Making Head or Tail of a Sewing Pattern

Even if a sewing pattern is labeled as being quick and easy, one look at the instructions can still leave a beginnerrotary-characters-694272_640
quaking in their boots. The problem is that the people who write sewing patterns seem to assume that everybody who uses them has a certain amount of prior sewing knowledge which of course is not always the case.

Everybody has to start somewhere and nothing can be more intimidating than being faced with the hieroglyphics, squiggles, arrows and other symbols which are undoubtedly dotted around the place.

Here are a few tips about how you can navigate and understand a sewing pattern.

1. The front – this will probably have a few style variations which just really show you the different garments which can be made from one pattern. One might have long sleeves and a collar; another might have short sleeves and a V-neck. These are just for information purposes.

2. The back – this is where you can find out more details about the actual pattern. It will usually give a written description which you must read (the graphics on the front might not be that clear), the amount of fabric you will need as well as how much fabric you will need if you choose one which has a nap. The amount of fabric needed also depends upon the size of the pattern you will make (they often cater for a multiple of sizes) and the width of your chosen fabric.

You will also need to take into account designs on your fabric, the way that any pattern repeats, whether there are uneven stripes which will need to be matched etc.

You’ll also see what other items will be needed for the finished article – things like

  • zippers
  • buttons
  • elastic
  • hooks and
  • eyes

3. The inside – this is where you really need to get to grips with what the pattern is all about. The actual pattern pieces will be printed onto large sheets of tissue paper on which you will see an assortment of lines, symbols, numbers and other confusing things. The best thing to do is to look for the key and the glossary – this is where you’ll discover what the markings on the pieces actually mean.

You’ll also find a layout which shows you how to lay out the pattern pieces onto your fabric and step by step instructions about how to go about putting the finished garment together.

The best advice for beginners is to choose a sewing pattern for a simple item of clothing which does not involve too much detail. A simple over the head shift style dress might be a good place to start – something which requires the minimum amount of fabric pieces and does not need to have zippers, elastic or even buttons.

Although quite intimidating these signs and symbols will soon start to make sense, and once you’ve practiced on simple garments using relatively inexpensive fabric you’ll soon pluck up the courage to tackle something which is a little more complicated.