For beginner sewists, I know that reading a sewing pattern can feel a bit overwhelming. There's so many strange looking symbols, lines and terminology to memorize. Let's go over the anatomy of a sewing pattern and what pattern markings mean.

Okay...ready? First, let's talk about general pattern information.

PATTERN PIECE - The pattern piece number or letter identifies what part it is from the rest of the pattern. It makes it easier to know which part you're working with in the construction process.

PATTERN INFO - The pattern is usually labeled with the brand's name, style number & pattern name, what it is (front, back, etc...), size, amount to be cut and how to cut it, and amount of seam allowance.

SEAM ALLOWANCE - Seam allowance refers to the area between the stitch line and edge of the pattern. Most pattern companies include a standard 5/8" seam allowance (always check the pattern directions).

This is how I label Cloth Story Patterns. Note that it can slightly differ depending on the pattern company.

Now, let's go over some commonly used pattern markings and their meanings.

1. GRAINLINE - This mark is aligned with the grain of the fabric as you position your pattern pieces.

2. PLACE ON FOLD BRACKET - This mark indicates that the pattern should be positioned along the fold of the fabric.

3. LENGTHEN OR SHORTEN LINES - These lines indicate where to cut if you need to either lengthen or shorten the pattern.

4. BUST POINT - This mark indicates where the highest point of your bust should be in the garment.

5. NOTCH - Notches are placed on patterns to indicate the width of a dart, which pieces are to be placed together, and the amount of seam and hem allowance to be stitched. To indicate the front of the garment, one notch is placed on the seamlines. To indicate the back of a garment, two notches are placed on the seamlines.

6. MATCH POINTS & PLACEMENT MARKINGS - These miscellaneous shapes indicate where pieces should be matched or placed.

7. BUTTON & BUTTONHOLE - These marks indicate the placement and size of buttons & buttonholes.

8. DARTS - A dart creates shape in a garment. A dart has dart legs and a dart point.

9. TUCKS & GATHERS - This mark indicates the area you will be tucking or gathering.

10. PLEATS - This mark indicates the direction the pleat will be folded.

11. POCKET PLACEMENT - This mark indicates precisely where the pocket should be placed.