Understanding And Following Instruction
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.
What Does It All Mean?
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.
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
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
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 1/4 yard 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.
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.
"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.
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.
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.
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 shortened boot cut
pant leg is shown on the right.
To learn how to transfer pattern symbols to fabric, refer to Chapter Four Marking Fabric.
We have excellent free patterns that teach various methods of pattern alteration and pattern making. Use our free robe pattern to learn how to create your own robe pattern out of a simple tee shirt pattern. Use our free pajama pattern to learn how to alter a pajama pattern or create your own pajama pattern. The image on the right is from our free pajama pattern and shows how to enlarge and lengthen the pant leg.