Big 4 vs indie patterns 

When I first started to sew I would never have touched a “big 4” (McCalls/New Look/ Butterick/Simplicity) pattern because they have a bad reputation. A reputation for being complicated, for the sizing being far too big and the instructions being sparse. 

Burda #6849

However lately I’m becoming frustrated by indie patterns. Everything is easy, or fast to sew, or has very little in the way of interesting details. If you look at rtw there’s all sorts of little extras that enhance the garment (pin tucks, buttons, pleats). I also find they’re exorbitantly expensive in comparison to the big 4. You might get one or two views if you’re lucky compared to 3/4/5 on a big 4 pattern. And they’re a lot cheaper too. Roughly around £7/8 compared to £13/14 for an indie. 

McCalls M7387

I also find that the independent companies are regurgitating old designs and a lot of the easier patterns you will definitely find in a Burda/McCalls version at half the price. One designer that I feel doesn’t do this as much is Closet Case and Grainline. However I do feel that Sewoverit are very expensive and relatively classic designs. 

On advantage the indies do have is that the instructions are far superior. They use little tricks to enhance the finish, a big 4 pattern seems to have a lot more needless handstitching, especially in shirtmaking. 

Having said that I find myself edging over to the dark side more and more. Especially as Minerva Crafts have a massive sale on with patterns for £3.50 at the moment!

Are you entirely indie or big 4 or a mixture?


2 thoughts on “Big 4 vs indie patterns 

  1. My pattern collection is a bit of a mixture – Big 4 patterns which I was given by a friend when I started sewing and she was clearing out her mum’s attic, and some indie patterns which I do feel are usually expensive for very simple designs. A lot of the Big 4 patterns which I’ve tried have been from magazines, as free gifts or ordered from Jaycotts when they’ve got a half price sale on them (most of the time!). I don’t find the instructions any more tricky to follow, tbh.


  2. I have a mixture of both but have (so far) sewn more indie. I find the amount of extra ease in big 4 frustrating, especially when I really struggle with fit in general. However, I do agree that you’re often getting the same pattern as an indie but for half the price as the presentation isn’t as glossy and appealing. For absolute beginners I certainly recommend starting with indie patterns as their full instructions and online sewalongs are invaluable for a nervous sewer. I owe a lot to By Hand London tutorials!

    It will be interesting to see how/where indie pattern companies develop over the next few years, as there are quite a few of them now, and the online sewing community is so well established with a lot of intermediate level, competent sewers who don’t need as much hand-holding anymore. It won’t be easy for the companies to all to come up with different, fresh ideas from each other and the big 4. Will the community continue to buy indie or swap to cheaper big 4?


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