Thoughts on the Renfrew’s popularity

Renfrew Green - CropRenfrew  - Stripey - 1Renfrew - Paisley - 2Rendfrew Mondrian Crop

The lovely Marjtrundle recently asked:

“Why is the Renfrew so much better than other t-shirt patterns? ….. I see nothing but very happy sewers on all blogs showing their latest Renfrew t-shirt.”

I pondered doing something scientific like running a blog meta-analysis on the Renfrew’s popularity but I’ve got traces to make and things to sew! I also know there are many other great patterns for t shirts. So, my hyperbole about the Renfrew being the “new classic T” is highly challengeable! Nonetheless, it definitely has been a big hit …here are my thoughts on why:

The first few relate to style and construction:

– Loose-but-still-shaped style – It fits at the shoulders, skims over the stomach and sits nicely on the hips. Seems to fit many body types well, despite being designed for pear shaped figures.

– Great confidence booster for first-time knit sewers – due to the hem and sleeves being finished with bands – so much easier to achieve a nice finish than fiddling with steam-a-seam, twin needles and adjusting tension.

– Easy to construct –  on a sewing machine or serger, instructions are clear and straightforward

You may be thinking “but I can create those things with any T shirt pattern!’ Yes, you can (with a bit of fiddling). So, what I really think it comes down to is clever marketing and great timing – ie:

– Significant exposure – the blogosphere and sites like Pattern Review and BurdaStyle are blooming with Renfrews…all of which look great, on all shapes and sizes! This means the Renfrew is often ‘front of mind’ when someone thinks about a t shirt pattern. Update thanks to Alison: The Renfrew has been voted Pattern Review’s No. 1 Best Pattern of 2012

– Memorable Name – Tasia and many other independent pattern makers make use of great memorable names. In Tasia’s case, she’s using local street names. I think it’s easier to remember and talk about a ‘Renfrew’ top than a G8562* And my grandparents lived in Renfrew, PA, so this pattern’s name has a special memory for me!

– Independent pattern company – there seems to be a growing demographic which loves/supports independent pattern makers. Hence, they tend to choose this t shirt pattern over one from the Big 4.

I may be over-thinking this πŸ˜‰

What do you think makes this pattern (or any pattern) popular?

Note: I have not been reimbursed in any way for these comments, I just geniunely like the Renfrew pattern.

*a made-up pattern number for the purposes of illustration



  1. I don’t know but I’m not ready to try it. I’m still a scarred woman from the Minoru episode. πŸ˜‰

    BTW…the Renfrew is No 1 in the PR patterns of 2012. The dratted Minoru also makes the list.

  2. I think you are spot on especially about PR & Burda style. When a sewer ‘sees’ a pattern (like the Renfrow) sewn and modeled on a real person vs. some skinny model whose last decent meal was last century, it says a lot about how good the pattern was drafted.

  3. I think you are simply brilliant to make these deductions. And I love your tops. I guess I need to order this pattern and do my own research analysis. (as I sew…lol)

  4. Thanks so much for this post Cherrypix and for your wise insight as to why the Renfrew is going down so well with home sewers. I too saw that it rated #1 on Pattern Review and when you look into their reviews for this pattern, there are just so many happy campers in their lovely Renfrews. I have now ordered it and await it’s arrival, with fabric ready to be cut. Today I was going through my old patterns (now classified as Vintage by many who read these blogs) and I found at least 6 T-shirt patterns that I have tried over the years and I don’t think any of them were used more than once. So if the Renfrew works for me, you will be reading about it!!!!
    PS: I had some success at a different Brisbane Spotlight last weekend; great service plus a lovely knit reduced to $3 per metre.

  5. It looks great and I can see it is popular…. Unfortunately the sizing is way too small for me and there are enough larger patterns to fill my tee need. So I will have to give this one a miss. It does look fabo on you.

  6. I love your thoughts on Renfrew and I agree with most of it.

    Other than marketing and timing, I agree with all of your points. The marketing happened word of mouth – not by the designer but by the people who used it – they were happy to flaunt their output! So its not really marketing. It was spreading the joy by customers. And people like hearing from customers than the producer… The timing – well, there were more tshirt patterns before and more after.. So I don’t know about the timing.

    I would like to add that adding multiple options (stylish to basic) in one pattern gives people extra mileage). Another one is that she has very extensive tutorials for every part of Renfrew on her blog – as if she’s walking you through the pattern every step of the way. And answers questions! Making it really easy to sew the cowl!!

    Easy, stylish, great results for almost every figure type, great instructions… what’s not to love about that pattern?

  7. Hi there CherryPix, just found your blog from other bloggers that I follow. I like your points about the Renfrew. I have to admit, I don’t own a copy of the pattern, but certainly have heard about it! I wondered also, why it was so popular. Besides the fact that it is a very good looking top, your points make a lot of sense as well. I’m going to have to pick me up one of these patterns! πŸ™‚

  8. I haven’t made this yet, but then I haven’t made with knits yet either – well over due. With so many terrific examples out there it seems to be the “go to” . i love your fabric choice.

  9. I love the comments made here about this line of patterns, me being a “vogue snob” and all (really, I don’t just use vogue patterns, lol). I’ve never tried these, but now there are two of these patterns that made the “top ten” cut over on PR. So, maybe it’s high time for me to break the mindset and pick up a few of these. Thanks for the posts! Your shirts all look great!

    • LOL…Vogue Snob…I am recovering from a case of reverse snobbery against the Big 4….I am mainly a BurdaStyle person, with a smattering of independent patterns…but have recently discovered a wonderful source of second hand patterns at a local recycling venue….mainly Vogue and McCalls…in mainly 80s styles…but some have ‘great bones’ and I am having fun trying them out.

      I think my ‘snobbery’ started when I tried following size guides on the Big 4 and was horribly disappointed with the sacks I was creating…on the size guide, I should be making size 16 but I found that in Vogue (for example) I’m 12 with an FBA and increased waist…thank goodness for sewing blogs explaining the benefits of using Upper Bust as a pattern size guide and adding an FBA! …I would have given up otherwise!

  10. For being a source of inspiration to me, I have nominated you for the Inspiring Blogger Award.
    If you have recently been nominated for this award OR if you’re not keen on participating in the process, please feel free to accept my appreciation of your talent and desire to point others in your direction. I think you’re FABULOUS! with no strings attached. πŸ™‚

  11. I’m trying not to buy any more patterns so am still (just) managing to avoid the buying Renfrew. I do need to do some alterations to my standard T pattern though …. that never ending process of changing bodies.

    Oh and BTW I’ve nominated you for a Beautiful Blogger Award πŸ™‚ . I hope you don’t mind!

    • Yes, I can’t stop playing with blog themes/appearance…in my next life I want to be a graphic designer… I love the BIG cherry pic in the header…but wonder if it’s a little too arty? This theme (Widely) only has menus at the bottom of the blog…which doesn’t make it easy to look around…I’m caught between what I like to look at and what’s reader-friendly!! Any thoughts???

      • I love the cherry and don’t think it’s too arty at all. But, I love menus on the side. My theme you only get the menus if you click on the actual post which I don’t like. And, all I’ve heard is that people don’t like to ‘look’ for things. They want it all RIGHT THERE. So, I worry if I don’t have everything on the front page. But, then you could have too much… I guess as long as your followers keep coming back. I love your site and more importantly the content. And, yes I could change my theme monthly too. So I settle on changing up the banner or colors. If I did this blogging thing for money I would go insane with worry. HA!

        • Hmmm…yes, side menus make exploration easier…but I can’t seem to find a theme that’s uncluttered AND has side bars. I am going to see if I can get some links going across the top of the page…glad to know you like the content too πŸ™‚

  12. I’ve avoided this pattern so far only because I didn’t want to buy another pattern for which I have many similar, but you make a good point and all those happy Renfrew sewists can’t be wrong! Maybe I should buy it – what’s another pattern in the stash really?!

  13. Hi Kristy. Should you or shouldn’t you? Put it this way…I’ve used the Renfrew pattern 7 times …and counting…it’s definitely a ‘value’ pattern …does this help?

  14. I do think some independent patterns, such as this one, are over-hyped and people don’t like to criticise them because they feel like they know and like the pattern-maker, and because they like to support a small business. This however leads to people having an unrealistic expectation of the pattern. It’s a nice enough pattern but there are other good t-shirt patterns out there. I’ve read reviews of this that say or imply “it’s magic, it will fit anyone without alteration” but that can’t be true of any pattern and I don’t think it’s helpful to make beginners think that it can. For example, Tasia does not design for my body shape. My shoulders are too wide and my B-cup bust is too big. I have made the Renfrew top three times and only on the third one was I happy with the fit. I am okay with that – I understand that a pattern may need altering – but I don’t think people should pretend otherwise.

    Things I do like about it:

    * The variety of neckline options is really nice. I love the shape of the scoop neck, not too low or high.
    * The banded finishes are nice for beginners (although KwikSew do them too).
    * Like everyone else, I like to support a small business.

    I agree the names independent pattern makers use are often cute and more memorable. I particularly like Deer & Doe’s plant-themed ones. But, as I read somewhere, there aren’t enough pretty names/words for a pattern catalogue the size of the Big 4’s. They’d have to just work their way through the dictionary!

    • Good to read your viewpoint, Kathleen. I didn’t intend to imply this pattern worked for everyone straight out of the envelope….I agree with you, no pattern ever will. I added an FBA to mine! Perhaps I should have mentioned that.

  15. Pingback: There’s Something About the Renfrew | Sew Everything Blog

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