope, but a bullet-point is nice and quick. And I also think retaining the “beginner/ intermediate/ advanced” designation is a good idea, but maybe base it on number of pieces or steps in the process? That survey of what techniques others find easy or difficult might be apropos.

I’m not sure time designations mean much; a “one hour skirt” can take me 12 only because of the way I sew – full-on couture for 95% of my clothing projects. I also think that’s the reason I consider myself currently efficient as a sewer and quickly gaining on proficient; I’ve only been sewing for two and a half years but because I jumped right in on couture, I fear nothing. (I know, most will not think of couture as “efficient” but remember I’m describing my skills or technique as efficient, not the process I choose.)

Everyone makes an interesting point, about someone sewing 30 or 40 years still feeling only a beginner because they’ve never sewn knits or never made a bra, what have you. I don’t think anyone should feel that way. I may not have tried a technique or type of project, but if I’m proficient in what I do know, I feel I’ll be at least passable to the layman if not actually efficient in what I don’t know. You know more than you think – act with confidence!

Teresa Ward

What do you mean by “full-on couture”?
Email me jrward3 @

Isaboe Renoir

By “full-on couture” I mean the more involved process of making muslins, fitting as many times as needed, using a lining and/ or underling, followed by a basted fitting, then machine sewing where I can with lots of hand sewing to finish the garment.

I do it to acheive the look and quality I want in a garment, but I also enjoy the process – deliberate, controlled, meditative even. It also allows me to address many of the things I really dislike about ready-to-wear; serged seams, facings, fusible interfacing… and allows for what is to me a nicer look – no top stitching on the outside, the support and opacity of underlinings. Too the knowledge of how to support a seam or edge, use a different finish, different fabric, and make a garment truly fit ME, it’s all so freeing! None of which is limited to couture of course, but it’s where I realized I really could do anything I wanted.

Teresa Ward

Lots to think about! Thanks!

Steven Davis


I agree with the idea of breaking out the specific skills required.

A detailed road map of how specific skills relate and build on each other would be super cool, perhaps an infographic?

… awaiting arrival of my first sewing machine, so rank beginner.


Thank heavens for men who love to sew, quilt, knit and etc- enjoy your new machine ( is there anything more exciting than that?) and there is a good blog you might like called malepatternboldness- he covers vintage and new patterns:-)


Hey Steven… I used the term “women” because I was specifically referring to the respondents to the survey, who all identified as women. A similar survey of men would be quite interesting!

Callie B

I also like the techniques or skills needed vs a ranking system for patterns as it makes patterns much less intimidating overall. I am truly a beginner who mainly patches clothes or can do straight stitching like curtains and pillowcases…..patterns scare me because they seem so complex but I do have a skill set that I could compare the needed techniques against.


Skills used or topics covered in pattern ie invisible zippers etc would be much more useful. This would help people know what was in their comfort zone and also be a useful pointer of new techniques/procedures they could gain by making the particular pattern.


I teach beginner sewing lessons to adults and most of the students I get have never touched a sewing machine or even been in a fabric store! To some, I even have to explain the concept of a pattern and how it is used. Often they are from other countries where sewing is not done with a pattern at all.

I start at the VERY beginning with them, and even show them how to place the pin when pinning the pattern to the fabric. (and they struggle with it!) I teach my adults just the way I teach the kids.

A constant source of frustration to me has been that so many patterns are labeled “easy”. I don’t think a jeans pattern with a yoke, coin pocket, side pocket, back pockets, fly zipper and belt loops is easy!

I now tell my students to ignore the ratings and that “easy” only means easy if you are already advanced!

Definitely looking at skills is a better idea! Does it have a zipper? Do you know how to install the zipper? If not, this pattern is not for you!


Please, please — I plan projects by the amount of time required to complete them. I would LOVE it if patterns included an estimate of how many hours it should take a competent (not advanced, but not looking up a tutorial every step of the way either) sewer to complete it, assuming minimal or known fit adjustments. Let me know if I should plan to spend an afternoon, a weekend day, or a couple of weekends on it, and I’m forever yours.


This is a really good idea. Too many projects have taken WAY longer than I thought they would, and didn’t get them done by the time I wanted too. Obviously you don’t want to rush, but it would be nice to know!


I agree with so many others – I think “skills used” or even some type of combination of skills used and difficulty level of the pattern would be great. Honestly, I don’t pay too much attention to the difficulty level. Even though I have sewn for a just few years now and am just venturing into garments, I am still (maybe too) willing to try pretty much anything. I figure, hey, if you take it slow, and look online for help when you get stuck, you should be able to do anything, and learn a ton in the process. So instead of people possibly being deterred by thinking, “that’s too hard for me.” They might think, “Hey, that’s something I want to learn, so this might be the perfect project to learn on.”

Thanks for taking this all into consideration! There are so many great thoughts and ideas on this!


Oliver+s patterns do a good job with this. They have a four scissors rating scale and also list the skills you will learn (as opposed to the skills you need).


Skills used perhaps? Then someone can say ‘yep, I can do all that, so I’ll make the pattern’ or that’s really to complicated for me at this stage. The difficulty could be a bit tricky too as if you label it ‘hard’ some may find it perfectly easy , or if ‘easy’, some may find it quite taxing. I think the difficulty option is more in the buyers/ sewers opinion, if you see what I mean.


Like many people on this thread, I’d prefer the skills listed rather than ratings of beginner to advanced. I’ve been sewing since childhood and I’m now 28, so I have enough formative seeing years under my belt to feel confident. I’m the kind of seamstress who is not easily scared away from a difficult project, I’ll research the heck out of what I don’t know first and jump right in. While I’ve never shied away from big projects (this is how one learns) I’ve also found that the patterns I choose are based on how much I like fit of something, the style, etc. I sew easy patterns all the time not really invested in how easy they are, just wanting the cute article of clothing I see.


What an exciting topic, I want to weigh in and apologize if someone else has suggested,
It reminds me of exercise and the instructors showing different ways to approach the same movement based on skill and fitness ( I being less fit ;-) always appreciated-
So my suggestion would be to present pattern visually with a photo sample of garment with basic skills set and additional photo’s highlighting same garment with the additional technical skill set listed for completion. So photo with listing of skills under for each level–
Easier to see in my head than to write in words–
Anyway, love the way you all think about things:-)
And thanks again for the over 50 model!in seamwork- now for a plus size 50 + model;-) then you’ll really be cooking on all burners!

Colleen wright

I also love the skill used category. Gives people a chance to understand what is involved in making the pattern. And can decide from there.


I really like the idea of listing skills needed on a pattern. Sometimes I have trouble figuring out what beginner, intermediate and advanced means. My main issue is that I still consider myself fairly low (but climbing!) on the learning curve of fitting a pattern to my body. If I had a better idea of what skills were needed for a pattern, I could make a more educated guess about what kind of fitting challenge I’ll be up against.

Also, sometimes I wonder if pattern difficulty ratings are more about how quick a garment is to sew. For example, does it have facings and linings and lots of steps (a real time and patience commitment), or is it one layer of fabric with only a few pattern pieces (near instant gratification).

I wonder if listing skills would make patterns more easily searchable based on their features. For example, I’m more confident fitting princess seams than bust darts and would love to be able to search for patterns based on that design feature.

Vicky Gorry

I think focusing on the pattern is a great idea as well as listing the skills needed, but as already pointed out, some skills might put people off unnecessarily. Perhaps if you make it clear that instructions for those skills are included with the pattern, or can easily be found (you might include links to your sew-alongs or other good tutorials to help). Here’s an idea that’s a bit out there – have you considered a Colette forum where your readers and sewers (and would be sewers) can ask and answer questions about your patterns and any skills or techniques used? Am I a beginner? I would have said so before I read your post today, but now I have decided to reclassify myself as ‘competent’ overall, with a sprinkling of beginner and advanced, depending on the technique. And that makes me feel pretty pleased with myself, so thank you!


We actually had a forum for a while! In the end, we had to close it because we didn’t have the staff to really manage it well, with spam being a particular problem. But we do plan on having a community again once we’ve figured it out a little better. :)


I really like the idea of “skills need/used” instead of the pattern rating. And, for Colette patterns, I would suggest “skills learned” because your patterns are so instructive.

I’m not a typical sewist/knitter in that I choose patterns specifically because I don’t have the skills necessary to complete it – I choose the patterns to teach myself those skills. Not everyone is like that, though.


It’s kind of like learning to drive: I had one sister who would back all the way up a narrow street to avoid an intersection another who only pulled into parking spaces where she didn’t have to back out.

Instead of rating the whole pattern, particular skills could be listed…A basic straight skirt would be beginner but adding a skinny double welt pocket…
I wouldn’t buy yet another straight skirt pattern but I would buy a straight skirt pattern with a particular skill I want to learn.

(I’ve been sewing for 30 years and haven’t mastered the double welt pocket. I need to move that up my to do list….)


I too like the idea of skills used/ required as you may have had experience of most of the things but not others. Personally I am a bit impulsive and jump before thinking but if there was a list of skills that I had yet to acquire then to me that is advanced yet that may be just because of the things I have made. An example of this is that, on returning to dress making recently I attempted work out leggings. Not until after I had started did I consider as to whether it was advanced or not. After that I tackled my first zip! Wrong order or what? What does that make me (apart from stupid). Advanced as I can work with Lycra or beginner as I have just put a zip in? It all depends on experiences.

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