Pattern Notation Guide

Hopefully our patterns are easy enough to understand, but if you come across something that confuses you, below is a reference of all our pattern notation:

Might vary slightly between preview and final result

For reasons that are surprisingly complex, there might be slight differences in fonts and colors between how a pattern looks online and how it looks as a downloaded PDF or SVG.


Lines (and curves) make up the bulk of marking you’ll find on any sewing pattern, including FreeSewing’s patterns.


Seams (the lines on which you sew) are indicated by a solid line. The color of the line indicates the fabric type of the pattern piece:

main fabric lining canvas interfacing various

Seam allowance

Seam allowance is indicated by a dashed line, that has the same width and color as the seam they belong to:

fabric sa lining sa canvas sa interfacing sa various sa

Note that the corners of the seam allowance are trimmed, and not extended:

seam seamAllowance


Grainlines — a line that indicates the — look like this:


Cut-on-fold indicator

Cut-on-fold indicators look similar to grainline indicators, but point towards the line on which the fabric should be folded:

Cut on fold


When you opt for a paperless pattern, your pattern will come with dimensions:


Other lines

Some patterns may have other lines on them, there are 4 additional styles:

  • Note
  • Mark
  • Contrast
  • Help

They might be used by patterns designers to add additional info, depending on the context.

note mark contrast help

Line widths and strokes

Designers can, if they so choose, override the default line widths or set a specific stroke. They might do that to add additional info, like where to fold a pattern, or the outline of where a pocket would go.

For reference, here are the different available line widths:

stroke-xs stroke-sm default stroke-lg stroke-xl stroke-xxl

And these are the different stroke styles:

dotted dashed lashed


Annotations are extra embellishments on the pattern that further clarify the designer’s intent, help with construction, or otherwise provide value to the pattern.


There are two types of notches. The default notch is a dot in a circle.

An alternative style shows a cross in a circle. This style is used to indicate the back of a garment. For example, on a sleevecap you may see a dot and a cross notch. This way you know which side of the sleevecap is the back (the one with the cross notch).

notch bnotch
Why we chose these notches

In electromagnetism, a ⊙ symbol is used to indicate a flow of current coming towards you (to the front), whereas ⊗ is used for a current moving away from you (to the back).

You can also think of an arrow. When an arrow flies towards you, you see its tip (⊙). When an arrow flies away from you, you see its fletches (⊗).

Buttons and Buttonholes

Buttons and buttonholes may come in different sizes, but always have the same shape that represents how they look in real life:

button buttonhole


A bartack is a stitch of varying size and length used to reinforce fabric. It is often used on the edges of seams such as at a pocket or fly opening.



Snaps have a stud and socket part, and also look like the real thing:

snap-stud snap-socket


Each pattern piece has a title that tells you the number and name of the piece, as well as the pattern name and a timestamp of when the pattern was drafted:

1 Saturday, Jul 6, 2024 Part name FreeSewing Legend v3.3.0-rc.1 ( ephemeral )

Some (or all) pattern pieces may also include the FreeSewing logo. The logo has no special meaning, it’s just branding.


Scale box

The scale box allows you to verify that your pattern was printed to the correct scale:

FreeSewing legend v3.3.0-rc.1 Support FreeSewing, become a patron The (white) inside of this box should measure 10cm x 5cm The (black) outside of this box should measure 4" x 2"