Friday, October 17, 2014

The Lutterloh System Symbols Page Revisited

  The Lutterloh Patterns have always used a symbols page to mark their sewing instructions and pattern pieces. We get lots of questions from users of these patterns that I hope to explain here.

   Here is a photo of a symbols page from a 2014 supplement of Lutterloh patterns. The most recent addition to the chart is the bottom symbol that looks like an outline of a dress form which indicates these patterns are for very slim figures. You might wonder, how slim are we talking about? I wanted to be sure so I e-mailed Frank Lutterloh of Fashion Unlimited and asked for clarification. I was told that for these patterns to be the most effective they should be used for ladies with a bust measurement of no more than 90cm. The fuller figure symbol of the dark dress form will appear on patterns that are most suitable for ladies with a bust or hip measurement of at least 110cm.

   The XXL system, which is a completely different system with it's own unique measuring scale, should only be used by those with a bust or hip measurement of at least 130cm. Many have found though that if they are close to the lower limit of the XXL set that the full figure patterns can work just fine with perhaps some more generous seam allowances. I am mentioning these measurements in centimeters because we should all be using the scale to draw the patterns so it's just easier to start with the number we will use on the scale.

   Just remember that both design ease and wearing ease are built into all the Lutterloh Patterns. I have heard that some feel the full figure patterns have less defined curves overall (more ease). This would explain why many of the FF patterns will still work for the XXL size woman yet some who fit into the XXL size range find the XXL patterns too loose. I've also noticed that the slim figure patterns have less pronounced hip curves. However, they are also narrower all over leaving less room (or ease) for much bust or hip curve. With more distinct pattern size ranges for different figure types we will find some overlap into the patterns designed for each figure type but of course the average size pattern range will fit the greater number of people.

   Now I'd like to address some of the FAQs that are posted as comments to our blog. Many of these can be answered with a better understanding of the symbols page.

   The photo above shows both a one piece and two piece sleeve. In red I have marked a notch that you could mark to indicate the top of the sleeve where it will meet the shoulder seam. For the sleeve on the right, even though there is only one cross mark to place your pin, you will cut these apart on the bold, solid lines to create two sleeve pieces. The red line I have drawn in indicates where you would mark across the two pieces, and mark notches if you like to be sure they match, before you cut them apart.

   Before you cut them apart you'll also want to mark the grain-line to get them the same for both pieces. If needed, to get a straight line to guide you in marking the grainline, you can draw a line across the pattern pieces at the corners where the armhole seam matches up. This line should run perpendicular to the grainline. Here is a link to a visual for this technique:
Make sure to mark the little "v" for the front of the sleeve and add seam allowances on any Lutterloh pattern.

   This next photo demonstrates a fairly new symbol, added in this century, to the Lutterloh System. The red box is drawn around the straight of grain symbol sitting next to the 90° angle symbol on top of the dashed line at the waist. All these symbols grouped together tells us we should draw the grain-line perpendicular to the waist. Normally the grain-line should run parallel to the center back or center front. Frequently these pieces are placed on a fold so the grain-line is obvious. When there is no fold we need to look for other indicators to find our straight of grain.  

   In the case of the bodice above, the green box is drawn around another example of the grain-line at a 90° angle to the waist because the side seam is not straight. On the bias cut skirt the 90° is replaced with a 45° to indicate the front and back pieces should both be placed with the straight of grain at a 45° angle to the fold or on the true bias.

   The bodice photo is also a good example of multiple pieces drawn from one cross mark. The front (A), the front side (AC), the front yoke (AL) and the front button placket (LL) are all drawn as one piece and then cut apart at the bold, solid lines. You would want to mark the grain-line and any notches you desire, indicated by the red lines at the princess seams, before cutting these apart. The placket has the center front marked on its outermost left line. The front yoke, placket and front bodice would all need their grain-lines marked before cutting these apart. The front side grain-line would be at a right angle to the waist. Again, be sure to add seam allowance to each piece separately.

   Finally, in this last photo there is no waist line to mark a 90° angle, and the center back is not placed on a fold. For these patterns you would align your straight of grain perpendicular to the bottom hem just below the arrow. There are no other symbols to indicate otherwise and the hem just below the arrow is a roughly straight line. In the case of the pants you can see the center front is marked on the fold for the fly so that could be one more line to follow along with a straight line for the crease going from the top dot to the bottom and at a right angle to the hem. As you can see there's lots of pattern information packed into those little symbols scattered all over your Lutterloh System patterns and these don't even scratch the surface of the issue of fitting. Those issues are far more personal to each user and need to be handled on a case by case basis.

   If there are any other symbols that are perplexing you please don't hesitate to post a comment and we'll try to explain them a little further. However, I have to say, there really is no substitute for a good, solid understanding of sewing terms and how to apply them. To that end I'll include a short list of my favorite sewing reference books. Everyone should have at least a couple of these in their library.

General Sewing and Construction:
  • Reader's Digest Complete Guide to Sewing
  • Vogue Sewing
  • Bonfit - Fashion Sewing Instructions
Fitting and Alterations
  • Fitting and Pattern Alteration by Liechty, Rasband and Pottberg-Steineckert
  • The Complete Photo Guide to Perfect Fitting by Sarah Veblen
  • Fit For Real People by Pati Palmer and Marta Alto
  • Fast Fit by Sandra Betzina
I sure hope you've found this post useful. Keep those questions coming and happy sewing!

Ann in Calif.


  1. Thank you Ann for this information. greatly appreciated.

  2. You're very welcome Cherine. Stay tuned for more questions answered about the Lutterloh Sysytem.

  3. Hi Ann, I have found, through persistent trial and error, that I have a better fit from the older and/or regular size Lutterloh patterns rather than the XXL. What I do is I add 6.5cm or approx. 2" to all of the numbers surrounding the pattern in order to make the pattern. I have found that after I do this, mark the new patterns and cut them out, that I often have minor adjustments to make after that. This probably will not work for other people, but this method works for me as I am a plus-sized woman who has very narrow, downward sloping shoulders, a short waist and other figure problems or adjustments to make. I am very inspired to make more patterns and one of these days I might actually sew them out! Too many health problems right now. Kathy

  4. Kathy,
    we love hearing your ideas! It's true you can make these patterns your own by testing ways to make them. Many times just making each edge a little larger with your seam allowances can take a pattern a bit larger.
    Check out my posting on the right sidebar #7 it has hints for slanting shoulders. I do hope you will feel like sewing soon. Best wishes

  5. Hi hope you can help, I am trying to do pattern 84 mens xl shorts. It looks like it should have a zip and belt loops but all I can see is facing. Also checked out pictures above and can only see one with a zip. Can I have an email address so I could send a picture. Many thanks Dawn

  6. Dawn,
    is this pattern in the mens supplement or some other place? I will take a look. If you want belt loops make them and put them on with the facing, if you are doing a mens pant zippers are more tricky. Many shorts today put a string through the waist and allow people to tighten with the string.

  7. Dawn,
    I didn't find a pattern 84 in the men's special edition. If you want to send pics of the fashion drawing and pattern pages you could send another reply to this post that includes your e-mail. We will not post that one. Then one of us could contact you. Could it be a mock zipper fly on elasticized or drawstring shorts?

  8. Dawn,
    I've looked at several of the mens pants in my collection. And they don't seem to put a zipper symbol. However the pant should include a zipper. It looks like the zipper is inferred. Now some have belt loops and some do not. My husband would go crazy without his belt. The size you need is 4cm x 3cm. really they need to fit the belt, and lighter fabric with trousers seemed to have them 8cm X 2cm
    putting in a mens pant zipper check this web site out and add pieces to make a proper zipper cover etc.

  9. I don't think you can send photos here however I think I gave you enough to go ahead and make your pants. check above and look at that web site it's very helpful and step by step

  10. Thank you Fonnell and Ann for all your help. I am new to Lutterloh and have found this site invaluable. Words can't express how grateful I am. Dawn

  11. On a bodice, how can I tell if the the placket should be cut as a separate pattern piece or just faced. In the example above, there is a bolder line drawing the placket. Is this a symbol for this being a separate piece? Am I supposed to cut 4 of them - 2 used as facings, or do I do a typical facing? How can I tell from the pattern markings?

  12. Ann
    As for plackets they are usually just faced. That is noted by the slash marks. The chard above shows us all the markings and what they tell us to do. Yes cutting lines are darker. If you choose to cut the facing you need to add seam allowance to all edges the top and placket. Some people prefer the crispness of a cut and sewn on placket. The top above shows a facing so either way you fo it you face it. Good luck each outfit teaches us so much for the next project.

  13. What type of tape can I use/buy that will not tear the pattern?

    1. as in scotch tape? my suggestion is a product designed to be taken on and off. I use it all the time when I teach my sewing classes for kids. It's called "Scotch Mtte finish removable tape" my container is a plaid blue. I hope that was the question and not about your tape measure used for tracing off the pattern.

    2. matte finish removable tape by Scotch

  14. I can since to keep my pin in place. What type of base/table top are you using?

    1. Check my posting #1 on the left list of postings. You will see a photo of what I'm doing.

  15. Sherry, if you don't have a scrap piece of wood handy you can also try a thick cork coaster or two glued together if they're thin.

  16. Thank you so much, I received my Lutterloh System last week. I am trying to work it out. Thank you Ann. I am sure we will be in touch.

  17. I am curious why some cross-hairs are upright and some look more like an X. Is it trying to tell me something?

    1. if the X goes over two pieces you draw them together and cut them apart. Other than that I don't think it makes a difference to anything else. A number next to the X tells you to make two of the pattern.