Crafty Sew & So break down sewing pattern envelopes to help new-starters and beginners to sew their own garments! Let’s get stuck in…
Using sewing patterns is a great starting point when learning to sew your own clothes. The patterns are designed and drafted ready for you to use, and companies like Crafty Sew & So provide tons of advice and support to help you sew your first garment with confidence! Once you have picked out the pattern you want to make, the first step is reading – and understanding- the information on the pattern envelope. Let me guide you through all the useful things you will find, so you can move on to the next steps of your project. Not all envelopes will be the same layout, but they should all include the same information once you know what to look for.
The first thing to note is that these are quite a lot of different pieces of information on the pattern envelope. You will see the sizes for body measurements, and sometimes you will see the finished garment measurements too; you’ll find recommendations for the kinds of fabrics to make the garment in and the amount of fabric required for the different sizes. Plus, you’ll find drawings of the possible variations and any haberdashery required. If you are using a pattern from one of the major sewing companies, you might also find all this information in French or Spanish.
All this can be very overwhelming, so I’m going to break it all down for you – so you know what information you need, when you need it and how to use it.
CRAFTY SEW & So
The Drawings (Technical Images)
The technical drawings allow you to see the design details of the garment that might not be clear on the sample photos. You can easily see where things like the darts fit, if pockets are included and where you will need to put any ‘fastenings’ (zips, buttons, hooks) on the garment. The technical drawings will also show you the variations included in the pattern, for example any options for necklines or skirt styles.
These technical drawings should be fairly accurate but they will only be in one size so I find its best to use both them and the finished garment photos to get a clear idea how a garment will look once it’s been made up.
CRAFTY SEW & So
The measurements on the back of the envelope will be for your body measurements and also the finished measurements of the garment when it is finished. These are both important measurements but you will use them in different ways.
You will need to take accurate body measurements when sewing for yourself – not too tight and not too lose. When you’ve got your measurements you will find the pattern size which is closest to them to determine which size you will need to cut out to sew. Often people fall between sizes, this is very normal, the solution is to grade between sizes using a pencil and a curved line to draw on your new cutting line.
It’s important to understand that your dressmaking size will not be the same as your high street size, and may even vary between pattern companies. This is why we’ve lost the normal 8-22 sizes on our patterns and use 1-8, to make you measure yourself and determine which size you’ll need to cut.
The ‘finished garment measurements’ are there to give you an idea of how the garment will fit once it’s made up. The difference between the two measurements is called the ‘ease’ and is very important. A pattern with lots of ease (+4”) will be loose fitting. A pattern with a small amount of ease (+1-3”) will be close fitting. A garment with little (1”) or negative ease (-1 to 0”) will be tight fitting (eg a swimming costume). The modelled image on the front of the packet should give you an idea of the fit intended by the designer.
CRAFTY SEW & So
Fabrics and Notions
The ‘recommended fabrics’ listed on the pattern will guide you to which types will give the finished garment the intended style. Some suit woven fabric, some are drafted for stretch jersey. If you are a beginner it is especially to follow the advice from the designer so you’re not struggling with the wrong fabric. It is so disheartening to spend hours on a project but not like the finish because of the fabric you’ve chosen.
If you’re not sure, have a word with your fabric seller. An experienced sewer will be able to help you choose something perfect.
You will also see the ‘fabric requirements’ on the back of the envelope. This tells you the quantity of fabric needed for your pattern. This can vary on a pattern depending on size you make, the version you choose and the width of the fabric. Buy at least the amount suggested on the back of the envelope, it’s not worth running out if you make a mistake!
Fabric comes in roughly two widths, 110cm/44” wide and 150cm/60” wide. There will be some slight variation on the roll, but don’t worry, you can round up or down by a few centre meters for the widths without making a difference to the project length.
Before you leave the fabric shop, make sure to grab any ‘notions’ listed on the back of the envelope too! ‘Notions’ are things like buttons, zips, elastics and any trims you may need. You don’t want to get all the way home and realise you’ve forgotten something important.