follow us on Pinterest like us on Facebook follow us on Twitter    
  home  >  sewing center   >  sewing lessons   >  sewing book  >  chapter 3

beginning sewing

pinterest tell a friend

Table of Contents

Free Sewing Book: Sewing Lessons For Beginners

Chapter Three: Understanding Pattern Instructions


pajam pants pattern Read through all instructions first! It is important that you understand the sequence of assembly. You may not understand a particular step if you do not understrand the whole picture. Be sure you have carefully reviewed all areas of the instructions, from lay-out, to symbol definition, to the sewing instructions themselves.

There are four main areas in the instructions, plus the back of the pattern, and each area is very important.

1. Fabric Lay-out 

The first part of the pattern shows a diagram of recommended fabric lay-out. This is covered more in Chapter Four. 

2. Instruction Symbols 

There are various symbols used throughout the instructions to designate different pieces of fabric. Check this part of the instructions very carefully. You wouldn't want to end up with the top of your collar sewn on wrong side out! The following are some examples. 

fabric symbols

NOTE: Your pattern symbols might be different. Refer to your pattern instructions.

3. Body of Instructions 

This is the area that takes you step by step through the assembly of your project piece. Read through the entire set of instructions before you begin to sew. You may need to read through the entire set of instructions more than once to fully understand them. Look carefully at the diagrams in the instructions. They are very helpful in understanding what is being said. 

NOTE: When sewing, follow the proper sequence of instructions. It is always tempting to skip ahead in any project. However, until you are skilled, it is safest to carefully follow the sequence of contruction laid out for you in your pattern instructions. There is usually a very good reason they have you do one particular step before another. 

4. Pattern Back 
The back of the pattern contains a chart of yardage requirements for fabric and interfacing, and notions (snaps, elastic, etc.). Below is a typical pattern back, showing where information is found.

pattern diagram

The pattern number is 1047. The drawing shows the item(s) included in the pattern. This consists of one skirt style; the pattern includes a total of 5 pattern pieces. The description says that the skirt is pleated and has one pocket that is concealed in the side closure.

The section called "Fabrics" states that this pattern is not suitable for obvious diagonal prints. It lists many types of fabric which can be used. All seem to be medium weight fabric. For success, it is best to choose from suggested fabrics. Always avoid fabrics specifically stated as inappropriate, such as diagonals in this case.

Under sizes, you can see that a 23" waist is a size 6 and a 25" waist is a size 10 (also check hip measurement to be sure the size is correct). What if your body parts are different sizes? Most of us are not perfectly proportioned. In that case, buy the size that most closely fits and adjust as necessary. For a simple skirt, purchase the size that fits your largest measurement and adjust for the smaller measurement. For example if you have a size 6 waist and size 8 hips, purchase a size 8 pattern and adjust the waist as necessary. If the waist contains a waistband, it would be easier to purchase the size that fits the waist and enlarge the pattern for larger hips. Be sure to purchase extra fabric for this.

To find out how much fabric is needed, simply review the next pattern back section. 45" and 60" refers to the width of the fabric. If the fabric you are using is 45" wide, you will need to buy 2 3/8 yard for size 6. If the fabric is 60" wide, you only have to buy 2 yards. Remember to buy extra if you are tall or you have to allow for shrinkage or enlarging the pattern. It is always better to have a bit extra than be a bit short!

You will also need interfacing according to this pattern. 22" to 36" refers to the width of the interfacing. You will need 1.25 yards of light to mid weight. 

Under Notions, you can see that you need thread, a button and a hook & eye closure. Purchase thread to be one shade darker than the background color of the fabric. 

For more information, go to Chapter Two: Choosing Fabric, Pattern, Notions & Thread .

The salesperson can be a tremendous help in choosing proper fabric and notions. Don't hesitate to ask for help!

5. Pattern Pieces and Pattern Symbols 

Fabric Placement Symbols
Directional symbols provide instructions on how the pattern piece is to be laid out on the fabric - with the grain, on the diagonal, against the grain, or in the direction of most stretch. There might also be directions that state that the piece of to be placed on the fold of the fabric. 

Direction is very important because fabric usually has more stretch in one direction than in the other (perpendicular) direction. The double ended arrow depicts the direction of the grain of fabric (it means the arrow will run the direction of least stretch on the fabric). Sometimes, however, this arrow will say "stretch", which means the arrow is to placed in the direction of greatest stretch. This line should be parallel to the edge of the fabric. 

pattern symbols "Place on fold" with arrows pointing to one side means that the side the arrows are pointing to is to be placed right on the folded edge of the fabric. This is used when two halves of a piece are identical. You will end up with one piece of cut fabric whose right side is a mirror of the left side (such as a skirt front). 

If the pattern piece is not cut on the fold, and it is cut all the way around and through two layers, twopieces are created, with one being a mirror of the other. This would be done for a skirt back that must have a center seam to accomodate a center zipper. 

Refer to Chapter Four: Fabric Layout for more information on fabric placement symbols.

pattern symbols Sewing Symbols 
Other symbols assist in lining up pieces that will be stitched together. These marks can either be cut into the fabric, or drawn onto the fabric. Notches are cut OUTWARD from the fabric piece (even though they point toward the seam on the pattern). Dots are drawn onto the fabric. Notches and dots are used to properly align the fabric pieces that will be stitched together. The broken line represents the stitch line. 

Refer to Chapter Four: Cutting Notches for more information on notches.

Quantity Cutting Instructions
The pattern pieces should state how many of a pieces to cut, such as "cut two" or "cut one". Usually "cut two" means two opposite pieces are to be cut. If the fabric is folded, place the pattern piece on top of the folded fabric and cut through both layers of fabric. You will end up with two opposite pieces. Your fabric lay-out instructions will show this in detail.

Refer to Chapter Four: Fabric Cutting for more information on fabric cutting symbols.

alter pant leg Altering Instructions
A straight line with the term "Shorten or Lengthen Here" means this is the area you can shorten or lengthen without changing overall shape of the garment. For example, to shorten a pant leg, fold the pattern piece so that the 2 lines meet. Re-draw the outline of the pant leg as needed. A longer, larger cut pant leg is shown in the following diagram.

To learn how to transfer pattern symbols to fabric, Chapter Four: Marking Fabric.

how to alter pants Visit "Alterations & Tips"
I have excellent free lessons on the website that teach various methods of pattern alteration and pattern making, plus many other valuable tips and techniques. Use my free robe pattern to learn how to change a simple tee shirt pattern into a robe - with buttons and pockets. Use my free pajama pattern to learn how to alter a pajama pattern or create your own pajama pattern. Learn how to shorten a pair of pants, or add a cuff.

Go to: Alteration & Tips to learn how to change a tee shirt pattern into a robe.

I rely on advertising to keep this site free, so please "share" pages with friends. Use Pinterest, Facebook, and email buttons at top of page.

Pattern featured on this page: Pajama Pant Series

Thank you! Relax, get ready, SEW! - Christina Sherrod

Index & Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Introduction
Chapter 2: Fabric, Notions, Pattern & Thread
Chapter 3: Pattern Instructions
Chapter 4: Tools, Layout & Cutting
Chapter 5: Set Up Sewing Machine
Chapter 6: Now We're Sewing - Terms & Techniques
Chapter 7: Pockets
Chapter 8: Zippers & Buttonholes
Chapter 9: Sleeve Installation
Chapter 10: Darts & Pleats
Needle & Thread Chart

All Patterns, images and instructions are copyright protected.
Please read our Terms & Conditions before using our patterns.

craft patterns
craft accessory patterns
Stitch Glossary
free sewing lessons
Sewing Lessons