How To Read A Sewing Pattern Envelope

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The first step in getting your garment sewing off on the right foot is to read the back of the pattern correctly. In this post, how to read the back of a sewing pattern envelope, we will explore the details listed and how to interpret them.

Different pattern companies add their own information, but in general they are all mostly the same.

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Vogue, Butterick, McCalls, and Simplicity

The “big four” US pattern companies have essentially similar pattern envelopes. We are going to explore Vogue 9147, a Very Easy Vogue dress pattern.

There is no live model photo of the dress, so the pencil drawings only shows how the artist expects the garment to look on a fit model. This is not a great indication of what the finished garment will look like.

How To Read The Back Of A Sewing Pattern Envelope

Reading The Line Drawings

The first thing you want to look at is the line drawings. They will tell you a lot about the garment. They are, again, just an interpretation, but you can see the cut lines.

From the drawing below, you can ascertain several construction and fitting hints. Depending on what you are looking for, you may or maynot be happy with the construction. It is a good first pass to see if the design meets your expectations.

  • There is a seam up the back that has neckline slit and hook and eye closure.
  • There are no fitting darts: bust darts or vertical darts.
  • It is basically a rectangle.
  • The plunge is fairly deep since it is almost level with the underarm.
  • The armholes on the sleeveless dress are the same as the sleeved version, leading me to believe they will be too big on the sleeveless verison and cause gapping.

Garment Description And Suggested Fabrics

Next you want to interpret the description and examine the suggested faric choices.

How To Read The Back Of A Sewing Pattern Envelope

Here we have a semi-fitted, lined pullover dress…back neckline slit, hook and eye closing. Adding darts to the dress will probably make it difficult to go over your head since there is no zipper. So you need to be happy with the boxy shape.

Fabric choices are wovens (Crepe, Linen, Satin) and knits (Ponte). The dress will hang and fit very differently depending on the type of fabric you choose.

Measurement Calculation

The measurements on the pattern envelope flap are body measurements. They are just a guide until you can open up the pattern and read the finished garment measurements on the tissue. Disregard the size number – they are not flattering! Watch my Youtube video if you want to learn the best way to measure — Pattern Measuring – Body Measurements vs Finished Garment Measurements.

Choose the size that fits the largest body part – this is just to ensure you purchase enough fabric.

How To Read The Back Of A Sewing Pattern Envelope

Determine How Much Fabric To Purchase

This is critical to your success. For V9147 there are two versions A (sleeveless with contrast) and B (with sleeves and no contrast). If you want to make B with contrast, which is not listed in the options, buy fabric for B and the contrast amount from A to be safe.

How To Read The Back Of A Sewing Pattern Envelope

Fashion fabric, for the most part, comes in two widths 45″ wide and 60″ wide. Once you have settled on a fabric, the width will dictate how much you need to get. Keep in mind, if you choose a fabric with a nap or one-way design, you will need to purchase extra. Also, if you are tall, you should consider adding an additional 1/2 yard to give you some length room.

Lets say you are making Version A of this dress in a size 14 and your fabric is 45″ wide, you will need:

  • 2 1/8 yards of main fashion fabric
  • 1 yard of contrasting fabric (collar and pocket lining)
  • 1 7/8 yards of lining
  • 3/4 yards of interfacing
  • A hook and eye
  • Thread

If you wanted to make Version B of the dress in a size 14 and your fabric is 60″ wide, you will need:

  • 2 3/8 yards of fashion fabric
  • 1 7/8 yards of 45″ wide lining
  • 3/4 yards interfacing
  • A hook and eye
  • Thread

You can see there are lots of options, which is what makes garment sewing so popular. It also takes a little bit of time to plan out your garment.

I think this sleeveless dress would look cute in a summery linen, I would start with a practice garment. For that you would purchase an inexpensive fabric, like this muslin from Joann’s for a test garment.

Fun Summer Linen Options For Vogue 9147

Below are some cute summer linen combos from Joann’s. I’m going to give the Linen Caviar Polka Dot and Black Solid Linen a try, Lyocell Linen Caviar Polka Dot Fabric paired with the Lyocell Linen Caviar Solid in Black

The 100% Linen Fabric Orange White Big Flower with this Sew Classic Linen in White would be very chic and summery.

Don’t forget to order lining, interfacing, and a hook and eye.

Here is what I know about fashion. Everyone’s taste is different. The opinions expressed here are mine alone. I’m just a girl who loves to sew.

Happy Sewing


PS If you are looking for a more in depth discussing about reading sewing pattern envelopes, check out my free class How To Read The Back Of A Sewing Pattern Envelope

32 thoughts on “How To Read A Sewing Pattern Envelope

  1. I enjoy your posts. Though I have been sewing for years and am self-taught, this would have been helpful when I first started. So its a good read for me. My early projects were horrendous because I didn’t know how to read the pattern – pretty funny actually. Thanks!

  2. This helps me to make sense of it! When looking at them, I always thought it seemed like a bit of a foreign language!

  3. While I am not someone who makes clothes…I enjoy reading how to read patterns. Many of your posts are step by step for sewing and I appreciate that. I wish I had this information when I was growing up and playing around with my moms sewing machine.

  4. You do a great job detailing a pattern back for beginners! I’ve sewn for years so I always enjoy your posts. I’m trying to teach my granddaughter and your reminder tips are great for us!

  5. There are so many great tips on sewing here. As I read I feel more confident that I can learn this craft! Thanks so much!

  6. Thank you for the refresher course in reading a pattern. It has been a long time since I made something with a pattern. I gave away my sewing machine when I was in grad school and I miss it once in awhile but it is in good hands. I hand sew when I need it. Maybe some day I will get back to sewing. Good post!

  7. My mom tried to teach me some basic sewing when I was younger, but I wasn’t really interested – I just wanted to spend time with her. Now that she’s getting older, I need to spend this time with her again. Although right now, she’s just sewing masks, I should offer to help!

  8. A very important step! Thanks for this guide on reading the pattern correctly because some of us (me) wouldn’t have a clue otherwise! Ha!

  9. Oh this is good! I always get so confused when looking at the back of the envelope. I’m gonna pin this for when I can really sit down and sew myself something new. Thank you!

  10. I haven’t sewn clothing since I made all my clothes when heading off to college. Thank you for the reminders!

  11. My mom taught me how to sew from patterns when I was a young girl. I haven’t sewn in years, but your tips would certainly help me pick it right back up!

  12. I learn a little something new with each post – one of these days I will have the courage to tackle a new project!

  13. This brings back such memories! My mom has always sewn and I used to love looking through her patterns. When I began to see as a teen then it was my turn to accumulate patterns. Sadly I don’t have time to see now. Maybe someday!

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