Marfy Patterns: A Primer

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.

Background

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.

Sizing

Marfy size information

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.

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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.

Ordering Marfy

As far as I know, Marfy patterns are not sold in stores. If you want to buy one, you have three options:

  1. Directly from Marfy: the people at Marfy speak Italian and English. I believe they also speak Spanish and French.Β 

    1. 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.
    2. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

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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.

3701_0701_2

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.

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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.

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The front pieces laid out for Marfy 4009

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.

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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.

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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.
IMG_3825
Notice how the pattern pieces indicate that the zipper should be inserted into the left side seam, and to cut just a single layer of the pattern piece right side up.

Fit

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.

43 thoughts on “Marfy Patterns: A Primer

  1. Thank you for posting this and being so detailed. I have wanted to try Marfy but never knew exactly what I would be getting.

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  2. An excellent resource, thank you! I’m an INFJ but with very strong T myself (probably from being married to an INTJ for 17 years) so I totally related to your comments about solving puzzles, I love all those technical puzzle solving aspects about sewing myself. I have a couple of Marfy patterns but haven’t got around to sewing them yet. Everytime I see one of your Marfy posts I give myself a mental kick as they are lovely (your last couple of dresses are stunning, by the way).

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  3. Thanks so much for this post! I was just thinking that as I am in love with all things Italian, I should try some Marfy patterns. You’re invited to visit my blogs:

    diaryofasewciopath.blogspot.com

    MyLifeinTuscany.blogspot.com

    Next time I am in Florence I will stop by some of the fabric stores to see if they carry the catalog. It might still be better to have it mailed. Again, thanks for all the tips.

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  4. Thank you so much for such a thorough posting. I’ve been toying with the idea of trying Marfy patterns but wasn’t sure…. I might go ahead and get one via Vogue and play with it. And, your post is definitely bookmarked!

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  5. Silly me, I completely forgot about this when I posted before – if readers would like a taste of marfy for free, you can go to the web site and they have 3 free patterns – a skirt, top and jacket. They aren’t brand new releases or anything like that, but will give you a taste of Marfy. I haven’t tried any of them yet, so I can’t give any personal input about them, but now that I have remembered them I might just try that shirt out soon. The patterns that are for free are multi-sized, so you need to print and tape together then trace your size. I’m looking at the shirt pattern, it includes sizes 42-58.

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    1. Yes, I’m aware of the three free patterns. I didn’t mention them in my post because IMO they aren’t as useful as the ones in the catalog for getting to know the Marfy fit. The jacket is ok, but the blouse is very loose and has no shoulders, and since the skirt is an A-line shape you don’t get a good sense of how their hip curve works for you. In the catalog there’s always at least one fitted pants/skirt pattern.

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      1. That is interesting, thank you. The free ones will give one the chance to try sewing without instructions, etc. but you miss out on some of the drafting benefits of other Marfy patterns. Helpful information to consider.

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  6. Lots of useful info here Anne, I haven’t seen many Marfy reviews around but your recent posts are sure to inspire folks to try them, this post gives a good explanation of what to expect and the skill level required.

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    1. Yeah, they are definitely not one of the more popular designers. In addition to people being scared by the lack of instructions I think their aesthetic is too formal for a lot of people’s lifestyles.

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  7. Thank you for this detailed post about Marfy patterns. I really appreciate your blog and you inspire me in my return to sewing my own wardrobe.

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  8. Thank you for such a thorough review of Marfy patterns. Do they repeat any patterns in the catalogs or are all 200 patterns new every year? I have an old catalog and may actually get around to trying a free one included thanks to your review! Your sewing projects are stunning….along with the photography! Thanks for the inspiration!

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  9. This is a wonderful summary of what to expect! I jumped into my first Marfy knowing a fair bit about them (because of folks like you who enjoy their patterns and share your projects!) and had a wonderful experience. They really are fantastic patterns, and I’m looking forward to adding many more to my collection. Thank you for sharing your insights with all of us!

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  10. Another INTJ!! We’re a bit scarce!

    Marfy sounds fun. I’ll have to check out their patterns – at least the ones online. I love puzzles. I like the ones that Studio Faro / Well-suited posts. A pattern piece or two and guess what it makes.

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      1. I’m an INTJ too! I always felt like we had a lot in common. Sorry if that sounds creepy…

        I haven’t been able to get any of my local sewing friends as excited about StyleArc as I am because of the sparse instructions. Makes sense to me now that that preference is probably a personality thing.

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      2. No, it isn’t creepy.

        If you’re experienced and of the personality type that doesn’t automatically bow to authority, and are always trying to find new ways of doing something, then it makes sense that you would skip instructions whenever possible πŸ˜‰

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      3. I am another INTJ woman. So there is at least one more on the planet! I am definitely more T than F. I do HAVE feelings, I just don’t use them very often in making decisions when they conflict with my thinking side.

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  11. I’ve only made one Marfy pattern as I have so many Vogues but I thought it was fantastic. The fit for me was very close, the shaping and details such as the length of the straps on the sundress and the fit of the pattern pieces together was perfect. They do have a lot of patterns which have just that little bit of extra style that I like. Also I never use instructions so that was fine with me. I should try another one!

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  12. Thank you so so much. I’m not sure I have enough experience to go about all you have explained but it definitely helps to read you. You definitely are an inspiration. Thanks again. Terri

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  13. Interesting, and confirms in my mind what I ran into with my first, and so far only, Marfy pattern. As an avid golfer I fell in love with Marfy’s shorts pattern, 3388. I also ordered the 2015/16 catalogue so I have some free patterns but nothing that grabs me. Being short waisted, I’m longer from waist to crotch than most so I added what I usually need as well as compared the crotch curve with a trouser pattern that fits, but something went weird in the crotch area and I will never wear them. Lots of variables as I had to grade up from their largest size, 46 to 52. I need to try again!

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    1. Yeah, I haven’t done much with Marfy pants patterns. From what I’ve seen the body depth is a bit shallow, and overall the fit is very lean. I love Marfy for dresses, tops/blouses, and jackets, but for pants and skirts I prefer Style Arc or Burda.

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  14. Another beautiful dress. I love the colors and the fit is perfect! Thanks for a detailed review. Most of the time when I sew I don’t read the instructions either. I may glance at the pictures from time to time. I do like sewing from Marfy patterns. Not having instructions is okay with me too.

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    1. Same here, I may glance at technical drawings during construction for certain styles that have complicated pleating/draping (like the Style Arc Emily top), but otherwise I prefer to fly solo. If I need to figure out a technique I find that a reference book/video/blog post by a competent person is usually the better way to go.

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  15. Thank you – very very helpful – although I have been sewing for 30+ years, I have just stumbled on Marfy and am in the middle of a very elegant bridesmaid’s dress (3709). Your post explained much and gave me more confidence!

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  16. Very informative posting which I found while researching Marfy for a friend of mine.

    Not sure if you – or anyone reading this – may be able to help find an older Marfy pattern. It is 1442 and my friend requires it in Size 44.

    Any help would be greatly appreciated.

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  17. I have a question. In this month’s Threads, there is a good-looking Marfy skirt pattern. I went to the Marfy site and typed in the pattern number, and nothing came up, but the message that only some of their patterns are available on their website. How do I order them, then? Write a letter to Marfy by snail mail?

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    1. Use the contact form on the website – just say what pattern number you would like to order, and what size you want, and give them your full address along with shipping preference. They’ll send you a Paypal invoice.

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