Back to Basics: Reading a Sewing Pattern Envelope

Back to Basics: Reading a Sewing Pattern Envelope

Sewing patterns are just one of the fundamentals for creating the perfect outfit, so be sure to know how to read one before tackling any sewing project.
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There are some crucial fundamentals for any sewing project: the fabric, the notions, the equipment, and, most importantly, the pattern. While you can get most of these at your local or online fabric store, they don’t serve you any good if you can’t read the pattern. Fortunately, this guide will take you back to basics on how to read a sewing pattern envelope.

What to Know on the Envelope

It doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner, novice, or experienced sewer, since the information on the pattern envelope will guide you through the project. On the front of most envelopes, you’ll find pattern variations, the pattern number to retrieve the right fabrics at the fabric store, and sizes included in the pattern. Alternatively, on the back, you might find the sizing information, pattern descriptions, fabric requirements, fabric suggestions, notions, and finished garment measurements.

Sizing Guide

When it comes to the sizing guide, you’ll likely see a larger size than your typical regular clothing. This is natural and depends on the pattern brand. Try out different sewing patterns to see which sizes fit you best compared to your conventional clothing. Still, when choosing the right pattern, consider your bust, waist, and hip measurements. Naturally, use your bust measurement for shirts, blouses, or tops, and your hip and waist for skirts or pants. Importantly, those with a chest larger or smaller than a B cup should each consider their bust-to-waist ratio, as most patterns assume the wearer is around this size. This can throw off your garment sizing if you’re not careful.

Suggested Fabrics and Yardage

One of the nice things when reading a sewing pattern envelope is seeing the suggested fabrics and yardage. That way, you won’t struggle to find the right one. Check the back of the envelope for these suggestions, but know you’re not limited to these choices. Of course, not every pattern is the same. Check for suggested knits or woven, as this can determine whether your piece will stretch or not. Also, the pattern envelope’s backside will indicate the appropriate fabric yardage needed. These are commonly found in 45” and 60” measurements. The amount you need depends on the fabric you use.


Notions are small essentials to create your garment. Zippers, buttons, interfaces, and elastic bands are common notions used in many sewing projects. It’s a good idea to get your notions at the fabric store when picking up your fabrics. That way, you have everything on hand.

Finished Garment Measurements

Lastly, your finished garment measurements are important for any finishing touches and details. For many people, their final garments don’t fit as expected. This is often because there’s extra fabric built into the garment for easy movement. You can find the ease by subtracting the finished garment measurements from your body measurements. Some garments only offer one to two inches of ease, while others may have negative ease. When this happens, your garment is smaller than your body’s measurements, like in spandex, which is designed to stretch.

When choosing the right fabric for your cosplay or other garment ideas, don’t forget to order from us at Fabric Wholesale Direct. Our vast selection of apparel fabrics makes us one of the largest retailers for printed fabric online. You can see any of our printed or non-printed fabrics at a reasonable price point for your sewing project.

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