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Reading a sewing pattern help


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I have patterns that can be bought in craft stores. They are the ones that come in a little white paper envelope-like package and have pages of SUPER thin paper and if you are new to it ... it is one big crazy puzzle that you may as well be reading greek and know how to finish a rubic's cube ???? if you have never worked with paper patterns.


That's me. I dont know...i don't know.

.i dont know.


"You don't know what?", you ask.

1. I dont know how to take all these dotted lines and shapes and make them into something irresistable pictured on the front of the envelope. I don't know how to understand the words and sewing nuances understood to common sewists...remember...I dont read Greek!


2. Where does a person even GO to learn to master this beautiful mess?


Qualifier...i do make quilt tops and quilt it all together, so i know how to sew in that capacity.


Another thing to help you point me in the right and heavenly sewing pattern direction, i like to learn visually then follow up by doing; interactive learning is good for me. Also, i learn well from reading a comprehensive, well-worded, and nicely demonstrated books on the topic being sought out.


Thanks yall! I anticipate very helpful, informative, and sage advise, because I just imagine many of you crocheters are sewists too! It's all SEW good!

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Hmm.  I learned when I was 10, and was making a lot of my clothes by high school.  Of course I learned by being shown how, this was way before the internet. My mother didn't sew, a neighbor lady taught me, and after the initial lesson or 2 I was off and running on my own.   After learning the basics the patterns taught me new techniques and tricks.


Most patterns have a 'general directions' section that should help translate the 'Greek', it shows you what the lines, notches, and dots mean, and how to tell the right and wrong side of the fabric & patterns in the diagrams.  It gives general sewing directions, showing you how to sew a plain seam and how to 'grade' (trim) seams if necessary after sewing (inside a collar for example, to reduce bulk), or trimming the seam a bit if you are sewing a curve.


Dots - these are markers that help you to match up pieces.  The general directions say to 'pin mark' them (on both pieces - remember when you are cutting out you are doing so on a folded piece of fabric unless told otherwise). You might check to see how to do a 'tailor tack' on the internet, it's easier to mark a dot in the middle of the fabric if you are making darts for example (this is how I learned to do it).


Notches - I always cut these so they stick out, so they don't lessen the seam allowance.  Notches are also for matching.  The pattern directions say to snip mark these, but I prefer to not clip the seam allowance except for grading or working around curves - notching outward is more visible and no less work.


Cutting layouts - I hope this is self explanatory.  The pattern pieces are numbered and named, the cutting directions show how to place the pieces on the fabric, with relation to the selvage and fold.  Since you already quilt, I know you know about how important it is to start with squared-off edges (I pull a thread at 1 end, all the way across, and trim on the line the missing thread makes - this can take a while because the thread usually breaks several times, but it's worthwhile).  Be sure you place the pieces that must be cut on the fold, onto the fold of the fabric (this is clearly marked on the pattern pieces, and the pattern layout).


This may be an unnecessary step, but I learned to cut out the pattern neatly, along the lines, before pinning the pattern on the fabric (the pins should be at the edge of the pattern, perpendicular to the pattern edge, points out).  You could just roughly cut them out of the 1 piece of paper, and cut pattern and fabric out along the lines at that step, but I think it's easier to cut the fabric to a trimmed pattern - just my opinion.  Also, the first time I use a new pattern I pin the pattern pieces  together and 'wear' it to check the fit/length).


Sleeves - if there are set-in sleeves, the pattern usually tells you to sew the shoulder & side seam, and the under sleeve seam and then 'set in' the sleeve in a circle.  Unless you are making a jacket or something where the sleeve is in more than 1 vertical piece (and 1 seam doesn't match the placement of the garment's side seam), it's much easier to only sew the shoulder seam, and sew the sleeve head in a flat, curved seam, then sew the side garment + undersleeve seam as 1 long seam (I do this with crochet, too-much easier).  The pattern directions will usually tell you to machine baste the sleeve cap between the dots, in the seam allowance (so won't show after the final seam); this is to help you to 'ease' the seam so it fits properly: ease=gather to just less than the point of puckering.


I'm trying to think of what else...Don't be afraid to hand baste things occasionally, I do that with zippers and when something is especially convoluted, or in danger or not laying flat.  


I have a decades-old soft cover book put out by McCalls ($0.75 and 160 pages, wow) that is really comprehensive.  I'm sure I picked this out at a fabric store, it covers the basics and also advanced tailoring.   You might see if there are any books that look promising at the fabric store, I can't really recommend a 'modern' one. 


As far as a pattern - the first one I did (at 10) was a dress with set-in sleeves, a collar, zipper back.  The easiest thing to start with would probably be a sleeveless (or drop sleeve), collarless pullover top (but you will learn more with a collar, sleeves and closure).  Pick a pattern not designed for knits.

http://www.simplicity.com/misses-tops/8061.html#start=15  -- this is funny, I have had this pattern for several years, the 'model' drawings are the same but they changed the fabrics.  This is an easy pattern, the only closure is the one with the 'tight' neckline.  I'd rate this as easy.

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Back in the day- (1960's) sewing and cooking classes (Home Ec) in school were still mandatory but, I had a great advantage, my grandmother was a professional seamstress and my aunt made clothes too, just as beautiful as Chanel. My point being, if you have access to a local fabric store big or small that gives sewing lessons/classes, and you are able to take some....Do it! You'll save yourself a lot of grief and waste of time and fabric.

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Dear Granny Square,


Wow! The time and consideration put into your response is a appreciated! I will print this out and keep it for my reference but ALSO as a sentimental reminder if the love, care, and consideration people are to have for eachother.


I do like the tops on the pattern link you provided. When that pattern brand goes on sale at local craft shop for a dollar or two, i am going to get it and add to my little collection of purchased patterns that long to be opened and made alive!

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Oh yes! I enjoyenjoy classes and want to take one, but I cannot biget for it now. When I can, then I believe I will! Interactive learning is soooo beneficial. You get extra tips and insights from the instuctor and classmates that would not be gotten otherwise. Oh but i appreciate a good and fitting instructional book too!

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Aw, shucks, you're welcome!  


The book is 'McCall's Step by Step Sewing Book' copyright 1969.  Some of it is a bit antique (the concepts still apply, though).  It starts with picking the right pattern & fabric, then to tailoring the pattern to fit.  It doesn't get to laying the pattern on fabric until chapter 6.  It shows how to do almost anything you might encounter in a garment pattern--but--most of the how-to illustrations look like they came directly from pattern instructions (how to line something, how to set in a sleeve, attach a collar, etc).   I mostly used the book for the tailoring part; for example, for my first lined coat I learned how to do the lining from the pattern, I'd didn't think to consult this book for general lining info.


I think once you work through a pattern and get used to it, it will seem a lot less mysterious.  

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  • 1 month later...

ChatterPatter we are alike, when I see an interesting pattern I buy it, even though I really do not know how to sew clothing! I have a brand new Janome sewing machine, all the goodies like the special "feet" Ive picked up here and there- special sequins feet, edging feet, you name it- I have threads of all colors and thicknesses. I LOVE the idea of being able TO sew, I fantasized about making all of my own high fashion clothing where people would remark Wow, you MADE this??? well.... lol reality is nothing near my mind fantasies. There is a book I just ordered off of Amazon called "The Bishop Method of Clothing Construction"- anything by this "Bishop Method" publication is fantastic, and the prices of the books reflect that (one from 1960s, not a thick book, goes for 191USD used!!!) Ive always wanted this book because it shows you really well how to actually make the clothes, in very simple and instructive ways that make it very easy to understand. Notice how all the GOOD books are really really expensive??? sigh.... darnit


Also- in the patterns themselves just like GrannySquare says they have instructions on what all the symbols mean printed right on it.


Plus- like someone else says, you can make it how YOU want it, and learn off of yourself and mistakes, there is no sewing police going to come and tell you that youve done it wrong << that phrase I stole/copied from one of you ladies lol-maybe Granny Square? not sure lol sorry


I too am going to save GrannySquares informative comment to my computer to look at later for reference :)

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Ironically, my eldest daughter told me she wants to start sewing again and needed a few tips on the pattern explanations but couldn't come out to where I live, so she did a YouTube search and found this video, "How To Read A Sewing Pattern". Daughter got the refresher she needed then sent me the link, then, I thought of your inquiry. There are several more videos by this lady that can be of some "almost" hands on assistance for you or anyone else interested. I look forward to hearing about your progress and have fun.

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