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.


  1. Whew, so glad to know I am not the only one who makes some of those mistakes! This post is a great reference tool to refer back to again and again. Thanks.

  2. I know the feeling! I do most of what you do, and when the fabric is expensive I wait until the next day or even the day after when I am well rested and can triple check! Heather

  3. Ah yes, the anxiety of cutting out the fabric. I know that feeling oh so well.