How to read a sewing pattern Pt. 2 - The Pattern and Instructions

I've finally had time to shoot part 2 of my How to Read a Sewing Pattern mini series - this video explains how to read the paper pattern and the instruction booklet inside the pattern package!

I know it looks like a lot of information, but once you know the code, it's not that difficult! 

Modern patterns are well drafted and include all the information you need to know about how to cut and sew the pattern right on the pattern and inside the instruction booklet. I'll go over what all the mystical symbols and words mean in this video!

My first video, Part 1 of How to Read a Sewing Pattern, covered the outside of the pattern envelope. I figured I had better break it up into 2 videos, since there is a lot of information both on the outside of the sewing pattern, and on the inside. The video would have been extremely long if I tried to shoot it all at once!

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As I said, there is a lot of information, but once you decode it, it's quite easy to understand.

It's all common sense really, which you will see after I explain everything.

The instruction booklet inside a pattern package has the following information included -

  • Line drawings of the styles included in the pattern package, with letters to identify each style.
  • The brand name and number of the pattern.
  • Cutting layouts for each style included in the pattern. These are pictures to show how to lay out the pieces for each pattern on your folded fabric, to maximize your space.
  • A numbered list of the pattern pieces, and a list of what number pieces go with what pattern style. (Example - Shirt "A" uses pattern pieces 1,2,4, and 7.
  • A key, just like on a map, of what the markings on the pattern pieces mean. 
  • A key to show what side of the fabrics the instruction pictures are showing. (Example - the outside of the fabric will be shown in grey, the inside will be shown in white)
  • A detailed, numbered list of instructions for each step in making the garment. Each step will have a detailed illustration.

The pattern pieces themselves are all printed on large sheets of tissue paper. To cut out your pattern pieces, first gently unfold all the pieces of paper and smooth out the wrinkles. There could be more or less, depending on how complex the garment is, and how many different styles are included in the package.

Pattern pieces are nested, which means all the sizes are printed one on top of the other. Each one will have a different dashed or dotted line, and an arrow pointing to it with the size that it delineates. (The video for part 1 explains how pattern sizing works, and how to find your size)

Find out what pattern pieces to cut by checking the list inside the instruction booklet. After you have figured out which pieces to cut, you can take a colored pen or marker and trace the dotted line for your size before cutting. This will make it easier to see exactly what line to cut on.

Each pattern piece will have markings on it. All the pieces will have the pattern name and number, the number of the pattern piece, and an arrow showing the grainline or arrows showing where the center front or back fold is. The pattern pieces will also have instructions for how many of each piece to cut. 

There will also be additional markings on some, such as button or pocket placement, the bust, waist and hip, darts, notches, or clipping points. These will be labeled and there will be instructions in the booklet to explain them.

Some pieces will have the amount of seam allowance, or the hem allowances. And the torso pattern pieces will usually have the finished garment measurements at the bust, waist, or hip.

I highly recommend folding your pattern pieces neatly and putting them back in the pattern envelope when you are done cutting them. This will keep them neat and organized. If you mash them up, you will regret it later on if you ever want to make this pattern again. And, if you leave them out, the chances they will get lost, ripped, eaten by your cats or spilled on is very high. (Trust me on this)

And that's all there is to know! Once you have learned how to read a pattern, you can read any pattern you like! It's not as big a mystery as it seems, trust me.

If you have questions, or need more clarification, leave me a comment!