How to Use a Sewing Pattern – The #1 Mystery Explained!

How to Use a Sewing Pattern – The #1 Mystery Explained!

Hello! Are you wondering how to use a sewing pattern? Does it all look like gibberish to you? Well you have come to the right place.

In this article I will show you all off the parts of the seeing pattern and break it down into easy steps. It took me years to figure out how to sew a pattern. Mainly because I taught myself to sew and had no idea what I was doing. I was also overwhelmed with the patterns and sewing was just a hobby for me.

Maybe I just didn’t have the confidence. I would see cool patterns at Walmart or Joanns and buy them but then they would just sit around my sewing machine un touched.

The first pattern I actually sort of figured out was this baby outfit pattern that came with a head band. I made it for my daughter when she was maybe 6 months or sew. Lol.

I also made some little bloomers for her before she was born but she never wore them because the leg holes were too small. Then, when she was 1 I started making her a dress but got bored and frustrated and busy so I stopped. My point is, patterns are difficult! It takes a special kind of person who is patient enough to get through an entire sewing pattern. YOU are that person! So let’s get started!

How to Use a Sewing Pattern – The Outside of the Pattern

For this example I am using Simplicity pattern # 1453. The front of the pattern has the different styles that are inside the pattern. This one has a hat, a dress, shorts, a shirt and pants in 2 different styles for each garment. At the top of the pattern it shows the sizes you are able to make with the pattern. This one is girls’ sizes 3-8.

The back of the pattern has a lot of information. At the top, it tells you the type of fabric you can use to create the outfit. Next is shows you what notions you need, such as thread, how many buttons, elastic, etc.

The following section shows the body measurements for each size. You can measure your body by chest, waist, hips, back-neck to waist, and approximate height. This will help you know which size to choose in the pattern.

You can also mix and match sizes if you are careful. My daughter is about a 3 on the top and the rest of her body is like a size 5. I chose to do all of the pieces as size 5 because I had never made this before. BUT I regret it because it looks big on her at the top. So if you measure as a 3 in the chest, go with the size 3 in the pattern for that part. Don’t make the mistake I did!

Next it shows you how many yards of fabric you need for each piece. Make sure you have enough of each contrasting color so you don’t run out.

So, in summary on the back you will find:

  • Type of fabric needed
  • Notions needed
  • Sizes available in the pattern
  • Size measurements
  • How many yards of fabric needed

That’s about it for the outside of the pattern. Next we will check out the inside!

How to Use a Sewing Pattern – The Inside of the Pattern

The Instructions

The paper in the pattern that looks like newsprint, is the instructions. The front page is going to have several definitions and things to take into consideration while sewing. Its a good idea to read everything first. That way, it will all sink in.

Cutting Layouts

So the first thing you are going to have to do is cut the fabric. There are instructions for cutting the fabric, yay! They tell you which pieces to cut on a fold and which pieces to cut on the edges. The layouts here are good to go by because you will get the most out of your fabric if you follow these guides. Less waste is always good, am I right??

Each piece is numbered, so for example the first dress on the front is Dress A. The image above shows the cutting instructions for Dress A. The other papers in the pattern that look like tissue paper are the pieces. Each piece is numbered so you can find it and cut it for your dress.

how to use a sewing pattern

This next page here shows some more cutting layouts. This is where it starts to get confusing. The top part is still dress A, which is kind of hard to tell, but I figured it out because the next 2 sections say B and C. Then the layout for the interfacing is shown. That is just a layer that goes inbetween the fabric to give it more shape and thickness…at least that is what I think it is for!

The Pattern

The tissue paper stuff is the actual pattern. You will pin it on top of your fabric and cut your pieces. Each piece is labeled with a number and has a description of what it is. This one is # 6, the skirt back. It is being cut on the fold of fabric. So that means this is just half of the piece and when you unfold it, you will have the whole piece, after it is cut.

How to Use a Sewing Pattern Without Cutting It

Patterns cost money, so any frugal person is going to want to know how to use a sewing pattern without cutting it. Well you are in luck! There is a way to use a sewing pattern without cutting it.

Well I still cut the pattern out, but I don’t cut into the pieces regarding the sizing. This way you can re-use the pattern all you want and the pieces are still cut out so they are easy to handle. To mark the sizing all you have to do is fold the pattern along the correct size line and mark it with chalk on the fabric. You can use fabric chalk, but I just found some kid’s chalk lying around and used that. Any chalk will do! Just fold along the correct size and mark with chalk. That is how to use a sewing pattern without cutting it.

There are also dots and notches you need to mark with the chalk too. If you look at the little circles at the bottom of this piece, those need to be marked. They are numbered by the size, so if you are doing size five mark the #5 circle. The triangle marks will need to be marked and cut out. You actually are supposed to cut the triangles out backwards – outwards instead of inwards (I think). Not sure how I figured that out, but the notches help you figure out where to line up the fabric while you are sewing. At least that is how I have been cutting them.

Here is one of the dots I marked from the pattern. You might want to use better chalk to mark the dots because this chalk rubbed off and I wasn’t sure where the dots went. Sometimes the dots need to be on the reverse side of the fabric, so its good to put them on both sides if you are unsure.

Here is an example of a piece that needs to be cut for the interfacing. The pattern tells you how many you need to cut of the fabric and how many you need to cut of the interfacing. This one is 2 of each, so you will have 4 pieces total. A handy trick is to fold the fabric and cut 2 at a time so you don’t have to cut each one, one by one.

The arrow on this piece tells you which way the fabric needs to run if you have a pattern. So it should run vertical according to the arrow. I was confused by the arrows at first, but just make sure when they are on your fabric that they are pointing up and down while the pattern is up and down. If you are using solid colors or a pattern that doesn’t have a top and bottom, then you don’t have to pay any attention to the arrows.

I totally forgot why I took this picture, but here it is.

The Actual Sewing Instructions:

I don’t have a photo here, but after you cut all of the fabric, you will see on the following pages, the instructions regarding how to sew the pieces together. You should follow the instructions step by step in order. There will be instructions for each separate piece. There will be a diagram for each step to help you visualize the steps. LOOK AT THE DIAGRAMS! Sometimes I think, ok that diagram is wrong, but really I AM WRONG. Look at the diagrams and read the step again until it clicks. I like to read all of the instructions first before I start so I get an idea of the entire process and see if there are any problems I am going to run across or words I don’t understand. There are is a lot of sewing jargon that you will run into. It helps to have a phone nearby so you can google stuff like basting, slip stitching, etc.!

Conclusion – How to Use a Sewing Pattern

Here is the ALMOST finished dress! I still need to add the buttons, but its pretty close to the actual thing. Hopefully this helped you learn how to use a sewing pattern. If you have any questions, let me know in the comments! Good luck! Looking for more fun and easy sewing projects? Check out my tutorial and pattern on how to sew a face mask.

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