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how to read the instructions of a pattern

Now when I first started teaching myself how to sew I, one, could never think that I could do it, two, wanted to cry looking at patterns. They can get so confusing at times and if you're that person that is thinking to yourself right now 'ohhhh patterns are so easy' 'how about you make your own pattern' than you my friend are a meanie. Everyone needs to start at ground zero and work their way up.

So here it is!  A simple tutorial for the first step (decoding the instructions) on how to make a garment from a pattern!

1) Patterns usually come with options, pick the garment/size you choose to construct from that pattern. Remember that because most patterns come with multiple options that each option requires different amounts of fabric. If you're not sure how to find that information out click here, I help you though that step.

For this pattern I chose jacket A, and went with the shorter length.

2) Read through the instructions to find out what pattern pieces you'll be needing for this garment and cut them out in the size that you're trying to make. The number on bottom of the cut line will represent the size you're cutting out.

Pro Tip: If you wish to save all your sizes out of the pattern like I do see this easy tutorial.

Here's a better picture about the number close to the line for cutting. You can see the left hand side has a pattern and numbers below it, each of those numbers is the size you're cutting for.

3) Read (or at least go over) General Directions. This is a key to symbols you'll need when cutting your fabric. Whether to cut on a fold, or cut on the bais, etc.

Pro Tip: You'll see little triangles along the cut line, these are called Notches (as stated in the General Directions). Notches are 'points of reference' to make sure when sewing you're lining up your garment properly. Over the years I have found that marking these with chalk or a marking pen has been alot easier then cut out notches.

Pro Pro Tip: If you do decide to cut out notches make sure your cutting on the access fabric and not into your pattern piece.

Here's and example on how the General Directions can be helpful. See how many symbols on these pattern pieces you can match up. Yes, this is kinda a half-way quiz and yes, I'm cheesy like that.

4) After you have spent lots of painstaking time to cut out all our pattern pieces find your garment letter (mine was A) on the suggested layout of the fabric you'll be cutting on. Don't forget to look at the lining and the 'shell' or 'front' of the garment.

For mine I had to cut the below pieces of the lining.

and these were the pieces for the shell.

Now that we have the basic know how on how to read the pattern instructions, lets get cutting!


  1. This is amazingly helpful, I always get so confused trying to read these!! Haha x

    1. thank you! there have been many times I have wanted to throw patterns out the door.