Friday, January 06, 2017

Cow-themed bean bag chairs

No cows were hurt in the making of these bean bag chairs.



Our little chalet apartment needed a little more seating for our visitors to be comfortable, particularly when there are children. I thought bean bags would be a great idea and my husband agreed but added that they should be out of cow skin, in keeping with the French/Swiss alpine theme. I think he really meant cow skin too, but I knew that would be too stiff for bean bag chairs and very expensive too. I found a much better alternative - a fabric called "Udder Madness." It's upholstery weight but soft, washable (by hand), and worked perfectly for these bags.

I used Burda 8373 and made the smaller size


That's a lot of bean bag fill!
I bought the bean bag fill from Amazon Germany because I figured local delivery would fare better than having it sent to my APO, plus package delivery to APO in November-December is bogged down due to Christmas. But I know that Amazon in the US sells fill also, just from a different supplier.

We turned an empty laundry container into a funnel.
Filling the bags is definitely a 2-person job. Even with our "funnel", we still managed to spill some pellets...well a bunch of pellets. And getting the last bit out of the bag was even more fun. It's impossible to get all of the pellets out due to static electricity but we tried. I mention it in my review below, but in case you don't read that far, I used 430 liters to fill both bags, so about 215 liters in each.

The bags were a hit! The kids lounged on them to watch XBox during the day and the adults lounged in them at night to watch movies.

If I made them again, I would probably skip making bottom piece out of vinyl because in use the bags seldom ended up with the circular bottom on the floor. The kids often squooshed the bags into a teardrop shape with the side of the bag on the floor and the bottom of the bag perpendicular to the floor, so having the vinyl didn't serve any purpose.

Here's my full review, with details on sewing and filling the bags (same as my review on Patternreview):

Pattern Description:
Burda 8373
Bean bag chair with zipper opening, outer pocket and handle

Pattern Sizing:
Large: 139 cm x 92 cm and Small: 100 cm x 71 cm
I made two of the small size.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?
Yes!

Were the instructions easy to follow?
I sewed it up without really needing to read the instructions but I did use the pictures to see that I should top stitch the outer cover. I bought my pattern in Germany and despite there being English on the outer envelope and on the pattern pieces, the instructions were in German and seven other languages but not English!

Using the pattern, you cut 6 identical side pieces, a large bottom circle and a top circle as well as a rectangular pattern piece for a handle and a pattern piece for a pocket.
The pattern includes 1 cm (3/8 in) seam allowances, which is fine for the muslin or lighter weight fabric lining, but if your outer fabric frays or is very thick you might want to make slightly larger seam allowances. The 1 cm is ok for the seams but was pretty tight for putting in the zipper.
You actually make two of everything - one is the lining to contain the bean bag filler and one is the outer cover.

I sewed the lining first, which I recommend so that you get a good idea of how everything goes together before you deal with your potentially bulkier outer cover fabric.

For the lining, which was out of muslin, I used my serger for construction so the seam allowances would be contained. The pattern instructions say to leave an opening in the lining for the bean bag filler and then stitch it closed after filling it, but I chose to put in a zipper, so for that seam I used the regular sewing machine. For the outer fabric I used my regular sewing machine so that I could top stitch.

I sewed the side pieces together in pairs first and put the zipper in on one of the pairs. This made it easier to put the zipper in and also to do the top stitching on either side of the seam on the outer cover.

For the circles, I used a quilting ruler with 60 degree lines on it to mark the circles evenly into 6 pieces so that I could stitch them on evenly.

I omitted the pocket, but did sew on the handle. After attaching the handle, I worried that it would rip the outer fabric at the stitching line, so I reinforced that area by stitching with a zig-zag to a bit of extra fabric on the inside. I think that will help better distribute the stress in those areas.

Finally, a note about filler. The pattern doesn't give you any help in determining how much filler to use. It's generally sold by the liter. I bought 430 liters of filler from which to fill both bags (from a source in Germany through amazon.de). I was worried it wouldn't be enough but it turned out to be maybe a little too much, which is ok because over time the little pellets get squashed.
       
What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?
You could make your own pattern for a bean bag, but I liked the proportions of this bag and by using this purchased pattern I didn't have to think too much or worry about my calculations being off. Some bean bags, including purchased ones, don't have a separate lining bag but I liked that this pattern suggests that you make a one.

Fabric Used:
The inner lining is muslin, purchased from IKEA.

The outer cover is a fabulous upholstery weight fabric called "Udder Madness" - it feels and looks like cow hide but is 100% polyester and can be hand washed. It was very easy to work with and took stitches well. I used a size 100 denim needle, stitch length of 3 for seams and 3.5 for top stitching. The fabric didn't fray and is soft and pliable enough for use as a bean bag, a feature which also made it easy to manipulate while sewing.

I used vinyl for the bottom round piece to make it more durable and also because I thought the nap of the cow print might interfere with moving the bean bag around.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made:
I omitted the pocket from the outer cover and added a zipper to the inner lining.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?
I've already had a (non-sewing) friend ask if I'd make more. The danger of being able to sew. Considering that each large bean bag takes 5 1/2 yards of fabric (for each bag, so 11 including the lining) and the small takes 3 1/4 yards for each bag, depending on the choice of outer fabrics, these could be pricey bags. But it's a great way to make some statement bean bag chairs!

Conclusion:
Easy pattern and the resulting bean bag has a nice sit-able shape to it. Although I intended to make these bean bags for children, the small size, with enough filling, is still suitable for an adult to sit in.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Knitted cowls

I finished knitting two cowls. I prefer cowls to open ended scarves because I hate when scarves unwrap themselves or they get caught up in my coat when I try to unwrap them and I feel a bit strangled.

I'll probably wear it twisted one more time, but here you can see the pattern
 

I used yarn that I bought during our trip to Edinburgh, Scotland in July. It's actually two yarns: a wool/silk blend from Eden Cottage Yarns and mohair/silk blend from Woollenflower. I bought the two yarns intending to combine them and make a cowl like this. The pattern is from Ravelry, it's called "That Nice Stitch."


Folded over, it's like a big turtleneck.


This cowl uses about 1/2 to 2/3 of a skein of Zauberball, which is a German yarn that comes dyed with this gradient effect. I bought the yarn in a yarn shop in a small town outside of Stuttgart a few years ago. The shop had a cowl made out of it, which caught my eye so I decided to make one for myself. The woman in the store told me it was just a cast-on of 200 stitches on size 2.5 mm needles (US 1 1/2) and a 2x2 rib (2 knit, 2 purl) - no pattern needed.

In other knitting news, I'm almost finished with a second sock, I'm blocking the pieces to a sweater I recently finished knitting, and I'm casting on to make myself a vest. Busy needles!

Monday, October 03, 2016

Making my own trim

When you can't find the trim you want in the store, you make it! I haven't done this just yet - I'm still learning and practicing weaving bands on my inkle loom, but I have an idea of some trim I want that I hope to make soon.

Here are my first two practice pieces:



I wove them using cotton crochet thread (I think it was size 5). The bottom band was my first piece and the top band was woven to use up the thread - I don't like the color combination on the second one as much. These are warp-faced bands, meaning that the warp thread (length wise grain) is what is visible and the weft (cross grain) is only seen on the edges, so you want to design the band to have edges the same color and then use that color in the weft. I used more brown in the bottom band and very little gold, which meant I had a lot of gold left over for the weft for the second piece. I don't have any plans for these but they're thick and sturdy and would make great bag straps or even a belt. The bands are about 3/4 inch wide. The bottom band is 4 feet long and the top is 6 feet. The maximum length I can make on my loom is about 7 1/2 feet.

Here's what the inkle loom, made by Schacht, looks like warped with my current practice project.


The blue threads are heddles - loops of cotton thread wrapped over every other warp thread so that you can easily separate the warp threads for weaving. Half of the warp threads go over the top peg (those are the ones held with the heddles) and the other half pass below the peg. The warp threads pass around the pegs in the loom to make a continuous loop. The warp is tensioned using the adjustable peg just barely in view in the bottom left of the picture. You weave between the tensioning peg and the heddles until you get too close to the heddles and have no more room to pass the shuttle through, then you loosen the peg, advance the warp by shifting it along the peg-path, tighten the warp again, and you're back to weaving. Easy!

For my current piece I'm using size 8 pearl cotton thread, which results in a shinier band that is about 1/2 inch wide. It's more like ribbon, or at least closer to what I could use as trim on clothing.



It's good to practice because it takes some time to learn how hard to beat the weft (not too hard with pearl cotton or you lose the shine) and how to make the selvedges neat (patience!). I also am learning a little bit about how some color combinations work or don't. In this band you can barely make out that there is yellow next to the pink or that there is a yellow dot running down the center. It seems that one or two strands of the warp thread was not really enough to make the color stand out. But I do like the results!

These first three bands I made were woven in plain weave, which is fast and can result in a sturdy band but you're sort of limited to stripes, checks or repeating little clusters like in my first band. With a technique called "pick-up" you can weave all kinds of design elements and motifs, including lettering. It's more time consuming because you have to select warp threads individually according to a chart. That's going to be my next project.

I never thought about weaving my own trim and bands for sewing purposes but of course that's how people used to make them, and I know Chanel has their trim custom woven for their couture suits so that it matches the fibers of the suit fabric. It's really not hard to weave bands and surprisingly not that slow. In about 20 minutes I can weave around a foot or so, though it'll probably be longer doing pick-up. The most tedious part is deciding on and planning out the design. Warping the inkle loom takes a little time but it goes pretty quickly.

The design possibilities are nearly endless. I've seen some bands woven with embroidery floss, which can provide beautiful color combinations. Some have even used sewing thread to weave bands, which I will probably try since I love a challenge and can envision that the resulting thickness and width would be perfect for trim. I'd also love to weave with silk, perhaps making something wider that I could use as a belt or sash. So many things to make!

Friday, August 19, 2016

Magazine overload

When I first traveled to Europe I scoured the news stands for pattern magazines. My husband was patient and accommodating when I'd pass one and say "just a sec, let me pop in here." Fortunately magazines don't cost a lot and don't take up too much room in a suitcase. I had a subscription to the English version of Burda through GLP News but that was not enough. I wanted Patrones, La Mia Boutique, Knipmode, Ottobre, etc., etc. The clothes in those magazines seemed more interesting and it was fun to see all the different languages and even more fun to find them during our travels. Truth be told, I mostly browsed the magazines like I would a fashion mag and sewed up a few things from a French issue called "Diana Couture."

When I first moved to Europe I still scoured the news stands for pattern magazines. With unreliable and slow mail service to my APO mailbox, I dropped my Burda subscription and started buying the German issues from the news stand. Although I could get a subscription in Germany, buying them gives me a "mission" every month to visit the news stand. Plus I get to discover - and buy - other sewing magazines I see on the shelves. At first I bought just about everything I found, but it turns out there are a lot of sewing magazines available in Germany, and now my shelves are stuffed. Although I have sewn a few more things from non-Burda magazines, I still have acquired far more than I would ever use. I have had to stop. Well...cut down at least.

I'm not kidding that there are a lot of sewing magazines. Actually there are a lot of magazines period in Germany - they really do like their magazines. Still, I was amazed at the number of sewing, knitting, crochet, patchwork, and other craft magazines that are available - they take up the two top rows of the shelf in the picture below. I've noted all the pattern magazines that have women's clothing (there are 10!) with yellow arrows. But that's not even all that are available in Germany (sometime La Mia Boutique in the international section for example), and I didn't point out the magazines exclusively for children's or baby clothes. By the way, this is a magazine rack in a department store, not a specialty news stand. I often buy Burda and a few others at the grocery store.

Lots of magazines!

Overflow of sewing pattern magazines!


The 10 magazines are:
  1. Burdastyle
  2. Budastyle Plus
  3. Burdastyle Easy
  4. Ottobre Design Woman
  5. Fashion Style (Knipmode translated into German)
  6. Meine Nähmode (Simplicity/New Look patterns reprinted and translated into German)
  7. Näh-Style (used to be Diana Moden)
  8. Nähtrends (Patrones translated into German)
  9. Lust auf Handarbeiten
  10. Sabrina Woman
As for the baby and children issues, I saw Burda Kids and Poppy and something with a name like "Nähen Baby", and they'll have the children's Ottobre issues when they're current. I also didn't point out the crafty-type sewing magazines for making decorative items or toys. The rest of the issues on that first shelf are mostly knitting magazines.

If you are interested in these magazines, you can find them here: http://www.schnittmuster.net. The site is in English (or German) and it looks like they ship to the US too. I'm not affiliated with them and get nothing in return for sending your business to them.

I've cut my magazine buying down to Burdastyle, Fashion Style (Knipmode), Meine Nähmode and Ottobre Woman. The first two are monthly, there are about 6 Meine Nähmode issues per year and two Ottobre Woman issues - still a lot of magazine buying! The Burda Plus and Easy issues don't provide me anything more interesting than what I get in the regular Burdastyle. Patrones clothing looks to young for me, so I usually pass. I used to get Näh-Style and Sabrina Woman but their clothes are really basic and essentially repeat everything I already have from them. I have sewn a two things from Sabrina Woman, though. I've flipped through Lust auf Handarbeiten, which is a recent publication, and haven't seen anything to prompt me to buy it.

It goes without saying that all of these pattern magazines have a nightmarish mess of pattern lines to trace. Some are better than others. For as much as everyone complains about Burda, I think they're actually the best ones I have experience tracing. Knipmode and Sabrina are the worst. Knipmode because all sizes from 34 to 54 are printed for each style, and Sabrina because they only use black and red. Actually I think Knipmode only uses two colors also.

The instructions are another issue with pattern magazines. They tend to be short because there can be a lot of patterns packed into one magazine. Everyone gripes about short Burda instructions. Sabrina Woman and Näh-Style are also very brief, but the garments are simple. Ottobre have fewer patterns per issue so they devote more space to instructions. Meine Nähmode reprints the Simplicity and New Look instructions translated into German, along with the illustrations, which can be helpful but the illustrations are very small and sometimes Simplicity and New Look over-explain. I've spent lots of time stumped translating the German back to English only to find the instruction was something basic like "turn right side out." The best instructions I have found are in Knipmode. They print instructions with illustrations for basic things like sewing collars or pockets in the beginning of the instruction section and then refer you to read those sections if and when they come up. You do a bit of page flipping but overall I've found the instructions to be more thorough. But I've sewn a grand total of one Knipmode top and read through the instructions for the top I'm currently making, so what do I know?

Though I've "cut back" (32 magazines a year is a lot!), storage is a problem and it's only getting worse. I hesitate to throw away (recycle) any patterns because you never know when I might want to sew one of them, right? I've streamlined some of the issues by digitally photographing the model pictures in the glossy part and saving only the patterns and the instructions. I tried not buying Knipmode but they keep putting great stuff in their magazines and I can't resist. Digital pdf files are an option - all of Burda's patterns are available through online purchase, and some of Knipmode's as well, but I dislike printing and taping pieces of paper together even more than tracing. I made one pdf pattern and wasted a lot paper trying to get the printout correct.

So what to do? Stay away from news stands I guess! And sew more to justify buying them.

Thursday, August 04, 2016

Copenhagen Fabric and Yarn "Hop"!

I'm a little late getting around to this post - time flies! In May I went to Copenhagen, Denmark and had my own little "hop", visiting a number of fabric and yarn stores in the walkable area around central Copenhagen. I always intended to blog about it and now I'm finally doing so.

I'd been to Copenhagen once before and visited the "must-see" tourist places, so this time, while my husband was busy during the day attending and speaking at a conference, I indulged my fiber-appetite and went exploring. Since my yarn and fabric stash is already bulging, I didn't need to shop, however a little bit of shopping did happen.

Prior to the trip I did some research and made up a list of stores to visit. Sadly I found a few were no longer in business, but I did stumble on one new one. Most importantly, it was a great way to tour the city and see some neighborhoods I might otherwise have never seen. I plotted the addresses using HERE maps and saved them as a collection. But since I don't know how to share this collection, and some of the stores are gone anyway, you should probably use your own mapping software if you want to go on a similar hop. If I can figure out how to share the map, I'll update this blog with the link.



I started with the first location in the lower left on Dybbolsgade since it was closest to the hotel and then went in a clockwise direction to visit, or attempt to visit, the rest. The very first location was, in fact, a bust! I could not locate the store and believe it is gone. I'm listing them here in case someone visiting this blog has found the names of those stores on other sites, like I did.

1. Stofresten, Dybbølsgade 68

GONE! I'm pretty sure I found the right address, but I didn't find a fabric store.

2. Stoff 2000 Vesterbrogade 41

New! - Not on my list but right down the same street from the next store on the list and the one I was intending to find.

The Stoff 2000 stores appear to be a chain in Denmark - there is also one later in my tour and when I was researching stores I came across others that are farther from the city center. I popped in and browsed briefly. This store in particular is fairly small, but they have garment, home dec, and quilting fabrics as well as the usual notions. Overall it's a nice, clean, well presented fabric store, it just doesn't have a large selection. I would probably consider this a "go-to" store for general sewing though.

Terrible photo, but at least you can see the sign
 3. Stoff&Stil, Vesterbrogade 20

This is a chain store as well, with stores in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Germany (and it turns out there's one a couple hours from me in Cologne). What struck me first about this store was how clean and well lit it was. The fabrics are displayed in rolls by fiber content and color. It's a large store compared to the other fabric stores I visited, but it's still in the city, so maybe not as large as their other chains might be. Thought they looked to have a decent selection of fabrics for garment sewing, including some youthful prints. I browsed but didn't stay long because I had a lot of stores to visit on my list. In the back section they have lots of notions, some craft supplies, and interesting kits with printed fabric panels, which were tempting but I didn't buy any. They also have yarn and a large selection of what look like their own knitting patterns and sewing patterns.



Note the long row of shopping carts!
 
Well lit and very clean!
Lots of knitting patterns

From here I walked north along the canal. It was a beautiful day!

May in Denmark is still spring.

Lovely flowering trees

4. Textilhuset, Fredriksborggade 39

GONE! No sign of this store anymore, however there is a Panduro Hobby at Fredriksborggade 36, which can satisfy some sewing and knitting needs as well as probably every other crafting need.

5. Stoff 2000, Fredriksborggade 26.

This is a larger store of this chain, with two separate sections for garment fabrics and home dec fabrics.

Bonus! Right across the street is the Torvehallerne food market. Perfect for a lunch stop!

6. Uldstedet, Vendersgade 3

This was the first yarn store on my tour. It's a fairly small shop with some nice yarns, some imported (Rowan, Katia) and some Danish (Isager). I browsed but didn't buy anything.

Worth stopping by if you're in the area!

7. Stofdillen Aps, Nørregade 36 - GONE!

8. City Sycenter, Rosengården 9

The information I found online had this at number 12 and from the description I think it once was larger than it is today and perhaps occupied buildings on both sides of the street. I could only find the small (very small!) store at number 9. But it was worth stopping. They happened to be having their anniversary sale so fabrics were 20% off. I found some knit remnants I really liked and also some sock yarn that is a mix of wool and nettles. I've never seen yarn made from nettles, so I had to buy it - it's very soft!


Knit fabrics with some interesting texture

Yarn from nettles!

9. Skipper Stoffer, Gammel Mønt 19

This is a dangerous store. Designer fabrics! Oh my. But at about $30/meter (200 DK), I knew that I wouldn't be buying some just to buy designer fabric. There were some beautiful fabrics, but nothing that I had to have, especially since I have quite a backlog of projects and a fabric stash on two continents. I did see names like Pucci and Armani...but I walked away.

Designer fabrics!

10. Handler, Vingårdstræde 19

If you find yourself in Copenhagen and are in need of trim, zippers or buttons, this looks like the place to go.


Fairly non-descript building hiding a rainbow of color inside!


Zippers!

Just one small, colorful section of trim.
Only open from 10 am to 4 pm, Monday through Friday, but there is a website...in Danish only.

11. Sommerfuglen, Vandkunsten 3

This was the one yarn store I had visited when I was in Copenhagen the first time a few years ago. I remembered that they had Hanne Falkenberg kits - she's a Danish knitwear designer and I recall her kits being popular, albeit expensive, purchases among the knitters at the Stitches knitting conventions. Since the kits are about 1/2 the price when you buy them in Europe, I thought maybe I would buy one from this store. But ultimately I changed my mind when I saw an Isager (another Danish designer) sweater sample on display in the store. I purchased the yarn for it and was able to buy the English version of the instruction book online after I returned home. It's from the book "Amimono Room 606", if you're interested.

Nice yarn store close to the center of Copenhagen
This is the sweater that caught my eye

Yarn for the sweater

Yarn for the cuffs and bands and back yoke

 12. I.W. Hvidberg, Løngangstræde 25

The last stop on my grand fabric and yarn store tour is actually the oldest fabric store in Denmark and maybe even Europe. It dates from 1780. I was a bit intimidated when I stepped inside, because it looked as if it was only a place for ordering fabrics for suits that they would then make for you. But if you wander in farther you'll find a back hallway stuffed full of fabrics and there's a small basement "maze" crammed with silks, cottons and other fabrics. No bargains here, but the fabrics are nice.

The ugly store front certainly doesn't say "1780" 


Serious suit fabrics

Beautiful wool

Whew! It was quite a long day to visit all of these places. I actually did my scouting trip on one day and then returned to City Sycenter and Sommerfglen to buy my goodies.

I hope you enjoyed the tour, and now if you go to Copenhagen, you'll know where to shop!


Sunday, July 31, 2016

Deja vu

You know you look at patterns too much when you can tell that you've seen something before.


Currently in their catalog


Out of print
But before you think that I scoured the internet to find the OOP pattern, the reason I found it was because of Meine Nähmode, a German magazine that republishes Simplicity and New Look patterns. It's a great (and cheap!) way for me to obtain these patterns, although they don't always print every view and only some of the sizes, and of course I have to trace them. Oh, and the instructions are in German. But for €5.50 (about $6) I get 13 patterns.

The magazine doesn't identify which envelope patterns they reprinted but they use the pictures from Simplicity and New Look, so with a little searching I can figure it out. I then copy some of the Simplicity or New Look info into the pattern library I keep on OneNote so that I can reference it later. Since I have hundreds of patterns available through the pattern magazines I collect (along with some envelope patterns), I periodically go through my pattern library and copy info on the garments I like into a separate section. Both of these shirts were reprinted in Meine Nähmode - the OOP one in 2013 and the newest one in 2016. When I went to add the new shirt pattern to my "summer woven shirts page" I found the duplicate. But honestly when I saw that striped shirt in the latest Meine Nähmode issue I knew I'd seen it before, and I was right!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Ready to cut the fabric...or am I?

I'm happy with my muslin for the Knipmode tunic, so I'm ready to cut out the pattern pieces in my fabric. Or not. I've never really liked cutting the fabric. It's so final. I've ripped out many a knitted piece with hardly a second thought when things weren't going right, but you can't do that with fabric.

And before you take scissors or rotary cutter to the fabric, there are a number of things you need to do first if you want to assure success.

Prepare the fabric:

Thinking I was ready to cut, I spread out the fabric so that I could get it straighten and folded, and the first thing I noticed was that it was all creased from being stored. Step one: it needed to be pressed (don't iron back and forth - that distorts the fabric). I often don't prewash my fabrics unless the end result will be washed in warm or hot water and dried in the dryer or the fabric got dirty or something. I wash all my clothes in cold water and hang them to dry so I'm not worried about shrinking. Also, I have sometimes wound up with terribly distorted and off-grain fabric after prewashing, not to mention a ton of wrinkles.

Examine the fabric:

While ironing pressing, I had a good chance to really look at the fabric. Examining the fabric is always a good idea, in case there are flaws you need to work around. Or writing on the fabric. Not on this piece, but when I was looking at another piece of fabric I have, I was shocked to see that someone had written a number in ink pen and rubber stamped something right in the middle of the piece. It was a long-ago purchase from an online vendor and way to late to do something about it, but a lesson learned to look at your fabric as soon as you buy it or before if you're at the store.

Check for direction:

Another reason for looking over the fabric is to identify if there is a nap or direction. I've failed that one twice.

Right side vs. wrong side:

Which side of the fabric is the right side? Honestly, when you're the designer you can choose whichever side you want. There is no right side.

My fabric is a thin cotton voile, with embroidery over dotted Swiss. One side has the raised bumps of the dots, the embroidery is more vibrant and consists of chain stitches. The other side has the image of the dots, the embroidery is more subdued and is all straight stitch. Both sides would look good, so I couldn't decide. Since I've never sewn or worn dotted Swiss, I didn't know which side was intended to be the right side. A quick internet search showed that most garments are sewn with the raised-bump side (didn't find any the other way actually). I also went so far as to see if there was a picture with the invoice from when I bought the fabric to show which side was "right". Since I'm lazy and don't delete emails of stuff like that, I actually had an email. From 2007.  Yes, this has been in my stash for quite a while. There was no picture but it did show that I paid $18/yard for the fabric. Now I really don't want to mess this up, however I think it's better to use $36 dollars worth of fabric than to just store it.

Lay out the fabric:

Straighten, straighten, straighten. This step seems to take me forever because I fuss a lot with the fabric. If the selvedge is good, then I use it to help keep things straight, but sometimes it's wavy and bad. I often use the repeating motif pattern but sometimes it's printed crooked, intentionally or not.

The fabric I'm using today is a perfectionist's dream - all those little Swiss dots to line up! It's a good thing too because the embroidery designs aren't perfectly placed.

Matching patterns and repeats:

With plaids and stripes you know you'll need to be careful laying out the pieces so that things line up, but this may also be the case with prints that have repeating motifs.

The embroidery on my fabric has a definite repeat in both directions, and I decided that my tunic would look best if I maintained the same vertical placement from front to back.

Will all the pieces fit?

This is a two-part step. 1) Make sure you have all the pattern pieces and 2) make sure they all fit, taking into account any requirements for direction, pattern matching, and the number of pieces. There have been times where I cut two when I needed four, flipped a piece around the wrong way, or failed to cut something on the fold (like yesterday!). If you're using the suggested pattern layout then you're probably ok, but I always seem to do a creative pattern layout to squeeze my pieces into the fabric that I have. Or in the case of knits, I like to cut pieces out whole instead of on the fold. Still I should consult the pattern layout.

Today I had to get creative. The embroidery on my fabric doesn't extend all the way to the edges and using the suggested layout would not work. Fortunately I found a way to make everything fit. Whew!

Are there any extra non-pattern pieces to cut?

This is generally not an issue for envelope patterns but magazine patterns that you have to trace (and maybe pdf patterns too?)  almost always leave off pattern pieces that are just squares or rectangles and instead give you the dimensions you need to cut. Another reason to look at the pattern layout even if you're doing you're own thing.

One last check.

Are there any fabric motifs in less than desirable locations? Double check the direction. Look for any pattern pieces on the floor.

Take a deep breath and...

Go have a cup of tea. Eat a cookie. And decide to go blog about how many things you need to do before you can start cutting out. And now it's time for dinner, so tomorrow then.

Ready to cut...or not.