How to Read a Sewing Pattern Envelope

How to Read a Sewing Pattern Envelope

Learning how to read a sewing pattern envelope is the first step in sewing a garment. Learn these tips for success!

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Learning to read the pattern envelope is important for sewing success.

 

My first experience with sewing involved picking out patterns and proper fabric at our local fabric store when I was 7 years old. The woman who ran the small store was very experienced and she could answer any questions that you might have and steer you on the right path. Today, things are are very different. So many people are learning to sew for the very first time and have no one to ask for help. Even the employees in the fabric store (if you can find one!) don’t always know how to answer your questions.

Learn to read the pattern envelope before you choose your pattern and you will feel much more comfortable with the process. This post will help you know how difficult the pattern is, what fabric and notions to buy, what size pattern you need and give you an idea of what the garment will cost to make.

Reading a Sewing Pattern Envelope

1) Choose your style in the pattern style book. Pull out the desired pattern from the storage drawer in the store and view the back of the envelope. Not sure how to do this? Watch this FB Live video.

https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=2016768785029847&id=1912224668817593&_rdr

How to read a sewing pattern envelope|Chambraybluesblog|Chambrayblues.com
Most sewing patterns have the body measurements listed on the envelope flap.

2) Find the envelope flap. Most patterns have the body measurements listed here for each size. Compare your body measurements to find the size that is closest to your measurements. Ready to wear sizes are not the same as pattern sizes, so don’t buy a pattern based on your ready to wear size. It won’t work!

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Back of McCalls 7100 pattern

The Pattern Size Chart

3) Look at the description of the garment on the top of the rectangular chart on the envelope. This description tells you how many pattern pieces are included in this particular style. Easy patterns have fewer pieces, you can sew an entire dress with as little as 4 or 5 pattern pieces. More advanced patterns such as coats have lots of pieces, some coats have as many as 28! Different pattern companies have the sewing level clearly marked in the description as beginner, intermediate, advanced etc. Make note of what notions are required. Do you have the skill to sew them? Items like buttons and zippers require more skill to sew. If you are a beginner sewer, you may want to look for a pattern with draw string or elastic closures instead until you have more experience.

4) Recommended fabrics are included on the envelope for each style. Restrict your fabric purchases to only these fabric choices for that style. This is important for beginning sewers who often get misled when purchasing fabric for the first time. Woven fabrics and knits for example, require very different construction methods so they are not interchangeable. If you want your garment to turn out, you must choose the proper fabric for that style.

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Some pattern envelopes have a knit fabric stretch chart.

5) Knit styles sometimes have stretch measurements on the back of the pattern envelope. Place your fabric on the fold over the black rectangle marking on the top of the envelope. Stretch the fabric across the chart to see if it will work for that style.

5) Choose which style view you want to make from the front of the envelope. You may want to circle view A, B, C on the envelope so it’s easy to remember.

6) Look at the “size” column, calculate how much fabric you will need by reading down the chart. Fabric comes in widths of 45″ (cottons or specialty fabrics generally) or 60″ (knits, wool, lace, rayon, fleece, crepe, satin). You will need to purchase extra fabric if you plan to make alterations. I routinely purchase 1/4-1/2 yard extra fabric for each style to be sure I have enough yardage. When I forget to do this, I usually end up having to run back to the store and sometimes the fabric isn’t there any more, or it won’t be off the same bolt which can be a slightly different color. Be sure to buy enough fabric for your project all at once, you can always make something else from the scraps!

The Yardage Chart

7) Extra fabric will be required for matching one way prints or fabrics that have a nap. Buy at least 1 extra yard per style to match plaids. In the photo above, separate yardages are given for fabrics with nap. Fabrics with nap include corduroy or velvet, use these yardages if you are sewing with those items.

8) Don’t forget to purchase interfacing, and lining if your pattern requires it. These are listed separately, below the other fabric and notion requirements. Also, be sure you have a selection of fresh sharp sewing machine needles at home in case one breaks while you are sewing! (Hint, buy needles that are designed for the type of fabric you choose. Different fabrics such as knits, satin or denim require special sewing machine needles.)

What if I make a mistake buying my Pattern?

What happens if you do your best to read the pattern envelope and make a mistake in your purchase? If you get home and realize you purchased the wrong type of fabric for your pattern, most stores will return it. The fabric must be uncut and unwashed. You must have your receipt, including the cutting slip to get proper credit. Sewing patterns can be returned only if they are unopened. Usually, I keep patterns and fabric if I decide not to use them right away. I prefer to have a stash of things in my closet for reference even if I haven’t sewn them. You will quickly become a collector if you aren’t already!

I like to keep track of what I spend on each garment for my own enjoyment. My custom designs are akin to designer brands, they are good quality and custom made to fit me perfectly. Do not compare your custom sewn clothing to things you would buy at a discount or department store, those garments are poor quality and not custom made.

Every time you make a new project you learn something else. Think of this sewing journey as one that will be on going. The time to start is now!

 

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Check out some of these other tutorials:

Sew Along 2018, the Year of the Blues!

How to Shorten Pattern Sleeves

What You Should Know About the Cricut Maker

How to Measure for Pattern Alterations

 

What You Should Know About the Cricut Maker

What You Should Know About the Cricut Maker

This new Cricut Maker machine is a great add-on to your sewing room. There are lots of great features that you will love! Here’s what you need to know before making a purchase. This post is sponsored by Cricut. I was compensated in some way for writing this post. Any opinions given are completely my own.

What you need to know about the Cricut Maker|Chambray Blues Blog|Chambrayblues.com
Cricut Maker, design your projects on your Ipad!

The Maker Pros and the Cons

I have been looking at machines for a long time, comparing different features and contemplating what I would use them for in my creative business. Each model Cricut machine does so many different things that I had a hard time choosing between them. It was hard to know which options would be best for me and exactly how I would use them without first trying out the machine.

One of the best features in my opinion, is the ability to design with Cricut on my Ipad. There are a couple of Cricut Machines that do this but I still wasn’t sure how often I would use them. It seemed like most reviews I read for the machine were used for cutting Heat Transfer Vinyl (or HTV as it’s known), cutting paper or cutting plastic for making stencils. Since I haven’t used a lot of those materials in my creative business, it just didn’t seem like the right fit for me.

Recently, I stumbled across an online video from one of my blogger friends of the Cricut Maker cutting entire sewing pattern pieces. This was a total game changer for me, and I knew that I would use the Cricut Maker tool a lot in this manner! I couldn’t wait to get one and start making projects! Excitingly, the folks at Cricut chose me for their Maker campaign. Thank you Cricut!

 

What you need to know about the Cricut Maker|ChambrayBluesBlog|chambrayblues.com
The Cricut Maker has a storage compartment for all your supplies.

 

Cricut is Easy to Use

Being new to this type of equipment, I was pleased to find out how easy the machine is to use. It only has 2 cords to plug-in and takes minutes to set up. The blades and supplies can all be stored right with the machine, another huge plus since I am organizationally challenged.

Especially helpful is the color coordination of the pieces. I can tell by the color which pieces go together and exactly what they cut. Everything comes labeled and is easy to read. This makes set up so easy!

Cricut Maker Review|Chambray Blues Blog|chambrayblues.com
Cutting mats for each type of material.

The cutting mats come in different colors as well. There are different mats for each type of media such as printer paper (Lightgrip), cardstock (Standard grip), or fabric and leather (Heavy grip). The mats have an adhesive that keeps your materials in place while the blade is cutting for the most accurate precision. It’s easy to remove the material after cutting. Cricut also supplies handy tools for precisely lifting your cut design off the mat. They have thought of everything!

What you need to know about the Cricut Maker|ChambrayBlues|chambrayblues.com
Sewing tools and supplies for using the Cricut Maker.

 

Cricut also has basic sewing tools to accompany your Maker Machine. These are great for beginning sewers and it has all the basics: fabric scissors, tape measure, leather thimble, pin cushion, pins, seam ripper, thread clippers. They also have a variety of marking pens.  I love that they all match and look lovely!

Cricut is for Sewing

There are a lot of things you can make with this machine, but the most exciting is that Cricut has a partnership with Simplicity patterns. There are a number of Simplicity patterns that you can download from Cricut’s Design Space right to your Cricut Maker and cut. Imagine!

Are you excited? Me too! Here are a few examples of what’s available:

1. Doll clothes

2. Childrens clothes

3. Hats

4. Bow ties

5. Headbands

Obiviously, there are some limitations since the cutting area is only so large, and the fabric size is limited to the size of the cutting mat. But it is amazing how this technology is possible! There are also quilt block patterns available!

Some of the fabrics you can cut with your Cricut are:

1. Cotton wovens

2. Polyester

3. Denim

4. Felt

5. Canvas

6. Bonded Fabrics such as craft felt, web or fleece.

 

What you need to know about the Cricut Maker|Chambray Blues Blog|chambrayblues.com
The Cricut Maker cuts fabric, HTV, paper, just about anything!

I will have my first project will be ready soon! Have you used the Cricut Maker? What did you make? I would love to know! You can share your projects in my Facebook Group here.

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Thanks to Cricut for sponsoring this post!

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Cricut. The opinions and text are all mine.

Need more inspiration? Check out these other posts:

Sew Along 2018, the Year of the Blues!

How to Shorten Pattern Sleeves

How to Measure for Pattern Alterations

How to Shorten Pattern Sleeves

How to Shorten Pattern Sleeves

Shortening your pattern sleeves isn’t that complicated but it does take a little bit of know how. Here’s my best tips on shortening, it’s easier than you think!

How to Shorten Sleeves the Right Way|ChambrayBluesblog|www.chambrayblues.com
McCalls Cuting layout M7061

We have all been there. You work so hard on a sewing project, only to discover too late that the sleeves are too long. Chopping off the end of the sleeve and re-hemming does not work in most circumstances because sleeves are not perfect rectangles. It’s easy to shorten them at the beginning of the sewing process. Even before you cut! Here’s how!

Shorten Pattern Sleeves the Right Way

  1. The first step is to be certain how much the sleeves need to be shortened. The best way to do this is to use the measurement from the center back neck, to the wrist. This is not included on pattern envelopes, it used to be on there but for some reason they don’t have it on there any more. Take your own measurement, or have someone else do it for you.
  2. Next, line up your back pattern and the sleeve pattern pieces. Overlap the seam allowances (so they are not included in the measurement), then measure the pattern from center back, across the shoulder to the sleeve hem. Do not include the hem as you measure.
  3. Compare the two measurements to find the amount needed. For example, if my pattern measurement is 30″ and my center back neck to wrist measurement is 28″ I need to shorten the sleeve length by 2″. ( 30″-28″=2″)
  4. Add wearing ease. Generally speaking you want to have ease of at least 1″. You can add more if you wish, but no less. As your arm bends you need extra fabric to compensate for the movement, so it’s important to have enough wearing ease or your garment will be uncomfortable and too short in the sleeves.

Sound complicated? It’s really not. Here’s a video tutorial:

You can follow my You Tube Chanel for regular updates and more tutorials. Also, be sure to subscribe for the Sew Along and join our Facebook group here. I am doing weekly Facebook live sewing sessions, answering questions and hoping to inspire you to keep sewing!

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Read more about the Sew Along here.

Read more about Measuring for Pattern Alterations here.

How to Measure for Pattern Alterations

How to Measure for Pattern Alterations

Knowing how to measure for pattern alterations is very important for successful sewing. Here are some tips to get you on the right track!

Sew Along|Chambraybluesblog|chambrayblues.com

Measure Before You Cut

It may seem obvious, but measuring plays a big part in sewing. The trick is to measure as accurately as possible before you start altering the pattern. The back of the pattern envelope has basic body measurements for each size. Compare your measurements to the envelope to determine what size pattern to cut.

The measurements are on the envelope flap. Find your estimated size at the top (start with your ready to wear size), then read down the column to find each measurement. You may find that your body size is not the ready to wear size you normally buy in the store. Purchase the pattern size that is closest to your body measurements. Most patterns have several sizes in them which gives you options when you are ready to alter.

Just to clarify, these dimensions are not pattern measurements, they are body measurements. We will cover the pattern measurements in a separate post.

Here’s a live video to walk you through the process.

Like my page Chambray Blues Sewing Tips and Tutorials for updates! 

Important Tips:

  1. Keep the measuring tape parallel to the ground as you measure.
  2. Don’t stretch the tape too tight, vinyl tape measures will stretch and give you a measurement that is inaccurate. Keep the tape taught, but don’t over extend it.
  3. Include a sleeve length measurement. This is not listed on the pattern envelope. Measure from center back neck, across the shoulder, down the arm to the wrist bone. We will use this measurement for accurate sleeve alterations.
  4. Always measure across the fullest part of the body.
  5. Make note of your body measurements for bust, waist, hip, and center back waist length. Then compare them to the size information on the pattern envelope. If your measurements are different, you will have to do some pattern alterations. More info to come!

This week’s goal is to buy the Mc Call’s pattern, take your measurements and choose your fabric. I will have tips on choosing fabric for this project soon!

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How to Take Body Measurements for Sewing|Chambray Blues Blog|chambrayblues.com

For information on the complete Sew Along, read this post!

Sew Along 2018, the Year of the Blues!

Sew Along 2018, the Year of the Blues!

Sew Along with me! It’s a great way to stay motivated and learn new skills. This line up of great styles is perfect for those who want to explore new patterns and learn more about custom sewing and alteration details.

Sew Along Master Class

Here’s your chance at sewing success! I am starting a monthly sew along class. This class will be completely free and you can sew one month or all 12 as you choose. Most patterns are easy, we will have videos, Facebook lives too on each step!

I have chosen these commercial patterns for this Sew Along. Partially because I know people struggle with them and I can help, but they are also readily available and have the majority of sizes people are looking for. Here is the list, stock up on the next sale for the entire year and get sewing!

January: You will love this cozy Funnel Neck top. Make just the top, or buy extra fabric for the leggings, if you choose. This pattern is McCalls 7061.

Princess Dress|Chambraybluesblog|Chambrayblues.com

February: What’s not to love with this date night dinner dress! Cherry red is perfect for Valentine’s Day! Mc Calls 7535 is easy to sew and looks great on all shapes! Suitable for woven or knits.

March: I adore this Marfy Caftan. Make it long or short, wear it over a swim suit, out to dinner or just around the house. This easy pattern is Marfy F3921.

April: Mimi G Style pattern, love this jacket with optional capelet. Mimi G Style, Simplicity pattern S1016. Learn to sew rainwear fabrics and make buttonholes. This pattern has a lot of extra details on pockets, sleeves and caplet collar as optional custom designs.

May: Learn about stripes this month with this fabulous shirt dress. We will learn collars, facings, and how to work with bias stripes. Pattern is McCalls M7084.

June: Perfect for the romantic summer evening, this chic blouse would be great with chiffon sleeves. We will use Vogue 9243 for this project.

July: Explore vintage pattern Simplicity 8445. Darling! This pattern is available with long sleeve or short sleeve design options. We will learn about constructing collars, yokes and sleeve cuffs.

August: The perfect summer skirt! Very easy pattern and can be reversible! Easy and quick construction, includes a straight style option if you don’t care for the A-line look. This is McCalls 7129.

September: You will love learning about denim this month with this super trendy set of overalls! Great for back to school!Great way to learn to work with denim fabrics. Mc Calls 7547.

October: Fabulous knit top, can be stretch lace, stretch velvet, knit or sweat shirt fleece. Or use all four fabrics! This is Mc Calls 6992.

November: Learn to make custom fit jeans. We will cover specific pattern alterations to get a great fit! More advanced fitting techniques are easy with McCalls 5894.

December: Close out the year learning satin, brocade or velvet techniques. We will sew this darling Gertie vintage pattern for the holiday dress of your dreams! Gertie does vintage so well! This is Butterick 6412.

I am also giving away a free monthly calendar to new subscribers where you can have each task listed for every month in the sew along.

Print your free downloadable calendar here.

Sew Along, the year of the blues|Chambray Blues Blog|chambrayblues.com

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