Pattern review: Papercut Patterns Sigma

This has been a long time coming – you know what it’s like when you start doing something else…  Never mind. Here is a review for Steph’s version of Papercut’s Sigma dress that you may have seen in-store or online in our delightful Japanese orange linen. We consequently sold out of the fabric but as Steph tries to explain, Sigma is a good all-rounder for many other fabrics.

The Constellation Collection from Papercut Patterns


As a trained pattern cutter, commercial patterns and I generally don’t go together; I find that I can create a bespoke pattern for whatever style of garment it is that I want. Yet, that’s of course not always the case; perhaps you find commercial patterns more straightforward than creating your own, or you’re new to dressmaking and are eager to try anything. For the reason that I have only ever made three garments using commercial patterns (one of those occasions being a task set to convert the traditional pattern pieces into something avant garde anyway), I wanted a challenge. Effectually, I wanted to learn something new, in the hope that my trained and untrained knowledge would merge to give you a better insight into what a particular pattern actually involves.

Papercut Patterns have found a niche with their contemporary sportswear pieces and stylish packaging, yet, not all of us are sporty or glam outfit wearers. For this reason I decided to start my journey into creating commercial pattern garments for Ray Stitch by attempting to subvert the boundary of what a pattern block can become.

We like dresses here at Ray Stitch – they’re pretty good for everything. We also like our bold graphic prints, and there’s no hiding the fact that we do well for you with our special Japanese fabrics. Combining these two factors, I took a moment to mull over what would work best with Papercut’s Sigma. Their model is seen wearing a jazzy out-on-the-town sort of fabric, and whilst we like to party as much as the next woman, we also like having a great dress to wear over tights, or perhaps with sandals and a linen blazer in summer. So we quickly chose the quirky orange onion linen-cotton.


Selecting the fabric - nothing short of bold though...


The Sigma has variations to allow the choice of a gathered or straight skirt, and the choice of two lengths of sleeve. (As I progressed with the making, I actually realised that the dress would even be suitable as a two-piece cocktail outfit due to the high-waisted skirt and nicely fitted cropped bodice).  We decided on a long-sleeved-gathered-skirt Sigma for the versatility of creating outfits.

My first thought on commercial patterns is that the tissue is too flimsy and delicate, so I was surprised to find that Papercut use heavy brown paper – they even include little ‘gifts’ like a hang tag so that your cut out pattern can hang like a block in a studio. The cost of independent patterns go up when they’re produced in this way, but I personally feel that this added touch is worth the extra cash when they’re likely to last longer (and can be traced, consequently allowing for sharing between friends). The instructions are printed on the same sheet and give you cut-and-fold lines in order to make your own instruction booklet (I’m easy to please, it seems). Due to this, the pattern is clear for cutting out, and the instructions being laid out in such a way are therefore easy to follow.


Clear instructions, heavy-duty paper, nice diagrams - that's what we like!


So far, so good. The fabric layout and fabric amount seemed to correlate - which is always a good start – and so cutting out was simple. Take a moment to check the size measurements however, as Papercut work with XS-XL (I cut a small thinking it would be a 10, but on fitting seems to be more like a size 8). I wish I had been slightly more conscientious with my pattern layout so that the onions weren’t consequently half-and-half at the waist, though that could easily have made a headache for other areas. Tip: if you’re using bold prints, it's best to play around before you cut out.

I’m one of those French seam lovers, especially when using a linen-cotton as I can’t deal with fraying. If you can go the extra mile to do couture finishes, your garment is more likely to last the years as well as copious washing. This does make inserting sleeves trickier as you have to be careful with right sides and wrong sides, and also that you’re not just creating extra bulk in places. With Sigma, however, you flat-insert your sleeve – something that I had never encountered before, and it made a nice change! I thoroughly enjoyed making Sigma, up until I had to do the neck facing. Nowhere in the instructions or diagrams did it state to sandwich the invisible zip into the facing, and as the facing was 1cm too short on each side, I ended up with quite a messy finishing. I had decided to bind the facing, cuffs and hem with satin bias tape to take the dress up a notch, and ended up being disappointed due to that small issue with the facing.

2014-11-06 11.25.52 Laying out ready for my first flat-insert sleeve with French seam


2014-11-07 17.12.22 Satin bias for the pocket rather than zig-zag stitch


2014-11-12 17.30.58 The end of the facing doesn't sandwich the zip - a disappointing end to a lovely make


This taught me that it is utterly necessary to read the instructions and diagrams through fully - maybe even twice - before starting to sew, just in case you have some other knowledge that could improve the make, both in end product and for your enjoyment level.


Ray Stitch Sigma The finished piece! Lisa's doing that quirky sporty thing well.


I’m keen to make up Papercut’s other styles now, and after seeing some examples of their sportswear, I’m excited to create something else out of the ordinary. Whilst I am not yet a commercial pattern convert, I understand the ease that these emerging independent pattern-makers are bringing to the dressmaking world. I’ve heard tales of annoyance at confusing instructions from ‘chain’ pattern brands and can admit that upon looking at some of them, even with years of knowledge and experience under my belt, they infuriate me. Where they fail in adequately explaining the steps to make a simple dress, independent brands like Papercut excel in igniting excitement for making with their clear and fun instruction, delightful packaging and interesting styling. I would rather recommend independent patterns to beginners, despite the higher price, for the fact that they are better-suited and therefore better value. Then, recommend the chain brands to those with more sewing knowledge and confidence who should be better equipped to choose fabrics in order to make those ordinary styles sing out.


Rigel Hannah's Liberty Tana Lawn Rigel Bomber


Anima and Undercover Undercover hoodie and Anima pant in merino wool knit


Whether you’re just starting out, or have been dressmaking for years, I can vouch for Sigma suiting every skill level. Additionally, it’s a good staple dress with some fun variations, and the physical pattern is a pleasure to use as well. What will yours look like? Take a look on Pinterest for some more examples - this is probably the best way to inspire fabric choices and colours. Enjoy!


Classic blue Sigma
From Pinterest - Sigma Variation 1 and 2 (from Pinterest)
Screen shot 2015-04-10 at 18.04.07 Nani Iro double gauze Mountain Views


Words by Steph.