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Sewing with commerical patterns…cutting out the fabric

In our last “lesson” we talked about how to read the outside of a pattern package. Now that we have that down and have picked our fabric it’s time to cut it out. When you open the package you will find some pattern pieces and some instructions.

On the first page of the instructions there are drawings of each pattern piece and the pattern piece number and name.

There are also General Directions that have “Special Cutting Notes”. These notes are general notes, not necessarily specific to this pattern.

The next thing you’ll notice is that there are cutting layouts for each item. These layouts are really helpful, however, depending on what size you’re making you might be able to arrange your pieces a little differently.
You want to be careful and make sure that if your fabric has a design on it, that the pieces are laid out so that the design will look good when the project is completed.  For instance, if you’re making pants and  have cars on your fabric you want to make sure that they are right side up on each piece. Otherwise you’ll wind up with some cars going one way on one leg and another way on the other leg.

Now, take your pattern pieces and cut out each pattern piece that you need. Some people go ahead and cut out all the pieces, I don’t, but you can if you want. I don’t cut right on the size that I’m going to be using, I just quickly cut around the whole piece. Edited to add: Jill reminded me that you really need to iron these pieces and iron your fabric before using them. Also, if you are making something that is going to be washed, go ahead and wash, dry and iron your fabric before even thinking about cutting out the pattern pieces. I know there are people who *never* pre wash their fabric and *never* have a problem. But why take chances??

Each pattern piece will have the brand of pattern and the pattern number on it. This is handy for when you find a random pattern piece laying under your cabinet and have no clue what pattern it belongs to. Each piece will also have the piece number and name, what views it is needed for, how many to cut and from what fabrics or interfacing.

Next, pin your pattern piece to the fabric. I’m cutting out a size medium here, so I pinned right inside the medium line. This piece is cut on the fold, so I put it on the very edge of the folded fabric. Edited to add: Jill also mentions that for pieces that are not cut on the old the long arrow down the middle of each piece is used to line up your pattern with the selvege edge. The selvege edge is the woven or self finished edge of the fabric – the edge that was not cut when you bought the fabric – this keeps the fabric from unraveling. This is straight grain cutting. Or the line is used to line up the pattern on the bias – this is a 45degree angle from the selvege.

Remember in our last lesson, I said that in most pattern packages there is more than one “view” and that sometimes the only difference between 2 views is the length. That’s the case with this tunic pattern I’m using. I’m using this for a fisherman’s costume and Christian is going to wear pants with it so I need the shorter #13 tunic. Instead of cutting my pattern short, because I might want a long medium tunic in the future, I’m going to use some tracing paper to trace the cutting line.

Lay the tracing paper upside down between the pattern piece and the fabric. Using a blunt pencil trace the line you want to cut.

 Now, pick up the pattern piece and cut on the (very light) blue line.

After you’ve cut the pattern piece out, make sure and cut out any notches that are there. These will help you line up the pieces properly.

When I read pattern piece 3 it said cut on fold. But in the layout instructions it shows piece 3 not being cut on the fold but being cut upside down and right side up (that’s what the shaded and non shaded part mean). Well, I thought that was kind of crazy…

So I took a scrap piece of fabric, folded it and then cut piece #3 on the fold. My fabric is solid and this is an inside piece so I didn’t have to be careful about the positioning of the pattern piece.
That’s all I can think of right now, if you have any questions or helpful tips feel free to leave them in comments.

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Wednesday 25th of January 2012

Thanks, Jill. You are so right, those are very important tips. Also, prewashing the fabric should have been in there. I'll edit the post and put those in there.

There was some delay between the actual cutting and the writing of the post. I probably should have taken notes while I was cutting.


Tuesday 24th of January 2012

Angi this is such a great series for beginners!

You forgot two important steps for this part.

Iron your pattern pieces and iron your fabric. Crinkly pattern pieces will give you improper cuts.

And you want to make sure that the fabric is ironed properly and on the straigt of grain, otherwise it will drape (hang on you) funny.

Your example pieces are cut on the folds of the fabric. For pieces that don't say "cut on fold", new sewists should know that the big arrow on each piece should either be lined up with the selvege edge...or placed on the bias. Perhaps a quick post explaining these two concepts for newbies who aren't using "cut on the fold" pieces?