Sewing Pattern Markings

Understanding Sewing Pattern Markings Fully

When you first open your sewing pattern, you will see different sets of symbols and lines on the pattern. These are the sewing pattern markings. Your sewing pattern markings is like a unique set of instructions for on how to use the pattern. Without these markings on the sewing pattern, you would not be able to complete the project.

Well, what on earth do these sewing pattern markings mean and how do I apply these sewing pattern markings to the fabric and the garment that I’m busy sewing? If you are wondering this question, you have already opened the sewing pattern to take a look at it, but the markings are confusing you. In the next couple of paragraphs, I will attempt to try and show you how to apply the pattern markings to your sewing pattern.

First, the sewing pattern markings helps with the layout of the pattern on the fabric. If you understand the symbols and lines indicated on the pattern, then you will have no problem applying them to the garment you are making. What’s more important, the garment you are making will then be a success. But if you do not understand the sewing pattern markings then things can go horribly wrong.

Below, I have a list of the sewing pattern markings and how to apply them. However, it’s important to note that most patterns come with a set of pattern instructions which very often have the explanations for the markings on their patterns. Depending on the brand, for example Burda, Simplicity or New Look etc, the markings may differ slightly although they are all pretty standard and look very much alike.

The first sewing pattern marking you should be aware of is the cutting line. This marking indicates the line along which you will be cutting the fabric once the pattern is laid out and pinned on the fabric. It is usually a solid line with a little pair of scissors indicated somewhere on it in one or multiple places. It looks like this:

The next sewing pattern marking that you should be aware of is the stitching line. This is usually indicated on the pattern as where you should be stitching. It is worth marking this line on your fabric as that’s the exact place the pattern is indicating your stitching to occur. The stitching line is usually a broken line and is indicated like this:

The grain line is a marking that is indicated in a vertical position on the sewing pattern. It usually has two little arrows at the ends, pointing up and down. Sometimes the grain line is indicated horizontally but in most cases it’s indicated vertically on the pattern. This means that the pattern needs to be placed so that the arrow shows in the direction that the grain of the fabric is running. It looks like this:

The next sewing pattern marking that you should be well acquainted with is the “cut on fold” marking. This marking on the sewing pattern indicates that where this part of the pattern is, the fabric should be folded in half, and the pattern placed on the fold of the fabric so that you can have half a piece of shirt to cut for example that you cut and then fold open to complete a full piece.


The bust point sewing pattern marking indicates where you match the bust point on the pattern with your own bust point. This will help with greater accuracy on the garment as you sew it. It’s a small circle and looks like this:

A lengthen and shorten line can be indicated anywhere on the pattern. Especially if you are sewing a pair of trousers, shorts, skirt or ladies top. It’s important to note, especially if the sewing pattern is a multi-pattern, meaning it’s a pattern that can either do a short or trousers with the same pattern pieces for example. In this case, the sewing pattern markings will indicate whether it’s a short and you should cut by that line or if you should use the bottom part to mark the end of the pattern piece.

Notches are important sewing pattern markings because they indicate where the pattern pieces are to be fitted together. The notches on the back of the pattern will match the notches on the front of the pattern and that is where you put the back and the front together. Notches can be colored in triangles or they could look like the image below. They could be one alone, two together or three together. Even up to five together. The matching notches on the front and back of the pattern is where it fits together. Remember, a sewing pattern is like a puzzle that you build and put together. For example, I have cut out the front and the back pieces of a shirt. But I don’t know where exactly to match them so that they fit together. The notches will tell me. I put the back panel together with the matching notches on the front panel. Here is an example of notch markings on a sewing pattern.

If your pattern has pleats like mens trousers or lady skirts, then the sewing pattern marking you are going to see looks like the image below. This is used to indicate pleats and used to indicate the fold lines for the pleats on the fabric.

Another sewing pattern marking that is quite common is the button hole. This marking indicates the button hole placement and size.

If your sewing pattern has button holes, you are likely to see a sewing pattern marking similar to the one below which indicates the button placement on the fabric.

Sewing patterns can also be equipped with zippers. The intention is to have a zipper inserted into the garment that is being sewn. The zipper sewing pattern marking is indicated below:

When you are deciding on which size of sewing pattern to cut, there will be different cut lines for you that’s indicated. The different cut lines will have a specific pattern for each size. That is the line that you would cut your fabric along to get the correct size garment.

The last sewing pattern marking that I will talk about is a group of markings called the pattern transfer markings. Those indicate that the markings for those need to be transfered on to the fabric itself.

Following your indicated sewing pattern markings are very important for the correct sewing of any type of garment, curtain or oven-glove! You cannot expect your garment to come out correctly if you do not follow the sewing pattern markings indicated on the actual sewing pattern. So with this bit of information on this page, I hope I have helped you to understand what all the jargon on the pattern means and how to better apply it when you cut your pattern.

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