“But is Ottobre for Beginners?”

Posted on: 3 September, 07

It is no secret how I feel about Ottobre.  The designs are adorable and the drafting is superb.  Being able to mix and match pattern pieces increases the design possibilities.  The question is often asked, “But is Ottobre for beginners?”  Yes and no.

I am a firm believer in giving students good tools to facilitate their learning.  Trying to learn to ride a bike with a bent wheel, flat tire, and non-functional handle bars would not be productive.  Someone new to sewing does not need the frustration of dull scissors, a clunky machine and poorly drafted patterns.  Ottobre patterns are drafted true to their measurement chart.  In other words, if you select the pattern based on the measurement chart, it is extremely likely the pattern will fit.  This seems like an obvious concept, but this is not true of many pattern companies.  Also, the Ottobre pattern pieces fit together nicely due to meticulous drafting.  With other pattern companies, the sleeve may not fit in the armhole due to sloppy drafting.  Start with a good pattern to increase the odds of a good end product.

Ottobre’s penchant for “terse” directions can be a hindrance for the less experienced.  On some patterns, there is an assumption that one knows how to bind a neckline or put in a zipper.  Often, Ottobre will “teach” a technique in one issue, and use it again in future issues with the assumption that one learned it in the original issue.  Referring to back issues can clarify some techniques.  I also recommend investing in a good, basic book of sewing techniques.  Spend some time at the library or book store to find the right one for you.  Some people do better with more illustrations.  Some prefer more text.

When teaching students to solve multistep math problems, I tell them to read through the whole problem initially.  This gives them an idea of where the problem is going.  Then take it one step at a time.  Trying to solve the whole thing at once is intimidating and impossible.  The same is true for sewing.  Read through all of the directions to get an idea of where you are going, then focus on one step at a time.  Don’t worry about the zipper until you get to the zipper.  Don’t forget to stop along the way and admire what you have completed so far.

Lastly, I recommend starting off slowly.  Ottobre has some patterns that are quite complex, even for the very experienced.  Select a pattern with only a few pieces, like elastic waist pants or a tee.  This is also an opportunity to assess how well the patterns fit.  Build your skill set with each new project.  If you are nervous about putting in a zipper, practice with scraps.  On practice pieces, using contrasting thread allows you to see the stitching more clearly.  Keep your practice pieces as a reference for future projects.  With practice and patience, you will soon be able to sew all the beautiful Ottobre patterns with confidence. 


7 Responses to "“But is Ottobre for Beginners?”"

Another Ottobre fan here!

I agree…the patterns are well-drafted. I would suggest newbies get a copy of Kwiksew for Children as it covers many of the basic sewing techniques in children’s garment construction. Another suggestion would be to search the web for specific instructions such as Welt Pockets, Applying Ribbing, etc.

Another thing I think what scares most new sewers is the pattern tracing. Most are used to working with the likes of Simplicity nested patterns. Ottobre pattern sheets can be intimidating at first. Even though I’ve been sewing Ottobre for at least 3 years, it still gives me headaches when having to trace off the patterns…LOL

With friendship,

reply to Lisa: i plan to do another post with tracing tips….one day real soon….when i get a few minutes…. yes, the tracing can be a bit overwhelming, but so worth the effort.

I think I’ve probably learned more and grown more in my sewing since tackling Ottobre for the first time. It made me more confident about what I knew and gave me some new things to explore, too.

I am just learning to sew and focusing mostly on children’s garments…little girl dresses to be exact…I’ve been searching for some simple garments nothing too frilly…I came across Ottobre and would really like to give some of their patterns a try…I went to the site and chose two issues for purchase but it won’t let me purchase these specific past issue unless I subscribe…I don’t really want to spend the money on a subscription just to give it a try…so I was hoping that someone might be able to tell me of any other ways to access their patterns or individual issues? thanks so much…and thanks for the inspiration!!!


You can order them individually from the Wooly Thread on ebay:

I’ve ordered several back orders and subscriptions from her. She’s great!


With friendship,

I agree whole-heartedly.

You can also order backissues from

I agree that the tracing can be a bit intimidating, but once you start – it’s part of the whole construction process. I saw someone write once that it helps them to get to know the pattern before sewing it and I completely agree. I had been sewing for 30 years before I discovered ottobre, and I learn something new every time I make a new something from an ottobre pattern. I HATE using tissue patterns anymore. I love my traced patterns on swedish tracing paper, and my organized pattern stash because of ottobre. I look forward to your tracing tutorial.

Gosh, if only I had read this before I made my first Ottobre dress for my niece! Oh well… Now I know…

Reply to Frank: i use a really low tech approach. 🙂 i click on “edit comment,” then type my reply in italics. nothing fancy, but it seems to do the job. i wish wordpress did have an actual “reply to comment” function.

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