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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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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Handy sewing hint of the day #21

I know I haven't done one of these in a while but it's time.

Today I want to talk about cutting.

The truth is most sewers are fairly ambivalent about cutting. Cutting out is the part of sewing most of us like least and most of us are also timid trimmers of seam allowances and other excess fabric.

I think this might go back to what I call the sturdy principle - the sense that if you trim too much and too close things might fray away and come apart after the first wash. 

At all costs we are terrified of this happening and restitch, triple backstitch and disregard trimming instructions in the guide sheets whenever no one is looking.

We need to be braver. In sewing and probably a lot of other areas too. Hand made clothing tends to wear out before it falls apart in my experience and all that excess, should be cut off stuff, can really pack up behind the seams and make things just look lumpy. I have enough lumps of my own I always say, no need in adding any more extra.

So here's what I would say about trimming.

First thing is it's not about just cutting things down but doing the right kind of cutting in the right places. There are three main types of trimming to think about - grading, notching and clipping.

Today I will share a little bit about grading, and cover notching and clipping in the next few posts. 


Grading is necessary when you have a seam that is going to lie close to the body and be well edge pressed and you need to both reduce bulk behind the stitching and avoid a pressed- in ridge. 

To do this you trim one seam allowance down a bit and the other seam allowance about 1/8" even more than the first one. This will create a sort of step down between the two layers of seam allowances so they will blend into the fabric and make a less discernible ridge from the right side after pressing.

The rule is to have the longer trimmed seam allowance on the fabric layer that is on the outside, say the front of a blouse for example, and the slightly shorter one on the layer that is closest to the body. 

Of course in some seams, for instance in a lapel where which layer is going to show on the outside is going to change, at the break point of the collar for instance, you would switch which is the longer trimmed layer too at this point.

Here is a gab collar on the pressing point showing the different widths of trimmed seam allowance. The wider seam allowance is next to the top of the collar:

Pretty gripping stuff I know.


Andrea said...

Great tip...we do so many "little" things that make of "big" deal to the outcome.

Kansas Sky said...

I love your sewing hints. Thanks so much for taking the time to post a new one.

Tanya said...

Hahaha!! Yeah I am guilty when comes to clipping, grading and trimming seams!! Just don't like doing it and have put up with a chunky seam or two!! Great article, looking forward to reading the next one!!

Anonymous said...

Yes -- this is so important! These little things add up and create beauty or disaster. Good to pay attention to this!

LinB said...

Grading becomes far easier when you use the bevel on your shears to cut the seam. Tip the blades to cut at a slight angle, and the layers of fabric are automatically cut at very slightly different lengths. This was a lightbulb moment for me, the first time I watched an instructor perform the technique.

sewingkm said...

I agree- grading seams can take a garment from a 'Becky homecky' to a professional look. Karen