How to Read a Sewing Pattern | Tips for Using a Sewing Pattern

If you’re someone who often sews clothes, then knowing how to read a sewing pattern is a must. Despite the fact that most of the sewing patterns are labeled as ‘easy’ or ‘quick’, it is not often that easy to read it. The writers who develop these reading patterns easily assume that you have a lot of knowledge when it comes to sewing. However, there is nothing more frightening than trying to make sense of all the hieroglyphics on the different parts of a pattern. If such is the case with you also, then you have come to the right place. Do not worry! We are here to help you with the traditional printed pattern as well as the digital pattern. Thus, if you’re uncertain about a few things, all that confusion will be cleared now. In order to get a hang of the sewing pattern, you must begin by going through the instruction section of the booklet or file attached. It is essential for you to read this since this the place from where you will receive most of the data, materials, and useful tips. Thus, it is quite important as it is beneficial even before you start cutting the fabric and then piece it together to get the final product.

Sewing Pattern
Fig: Sewing Pattern

How to Read a Sewing Pattern?

On the pattern envelope

1. Line drawings
Often at times, the diagrams that you see with a pattern may be misleading. It gets very confusing to understand the pictures which results in a messed up sewing project. We don’t want that now do we? Thus, in order to avoid this, looking at the flat, drawn designs assists you in better understanding and judging whether you like the style or not. The flat, 2D pattern results in the accurate depiction of the lines. It also helps you better understand the pattern because there are no fancy prints or fabric to cause any distraction. It is only the raw essence of the pattern. Moreover, if your pattern has multiple designs, the differences can be clearly seen in the line drawings.

2. Sewing level
The patterns that are considered to be easy usually have more detailed instructions present on them. These instructions can be quite overwhelming especially if you’re a beginner. However, it is essential to read the instructions as it gives you a lot of minute details as to how you must go about your work. Little, yet important details like how to correctly press seams while you sew are given in the instructions. Moreover, you also get to know what tools to use for each task. Hence, it becomes quite useful for those who have just started to sew.

More tips on choosing the right sewing level:
Reading the sewing patterns can be quite the task if you are a beginner. Hence, try to choose something that has fewer pattern pieces for your first sewing project. This means that you should try to avoid facings, collars, cuffs etc. The fewer the pieces you have to work with, the easier and faster will it be for the finished product to come together. Thus, you will get instant gratification.

Furthermore, if you are stuck on a pattern you found online, you can ask a designer for help and suggestions. Many indie designers are quite friendly and always ready to help online along the way.

3. Fabric suggestions
When you read sewing patterns, you will find out that it gives you suggestions as to what fabric would be great for your project. If you use of these suggested options, we guarantee you that your finished work would be one to behold. The final project will look exactly like the picture that you first saw, thus you do not need to snub their tips.

Moreover, as you continue to sew and get a grasp on things, you’ll definitely want to experiment with different types of fabrics, even those which are not given on the list. We can guarantee that you’ll receive a pleasant surprise if you something out of the box. However, even if you are experimenting, you still need to follow certain rules and limits. An example of this is that fitted patterns calling for knit fabric will not work out in a woven, stable fabric. The more you get to know about different fabrics, the more easily you can make this decision.

Fabric yardages:
Fabric yardages are provided by designers to give you an estimated idea as to how much fabric you will need according to the size you are making. In most cases, a chart is provided for you to find the view and the size that you plan to sew. This is where you’ll find out the amount of yardage that is required. Moreover, there are also some patterns that include the yardage amount for almost about 45” or 60” fabric widths.

When you look at yardages, you need to know that they must account for pre-wash shrinkages. However, you still need to stay on the safe side. You can achieve this by buying at least 10 percent extra fabric as a self insurance for shrinking fabrics. Moreover, it is also considered to be a better idea if you purchase extra fabric for patterns that have a nap or those which have either a print or pattern. In this way you are able to maintain the directionality that some patterns account for.

4. Thread and notions
After the yardages you’ll mostly find a list of notions that you need for a specific pattern. Together with this, you’ll also find what types of threads to use. This is a great help for all the beginners who are still learning their way around sewing. An example of a list of notions for a specific pattern is that it will guide you as to if you need interfacing, zippers, bias tape, elastic, etc. You need to make sure to take a look at this. Do not forget to go through this part before you go into the store.

Inside the pattern envelope

5. Size chart
A size chart is also one of the most important things when it comes to reading a sewing pattern. It is essential for you to know the size chart so that you can get all the fittings and measurements done right. In a size chart, the pattern pieces are outlined multiple times. Each line accounts for a different size. In this way, you have a number of different sizes that you can work with and find out which one is the perfect fit. Moreover, somewhere on the pattern sheet, you will find a size key or chart. This size key is provided to help you choose the right line for your size. This step is very critical because if you do not figure out the right lines, then you will mess up the size. Nobody wants that now, do they? If this does happen, then you will have to start sewing all over again to get things right. This not only takes up your time and effort but also the resources you are working with. Therefore, it is important to choose the right lines initially to get the perfect size and avoid all the hassle.

6. Pattern layouts or measurements chart
Prior to cutting the fabric, you need to figure out what pieces are really required. This can be done by looking at a pattern piece chart or a layout diagram. If your pattern is made out in simple geometric shapes, then the designer is likely to just provide you with the measurements. However, that is not a sensible option if the patterns are more intricate. Thus, in most cases, your pattern comes together with templates to cut out and trace onto the fabric. Tracing the pattern onto the fabric is also quite easy and requires less of an effort.

The pattern layouts provide you with all kinds of information that you may need. This includes:

  • How to lay out your fabric. For example, which way should the right side of the fold face?
  • How to arrange  pattern pieces on  fabric including  grain line. This is especially important if you have to work with multiple pattern pieces.
  • A key explaining what the lines denote together with the right and wrong side of the fabric. This is important to get the perfect final product.

7. Symbols
Symbols are a part of the language of sewing. They help you better understand how to sew so that your sewing experience is one of the best. Symbols are there to guide you through every step of your sewing experience. These symbols tell you how to place the pattern on top of the fabric, where the grain line is, and whether the pieces should be aligned with the fabric fold or not. Moreover, they also tell you where to gather the fabric, where to place a button and so much more.  This is extremely essential as it helps you achieve the best final product.

When it comes to symbols, you will usually see a variety of dashed, dotted and solid lines that denote stitch lines, and fold line etc. It is important to know what these lines stand for so that when you begin sewing, you know what everything means so that you do not mess up. There are symbols for most of the designs and technicalities. You will find symbols for a notch, button placement, buttonhole, test square, place on fold, grainline, and gather between dots. There can be different symbols for each pattern so you need to make sure that you understand what that means. Be sure to look at your pattern legend to attain the best sewing experience.

Tips for Using a Sewing Pattern

1. Read through it
We can understand that reading can be a tedious task for most people. However, this is one of the most important steps when it comes to understanding the sewing patterns. Make sure that you do not skip this step at any cost. Even you are more experienced when it comes to sewing; you still must read all the instructions from beginning to end to help you better understand the entire workflow. This will also help you work in a more organized manner and finish your project on time.

2. Print the pattern
If you are someone who uses the PDF sewing pattern, then you need to print, trim and tape the sheets together. To make this step more fun, you must follow the instructions properly and use the correct tools. People can find this step tiring due to the amount of work that needs to be done. However, if done in the correct way, we assure you that you will definitely have a lot of fun.

3. Trace the pattern (if desired)
If you are someone who uses a traditional paper pattern, then tracing is a must for you. On the other hand, it is not always necessary for those using a PDF pattern. Tracing does have a few short comings. The major drawback being that it requires a lot of time. Those who do not trace, take up less time to re-print, re-trim and re-tape. This is because tracing the pattern is more time consuming.

4. Follow the right lines
It is very important to follow the correct lines to get the perfect shape and size for your project. Highlighting the lines for your size makes everything more easy for you. Thus, you can outline the lines of the required size with a bright pen to make it more prominent; otherwise it is possible for you to trace the wrong size.

Keeping these instructions in mind; you can start with your sewing project. It is essential for you read the instruction manual before you jump into anything. If you follow all that we have told you, reading the sewing pattern will be child’s play for you in no time. Happy sewing!

You may also like:

  1. Operation of Sewing Section | Process Breakdown of Basic Shirt
  2. How to Improve Productivity and Saving Cost in Sewing Department
  3. Causes and Remedies of Sewing Problems
  4. Sewing Machine Engineering and Attachments

Share this Article!

Leave a Comment