Learning How to Read a Sewing Pattern

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Learning how to read a sewing pattern involves recognizing the various symbols that are used, as a solid black line represents a cut line, a dotted line indicates a sewing line and a V-shaped notch illustrates where two pieces of a pattern match up. Read sewing patterns correctly for the best finished result with instructions from a sewing craftsman in this free video on sewing.

Part of the Video Series: Sewing Machine Techniques
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Video Transcript

Hi, my name is Sam Lewis from madebysam.com and I'm here to help you learn to read a sewing pattern. There are actually only a very few signs on a sewing pattern and there are two that you need to know before anything else. First one is big solid black line. That's whats called a cut line. There will frequently be, if you have multi-size pattern, several of them in a row. Make sure that you know which one you want to cut on and cut on the same all the way around the pattern. After that, the next most important thing to be aware of a sewing line, which is a dotted line. That's the line on which you're actually supposed to be sewing. Some patterns you'll see this inside your seam allowance from an outside line. In some cases you'll see darts will be called out in the dotted line. And in some cases there'll be decorative stitching that's caught up in the dotted line. After that, the next most important thing to be aware of, excuse me, are notches. Notches are called out either, just with a V on the inside of the pattern or with an open V on the inside of the pattern. That's just a matter of which sewing company put out the pattern. When you run across one of these it is to mark where two different patterns are supposed to line up. Usually you'll find these on curves, so that you'll be sure that any given pattern lines up all the way along the length of it. To mark the V you can either just cut a little bit inside your seam allowance, or a little safer is to cut outside your seam allowance, or you can just mark with ink or chalk or whatever you're outlining with on the fabric itself. Be aware and be consistent. Now on long curves where you to need to match up several points, there will not be a simply one, it'll be two, three, even four, and they may have different shapes. Be, mark these the same way as you did the first one, and be sure that you mark up the single with the single, the double with the double. After that, another important thing to be aware of is a solid line, or a dotted line, that has a line and double arrows on it. That indicates a fold mark. When you're cutting your pattern, you'll want to cut to this line, but when you're laying it out on fabric you want to put this line on a fold in the fabric, because this is meant, shows a half way mark in a pattern. So if you don't, if you cut out to this line, then you won't have the double pattern and you won't have any seam allowance to fix it. So be aware of the double arrows. Always put that on folded fabric. A long line with an arrow on either side of it indicates the grain of the fabric. So sometimes it's not, it's not particularly important on a given piece of pattern which way it lines out and you won't see this. Frequently it is important because the grain of the fabric defines how the garment will lay on you. So if you have the grain going the wrong direction it's not going to sit right. So pay attention to that. Always lay it out. And the grain generally speaking on fabrics is going to be parallel to the long length of the fabric. So you'll have two finished edges on the side and that's, would, determines the length or width of the fabric, your grain will be along between those two lines. The final thing to be aware of is a dot. There are two things a dot can be used to call out. One of them is where you begin stitching. Some patterns it makes a difference where you start and where you stop. If it's got a dot, do it there and stitch along it. Dot, depending on the pattern company, can also be used to call out something like a snap, or some sort of fastener, or possibly some point on the interior of a piece of fabric that needs to match to another piece as opposed to being a notch on the edge you'll have a dot in the center to line up. And that is the basics of how to read a pattern.


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