How to Read a Sewing Pattern – A Beginner’s Guide

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It seems like something so simple, but quite often there are mistakes made by not knowing the basics of reading a sewing pattern. Hopefully this article will give you a hand on how to read a sewing pattern.

Sewing a garment is not particularly difficult – especially with a pattern. A pattern supposed to tell you where to cut, where to sew, and give you instructions that make it easy to make a beautiful outfit. Sometimes, however, it feels like you are reading a different language. Please find here a few steps to follow when you are trying to read a sewing pattern for the first time.

First, you will need to start with the pattern book. Find a pattern that you like, and, as this is the first time you’ll be sewing something (probably), make sure to find something marked as “easy”. The “easy” patterns will usually have simple styles that make it easy to teach yourself to sew. After you find an acceptable pattern, make sure you take a note of which company makes the pattern and also the pattern number. This number is typically four digits long but can also vary according to the company that manufactures the pattern. Now you need to go to the pattern cabinet that matches the company. Let’s assume that you’ve have found a McCall’s pattern. Simply locate the McCall’s drawer and then find the one that holds the correct pattern number.

After you find the correct place, you will need to find the correct size. Make sure that you look at the measurements. Typically, patterns are sized much differently than a store-bought garment. Because of this, it always helps to know your measurements before you walk in the store.

After you have found your pattern, you will then need to calculate the correct amount of fabric. Choose a good fabric for the style and also take notice how wide the fabric is. If you do not know, do not be afraid to ask a store clerk for directions. Usually several garments are included in one pattern and find the specific garment that you want to make. These pattern variations will typically be labeled with letters.[amzn_product_inline asin=’0932538002′]

Let’s assume you’re making “Jacket A”, size “S”, and using 45″ wide fabric. Look under Jacket A to find the different fabric widths. Then find 45″ and follow the chart across to the proper size. The instructions will indicate to you how much fabric you’ll need to purchase for that style pattern. It will also tell you anything special you need to purchase, such as: lining fabric, buttons, or snaps. The back of the pattern envelope also has such information as suggestions for fabrics that would be suitable and often a small sketch of the back of the garment.

Beginner’s patterns will often have tips that help new sewers learn the terminology. At the top of the front page, there will be a diagram of the front and back of the outfit. Next to this, there will be general sewing instructions in several languages. Directly under the diagram of the outfit, you will find a diagram of each of the pieces, marked with numbers. Near this should be a list of the piece, according to number, and it will tell what the pieces are, such as “front” or “loop”. Under the general sewing instructions is a diagram that shows you how to layout your pattern pieces on the fabric. Make sure to fold your fabric correctly if it tells you to do so. This means that you must pay attention to whether the right sides are folded together or apart, and whether the factory finished edge, called a selvedge, should be folded together or not.

Find the pieces you need and then and cut them out of the brown tissue. Make sure you cut along the line according to the proper size (check twice – cut once!). Sometimes a larger size may cross over the line for a smaller size, and actually use less fabric in a certain area. As long as you follow the proper size, you will get the right results. Also, sometimes the lines all join. Simple continue to cut along this line, and then rejoin the proper size once they split again. You will also notice some triangular parts that jut out from the pattern. Cut along the outside of these too. They will help you get everything lined up correctly later. After the pattern pieces have been cut out, pin them to the fabric so it resembles the diagram in the instructions. Cut your fabric to follow the lines, and make sure to follow the pattern. If it tells you to cut four, you should cut two and then two more.

Make sure to leave the pieces pinned together until you need the piece. It helps keep everything more organized. Also, there may be circles or lines within the pattern that need marked. You can purchase a special marking pencil from a fabric store that is good for marking these areas. As you go throughout the instructions, follow them step by step, and lookup any words that you do not understand. The triangular parts will match different pattern pieces together so that you can be sure you have them in the right spot. Pay close attention to the diagrams if anything is confusing.

With these instructions, some patience, and some practice, you can teach yourself to sew according to a pattern. These directions can sometimes be confusing, but by following this article, you will know what you should be aware of. As you progress in skill level, many of these instructions will become second nature, and you will not need to read the instructions for certain steps. Congratulations on teaching yourself to sew, and have fun learning how to make your own clothing.

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2 comments to How to Read a Sewing Pattern – A Beginner’s Guide

  • Regina Horadan

    Just found your sit an I Love it!
    Thanks for being her for me!

  • T.Wilson

    I JUST BOUGHT MY FIRST PATTERNS AND I AM CONFUSED STILL ABOUT THE TRIANGLES.MY MOM SAID TO CUT THEM OUT OF THE PATTERN BUT MY NEIGHBOR SAID TO NOT CUT THEM OUT BUT UP.WHICH I THINK SHE MEANS MAKE THE TRIANGLE TALLER THEN THE REST OF THE MATERIAL.I AM CONFUSED ON WHAT TO DO CUT THEM OUT IN BOTH PATTERN AND MATERIAL OR MAKE THE TRIANGLES ABOVE??!!! OH YEA AND I SHOULD MENTION I AM STARTING WITH 18″ DOLL CLOTHES. THOUGHT IT WOULD BE EASIER THEN HUMAN SIZED PATTERNS.MISTAKE??

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