How To Read a Pattern

Patterns are everywhere in the world.  As a child we had to figure out patterns by color or shape.  However, being an adult, patterns become a little tougher.  I am a teacher so I work with patterns quite often, especially when making paper objects or models.  Until I began to sew, I cheated and would just look at the finished picture and try to figure it out myself.  This did not always bring the results I had hoped for, so I came up with some basic ideas on how to read patterns.

  1. First, one of the most important things I have to say is that you have to go slow when reading patterns.  I recommend reading the directions and looking at the pattern at least twice before you start.  This gives you a chance to visualize what you are making.
  2. Second, give yourself time.  I used to make the mistake of buying a pattern, and then reading the pattern and starting on the project only to become frustrated and throw it away.  Choose a time to start when you know you will have some uninterrupted time to yourself to read the pattern.
  3. Third, give yourself some space.  Some patterns may look small on the outside, but once you start reading the pattern and pulling apart the pages of the little manual, you may end up with a giant mess.  The space you choose should be an uncluttered area that other members of your household will leave alone.
  4. Fourth, gather what you need to complete your project.  This may be fabric or hardware that will be necessary to complete your project.  As you begin reading the pattern, make sure you are looking at the diagrams or letters for each piece of the materials you are using.  My reasoning is that it will become extremely helpful, as you can identify the materials you need with where you are in the pattern.  For example, when you are reading your pattern and you need a certain piece of material or a certain size screw to complete that piece, you can match the pattern with the material or hardware you need to complete that part of the pattern ahead of time so you are not searching all over for that piece.

Reading a pattern can be a very frustrating activity.  But it is worth it to complete your projects. Remember, read carefully, go slow, give yourself space, and organize.  This will make reading patterns much easier.


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