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Don't be scared of the markings on sewing patterns!
This tutorial will help you understand fourteen of the most common markings on sewing patterns. Fully photographed and illustrated, you'll feel a lot more confident about mastering patterns after reading this guide!

Posted by Palindrome Dry Goods Published See Palindrome Dry Goods's 7 projects »
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  • How to sew . Sewcabulary: Fourteen Key Terms For Understanding Sewing Patterns - Step 1
    Step 1

    Seam Allowance: Seam allowance is the amount of fabric between the seam and the raw, or finished, edge of the fabric. In the picture below, the seam allowance is to the right of the seam. Seam allowance will be listed on the instructions for all sewing patterns. For clothing patterns from the 1960's to now, seam allowance is typically 5/8 of an inch. For clothing patterns from the 1950's and older, seam allowance can differ in size. Quilting patterns are almost always 1/4 inch, and craft patterns will vary in size.

  • How to sew . Sewcabulary: Fourteen Key Terms For Understanding Sewing Patterns - Step 2
    Step 2

    Here is the seam allowance marking on your pattern piece.

  • How to sew . Sewcabulary: Fourteen Key Terms For Understanding Sewing Patterns - Step 3
    Step 3

    Selvedge: In woven fabrics, the selvedge is formed where the weft threads loop around the warp threads at the end of the loom to create a finished edge that won't fray. Selvedges run along each lengthwise edge.

  • How to sew . Sewcabulary: Fourteen Key Terms For Understanding Sewing Patterns - Step 4
    Step 4

    Raw Edge: Raw edges are formed perpendicular to the selvedge. This edge, unlike the selvedge, will fray.

  • How to sew . Sewcabulary: Fourteen Key Terms For Understanding Sewing Patterns - Step 5
    Step 5

    Straight Grain: Read number 2. The straight grain runs parallel to the selvedge. Straight grain is crucial in making sure pattern pieces are cut out...well, straight.

  • How to sew . Sewcabulary: Fourteen Key Terms For Understanding Sewing Patterns - Step 6
    Step 6

    In these pictures, notice how I measure from the very edge of the selvedge to the straight grain line on both ends of the line. The measurement must be the same on both ends of the line for your pattern piece to be placed correctly.

  • How to sew . Sewcabulary: Fourteen Key Terms For Understanding Sewing Patterns - Step 7
    Step 7

    ...

  • How to sew . Sewcabulary: Fourteen Key Terms For Understanding Sewing Patterns - Step 8
    Step 8

    Cutting Line: This is the line that you will follow to cut your fabric. For brand new patterns, you will cut through the pattern paper and the fabric. For used patterns, you will cut along the edge of the paper and through the fabric.

  • How to sew . Sewcabulary: Fourteen Key Terms For Understanding Sewing Patterns - Step 9
    Step 9

    Seam Line (Stitching Line): This is the line you will follow when you sew your pieces together. This line will not be transferred onto your fabric, which means that once you remove your pattern pieces, this pattern marking is not helpful. This line is typically the seam allowance's distance from the cutting line. For example, if your seam allowance is 5/8", your seam line will be 5/8" from the edge of the piece you cut from the fabric. Beginning sewists, you will use your needle plate (AKA the throat plate) to measure stay 5/8" from the edge of your fabric piece. (Post coming up about sewing machine parts & pieces, and where to find your throat plate. I'll link it here when it's done!)

  • How to sew . Sewcabulary: Fourteen Key Terms For Understanding Sewing Patterns - Step 10
    Step 10

    Notches: These little diamond shapes are the keys to helping you piece together your fabric pieces. Each notch is numbered and has a coordinating notch with the same number. For example, this picture is a notch on a 'skirt back' pattern piece and there is another notch numbered 16, on the 'skirt front' pattern piece where I will sew them together.

  • How to sew . Sewcabulary: Fourteen Key Terms For Understanding Sewing Patterns - Step 11
    Step 11

    Notches may be singular, or can come in groups of two or three. Two notches will always match to two notches, and three notches will always match to three, etc.

  • How to sew . Sewcabulary: Fourteen Key Terms For Understanding Sewing Patterns - Step 12
    Step 12

    I recommend marking notches with a marking pen.

  • How to sew . Sewcabulary: Fourteen Key Terms For Understanding Sewing Patterns - Step 13
    Step 13

    Some sewists prefer to cut the notches outward, to create triangular shapes off the edge of the fabric.

  • How to sew . Sewcabulary: Fourteen Key Terms For Understanding Sewing Patterns - Step 14
    Step 14

    I don't recommend cutting notches inward. This creates the possibility of cutting too far into the fabric, which could result in a hole in your seam.

  • How to sew . Sewcabulary: Fourteen Key Terms For Understanding Sewing Patterns - Step 15
    Step 15

    Lengthen or Shorten Here: Listen up sewists with long or short torsos! This line is your friend. These are typically on bodice (could be a blouse, jacket, top half of a dress), pant (could be shorts, capris, etc.) and sleeve pattern pieces.

  • How to sew . Sewcabulary: Fourteen Key Terms For Understanding Sewing Patterns - Step 16
    Step 16

    ...

  • How to sew . Sewcabulary: Fourteen Key Terms For Understanding Sewing Patterns - Step 17
    Step 17

    To add length: Cut along the line, and insert whatever amount of extra length you need. Don't forget to add the same amount to both the front and the back pattern pieces.

  • How to sew . Sewcabulary: Fourteen Key Terms For Understanding Sewing Patterns - Step 18
    Step 18

    To shorten: Fold along this line and take up the desired amount. Don't forget to subtract the same amount to both the front and the back pattern pieces.

  • How to sew . Sewcabulary: Fourteen Key Terms For Understanding Sewing Patterns - Step 19
    Step 19

    Small, Medium or Large Dots: Much like notches, these dots help you to piece your pattern together properly, and sew seams in the correct places. These dots are common for sleeve placement, collar placement, and to match the bottom of zipper placement, to name a few. You will mark these on your fabric using chalk or a marking pen.

  • How to sew . Sewcabulary: Fourteen Key Terms For Understanding Sewing Patterns - Step 20
    Step 20

    Darts: Darts are structural elements that allow the fabric to conform to body contours and curves. Darts are most common at the bust, but may also be found at the waist, hips, and elbows.

  • How to sew . Sewcabulary: Fourteen Key Terms For Understanding Sewing Patterns - Step 21
    Step 21

    Firstly (below) mark the dots along the dart lines, being sure that your marking pen bleeds through to the backside of the fabric, or if you're using chalk, mark on both sides of the fabric.

  • How to sew . Sewcabulary: Fourteen Key Terms For Understanding Sewing Patterns - Step 22
    Step 22

    Then, fold the fabric right sides together, iron, and pin through the dots.

  • How to sew . Sewcabulary: Fourteen Key Terms For Understanding Sewing Patterns - Step 23
    Step 23

    Lastly, 'connect the dots', forming a sharp point at the end of the dart. Mark and sew along the line you draw.

  • How to sew . Sewcabulary: Fourteen Key Terms For Understanding Sewing Patterns - Step 24
    Step 24

    Below: a finished dart from the outside.

  • How to sew . Sewcabulary: Fourteen Key Terms For Understanding Sewing Patterns - Step 25
    Step 25

    Here is a dart finished dart from the inside, with dart pressed, and not pressed.

  • How to sew . Sewcabulary: Fourteen Key Terms For Understanding Sewing Patterns - Step 26
    Step 26

    Ease: Ease is the difference between the actual finished garment measurements, and the standard body measurements on the back of a pattern envelope. This 'extra room' allows you to move around in your finished garment. For example, a blouse pattern envelope may say that the bust measurement for a size 6 is 32", but when you make the pattern, the blouse bust will measure 34". I could write a two-page post on ease, how it has become out-of-control on new patterns, and how to correct it (and maybe I will...) but for now, I'm going to recommend you to this sewists's blog for more help with correcting and calculating ease.

  • How to sew . Sewcabulary: Fourteen Key Terms For Understanding Sewing Patterns - Step 27
    Step 27

    Ease is also sometimes denoted by a circle with two perpendicular lines through it. These markings are found at the bust, waist, hip, and bicep to name a few. Below the marking are the sizes, followed by the finished garment measurements. The below picture shows the ease at the bicep placement on a sleeve pattern piece. Size 6 measures 10 7/8", size 8 measures 11 1/8, etc.

  • How to sew . Sewcabulary: Fourteen Key Terms For Understanding Sewing Patterns - Step 28
    Step 28

    Place on Fold: Typically denoted by a curved line with arrows at the end, the "place on fold". The "fold" being the edge of the fabric, opposite from the selvedges, where you have folded it in half. When a pattern piece is cut out on the fold of the fabric, it creates a mirrored fabric piece (see third photo down for an example). Be sure not to cut the fold line!

  • How to sew . Sewcabulary: Fourteen Key Terms For Understanding Sewing Patterns - Step 29
    Step 29

    ...

  • How to sew . Sewcabulary: Fourteen Key Terms For Understanding Sewing Patterns - Step 30
    Step 30

    Here is a piece cut on the fold, unfolded to show the result. Note that the fabric is not cut at the fold line, and should not be cut there.

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Comments

Treesa M.
Treesa M.
I love this. I am just returning to sewing after many years of wishing I had time. Now I am making the time. Thank you for writing this tutorial. I needed the refresher. Love

Reply
Lucy C.
Lucy C. · Barnstaple, England, GB
Brilliant help, thanks you x
Palindrome Dry Goods
Palindrome Dry Goods · 7 projects
Thank you for commenting, Lucy! So glad you found it helpful. There's always more tutorials being added at www.palindromedrygoods.com Please feel free to comment with any questions.
Reply