Understanding the Markings on Sewing Patterns

Welcome to the fourteenth lesson in the Beginner’s Guide to Sewing Knit Apparel! Download the ebook for free!

At this point in the series, you should be feeling pretty antsy to get started. But patience young padawon! You are just about finished. In this lesson we will quickly cover the different markings you will find on your apparel pattern pieces. These markings help you cut and assemble your pattern pieces correctly. There aren’t that many, so let’s check these out supa fast!

Grainline

The grainline marking will specify which direction you want the grain of the fabric running in relation to your pattern piece.

The grainline of your fabric runs parallel to the selvage (the finished edge of the fabric – not the cut edge)

It is usually pretty easy to find the grainline of knit fabrics because it will be the direction that has the least amount of stretch.


Editor’s Note: Want help with finding your grainlines? Check out What is Grainline in Sewing!


Stretch Line

This marking is typically perpendicular to the grainline marking because it is telling you which direction you want your fabric’s most amount of stretch going. Paying attention to this marking is very important for getting the proper fit. If your stretch is going the wrong direction, you may find patterns with negative ease simply won’t fit.

Fold Line

A fold line tells you when and where you need to cut a pattern piece on the fold of your fabric. This is commonly found in bodice pieces and sleeves where you are asked to cut on the fold. This gives you a perfectly symmetrical pattern piece, where each half of the garment is a mirror image.

Lengthen / Shorten Line

Many pattern makers understand that there are taller and shorter varieties of human beings out there. Whoduhthunk? When you see a lengthen/shorten line, this is the area on the pattern where you will want to either cut and spread out the pattern to lengthen or cut and overlap to shorten.

Option Cut Lines

Most patterns will come with more than one option. These options include things like sleeve length, neckline options and hemming options. For example, your pattern may have a long-sleeve option with a fold-over hem at the bottom. It may also have a long-sleeve option that you would add cuffs to. The same pattern could also have a banded waistband option, a tunic length option, or a curved bottom option. It could also have a high neckline and a scooped neckline option. So many options! In order to accommodate so many different preferences, you’ll find different cut lines throughout the pattern for the different options/styles.

Placement Markings

Placement markings help you know exactly where you need to place different accessories to your pattern. Examples of these could be elbow patch placement, pocket placement, or button placement.

Notches

Notches are extremely helpful when constructing your garment. They help you quickly align two pattern pieces as you sew. Notches are typically drawn inward on the pattern piece to keep them from getting torn off by accident. When you cut them on your fabric pieces, however, you will be cutting them outward.

Notches come in pairs. For example, you might have a notch on the top and middle of your sleeve. Then you may have a matching notch on the shoulder of your bodice piece. This helps you know exactly where you need to line up your sleeve piece to the body piece. They can seem annoying to cut out at times, but try not to ignore them. At least at the start. They can streamline your garment construction process and help you avoid any mistakes.

Pleat Marks

I love pleats! If it’s got pleats, I’m gonna make it. When you are working with a pleated pattern, you’ll find that the pattern will have the starting, ending and folding point of the pleat marked. Your first time working with pleats may make you a little nervous. Don’t be! These markings make it very easy to create a perfectly folded pleat every time.

The pleat markings in the pattern pictured above produce the pleats this lovely peplum top:

Check out the Mama Joy and Peg Leg Pattern on display for this tour of Sew What Do I Wear for Valentine's Day!

Almost done! The next post in this series will be a complete list of PDF pattern companies you can check out.

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Check Out This Complete Guide to Pattern Markings for Sewing Knit Apparel

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