Sewing pattern symbols are used to help you achieve accurate results when cutting, matching pieces, and sewing. These pattern marks do vary slightly between designers, but here are some universally used sewing symbols to help you get started.
Sewing Pattern Symbols Tutorial
This week we are learning about cutting and marking fabric in the how to sew tutorials. Your pattern instructions will have a chart or glossary explaining all pattern symbols. This is usually at the beginning of the pattern.
Sewing pattern symbols may be used to tell you how to place the pattern in the correct direction or help with fitting a sleeve to an armhole. They are also common for gathers, pleats, tucks, and many other pattern details.
What are the most common sewing pattern symbols?
The most common sewing pattern symbols are
- Grain lines
- Fold lines
- Button and buttonholes
- Dots, squares, and symbol markings
- Adjustment lines to lengthen or shorten
- Stitching lines
1. Grain lines
These double-ended arrows tell you to place the pattern piece parallel to the selvage and along the fabric grainline. Measure from the top and bottom of the arrow and ensure they are equal distances from the selvage. For example, if the top of the arrow is 4 inches (10cm) from the selvage, the bottom of the arrow should also be 4 inches from the selvage.
Further Reading: What is Selvage.
2. Fold lines
This symbol rectangular sewing pattern symbol has one open side and means place on the fold. Place your pattern piece on the folded edge of the fabric, making sure the selvages are even on the other side. If you are adding seam allowances, you do not add any to fold lines. Cutting on the fold ensures your pieces are completely symmetrical and is often a good way to minimize fabric consumption.
Further Reading: How to Cut Fabric
What do the triangles mean on sewing patterns?
Triangles and or a diamond shape are called notches and indicate you need to mark these points to enable you to match up the pattern when sewing. Notches can be single notches, double-notches, or even triple. They can be solid and colored or open.
I always recommend you cut outwards but this is a personal preference. See my article on how to cut notches for more information.
4. Button and Buttonholes
Indicate button and buttonhole positions. The sewing pattern symbols of a long bar with vertical ends represent the size and position of the buttonhole, and a cross is common for the button sewing position.
5. Dots, Squares, and Shapes
All shapes need to be transferred onto your fabric and are used for matching up pattern pieces and adding details such as gathers, pleats, pockets and dart bust points. You can transfer with tailors tacks, chalk, or a removable pen. See my blog articles on marking tools in sewing and transferring markings.
6. Adjustment Lines (Lengthen or shorten lines)
These are double lines that are normally accompanied by the words lengthen or shorten here. These are quite common in sewing leotards and pants where length matters. The placement of adjustment lines can vary by the designer, but they are usually at the waistline, hips, or center back.
7. Stitching lines
Stitching lines are not generally found on multi-sized patterns, but on single-sized patterns, these sewing machine stitch symbols are represented by dotted lines. Generally, there is no need to transfer these lines onto your fabric.
Cutting lines, on the other hand, are represented by a solid line for single-sized patterns.
Shown as a dotted triangle or diamond, these pattern markings show you where to stitch to add shape in areas such as the bust and waist. (Read how to sew darts)
How to Cut Sewing Pattern Symbols
Now you know all about sewing pattern symbols and their meaning, it is time to start learning how to cut fabric. This article will show you how to fold your fabric, place it on the grain, and how to cut it accurately.
If you are a beginner and just building your sewing kit, then you can read about cutting tools in sewing and which are the best ones to purchase.
For those of you that are going to be quilting or cutting a lot of straight edges, learning how to use a rotary cutter may also help.
If you have come across any unusual sewing pattern symbols? Please share below.