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Choosing sewing patterns for clothes is fun and exciting! However, selecting a sewing pattern that best matches your skill level and size can seem daunting even for the not so new sewist. Begin by matching the patterns level of sewing difficulty to your own sewing experience. For best results, select a sewing pattern that is appropriate to both your skills and knowledge of fabric as well.

Another consideration is whether your time or patience are limited, then I recommend sticking with simpler pattern styles. If the sewing level is not indicated on the outside of the sewing pattern envelope; you can refer to the instruction sheet inside the pattern envelope. Choose the view you would to sew, and the required pattern pieces will be listed according to that view. This will assist in determining the level of difficulty, because the fewer the pieces, the easier the pattern. Garment details such as closures, collars, cuffs, pleats, and tucks can also increase the difficulty of a pattern. Easy-to-sew patterns feature few of these details.

Selecting your sewing experience & skill level

  • Novice-No experience with sewing or exceptionally minimal.
  • Beginner-You’ve had some introductory sewing lessons either at school, online or from a more experienced sewer and would like to create items that you can actually wear or use! You have used a sewing machine before but need a refresher on threading the machine. You’re also unsure about the tension dial, what sewing tension is and you may need more practice keeping an even seam allowance. You have finished some projects. But you also have many unfinished projects due to just “winging it” or difficulting understanding sewing patterns.
  • Advanced Beginner-You can confidently follow pattern instructions, understand pattern markings, sew a straight and curved seam while keeping even seam allowances.  You are ready to learn about darts and practice adding fastenings (buttons, zippers, snaps & velcro), and progress to inserting pockets and waistbands into garments. You are also ready to start sewing knits and garments with a little stretch. You’re able to thread your own machine, wind a bobbin, and troubleshoot tension issues (with guidance). You have a basic understanding of different fabric types. You have several projects under your belt, and you have some experience using basic patterns.
  • Intermediate– You have been sewing for a while. As a result, you are comfortable making your own clothing and able to create basic fitting changes to sewing patterns for the desired fit (like lengthening or shortening a hem or narrowing the waist by bringing in a side seam or increasing a dart).  You have a general understanding of fabric types and composition (including interfacings and how they are used). You can find the grainline. You have experience using different presser feet, inserting zippers, making buttonholes, sizing patterns, transferring patterns, cutting fabric, and matching pattern pieces. However, you could learn more techniques for any or all of the above.  But you want to learn more about how to get a really great fit and become confident achieving some finer details like welt pockets and linings. You may have worked with knits, used a serger or a cover hem machine and if not you are ready to learn!
  • Advanced-You are obsessed, and your idea of bliss is spending unlimited hours of sewing or in a fabric shop with designer fabrics dreaming of the possibilities. You may have even begun making your own patterns and will confidently tackle advanced projects (like tailored jackets, pants or special occasion wear). As a result, you pursue a polished, professional appearance in your custom clothing.
  • Couture-experience in pattern making, couture sewing, and advanced fitting techniques

Finding your correct sewing pattern size

Sewing Pattern sizes vs. Ready to Wear sizes

All sewing pattern companies follow uniform sizing based on standard body measurements. Because of the uniform sizing, you can select the same pattern size regardless of the pattern company. However, this is not the same as ready-to-wear sizing in which sizes are determined by each clothing manufacturer. As a result, we have different sizes when shopping for jeans from brand to brand for example.

Taking personal body measurements

To obtain a correct pattern size, you will begin by taking your personal body measurements. Dress in your usual undergarments; a semi-fitted tank top or t-shirt and leggings that won’t distort your body shape because tight fitting clothing will distort your measurements. Use a flexible tape measure that doesn’t stretch as this would also distort your measurements. Both of which would result in an inaccurate size and fit. For the most accuracy, have another person measure you. Finish by recording your measurements and compare them with the pattern company measurement chart.

 Your MeasurementPattern MeasurementPattern Size
High Bust (A)   
Full Bust (B)   
Waist (C)   
Hip (D)   
Back Waist Length (E)   
Height (F)   

A) High Bust– Place tape measure under arms across the widest part of the back and above the full bustline. Pattern charts do not include a high bust measurement. However, this measurement should be compared with the full bust measurement to assist in choosing the correct pattern size.

B) Full Bust– Place tape measure under arms, across widest part of the back and fullest part of the bustline. *NOTE: if there is a difference of 2” (5 cm) or more between high bust and full bust, select pattern size by full bust measurement.

C) Waist– tie a string or ¼ inch elastic around your middle, lean forward, back and side to side to allow to roll to your natural waistline. Measure at this exact location with tape measure (don’t suck in your belly) Leave string in place as a reference for measuring hips and back waist length.

D) Hip– Measure around the fullest part. This will be approximately 7” to 9” inches below the waistline depending on your height.

E) Back Waist Length– Measure from the middle of the most prominent bone at the base of the neck to the waistline string.

F) Height-Measure-without shoes. Stand with your back against the wall. Place a ruler on top of your head and mark the wall. Measure from the mark to the floor.

Selecting your pattern size

Compare your measurements with the pattern company size chart( I’ve linked to McCall’s Misses’/Misses’ petites here). Locate your figure type in the sidebar of the page linked. Finally, locate the column numbers that most closely matches your measurements. Choose dress, blouse, and suit patterns according to bust size; pants and skirts patterns according to hip size.

For more information on choosing your correct pattern size check out the following links:

Threads Magazine

Sew Direct

Do you need assistance with personal measurements or help with pattern selection? Check out my list of services or contact me for an appointment.

Renee