June 23, 2020

There are many steps to a sewing project. First, you must pick your fabric. Then you must decide on a pattern. After that, you must prep the fabric, cut it, and stitch it together. This is all meant to create the perfect garment or fabric item you desire. Still, one step—cutting your fabric—requires more attention and dedication than many people imagine. In fact, this guide on how to properly cut fabric with a pattern will help any novice or experienced sewer with any project. Included are the tools you’ll need, the steps you should consider before cutting, the steps to proper cutting, and cutting techniques for special fabrics.

What You'll Need

Before you start cutting your fabric and pattern, you must have everything you need. Start with a pair of fabric scissors. These should be at least 8” long, either bent-handled or bunt-point depending on the fabric cut. You’ll also need thread snips, pinking scissors, a rotary blade, and a seam ripper. A seam ripper is essential for cutting stitches, straightening corners, and adjusting tight places like a buttonhole. With these items, you’re ready to cut your fabric.

Washing, Drying, and Ironing

When buying store fabric or in bulk, you may need to wash, dry, and/or iron it. Write down any instructions you find on the fabric. If you forget to note these instructions, you might find them online. As previously mentioned, you should buy more fabric than anticipated for prints, stripes, and plaids. Garments especially require more fabric than the pattern calls for. Since fabric shrinks after washing it, prewash it before cutting. Otherwise you risk shrinking your final garment after you’ve already cut and sewn it. You can also iron it if you notice any wrinkles. Alternatively, get the fabrics dry cleaned for professional handling.

Even Out the Cut Edges

The first step is to even out the cut edges. Start by cutting the selvage off, or the edge of woven fabric to prevent it from unraveling. Selvage edges on printed fabrics are often white and unprinted. Otherwise, they are usually densely woven strips along the top and bottom edges that can look clean or frayed. Then, square the fabric back to its original shape, especially if it’s a woven cotton. Pull the top left and bottom right corners, then pull the top right and bottom left corners. After this, pull a thread out of each cut edge. Locate a thread along the selvage edge near the left cut and pull it out. Repeat this for the right edge. There should only be a thin line on each side of the fabric left between the left and right selvage edges. It may be difficult to do this for densely woven, knitted, or stretchy fabrics, and unevenly cut fabrics may cause the thread to miss the opposite selvage edge. When this happens, simply pull another thread further away. If the thread breaks, find the broken end and keep pulling. If you are working with knit fabric, draw a line along each cut edge. Then align the ledges with a straight ruler or L-shaped ruler at the top and bottom selvage edges. Draw along the ruler with fabric chalk or fabric marker. This measurement is best suited for knit, stretchy, or densely woven fabrics. Finally, cut along the pulled-out thread or thin line with your fabric scissors or rotary cutter, respectively.

Cut the Pattern and Fabric

Now you’re ready to cut along the fabric and pattern. Use your regular scissors for this as pattern paper can ruin your fabric scissors. You can use a dry iron to flatten the pattern if it’s poorly creased too. Next, pin the pattern to the fabric. Based on the pattern instructions, be cautious about the grain lines as these run parallel to the fabric’s selvage edge. You may have to use your own judgement if no pinning layout is given. Align the pattern with the folded edge of your fabric if it says to. One that’s done, trace around the pattern paper with your fabric chalk or fabric pen, and then remove the pattern. When you’ve traced all pattern pieces, you can unpin and remove them. Do not forget about the darts and notches. With your fabric scissors, cut along the traced lines. Keep your fabric steady while doing this. It’s also important you use sharp scissors. If they’re dull, they could potentially leave your fabric with ragged edges.

Regarding Specific Types of Fabric

When knowing how to properly cut fabric with a pattern, you must consider each type of fabric and their cutting requirements. This includes faux fur, leather, faux leather, and prints. You should cut faux fur from the back to avoid cutting into the fur and shortening it. Trace your pattern on the back and cut along the lines with your fabric scissors. Rotary cutters work best for leather or faux leather. Set your pattern on top and trace around it. It’s crucial you do not pin the pattern as this can leave holes. Use your rotary cutter to cut along these lines. Also, consider paper clips or clothespins if your pattern slips. Regarding slippery fabrics in general, dampen them before cutting. Allow the water to soak through the fabric then cut around the pattern. Lastly, with prints, cut the first set of pieces first. Use them to match the prints for the second set. Keep in mind some printed fabrics require more fabric than what the pattern calls for.

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Cutting Fabric with a Pattern Infographic