Monday, 2 June 2014


A few Saturdays ago, at work, I had to give a demonstration/talk about " How to Choose a Pattern for Sewing." " How to Read and Use a Sewing Pattern". Plus " How to choose and buy fabric". 

Jarvis wearing brown cord sarouels

It was aimed at the true beginner, entry level sewist. Here is the second presentation from that day. 

Selecting a pattern
If you are just beginning to sew for yourself, choose a relatively simple pattern. Something that is simple in style, not too fitted and without fancy details is a good starting point. Lounge pants with elasticized waists, smock style tops, or A-line skirts could be a good choice. Have a look at the pattern photos and/or illustrations and the line drawings that accompany it, checking both the front and back views.

Tips for size selection
You need to measure yourself before you decide what size pattern to buy. Commercial patterns are sized quite differently to ready-to-wear clothes.

Pattern envelope front
The pattern front generally includes an illustration and/or photo of the finished garment, often in a few variations which can all be made from the same pattern.

Pattern envelope back
The back of the pattern envelope usually has a line drawing of the back of the garments. Some patterns will have a written description of the garment. Body measurements and finished garment measurements are usually printed on the back of the pattern envelope, in addition to the amount of fabric needed to make the garment.

Also be aware that most patterns have instructions written on one side in English, however on this side the measurements are normally in inches and yards for American consumers. In Australia we measure and cut in centimetres so you will need to flip over to the French side and get the correct fabric lengths there. This is easy to do, read the English side first and then the French will just be the same instructions.

There will also be a list of suitable fabrics; this is important! Patterns are designed for particular types of fabric weights, drape, weave, thickness, and stretch, so it is essential to choose an appropriate fabric for the pattern in order to maximize your chances of getting a good result. Patterns designed for light to mid-weight woven cottons are a great place to start when you’re beginning to sew. The pattern envelope back also has information about notions; these are the extra things that you’ll need in order to make the garment, like thread, buttons, elastic, zips, trim, etc.

Pattern instruction sheet
Before you get out your scissors and pins, read through the pattern instructions! Most patterns start off with line drawings of the front and back of the garments, in all the views included in the pattern. There is usually an illustration of the pattern pieces, with each piece numbered and identified.
General sewing instructions follow, then a cutting layout.
Choose the layout appropriate for the size you are making, and the width of the fabric that you have chosen. It might be worth highlighting which layout you need to use.
Read through each step of the sewing process. Try to visualize what you’ll be doing. If there are different views included in the same pattern, highlight each step that you are going to follow for the view that you have chosen.
A few Saturdays ago, at work, I had to give a demonstration/talk about " How to Choose a Pattern for Sewing." " How to Read and Use a Sewing Pattern". Plus " How to choose and buy fabric". It was aimed at the true beginner, entry level sewist. Not only did I have to overcome my fear of public speaking, I had to ensure the correct information was given. Here is the second presentation from that day.

Pattern pieces
Pattern pieces are normally printed on tissue paper. Identify and cut out each pattern piece that you need to make the view you have chosen. Use paper scissors, not your good fabric scissors! You can cut these out roughly outside the outer marked line of each pattern piece.

Pattern markings
Grainlines: Fabric is woven from horizontal and vertical threads. The grainlines are marked on the pattern with long double-ended arrows. These need to be aligned with the vertical threads in the fabric. The cutting layout takes the grainlines into account when showing you how to place the pattern pieces.

Sewing Lines and Seam Allowances: The seam allowance is generally included in the pattern piece, so that the marked line is the cutting line. The sewing line isn’t marked, but is usually 5/8” in from the edge of the pattern piece. The cutting line is printed differently for each size.
Notches: These are the little triangle shapes on the pattern piece. They should be cut outwards when you come to them. They are important points where pattern pieces will be matched together.
Dots and Squares: Mark dots and squares onto the fabric with thread tacks or with a fabric marking pen or pencil or chalk (choose something that isn’t permanent). Once again, these are important points where pieces will be matched together or where stitching will need to start or finish.

Other Markings: Transfer the outlines of darts, pleats or other markings to the fabric pieces with thread tacks or with a fabric marking pen or pencil or chalk (once again, choose something that isn’t permanent).


  1. Jarvis looks so different with brown hair !!! the lighting makes his hair look black all the time.

    What a great presentation, so clear and easy to understand ,I wish I had such basic advice when I was starting.
    As a novice I started out ignoring the triangles and dots, and when it came to more difficult garments they are needed..... I found out the hard way. One tip I would add, is press all seams as you go, it makes a big difference to the finished look and sew at a medium speed, fast sewing can pucker your work, ruin your tension and break the thread, all very frustrating when you are on a creative spree.

    Making your own and your family's clothes etc. is so great for your self esteem, it encourages you to tackle lots of other different projects, with a "can do" attitude.

  2. Ironing is the one big sin I do in regards to sewing. I have never owned an iron. I know! I know sewing looks so much better if you press the seams. I just hate ironing.

    Jarvis's hair can range from a caramel through to dark brown. I think it depends on the season and the light.

  3. Trudie Bristow3 June 2014 at 02:23

    I so need this pot.

  4. Pot? Haha, you are a tired Mum of three aren't you?

  5. Trudie Bristow4 June 2014 at 08:54

    Yes, yes I am some times lol.


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