How do I select the right pattern?

Silhouette Key

Most commercial patterns have a row of symbols (triangle, circle, rectangle, hour glass) located on the back of the pattern envelope. These symbols are an indication of the body type that this pattern is recommended for.

Fabric Recommendations

Patterns usually have a list of fabrics that are recommended for the garment. It is important to consider this because the characteristics of the fabric will affect the fit and drape of the garment. Patterns often list fabrics that are not suitable for the particular pattern design. If you are using this type of fabric, select another pattern.

Pattern Company

There are several major pattern companies and countless independent pattern makers to select from. Some research and experimentation will help you choose the right one for you. Different brands focus on distinct styles and others are designed for a specific body type and/or shape. Learn as much as you can before you purchase. Once you find one you like, stick with it.

Yardage and Notions

The pattern envelope will list the yardage of fabric required. It will also list notions that are required for each garment design. Keep this in mind when you are selecting a pattern, especially if you already have your fabric or if you are on a budget.

Garment Description

The pattern envelope will have a written description of the garment design. The description will provide details that you may have missed when looking at the illustration or photo of the garment. This is where you will get a clear description of the design ease that has been added to the pattern. The garments will be described as “loose fitting,” “semi-fitted,” or “fitted.”

Line Drawings

Pattern envelopes have photographs or illustrations of the garments on them. It is often difficult to accurately see the details on these pictures. The back of the pattern envelope or the instruction sheet will have line drawings of the garment. It is much easier to see details and seam lines on these drawings.


Pattern prices have increased significantly in the last few years. There is a broad range of prices. If you are not going to use the patterns for all the garments included with your selected pattern, you may be able to find a similar garment pattern with less options for a lower price. Most stores and companies have frequent sales on patterns, watch for sales and buy your patterns then.

Skill Level

Most patterns will indicate the difficulty level somewhere on the pattern envelope. Some of the ratings you will see are: easy, intermediate, average, advanced, and difficult. When selecting a pattern, keep in mind your skill level and how much time and energy you want to invest in this project. If you are unsure, look at the instruction sheet to see if the pattern is too difficult for you.

Sewing Frequently Asked Questions

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Lynne Christen