All About Pattern Sewing

Sewing something from a pattern isn’t that hard, depending on what you are making. You may have more steps to follow for a more advanced sewing pattern. Start simple and learn as you sew. Then tackle the more complex sewing patterns.  

Pattern layout

Any pattern you buy will have directions on how to lay the pattern pieces out on the fabric. This layout is essential that you follow these directions. Don’t change from grain to cross-grain, etc. There is a reason why each piece you place should face a specific direction on the fabric. I made this mistake by trying to get more pieces out of the fabric. Cutting pieces off grain for which should be on grain will cause the fabric to not hang right after washing.  

PDF sewing pattern

PDF sewing patterns are patterns you can find online that you can print off on your home printer. A lot of these types of PDF patterns can be free, or there are ones that you can purchase. Once you print out the different pieces of the pattern on regular 8.5″ by 11″ pieces of paper, you will lay them all out. Then tape all the pieces together to make the pattern. It’s like a giant puzzle; you will need to line up the printed pattern pieces on the paper with one another at their different markings. Next, you will cut around the pattern edge lines with paper cutting scissors and not material scissors. If you use your material cutting scissors on paper, it will dull them fast.  

Best patterns for beginners

The best sewing patterns for beginner sewers, in my opinion, is the sewing for dummies ones from Simplicity. These patterns are great because they break everything down into much simpler instructions. They also define each of the different terms they use in the pattern instructions and on the pattern pieces. Start with a basic garment as your first pattern sewing project. A basic A-line skirt is a great choice. Start with something simple, so it is not overwhelming, and you will not quit before you are finished.  

Basic pattern drafting

Basic pattern drafting is not for a beginner sewer at all. Drafting patterns is a more advanced technique you can learn to do once you have a good understanding of garment construction. 

Is sewing your own clothes cheaper

Sewing your clothing can get expensive fast, but there are ways you can make them and save some money. The good thing with sewing your clothing you can design them however you like. Also, if you have different measurements that are not the standard sizes you find, making your clothes is better. When you have a moment or two, check out my other article about saving money buying used fabrics.  

A-Line dress pattern or A-line skirt

An A-line dress or skirt is a garment that has a tighter fit up top that flares out towards the bottom. Thus, giving it a shape of a letter A. These types of patterns are usually pretty easy to sew. They make a great starter pattern for beginners.  

Pattern Markings and meanings

Each pattern you purchase will have an index key for what each marking on a sewing pattern means.  

Some necessary markings on most patterns you will find:

Grainline – This is how the fabric was woven and will follow that grain parallel to the salvage or fold line.  

Foldline – An invisible line made by where the fabric folds, usually either parallel or perpendicular to the salvage. 

Notches – These are markings that indicate how to line up seams for construction. Always make sure your notches line up and stay lined up while sewing.  

Seam Allowance – The allowance for stitching you will need to sew throughout the sewing pattern.  

Can sewing patterns be reused?

You can reuse patterns. There are two different ways you can reuse them. If you go ahead and cut the sewing pattern out while cutting the fabric, you can only reuse it for the exact size you just cut out. If the sewing pattern has multiple sizes on it, then you will need to trace the pattern onto either other patterning paper or onto the fabric itself, you will be cutting. By tracing the size out, you will be using for that project will allow you to use another pattern size on that same pattern at a different time.  

Fold line on a sewing pattern

The fold line on a sewing pattern is for when you place the pattern piece against the edge of the folded piece of fabric. This fold line usually runs along the same direction as the grain line. Using the fold lines allows you to cut out fabric that is symmetrical on both sides. It means it will take you less time to cut out that piece of patterned fabric.  

Different types of sewing patterns

There are a total of 4 leading companies that create sewing patterns. These are the patterns you will find for sale in Jo-Ann Fabrics, Sewing stores, and Walmart. They are Vogue, McCall’s, Butterick, and Simplicity.  

I think that Simplicity and McCall patterns are the easiest when learning to sew. Next, I would say Butterick, followed by Vogue.  

If you want a basic sewing pattern for a garment that is more mainstream, then go for Simplicity, McCalls, or Butterick. If you wish to have a more modern look to your garments, then go for Vogue patterns.

There are indie patterns you can buy on Etsy and other sites. Try to go for the more known indie patterns. They will fit a bit different than the 4 big brand patterns.

Vintage sewing patterns

Vintage sewing patterns can be a lot of fun to make clothing from them. With a lot of the old vintage patterns, the fabric of choice was polyester. It wrinkles less, is easy to sew, and launders well. The plus with these vintage patterns is what was old and in style then always comes back around becomes in style again. For vintage sewing patterns, you want to be sure to go by the measurement sizes on the back of the envelope and not the size 8 or 10 that you might wear now in clothing.    

Free sewing patterns

There are many free sewing patterns online that you can print off on your home printer. A lot of these free sewing patterns are ones that people have created on their own and are just giving out for free. Just because these are free doesn’t mean they are a good pattern. Pinterest has a lot of free patterns. If you’re starting with sewing, then I wouldn’t pick some of the free patterns to start learning to sew. These free patterns don’t have a lot of instructions with them, and you’ll need to know a lot of the basics with sewing patterns before you use these types of patterns.

Pattern slopers

Making a pattern sloper is a great way to make sure the pattern fits you well. You can use muslin as a cheap fabric to make a sloper. By creating this mock-up of your garment, it allows you to see if there is a need for any alterations before sewing the actual fabric intended for the project.  

Pattern alterations

Altering patterns is a more advanced technique. By modifying the patterns you buy, you can create more custom designs in your clothing. I will sometimes use the basics of a pattern but adjust different lengths, sleeves, cut-outs, etc. Putting in darts can give a boxy garment some shape. To practice your alterations, buy some cheap oversized clothing from a thrift store or yard sale. Play with them, edit them, make them fit you or someone else. You will learn the most from altering already made clothing. This way, if you mess up the garment, you didn’t pay much for it to start.  

Lengthen a pattern piece / Shorten pattern piece

Some sewing patterns have sizing allotments for either lengthening or shortening a paper pattern you are using. Once you have been sewing for quite a while, you will have more of a feel for if you can or can not alter a pattern by either lengthening or shortening. By altering the sewing pattern, you may have to change just more than one part of the sewing pattern.  

Pattern Sewing

Sewing with patterns is a great way to learn more about sewing and increase your sewing skills. Start with small basic patterns and work your way into more complex patterns and designs. Work your way through each pattern step, never skip ahead. Take your time. It will be worth it in the end with your finished sewn project.