Patterns dont have to be so scary, here are some handy tips



I can honestly hand on heart call myself a pattern geek! I just can’t get enough of them.  But for a beginner this can be quite daunting, I have come up with a few tips that might help take the anxiety away… I hope!

Different sewing patterns that are available.


There are 2 different sorts of patterns available.


1.    The paper pattern, this is more a traditional type. They generally come as printed tracing paper, folded into an envelope (which is near impossible to get back in with out having the skill of origami!)

2.    Digital pdf patterns. These can be bought over the Internet and downloaded onto your computer in a pdf format. These tend to include various files, the instructions, (printed at A4 or going green, keeping them on your screen) on option of the pattern on A4 that can be printed on a standard printer at home. This can be a little time consuming, as every page will need to be cut out and stuck together using sticky tape!!. Finally an A0version that could be sent to copy shop for printing.

Why do we need a sewing pattern?


A sewing pattern is a guide to sew something at a desired size. It includes the flat pieces that are drawn onto paper that can then be transferred to fabric to create the sewn shape you intend to sew!  


It will include various sizes including your own, which can be deterred from a size guide detailed in the instructions. The instructions will guide you to assemble the pieces together and in the correct order. It will also (usually) include a small key about techniques that you will need to sew the item.


For example, a sewing pattern for a simple t-shirt will include 4 pieces, the front and back pieces, these will appear as half the t-shirt length ways as this part of the pattern will be placed on the fold oft he fabric. Thus ending with a symmetrical front and back piece! An arm piece and the neckband. It will also come with an instruction guide how to sew all the pieces together.


Sewing patterns tend to include various sizes, these are represented using different line colours or different style of lines in a nest that you can directly cut out or trace.

Seam allowance.


Most patterns come with a seam allowance included, and the exact amount is added to the instructions, so you are aware of this when sewing the pieces together. This is usually a 1,2cm extra amount added to the edges of the pattern. When constructing the garment this is the amount that will be sewn and hidden inside the garment (seams.)

 If your pattern doesn’t come with a seam allowance, this is not a problem. When tracing out the pattern pieces, you will need to make sure you add at least a 1cm all the around each pattern piece, apart from the part of the pattern that will be cut on the fold.


How to cut out a sewing pattern.

You can either cut the pattern pieces directly from the printed pattern, or as I like to do, trace the pattern pieces I need and then cut them out. When working like this you need to make sure you copy ALL markings, all notches, button positions, grain lines (this shows you which direction to lay the pattern piece on the fabric) and darts.

How to transfer the pattern pieces to the fabric.

 Once you have ALL pieces needed to make the garment, I always double count them according to the construction booklet. You will need to lay the pieces onto the fabric. More often than not, a layout plan will also be included in the instructions with the best way to lay the pattern out on the fabric length, optimising the fabric usage.

Please note here that its important to lay the pieces using the grain line. This line (found on all pattern pieces ) dictates which direction the piece should sit on the fabric. The grain line will always run parallel to the selvedge edge.

I tend to use the layout plan, and then wriggle my pieces around to make sure I’m saving as much fabric as possible. If you like jigsaws, this will be perfect for you!

In most cases, and when the garment is symmetrical, you will have to fold the fabric lengthwise and right sides together, putting the selvedges (edges of the fabric) together, in order to cut the fabric on 2 layers.


There are exceptions though: 

Some pieces require to be cut once;

Some pieces have to be cut on the bias; 

When the fabric is very thin or unstable or both (the worst), it’s better to cut on one layer; 

Once we know how the pattern pieces have to be laid out on the fabric, they have to be pinned onto the fabric and the fabric can then be cut.If you have any difficulties or questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me…

basic T-shirt pattern layout