If you have thought about sewing clothing or done so, then you likely know that you will be using a sewing pattern to make your items.
You may have even looked at patterns either online, maybe a printed pattern you found at a fabric store, or perhaps a vintage pattern that belonged to your grandmother.
All patterns, including Butterick patterns, follow a similar layout, so if you can learn to read a pattern, then you can be ready to get your next piece started.
Learning How to Read a Sewing Pattern
First, you’ll want to read through the instructions to find out what type of material is recommended for the pattern as well as any tips you might be able to use during your project.
Also, pay more attention to the drawn pattern as opposed to the finished photos, because you’ll get a better grasp of what you need to do with the drawings.
Pay attention to the sewing level on the package. If you are a beginner, you’ll want an Easy pattern because there is more information inside this particular type of pattern. If you are an advanced sewer or seamstress, you’ll likely get bored with an Easy pattern.
Choosing the Right Fabric for Your Project
Not every fabric is the right choice for every sewing pattern, and each one will come with a few suggestions for what you should be using.
Especially as a beginner, if you’re just starting out, you want to make sure you select one of the recommended fabrics to use. If the pattern tells you to select a woven fabric but you choose to use a knit fabric, you may or may not like the results.
Get to know the different types of fabrics to identify the differences between cottons, linens, silks, knits, wools, and more. As you expand on your current sewing skill set, you’ll eventually be better able to judge if fabrics can be swapped out for something different.
In the meantime, stick with what the patterns suggest and go from there.
Understanding Fabric Yardage Amounts for Sewing
The patterns will have a suggested amount of fabric you’ll need. In theory, the yardage amounts provided will include pre-wash shrinkage, but that is not always guaranteed. Consider adding about 5%-10% more fabric to your purchase to make sure you have enough.
Something else to keep in mind is that yardage width varies in patterns, so you may have to adjust for that as well.
Before you purchase your fabric, make sure you have measured correctly. Designers do not usually follow typical store sizing, so you will need to decide on the size you need to make based on actual body measurements. Your size may influence the amount of fabric you will need.
Some Sewing Terms You May Not Know
- Notion definition – Notions can be thought of as accessories like buttons or snaps that are sewn on a finished piece. Notions can also include the smaller sewing tools such as pins, thread, seam rippers, and even marking pens. In a sewing pattern, it will usually refer to the accessories that are being added.
- Notch definition – Notches are cut and matched on seams when you go to join the fabric pieces together. They ensure that your pieces will match up correctly when completed.
- Hem definition – Hems are at the bottom of every piece of clothing. Their purpose is to finish pieces and keep clothing from unraveling. The edge of the clothing item is narrowly folded and sewn to complete a clothing item.
- Selvage definition – Selvages are the self-finished edges of fabric that you will see when cutting a piece of fabric from a bolt.
- Bodice definition – The bodice is simply the part of a sewing pattern that goes from waist to shoulder.
- Fabric Grain definition – The grain refers to the way the fibers are woven or knit that run both parallel and perpendicular to the selvage. Tip – look at the grain to get a better end result.
- Bias Line definition – The bias line is the diagonal line that runs 45 degrees from the vertical and horizontal grain lines.
- Woven definition – Fibers crisscross like a basket to create a woven fabric. If you cut along the grain, the fabric is more likely to unravel, but if you cut across the bias, it is less likely to unravel.
- Knit definition – Knit fabrics are basically one continuous thread that is being looped. Consider the way yarn is knit into a scarf and you’ll have an idea of the way the single thread works. This fabric does not fray like a woven fabric, but you may find that the edge curls a bit.
Following the Flow of the Lines
Make sure you read through the entire pattern because you’ll be better able to understand the flow of the design.
Tracing is absolutely necessary if you’re using a traditional style pattern, but if you’re using a PDF pattern, you might be able to get away with just printing, trimming, and taping the sheets together.
Always make sure you identify the correct size lines using the size chart, otherwise, you may end up with an incorrect cut or wrong size altogether. Happy sewing!