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Understanding Pattern Directions

rachel32577 | Posted in Teach Yourself To Sew on

I am teaching myself to sew and would like to be able to follow a pattern from start to finish.  ITS SO FRUSTRATING!  I understand the envelope, sizing, notions, how to lay out pattern, fabric, basically all of the stuff on back of enevelope.  One I am having trouble with is New Look pattern #6739  *easy.  I get the pieces cut and am ready to go.  Directions #1 Stay Stitch front and back neck edges. (easy) #2 Stitch upper front to back at shoulder seams (easy as well)  #3 Apply interfacing to front and back facing (whats the facing? How much interfacing?) Stitch shoulder seams of facing sections (a lil more confused now) With RIGHT sides together, pin facing (again what is the ‘facing’?) to neck edges matching centers back and shoulder seams. Stitch seam. LAYER seam. (what is “layer seam”?)

I am so motivated and then BAM! a weird direction that completely throws me off and I end up with another unfinished project in the garbage.  I would love if someone can help me understand the directions given when actually constructing the piece!!! THANKS SO MUCH!!!



  1. marymary | | #1

    rachel, the facing for the neck is made of two pieces, front and back.  They will be the same shape as the neckline of the top, but only about 3" wide.  They encase the raw edge. You cut them out of the same fabric, or sometimes a different fabric for contrast.  Cut pieces of interfacing using the same pattern pieces as the facings and then cut off 1/4" of the interfacing all around so that it doesn't extend beyond the edge of the facing.  This is particularly important if you are using an iron-on interfacing.  The interfacing is there to give stability to the facing.  I see you are making a scrub top and this probably doesn't apply, but it is important to use interfacing if you are doing buttons or snaps.  Apply the interfacing to the wrong side of the facing.  If you are using a sew in interfacing, you will baste it in.  Then sew the shoulders of the facing just like you did the top.  Be sure to press the seams open.   Finish the raw edge of the facing, usually by turning under 1/4".  Then match the facing piece to the garment piece wrong sides together.  Sew around the neck edge.  Cut the seam allowance so that there is about 1/4" left, after you have sewn it so that the facing turns nicely into the inside and you don't have the bulk of a 5/8" seam allowance.  Layering means that you cut the two seam allowances at slightly different widths.

    You didn't ask about understitching, but that is something to do to keep the facing from rolling to the outside.  After you have done all of the above, press.  First press the facing just as you have sewn it so that the stitches are set.  Then press the seam open with the seam allowance toward the facing.  Stitch along the edge of the facing from the right side, catching just the facing and the seam allowance.  This is understitching.  Pressing correctly makes a big difference in the outcome and the ease of stitching.

  2. Palady | | #2

    marymary posted replies to you which will hopefully get you past your dilemma.  With the Internet, there's all manner of "help" for you.   The following URL's are sewing dictionaries.  Maybe bookmarking them will be of help to you.     




    Data on various techniques are in cyberspace as well.  Consider -


    This is but one.  Your search engine will probably bring up others.  Many sewists have blogs.  These can be searched as well.

    Unfortunately adjectives, such as "easy," are relative.  What is such for one could well be less so for another.  My curiosity is if the New Look patterns are printed with piece name.  The facing's would then be printed on the tissue.   Your being disheartened can be resolved.  Honest.    It's a matter of us more experienced sewers steering you in the right direction.  Sometimes hard to do in just text, but with the all of cyberspace most of what you can use is available to you.  Hang in there Rachel.  Everything will fall into place.     


    ETA - corrections to my typo's.  I proof read but was unable to because I'm having an issue scrolling the Comment:: screen.  It stalls & I'm unable to get to the beginning.  So, I could only pick upon them after the reply went on the board.  Better you avoid hearing our member tales of woe working through this new platform.

    Again - please keep on with your sewing.   nepa

  3. marymary | | #3

    YES, yes, stillsuesew is so right!  Put the right sides together and the wrong sides out.  I read and re-read what I wrote so as not to give a beginner wrong information and I did it anyway!  So sorry.

    Pattern directions used to be so much better than they are now and could almost be used as a sewing course.  I wondered why she didn't have pieces that say "Facing" also. 

    1. Sancin | | #7

      Learning to sew

      I have been sewing most of my lfe (now nearly 70) so don't check out learning to sew books often.  Recently someone asked me if I knew someone in my city who taught sewing.  Unfortunately, I do not know of anyone - the high school and colleges seem to have stopped offering general interest continuing education programs.  I really don't have the energy to teach someone I don't really know how to sew so have been on the look out for some resources for her.  Today I checked out Threads Learning to Sew series.  They are video's on line (check out the recent discussions listed to the left of this screen).  I was really impressed with the content and manner of teaching AND are very basic with short bits of information.  I think if I was starting to learn I would try to figure out a way to download them onto a CD so I could move quickly from one lesson to another while at my sewing machine - but maybe you have a computer in your sewing space ;-).

      Don't be afraid to check in often here and remember no question is too stupid or basic.  We all started somewhere at somepoint.  Check out your public library for sewing books before purchasing one to see what is most useful to you.  Unfortunately, there are few basic sewing magazines available but SEW NEWS  and the other Tauton Press mag (name escapes me right now - senior moment) have a lot of wonderful and useful projects which are easy and useful and help you to learn to sew. Craft's Stylish newsletter and web site has a sewing section you may want to check out. Threads eletter and web site also has a sewing section with lots of good information, tho not all basic.  Further, it may seem rather stupid, but there is a full book on learning to sew written for schools in the 1920's or 30's, the name of the site which slips my mind, but is excellent.  After all, the basics haven't changed, but tools, new fancy techniques and tips have modernized.  Perhaps someone else here can give you directions to the site. Take advice already given and start with simple things and the tip to put things aside when frustrated and tired.  Good Luck

  4. rachel32577 | | #4

    Thanks you all for your comments and suggestions and help!  I do not want to give up!!! I think that having some experienced sewers helping me over the humps will make all the difference. Thanks again so much!!!

    1. Palady | | #5

      it's pleasing to read you plan to go forward with your sewing.  Until you get yourself to the point of understanding what directions are specifying, please stay with fashion having a minimum of tissue pattern pieces.  Transfer ALL, & I do mean ALL, markings on the tissue to you fabric.   Notches. dots, lines, whatever.  As to notches.  I suggest you do these with a marker rather than cutting the V.  I say this because cutting them can present issues in some fabrics.  If you "train" yourself to mark notches, the doing becomes a natural part of your effort.

      Mark you fabric sections, on the wrong side - aka inside, unseen side, non public side -, in a corner or in the seam line.  Once you get to the point you can recognize the pieces by sight, you can omit doing this marking.   When you progress to using fabric that is difficult to identify the sides, BE CERTAIN YOU MARK WHICH IS WHICH.  Use something you'll remember.  An X, or a W, or some such is an option.

      Do take the time to review the instruction sheet BEFORE you begin stitching.  If a direction is bothering, take the time to get info from the Interent.  Or, browse stores for books on sewing.  There are many.  Try to find one that "speaks" to you as you thumb through it.  Each & every member here could offer you authors.  What matters, MO, is for you to select the one you readily understand. 

      And most of all, when your constructing and the all just falls short of coming together as you want, put it down & go do something else.  Leave it lay for hours.  24 or more.  Then come back to it.  99% of the time you'll put it all together & find yourself wondering what the heck was the matter previously.   But avoid dwelling on the latter.  Just take comfort in knowing you-figured-it-out.

      I feel safe in saying all us sewsits have goffed big time despite our years of sewing.  What makes the difference is, we have had enough positives to realize it was just a bump in the road that we got or can get past.

      Pop in now & again to let us know how your doing.



  5. Teaf5 | | #6

    Resources for teaching yourself

     The pattern instructions aren't designed to teach you how to perform the techniques; they just refer to the appropriate order of the steps and mention anything that wouldn't be obvious.  They are like recipes, which assume you know what "boil" "saute" and "whisk" mean.

    You can find many instructional websites, but there are so many that you might be overwhelmed, especially if you are looking at an explanation of something complicated before you learn the basics.

     It would be much, much easier to  buy or check out a book on basic sewing that will present all the techniques in an organized, logical way; the For Dummies series (NAIAW) would be excellent for a beginner.  A good book will also show several projects from start to finish so that you understand the reason for each step.

    Take some time to read through the explanations and look at the illustrations.  Then use some scrap fabric to try out each of the essential techniques several times until you are comfortable doing it.  You can even use paper towels or paper instead of fabric for practice. 

    Many of us learned to sew by making aprons, drawstring bags, or placemats--simple projects that gave us lots of practice sewing straight seams and pressing--before we started on garments, which require more techniques.  Start simple, use fabrics you love (but that you get on sale!), and enjoy learning!

  6. Palady | | #8

    I have to admit to smiling broadly when I read your post   >> ...answer specific questions for me as sometimes I don't know what answer I am looking for ... <<    It's possible each of us has been in the situation of not even knowing what question to aks to get an answer.  

    Your approach will carrying you into becoming an accomplished sewist.    A curiosity- does your neighbor sew?  Or, perhaps she just happens to know the Threads Magazine & the message board. 


  7. rachel32577 | | #9


        I am so pleased to tell you all that i have started a project! I decided to nix the scrub top idea as I am not working much anyway.  I found a pattern for a summer-like dress to make for my daughter for our upcoming beach vacation.  It is Simplicity Pattern #2638.  I didn't even skip a single step so far.  I am so excited!!! I have been working on it all evening (mostly ironing!!).  So far I got the bodice part done.  I ran into a few snags but took a break and went back and it seemed to make sense then.  I am about to start the midriff section and got the fusible interfacing on and its actually sticking!!!  My back was screaming for a break, so i thought i would log on and let you all know how things were going.  There are only 14 steps and I am on 7 so i am feeling pretty psyched.  The skirt part looks fairly easy too.  I have never even tried to do a zipper so that will be a first for me.  I also got some really pretty trim on sale at Walmart I think I may add to the midriff section when its all done, just to make it my own.  If I can finish this, and finish it by doing each and every step I will be so proud of myself!  When its all done i will post some pics! 


    1. marymary | | #10

      Good for you, Rachel!

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