What Kind of Learner Are You? Tips for Working with Patterns

on May 8 | in Sewing + Quilting Tips | by | with 158 Comments

Did you see Lara’s excellent article yesterday?  Hopefully her thoughtful and thorough information has you well on your way to becoming a successful pattern user.   Today I have a few more thoughts on why patterns can be so difficult to use and suggest some tricks to get you past the frustrating parts.

Because of what I do for a living, people often tell me about their sewing experiences. I sometimes hear, “I have a machine, but I can’t figure it out.” Or, “My mom tried to teach me to sew, but I didn’t really get it.” Similarly, many people share with me their frustration at trying to sew with a pattern. Expert quilters will say, “I couldn’t sew a dress to save my life!” There are so many sad tales of failed sewing attempts.

Of course whenever I hear these stories, the educator in me wants to rise to the challenge! “I could teach you!” I want to say (but then the reality of my busy life sets in…). Still, I think about the process of learning to sew all the time. Most sewists probably learned a few skills from someone else, but for the most part we are self-taught. We check out books, visit blogs, stumble through tutorials and make things up as we go along. We are determined and adventurous! Except maybe when it comes to clothing patterns…This is where our self-confidence deserts us.

Patterns can be daunting. You might not think of it this way, but every time you work with a pattern you are teaching yourself something new. For this reason, it can be very helpful to think about the ways you learn best–what educators refer to as “preferred learning styles.” Of course we all learn in a variety of ways, but most of us prefer one style over the others. Conversely, we might also find certain types of information very difficult to process. It helps to identify these weak spots as well, so we can develop ways to compensate.

Below I’ve listed four different learning styles. (Some theorists use only three styles, while others use up to eight.) I’ve described how the style is relevant to working with sewing patterns and I’ve suggested some tips to use if that is your preferred learning style. I’ve also identified some ways to compensate if you struggle with information that is presented in certain ways. Of course these are only a few ideas that might help you overcome some of the stumbling blocks associated with reading patterns. I know there are many educators who visit us regularly, and many more self-taught sewists. We welcome all your suggestions. Hopefully we’ll all learn some new tricks to help us work with patterns and come away with some sewing success stories! 

Auditory Learners

  • Have been heard saying, “Can’t someone just tell me what to do?!”
  • Learn best by hearing. If you did well in classes that were delivered mainly by lecture, then this may be your preferred learning style. In general you should seek out sewing classes in your area, or explore the many sewing videos online.
  • If this is your preferred learning style: You might have a hard time with patterns, as they don’t usually have an auditory component (unless, of course, Bitter Betty has put together a demonstration!) Luckily, there are a few easy tricks that can help. First, read the instructions aloud, pehaps even recording yourself. If that doesn’t work, have someone else read the instructions to you. Close your eyes to give the words your full attention. Finally, read the instructions to another sewist and have them restate the task in their own way. A small variation in the way something is worded can make a huge difference. (I almost always call my mom when I get stuck.)
  • The good news is that people who prefer this style are also sometimes referred to as “auditory-sequential” learners. They are typically very good at following sequenced, step-by-step instructions, which is the way sewing patterns are usually presented.
  • If this is your weak spot: You’ll still probably do fine with most patterns. If you’re having a hard time with a new procedure, remove yourself from all auditory distractions and focus on the print and images.

Print-Oriented Learners

  • Have been heard saying, “Just hand me those instructions!”
  • Learn best by reading. Some theorists think these people should be grouped with auditory learners because when you read, you hear yourself say the words in your head. Other educators believe reading is more of a visual task.
  • If this is your preferred learning style: You will probably do well working with patterns, as they tend to be mainly written instruction. It might help you to read through the pattern and take notes, or make a sequential list of steps in your own words.
  • If this is your weak spot: Check out the tips for the other learning styles.

Visual-Spatial Learners

  • Have been heard saying, “Will you draw me a picture?”
  • Learn best by looking at images, models, diagrams or samples. Can also learn by creating their own visual interpretation of information.
  • If this is your preferred learning style: The diagrams in most patterns will probably be helpful, but they might not be enough. Do whatever you can to make the instructions more visual. Get out your highlighters and color code the information in a way that makes sense to you. Read the printed instructions and draw your own pictures. Cut out small swatches of your fabric and tape them to your instruction sheet.
  • Another important point is that some educators believe that visual-spatial learners have a hard time with procedures. That is, they don’t really think about things in a step-by-step way. Obviously, patterns are written like this, so it is a good idea for you to thoroughly read through the instructions and try to grasp the whole process before you jump in.
  • If this is your weak spot: Sewing garments can be a real challenge, no matter how great the pattern. Because you’re trying to construct something 3-dimensional, you have to have decent spatial skills. For example, imagine lining a jacket. You must be able visualize how you’re going to sew the sleeve to the body and then get the lining in correct place. This is no small task for someone who can’t figure out which way to load the paper in the printer or read a map (me, me, me!). Pinning can help you test how you think the pieces should be oriented. Pin the pieces where you believe stitches will go, then try to turn everything right side out. If it’s upside down and backwards, pull out the pins and try again.

Tactile-Kinesthetic Learners

  • Have been heard saying, “Let me try it.”
  • Learn best by doing. Often very physical people. Usually the type of learners who struggle the most in traditional classroom settings.
  • If this is your preferred learning style: You’ll probably do best by just jumping in and sewing something. I highly recommend that you make a muslin when trying a new pattern. This is like a trial run and you don’t end up wasting good fabric. (More about muslins on May 14.) Otherwise, just go for it and keep your seam ripper close at hand.
  • If this is your weak spot: You need to fully understand what you need to do before you do it. Make sure your comprehension of the task is solid before you start working or it will can be an exercise in frustration.
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158 Responses to What Kind of Learner Are You? Tips for Working with Patterns

  1. Autoglass says:

    Cool blog.

  2. Rose Marie says:

    I was just wondering if you ever allowed articles to be reprinted in other publications. I am the editor for the Jacksonville American Sewing Guild Newsletter. I love the article about What kind of learner are you? I think you did a good job explaining just about every type of sewer and I would like your permission to reprint it…with attribution.
    Rose Marie

  3. mannequin says:

    wow. Thank you so much for this post. I do not like to work with patterns but of course need instruction for some things. I never realized that that is probably because I need to READ directions, not see.
    I am so glad I landed here!

  4. AndreaLea says:

    Great article!
    I’m absolutely a “print-oriented” learner but think some of the ideas for visual-spatial learners would be tremendously helpful. 🙂

  5. Stephanie says:

    Thank you so much!! I’ve just been sewing for a couple years and I love it, but patterns are so intimidating for me. I’ve yet to even attempt using one! I’ve learned mostly through online tutorials with lots of pictures, and just copying things I like by looking at how they’re made. I’m definitely a visual-spatial learner, and I really have to grasp and be able to visualize how something is put together before I can even begin the first step. Maybe one day with these tips I’ll be brave enough to attempt some clothes using patterns!

  6. Sandy says:

    Great … so much info.

  7. Annette says:

    Loving this Women’s Clothing Month!! I used to make oodles of our clothes and had somehow moved away from it. I’M BACK!!! and have a list of clothing items to make – my girls and I are happy. Thank you for sharing so much wisdom. I always pick some piece of wisdom up or find some inspiration everytime I read through a Sew Mama Sew article.

  8. Anna says:

    It’s always interesting to reflect on what kind of learner you are. This summary was no exception.


  9. aurora fox says:

    wow! thanks! I have known for quite awhile that I am mostly a visual learner–but I have never read such a good explaination of this–and thanks for the tips–I do have a terrible time with both sewing patterns and maps….;-) and so I will try some of your suggestions here—all very good, and some I have never tried…

  10. Thien-Kim says:

    What a great article. I think I’m a combination of Print and Visual-Spatial. I’ve always felt inadequate at draping so maybe it’s because I’m not tactile.

  11. Bailey says:

    Thank you for this information. I’m a teacher too, so I know about the multiple learning styles and know that I am a visual-spatial learner. Having said that, it was cool to see specific sewing pattern tips just for me! Some of the things I already do, just out of necessity (I sketch the entire process and visualize each step before beginning) but I had never thought of color-coding the instructions. Thanks again SMS! 🙂

  12. Carrie says:

    Thanks so much for this article! I am mostly a self taught sewer and do very well with tutorials or instructions with lots of pictures and clear step by step instructions. When it comes to patterns I’ve always been a little scared because at first glance they appear very confusing! This has given me some great ideas to help me, and has given me the confidence to actually try one of the patterns I have been wanting to make.

  13. Jan says:

    I feel like I was born sewing. Now that I’m trying to teach my 20ish daughter, it’s really difficult to explain all the things I just know about. Like grainlines, and staystitching. But we are having a wonderful time together sewing. She chooses a pattern, I help her to choose the fabric. Then off we go-however I find she’s been letting me do all the cutting out. She’s a lefty and she claims it’s too difficult for her. Anyway, we love your store, blog articles. You’re a wonderful resource. And yup I’d love to win some fabric.

  14. Leilani says:

    I think I’m a mix of learners….is that possible?

  15. Total visual/spatial here…or more just visual, since spatial kicks my butt every time. Nothing more frustrating than ripping a piece out three times cause you just can’t picture the right way, and keep putting it in backwards. :p

  16. Megan says:

    What a wonderfully well written article, especially the tips. I’ve finally nailed down why I struggle with some aspects of following a pattern and have some very good advice to follow. Thank you so much!

  17. Carolyn says:

    This is a great reminder to go with whatever method feels right to you! I’m an auditory learner… diagrams mean almost nothing to me! I have a skirt pattern that I’m going to try out- I’ll remember to “read aloud” (not usually a problem, since I’m always talking to myself anyways ;)!)

  18. Char says:

    This was funny (esp. the band-aids in the tactile learner’s photo) as well as practical and helpful to me! I think I’m a visual-spatial learner, because the suggestions to tape fabric to the instructions and sort-of re-develop the design for myself really drew me in. Thank you!

  19. Abi Buening says:

    I think I am a combination of two. I like to see each step and also let me do it myself so I can learn how to do it. Walk me through but let me do it.

  20. Geri Symington says:

    This is so true – everyone learns differently. The ah-ha moment for everyone and every task IS different and for all of those that teach we must remember this and provide varied ways of instructing.

  21. Lora says:

    Thank you for the tips and encouragement. I must admit I am a little intimidated by using patterns. Maybe soon I can get up the courage to start using them! Have a great day! Lora

  22. Donna says:

    I am definately an auditory learner!
    I know sometimes I can read something over and over again and be completely stumped
    and then when I read it out loud to someone,suddenly it becomes apparent.
    Thank you for the tips!

  23. Mel says:

    “just go for it and keep your seam ripper close at hand.” Haha – my seam ripper is practically one of my limbs I use it so much!!

  24. Ane says:

    This article made me realize that I learn sewing and crafts very differently than I learn other stuff. I have never thought about this before; even as I have been learning about these learning styles in school.


  25. Linda says:

    I used to be a bookworm, but I find now I need to see and feel how things are done. I love picture filled tutorials!

  26. Terri says:

    Great article!

  27. Christina says:

    Haha. Is it possible to have all the downfalls of the different types and none of the virtues??

    I will never make a muslin, I’ll tell ya that. But I have started a little too quickly before, so it’s a good idea…

  28. Stacey says:

    This was a great article. I’m definetly a Visual-Spatial learner, with a bit of Print thrown in if I get lost. The tips are really good since I’m really bad at following the order of instructions.

  29. Carrie S says:

    Thanks for all the tips! Definately a good idea to make a muslin when trying a new pattern!! I usually ending altering a pattern and that way when I use the nice fabric I just have to sew it once and don’t have all the snags and random threads from ripping out seams and trying it a different way. It does take a little more time but definately worth it!!

  30. Panamomma says:

    Thanks for this whole month! I am enjoying each of the posts, the help and additional education I am getting out of each one. My seam ripper and I are the best of friends. I read the patterns similar to the way I read recipes – as suggestions. I should consider patterns more like a recipe for baking or making candy – the directions do in fact matter. But give me a try at it and I will figure it out. Up until this past week, I have been unhappy with anything I have sewn for myself. I can do great things for my family, but this week I decided I was going to make something I was happy to wear. I made a pair of Smarty Pants in less than 3 hours start to finish. I cut out a pair for my daughter at the same time. I will make hers tomorrow. Thanks for the inspiration.

  31. Emily says:

    very helpful, especially when I’m making something that is loosely based on a pattern. Thanks!

  32. Kristin Rose says:

    i took a test a few years ago about what type of learner i am. the results came back visual-kinesthetic. 🙂

  33. Cindy says:

    I am so glad you published this post–I’m familiar with learning styles–as I am a “retired” homeschool mom–but never thought of applying it to sewing–duh. Thanks so much! This will help me “HELP” my grown daughters who finally are interested in learning to sew!

  34. nora says:

    It is interesting to read these and think about being a combination of a couple styles.

  35. Amy Hodge says:

    I think learning styles are so fascinating. I am definitely a visual person in every way, though I do have a secondary style of what you called here “print-oriented” — I do like instructions! But I often can’t figure out what I am supposed to do for a pattern until I get a couple pieces of fabric and try it out. I just have to see it!

  36. Paige says:

    I’d say I’m pretty much a print-oriented learner/visual-spatial. Thanks!

  37. Marcia says:

    thanks so much for including this importent info on differant types of learners. It always simply amazes me how many adults have no idea of what type of learner they are. As the mom of 4 children, all who tend to differant learning styles I realize how importent it is and how much easier learning can be if you know how you learn. Again, thanks. I am sure it helped many!

  38. EmmyLizzy says:

    How interesting! I find myself a combination of many of the learning styles.

  39. LeeAnn says:

    Thanks so much for highlighting this topic. Sewing my own clothes, (and not having them look homemade) is a goal of mine. Every little tip helps!

  40. Shelli says:

    Totally tactile!

  41. Carri Schramm says:

    what great tips. I’m one of those jump in and do- people. Even though what I end up with might be upside down, or wrong, I won’t know until I get in there!

    I can’t wait to hear more about muslin. I’ve just been buying cheap fabrics to play with!

    Currently I’m struggling with a simple pair of kids’ long shorts!!! I just can’t get it..

    thanks for the article!


  42. Diane Pahl says:

    Love this article!

  43. Jennifer says:

    I love this post – makes me think about how we should apply learning styles in other areas of our lives…

  44. Carla says:

    These are really great tips for finding your learning style and working with it. Thanks!

  45. Molly says:

    I am definately a visual-spatial learner. Very interesting article.

  46. Mary Ann says:

    This is an incredibly useful way to think about this problem–and demystifies it. Thank you for the confidence!

  47. Carina says:

    Oh, what a great article! I am definitely a visual-spatial learner!

  48. Another awesome lesson! I feel like I am at school soaking up so much good information. This is fabulous training to recieve from the comfort of my own home. I appreciate it soooo much!

  49. Tammy says:

    Great article! I just started to sew and have been scared off by many a patterns so this was a tremendous help!

  50. Lisa D says:

    I really need someone to sit beside me and show and tell me what to do. It takes me a while to learn anything, but once I know how then I am able to take of flying. Currently, my mother-in-law is showing me what to do. But, it’s hard to make a lot of progress while simultaneously keeping two little kids happy.

  51. Sharyn says:

    Great post! I’m a teacher too (elementary school) and you’re right people learn in different ways. The best part of this post is the “have been heard saying” examples. Not only does this clarify our learning styles but it can clue us in to the learning styles of friends and family.


    ps I’m really into sewing aprons without a pattern. I’m hooked on them!

  52. Joy Humphries says:

    As a former home school mom I’m familiar with this information. Thank you for reminding me again.
    I’m so happy to have discovered Sew, Mama, Sew!

  53. Lauren says:

    I’m definitely a tactile/kinesthetic learner here… although it is helpful if someone is right there to show me. Mostly, though, I’ve had to learn by just reading books/patterns myself, & trial & error from there.

  54. Lisa says:

    i am definitely a visual learner. Thanks for the informative article on learning styles!

  55. Barbara says:

    I took a learning test in university, and found out I fall firmly within the kinesthetic group. As soon as I read the description, I couldn’t figure out why I’d never realized that about myself before! Knowing what kind of learner I am has helped me so much with all kinds of skills, and probably a main reason I make a living with my hands. Of course, I also learned I’m terrible at auditory and print-oriented learning, so I should work on those!

  56. This is a great article, thank you. I’ve got lots of ideas for teaching my daughter to sew now!

  57. Ruth says:

    I am definitely a visual-spatial sewer! Just never heard it called that. I’ve always been able to copy anything I wanted to make, or just look at pictures on the pattern sheet and figure out how something should go together. My grandmother was the same way and I probably picked up a lot of this from her, or inherited the gene, maybe! She copied an expensive baby dress for one of my cousins one time and the baby’s daddy had a fit because he thought she’d bought it after he said it was too much money to spend. Sometimes it’s a real problem when I want to make something but need to read the instructions to see what’s going on. I hate when there aren’t enough pictures to help me out.

  58. Leslie Newton says:

    I am a combo learner. I learn by visual and doing it myself. I have taught several people to sew and I teach them “my way”. I think that sometimes in sewing classes (I may be stepping on toes, sorry!) students are worn out and discouraged before they even start with the preliminary steps (measuring, understanding the pattern, tracing pattern onto other paper, cutting out pieces on the lines, etc.) We start with something that does not require fitting. We cut out the pattern pieces just to seperate them – not on the lines. Layout, Cut, Sew.

    Leslie in Tennessee

  59. autismtymz2_4life says:

    definitely print oriented 🙂 We use picture schedules all over our home 🙂 Thank you 🙂

  60. Jacquie says:

    Definitely a have to do it person supported by all of the others…read it, see it, listen to it…then maybe I’ll get it! Interesting article to apply learning styles to sewing.

  61. Rose says:

    I’m probably a combination of all of the above, except auditory.
    Great articles this month, thank you very much.

  62. I’m definitely a jump right in and try it myself. Sometimes having a picture can really help. It’s good to know there’s many more people just like me.

  63. Brooke says:

    I am definitely a visual-spatial learner. My mom taught me how to sew when I was in 5th grade. I hated it! Especially all the unpicking. I have neglected my sewing machine (a graduation gift) since I moved out of home (10 years!). Then I fell in love with Meg’s Emmeline pattern (sold in the Sew Mama Sew store!). The pattern has so many pictures and clear writing it helped me gain confidence in my sewing abilities. Now I am sewing up a storm. With a lot of help from my mom 🙂 .

  64. Rebecca says:

    Thanks for the tips! I love working with patterns – and once I’ve read the whole thing through first, I find it much easier to complete the project (and run into less roadblocks).

  65. Tricia Becker says:

    Oh, has anyone heard of or made a paper tape dress form?

  66. Tricia Becker says:

    I love this article. I always feel so dumb when I try to follow a pattern such as McCalls. I just don’ “get it”! I’ve started using some Amy Butler patterns and Lazy Girl patterns. I like the way they are written and I love using the rotary cutter as much as possible. I’m definitely a tactile/kinesthetic learner. I have learned the hard way to use scrap fabric to make something before I try the real thing.

  67. Sara says:

    I’m definitelty the visual-spatial learner. Great article.

  68. Yetta says:

    I am definately a print oriented learner. Thanks for the great tip!

  69. tammie says:

    I never really thought about what kind of learner I was. It’s interesting to think about, good article!

  70. Kerry says:

    I’m so excited about this month’s topic! I love sewing clothes but am mostly self-taught, so I always wonder what I might be able to do differently or easier. Thanks for the articles so far!

  71. Emily says:

    Thank you for breaking this down! I think I’m a couple types in one. The main problem is I start out with a pattern and the best intentions. But then somewhere along the line I decide I want to do it my “own way” – of course then I can’t figure out how it went wrong! Arghh!

  72. Carolyn says:

    I’m definately a visual-spatial learner. I figured this out in college in my tailoring class. We were learning bound buttonholes. I made it about halfway down the sheet of instructions before I was completely lost. So I just followed the pictures next to the writtem part to figure out. Once I understood the basic concept, I made a nice and neat one. I love these posts. They have been so interesting.

  73. Rhiannon says:

    I’m definitely tactile oriented!

  74. Anne says:

    Wonderful tips! Thank you so much. 🙂

  75. Z. says:

    I don’t understand patterns so what I do is, I simply follow the steps one by one and somehow it usually comes together. Sometimes it takes longer though 🙂 But I have to say I never ever made anything solely based on a pattern, I always end up adjusting it a little bit 🙂

  76. Alisa says:

    This is so very interesting. I’ve read all about the different learners, but always with my kids in mind. Duh, that would be for me too of course!

  77. Jeannine says:

    Oh, I definitely fit into that last column… with a pile of failed projects to prove it!

  78. Kate says:

    I definitely learn by doing. Trying stuff out with muslin is a great idea!

  79. Rebecca says:

    This is very interesting! Do you have any links for helping determine which type of learner you are?

  80. Lydia says:

    I would like to see the results of a survey. I wonder what learning style would be most prevalent?

  81. Amber Graham says:

    This is very helpful! Thanks so much!

  82. Margie says:

    Great article. I’m a print & visual learner.

  83. Fairlight says:

    Excellent article! I’m definitely a visual learner with a bit of auditory mixed in. I’m trying to set up a sewing class for some homeschool girls and this post will be a big help in trying to keep everyone’s learning style in mind. Thank you!

  84. Lindsey says:

    i am definitely a visual spatial learner 🙂

  85. CJ says:

    I’m visual and tactial…….I first look at all the pictures, then force myself to read the instructions (sometimes I skip this part) and then I just jump in and try. I’ve been sewing for nearly 40 years so sometimes by seeing the end product I can figure out alternative ways of approaching things and sometimes I still learn new tricks and tips……which I love!!!
    Thanks for all you do to inspire and educate others to sew……for me it’s a wonderful expression of creativity, stress reliever and budget assistant.
    Happy sewing!!!

  86. Kim says:

    I am such a visual and kinesthetic learner!!! I want someone there to SHOW me how to do it! I have the hardest time visualizing how to make something work when I’m just looking at the pattern. However, I find if I just jump in and do it, it usually turns out ok 😉

  87. Melissa says:

    I guess I am pretty balanced since none of those really stuck out. I do prefer to work with someone else around for comments or feedback while I am working tho.

  88. tara says:

    Thanks for the excellent article! I’m definitely and learn-from-a-book sort of girl and Wendy’s Sew U book did the trick!

  89. Jill says:

    Interesting article! I love the idea of highlighting patterns and attaching fabric samples. I can usually follow a pattern pretty well when I read straight through, but often get lost jumping back and forth between sewing and looking for the next step in the pattern. This will really help me. Thanks!

  90. Ellen B says:

    I’m a visual-spatial…that’s why giving us all these tutorials/pictures is so great! When I was in high school I took sewing lessons with a lady and it made it so much easier than trying to read the pattern and figure it out! I still have to read and sketch out or outline the patterns I do try to make…

  91. Kim B. says:

    I’m definitely a visual learner! I love pictures and diagrams that describe the instructions.

  92. ariana says:

    I am definitely a print oriented learner. I just go back and read patterns over again until it sticks in my head!

  93. Amy W says:

    Great article!

  94. September says:

    I’m definitely Tactile-Kinesthetic, and I do use my seam ripper A LOT!!!!!!!
    But, eventually I end up with something nice.

  95. Alice S says:

    I have learned so much from these blog posts. Thanks for the continuing education!

  96. Audrey says:

    I am so thankful that you are putting all of this information out there for us. I am excited about the summer clothes I can make!

  97. Charli says:

    Now I understand why I hate and avoid patterns like the plague. I prefer to just look at something and then give it a go. And I don’t feel nearly as bad about my inability to use patterns involving more than 4 or 5 pieces, and my resulting frustration.

  98. Janelle Harvey says:

    Thank you for this. I think this will help me teach my 13-year old daughter to sew, not the way I learned how, but the way she needs to learn how. This way of thinking will translate well to other areas of craftiness like knitting.

  99. Megan says:

    I am definitely a print-oriented learner. Thanks for the article!

  100. Jen says:

    Now this was VERY helpful! Excellent article!

  101. hazel wood says:

    I really enjoyed this article. My mother and I have such different approaches to sewing and we both get frustrated sometimes when we try to explain thought processes and techniques with each other. I sewed my first garment from a pattern this winter and it turned out great! If you like instructions that allow for some creativity I highly recommend the Sew What…Skirts book.

  102. Laura M. says:

    Interesting Post! I saw a little bit of myself in each one. i liked the tips on way to improve your process. I am getting better at understanding patterns but I did have the benefit of taking a class about them. Now, once I decide on a pattern I want to sew, I like to study something in my wardrobe that is similar to see how it was contructed and then read the pattern instructions several times and imagine doing everything in order. Great series this month, I am excited to see what is coming next!

  103. Sarah W. says:

    I definitely need lots of pictures. I have to make sure that what I’m doing matches the pictures. My friend will describe something she is in the middle of making to me over the phone and sometimes I just agree even though I can’t imagine what it looks like. Now I can tell her it’s because of my learning style. Get out that camera!

  104. Amber says:

    This is an excellent article. Really helps to figure out what kind of a learner I am instead of just staring at patterns for hours on end!

  105. amy says:

    as a librarian who teaches information literacy this is enthralling to me, worlds colliding!

  106. rita says:

    this was an excellent article. I have made things using both patterns and making up my own pattern. I sometimes find that if I use a pattern I tend to skip steps that I would have taken if I made the pattern which sometimes ends up not fitting quite like I like it.

  107. Sara says:

    Fantastic article! I have always conformed to the Visual/Spatial methods but never really understood why. Now it makes so much sense! Ooooh, and what a concept — that I can write ON my patterns!! I’ve never been so bold… I’ll have to give it a try next time. : ) Thanks again for such helpful information!

  108. Tamera says:

    Great article! Im a mix between the visual/tactile learner…I need to see it done and to try it as Im seeing it done. This was always a challenge for my art teachers!

  109. renee says:

    Good points. Not having a lot of time or patience, i like to dive right in and find projects that you can do that with. Funny i have such patience with quilting but not with patterns and that i am a print oriented person but still not a pattern person. I think i just like instant satisfaction.

  110. Tricia says:

    I absolutely need both pictures and text descriptions of the steps. Like many people said, I have to think through the whole process before I begin. Sometimes I even fall asleep thinking about the steps!

  111. Jen says:

    This was a great article. I’m still not sure what kind of learner I am. I WANT to be able to just take a piece of fabric and make something beautiful without looking at a pattern/instructions. But that doesn’t happen! And yet I then get a pattern but can’t figure out how to follow along with it!! Right now I have a dress all cut out sitting on my table waiting to be sewn together but I can’t follow the darn pattern so there it sits!!!

  112. Regina says:

    This is wonderful information -for no matter what you are trying to teach, you need to know your learners. Thanks!

  113. Amy says:

    As an educator and a sewer I really have to give mad props to this post. Bravo!

  114. Mary says:

    Learning styles and sewing…brilliant article! I wish you were writing a whole book for beginners…..Think about it!?! It would be a good one!

  115. Sarah says:

    SO very helpful. I am really loving all this stuff on women’s clothing. I’ve only been sewing for 3 years, mostly baby stuff, and I always said “i’ll NEVER make my own clothes” but it’s so fun to continue to learn and see what all these wonderful ladies are doing and next thing you know I’m attempting a dress!

  116. Angela James says:

    I have always known I’m a Visual-Spatial learner when it comes to sewing. It’s an area of weakness for me–I need the pictures to help me along, and I have problems visualizing the steps and the finished product. I have to pin, check and double check before I sew something together, and even still, the seam ripper is my friend.

  117. Shelly says:

    Great post!

  118. Anna says:

    I’m a print oriented individual and don’t even try auditory on me, it won’t work! How could anyone possibly think to combine the two? Crazy, I tell ya.

  119. annie says:

    Definitely like to jump right in and try it myself. Can’t wait to hear more about working with muslin. Thanks so much for all of the information, its so nice to have questions answered before I even think to ask!

  120. alissa says:

    Thanks for the article. It makes me feel better about my projects… I tend to need a couple practice tries (a bolt of muslin) where my mom always seemed to get it right the first time and totally understood by reading the pattern.

  121. Jo-Ann says:

    Thank you, I was scarred by disastrous 8th grade home ec projects that I had to wear to get my grade! I’ve told myself since then that I just can’t sew clothes, but maybe there’s hope. I certainly have enough fabric for a new wardrobe!

  122. Marilyn says:

    Thank you for this information.

  123. Amybee says:

    I have recently discovered how much fun sewing can be! I definitely learn best hands-on: “let me try it myself”. Suffice it to say, my seam ripper and I have become great friends. I know this wastes some time, but I have learned oh-sew-much by trial and error. I have discovered wonderful ways to create bags without using a pattern (my style!! I detest pinning a pattern to my fabric). However, the skirt I recently made for myself followed a pattern and it turned out beautifully. I have received so many comments, “Where did you get that skirt?? I love it!” Patterns have their place for sure. I’m just as happy without them, though.

  124. Meredith says:

    Definitely true! I have navigated fairly well through clothing patterns, but it is still a trying thing sometimes. I will say though, I have learned that if upon finishing an item, I don’t love it or am completely overwhelmed by the things I have to fix, I just put it away for a week or two. Then I get it back out, try it on again, and it doesn’t seem so daunting. A little bit of space is a good thing!

  125. i think i am definitely a visual learner! i am certainly learning a ton here this month!

  126. molly m says:

    This was really interesting — makes me feel more confident in my quirks.

  127. Tasha Early says:

    I’m definitely a visual-spatial learner. Must be all my math skills. haha.

  128. Anna says:

    I always read the patterns aloud because I often find that as I try to visualize the process my brain makes edits! Since I can’t rotate shapes in my head, the brain begins to fizzle. I read it alound and try to make myself believe! My recent sewing class helped me learn to shut off my brain (if that makes sense!)

  129. Alissa says:

    This is so helpful… I makes me consciously think about which I am (definitely “print oriented learner”!) and that way I can focus on always having access to that way of learning! Thanks!

  130. Melanie says:

    Thank you for so many good tips! Great article and I will definitely read it again! I’m definitely a visual-spatial learner!!

  131. Helen Gillis says:

    This is a great article – and a good reminder to be patient with yourself when trying to learn something new. I tell my knitting students that and then sometimes forget to take my own advice.


    Helen in Malden, Massachusetts

  132. Leah says:

    Best part about the last picture? The Band-Aids.
    Also, I need to buy a bolt of muslin soon.

  133. Maryalice says:

    Thank you for the interesting article.

  134. jen says:

    This is really helpful, thanks so much!

  135. sara says:

    I’d say I’m a combo. Is that possible. I’m need both the visual and the text:)

  136. Nancy says:

    This a great article – have bookmarked it to read again when I’m feeling overwhelmed at patterns, because even reading this though makes patterns seem a little less scary!

    Its funny how I can (and have) learnt how to do all sorts of complicated things in my time, but I still doubt my ability to work out a sewing pattern! I shall have a bit more confidence after reading this. Thank you!

  137. Tammy Mattox says:

    I found this article very interesting. I use these same concepts in homeschooling my girls. Everyone has a different learning style, as you mentioned. Sometimes we think we can’t do something just b/c it hasn’t been presented in the right way for us (oral, written, etc). Thanks for a very informative piece.

  138. Brandy says:

    I’m a bit of the last two. I find that with most things If I can watch it happen once or twice I’ve got it. If I can get my hands on the materials and just roll with it, sometimes it takes me a bit longer but I learn it.

    Thats why my first journey into sewing clothes flopped horridly. But now that I’ve started drafting my own doll clothes patterns I found it much easier to make the things I wanted too! I’ve made jackets for myself and the boys from patterns I drafted myself.

  139. Christine says:

    Thank you so much for doing these pattern explainations in so many ways. I learn by reading and doing (with mistakes) so I learn from them. Thanks for all the help.

  140. andrea says:

    i would have to say i need the pictures… and just as you said, it is difficult for me to follow a pattern! although i do find newer patterns easier to understand.

  141. Meream says:

    i’m visual-spatial 😀
    thanks for tips.

  142. Kimmie says:


    Thank you so much for the bit of HUGE help…I’d hug you if I could.
    I will continue to sew and now add in your pointers. God bless you for sharing your gift and wisdom with me (us)!

    mama to 6
    one homemade and 5 adopted

  143. jo ebisujima says:

    great article. I have problems following instructions, if a pattern has more than 5 steps I am done for that said if some says I want XYZ and I can make it, I would love to get over my pattern phobia so I can learn some new techniques, thanks for the tips.

  144. min says:

    I am visual/spatial and I think the color coding advice and pinning is good. I DO find myself not understanding the order of sewing and I have to trust the pattern. That’s hard for me..thank goodness for Bitter Betty’s video and the fact that it introduced me to a gazillion sewing demos/tutorials online. Who knew? I’m hoping to learn to sew at the same time as my kids. My son just asked me, “do boys sew?” I guess I’ll have to surf for boys’ sewing activities for this summer. Should be fun.

  145. Pam says:

    I think I’m one of those linear, process-oriented people, too. I sew like I cook: by the book. The pattern instructions are my lifeline to a successful project. (Not that I don’t still end up making dumb mistakes sometimes, but still…) I obsessively check the written instructions, even with patterns I have used multiple times. I am in great awe of those who can sew without a pattern. If I can sew with a pattern, you can too!

  146. Coralee says:

    I can’t even begin to tell you how much I am appreciating these posts this month. I feel like I am better equipped to try a clothing pattern – something I was terrified of a year ago. Your tips and techniques are so wonderful and thorough! Thank you so much! Any chance there will be some information shared about the different needle sizes and weights, etc.?

  147. Hedgehog says:

    Great article!

  148. keyka says:

    Wonderful article! I’m like MJ–logical and read through the instructions until I grasp the idea. I don’t like feeling like the next step is totally unknown, which happens in a lot of patterns. Now when I write patterns I include a section at the beginning summarizing the general idea in 2-4 sentences (and of course include clear photos for the visual people). Thanks for sharing the info!

  149. Alejandra says:

    I’m a visual, I need to see pictures of every little detail, step by step, or I’ll just won’t get it……sometimes I think I’m just retarded, so thanks for all of your tutorials, it really helps.

  150. Rachel says:

    Great article! By day, I work as an Instructional Designer. I spend a good part of my day convincing clients that they need to “mix things up” in order to reach everybody. I love how sewing/making stuff exploits my preferred learning methods. In fact, this article made me realize that I hardly ever attend classes to actually learn a new technique. I’m all about words with a few pictures. Then I try to do it.

  151. méri says:

    Great articles you are editing! Thanks!

  152. Robin says:

    What a great description of learning methods! I read all the instructions first and visualize doing each part, supplying any missing diagrams or pictures with my own mental pictures. I thought everybody did the same! No wonder I can’t communicate my ideas to hubby–he is totally “print-oriented”.

  153. J says:

    This is a well-written article- I thoroughly enjoyed the content. I too am a visual learner and I often wish there were more pics to examine…I think it’s a great idea to use pins as a ‘test method’ and I’m going to incorporate Bitter Betty’s suggestion to bast things. I’ve been sewing for

  154. mj says:

    This is great and will help a lot of people! I’m a very process-oriented, logical thinker. I read the instructions or think through the steps many many times before I do them. Sometimes I just need to jump in and do it and not be afraid of making mistakes and using the seam-ripper! But I like to be comfortable with what I’m going to do next. This is probably why I read cookbooks and then cook without them- I already know (or think I know) what to do next. Hopefully that comes soon for sewing too.

  155. IamSusie says:

    Very good summary of learning styles! I agree that people who don’t have some visual-spatial strengths probably don’t go anywhere near sewing. I’m one of those people who want to learn myself with good printed instructions that have detailed diagrams.

  156. This was a really interesting article. I teach biology at the college level and talk with my students about learning styles and try to mix up my own teaching style to cover all types, but I have never thought about this in terms of sewing. Very interesting.

  157. Carrie says:

    oh my!! I have been waiting in baited breath each day for another poston this month’s topic!!
    i can not begin to explain how much I have grown in my sewing skills in the past three days. i have all these ideas rolling around my head but somewhat struggling with patterns. My desire to create my own clothing and the terrifying idea of failing at another pattern are battleing inside me. I have been hiding behind the phrase “I am an inuition sewer – i learn as I go and i don’t have a plan just an idea of what i want in the end.” this is definately a cop out for me.
    with sew,mama, sew’s help I plan to over come my fear and gain skill this month!!

  158. Shooky says:

    This was a good article. I myself am sitting at home with 2 (that’s right – not one) sewing machines, a folder full of ideas, lots of fabric and whatnot. I learned to sew in Home Economics class in middle school. I want to sew – beautiful, fun things – but have this tendency to procrastinate because I’m afraid my projects won’t turn out how I picture them in my head. I feel like I’m moving closer towards sewing – organizing and cleaning my sewing space. Perhaps these tips will help me too – I find I’m very print-oriented. I will read through instructions several times and feel lost without written instructions.

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