Monday, October 14, 2013

So Sew! Day 14: Buying a Pattern

Welcome to day 14 of our 31 Days sewing series! This week we are discussing patterns.

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I’m afraid I don’t have a post chock-full of helpful pictures and information today. As I planned this week's posts, I realized a couple of things about patterns:

1. There are no stores near me that sell patterns. Which makes it hard to get pictures of the process! This lead me to another realization...

2. I haven’t ever bought a pattern since my Grammie was teaching me to sew 10+ years ago. She taught me how to read and purchase patterns, and I’m so glad she did, but over the years I’ve tended towards making things up instead of following a pattern. I do use a handful of patterns, but those are mostly ones I’ve gotten online.

So why am I mentioning it today, then? Well, it is still helpful to know about patterns, and you may not be like me. You may want to do everything by the letter pattern or you might enjoy making clothes. Patterns are helpful for making clothes. =)

So today I am just going to touch on patterns. If you are getting ready to take on your very first sewing project, I recommend that you either find a simple pattern online or purchase one at a store. You will probably feel more confident that way!

To purchase a pattern, you’ll have to head to a store like JoAnn Fabrics. {Help me out - what other stores do you city people have that sell patterns?} There will likely be a long filing-cabinet-looking aisle, with large books on top and stools to sit. This is where you want to head to!

Choose a book of patterns to look through. Each book will be a different brand, like Simplicity or Butterick. The books are organized by item, so there are sections for kids clothes, women’s, men’s, costumes, etc. This makes it easier to narrow down your search!

When you’ve found a pattern you want to consider, take the pattern number from the book and find the corresponding pattern in the filing-cabinet-type drawers. These should be organized and labeled clearly to make your search simple.

Pull out the pattern. Be award that there may be different sizes, so check carefully that you have the correct size! Flip the pattern over and check a couple of different things printed on the back…

Back of the children's pj pattern pictured above.

  • The suggested fabrics. Each pattern will list the fabrics that work best with that pattern. Make sure the fabric you’ll need is compatible with the project you have in mind! If you want a denim skirt, you won’t want a pattern that works best with light-weight materials, for instance.
  • The amount of fabric. How much will you need to purchase for this project?
  • The notions. The pattern will also list the notions that are needed. Check to make sure you have what is needed or the means to purchase what you need.

Back of the misses dress pictured above
If the pattern is for clothing, it will have a list of measurements so you can be sure you are getting a good fit. One pattern will not have all the sizes in one envelope, so be sure you are purchasing the right one!

Some patterns will have different options. This pattern for children's pjs includes, a long and short-sleeved shirt, pants, shorts, and a nightgown all in one pattern.

The different options will be clearly outlined on the back as well.

Once you’ve decided on a pattern, make your purchase! Be sure to pick up the fabric, matching thread and any notions needed.

Tomorrow we are going to open the pattern and learn how to cut out the correct pieces of fabric. Stay tuned!

Challenge: Take a peek at the patterns available in stores in your area. Spend some time browsing through the books and getting familiar with the process, even if you don't currently need a pattern. Do you enjoy looking through them? Do you find yourself using a pattern often, or just making things up as you go along?

Other posts in this series:


  1. I do have a small collection of patterns but patterns tend to confuse me. I seem to do better either making a pattern from a well-fitting skirt or just completely on my own. I have found the easiest patterns to follow are Burda for beginners. Unfortunately, that's also the patterns that never seem to go on sale.

    1. Well of course, the things we really use never go on sale! Patterns can be confusing if you don't know what you are looking at. I guess it is one of those things where practice makes perfect, right? =)

      Thanks for your comment!

  2. One thing that ay be important to note for beginning sewers: check the measurements for sizing carefully. Patterns don't follow the vanity sizing you dp find in stores these days. Your pattern size will likely be larger than your "storebought" size.


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