Saturday Musings: I Don’t Like Expansion Packs

makingtheflame making the flame ebi poweigha body positive sewing plus size Butterick B6258 red black skirt top shirt knit work power colors

Hey, it’s a Saturday Musings post! Grab a beverage …


Okay, so I don’t like expansion packs for sewing patterns. Hence the title of this post. Note that I did not title this  post ‘why I don’t like expansion packs’. You see, I don’t actually know why I don’t like them! So I thought I’d work out my feelings in a post, and see what you think on the matter. Yes? Yes.


A little back story on my opinion: I started sewing with Big 4 patterns (actually Big 3, as Simplicity was a later arrival to my pattern collection). They were low cost, easy to find, and had a million different designs. Sometimes the biggest size was laughably small for me, but a little elbow grease and a lot of stubbornness patience led to successful upsizing. Another wonderful trait of the Big 4 was that every pattern included multiple variations of the same garment. Sometimes the variations were minor, like short and long sleeves, and sometimes they were major, like different necklines. Big 4 patterns also had wardrobe patterns, which are my favorites! For the price of one shirt with two sleeve lengths and three necklines, you could get a shirt, pair of pants, skirt, and a cardigan. Wow! Here’s a photo of my favorite wardrobe pattern:butterick-6258-B6258-sewing-pattern

from which I’ve made more than ten items, including both items in this post’s featured photo. I might have paid $4 for it, including shipping. WINNING!

Of course, there are some things the Big 4 (especially the Big 3) do that I don’t like – they re-release old designs as new patterns, and release very similar designs at the same time. So if you’re not careful, you could end up with the 1993, 2004, and 2015 version of the same exact design. They may be cheap individually, but that $4 adds up! And when it comes to sales, similar patterns pose a dilemma – do you get both, thereby getting basically one design with allll it’s variations, or do you sacrifice one of the fraternal twins in order to get a completely different new pattern that caught your eye?

Yes, I know this is all very first world problem-y. But I think about sewing a lot – welcome to my inner world.


Okay, so that’s the Big 4. What about indie pattern brands?

Independent pattern brands are often the aesthetic venture of one person. Maybe with a team of five or so people exclusively supporting that person, with any number of vendors offering indirect or non-exclusive support. Indie brands simply do not have the resources or personnel of the Big 4.  It is not reasonable to expect, or want, them to play the same game. And you know what? People *love* indie expansion packs, as far as I can see. So what’s the problem?

I think, for me, having been forced into pattern drafting and grading right out of the gate, a little bit of hacking is such a breeze I wonder at the need for an expansion pack. Then I remember most people who sew don’t have to do things the hard way, and so might not have the faintest clue how to do anything more to a sewing pattern than pin it to fabric and cut around it. (Lucky ducks!!!!)

The other point of resistance for me is confusion over what is included in an expansion pack, and whether one should have to pay for it. Some brands offer hacks for free on their blogs, some brands offer expansion packs for free in their shops, and some charge up to $10 for theirs. Why? What is the difference in their offerings? I suppose it would be easy enough to buy some patterns and acquire their expansion packs and see. Would you like me to do that?

Anyway, for now it’s enough to know that my pushback comes from a lack of understanding. (Isn’t that always the source of human resistance to new things?) And I know how to resolve this inner hangup: exploring the matter further. Huzzah for baby steps! And huzzah for having a space to nerd out about sewing patterns.

Seriously, though – let me know if you’d like a post where I explore and possibly explain expansion packs: what they are, what they contain, and whether they’re worth the money (and maybe who gives them away for free). Leave your comments below!

You may also like...


  1. I have only sewed two indie patterns and had mixed feelings about the results. I have hardly worn those two garments at all. I had never heard of expansion packs before so I’m not sure how I would feel about them. I have been hacking patterns almost since day one, mostly not because I really need to but because I get ideas for something that doesn’t exist and have to buy the closest pattern I can find and make it work. Also, many patterns I see and like except for some detail. So I hack just about everything so if I’m understanding expansion packs correctly, I don’t need them.

    1. Lynn!!!! I’m just seeing this comment now. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts! I also think that indie sewing has as many hits and misses (and needs for adjustment) as Big 4 sewing. It sounds like you wouldn’t need expansion packs, because you already know how to hack patterns! I think the only expansion packs I’ve seen that might be worth the money are the ones that give sleeves to sleeveless garments. But if you know how to reverse engineer a sleeve from an armhole, even that isn’t necessarily necessary.

  2. I rarely buy Indie (I get why people do – no judgment) but the idea of expansion packs is downright annoying. e.g., I bought the Lander pants and was interested in the button fly. It isn’t even a concealed button fly – it is a regular ‘ole fly with buttons instead of a zipper. The expansion pack is $6! (not to mention the more I look at the pants the more I am thinking buying this pattern was a mistake).

    And those Butterick wardrobe patterns, especially, are THE BEST!!!!

    1. Kisha, that’s so interesting about the Lander pants! I took a peek at the page for both the pants and the expansion pack, and wonder if the expansion pack hasn’t been loaded up with pattern pieces, etc, to justify the price. Or are the pattern pieces for a zipper fly vs an exposed button fly drastically different? The Lander pants would look amazing you on, no matter what you end up doing though :-p

      But yeah, Butterick wardrobe patterns are the absolute best! Or, in honor of the World Cup – GOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAL!

    2. I don’t know how to reverse engineer a sleeve. I have actually never thought about it. When I want to add a sleeve or a different kind of sleeve I just use one from another pattern and make whatever small adjustments are necessary.

  3. Amen!! When I had a bit more sewing money. I was buying more indie patterns. But for me printing (ink and paper$) taping (tape$)for one hour. Then trimming. (I like to trace them trimmed) And THEN tracing and re-drafting?? I was losing my sewing mojo.

    I am never buying another PDF indie pattern again.

    And then to see the expansion packs?? Really?? I hated paying for Cashmerettes new bountiful bicep pattern piece. But it saved heaps of time.

    So I am back to big 4 patterns, multi views! So much cheaper. So much more value for the $$. I’m making a Butterick pattern that I am getting 3 different skirts from. There’s actually 4 views, one longer. But that’s a lot of pattern for $4. And no drafting on this one, it goes up to 26. Woo-hoo!

    1. Hi Eliz! Thanks for commenting. :) PDF patterns are definitely a time commitment! I generally only get Lekala PDF patterns because they’re so cheap ($3 USD!) that I feel like it’s totally fair to do all the other work for the pattern.

      For the bicep expansion pack, was it for all their tops/dresses, or one particular pattern? That’s such a great offering, as I remember reading a thread in the Facebook group where people were lamenting that Cashmerette sleeves were too small for them. I myself have meaty biceps, so am always doing a full bicep adjustment on sleeves.

      There’s a way to do it that doesn’t change the length of the armhole stitching line that I usually default to, but if say McCall’s/Butterick/Vogue offered a sleeve that fit into all their patterns, and had a bicep 1″-1.5″ bigger than ‘normal’, I’d totally buy that :-p but I would *not* buy it if it were for an individual pattern. Nope.

  4. I agree about the Grainline expansion packs but I have seen some that I liked. Colette had the one for collar variations for one of the knit dresses. Moneta? I forget. I think it may have been free though. I think Closet Case has a couple expansion packs as well (a lining for the anorak and the mid rise Ginger).

    As for me, in theory, I like the idea of expansion packs but it has to be something that I wouldn’t easily do myself. I recently got LOL Swing Top expansion (it’s a kids’ pattern by Jennuine Design). It has a dress length and pinafore back. While I could have drafted both myself, I have the lazies. And it only costs 3$. I think it’s the only expansion pack I’ve ever purchased though. Others just haven’t had the value I’m looking for. I don’t need help to shorten or lengthen a sleeve and add a cuff!

    1. Hi Raphaelle! Thank you for your comment. :) Also, totally not the point, but – I now want a LOL Swing Top w/pinafore back for meeeeeeeeee! What a great summer top. Some of those kid-only patterns are great, haha.

      Anyway, I see your point about using expansion packs to save time. Hacking a pattern into a new style takes time, most of which (at least for me) is spent deciding on design details, which has no satisfying ‘right’ answer; it’s all personal preference. Especially if you have children, maybe you don’t want to take the time. Does price factor into your interest in expansion packs? If the LOL Swing Top expansion pack had cost $6, would you still have gotten it?

      That all said – a *lining* should never be an expansion pack. And coats really should always come with lining pattern pieces/instructions. Indie patterns for unlined coats are one of my pet peeves, unless the designer offers free lining pieces/instructions separately.

      1. The price point definitely has an impact! If the price had been 6$, I might have waited for a sale. Unless I wanted it right this minute. It all goes back to what kind of time I have for drafting or modifying the pattern myself vs the cost. I think there’s a very personal calculation everyone does based on time availability vs financial means with the added element of confidence and ability.

  5. I totally agree with you. I don’t like expansion packs either. They make me feel manipulated and used.

    For instance Grainline’s Scout Tee (which I have and have made numerous times), It is an incredibly simple basic top. I bought it, partly to support and indie designer and partly because I like the simplicity of the top. For instance the current price of the PDF Scout Tee is $14, and the expansion pack is $10. $24 for a simple Tee. Totally ridiculous.

    The Lark T-shirt is even worse. To get all “variations” (I use the term loosely), it would cost $36. For adding length to a top to make a dress and to add fabric to make a waterfall cardigan, which you can find directions for on Pinterest any day of the week.

    Compare that to Colette’s Sorbetto, free, redrafted, still free. sleeves drafted, still free.

    Shame on you Grainline. Kudos Colette.

    IMNSHO, expansion packs are a money grab. Period. End of Story. Mike drop.

    1. Hah!!!! Elle, tell us how you really feel! Seriously, though – those prices are insane. And just looking at the Lark expansion packs … those could be entirely new patterns, really. I don’t see why one would have to buy the Lark to make those dresses, or those cardigans. I mean, sure, they all have interchangeable parts, but isn’t that kinda an element of any consistently drafted brand? I swap sleeves and more from different McCall’s patterns all the time – it doesn’t mean they’re expansion packs of each other, it means that McCall’s uses the same block to create their designs. Hm.

      Also, it looks like the Scout expansion pack is three sleeves for $10, two of which are easy DIY hacks. So you’re basically only getting one sleeve that you couldn’t quickly whip up, for $10. That just doesn’t sound right!!! Like, I’m really confused by this. *scratches head*

      I love the Sorbetto re-boot! I’d heard about the re-release with the new fit & sizing, but didn’t realize that there are now options (long, w/sleeves), plus Colette has a million hacks on their blog for it. Whaaaat? Some of them are really cute, and get rid of that center front pleat. Thanks for the tip – Colette definitely gets a big W here! It looks like they’re really trying to listen and be responsive and turn things around. Good for them!

      And IMNSHO is brilliant ;) It is definitely concerning how much one would have to spend to see whether expansion packs are worth it – especially when they’re expanding on simple patterns, which are actually the easiest to hack.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.