Basics Beginners' Guide Dress Making

Sewing Patterns : What You Need To Know

What are Sewing Patterns?

When we start with something simple to sew, we need fabric, but how much?

And then we need to know how to shape the fabric into the dress, we want to make.

And not only that, we need to know how large to make each part of the item (a sleeve or waistband etc.).

This is why we need a pattern.

Starting with a curiosity to sew, we step into explorers' den and suddenly find ourselves in a world - full of sewing patterns - which interest us but raise questions too! 

Sewing patterns are the handy tool for a beginner. It seems a technical and complex arena to enter into, but in reality it's simple and fun to create patterns to sew.​ And it makes our work so much easier!

But what is a Pattern?

While we talk about pattern in dress making, we refer to the template from which we trace onto fabric before cutting and stitching.

Sewing patterns are 2 dimensional pieces of paper that we use to create a 3 dimensional garment.

We can define it as :-

pattern is the template from which the parts of a garment are traced onto fabric before being cut out and assembled. Patterns are usually made of paper, and are sometimes made of sturdier materials like paperboard or cardboard if they need to be more robust to withstand repeated use".

Types of  Sewing Patterns

There are two main types of sewing patterns. Commercial, also known as traditional sewing patterns and DIY sewing patterns.

  • diy sewing patterns
  • commercial sewing patterns

DIY sewing patterns are the patterns, which are shared by online sewing community. We can find number of free diy sewing patterns by bloggers and designers online. 

These DIY patterns may or may not include templates or symbols, sometimes they have pieces to print and use as you would the tissue paper templates that come in commercial sewing patterns.

All Free Sewing Patterns

How to Read a Commercial | Traditional Sewing Pattern

Reading and understanding commercial sewing patterns looks like a puzzle but if we go one by one in simple steps, we can understand well.

1.Read Front of the Pattern Envelop.

    • Pattern Number or Name :- Locate the pattern number or pattern name to identify pattern design and size.
    • Check Your Size :- Identify if your size falls in the size range mentioned on the envelop. A commercial sewing pattern does not come in a single size. There is a size range given.
    • Design Variations :- Design pictures would be given on the pattern envelop and all the pattern pieces would be inside to make all variations of given designs.

2.Read Back of the Pattern Envelop.

    • View Detailed Design Variations :- Here, we'll get to see some detailed view about the darts, seam lines and length. These are depicted by symbols and letters, which will be used in the pattern.
    • Choose Fabric Suggestions :- Not all fabrics are meant for all type of dresses. The best fabrics, which are suitable for your chosen sewing pattern, would be mentioned. And ideally you should select the fabric given in the list.
    • Notions & Trimmings :- While doing a sewing project, we need more than just the fabric. It could be zipper, button, elastic, hook eye etc. Check all these things which are needed to complete your sewing.
    • Know Your Body Measurement & Size :- Don't assume that the pattern you have is an exact fit for your size. There is a size range given and you would have to trace your size on the fabric. Use a measuring tape and know your length, width to ascertain your size.
    • Know more How To Read a Sewing Pattern.

Make Your Own Sewing Pattern : DIY Sewing Patterns



Written material & books provide us a clear road map on how to go about our dress making project but initially we hesitate to invest in any new book as their usefulness is not very clear to us.

Even if we are clear that we intend to buy a book on Cutting, Tailoring & Dress Designing, we sometimes wish to know the contents’ description and clarity before buying, which is very very important.

As we gain understanding, it becomes easier for us to make a smart decision about choosing the reference material or books on tailoring to get closer to our goal of self tuition on Cutting & Tailoring or stitching.

Through experience, I realized that there are a number of books available in the market on Cutting & Tailoring and their content is somewhat the same but the way things are explained differs and one book may be easy to understand for your friend but it does not mean that it could be as easy on you as well.

Some people may be more comfortable with certain type of descriptive explanation and some of us can do with simple instructions and detailed narration.

It may vary from individual to individual. Still, I made some efforts to gather the information which I used at different points of stitching & dress making to get my concepts clear.

To start with, you may check out these books and reference material by experts for developing a clear understanding on the concepts of dress making. These are all FREE to read and to learn self tailoring :-

  • Basics of Sewing
  • This book provides limited information on certain subjects for beginners to start with. Only a few points are explained keeping in mind the simplicity and grasping levels of novices.
  • Cutting & Tailoring for Beginners 
  • Even if you know nothing about stitching but interested to learn on your own then this book may prove useful. It covers the basic topics and content which will make you understand taking measurement, choosing clothe, setting your sewing machine in order and making basic draft for dresses.
  • Advanced Cutting & Tailoring with Designing 
  • This book is an advance version of the above Cutting & Tailoring for Beginners Book. It is useful if you want to thoroughly understand the garment making process with a keen interest in designing. Alternatively, if you know the basics then you may skip to the chapter you are looking for. On the last pages you will find very easy to understand patterns also.
  • Sewing for Beginners 
  • This online sewing book provides contents in an easy to understand layout. You may try it. It has simple English to understand the basics.
  • Reference Material
  •  Last but not the least important is going through the images given and checking out from the visuals because eyes never lie. Sometimes what a hundred words can’t explain, a picture can.
So, go free, go stitching and don’t forget to let me know if this information is any useful to you.

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