How to Cut Fabric for Sewing Patterns | Day 13 of 30 Day Challenge

How to Cut Fabric for Sewing Patterns | Day 13 of 30 Day Challenge

So you have your sewing machine, fabric and a pattern… and you're wondering, where do I even begin? In today's tutorial I'm going to talk about how to get started on a project by cutting your fabrics. I'm Jess and if you've been following along with our 30 day learn to sew challenge, welcome to day 13!

If you missed my previous videos on How to Choose Fabrics, How to Prepare Fabrics, and How to Read Sewing Patterns, definitely watch those for essential tips BEFORE cutting into your fabric. I’ve added links to those videos below! So if you feel ready, let’s dive right in!

For most patterns, there's going to be 3 common ways to cut your fabric: the first is with a rotary cutter, ruler and cutting mat, another way is using the pattern pieces included in the pattern, and lastly you may need to cut your fabric by using templates (which is common for some Quilt patterns). 

At the beginning of the pattern instructions, you'll find a list of the pieces you need to cut. Any rectangular pieces can be rotary cut. Simply lay a single layer of fabric on your cutting mat, with the selvage horizontal with the bottom of the mat. Align the long edge of your ruler to the left along the mat measurement you want to cut at. Place your hand firmly in the center of the ruler to hold it in place, and spread your fingers curling them a bit to hold the ruler securely. You roll a rotary cutter from bottom to top along the ruler's right edge. So align the ruler at the bottom edge, press down firmly and roll up to the top, keeping the blade against the edge of the ruler to cut.

A few additional tips for using a rotary cutter is to…

  1. Always roll the rotary cutter away from your body 
  2. Follow any safety guidelines that came with your cutter.
  3. Never use a rotary cutter on any surface other than a rotary mat.
  4. Flat, crisp fabrics are easier to rotary cut. So it’s always best to press your fabrics with an iron before cutting and you can even use a spray starch to make fabrics stiffer.
  5. Attach gripping tabs to the bottom of rotary rulers to help keep them from slipping on fabric. A variety of grippers are available at your local fabric shop, including clear versions that won't obstruct your view of ruler lines.

For cutting with scissors, use a pair of sharp sewing shears, and make long, smooth cuts. The same goes for pinking shears—which have a zigzag edge that are helpful to use on fabrics that fray or along curved edges. If you are cutting notches or clipping curves, small sewing shears cut more accurately.

I recommend to either trace your pattern pieces onto your fabric, or you can use pins or pattern weights to hold the pattern pieces down and cut directly with a scissors to skip tracing. 

If cutting along a traced line, make sure to cut along the inside edge of the markings. When you cut outside, or even along the markings, your pieces may end up larger because the markings added extra width to the pieces.

Also, most pattern pieces have arrows printed on them to indicate the direction of the grainline. The arrow tells you how to position the pattern piece in relation to the lengthwise straight grain, which is the line parallel to the fabric selvage.

For cutting with templates there are a few things to keep in mind. First, depending on the shape and size of your templates, you can either cut the pieces directly with a rotary cutter, or you can first mark the outer edges of the template, then cut using a pair of scissors. 

Rotating cutting is a lot more accurate and faster than marking and using scissors, but as a beginner, you may be more comfortable with using scissors. 

Next, pay attention to whether or not your templates are symmetrical. That may help determine how your templates are positioned and how you cut them. A helpful notion to use with templates is a rotating cutting mat. The mat will spin on a base so you can easily turn the mat without adjusting the fabric and template. 

A few additional cutting tips for you are to:

  1. Notice which side is the right side and wrong side, meaning the front and back of the fabric. Some fabrics might look the same on both sides, so decide which side you want to be the right side.
  2. Pay attention to which direction the fabric design is when you’re cutting your pieces to make sure it’s facing the way you want it to. 
  3. Notice if the direction of the grainline, bias, or stretch is important when cutting your pieces.
  4. Make sure your cutting surface is flat, and high enough to not strain your back and shoulders while cutting
  5. Make sure your cutting tools are very sharp for frustration-free cutting.

This is definitely a ton of information so feel free to refer back to this video when you need it, otherwise, print off a copy of a free guide sheet I created that you can easily reference when you’re ready to cut out a pattern. 

We have now made it through the foundational videos of our 30 Day Sewing Challenge series and are going to begin with our first project tomorrow! Join me here on our YouTube Channel to make a VERY beginner-friendly project. We’re going to be making checkerboard coasters.   

I hope to see you then! 

30 Day Sewing Challenge Schedule

Follow along each day, or watch the segments that interest you the most. Enjoy!

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