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Cutting out


The point of no return. Mistakes made in paper are cheap; mistakes cut into fabric are often salvageable but it's best to avoid them if you can, so double-check your paper pattern.

You will need

What to do

  1. Your fabric will usually be on a roll in the shop. The long edges at either end of the roll - the ones produced by the machine making the cloth - are called 'selvedges'. The ends that the shop cut to measure out the length that you asked for are 'cut ends', and aren't usually properly square.
  2. Fold your fabric roughly in half lengthways so the selvedges are together. Now pick it up by the fold starting at one end with about two feet (600mm) between your hands, and holding the long edges for that section clear of the table, slide/roll the fold up and down between your fingers until the long edges are both at the same height. Pin the fold and move along it, repeating until you've pinned the whole fold so the long edges are aligned.
  3. Lay your fabric out flat on your table with the pinned centre fold towards you, flapping it and patting it to work out any wrinkles as best you can, but be careful that you don't have it stretched (much) while you're pinning and cutting. If it's longer than your table, you will probably want to concertina it to keep it under control. (You can see I've concertina'd the far end of my fabric in the picture.)
  4. Place the paper pattern pieces on the fabric, and slide them around to try to fit them into the smallest space, while respecting things like the way your velvet strokes or the orientation of your fabric's pattern.
    • (Remember, if you removed the centre-front seam, then lay the centre-front fold line along the fold in the fabric.)
  5. Pin them to the fabric: I find it helps to pin the topmost corners first, and work down. Use plenty of pins - one every 6" - and more on fiddly curves; pin inside the line. While pinning, try not to lift the fabric too much.
  6. Pin everything before you start to cut out and then double check everything. Twice. Only once you're sure, should you cut with VERY sharp DRESSMAKING scissors, and don't use the very end of the scissors to cut with (because the ends may tear the fabric a little).
  7. As you cut, it's usually easier to fold the fabric you've cut out of the way - the excess, the piece, or both.
  8. Cut a few slits into the seam allowance to help with alignment later - for the leg, cut on a few of the half-circumference lines (the pink perpendiculars back on the pattern-drafting pages), so they'll match on either side. For the suit's back curve, just cut a few along it. Make sure to cut all alignment notches through both layers of fabric.
  9. If the fabric's inside and outside look similar (as with athletic lycra), or the pattern is subtle, then put a pin into each layer and piece of fabric you've cut out while you're still clear about which side is the inside or outside. Perhaps the pin points 'up' the pattern, and the head and point are always on the outside.
  10. Notice that there's a fair amount of excess fabric around the main body piece: the extra pattern piece just above the sleeve in the photo is the sole of a foot and there's room for a glove on the end of the sleeve.


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