Beginners guide to using commercial dressmaking patterns

Monday, November 14th, 2016

When you first start using patterns it may seem a little confusing, but like everything, the more experience you get the easier it will become – but you have to start somewhere, so find a pattern marked ‘easy’ or ‘great for beginners’ and get stuck in. Here I’ve given a bit of insight into what you can expect.

Commercial patterns tend to have three main parts – the envelope, the instructions and the pattern tissue or paper.

The envelope contains a raft of information including the pattern number and photos or illustrations of the garment and the different variations available (usually called views) – all of which are included in the one pattern.

The pattern envelope

The back of the envelope contains all the information you need to prepare for you project and should be studied before you buy any fabric. You’ll find the following on the back:

Suggested fabric:

This will tell you what the designer recommends you use and also gives advice on plaids, stripes and napped fabrics. There tends to be a number of options so you can choose something that suits your style or needs.

Fabric quantity chart:

This tells you how much fabric to buy, based on the width of the fabric and the size you’re going to make. It will also tell you what lining and interfacing you require and how much. Ask for help from the shop assistant if you’re unsure.

Notions required:

These are the buttons, ribbons, bias binding and anything else you need to complete the garment.

Finished garment measurements:

This section tells you the measurements of the garment at various points – hipline, bust etc. once the garment is finished, If this isn’t included on the envelope or pattern instructions, it will be on the pattern tissue instead. Make sure you’ve measured yourself before you buy then you can buy the right pattern for your size.

Inside the pattern envelope

The instructions will contain illustrations or drawings of all views and also pattern piece diagrams to show you what pieces you need and what they look like. Each piece is numbered and it will tell you what numbers you’ll use for the particular garment you’re making.

You will also have diagrams of the cutting layout – how to place the pattern pieces on the material – this helps get all them all on in the most fabric economical way.

On each pattern piece you’ll see instructions on how many of each piece you need and whether you also need that particular piece cutting out of interfacing or lining as well as the main fabric.

You will find all the information you need on how to make your garment on the instruction sheets – glossary of terms, list of pattern pieces, measurements, and of course step-by-step guides to making the garment. Many patterns also have sewalongs online and the information for these will also be on the instruction.

 If in doubt, take the pattern into your local shop as the assistants will be more than happy to help – at Sassy Sewing we’ll give you all the help and advice you need.




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