Reading a Retail Pattern Envelope

Posted by on Feb 11, 2015 in Sewing, Theory | Comments Off on Reading a Retail Pattern Envelope

When you choose a pattern you probably choose it for the picture. I mean very few people are thinking about anything beyond that. The fact is that, if you’re buying a pattern, you’re probably going to want to, you know, make the picture on the front eventually, so this post is dedicated to helping you decipher the different pattern types.

Let’s start at the beginning. Here’s your pattern envelope:

pattern1There are a couple of facts here on the front that you’ll need. First, the pattern number.

pattern numberAll McCall’s pattern numbers start with an M. That’s because McCall’s is part of an umbrella corporation that includes Butterick, Vogue, and KwikSew brands of patterns. Respectively, all of their pattern numbers begin with B, V, and K. That number helps you find the right pattern in the drawer in the store, Also, each piece of the pattern will have that number on it. When you’re storing the pattern, that will help you keep track of which pieces belong, especially if you mix patterns (more on that later). Also, if you ever lose the pattern back, you can always look it up online.

Next, you’ll find the size:

pattern sizeThose circled areas have the size range for that particular pattern. Usually, I try to buy the largest size range available. That’s because it’s always easier to size something down than it is to size it up. That doesn’t always work out, but that’s how I do it.

Now, onto the back of the pattern:

envelope backNow, there’s a ton of information on here, that you might need. That’s what this post is all about.

envelope back picturesAlong the left side of most patterns, you’ll find a line art drawing of the fancy picture on the front. I actually look at that section so that I can see the basic lines of the pattern. See, a lot of patterns out there have the same elements, so, if I check the line art section, I can make sure I’m not buying a second version of a pattern I already have. This section also shows the different options available in the pattern.

envelope back Dress yardageTo the right of the line art section (on this pattern) are listings of the amount of fabric you need for each option the pattern offers. As you can see, the A Dress option has a listing for how much fabric you need for every size that it’s available in. You can also flip the envelope over to see what the photograph of that option looks like on the model.

pattern front A

At the top of the pattern envelope back you’ll find a section that gives suggestions on the best types of fabric to use for the pattern you’ve chosen. You don’t have to choose those fabrics, but the manufacturer has put a lot of research into telling you that they will wield the best possible results.

envelope back fabricsThe pattern envelope also has the sizing conversion chart for body measurements.

envelope back sizesNote: McCall’s brands have the sizing chart on the flap.

mccall's flap

To determine the size you’ll need to buy for, take your body measurements and match it with the largest size that they correspond to on the envelope. For example, if your bust measures 36 (size 14), your waist measures 30 (size 16), and your hips measure 39 (between size 14 and 16), you would choose size 16.

envelope back SizingYou can then trace down the column under the size you’ve chosen to determine how much fabric to purchase.

envelope back Sizing yardageFor those of you purchasing in metric, I’ve found that many fabric stores here in Canada can figure out how many metres you need based off of the yardage, but if you’re curious if you already have enough, look over on the Spanish/French section. You might not be able to read the words, but the rows and columns are all the same.

envelope back French

Did you learn something from this post? Consider:

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