How to Use a Sewing Pattern: The Ultimate Guide

Think of sewing patterns as a roadmap for your project. From cutting to joining the fabric pieces to understanding markings and knowing how much fabric to buy, this guide contains all the information you need.

Learn to sew patterns and understand different signs and symbols. Many pattern companies and presentations of information change from manufacturer to manufacturer, but the key information will be the same.

Use the following information as a guide to turning your pattern into a kick-ass garment that is made to measure. 

Basics of How to Use a Sewing Pattern 

Before understanding how to use a sewing pattern, it is essential to know some basic details so that you can get familiar with sewing patterns.

What Is a Sewing Pattern?

A sewing pattern is a PDF or Paper file that contains step-by-step instructions on how to sew a garment or other item. It will have templates for cutting out the pieces of your sewing project.

What Is Included in the Pattern?

All sewing patterns vary depending upon the designer or pattern manufacturer, but here are some common things included in every pattern:

    • Fabric Requirements
    • Notions Requirements
    • Sewing Instructions
    • Sizing Charts
    • Cutting Instructions
    • Pattern Pieces

Types of Sewing Patterns

There are two basic types of sewing patterns available:

Digital Patterns

Paper Patterns

Paper Patterns

Paper sewing pattern
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Some popular brands such as Vogue, New Look, Simplicity, and McCalls offer paper patterns. They give step-by-step instructions on how to use a paper sewing pattern

This commercial sewing pattern is wrapped in an envelope with a front picture of an exciting item to make. The picture on the envelope tells a unique story, so before you open the paper pattern, make sure you check the number on the front and the size on the back. 

The envelope offers measurements of different sizes and the fabric required. To sew paper patterns, you may need buttons, zips, and poppers. You can get all this information on the envelope itself and do not need to open the entire pattern box. 

The beauty of the paper pattern is that it has so much to share with the sewers. Other paper patterns are traceable patterns that you found in sewing magazines. 

Digital Patterns

Digital patterns can be bought online or in-store or come in a small box that comprises all the pattern elements. These modern sewing patterns can be viewed on your computer screen, and pattern pieces can be printed on your home printed in A4 size. 

Digital patterns are cost-effective and modern patterns. It allows you to support small businesses or independent pattern designers. These sewing patterns can be opened and viewed in Adobe Reader. 

Want to try sewing a dress from a pattern, but not sure which digital pattern to choose? Check these list of patterns offered by Super Label Store and turn your fabric into a mesmerized outfit: 

Teach Yourself: How to Use a Sewing Pattern for Beginners

This is the moment you know you can unpack the pattern from the envelope. Are you excited? 

Getting a chance to look into your pattern and see what it brings to the table is one of the best feelings. 

Print at home sewing pattern
Image Source: Tilly and the Buttons

When you open a pattern, you will find a step-by-step instruction guide that is essential for following sewing patterns for beginners. It also helps you understand the style, construction style, size, and fabric recommended for the pattern. 

If you have just purchased a digital sewing pattern and are wondering how to use a sewing pattern for beginners, don’t worry. Just open the sewing pattern PDF on Adobe Reader, and you’ll have all the instructions on your computer screen.

Pattern Guide/Flats

While the envelope or cover of the pattern often includes photographs and fashion illustrations to help you imagine the outfit style, flats/pattern guide contains all the nitty-gritty information. 

They are the technical illustrations of the sewing pattern. This guide also includes letters and numbers, which help you identify different pieces of the pattern. By looking at flats, you can see pockets, closures, and other parts with ease. 

Recommended Fabric and Supplies

How to use a sewing pattern
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Checking the required fabric for each pattern is essential. This gives you an idea of the finished garment and the difficulty of the pattern. 

Make sure you check the woven labels and care labels of the fabric before choosing your sewing project. The fabric recommendation will also help you decide which supplies and tools you will need in order to follow the sewing pattern. The sewing supplies can be zippers, thread, buttons, etc.

Size Charts

If you have ever purchased clothes from online platforms, you know what size charts mean. Sewing patterns come in multiple sizes. 

Many companies provide the pattern in two different sizes that crossover. Follow the instruction to combine pattern size overleaf and cut the corresponding lines on your pattern.

Body Measurement Chart

To determine your size, you have to take measurements of your waist, bust, and hip and compare them to the given body measurement chart. 

Flat drawing templates for sewing
Image Source: Pinterest

It may happen that you will be a combination of sizes, so here are some tips for the best selection:

    • For dresses, jackets, and tops: Use your bust measurement
    • For shorts, skirts, and trousers: Choose your hip measurement

Finished Measurement Chart

This is considered as one of the most used charts in your sewing pattern. This chart tells you the measurement of the finished outfit. 

The finished fabric measurements are larger than the corresponding body measurement and sizes since extra room is needed for smooth movement. This extra room is known as ease. 

If you’re wondering how to make sewing patterns, choose knit or types of stretch fabric since knit often fits close to the body and can stretch as you move. If you fall between sizes, the finished measurement chart can help you decide whether to size up or down. 

Yardage Chart

The yardage chart can help you decide how much fabric you need based on whether you are using 45-inch or 60-inch wide fabric. 

Inches

Fabric Required (Yards)

45

2 3/8

2 3/8

2 ½

2 ½

2 ½

2 ½

2 ½

2 ½

2 7/8

3

3

3

60

1 ½

1 5/8

1 5/8

1 5/8

1 5/8

1 ¾

1 ¾

2 ½

2 ¾

2 ¾

2 ¾

2 7/8

Skill Level

Most pattern envelopes give an idea of what sewing ability you need to sew this pattern. It may be beginner, intermediate, or advanced. It also says how long it might take you to finish a pattern. 

Some Sewing Symbols You Should Note

There are some symbols that you will find on the pattern tissue and instruction guide. Here are those symbols for your reference:

Sewing pattern markings
Image Source: Pinterest

Buttonhole Placement

A cross marks a place where a button needs to be sewn. Solid rectangle lines show the buttonhole length. 

Adjustment Lines

The adjustment lines show where a pattern can be shortened or lengthened at hip or waist level. 

Cutting Layout

The cutting layout is just like a map that shows how to fold the fabric and position the pieces. The layout can vary based on fabric width, garment view, pattern size, and nap, so make sure you choose the right one. 

Darts

Darts are the tapered fold in a pattern that allows fullness and helps shape the garment as per your body type. 

It can be single-ended or double-ended. Mark and fold from the centerline, match the dots and stitch it to the point. 

Cutting Lines

The series of solid outermost lines are known as cutting lines. They mark all sizes found on the pattern tissue. Cut the one that denotes your right size. 

Easing Line

These are the short, broken lines with dots at the end and directional arrows which show the marked area to be eased. 

Dots

Dots indicate where precise clipping, matching, gathering, and stitching are needed. They also show a place where darts or gathering needs to be attached. 

Hem Allowance

Hem allowance shows the amount of fabric needed for hemming.

Notches

Notches are triangle-shaped cutting lines for matching seams. Save your time by clipping notches into seam allowance instead of cutting out the cutting line to mark the fabric position.

Seam Allowance

The area between the material edge and stitching is known as seam allowance. The seam allowance is 15 mm for dressmaking. 

How to use a sewing pattern for beginners
Image Source: Colette Blog

7 of the Best Tips on How to Follow Patterns for Sewing

Knowing how to follow patterns for sewing can help you learn how to sew the best-looking clothes for yourself. See the below tutorial to understand how to sew from a pattern. 

Sewing pattern guide
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Take Right Measurement

Some sewing patterns come in multiple sizes, so make sure you get the right body measurement for your project. Use a tape measure for sewing and taking your measurements. 

How to use a sewing pattern tutorial
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Cross-check your measurement with the size chart on the backside of the pattern envelope to decide the right size for your garment. 

Read the Direction

Make sure you read all instructions from the instruction guide before starting to cut the pattern. The instruction guide includes step-by-step sewing guidance and direction. 

The direction includes valuable information such as yardage requirements, fabric suggestions, cutting layout, and size chart. 

Leave Seam Allowance

Some patterns include seam allowance while others don’t. Seam allowance affects the way your fabric drapes or hangs. If you wish, you can leave a seam allowance or set your desired seam allowance.

Decide Your Weave Grain

How to sew from a pattern
Image Source: Doina Alexei

Grainlines are the long, arrowed lines on the pattern which help you determine the direction of the fabric pattern. These are parallel to the selvage edge, making it easier to determine how to sew a pattern.

Notice All Symbols

How to read sewing patterns
Image Source: The Creative Curator

Different symbols such as Dots, lines, triangles, and many more on the sewing pattern make sense and are noted to give you proper direction. Make sure you check all these symbols to sew the perfect dress.

Layout Your Pattern

Once you’ve cut your pattern pieces, lay them out on the fabric as per the instruction. Lay it on the right side of the fabric so that it goes against your body. 

Pin the cut pattern pieces to the sewing fabric and mark with a pencil by keeping appropriate seam allowance in mind. 

Sew Your Cloth

How do sewing patterns work
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Once you’ve cut all necessary pieces of your pattern, you can start assembling the pattern. Mark each piece so that you can identify it with ease. 

Sew your garment using the sewing machine or by hand. Re-read instructions whenever needed to sew everything in the right way.

How Do Sewing Patterns Work?

When it comes to cutting and sewing patterns, the proper instructions are needed. People had to make their own sewing patterns back in the day since there weren’t any magazines available. 

Free printable pdf sewing pattern record card
Image Source: Creative Fashion Blog

Thanks to the advancement, nowadays sewing patterns are available, and anyone can just download them or buy them from the designers. 

Buying sewing patterns in PDF formats can cost you less, has no shipping charges, and allows reprinting if a piece is lost or multiple sizes are needed. If you’re wondering how do sewing patterns work, then this section will help you understand those basics.

Download

If you’re choosing online free sewing patterns, you can download them from different sites. If you want to go for paid PDF sewing patterns, you need to purchase them from the designer’s site. 

The final checkout page will include a link to the download page where you can download the file. You will also get a link in your email box. 

Some downloadables include one PDF file, meaning the pattern pieces and instructions are opened and viewed as one document. Other downloads include a zip file that contains individual files for instruction and pattern pieces. 

Regardless of how the pattern pieces are organized, they come with predefined numbers of printer paper-sized sheets. 

Printing

Once you have downloaded your file, the next step is to get it printed. Regardless of which printing method you choose for printing the sewing pattern, make sure you set the print scale. 

Don’t print your document as ‘fit a paper size’ since it would make the pattern pieces the wrong size. 

Print at Home

Printing a PDF sewing pattern at home is similar to printing any document. Before printing the entire pattern, find our test square on your paper and start printing from this page so that you can get 100% correct scale. 

If your instruction and pattern pieces are in a single file, you can set a specific page range and skip the printing instruction. Get high-quality print and choose an option such as “fast” or “draft” since it uses less ink. 

Copy Shop

What is a sewing pattern
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If your sewing pattern comes with a wide format file, drop it in a USB and take it to your nearest copy/printing shop. They will get you print on a wide format printer, and you don’t have to do the assembly. 

Make sure they print the image with 100% scale and check it while you are there so that you can ask for reprinting if it is not appropriate.

Assembly

The first step of PDF sewing pattern assembly is trimming. Use paper scissors or a paper cutter to cut each page one at a time. From every page, trim off the top and left margins. 

Following sewing patterns for beginners
Image Source: Bernina Blog

When you stack them up, make sure all the cutting lines are aligned. Another option faster than trimming is to fold the margins back instead of trimming. 

Your sewing pattern has an alphanumeric marketing system that can help you find which pages should be next to each other.

Start lining up the marks and pattern lines by using clear tape. Line up the edges straight. Since you’re taping, make sure you put tape through cutting lines that go across page edges. 

This will ensure that the pattern pieces don’t have any flipping parts. For making a neat pattern, you can also use a glue stick to assemble all pages. Once all pages are taped together, start cutting pattern pieces. 

Tracing the Pattern

How to trace sewing patterns
Image Source: Kollabora

If you like, you can assemble all pattern pieces and then trace your size so that if a different size is needed, you don’t have to reassemble the entire pattern. 

Sewing the Pattern

When you have cut all pieces of your sewing pattern, you get to know “how do sewing patterns work.” Refer to the sewing instruction that comes along with the pattern to start sewing your beautiful garment. 

Sewing pattern step by step instructions
Image Source: Sew Essential

Storing the Pattern

Sewing patterns are printed on computer paper, so you can not just fold them up as small tissue paper. Here are a few ideas for storing sewing patterns:

Roll

Start stacking the pattern pieces with the biggest one at the bottom and the smallest on top. Roll up the stack and secure it with a rubber band. Use a trash can or bin to store it.

Hang

How to follow patterns for sewing
Image Source: Pinterest

Put a tape on each pattern piece’s near edge and punch a hole with the tape. Use some fastener to attach them all and put them over the top end of the hanger. 

Conclusion

The sewing pattern is the backbone of making a beautiful dress. Once you get the expertise in cutting and organizing patterns and learn how to work with them, it is one of the simplest and most rewarding processes. 

You can make your own outfit by using a nice sewing pattern that comes with a step-by-step guide and pattern pieces. Use hang tags from Super Label Store to personalize your garment and sell it online. 

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