Tutorial : De-coding Pattern Envelopes

8.11.2011


I am a self taught sewist. I remember the very first time I wandered into a JoAnns and decided to buy a pattern to make clothes. I looked through the pattern books, chose a simple pattern and went to the huge steel drawers...pulling out the pattern I wanted. And then I flipped it over. AHHH! What IS all that gibberish? What does it mean?! I had no idea.

Through trial and a lot of error, I learned what the hieroglyphics on the pattern envelope means.  I though it might be helpful to go over the basics of commercial patterns.  We're going to pretend that you're starting with a simple pattern for your child, who wears a 3T.

- a small notepad or piece of paper.
- pen
- measuring tape


Step 1 - Measure your child at home.  Don't skip this step!  There is no universal sizing in clothing patterns.  Each company gets to decide what measurements they think a 3T has. The most important is probably chest, waist and height.  Write this down in your notebook.

Step 2 - Hit the Books!  (at the Fabric Store) Sit down and grab a pattern book. Have your notebook and pen handy. Write down the pattern numbers of any patterns you are interested in.  Make sure to note which company the pattern is from...McCalls, Simplicity, etc.  We're going to make this...McCalls 5966:
In the pattern book you're going to see a small box of information about the pattern you're looking at.  Just check and make sure this pattern comes in the size you want.  Our pattern has two different options.  One envelope (marked CDD) holds kid sizes 2-3-4-5.  Another envelope of the same pattern (marked CL) holds kid sizes 6-7-8.

Step 3 - Metal Drawer Showdown. Dude, they are heavy!  But the outside of these huge drawers is labeled with the company and the Pattern numbers.  Once in a while they are a little off, so don't give up too easily if your huge drawer is mislabeled. Once you find your pattern, make sure you grab the correct size (CDD).

Step 4 - Choose your design.  This patter has options.  They are labeled on front of your envelope as A, B and C.  Choose the option you want to make.  We'll be making C.  WRITE THIS DOWN IN YOUR NOTEBOOK.  Trust me.
Now take a deep breath.  We are now going to turn our envelope over.

I'm going to crop the right hand side off of the following pictures since it is in Spanish.  But it's mostly so the images can be large enough for you to see.
Step 5 - Compare Measurements. Remember those measurements you took of your child?  Grab those and look at the flap on the envelope top.  Make sure your child's 3T is in line with the pattern. If not, change sizes. Always go by the measurements.

Alright!  Now we're going to go through the rest of the sections from top to bottom.

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Step 6 - Notions.  Notions are any extras. Buttons, zippers, trim, lace, hooks, velcro, etc.  Write down what Notions you need for your look in your notepad.
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Step 7 - Shop, shop, SHOP!  Go forth!  Pick fabric. Pick up your notions. Grab matching thread and head to the cutting table.  You've just read and understood your first pattern envelope!

Any questions?

9 comments:

Momofthree said...

What a fabulous tutorial!

I have done a lot of hand sewing in the past but am now itching to get a machine of my own (I have at least 8 or 9 projects bookmarked for when I do!) Any tips on choosing a sewing machine?

Veronica said...

I bow down to all who can sew. LOL
Great tut!!

Jess said...

great breakdown of pattern envelopes! I feel like they're in Russian sometimes. ;)

About Me said...

THANK YOU so much for this step-by-step guide to understand pattern envelopes! I've picked up a few (read: too many), but have only used one to make something for a newborn. But there are many in my stash that I've been too nervous to try out... now I need to check out the envelopes and see if I even have the right size and fabric/notions for the different things I want to make!

Thank you again!

laceylady said...

Thanks for this guide, I needed it lol, those packages can be intimedating.
Check out the Ducky Momo I made
http://www.flickr.com/photos/laceylady/6033242515/in/photostream/

laceylady said...

oops spelt intimidating wrong

Jenny said...

Love this!!!

Liz Wilcken said...

Ah! Intimidated! I'm less so now, but still need to know how to read the pattern itself. (How to cut it out? Is there a proper way to trace out the pattern on cloth, or a certain side of the cloth? Which way to I turn the fabric when deciding how to cut it out?! Do I use the pattern on the width or length, or does it even matter?) Yes, I'm a very much a newbie at this. :)

Anonymous said...

fantastic! have been a sewer since the early 1960's and always ignored the back of envelope, guessed mostly then used the spare fabric to make dolls clothes :) never too old to learn eh x