Learn how to use sewing patterns which are a wonderful guide and wealth of information for the amateur and professional dressmaker. The pattern may seem rather daunting at first, but this tutorial will help you along the way! Learn how to unpack a pattern and read the different signs and symbols. You will be amazed at the treasure trove of information hidden in one of the sewing pattern envelopes or PDF digital files.
How to Use Sewing Patterns Tutorial
What are Sewing Patterns?
A sewing pattern is a paper or PDF file that contains instructions on how to sew clothing or another item. It will also contain templates for cutting out the pieces of your sewing project. Modern sewing patterns can be paper, contained in a magazine, or even digital PDFs.
Patterns range from simple designs for pillowcases or scarves to complex garments that are tailored. They can range from beginner to advanced skill levels. Most patterns will allow for customization and personalization allowing sewers to create something unique in their favorite fabrics and colors.
What is Contained in Sewing Patterns?
All patterns vary depending on the designer, but common inclusions are -
- Sizing charts - These help you decide on the best size to make based on your body measurements.
- Fabric requirements - There will be different fabric requirements for each size as well as fabrics with or without a nap.
- Fabric recommendations - It is important to use the right type of fabric in order to get the best drape and look to the finished items. Most patterns will give you numerous options.
- Sewing notions - This is any extra items needed for example elastic, bias tape, or zippers.
- Cutting instructions - Diagrams will be included to show you how to lay the pattern on the fabric in order to minimize fabric waste.
- Sewing instructions - Your pattern will include a step by step guide to sewing.
- Pattern pieces - Patterns include template that you can use to cut out the fabric pieces. Some patterns may have cutting instructions for square or rectangular pieces.
- Seam allowances - The pattern should specify whether it includes seam allowances and what they are.
Types of Sewing Patterns
There are 2 main types of sewing patterns
- Paper Patterns
- Digital PDF Patterns
- Magazine Patterns
1. Digital Sewing Patterns
Modern sewing patterns now come in digital format. These PDF sewing patterns can be viewed on your computer screen, and the pattern pieces are printed on your home printer on either A4 or letter paper.
The advantage of digital patterns is the lower cost, more modern designs, and the opportunity to support smaller, independent pattern designers. Best of all, you don't need to drive to the shops as patterns are available to download immediately after purchase. Digital patterns are opened and viewed with the free program Adobe Reader.
Treasurie offers 2 types of digital sewing patterns: (Shop Treasurie Sewing Patterns)
- Free online sewing patterns - these are simpler items that are fantastic for quick and easy projects and for beginners. Free sewing patterns can be found on my blog and pattern site.
- Premium sewing patterns - these sewing patterns are for clothing, dresses, pants, baby patterns, and accessories. They contain multiple sizes and have detailed instructions and diagrams to get great results.
2. Paper Patterns
A commercial paper sewing pattern is all wrapped up in an envelope with a picture on the front of an exciting item to make. At this time, Treasurie does not make paper patterns, but they are popular with brands such as Simplicity, New Look, Vogue, and McCalls.
3. Magazine Patterns
Other paper patterns may come with a trace version from a large printed sheet. These traceable patterns are quite a challenge because you need to pick the one you plan to copy. Traceable patterns are often found in sewing magazines.
Skill Levels for Sewing Patterns
Sewing patterns are typically categorized into different skill levels to help sewers choose projects that match their abilities. These levels can vary slightly between pattern companies, but they generally include:
- Beginner: If you are totally new to sewing, beginner sewing patterns are ideal. They usually involve sewing simple shapes with minimal fitting and basic construction techniques. Beginner projects might include simple bags, basic skirts, or pillowcases. Instructions are more detailed than other patterns and often include basic sewing tips.
- Advanced Beginner: These patterns are for sewers who have mastered the beginner basics and are ready for slightly more complex sewing projects. Patterns at this level might introduce new techniques like zippers, darts, or straightforward sleeves.
- Intermediate: Intermediate sewing patterns are for sewers comfortable with the basic sewing techniques and who have some experience with how to use sewing patterns. These patterns often feature techniques like linings, working with challenging fabrics like stretch, or making fitting adjustments. Intermediate sewing projects might include fitted dresses, trousers, or business shirts.
- Advanced: Advanced patterns are designed for experienced sewers who have a wide range of sewing skills. Projects could include tailored suits, and dresses. They often feature couture techniques, intricate pattern cutting, and detailed hand finishing.
How to Use Sewing Patterns, Step by Step
Step 1 - How to Use Sewing Patterns Envelope
When you first get your sewing pattern, it is important to read the front and back of the envelope.
Different designers and formats will have the information in different places, but most patterns will contain the following information.
The Front Cover Information
The picture on the pattern envelope will show you the finished item. It may also show several variations. Front covers typically have the designer's name as well as a pattern number.
Back Pattern Envelope Information
The sewing pattern envelope back will also give you measurements of the different sizes and the quantity of fabric required. Added to that are any other ‘sewing notions’ like zips, buttons, and poppers you may need. All this information and you have not opened the pattern yet!
On the back of a paper envelope, you will find:
- The different views you can make - Most sewing patterns come with different variations in length or details. It is important to take note of the number or letter of the view you intend to sew.
- Recommended fabrics - This is especially important as most sewing patterns need to be made in a particular weight and drape of fabric. Fabrics may also be woven or knit. Some patterns may not be suitable for fabric types with stripes or one-way fabric designs.
- Size charts - This is important for choosing the correct size or determining whether this pattern is suitable for you. Read about how to take body measurements for sewing.
- Finished garment measurements (not all have this)
- How much fabric to buy - Make sure you look at the width of the fabric you buy and compare it to the yardage. Extra fabric may be needed for narrow-width fabrics or those with a nap or one-way design.
This is from a sewing pattern I proudly designed for Simplicity.
Step 2 - Read the Pattern Guide
Yes, this is the moment when you unpack the pattern from the envelope if it is a commercial pattern. An exciting rustle of tissue paper and a chance to look at the paper instruction sheet.
Inside the pattern, you will find an instruction sheet. This is a very valuable information sheet. It sets out the different pattern pieces and numbers them so you can choose the right pieces for the design you plan to make.
If you have purchased a digital sewing pattern, then you will have opened the PDF file in Adobe Reader, and you will have all the instructions in front of you, either printed or on your computer screen.
The pattern guide tells you by number and letters how to identify the pieces you need. That way, you can make sure you cut out the correct pieces for the view you are sewing.
Look at the sizing chart and choose the size you need to cut out. Take note of whether you will need to make any adjustments in the pattern, such as shortening a skirt.
Step 3 - Choose your Fabric and Gather Notions
Always stick to the fabric recommendations of the sewing pattern for the best results. Also choose a fabric with a width recommended. Most garments are made with fabrics 112cm (44 inches), but there will be times when you may want to use wider fabrics.
Gather all the sewing notions and extra supplies you have on hand before you start assembling your fabric. These include items such as zippers, buttons, bias tape, and lace.
Step 4 - Look at the Cutting Layout
The instruction sheet will also show you how to lay out the pattern pieces on your fabric before you cut them out.
It describes the most economical way to place the pattern pieces, and the guide will show you how to place the pieces for the different widths of fabric. It is a bit like a jigsaw puzzle but a really useful guide because you can see at a glance how to lay out the pattern.
Step 5 - Print and Cut the Pattern Pieces
If you have purchased a PDF sewing pattern, you will need to print the pattern pieces and sticky tape them together in a grid. Read more about how to print PDF patterns.
Identifying the right pieces is a very important part of reading your pattern guide. Sometimes you may only need some of the pieces, especially if your pattern offers several different items to make.
Most modern patterns show multiple sizes on the pattern sheet. Choose the size you plan to follow, and using paper scissors, cut out the pieces you need to make the garment.
If they are wrinkled, press your pieces with a cool iron to ensure they are flat. Ensure you use paper scissors for cutting and not your good fabric scissors.
Step 6 - Cut the Fabric
Now is the time to place your paper pattern pieces and cut out the fabric. There will be a cutting layout in the instructions to maximize your cutting efficiency.
Lay your paper pattern on the fabric. Check to see if the fabric should be folded in half with the selvages matching or if you are going to cut one layer of fabric at a time. Always place your pattern pieces with the arrow in line with the selvages. This indicates the grainlines.
Take a careful look to determine if the pattern includes seam allowances. If it doesn't, you will need to manually add them. Most seam allowances range from ¼ to ⅝ inch. It may be larger at the hems.
Step 7 - Transfer Pattern Markings
Check for the different pattern symbols. These vital markings are like a road map and show you directions to place the pattern, notches, darts, dots, buttonholes, and other detailed markings. There are different ways to mark these vital pieces of information, and the pattern will have an index of the signs and what they mean. Markings can be transferred with tracing paper and a tracing wheel or tailor's chalk.
Step 8 - How to Use Sewing Patterns Instructions
Once you have cut out your fabric and marked any important notches your pattern guide will ‘talk’ you through the steps to sew your garment and how to finish it off with the different sewing notions required. Most patterns will include a glossary of terms.
It is common to sew seams with the right side of the fabric toghether.
The sewing pattern has it all from start to finish. At the end of each step, as you remove the pattern pieces, it is a good idea to carefully fold the pieces and the instruction sheet and return them to the envelope. Depending on the care you take with handling the pattern, it could last you for many years and multiple uses.
Other Types of Sewing Patterns
The commercial store-bought pattern is not the only type of pattern available. These other options are popular as they can be acquired from the comfort of your home. The complexity of the pattern depends on your choice and your experience.
Always start with a small project and look for some free patterns to get some experience. Some patterns will indicate information referring to the type of pattern before you purchase the pattern. Keep an eye out for labels like – designer or vintage and easy-fit, as these labels indicate a specific variety of sewing patterns.
- Custom-fit Sewing Patterns - A block pattern with instructions on how to create a pattern that is a perfect fit for your body type. With these patterns, you will get just one size - your size.
- Designer Sewing Patterns - Setting out and designing your own pattern is for the more experienced sewer. There are also independent designer patterns available Choose a favourite designer’s name and look for their brand of patterns. Shop Treasurie patterns.
- Easy-fit Sewing Patterns - Very simple, straightforward patterns with very few fitting details. A good start for a beginner.
- Vintage Sewing Patterns - If you enjoy a particular style from days gone by, these vintage patterns are for you. Go back to the 20s or 30s, 40s and 50s. Google the design era and then find the patterns available. Carefully check the sizing measurements before you start sewing, as vintage patterns run considerably smaller than modern designs.
- Free Sewing Patterns - Many sewing enthusiasts, through their blogs, offer free sewing patterns. It is another good way to start with something free and simple to make. There is a wealth of ideas, self-help blogs, and free patterns.
How to Use Sewing Patterns - In Conclusion
The sewing pattern is the backbone of the sewing process. Once you have mastered how to use sewing patterns and learned how to work with the signs and sizes using a pattern, it is a really simple and rewarding process.