I think this series is going to go on for longer than I thought. : )
Last week we looked a sewing pattern envelope; this week we’re going inside and will decipher the symbols on a pattern.
We’ll start with the grainline. Fabric has what is called a grain. This is the threads that run the long way down the fabric. The grainline has to match this or else the fabrics won’t hang right. If you cut off grain your garment can twist when you wear it and become quite uncomfortable.
On the pictures, the ordinary grainline is illustrated on the one on the left. It’s the long blue line with arrows on the ends. You just put the pattern piece on your fabric and make sure that the arrows are the same distance as each other from the selvedge or the fold of the fabric.
The other pattern piece has a grainline on which the arrows turn 90 degrees and point to the straight edge of the pattern piece. This is called a foldline and it means that the piece is cut on the fold of the fabric like when you try and cut a symmetrical heart shape out of paper.
Sometimes the grainline is not parallel with the edge of the fabric, but is at a 45 degree, or “bias”, angle. You still have to follow the rules as for an ordinary grainline, so the pattern piece will be at a bias angle. Garments are sometimes cut on the bias to take advantage of the draping qualities of bias cut. It takes more care to sew garments this way. Madame Vionnet was the queen of bias cut.
Now we’ll look at notches. Look again at the picture. Do you see on the armhole and the shoulder those little triangles? They are called notches, because you cut a notch out of the seam allowance. They help you to sew every thing together in the right place. Not all patterns have them on the shoulder. This one does because there the back shoulder has to be eased to match the front shoulder. You just gather ever so slightly the back shoulder so that it is the same length as the front one. It is easier to do this if you match up the notches (front to back) and pin them. Then you can draw up the easing thread so that the fabric meets with no gaps and no puckers. Then you pin it, baste it, and stitch it. (That wiggly line on the back shoulder tells you that you have to ease there – it is called an ease line).
Anyway, back to notches. Look at the ones on the armhole. There are two on the back and one on the front. This is to help you put the sleeve in the right way around. They match up with the corresponding notches on the sleeve (see the picture to the right). The notch on the top of the sleeve matches up with the shoulder seam on the garment.
(Note: the picture of a sleeve pattern looks weird because it is a rough idea of how a sleeve pattern ought to look. Here is a link with more information: http://www.fashion-incubator.com/archive/sleeve_cap_ease_is_bogus/.)
Anyway, to stay with that topic and move onto the next at the same time, we come to dots and circles. I’ll include another picture here to save your constantly scrolling.
Here you can see that the front of the pattern has been copied and traced off to make what is called a facing pattern. A facing is a way of neatening a raw edge that will and keeping it out of sight. At the top and bottom of each centre front there is a small circle. These are not buttons. They are meant to be cut out of the pattern but not the fabric (on unprinted patterns they would be pre-punched). When you have the pattern on the fabric and have cut it out, you make a tailor’s tack through the hole. (A tailor’s tack is a big, loose backstitch used for marking when chalk won’t do. It’s removed when you have finished.)
Circles are often used to mark where a pocket goes or where to start and stop stitching on something that is not quite an ordinary seam, like placing appliqué. On a seam, a notch will sometimes show you were to stop stitching, e.g. where a zip goes on a skirt or dress. The dots at the neckline in this drawing might match up with dots on the collar so that the collar is in the right place. (They wouldn’t be necessary for putting the facing in place on a simple front like this.)
Now we come to levels. I don’t know what they are really called, but they are the little horizontal lines on a sewing pattern that show you where the bust level, waist level, and hip level are.
(Oh, my! I just noticed that the side seams on my quick “sketch” are no where near the same length like as they should be!)
Now we’ll look at pleats, and stitching lines.