Why bother reading sewing patterns envelopes and not just look at the pictures


When I started sewing many years ago, first Prima magazine… another story, there were not many pattern companies, now we are really spoilt for choice.

The basic rules of reading the pattern do not change no matter which pattern you want to use, as this will prevent you from making mistakes and time isn’t wasted, ultimately the  garment fits you and does not end up in that “to be sorted later pile”

Firstly always read the pattern, I realise that this sounds very basic but there is a lot of information on the pattern package. We often just look at the size we need to buy, more about this later. We often skip the garment description as we have seen the picture, we like it so we do not read this section, this is a major mistake as this will tell you how the garment has been constructed. On Vogue patterns for example in this section, it will tell you the basic fit of the garment whether it is loose, fitted or semi-fitted. If I tell you that loose fitting can be up to 8 inches/ 20cm of ease this might influence the size that you purchase. This box will also tell you if the garment fits on the waist or below the waist, above the knee, below the knee, side zip, back zip, pockets and techniques involved to construct the garment.

Then we need to read the fabric suggestions, this is another area that we skip. We have seen a fabric we like and think “it’ll be fine”, please, please check if it really will be fine. If I could have £1.00 for every person that has come into the shop and told me of a fabric/pattern choice disaster I would be on a yacht sailing around the Greek islands for the summer. I really do understand that we get so excited at the prospect of creating the garment of our dreams we forget simple checks. The fabric list has been put together by the designer, which can also mean that they have tried it in other fabrics and the design did not work, this advice is what you are paying for when you buy the pattern, not just the tissue bits inside. If you are unsure of what “charmeuse” or “broadcloth” is, then ask in the shop.

Body measurements versus finished garment measurements, this is related to the previous section. We do get very hung up on what size we are, please try and look past the number 14 or 20, we want to achieve a garment that fits, the size you cut is between you and your scissors. Take the body measurements as a rough guide to what size pattern to purchase, but when you get the pattern home before you cut anything out look at the finished garment measurements.Get the tape measure out and check your measurements against these. Do not hold the tape tightly around your body, hold it where you want the garment to fit, remember you need to breathe, eat, drink, sit down, walk stairs, bend, lift stretch and carry things whilst wearing this garment, so the tape needs to be loose and comfortable. Compare these measurements with those “finished” measurements on the pattern and cut to those.

Look at the fabric requirements, do check the with “nap” without “nap” section. Patterns will often have both imperial and metric, narrow and wider widths. It may be necessary to purchase more fabric if you are planning to make alterations ie: lengthening the sleeve or the hem, or if the fabric needs to be pattern matched ie; stripes.

Finally the notions always worth a quick check as there is nothing more infuriating than having your planned sewing time interrupted because you haven’t enough thread, a zip, interfacing or elastic.

Happy sewing, until next week

Sandra x

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