• Kaine

Sewing 109 - How to Lay out and Cut your Fabric

Updated: Jan 30

Welcome back. This lesson is about the proper way to lay out your fabric and patterns before you cut it into pieces. It does not matter if you are drafting directly on the fabric or using pre-drafted patterns. It is the same principles that are involved.

In previous chapters, we covered grain lines and their importance. In this chapter we shall put that knowledge to practical use. How you choose to place your patterns on the fabric will ultimately affect how the fabric looks and how it drapes on the body. This will also teach you how to make the most of your fabric to avoid waste.

Laying out your Pattern

1)The fabric should be on grain. (See Sewing 108).

2)It should also be ironed. Pre-washing is recommended but it is optional.

3)The pattern can be placed/drafted three general positions on the fabric

(a) On the Folded edge of the fabric, if you are cutting out one piece that has two symmetrical sides.

(b) On a double layer of fabric, if you are cutting out two separate but identical/mirrored pieces.

pattern placed on single layer of fabric

(c) On a single layer of fabric, if you are cutting one piece that is asymmetrical or solo

4) In addition, the Pattern can be placed/drafted along any one of the three grain lines

pattern placed on lengthwise straight grain of fabric

(a) The lengthwise grain or straight grain (parallel to the selvedge)

pattern placed on crosswise grain of fabric

(b) The crosswise grain (parallel to the width)

pattern placed on bias of fabric

(c) The Bias (45 degrees angle)

In summary, the lay out is a combination of the positioning and the alignment with the grain lines. For example, you can place the pattern in any of the following ways

pattern pieces cut on different grain lines of fabric

i) on the Fold along the lengthwise grain; or

ii) on a double layer along the lengthwise grain; or

iii) on the Fold along the Crosswise grain; or

iv) on a single layer along the bias; etc.

Your choice depends on the garment your sewing, the type of fabric your using, the type of print or pattern on the fabric your using and the quantity of fabric your have to work with.

General Principles to remember

fabric folded with right sides together

1. When working on the fold or on a double layer, the right sides of the fabric should be facing (This ensures that you are creating mirrored pieces and also protects the right sides of your fabric from damage)

2. When working on the fold or a double layer of fabric, if following the lengthwise grain, the selvedges should be touching or parallel to each other depending on the size of your pattern

fabric folded along the width

3 . When working on the fold or a double layer of fabric, if following the crosswise grain, the widths should be touching or parallel to each other depending on the size of your pattern

patterns placed along different grain lines of fabric

4. When working on a single layer of fabric, the right side should be facing up while aligning your pattern with any one of the grain lines

5. A pattern can be placed on the fold, double layer or single layer along the Bias too

one directional fabric print

6. When working with directional prints on fabric, make sure the print is facing the right way up and in the same direction on all pattern pieces unless you are trying to create a unique design.

velvet fabric with nap

7. When working with fabric that has nap or sequins, make sure the nap or sequins are facing the same direction on all pattern pieces

aligning pattern to grain line of fabric with measuring tape

8. You can use your measuring tape or a ruler to check that the pattern piece is laying straight along a grain line.

basic layout of patterns on fabric

9. You can place or draft all pattern pieces on the fabric before cutting or work on one pattern piece at a time.

Pins and weights

You need sharp pins and pattern weights. Pattern weights can be any small heavy objects such as dumbbells or metal washers for example. Once you have determined the positioning of your pattern piece or where you are drafting your pattern, the next step is to secure the fabric in place

pinning pattern to fabric

1. If you are using a pattern, you should pin it or weigh it down to the fabric to prevent shifting. With particularly slippery fabric you may want to both pin and weigh it down.

Pins should be parallel to the straight and curved edges of the pattern and at 45 degrees at corners. I am honestly not too strict, use as many as you need, and make sure all the sharp ends are facing inwards and that the pins are within the pattern so as not to get caught on your scissors. Aim to secure the pattern to the fabric and also keep the layers of fabrics from moving or shifting while cutting.

2. If you are drafting directly on the fabric, you should also pin the layers down before cutting to prevent the layers from shifting

Adding Seam Allowances

The Seam Allowance the space between the edge of the fabric and the stitching line. It can range from 1/8 inch to 2 inches wide. We will cover this in more detail when we start drafting and sewing.

adding seam allowance to pattern on fabric

If you are working with pattern pieces, after pinning, you should add your seam allowances if it is not already included in the pattern.

Of course, if you are drafting directly on the fabric, you should make sure to include seam allowances too.

Principles of Cutting

cutting out a pattern piece with a scissors

The direction you choose to cut in depends on your dominant hand. What is important is that you avoid lifting and moving the fabric around, keep the scissors on the table, take long smooth strokes, and try to keep the scissors right inside the previous cut. Go slow; accuracy is better than speed and practice, practice, practice.

Thanks for reading and see you in the next lesson.

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