Today we’re going to go a little more in-depth into how to read a sewing pattern. As outlined in my last post, there are three basic types of sewing patterns:
- envelope patterns
- magazine patterns
- pdf/download patterns
For simplicity’s sake, I’m just going to discuss how to read an envelope sewing pattern. These are the most common pattern type (at least in the US) and can be purchased very easily either through your local brick and mortar sewing store or online. Overall they are probably the most user friendly patterns to use too.
As shown in my last post, the contents of an envelope pattern will include the pattern instruction sheet and pattern tissue with the pattern pieces printed on it.
Another refresher of what the front of a pattern sheet looks like.
So what exactly is included on the pattern sheet you might wonder. For a novice seamstress, all the information presented on the instruction sheets will probably look a bit overwhelming. Those huge sheets include all the information you’ll need to successfully construct the patterns included in the envelope. Elements of the pattern instruction sheet are:
- Pattern brand and pattern number – the is helpful so you can find all the parts and pieces when you’re finished sewing the item and make sure they stay together. There are many a times I’ve had pattern pieces from different patterns all over my sewing room so this definitely helps ensure things get back to the right envelope when you’re done.
- Line drawing or sketch of the front and back of all the items included in the pattern – this just gives you a concrete idea of the shape of the item you’ll be sewing. It’s particularly helpful when an item is presented on the pattern envelope in a print or dark colored fabric.
- Line drawing or sketch of each individual pattern piece including the name of the piece, what views the piece is used in, and it’s corresponding number. The pattern pieces are only referred to by number in the cutting layout and instructions so, you really need to know this information.
- General directions about the pattern. This area explains what all the symbols mean – i.e. what a grain line is, what notches look like, where the center front is, etc. It also explains the cutting and marking process and the general sewing instructions you’ll need ( i.e. the seam allowance used, how to trim seam allowances to reduce bulk, etc.).
- A cutting layout so you maximize your fabric yardage. This shows you exactly where to place the pattern pieces on your fabric.
- Step-by-step instructions to make all the items in the pattern envelope. The instructions start with the first garment and progress through. Several items might be similar and use the same instructions. This is why it’s so important to read the instructions and look at the pictures before you start.
While it might sound like too much information, I can’t express too strongly how important it is to read all the instructions before you even cut out your pattern pieces. This truly will help ensure your success. Also, highlighting the pieces, cutting layout, and parts of the instructions that pertain to what your sewing will help you a lot. And when in doubt, pull out your trusty sewing reference book to look up a term you’re not familiar with or to guide you even more if you’re unsure about a particular step.
Once I get through all this sewing basics series, I think it would be terrific to have a sew-along of a simple item such as an apron. That way we can look at everything step-by-step and make something everyone will be successful at and that will fit (garment fitting is a whole different species and is a very common killer of sewing excitement). Please chime in if you think having a little sew-along would be something you’d like to participate it.