Sewing Patterns

A Comprehensive Guide to Sewing Patterns—Everything You Need to Know.

The coronavirus pandemic has given people an opportunity to engage themselves in extracurriculars, bringing out their creative side. One of the hobbies that have seen a recent revival during this pandemic is sewing and dressmaking.

According to a Craft and Hobby Trade Association survey, more than one million women have taken to home sewing in the previous three years. At the same time, 7.7 million more have started up their clothing line business. 

This rising trend in dressmaking and upcycling clothes has also elevated the sales of sewing patterns dramatically. As is reported by Hobbycraft—UK’s largest fashion retailer, the world saw a 60% rise in the sales of knitting and sewing patterns in 2016. 

This rise in sewing is traced back to the increased use of the internet. You can learn different sewing patterns online and download free templates from the internet, making the whole stitching process a piece of cake. 

More than two million videos and even more blogs are available on the internet on the word “sewing” alone, showing viewers how to sew in a million different ways. With the help of these video tutorials and some readily available sewing patterns online, you can create a very cool DIY garment yourself at home.

Speaking of sewing patterns, let’s explore in-depth what they are.

What are Sewing Patterns?

Sewing patterns
Image: Amazon

Sewing patterns are a paper or a pdf booklet containing detailed instructions on how a particular dress can be sewn using fabric. These patterns also contain outlines of the dress that are usually drawn onto paper or cardboard and serve as a template for sewing a clothing item. The patterns are then traced onto the fabric as individual garment parts, making it easier for you to cut the fabric by following the outline. 

In recent times, brands dedicated solely to creating sewing patterns have sprung up that sell these patterns directly to customers. Popular examples of such brands include Butterick and Simplicity. 

Using these pre-graded patterns, buyers can sew garments at home for personal use or sell them commercially. Before you buy a sewing pattern, make sure you first learn to sew; otherwise, the pattern will be of little help. For additional help to get you started, you can refer to our blog on Best Sewing Tips and Tricks for beginners.

Understanding Sewing Patterns

Although different brands in the market sell different sewing patterns, they all follow a similar pattern terminology. A sewing pattern usually consists of the following directions:

Envelope Front

Ladies sewing patterns
Image: these wing directory

No matter which company your sewing pattern is from, all of them will have similar terminologies on the envelope front:

    • Pattern name or number: The pattern number helps you identify the design of the pattern. Other companies may give their sewing pattern a distinct name that may help you remember the pattern.
    • Photos: An envelope-front of a sewing pattern always shows a picture of models wearing the garment you’re about to sew to help you see how the finished pattern would look.

In some envelope fronts, like the one shown above, there may also be line drawings of individual pieces such as the sleeves, skirt, seams, and folds to show different variations the garment can follow.

    • Description: Every sewing pattern has a short description of the pattern or the size on the envelope front, which may either tell you which collection it is from or give you an idea of the kind of fit you will probably get.
    • Expertise level: Most sewing patterns also mention the stitching experience level for the garmentexpert, intermediate, or beginner. Other patterns may even tell you how much time it will take for you to prepare the garment. If you are a beginner at dressmaking, these sewing patterns for beginners might be a great start for you.

Envelope Back:

    • Line Drawings: Usually, the sewing patterns have line drawings on the front and the back of the envelope. If you do not see any drawings on the front, you will likely find them on the back. 
    • Fabric Suggestions: No sewing pattern comes without a fabric suggestion that advises you on the material you should be using for this garment. 

While you can opt for a material of your choice, it is still best to follow the recommendation on the pattern since it has been suggested after many tests and is probably the best fabric option for that garment.

Sewing patterns online
Image: these wing directory

    • Accessories: This is a list of all the additional items you will need to accessorize your dress. It may include buttons, zips, laces, or collar stays.
    • Body Measurements: On the envelope back, there is a whole section dedicated solely to body measurements. It is necessary to compare your height, chest, waist, and hips measurements with the sizes mentioned on the envelope to see which pattern is the closest to your size. You can then follow these measurements to create your garment.
    • Fabric Requirements: Along with the type of material you need to use, there is also a section on how much fabric you will require for this sewing project. The two most common fabric lengths are 45 and 60 inches.
Pattern area Sections you would expect to find on every pattern Additional sections you would expect to find on some patterns

Envelope front

    • Pattern number or name
    • Description
    • Photos
    • Expertise level
    • Line drawings
    • Pattern sizes
    • Design Variations
    • Time taken to sew

Envelope back

    • Fabric suggestions
    • View options
    • Notions
    • Body measurements
    • Pattern size
    • Fabric requirement
    • Finished garment measurements
    • Cup size options
    • Type of pattern

While these were the most common things you are likely to find on every pattern envelope, there are other important things mentioned, such as the pattern size and finished garment measurements. These things are written neatly inside a table at the back, making it easier for you to follow. 

Let’s look inside the envelope now.

Inside the Envelope: 

The front and back of the envelope give subtle details that are useful for a beginner at sewing. The real deal lies inside the envelope as an instruction sheet that carries step-by-step instructions with images on how to go about your dress.

Depending on which company the sewing pattern is from, the instruction sheet might also have specific instructions on the much optional hem, sleeves, and length variations. 

Types of Sewing Patterns

Sewing patterns usually come in three different sizes that help you determine which one is best suited to your height. They are as follows:

    1. Misses: This sewing pattern is specially made for averagely tall women, 5’4 to 5’6 feet. 
    2. Women: This pattern style is the same as Misses except for one difference—it is designed for ladies with a fuller bust and bigger hips.
    3. Petite: As is apparent by the style name, this pattern is specially created for women who are shorter with their heights somewhere between 5’2 to 5’4. 
    4. Plus Size: Pluz size patterns are for women with a bust measurement of 40 and a hip measurement of 42 or more.

These pattern styles follow the same terminologies and instructions except that the sizes, body measurements, and pattern sizes will differ from misses to petite. 

How to Buy Sewing Patterns?

There are only two choices for buying a sewing pattern—a paper pattern or a digital PDF file. No matter which sewing pattern you choose, whether paper or pdf, you’re going to have to pay a heavy amount for it. As home-sewn clothes are making a remarkable comeback, sewing patterns can be more expensive at times than a similar final product. 

If you do not want to buy sewing patterns, you can also look for free pattern templates online. These may not be as elaborate as the ones you buy, but they kind of do the job for you. 

To buy the right sewing pattern, you need to look through multiple patterns and find one that:

    1. Best suits your size:

Before choosing a sewing pattern, it is vital to take proper body measurements to see your right size. You can compare these measurements briefly with those mentioned at the back and see if you find a pattern size that corresponds to your size. We have briefly discussed pattern sizes and how you can choose them in the section after this one.

      2. Offers the right fabric choice:

Another important thing to look for before you buy a pattern is the fabric suggestion that the pattern proffers. Do you like warmer wooly clothes? Then a pattern that deals with Woolen outfits will be your best bet. If you’re a glam bae looking to create a fancy, flowy dress, then look for a pattern that advises you to work with royal materials like silk or rayon.

      3. Shows a style similar to the one you would normally go for:

Your wardrobe is the one thing that will probably help you the most when choosing a pattern style. Going through your wardrobe and putting on the best outfit will help you see what suits you the best, and for starters, you can opt for a pattern similar to that dress you love the most! Duly note the neckline, sleeve style, length, and overall shape of the outfit. Try to find a pattern that shows a dress with all these features.

Other things to look for in a sewing pattern are:

    1. the sewing level the pattern requires
    2. new releases of the same pattern with an updated template
    3. the designer the pattern is from
    4. The price that the pattern is being sold for. It won’t be ideal to pay a higher price for a similar pattern sold at a lower price elsewhere. 

Paper Vs. PDF Sewing Pattern

Once you’ve selected your pattern based on the guidelines above, you will have two choices in front of you. You can either go for a paper pattern or choose an easily downloadable PDF pattern. Both the options are satisfactory, but it depends more on your personal preference. 

If you’re using a paper sewing pattern, you can trace the pattern on your fabric to help you with the cutouts. A PDF file will not give you this advantage since you will have saved the pattern electronically on your device. 

To counter this problem, you can print the pattern on paper and tape it all together. An advantage of a PDF pattern is that you can always print out a different size pattern in the future if needed. The paper pattern doesn’t give you this advantage. You will need to buy a different size each time your body grows or shrinks. An added benefit of a PDF pattern is that you can download it anytime you want and get started with your sewing project the same day without waiting for your delivery.

How to Choose the Right Pattern Size?

To choose the right size pattern, you first need to take accurate body measurements and then compare them with the measurements on the envelope back. You may need a friend’s assistance in measuring the respective areas accurately. 

Wrap the measuring tape around your bust, waist, hips, and arms, and note the measurements down. Make sure you leave no space between the measuring tape and your skin, but also don’t let the tape cut sink into your skin because that’d end up being too tight. Wear tight-fitting undergarments to get the correct size.

Once you’ve accurately measured the bust, hip, waist, and arm, compare these sizes with the body measurements as circled in the image below.

Pattern envelope size chart
Image: Craftsy

Your measurements may be scattered over different pattern sizes. For example, if your bust size is 36, waist 25, hip 36, and back-neck to waist 16, you should go for the pattern size closest to these measurements. 

An ideal way to select a pattern size is to follow the hip measurement for a lower garment such as a pant or skirt. As for an upper garment like a shirt or a blouse, always choose a pattern size using the correct bust measurement

Go for a higher bust measurement rather than a full bust measurement to avoid choosing a pattern that ends up being too loose in that area. Choosing a pattern that matches your high bust measurement would also mean that it will render a better fit around the neck, shoulders, and waist.

For instance, if your higher bust measurement is 32 and the full bust measurement is 36, you should choose the pattern size 10. Although, in this case, you would have to go for a full bust adjustment to ensure that the garment isn’t too tight around the bust. 

Once you’ve selected an appropriate pattern size, look for “finished garment size” at the bottom of the envelope. The finished garment size tells you how your outfit will fit you once it’s ready. The image below shows how to find the right finished garment size on your pattern:

Pattern measurement chart
Image: craftsy

The finished garment size always has a 2-3 inches room referred to as “wearing ease.” Without the wearing ease, the garment would be too tight for you to even freely breathe, sit or move in it. For example, a pattern size 14 with a bust measurement of 36 has a finished garment size of 40 ½, rendering an ease of 2.5 inches. 

Where Can I Buy Sewing Patterns Online?

With so many different pattern types available in the market, it can be confusing to select a pattern that offers a unique garment style, is par with your fabric preference, and is the right fit. To narrow your search down, we’ve listed down the five best sewing pattern websites and brands that are consumer favorites. 

Sewing Pattern Websites Founded in Sewing Pattern Categories Are the Patterns Downloadable?



    • Women patterns
    • Men patterns
    • Childrenswear
    • Disney
    • Costumes
    • Craft and Accessories

No, only printable three times

Burda Style


    • Ladies patterns
    • Men patterns
    • Children
    • Costumes
    • Crafts 

Yes, it also offers free sewing patterns.

Butterick Patterns


    • Dress patterns
    • Trousers, Skirts, and Shorts
    • Costume
    • Childrenswear
    • Home decorating
    • Loungewear, lingerie and sleepwear
    • Bridal 


Jalie Patterns


    • Tops and tunics
    • Cardigans
    • Activewear
    • Sportswear
    • Swimwear

Many are downloadable.

The Foldline


    • Women’s clothing sewing patterns
    • Men’s patterns
    • Baby, child, teen
    • Accessories, crafts
    • Homewear


    1. Simplicity

Simplicity is a sewing pattern brand founded in 1927, and it is one of the most popular patterns selling brands today. Simplicity is mostly known for its easy directions that are easy to follow. The brand has come up with an ideal pattern design that even a beginner could follow without any difficulties. 

The brand features:

Sewing patterns websites
Image: Amazon

      2. Burda Style

Burda Style has joined hands with Simplicity and now falls under the company name. It offers similar pattern designs and types. The brand offers all pattern types, from dresses and skirts to lingeries and jumpsuits sewing patterns. The best part about Burda Style patterns is that it allows you to download free sewing patterns that are as good as the paid ones. 

      3. The Foldline

The Foldline is most people’s go-to store when they need to buy sewing patterns online. The website has a sewing pattern finder tool that allows you to browse through 10,000 different patterns and reviews online. You can buy boththe paper pattern and the PDF pattern from the site.

      4. Butterick Patterns

Womens clothing sewing patterns
Image: Pinterest

Originally founded in 1863, Butterick Patterns is the first-ever brand to introduce the concept of sewing patterns to the world. The company still runs as strong as it did back in the day, selling tissue patterns and PDF printable patterns. Butterick is a pioneer at crafting various women’s, men’s, and children’s patterns, ranging from unique pants and short sewing patterns to accessories and bridal dresses.

      5. Jalie Patterns

Where to buy sewing patterns
Image: Fabric Mart

Jalie Patterns is a company started by a mother and daughter duo in 1983. The two work to produce extraordinary pattern designs for your entire family. What’s best about the brand is that it is entirely home-based. Everything from photoshoots to pattern-making is done at their house. They sell practical patterns for everyday wear for all genders, ages, and sizes.

Top Women’s Clothing Sewing Patterns to Experiment with this Quarantine

Even after going through several sewing patterns, if you still cannot make up your mind about which pattern to get that resonates with your style, we have a few suggestions to make. You can use these sewing patterns to create personalized garments that you can sell online on sites like Etsy.

Grainline Studios—Scout T-Shirt 

Buy sewing patterns
Image: sewisfaction

Out of the many shirt sewing patterns available, our top choice is Grainline Studio’s scout t-shirt sewing pattern. The pattern is great for quick sewing because it requires minimal effort. The shirt pattern will help you sew a tee great for summers since it suggests sewing it in medium to lightweight fabrics such as lawn and linen.

The top is great for beginners who do not have a lot of sewing experience. With a few simple sewing hacks, you can quickly sew a great top that looks good on all body types. With Grainline’s downloadable PDF pattern, you can sew the top in many different colors and sizes and accessorize each one differently. 

You can then add a custom hang tag or a more permanent care label on the tees to give them a more professional touch and sell them online. Such an exciting way to make money, isn’t it?

Liesel and Co.—Simple, Every Day Skirt

Leisl co everyday skirt denim
Image: sewisfaction

Skirt patterns can be quite difficult to follow, with all their pleats, darts, and whatnot. With Liesel and Co.’s everyday skirt sewing pattern, that problem is long gone. The pattern is designed for a simple pencil skirt with a flat front and an elastic back. The skirt doesn’t need to have any complex fastenings or zips, which is great considering how easy it becomes to sew it. 

To take it a step up, you can always add pockets or adorn it with buttons or, even better, with custom woven labels to claim exclusivity to this trendy, chic skirt. You can explore different types of woven labels here. You can choose any medium-weight fabric such as jersey, cotton, or flannel for this DIY.

Sew Over it—The Shift Dress of Your Dreams!

Ultimate shift dress
Image: sewisfaction

The harder the process, the prettier the result! While this shift dress pattern from Sew Over it may deal with some difficult sewing concepts such as neck facings and darts, the effort that goes into sewing this beautiful shift dress is all worth it.

The pattern gives a detailed, easy-to-follow guideline on how you can go about creating this dress. The suggested fabric choice is viscose, cotton, or crepe, but you can choose any other material of your choice. You can either choose to keep the sleeves long, short or ruffled to your liking.

With multiple variations in tops and sleeves, this shift dress will easily fill your wardrobe in several different designs, giving you a new outfit to roll in each day!

Order Sewing Patterns Online

By this time, you know everything you needed to know about sewing patterns—where to buy sewing patterns, how to read them, and which brands to prefer over the others.

Apart from clothing sewing patterns, you can also go for stuffed animals sewing patterns such as teddy patterns or even pillowcase patterns. 

With enough expertise on the subject, you can learn how to make sewing patterns at home and sell them online. And maybe, if you’re fortunate and talented enough, you can become another best-seller of sewing patterns that articles like these mention to consumers like yourself!