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How to Read a Sewing Pattern

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Are you having difficult time to read a sewing pattern? Understanding different symbols and numbers on a sewing pattern may look complicated to understand as beginner. 

Whether it is for purchased downloadable PDF or free printable, Fashion Wanderer sewing patterns are easy to read and follow to accomplish DIY clothing.

How to read a sewing pattern? On the first cover page of each sewing pattern, read the style line, sewing level, fabric suggestions, fabric yardages, thread and notions. In addition, take a look at the size chart, symbols and notches. 

Always read through the sewing pattern and print out the pdf sewing pattern file to cut the correct lines. Don’t forget to mark any notches to make it easy when sewing. 

When sewing clothes, using a sewing pattern helps you to complete any garment very easily without any fit issues. In addition, if you know how to read a sewing pattern, you will know exactly how much fabric to buy instead of running out of fabric in the middle of the project. 

Fashion Wanderer offers the sewing patterns in digital PDF format that you can instantly download and print out as many times as you like. Start with assembling the pdf sewing pattern properly so that you are ready to learn how to read the sewing pattern. 

In this article, we will help you understand how to read sewing patterns to start a sewing project off on the right foot. Whether you are beginner or intermediate level, use these sewing tips and hacks to understand each pattern as you progress and advance in skills.

What does 45 and 60 mean on a sewing pattern?

When you see the numbers 45 and 60 on the cover page, these numbers indicate the width of the fabric. Depending on the fabric mill and content, some fabrics come in 45 inch widths while others are 60 inches wide.

Generally, 45 and 60 mean the fabric width in US inches. 45 inches width is most generally used on a sewing pattern.

The rule of thumb for fabric yardages are the wider fabric requires less yardage. This measurement is essential as it will alter the yardage required to make the sewing project. 

When buying fabric, you can find the width of fabric on the end of the fabric bolt. So, run your finger across fabric width to purchase the correct size. 

These measurements are the yardage that has to be purchased. One yard equals a little lesser than one meter, about 0.9144 meters.

For sewing projects, adding half a yard in addition to test the stitches and also to practice some stitches and sewing techniques will help you get prepared. It is great practice to buy additional yardage to practice on so that you can accomplish professional sewing finishes. 

What do the marks on a sewing pattern mean?

Sewing pattern markings are used to understand the garment construction. The markings indicated on the sewing pattern pieces. 

This shows how to sew darts, which section of the garment is in operation, how to distribute ease and where to gather fabric when sewing ruffles as well. The markings and indications are important for the final construction.

Sewing pattern markings are usually used in circles, squares, and other shapes. These shapes are positioned in armholes or necklines or side seams, and are used to point to, align or match up pattern pieces.

Not only construction of the garment, these pattern markings help you to adjust fit and cutting guides. The indications may differ from manufacturer and brand, however the basics such as grain line, fold lines, and notches mean the same. 

Familiarize with these markings before starting any new sewing project.

What does the arrow on a sewing pattern mean?

The arrow on a sewing pattern means a grain line. It has a double-pointed and long arrow across your pieces of the pattern to indicate a grain line. 

The arrows are just for assisting in positioning the pattern pieces to show the direction of the fabric while cutting. Also, these arrows help to position in the right direction in such a way that your fabric will hang.

The arrow represents a grain line in a sewing pattern. Line up these grain line arrows parallel to the running length down the fabric, also known as selvage. 

Stick a sewing pin at one end of the arrow on the grain line and measure the distance to the selvage. Pivot this piece so that the arrow’s opposite end is at the same distance from the selvage. 

Once you are set with the placement, pin the other arrow end to hold the fabric in place.

Generally, the grain lines are placed parallel to the selvage edge of the fabric. For example, the side skirt panel on the Kai mini skirt has a grain line running diagonal to the center back seam, which means the pattern piece needs to be cut on the bias. 

How to read sewing pattern sizes?

The measurements at the waist, chest, bust and the largest hip area equals the sizing that you will see on the pattern envelope. For in-between sizes, head with largest measurement sizing. 

Sewing pattern sizes do not correspond to readymade clothing sizes. This is why you need to verify the size chart before purchasing a pattern.

Always read sewing pattern sizes indicated on the pattern envelope. This is a guideline and a selling tool with detailed information to assist you in selecting fabric with other notions required to finish the project.

The most important part of figuring out the correct size to cut the sewing pattern is to understand how to measure the body for clothing for accuracy. With the bust, waist, and hip measurement, you will easily be able to find the correct size in inches or centimeters, and also in numerical and international size conversions.

How to read sewing pattern symbols?

Sewing patterns come with minimal symbols that do not interfere with each other. They include basic symbols to help you indicate notches for shirring, darts and zip placement for bottoms. 

Different sewing pattern symbols are depicted for a particular operation or section of the garment.

Common sewing pattern symbols include:

  • Grain lines: A double-ended arrow representing the position of the pattern parallel to the selvage. The grain lines are followed by the logo, name of pattern pieces and how many cuts you needed.
  • Notches: Black filled circle with straight line indicates the requirement to mark the points that enable you to do pattern matching. Notches can be double or single based on front or back pieces.
  • Fold lines: The fold lines are generally located on center front or center back. It is written in word and do not have additional symbols.
  • Darts: Dotted lines with a circle to display the start of stitch to the point to add shape for a waist or bust.
  • Buttonholes and Button: A long bar that has vertical ends indicate the position of the buttonholes, and a cross for sewing the button.
  • Squares, Dots, and symbol markings: These are transferred for matching up and adding details to the fabric for construction.
  • Stitching lines: Dotted lines for single-size sewing patterns.

How to read a sewing pattern pdf

A sewing pattern pdf is a digital pattern, which is the same as a printed pattern. Reading a pdf sewing pattern is the same as the printed format. 

Print the pdf to correct scale on A4, then tape the pages together by matching diamond shape on each corner of paper. Cut out the pattern pieces for your size, then proceed to lining up the fabric.

Follow these tips to read a sewing pattern pdf:

  • The style lines are indicating each size.
  • The sewing level is labeled easy for beginners up to advanced for expert sewing users.
  • Determine the size for tops or dresses by using chest circumference. For pants, use the widest hip and waist measurement; and for skirt, use natural waist even if the skirt sit in a low or high waist.
  • Don’t skip reading through the sewing pattern instructions. Reading all instructions from beginning to the end on the step by step instruction and video tutorial will help you understand the entire workflow. 
  • Use highlighter to draw over the right size so it is easy to cut visually.
How to read sewing pattern

Reading Sewing Patterns: Final Thoughts

Download your favorite Fashion Wanderer sewing pattern and start reviewing the instructions. Including both symbols and markings, there are numerous element to understand for fit adjustment, cutting guide, and construction

After printing out the sewing pattern, use a sewing ruler to measure the lines in inches or centimeters to confirm that the pdf printable is in the correct measurement. 

On the cover page for each sewing pattern, you will identify the fabric yardage requirement, notions, size chart, and style line for each size. 

The fabric suggestion will briefly recommend what type of fabric is suitable for the garment and also how much yardage you need. Pay attention to the width of the fabric: 45” or 60”

Depending on the width of the fabric roll, you may need more or less fabric based on your measurements.

Be aware that yardages should account for pre-wash shrinkages. So buy at least 10% more fabric

It’s good idea to buy extra fabric for patterns with a nap or fabrics with a print or pattern to avoid any shortages.

In addition, you will see the list of notions you need for that specific pattern. It will show if you need zippers, elastic, or binding, so take a look at this box and buy what you need while going to the fabric store.

The size chart and size style line will help you find the correct measurement and the sewing pattern to cut. The size you usually buy at the store does not equal the size of sewing pattern.

Use your body measurement for a sewing pattern to find the accurate sewing pattern size. Re-measure your body at least once a month to be sure the fit will be right on when making custom fit DIY clothing.

Various symbols such as filled circle with line, dotted circle and double-arrowed grain line indicate how Fashion Wanderer talks to you in a pattern. It tells you how to place the pattern, where to sew, attach notions and any darts or gathering needed to be applied. 

These tips and techniques will help you understand how to read sewing patterns. As a beginner, it may take time and you may feel overwhelmed by all the symbols on the sewing pattern. 

If you still have issues or a hard time comprehending a sewing pattern, simply reach out to us and we are happy to help!

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