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Reading Pattern Pieces for Sewing/Dress to read a pattern piece for sewing

When you first begin sewing and dress making, and feel you are ready to attempt commercial patterns, you will want the simplest pattern you can find. Pattern companies like McCall's and Simplicity have several beginner patterns. A simple skirt with an elastic band is a great pattern to begin with. Learn how to read a pattern envelope.

Let's take a look at a piece of pattern.  Cut one of your pattern pieces out.  Patterns are printed on thin tissue paper. NEVER throw a pattern away when you are done making your garment.  Place them back in the pattern envelope for future reference and future garments. If you found a skirt pattern that looks awesome on you, you may want to make 3 more in 3 different color fabrics and prints! If your pattern rips, just tape it.  Some people have their favorite patterns that they use over and over again laminated to protect it. Each pattern piece will have a number, name (ei. back bodice), pattern number, pattern company, and will indicate how many you need of that pattern piece.  Example: it may say "Cut one on fold", or "Cut 2."

Notice the thick solid black line which goes along the outside of the pattern.  This is your cutting line. Once your pattern is pinned onto your fabric, this thick line indicates where you need to cut. The broken line on the pattern is your stitching line, or your seam line.  Always cut on the thick black line, the cutting line.  Be precise in your cutting.  If you cut into the line too far, your garment will not fit you.

Also on your pattern pieces you will find an arrow with a straight line.  This is your "straight of grain" line. The arrow must run straight, for more information on this, see our "Pattern layout" page.  It may say place on fold, therefore that line must be placed on the fold of your fabric.  NEVER cut the fold line of the fabric.


Each pattern piece may have "notches."  These are little triangles that need to be cut along with the pattern piece.  They are markings to use for matching up areas when sewing your garment.  Some sewing teachers want you to cut the triangles (notches) inward, and some want you to cut them outwards.  I work with children who so easily can cut too far into their dress, so I prefer that my student cut them out.

Other things that may be on a pattern piece are dots, dart marks, pleats marks, etc.  These areas need to be marked on your garment before you begin to sew.

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