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1601 East Lohman Avenue
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Garment Gurus: Simple Steps to Choosing a Garment Pattern


Tips, Ideas, Patterns, and more by the crew at Bernina Sewing & Design


Garment Gurus: Simple Steps to Choosing a Garment Pattern

Marsha Cowan

You really want to sew something for yourself, but what? If you take a class, it’s easy, because the teacher decides for you. When you’re ready to strike out on your own, all those books and racks and drawers filled with patterns can be intimidating and confusing.

Maybe you don’t feel comfortable with your pattern-reading ability, or you don’t  know what specifics to look for, but we can help! Richelle not only has a degree in Fashion Design, but she is hard at work creating her own patterns, so we asked her to share a few basic guidelines and tips to use next time you go shopping for a garment pattern:

  • Before you go out shopping, take all your body measurements.  You might wear a size 14 in an store-bought garment, but the pattern size 14 may not work for you. Knowing your measurements will help you easily find your correct size in the chosen pattern, which tells you how much fabric you will need.
  • Find a style you like based on the front and back views of the pattern.
  • After finding your size, circle or highlight it, so  you don’t get confused by all the other sizes and numbers for yardage.
  • Some patterns have more than one view/style. This may mean that one view has pockets while the other does not, or you may have shorter or longer sleeves, etc. Find the style you like and focus only on the information for that style. Otherwise you may buy more than you need.
  • If you are able to, look inside the pattern to see how many pattern pieces it has. Keep in mind that the more pattern pieces there are, the more detailed and perhaps complicated the garment will be.
  • Look under fabric suggestions. If the pattern says “recommended for knits” then knits or wovens are fine to use. However, if the pattern says “knits only” then you should strictly use knits and not wovens. * A recommendation for beginners is to stick to wovens until you feel comfortable enough to venture into working with knits, which are more demanding.
  • Make sure you are looking at the correct width of fabric for the yardage needed. 44/45” wide fabrics will need more yardage than 58/60” wide fabrics.
  • Look for closures the garment might have such as zippers, buttonholes, hooks or snaps. The difficulty of putting in these closures will depend entirely on your experience. If you are a beginner, start with simpler closures such as hooks, snaps or even button and loop closures. The more sewing experience you gain the easier and less daunting it will be for you to tackle putting in a zipper or making buttonholes.
  • Read through the entire notions list. Notions are just another word for sewing supplies. Examples of notions are: thread, elastic, buttons, zippers.


We hope that by following these tips you will feel more confident choosing a garment pattern the next time you go shopping. Remember to ask for help if needed, and most importantly,  have fun! Enjoy the possibility of creating something unique, a garment that only you will own.

Happy Stitching!