How to Read a Commercial Pattern




So, if you remember, waaaaaay back I did a how to on reading the back of commercial patterns. This is the second part of that. Here we’re going to talk about what’s inside the actual packet and how it works! We’re going to be using the above pattern as our template for this. Things will vary from brand to brand but as long as you know what you are looking for you’ll be good to go!

Inside there are going to be two main things: The instructions for putting the garment together and the pattern pieces themselves.

We’re going to start with the instructions. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be tempted to skip this step but I can speak from experience that when I do this it doesn’t turn out well. By taking a little extra time in the beginning it can save you a ton of time while sewing.

Options and lables

The first page on instruction will list the different styles that are available. As you can see this one shows both the front and back.

Pattern peices

From there, you’ll want to look for the list of pieces and their numbers. This will be super important when it comes time to know which ones to cut for what you’re making.

Style Breakdown.

Next, you’ll want to look for the style you want. They tend to be on the bottom half of the instructions and are broken up into sections according to style. If you look at
1. you’ll see the style this section corresponds with.
2. Shows you the piece numbers that you’ll cut out for this style.
3: Is the fabric size and nap details while
4. corresponds with it and suggests the best way to cut out the pieces. Sometimes this is the best way, sometimes it’s not. Really comes doing to how you do it and the sizes involved.


Then the last part of the instruction packet is the actual instructions for each style. I’d recommend following them when you’re first starting out until you get a feel for what works best for you.

Center info Pattern

Now on to the pattern pieces.
1: This is the number that corresponds to the ones found on the instruction packet. This is how you know you’re cutting out the right one.
2: This tells you what styles use this pattern. So if you know you’re going to do Style A then this will let you know if Style A uses this piece. (It’s like a fail safe.)
3: Tells you how many pieces of fabric are to be cut with this piece.*
4: Tells you the pattern and brand this piece belongs to. I know it seems silly but it’s a life saver when things get lost, then found.
5: Lists all the sizes this piece offers. This is important because there are quite a few companies that break up the sizes for a particular piece. Make sure this is the piece you  want AND the right size.
6: The arrow shows which way the fabric needs to be placed on the fabric in relation to the grain lines. (Here’s a great breakdown of grain lines). This is SUPER important becase it will play a major factor in how well the garment moves and stretches in the end.
7: Are the sizes with the corresponding lines. (We’ll look closer at this in a second.)
And 8: Tells you how and where you should cut. There will be one of two options and they look like this:

where to cut

This determines whether you’ll have two matching mirrored pieces or one piece that’s symmetrical. Make sense? *If there are two pieces that need to be cut make sure they mirror each other unless otherwise stated. I have NOT done this more than once and had to cut out an extra second mirroring piece to finish.

Size 2

The size lines are often distinguished buy different types of dotted/dashed lines.


These triangles are going to be found on the edge of most of the main pattern pieces. They are markings to help you match up with other pieces they’re to be sewn with. I usually just make tiny snips in the fabric that match up to the center. There are other marking that are found but this is the most common. If you have a question about a different type of marking go back to the instructions. They’ll let you know what it’s for.


Now all that’s left is to cut out the pieces! Or if you’re like me, you can trace the pieces you need using either plan tissue paper, Swedish tracing paper, freezer paper, or that paper they use on the patient’s table in doctor’s offices. I do this bc I like to know my original pattern is safe for another use even if I cut out the wrong size. It will also save the main pattern pieces the wear and tear that goes along with cutting out the fabric itself. Yes it does take extra time but it’s worth it to me. Just be sure to label everything and include all the markings that are on the original pattern. Do that and you’ll be gold!

Did any of that help? If you have questions let me know and I’ll be happy to answer!



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