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I am a mother, a new grandmother, and a teacher. But whatever happens in my life, I keep sewing. I have worked as a political communicator and now as a teacher in my formal life. I have also written extensively on sewing. I have been a frequent contributor and contributing editor of Threads magazine and the Australian magazine Dressmaking with Stitches. My first book Sew.. the garment-making book of knowledge will be published in May 2018 and is available for pre-order from Amazon


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Friday, March 18, 2016

Handy sewing hint of the day #9

Layout and cutting.

You wouldn't think there would much to say about this subject. 

You would be wrong.

There is a reason that the cutters are the highest paid workers in a good sewing shop - in their hands the inventory can be used, or wasted.

First of all the most important thing you have to do is to pay meticulous attention to grainline. There are some areas in sewing where you can take shortcuts, but measuring both ends of the straight of grain line to the selvage edge is not negotiable. 

Grainline is everything.

The pay off will be garments that will hang properly without twisting (we have all had collars that seemed to lie right over one shoulder and stood out stupid on the other).

Fold your fabric in half carefully keeping the selvages even, if cutting double.

If matching patterns or stripes however cut single layer. Lay that pattern piece, that should be on the fold, on flat, not folded, fabric, cut it out, flip that piece, still pinned to the fabric, over, making the centre front a fold, match patterns or stripes and then complete the cutting out. (Tell me if this makes sense or not- I can see it my head can you see it in yours?).

Back to basics like pinning.

It has been my observation that many sewers either use too many pins (this can be a problem as each pin picks up a little bit of the fabric and consequently can produce a fabric piece larger than the pattern) or too few - which can make for wobbly cutting.

My advice is to put a pin at any pivot points, corners for example, and about a hand length apart. 

The hand length is important. 

When cutting lay your hand on the pattern piece to hold the edge still and cut from the bottom of  your hand length to the top, stop cutting, re-position your hand, and start cutting again. Flatten the pattern with your hand, cut that length, pause and cut again. Start, cut, stop. This method also works really well if you use weights to hold your pattern pieces down (like the infamous tuna fish cans or beach rocks) and a steady hand on the edge of the pattern keeps things still. 

For hard to cut and slippery fabrics I prefer to use weights actually, less chance of a "lift" with the cut and eliminates the issue of too many pins consuming fabric.

This might be slower than you are used to cutting but is far, far more accurate.

The other thing, and this makes a huge difference to an accurate cut,  is to keep the pattern piece to the right of your scissors if you are using right-handed scissors, and to the left if you cut with left-handed scissors. This might seem like a small detail but try it - you will see a difference.

Of course to cut this way, keeping the pattern piece on the same side as your cutting hand, can be awkward, so do what I do and "chunk cut" some pieces so you can rotate them as necessary to maintain this relationship of the pattern piece to your scissors.

Tomorrow you can be surprised to learn that I have strong opinions about marking.

Thanks for hanging in with me on this.


BeccaA said...

Thank you for posting this. I have been sewing for years but my cutting out isn't as accurate as I'd like. Nobody ever showed me how to cut out fabric, so I've always just cut on either side of the pattern piece and not usually put my left hand down to hold the fabric. It does seem like playing twister to reach my left hand over my right hand to hold the fabric still while cutting on the left of the pattern piece. Can you post a picture of yourself doing this?

Faye Lewis said...

Wonderful information thanks for sharing.

Cactusneedle said...

Your comment on the position of the scissors - right or left - feels backwards to me. I will have to try it out. I am right-handed and cut with the pattern to the left of the scissors so I can see the edge. Interesting.

SilverMom said...

How did you know about my tuna fish cans??? (Yes, those would be the tuna fish cans that I have been using as pattern weights for so long that they predate expiration date codes. I used to say that they were a two-fer: pattern weights AND an emergency post-zombie-apocalypse food source, BUT since it has been 10-15 years and one of them has developed the dreaded lid bulge, I think not.) They DO make great pattern weights, though.

I'm loving your sewing tips series!

Elle said...

Hmm. Why would a right-hander keep the pattern piece to the right of the scissors?

Anonymous said...

Will be trying out the cutting positions on my next project, I have to do it while reading it to understand, but I suspect that this is NOT the way I've been doing it for 40 plus years! And perhaps that explains some rather slap dash results.....hmmmmm.


Cindy said...

I'm right handed and use right handed scissors. I feel I can see where I'm cutting better if I keep the pattern piece to the left of the scissors. I'll try cutting the other way and see if cutting is easier.

Do you recommend this orientation if using a rotary cutter?

Can't wait for tomorrow. How to mark is always a dilemma. I loved the wax tracing paper, but it's so hard to find now.

Karla said...

I do just about everything right except for that "pattern piece to the right" business, especially when I've got my left hand placed flat on the part I'm cutting. I think this old dog might be too old to learn new tricks, and I don't want to have to offer explanations in the emergency room. But everything else...heck, yeah.

Catherine Edwards said...

I agree with the posters above. I recently read this advice to cut with the pattern to the right and tried it but decided I couldn't see the edge properly or hold down the fabric so I went back to holding the pattern with my left hand and cutting to the right of that with my right hand. Maybe there's something I'm missing about this? I don't understand why it would be more accurate. Could you explain this in more detail and maybe a sketch of where your hands are. Like, do they cross each other when you're cutting at the wrist?


Kathryn Hoyman said...

Oh my goodness. I love your hints. Even tho I've been sewing for a while,, I'm learning.
But the scissors thing is really throwing me. I'm a lefty who uses scissors with my right hand. I always cut with my fabric and pattern to the left of the scissors. I just tried cutting a pot-holder pattern out the other way. It was a world's simplest shape and I made hash of it. I couldn't see the line. Am I mis-understanding??

Sandra O'Leary said...

I also am confused about the cutting sequence. I am starting a mini travel wardrobe and would so appreciate a picture or scetch that would help.

I love your tips ��

Bunny said...

I'm with the others on this cutting to the right thing. I position my pieces so I can get the most accuracy. Since I use mostly a rotary cutter, that can be anywhere as I walk around my cutting table. I just do what naturally seems to make sense to me and really have no issues with cutting. I know this right thing would just confuse me and I'd probably cut myself too. I'm a klutz like that.