Five Ways TNT Patterns Positively Impact Sewing Skills and Design Aesthetic

Well hiya Sewcialists. It’s me, Sue. My sewing blog, A Colourful Canvas, is my primary Internet residence, but for today I’m all kinds of happy to be hanging out with you here at Sewcialists HQ. My brick and mortar life has me living in Vancouver, Canada where I share life and love with a techie husband and a blue-eyed cat named Samson.

The TNT patterns that have found their way into my heart (and closet) are garments that fit me well, are a pleasure to sew, and are chameleon-like.  The silhouettes… classic, simple. This is intentional. When sewing garments with clean lines, I find it easier to re-invent their personality from make to make. I have several TNT patterns in my arsenal, but in this post my examples are four of my favourites: Closet Case Patterns Ginger Jeans, Deer & Doe Plantain T-Shirt, Simplicity 2444 Fit and Flare Dress and Burda 7255 Shirt.

While mentally ruminating on the opening content for this post, I found myself taking a closer, more thoughtful look at these multiple makes. And… I had a little ah-ha moment. Sewing TNT patterns is not about safety and/or convenience. Although I cannot discount the joy of a start to finish make that doesn’t involve printing, taping, fitting, re-fitting, hemline decision making, etc., for me sewing a TNT is all about the growth that happens when I no longer need to channel my energy into the above.

So, without further ado, below are five ways TNT patterns have a positive impact on my sewing skills and design aesthetic.

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One. TNT patterns build sewing skills. I promise you this. Sewing the same pattern multiple times (especially one right after the other) really helps improve technique. Each time I sew that fly zipper the instructions make more sense. Top stitching goals? With repetition comes improvement. Professional hems take practice. It’s all good… Those new, mad sewing skills are completely transferable to future makes.

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Two. Sewing a TNT is a total confidence booster! After sewing the same t-shirt pattern a few times, I’ve not only improved my sewing skills — I feel more confident. Colour blocking that tee doesn’t seem quite as challenging. Switching out the Simplicity 2444 skirt to a peplum is much less scary. Even detailed changes, like transforming the Burda 7255 shirt into a dress, can be in your wheelhouse.

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Three. TNTs are a little like personal pattern blocks. Multiple makes = fabulous fit. Nowadays there are so many Indie pattern designers, each contributing their unique style point of view. And we want to sew all the patterns, from all the companies. When I set out to sew a new pattern, I often overlay one of my TNT patterns on top of the new printed pattern, i.e., my Ginger Jeans over a new pants pattern. This gives me a starting point when it comes to choosing the size I need to trace and often gives me a heads up on any alterations I might need to consider.

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Four. TNTs are my preferred go-to patterns when it comes to precious fabrics. I think they literally make me braver. That pretty red and white hand painted cotton was gifted to me by Barbara Jane Made became a TNT Simplicity 2444. The denim-like stretch knit I found in a thrift store (inexpensive but not something I could buy more of) remained in my stash until I decided to use my Ginger Jeans pattern. And my silk blue sari, another thrift store treasure, became the second iteration of my Simplicity 2444 Betty Draper Roses Dress.

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Five. Last but not least, a TNT pattern offers freedom. It’s like the previous four benefits rolled into one. The technical bits are better understood and I’ve gained a sense of how the garment hangs and moves on my body.  I feel I’ve been given the freedom to push boundaries… to play with colour, experiment with unexpected fabrics,  or pattern match like a boss. This is when I get serious about giving my TNT its unique personality.

I’m curious. Do you sew many TNTs? Have they benefited you as they have me? Has sewing a pattern multiple times helped you to see the same ol’ in a new light? And finally… If you haven’t sewn a TNT — and I get it, so many new patterns, so little time — have I inspired you to sew a pattern a second time?


18 thoughts on “Five Ways TNT Patterns Positively Impact Sewing Skills and Design Aesthetic

  1. Two aha moments! I usually compare
    finished garment measurements, and do not simply overlay a TNT tissue. (Perhaps this is a duh rather than aha moment! ) So…THANK YOU! Second aha moment? My cat is also Samson! Love sewing, love Samson, my sewing cave companion!

  2. So many excellent points! Now I want to find some more TNT patterns for myself, at least one for each garment category I might want to make… personally, I prefer certain silhouettes so taking a TNT pattern and modifying it seems so much simpler than finding an appropriate pattern, tracing or taping it, not to mention the fitting process… especially snice my sewing time is usually limited. Though comparing the pattern pieces sounds like an excellent idea!

  3. I have a 22 year old son named Samson so I am very fond of the name! :o)
    Thank You, I too now will lay my TNT pattern pieces over all new patterns to help me!! YES! This will be so helpful!
    I love your use of fabrics, colors and pattern choices. My body shape is completely different so I’d not choose these, but they are so beautiful like eye candy I am drawn in to admire your work! Amazing! :o)
    I am just getting started in the TNT re-using- redisigning. My first attempt I forgot to add seam allowances. Wasn’t a biggie. But like you say we learn and get better as we go!

    1. Aw…another Samson. I love that!

      Overlaying my tnts really does help me gauge where to start…and getting started is often my challenging part of sewing, LOL.

      And thanks for the fabric love. ‘Tis true…I do tend to go for the eye candy colours and they aren’t for everybody…but hopefully they induce a smile just the same. 🙂

  4. I had a light bulb moment at the thought of laying my TNT patterns (okay, so far pattern, singular) over new patterns. That makes so much sense. Thank you!

  5. Yes, yes, yes! To all of these. I don’t have many what I would call TNT patterns really. But I almost never sew a pattern only once. Usually I sew two or three versions before moving on to the next pattern – for all these reasons. When I first started sewing I churned out a bunch of ottobre skirts and it was a wonderful way to see where it really made a difference to be careful, and where my skills could use some work (and where it was ok to cut corners, too!).

    I have to do so much fitting that it just seems a waste to only sew one version of something. I have my standard fit adjustments down so it usually doesn’t take that long, but even so, it’s work! And sometimes you don’t realise the issues until you have worn something a few times – it fits perfect when I’m standing still in front of the mirror but will it be comfortable when I have to sit at my desk all day? So I want to try it with a few tweaks, and I’ve learnt SO much about how to fit myself by doing this. I also do the laying of pattern pieces (that makes it sound very symbolic when I phrase it that way!) and it’s incredible how two patterns for the same size garment can be so different, both in ease and in pattern shape. Another learning moment, which shape of cut on sleeve works best? Which curve of the side seam? I learn by doing and seeing so this is very helpful for me.

    Most of the time, by the time I’m halfway through a garment I’ve thought of another fabric that would look great in this, or a modification I could do. It’s exciting and freeing!

    1. OH, OH, OH…what a valid point you’ve brought up. I do find that some instructions add extra steps…steps that aren’t necessary to making a beautiful garment. It’s only after making up the pattern a few times that I can see where I can cut those corners. Thanks for mentioning this!

      And I totally hear you on the fit issues that can come to light only after the clothing has been worn for a while. “Oops…I can’t actually reach that top shelf without a wardrobe malfunction.” sez me. It’s not that the garment is a throwaway, but…as you’ve said…it’s about making note of tweaks that will make it that much better.

  6. Hey, Sue! Preaching to the choir here! I also have so many fit issues that it totally makes sense to reuse a pattern that already has all the work done on it. And “the laying on of pattern pieces” (love that!) is a no-brainer on a new pattern. I also use “frankenpatterning” a lot by combining tnts for the parts that need to fit closely (for me that’s the shoulders and armholes especially) and the more exciting details from a new pattern. My current goal is to collect a really useful set of basic tnts and transfer them all to heavy paper for durability and easy tracing. I guess then they technically become blocks instead of tnts, huh?

    1. Hiya Louisa! Brilliant point you’ve brought up about fit issues. At present, my alterations are mostly length related plus the more recent inclusion of FBAs and I generally find it pretty straight forward to make these changes on new-to-me patterns. To be honest, perfecting the fit of the shoulder and armhole is something that I’ve been ignoring….it sounds a little trickier to get right. Your concept of ‘frankenpatterning’…incorporating that crucial fitting part of a tnt into a new make…sounds like absolutely the way to go! Thanks for sharing!

      As to the terminology….’What is the true definition of a ‘block?’ wonders me.

      PS…this is going OT and I’ll likely chat with you about it anther time, but the big fear when it comes to altering shoulders and armscyes is getting the sleeve to fit…

  7. So many good points, thank you! I have come to the conclusion that I need NEW TNT patterns because my body has changed so much in the past few years (can you say “menopause”?). But hey, it’s kind of exciting, like peeking behind unopened doors to see what’s there, so it’s okay.

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