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Those Mysterious Marks


by SewMagical


If you want to make clothing for yourself, or for loved ones, and you dont have the knowledge to make your own pattern, then using a commercial pattern might be your best option. There are lots of them out there, ranging from the large well-known companies you can find easily, to smaller independent designers and companies you might only be able to find on the Internet.


So you find a pattern you like, and whether you buy it in a real-world store or use a computer and digital payments, you finally have it in your hands. You open it up, and see.a sheet (or more) of instructions and a mass of folded tissue paper with printing. And those instructions and tissue paper pieces are covered with lines and arrows and dots. How are you ever going to make sense of this??

In this article, I am going to give you information to help you interpret those mysterious marks, so you can concentrate on being creative, and not on translating what looks like clues to a treasure hunt.

Start by looking at the instruction sheet. There will usually be general information at the beginning. There will be line drawings of the garment or item, in different views (style options), and a list of the pattern pieces included. There will likely be brief descriptions of terms such as stay-stitching, suggestions for seam finishes, and types of interfacing to use. Style differences can include length of sleeves, hem length, and neckline variations. Likely there will also be small pictures showing you what shading represents the right and wrong side of the pattern pieces, fabric, and lining or interfacing if used. That will look something like this:



The next things you want to look at are the Fabric Layout diagrams. Find the one that shows the view you are making, your size, and your fabric width. This diagram will tell you how the designer thinks the pattern pieces should be placed on your fabric, and if the pattern piece should be placed printed side up or down. There will also be an indication of how the fabric itself is to be placed.

The most common method is right sides of the fabric facing each other, with the selvages (that firmly-woven edge of the fabric) lining up on one long edge and a fold on the other long edge.



Other possibilities are in a single layer, or a crosswise fold (the fold runs from one selvage to the other, with the raw edges opposite the fold.


If you are just starting to work with a printed pattern, I would suggest following the diagram. Once you gain more experience, you can shift pieces around as you choose.


The marks on the pattern pieces themselves fall into two broad categories; marks related to placing and cutting the piece, and marks relating to constructing and fitting the item.


Marks Related to Cutting

A long, double-headed arrow (illus) follows the straight grain of the fabric. Place the pattern piece on the fabric so that the line is the same distance from the selvage. Measure in at least 3 spots (for example,at each end and somewhere in the middle) to make sure your piece is placed correctly.


An arrow straight in the center but curved on each end (illus) means the edge of the pattern piece the arrows are pointing to goes on the fold of the fabric.



There will also be a solid line indicating the edge of your pattern piece. If you have a multi-size pattern, where several sizes come in the same envelope, make sure you select the proper cutting line for your desired size!


Marks Related to Construction and Fitting

If you are making a garment from a single-size pattern you pattern piece may have seam-lines marked. This will usually be a dashed line at an even distance from the cutting line. For many garments, this seam allowance will be 5/8 of an inch wide. Some pieces may only have a 3/8 or even a inch line. This information will usually be marked on the pattern piece itself.


Darts are used to shape the fabric, so a flat piece of fabric can fit smoothly on a curved body. They may be straight or curved. They may be single-pointed, to shape the bust area and go over the hip. They may also be double-pointed, to give definition to the waistline area in a fitted garment.


Whichever way they are shaped, the markings will be the same. There will be a solid line down the center, and a dashed line to either side, coming to a point. Fold your fabric on the solid line and stitch on the broken line. Your instruction sheet will tell you which way to press the dart.


Notches are little triangles, usually single, double, or triple on the edge of the pattern piece. They are reference points for placing the edges of two different pieces together. They can be cut outward from the main part of the pattern piece, or cut off, and their location indicated by taking a short (about inch) clip into the seam allowance.



Finally, there may be dots or squares of different sizes. They will often indicate where stitch should end, or where a clip should be made. Again all this information will be indicated in your pattern instruction sheet.


I hope those marks dont seem so mysterious now, and you will be encouraged to go out and find that perfect pattern!


May your bobbins always be full!

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2 Responses to Those Mysterious Marks

  1. Regina says:

    Very well. Written. I wish I had something like this when I was learning to sew.

  2. Diane Harvey says:

    I’ve been sewing for most of my life and at one stage took a course at interior design and dressmaking. It taught me a lot and I just more or less kept going from there. I can turn my hand at anything.

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