Deer&Doe pattern levels: what do they mean?

Written by Eléonore
June 14 2016 | The patterns

Have you ever wondered how we determine our patterns’ levels? Do you have trouble quantifying your experience with sewing on a scale of 1 to 5? Today, we’ll explain everything!

Sometimes represented with tiny scissors, buttons, or an enigmatic number, the level of a sewing pattern can be hard to understand. Furthermore, what comes easily to some can seem insurmountable to others: just think of the endless debate of zippers vs. buttonholes, or biais binding vs. facings!

That’s why Deer&Doe patterns are graded not in terms of difficulty (easy/medium/hard) but in terms of sewing experience, on a 5-point scale:

1/ Complete beginner
2/ Beginner
3/ Intermediate
4/ Advanced
5/ Expert

Here are the criteria that we use:

  • meticulousness: crooked seams, mismatched notches, wavy top-stitching… just like with any other craft, meticulousness in sewing comes through practice! Complete beginner (1) and beginner (2) patterns require less precision (straight lines, no complex manipulations…)
  • techniques: when you are new to sewing, you have to learn the knacks and lingo, which is why beginner patterns have very detailed instructions (complete beginner patterns, such as the Arum dress, even include a small lexicon). For more advanced patterns, techniques that are considered known are not detailed, so that more time can be spend on more complex steps!
  • fit: when a pattern is hard to adapt to one’s morphology, even the most enthusiastic of beginners can be easily discouraged, which is why beginner patterns are easier to adjust. When a pattern is easy to assemble but has features that make fit adjustments more difficult (such as the Belladone‘s open back), we prefer placing it in a higher experience level 🙂
  • pattern testers’ perceptions: when we can’t choose between two experience levels, we survey our pattern testers before making the final decision!

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Conversely, we decided to leave out the following:

  • sewing time: some garments, like the Chardon skirt, can take a long time to sew (because of its many pleats at the waist), but does not require any advanced skills! We consider that a beginner can tackle them without any issues in several sittings.
  • number of pattern pieces: we know that a pattern with a lot of different pieces can be intimidating. But that doesn’t mean that it is more difficult! Once the pieces are cut and organized, you might only have to sew straight seams 😉 . The inverse is also true: the version of the Datura blouse with the triangle cutouts has only 5 pattern pieces, but requires a lot of focus and attention!

We hope that this post helped you form a better understanding of how we choose the difficulty levels for our patterns! Of course, these levels are just an indication, and nothing is stopping motivated beginners to tackle a level 4 or 5 pattern (armed with patience and a good sewing book). It’s by pushing your limits that you make the most progress!

Now it’s our turn to know a bit more about you 😉 :

  • What are the criteria you use to determine a pattern’s difficulty?
  • What is the technique you fear the most? The one you consider the easiest?
  • What experience level would you say you have? What is the level of the most advanced Deer&Doe pattern you have made?

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