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  • Londa

How To Simplify Sewing Pattern Directions

Updated: Jun 2, 2022

Originally shared back in June of 2017, I have to say that even now as I teach adults and children how to sew here in my Sunroom Sewing Studio, I continue to see how dated and often, wrong, and incomplete regular sewing directions still remain. It's like the companies continue to just re-cycle old directions. Sad, but true. Here are some, I hope, empowering ideas to have success as you sew.'s just fabric, and don't be too hard on yourself. Find someone who has sewn for years and don't be afraid to ask for help in deciphering pattern instructions! Very likely, if you have an idea of what they are trying to tell you to do, you may well be correct - so give it a try. Even create a similar situation out of scraps to try it first. Remember... it's just fabric! YouTube is full of How-To's, even for sewing. My channel is HERE, and has lots of help for you as you sew...along with many other sewing channels. I'm hoping to tape some new videos soon, so if you have suggestions, please share them with me at

I give you permission – to Simplify Sewing Pattern Directions! It constantly amazes me – how DIFFICULT most ‘Big 4’ pattern make it to sew even a simple garment.  Here’s my steps to simplifying – and improving – a basic design.  Many of these steps can be applied to ALL sewing.  Read and be empowered to CHANGE ‘the directions’!  

Here’s an example:  I’ve selected McCall’s 7114, a simple, yet fashionable top and leggings for an upcoming class for young girls at my Studio.  Looking at the pattern back, even deciphering yardage needs was a challenge.



Only by reasoning that the lower portion of the top would take more yardage than the contrasting yoke, was I able to figure out that what they called ‘Contrast’ on the back cover is for the upper ‘Yoke’ part of the tops, and that the other yardage lines are for the lower portion of the top.


That aside, onto the Construction…..

The neckline is obviously quite large, so WHY would there need to be a center back opening with thread loop?

center back o;pening directions

So many UNNECESSARY steps!  To eliminate that needless work, I simply decided to set the center back on a fold of fabric when cutting.  I tested the size 10 neck size on myself – and it even fit over this gal’s head!

The neckline finish is directed with a bias cut binding.  I feel that is too difficult of a technique for my beginning sewers.  The other good thing about this style is that it can be created of either a knit fabric or a woven – like a quilting cotton.  That makes this pattern even more perfect, as I’ll direct more beginning students to utilize a woven fabric and those more advanced can progress to a knit fabric.  I selected one of the French Terry knit fabrics from Jo-Anns.  On my garment, the light, ‘plain’ side is the yoke, and the darker, ‘loop’ side is the bottom body part.

For a neckline finish for wovens, I’ll simply draft a neckline facing.  That will be good, basic construction knowledge.  I’ll also have them apply the facing after the shoulder seams are stitched and before stitching the side seams so it will be ‘flat’ and easier to work on.

IMPORTANT STEPS – nothing at all is said.  For example:

  1. Stay stitching!!  Every neckline needs to be stay stitched to stabilize.  EVERY neckline – regardless of whether it is a woven or a knit fabric.

  2. Shoulder seams on knits need stabilizer.  See below that i have zigzagged twill tape to the seam allowance.  Then, to decrease bulk, I’ve graded the seam.  Next, the seam will be pressed to hide the tape, and topstitched.  I also will teach my students ‘chain stitching’ – working from one like seam to another without stopping and starting.

shoulder stabilization and grading seam.