Understanding Sewing Patterns
While I’m on a bit of a dressmaking kick I thought I’d share a little bit of the Making-Your-Own-Clothes love with y’all. There is nothing quite as lovely as being able to step out in a dress you made yourself. Not only because you will have picked out the exact fabric and the prefect pattern but you will have spent a little time creating, and that is a good thing – both for the soul and for looking that extra bit lush!
I get that for some people dress patterns can feel like huge deal – and in many ways they are, well, they certainly are huge, and they are also pretty clever, with lots of information,lines and markings, so it is no wonder that some folks find them a bit mind boggling.
However, creating clothing using a sewing pattern is a rewarding hobby, as well as a useful skill to have. But, when you are just starting out, the whole process can seem rather confusing. Whilst the pieces that are used to make the garments on each sewing pattern will seem very different to each other, there are a number of elements that most sewing patterns will have in common- so, I thought I would put together this handy little guide will help to demystify some of the information found on sewing patterns and help you to Understand Sewing Patterns!
Sewing patterns will be housed in an envelope, alongside the information regarding the pattern sizes, this will contain the pattern pieces printed on the tissue paper and printed sheets containing the information for making up the individual garments.
In some instances, these information sheets will provide illustrated steps to help with the construction of the garment.
The first step is to look over the information sheets and familiarise yourself with the pattern – making sure that you have all the materials and understand the basic sewing techniques that are used.
Many patterns offer a number of garments on the printed tissue paper sheets, so it is important to identify the pattern pieces that correspond to the garment that you want to make. A chart is often included showing the illustrated pieces – along with a numbered key – to identify the different elements that will need to be cut for each garment.
After the required pieces have been identified, the information that is included on them is also used to aid the construction of the garment.
Multi sized patterns will offer the a series of different cutting lines for each pattern piece- these will be recognised by the use of a different printed line, a key on the pattern instruction will help to identify which style of line corresponds to which garment size.
The pattern piece will have a number printed on it alongside the text that identifies which part of the garment the piece is used for. There will also be information about how this piece is used when cutting the fabrics – here you will be told how many times this needs to be cut, whether it needs to be used to cut any required lining pieces and also how to orientate the pattern piece on to the chosen fabrics.
This printed information is used in conjunction with illustrated guides – called cutting lays – that indicate how to position the tissue paper pieces onto the fabrics for cutting. This is very important as it will show which pieces are placed onto a fold, so that once cut will open out to reveal a larger fabric section.
There are a number of illustrated guides that will feature on the cut pattern pieces that will aid with the construction of the garment. A key will be included in the pattern instructions. As you work with sewing patterns you will quickly be able to identify these icons and what information they are providing about the pattern.
Here are some common icons that feature in a number of sewing patterns:
Grain Line: This indicates how to position the pattern piece on the fabric for cutting – the length of the line is set along the grain of the fabric.
Fold Line: This will be on the side of a piece and indicates that it should be set on the fold of fabric for cutting, to create a larger cut piece of fabric.
Notches: Small markings that are used to assist in the alignment of two separate pieces.
Dart: These angled lines indicate the section of fabrics that needs to be incorporated into a dart for shaping a garment – these are not cutting lines!
See, it’s not some mystical code that requires the help of the Enigma Machine to master! Start out by looking over the patterns, checking that you understand the symbols and cutting lines and before you know it ‘reading’ a dress making patterns will come as easily as reading a book or a recipe! So, what are you waiting for?!