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Sewing Patterns Guide

This guide aims to help you get to grips with the basics of sewing patterns, looking at how to decide upon your correct pattern size, a walkthrough of the information on every section of the pattern envelope, and what each marking and symbol actually means!

Before you choose the design of your pattern, you should fully understand what size you require – and how to figure this out. Sewing patterns generally differ from retail sizes as they're based on figure types, shapes and proportions, rather than standard sizing increments, ensuring there’s no creasing, wrinkling or tightness. So, when choosing your pattern size, there are three main things to think about.

How to Find Out Your Body Measurements

Before determining your body shape and figure type, you should take your measurements. It's best to measure yourself over the top of underwear that you usually wear to ensure you obtain the most accurate results possible, pulling the tape measure snuggly instead of pulling it very tight.

Body Measurements For Women

Measurements for Woman
  1. Height - Stand without shoes on up against a straight wall. Place a ruler flat on your head and mark the wall where it touches. Measure from the mark, right down to the floor.
  2. Chest (High Bust) - Measure directly under your arms, wrapping the tape straight across your upper back and around your chest, above the bust.
  3. Bust - Measure around the fullest part of your bust, the tape wrapping right the way around your back.
  4. Waist - Tie string around the narrowest part of your waist, moving your body around a little so that it can settle at your natural waistline. Measure with your tape over the string, then leave the string in place for the next measurement.
  5. Back-Waist Length - Using the string you previously tied around your natural waistline, measure from the top of your spine (most prominent spinal bone under your neck) and right down to the waistline string.
  6. Hip - Measure around your hips at their fullest part – this is usually between 7 and 9 inches below your waist.

Body Measurements For Men

Measurements For Men
  1. Height - Stand without shoes on up against a straight wall. Place a ruler flat on your head and mark the wall where it touches. Measure from the mark, right down to the floor.
  2. Neck - Measure the circumference of your neck, about an inch above the top of your spine (most prominent spinal bone under your neck).
  3. Chest - Standing with a straight back, measure around from your shoulder blades, under your armpits and around the fullest part of your chest.
  4. Sleeve Length - Measure from the top of your spine (most prominent spinal bone under your neck) across to the end of your shoulder blade, then down to your elbow. Bend your arm until it's at a right angle, then measure from underneath your elbow to your wrist.
  5. Waist - Measure from your navel, right around your back at a constant level.
  6. Hip - Measure around your hips at their fullest part, at the midpoint of your pelvic bone.

How to Find Out Your Figure Type

The next step involves finding out your figure type, which is also handy when deciding what size pattern you'll need to purchase. Choosing the correct figure type will minimise the likelihood of having to make alterations and further adjustments. Your measurements may not exactly correspond to specific pattern sizes, but this is a totally natural occurrence – everyone's body size is unique and rarely matches up to the industry's standards. The size you pick should be one that resembles your size the most accurately.

There's a whole host of figure types to choose from when selecting a pattern – the most important measurements to take into consideration are the Bust/Chest, Waist and Hips. But what's your figure type? Figure types correlate to your height and body size – so look back at your measurements to make that all-important decision. You will usually find that you'll closely match one of the following:


Height between 5'5" and 5'6" without shoes - slender figure

Misses' Petite

Height under 5'4" without shoes - slender figure


Height between 5'5" and 5'6" without shoes - fuller figure

Women's Tall

Height above 5'7" without shoes


Height around 5'10" - average build

Girls',Boys' or Juniors'

Growing girls or boys before they've matured


Young children out of nappies


The age between a baby and a child - size allowance for nappies


Babies - newborn to pre-walking

How to Find Out Your Body Shape

Now that you've taken your measurements and decided upon your figure type, you should consider what your body shape is – this is unrelated to the size of your pattern, but may help you decide which clothing styles will flatter your figure the most. Sometimes patterns will indicate which body shape it's best suited to, although it may be entirely down to you to determine it for yourself. Nonetheless, we're here to help – we've identified five common body shapes that you may fall under: Hourglass, Triangle, Inverted Triangle, Slim Rectangle and Wide Rectangle.

Identifying Your Body Shape

  1. Stand up straight in front of a mirror in your undergarments, a bathing suit, or a leotard – with your legs together and arms down by your sides.
  2. Individually have a good look at your shoulders/bust area, waist and hips.
  3. Imagine lines connecting these three areas on each side of your body.
  4. What shape can you now see? See the chart below to find your closest match...


Your hips are wider than your shoulders. Also known as the 'pear' body shape, Triangles should wear patterns and designs that accentuate their shoulders and bodice. Garments with wide collars and shoulder pads are very much favoured, broadening the narrow shoulders.

Inverted Triangle

Inverted Triangle

Your shoulders are wider than your hips. With broad shoulders, Inverted Triangles should wear clothing with lots of detail below the waist, balancing their shape – details could include pockets, pleats, prints and patterns. Alternatively, raglan sleeves make shoulders visually smaller.



Your shoulders, waist and hips are of a similar width, with an overall slim frame. Also known as the 'straight' figure, Slim Rectangles have a less defined waist than other body shapes. Wearing detail on the bust and hip areas will add dimension and volume, creating a fuller body shape.

Wide Rectangle

Wide Rectangle

Your shoulders, waist and hips are of a similar width, with an overall wide frame. With an almost straight-up-and-down figure, Wide Rectangles have a fuller waistline. Adding curves will pull in the waist – clothing should be body-skimming, include shoulder/neckline detail, or have princess seams.



Your shoulders and hips are of a similar width, whilst your waist is much narrower. Hourglasses should wear clothing that accentuates their waist and curves. Fitted clothing, tailored jackets and waist belts are all ideal, showing off the curved body shape.