I sometimes get questions from people about Marfy patterns, so I thought I would write a post that explained a little bit more about them.
Marfy is an Italian pattern company. Their branding is described as “high fashion.” The aesthetic tends to be ladylike and refined, and the designs (especially in older catalogs) sometimes have a vintage details. They are often bold and very distinctive. They have tons of dresses, a good amount of jackets and tops, some skirts, and quite a few capes and coats for outerwear. Not a whole lot of pants patterns – I don’t think there was a single pants pattern in the 2016 catalog. IMO their biggest strength is formalwear.
Unlike most pattern companies, Marfy does not post most of their designs online. They also not not publish technical drawings, and photos are rare. Instead they publish the roughly 200 new designs they produce every year as fashion illustrations in an annual catalog. The catalog is usually available for pre-order sometime in December. (If you pre-order the catalog you usually get a special reduced shipping rate.) The catalog includes a limited selection of free patterns, of which you can preview in the catalog’s description on their website.
Another thing I should mention is that this is not a pattern company for people that are budget-minded. Nowadays the patterns are roughly $20 each. (That’s why I’ve been making a conscious effort to sew more of them lately!) The pricing is in euros, so the current exchange rate has a lot to do with how much I ultimately end up paying for them.
Marfy patterns often to have a limited size range, which IMO is their biggest weakness. Fortunately for me, every design they offer comes in size 42 (which is similar to a Style Arc 8 or Burda 38). I also think everything comes in a 46. As you can see from the size filter on their website, selections start to get reduced for size 44, sizes 48 and 50 have even less options, and pickings are slim for sizes 52, 54, and 50.
I suspect the limited size range is due to the fact that Marfy is a small team, and designing and drafting around 200 fairly complex patterns every year must be a considerable undertaking.
As far as I know, Marfy patterns are not sold in stores. If you want to buy one, you have three options:
- Directly from Marfy: the people at Marfy speak Italian and English. I believe they also speak Spanish and French.
- If the pattern is listed on Marfy’s website: Marfy lists their most popular styles on their website. Just add it to your shopping cart and check out like you would with any other e-commerce website. Be aware that pattern prices are in euros.
- If the pattern isn’t listed: if you go to Marfy’s website and click on the Contact Us navigation item, you can fill out the form and enter the number and size of the pattern(s) you want to buy, and also indicate the shipping method you prefer. I also add my full mailing address and email address. Marfy then creates a Paypal invoice/money request for the full amount (in euros), I pay it, and a week or so later my patterns arrive in the mail.
- Nancy Erickson (US customers only): Nancy Erickson from Fashion Sewing Group offers special deals on Marfy patterns in the form of postage amnesty days. There’s usually four of them a year. If you’re not in a rush this is your cheapest option. Be aware that before placing your order you’ll need to contact Nancy and give her your payment information, which she then keeps on file. For more information view the Marfy pattern page on Nancy’s website.
- Vogue’s website: Vogue offers a selection of Marfy patterns on their website. (This is actually how I first found out about Marfy patterns.) The main disadvantage to ordering through Vogue is that you’re limited to just the patterns shown on their website.
The Fashion Illustrations
When you order a Marfy pattern, you get a small packet of pre-cut pattern pieces. You don’t get a pattern envelope or instructions (more on that in the next section). I always scan the catalog fashion illustration, print it out on card stock, then place it with the pattern pieces in a high-capacity sheet protector.
The fashion illustrations really throw a lot of people…it seems like people either love them or hate them! The exaggerated proportions seem to throw off/confuse a lot of people, as they’re used to patterns having photographs and technical drawings. Personally I see Marfy’s fashion illustrations as more of an expressive/artistic framework rather than literal representation of a design. It is meant to convey an idea that isn’t “real” yet. Something about the abstractness of them taps into my creative side and really gets the gears in my brain going.
When I look at a Marfy fashion illustration I pay attention to things like “How is the general fit? Is it snug around her waist, or is it a little looser? Does the hemline fall below her knees or a couple of inches above?” I’ve made both of the dresses shown below, and I can tell you that the black and white dress on the left was definitely snugger and longer out-of-the-envelope than the black and leopard print one on the right.
Another thing I look for is overall flow and fabric characteristics. You can see that the black and white dress is suited for a more structured fabric, and the orange, blue, and purple dress is meant for a fabric with more drape and flow. (A more structured fabric, during movement, wouldn’t have the fabric folds and flippy hem shown on the skirt of the orange dress.)
I also pay attention to the general details – seams, darts, proportions, etc. This is where exaggerated proportions come in handy. From the fashion illustration below I see an outerwear-style jacket with a zip front, two-piece sleeves with zippers, a dart and princess seam in the front and princess seam in the back, a belt that looks to be about 1.5-2″ in width, a subtle peplum that will hit at around the mid-to-low hip level, patch pockets with flaps, and a double collar with fur trim. The overall vibe I get is part sporty jacket, part trench coat. Marfy suggests gabardine, but I would consider any medium weight woven wool coating.
The Infamous Lack of Instructions
I don’t wish to be discouraging…but I have to say that this is not the pattern company for you if you like having your hand held, and need everything laid out for you. Beginners could be easily frustrated, as you’re expected to already have a solid understanding of sewing concepts (or be willing to do the research), be able to determine proper seam finishes, draft linings (and sometimes facings), etc. With no formal instructions you’re forced to think more about what you’re doing and be more strategic in your approach. At this point I find the lack of structure and guidance freeing and exciting rather than frustrating. (It must be my love of puzzles and INTJ personality – my mental wiring is a little different from most!) As Marfy says on their website:
Consider Marfy patterns an opportunity to let your creativity pour and make the garment with the details you prefer.
I think I had been sewing for around five years when I made up my first Marfy pattern. If you’re at an intermediate sewing level you should be able to tackle some of them. For example, Marfy 3399 is a pretty simple blouse. Just use a fabric with decent drape, and draft a facing or do a binding to finish off the neckline.
Some people like do a muslin because it helps them work out the construction, but unless I’m worried about fit/proportion, working with an expensive fabric, or the project is potentially very labor-intensive (like a coat) I usually skip on the muslin. (That’s actually the same approach I take to muslins of when it comes to any pattern brand.) Instead I prefer to do flat pattern measurements, compare the pattern pieces to those of other patterns I’ve made up (and know that fit), and include more generous seam allowances at the side seams. If I’m not sure about how to finish off or do certain things I just think about it for a while, and maybe play with the pattern pieces until the answer comes to me. I often have a general plan in mind and figure out the specifics as I go along. I pay attention to what the fabric is “telling” me, and if it is becoming obvious that Plan A isn’t the best approach, I move on to Plan B. Or Plan C.
As I mentioned before, the Marfy patterns arrive pre-cut and are folded into a little rectangle with the pattern number and size listed on the outside.
No sleeve or hem allowances are included. I use the SACurve ruler (available at The Wooly Thread) to add seam allowances after I trace them. Even though they arrive pre-cut I always trace them because like with any other pattern line, I always do a lot of fitting alterations first.
When I first get a Marfy pattern I open up the packet and lay them out on a flat surface. I keep my printed fashion illustration handy and start matching up the pieces according to the letters stamped on the pattern pieces, which are usually by corners and notches.
The pieces are not labeled (e.g. “sleeve”, “front bodice”, etc.) However, after you line them up you can kind of figure out what they are. The pattern pieces shown below are from Marfy 4009.
One thing I should note is that Marfy usually includes two pieces for collars: an upper collar (the section that shows on the outside) and an undercollar. The pieces include a turn of cloth allowances. The turn of cloth allowance is for medium weight fabrics. You’ll need to add to it for heavier fabrics and remove a little for lighter weight fabrics.
One thing I don’t like about their sleeves is how they notch both the front and back sleeve cap with a single notch. I usually add a second notch in the back so I can easily distinguish between the two when I’m at the sewing machine.
Marfy will often include little instructions on the pieces, such as:
- “Fully lined”
- “Easing” – fabric is meant to be eased in that section. You’ll normally see it on sleeve caps.
- “Stuffing” – shoulder pads are required.
- “Pleat” – usually means gather. Actual pleats are usually marked.
- “Uplifted” – means that section is not sewn down, ie it is more of an overlay. An example of this is the twist detail of Marfy 3784.
Marfy patterns are cut quite slim. If you are between sizes, size up rather than down.
For a Marfy size 42, the waist is cut slimmer and the bust/cup size is a cut a little bit more generously than a Burda 38 or Style Arc 8. The hips are cut about the same as a Style Arc 8, and slightly less generously than for a Burda 38. The waist-to-hip measurement is only around 7.5″, whereas it is at least 8″ for both Burda and Style Arc. The sleeves usually have high and narrow sleeve caps, especially when compared to Style Arc. I find that my fitting adjustments are very consistent, though in order to work on my body some styles need more/less adjustments than others.
One thing to watch out for is that Marfy cuts the upper back narrower than most. If I’m working with a woven, particularly a non-stretch woven, I always add at least 3/8″ width to each back armhole. If I don’t it makes reaching forward rather uncomfortable.