Adding pattern markings to your patterns


For those of you have been following along with The Skirt Series, we have almost finished our blocks! We have drafted the pattern, added shaping to the darts, added seam allowance, and today we are going to finish it all off by adding pattern markings.

Pattern markings

There are a number of markings you should always add to your pattern pieces. They help you with laying patterns on the fabric correctly when cutting your fabric, and also help when sewing your garment together. 

The grainline

The grainline ensures that the pattern is placed on the fabric the right way. If the grain is not straight (and it is intended to be), you may end up with a badly fitted garment.

The grainline usually runs vertically through a pattern, although in some cases it will run horizontally or even diagonally (bias cut patterns). I like to use arrows to indicate the top and bottom of the pattern - this can help when you have a directional print or a pattern piece that is an unconventional shape. The double arrow points towards the top, and the single arrow points towards the bottom. I also like to draw grainlines so they run from one edge of the pattern to the other, this is really hand when using a striped fabric, to ensure your placement is exactly right. 


Notches are small cuts in the fabric that guide you while you are sewing (they are also commonly indicated with small triangles). If you have sewn The Rushcutter, you will know how much I love a good notch! 

Notches are used to indicate:

  • seam allowance
  • dart arms
  •  the location of design details such as: pleats, gathers or pockets
  • the centre front
  • the centre back
  • balance points

Balance points are pointers on your pattern that help you put pieces together correctly, as well as help you when you are sewing a very long, or curved seam.

For example, I tend to add a balance point (or even two or three - depending on the length of the seam) part way down a side seam to ensure that the pieces are sewn together correctly and I am not left with excess fabric on one side of the seam at the end. Balance points also help to prevent stretching the seam when sewing. In the skirt block, for example, the notch at the hip line acts as a balance point.

A notching no-no

Try to avoid notching both sides of a corner as this can weaken the fabric (as well as the pattern itself). 

Double notches

Double notches are normally used to indicate the direction a piece should be sewn in (and generally indicate the back of the pattern piece). For example, a double notch is used on a sleeve cap to indicate where the sleeve cap meets the back armhole. In a side panel, a double notch is also often used to show where the piece meets with the back pattern piece.

I also like to use a double notch to indicate the end of a zip (if I am using a zip in the centre back).

Drill holes

Drill holes are used to indicate a dart point. I prefer to place drill holes 1cm - 1.5cm up from the actual dart point, so that when the dart is sewn, the marking is hidden inside the dart.

Drill holes can be used to indicate other design features, such as:

  • placement of patch pockets
  • placement of belt loops
  • or any other design feature that is in an area where you are unable to mark a notch on a seam

Pattern instructions

Pattern instructions are your way of keeping track of, and identifying, pattern pieces.

On each pattern piece, you should include:

  • the name of the pattern
  • the name of the pattern piece
  • size
  • cutting instructions
  • number of pieces
  • date

Some of these things may seem quite obvious, but the clearer your markings are, the easier your pattern will be to use. Particularly if you decide to use the pattern in a month, or even a year! If the instructions are clear, you won't waste any time trying to remember the details of your pattern. 

And that's it! You can go ahead and make a toile of your skirt block and see how it fits!

In the coming weeks I am planning on showing you some different ways to hack the skirt block into a different design. Do you have anything you would like to see in particular?

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