Cutting to the chase…!

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February 25, 2016 by New Capel Street: Fabric Division

It was pointed out to me during the week, just after I posted up this tutorial that more pictures of the actual cutting-out stage of cutting a pattern would be more helpful than showing before and after. So here’s a supplement post to that – these are probably the two most common methods of cutting out from a pattern.

I couldn’t find my pattern tissue paper, so improvised with a small paper bag I found on the sewing table. The techniques below are therefore just shown on the straight edge, but apply equally to curved edges and corners. Just slow down at the fiddly bits and you’re golden.

Technique 1: Rotary Cutter and Mat

Tools:

Rotary cutter such as this: Fiskars Rotary Cutter

Self Healing Cutting Mat such as this: You can get these in all sizes

Weights: any small, positionable weight will do. I like to use lengths of broken chains, necklaces, small scissors, even a roll of curtain-hem weights, or little pots of fabric paint. You can, of course, buy schmancy pattern weights, and they do look very pretty but I can’t be bothered.

This technique is my favourite, because it causes minimal disturbance to the pattern and provides minimum opportunity for fabric to distort under its own weight or get pulled in strange directions while being cut.

To start, lay out your fabric on your cutting mat. Make sure the grain (weave) is straight, and the fabric is smoothed out. If you are cutting out two layers of fabric at once, really take your time with this and make sure both layers are lying correctly.

Take your pattern piece and lay it out on the fabric. Gently, starting with the centre, place your weights down until the piece is weighted down. It doesn’t have to be completely buried, but any corners, curves, sticking-out pieces or angles should be weighted so that the paper doesn’t flop all over the place.

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Take your rotary cutter carefully and, using your free hand to stabilise the non-weighted areas of the fabric, start to roll it alongside the edge of the pattern piece.

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Cut slowly and steadily, and always away from you. Be prepared to move around the table a bit if you need to, rather than moving the item being cut.

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Once you have cut the piece out, slide the safety guard on your rotary cutter back over the blade, and you’re free to remove the weights and use your cut fabric!

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Important: If you’re using a rotary cutter, you absolutely have to use the correct type of mat. A cutting mat, such as the one pictured, can be bought in any decent fabric shop, and has self-healing properties so it will not be damaged by the rotary cutter. UNLIKE YOUR FLOOR. OR TABLE. If you’re absolutely stuck you can, in a pinch, use a thick piece of cardboard, but that will fuck up the blade very fast. The fibres in paper and cardboard are very tough, and blunt these delicate edges and blades quickly. This is why we never use the fabric scissors to cut anything that is not fabric. Or any fabric that is really hard or tough, such as sequins.

 

Technique 2: Scissors

Tools:

Scissors: – if you plan to sew regularly, get a fabric scissors in a fabric shop, and use it only for fabric. Never paper. Not even pattern tissue. Any nicks on the scissor blades from paper’s tougher fibres can cause snags in fabric and make your job a million times harder.

Pins: regular straight sewing pins are fine  here, nothing fancy required

Any flat surface

I have to admit. I don’t love using scissors. They aggravate my RSI something fierce, and they take so much longer, and the jerkier motion involved can end up with jagged edges on your cut pieces, which need to be fixed. That being said, a scissors can be invaluable for making notches to mark where your fabric pieces need to be lined up when you go to sew, or for cutting the fine little details that a rotary cutter can’t reach with precision.

Enough bitching about scissors, here’s how to use them.

Lay your pattern piece down on your fabric exactly as you would if using a cutting mat and rotary cutter. Make sure you do this on a flat surface.

Using your straight pins, pin the piece to the fabric – again, if going through more than one layer of fabric be very careful to bring the pin straight through the paper and the back of all layers. It is easy to distort a layer and end up with a wonky cut, so take your time. Make sure to have the smallest segment you can trapped between the entry and exit point, again to minimise distortion.

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Sliding the lower blade of the scissors underneath the fabric, begin to cut. You’ll have best results if you rest the weight of the fabric on a flat surface, and lift it as little as possible while cutting. You can turn it all around if you want, as the pattern is nailed in place, but be slow and careful with it.

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Oh yeah, stripy pyjamas.

 

Use as much of the scissor blade length as you can to get the full benefit of them, and reduce wear near the tips. Go nice and slow, especially on any curves or finicky parts.

It’s basically impossible to avoid all distortion when pinning and cutting, as you can see below. Just be careful and you’ll minimise it.

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Hope this all helps with cutting! I’ll do another Academy of Kitmaking post next month with assembling the tunic. Sooner if I get myself organised. (Likelihood of this is debatable)

 

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