Understanding Pattern Envelopes


Sewing patterns have loads of information on them but do you know what it all means?

It’s all there to help you – from choosing suitable fabric and quantity needed, what else you will need and most important of all, how to make the garment to fit your measurements.

So let’s start by looking at the the envelope front….


1.Pattern Number – There are many suppliers of sewing patterns – Simplicity, Vogue, McCalls, Burda, etc. Regardless of the supplier they all number their patterns.

2.Usually, there is a photo of a design on a model, plus line drawings of alternative designs showing fabric  inspirations. Each design is identified with a letter – A, B, C, D etc.

3.Most patterns come with a range of sizes that can be cut, all in the same envelope. These are represented using a number/letter code – in the example above the code is A5 and represents sizes 6 – 14. Most garment patterns offer 2 size ranges so this pattern will offer more sizes in a separate envelope. Some children’s wear and craft patterns will have all sizes in one envelope or just come in one size.

4.Some pattern suppliers also show the time to make or the sewing ability required to sew the garment ‘easy, moderate, average’, etc. (Tip – if you are a beginner, even when a pattern says ‘easy’ or ‘quick’ it can include some sewing techniques that may be new to you e.g. inserting zips, making buttonholes etc.)

Now let’s take a look at the envelope flap….


5.The price code can be found on the back of the envelope flap and is either a letter or coloured circle which corresponds to the price chart in your local store.

6.Store bought  ready to wear garments sizes are not the same as dress pattern sizes so you must take your measurements and find the corresponding size using this chart. To find the right sizes for you, measure the fullest part of your bust, the widest part of your hips and your natural waistline. Some patterns also give cup size options. Write these down so you know which size to to select.

Now last but not least, there is the back of the pattern envelope which has quite a lot of important information!


7.The line drawings here are called views. They will show you the back of the garment as well as other details e.g.darts, seam, sleeve, hem lengths. As on the front of the pattern they will each have a symbol for identification.

8.The information on the back of the pattern is printed in English on the left side and in French on the right hand side. The patterns are printed in the U.S. so any measurements are written down in yards. To determine the amount of fabric you need in metres, you will need use the right hand chart. Choose the letter of the design you want to make, then select the width of the fabric you will be using  and follow along the row until you reach the column with the size you are making. This will tell you the quantity of fabric required – e.g. Design B, using 115cm width fabric, making a size 12 garment will need 2.6 metres of material. Don’t forget to check if your garment needs lining fabric as well! (Tip – there’s not always room to give all the information needed so it may be on the printed instruction leaflet inside envelope).

9.In this section are tips on which types of fabric are going to work best for the style of the design you are making. Look to see if the fabric should be heavy or lightweight, soft for draping or crisp for pleats, or if you need extra fabric for matching patterns or stripes.

10.This lists any additional items (called notions) that you will need to complete your garment such as zips, elastic etc.

11.This section gives you information on length of the finished garment – useful to check in case you want to alter the length given. (Tip! – ‘Ease’ means that the garment has been made slightly larger to allow for movement and comfort).

Other things to note!

What the pattern doesn’t always show you on the front is if it has been designed to be made out of stretch fabric only. Look on the envelope back, if you have to use a stretch fabric, there will be a diagram showing how far the fabric has to be able to stretch.

Patterns also are designed for different figure shapes…

MISSES are for developed figures with curves, 5′ to 5’6″ in height without shoes.

PETITE are proportioned for figures under 5’4′ in height.

WOMEN are for more mature figures 38″ bust onwards, 5’6 to 6’in height.

PLUS SIZES are for 40″ bust, 42″ or more at hips.

The main thing to remember is that we are always here to help – if you are not sure, ask a member of staff who will always be happy to help!

Written By,

Miranda – Dress Department, Eastbourne Store.


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