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Top Tips for Beginners: Understanding a Pattern


Whether you are using a pattern you have bought or created yourself there are a few important markings that you will need to understand.



This is the line you follow when you are placing the pattern piece onto the fabric. This is the direction the fabric should be cut in, for example straight grain or on the bias. In a lot of fabrics the straight grain is obvious but in some it is not and could be a case of holding it up against the light to see it or cutting it on the stretch way of a fabric.

Always write a name for the pattern piece when doing your own pattern so you know its exact use. It is also advised that you write how many are to be cut and the size it will be when produced.



This is a small dash on the pattern that is used to show where you match and align each individual pattern piece. This is to make sure the garment is symmetrical and lies in the correct way.



These are abbreviations for centre front and centre back. These must always be marked on a pattern piece. This shows the line of the centre of the garment again to make sure that the garment is symmetrical. This is also a point in which you can use to make pattern alternations.

When making your own pattern put as much information onto each pattern piece as possible as if you were to pass this onto someone else to make up.

Waist line, Bust line, hip line.

These are all lines to show where the pattern should sit in relation to these points on the body. These are shown with a simple line and are sometimes labelled.


Dotted line

A dotted line can sometimes indicate where a slash should go or where the original pattern sat before changes where made so should there be any further changes to be made you always have a note of you master pattern.

If you are making your own pattern always have a master pattern in which you can refer to should a pattern not be working at the toile stage. This will have your original bodice block drawn on and any movements or changes done to the basic block. It will also have any important notes on that you may use as reference in future stages.



An arrow usual indicates the way in which a fold or pleat should be sewn.



A dot or a number of dots are used to show the placing of a dart and the width and length of a dart.

When making your own pattern always keep the pattern from every stage, should you get the toiling stage and some further alterations need doing it may save you time to go back to a certain section of pattern production. Try and make your notes and markings on your pattern as clear as possible for your or anyone else’s use.

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