How to read a sewing pattern Pt. 1 - The Pattern Package

One of the things I hear most often from beginning sewists is that they don’t know how to read a pattern package.

I totally get it - there’s all kinds of mystical information, numbers and charts on the outside of a sewing package. What does it all mean?

Well guys, it’s easier than it looks. There’s a lot of information on the outside of a pattern package, that’s true. But once you know what it all means, it’s really pretty simple. I’ve made a video tutorial that explains everything about how to read a sewing pattern.

How to read a sewing pattern Part 1 by Making Something Rad

One of my plans for Making Something Rad is to create a content library of tutorial videos as a resource for other sewists. I’ll start with sewing basics and beginner friendly tutorials. My How to Read A Sewing Pattern mini series is the start of the tutorial library. In the first video, I go over how to read the outside of a sewing package. The second video will cover how to read the actual pattern, as well as the pattern instruction booklet.

Here’s the video tutorial where I go over how to read the sewing pattern package.

To recap,

The front of the pattern envelope has the following information on it -

  • The name of the pattern company
  • The pattern number

  • What size or sizes is included in the package

  • The fashion sketches of the garments, and usually a photograph

  • Each garment included, with a number or letter to identify it

  • Some additional information such as “easy to sew” or “for knits”

The back of the pattern envelope has the following information on it -

  • The specific sizing chart (usually on the back flap)
  • The pattern number again

  • A written description of the garment(s)

  • The type and amount of fabric you will need for each garment

  • A stretch guide if it’s for knits

  • Any “notions” or additional supplies you will need for each garment

  • Might have additional information such as finished garment measurements

  • Technical line drawings of the garments, including style variations and identifying letters or numbers


The next video, How to Read a Sewing Pattern Pt. 2, will go over how to read the actual pattern pieces inside the package, as well as the instruction booklet that comes with the pattern. I’ll break down what all the symbols and information on the pattern pieces mean, how to cut out the correct size, and how to decode the booklet.

I know it seems like a lot of information, but once you know the code, it’s quite easy. And since all sewing patterns are the same, you only have to learn it once.

As I said, one of the things I’m working on for Making Something Rad is a content library of tutorial videos. This will be an excellent resource for beginning sewists to learn relevant skills. Each tutorial video will cover one topic, so that information is broken up into manageable chunks. The beauty of video tutorials is that you can watch them over and over.

I’ll have a library of free tutorial videos up very soon. I’ve gathered a list of the most-requested topics and I’m currently shooting videos for each of them. After I’ve gotten the beginner library down, I’ll be creating a subscription service for more specific and advanced sewing techniques.

The beginner video library will explain things such as, for example, how to read a sewing pattern - but also things such as how to press seams, thread a sewing machine, trim and grade seams, sew with knits, and other simple basics. These are all the skills that you need to know to start sewing your own clothing.

The advanced subscription library will cover meatier and more specialized topics. These are the things you’ll need to know to create an actual wardrobe of clothing, from pants and cocktail dresses to jackets and coats. I’ve spent almost 10 years learning and practicing advanced bespoke sewing techniques, and I have a lot to teach. And since I’m always learning and trying new things, I can add to this library basically forever.

I’m really excited to roll out both the beginner library and the advances subscription library in the future. If you’d like to receive updates on the content library project, sign up below and I’ll keep you in the loop!

And P.S. - I'll be posting Part 2 of how to read a sewing pattern next Monday, August 28!