How To Read Sewing Patterns

There haven’t been many times I have used sewing patterns I used them during projects at school and college, but university onwards I have made my own. I remember using the paper pattern and being very confused to what each mark meant and so on. Here is a helpful guide to helping you understand patterns and the terminology.

Sewing Patterns

Sewing patterns can be bought online, in sewing and haberdashery stores and from markets. Sewing patterns traditionally come in a paper like a folder/packaging. The sheets inside are like tracing paper, very thin pieces of paper folded up together.

The tissue like paper has all the details on such as instructions, materials needed. The paper packing the pattern comes in will have information on the back, this will display how much yardage/how many metres of fabric that is required, it will state if the pattern requires a zip or buttons etc.

The Outer Packaging

The sleeve that the pattern comes in will have a picture on the front, usually, a couple that shows the variations of the patterns. This can be the pattern varying in leg length, different sleeve shapes, different necklines etc. On the reverse of the packaging, you will see information about how much fabric is required, if you require a zip or other fastening and a size chart.

Top Tip

  • When deciding what size to cut for your pattern, take your measurements beforehand and write them down. You won’t ever fit exactly to one size, your bust and waist may be a size 10 but your hips may be a 12. Just because you wear/buy a certain size when shopping doesn’t mean that is the size to choose. Use your body measurements against the size chart to cut the correct size.
  • Always read the metre/yard requirements before purchasing your fabric as some fabrics are wider than other and so this will affect how much fabric you have and the layout of the pieces. The pattern may also state what fabrics to use or would look better.
  • Sometimes the pattern will state whether a zip, buttons or any extras are needed. Getting these beforehand will mean you can just keep sewing without interruptions.

Pattern Pieces

Once you have opened your pattern, look for the instructions first. These may be located on a separate sheet or within the pattern itself. The instructions will tell you exactly how the garment is to be made, make sure you read through these before you make any cuts. If your instructions are of the pattern piece, look at transferring the instructions over to blank paper.

Top Tip

  • Each pattern brand will differ from the next, each one should have a glossary of each of the markings and what they mean. Keep this to hand to stop any confusion.
  • Sometimes the pattern will specify the best way to lay out your pattern pieces, this can be really helpful if you want to minimise waste and make sure you don’t run out of fabric.
  • Extras, sometimes there are pieces you need to cut a strip of fabric for but not always said in the paper pattern so this can be missed. Check over your instructions first to check before cutting.
  • Somewhere on a pattern, there will be a guide, this guide will be made up of different lines and colours. Each line will refer to a different size. This will help you keep track of which line/size you need to cut out.
  • Symbols and notches are the different ways of telling us what needs to happen at that point without writing a lot of text. These are common on most patterns, if any are different there will be a guide on the paper to help. Here are the most common used.

Let me know in the comments below how you get on and what wonderful patterns you have worked with lately. 🙂

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