How to Cut Fabric From a Pattern
If you want to know how to cut fabric from a pattern but have never tried your hand at it before, you may think that the process is pretty self-explanatory. You just put the pattern on the fabric and you cut it out, right? Wrong! In reality, properly cutting out your fabric pattern is a crucial step, and doing it incorrectly can cause lots of issues later in your project.
Not to worry though: we are here to show you the way! You may want to rush through this process, but taking your time will be worth it. As Mikhail Baryshnikov (or Dakota Fanning in the movie Uptown Girls) once said: “Fundamentals are the building blocks of fun.” In other words, once you master this fundamental step, then you are free to begin the really fun part—the actual sewing—without the stress and frustration that comes from a poorly cut pattern. Let’s get started!
How to Use a Sewing Pattern
To follow along in this tutorial, you will need:
Step One: Get your fabric ready
Before you even look at your pattern, you need to prepare your fabric. That is, you need to wash it, dry it, and press it. This step is especially important for fabrics like cotton, which may shrink in the wash.
To dry your fabric, lay it flat on a table or drape it across a clothing line, but don’t run it through your dryer or you’ll increase the risk of the fabric shrinking. Once the fabric is dry, iron it out so that it is flat and wrinkle-free. Skipping the pre-wash step may be tempting if you are antsy to get started on your project, but doing so may result in unwanted shrinkage down the line.
What Could Go Wrong? Imagine that you spend hours lovingly sewing a teddy for your 5-year-old niece. She adores the bear. She never goes anywhere without the bear! One day, she spills grape jelly on him and he needs to be washed. But when his mother pulls him from the washing machine, his sweet little face has shrunk. Someone forgot to pre-wash. Don’t let it be you!
Step Two: Fold your fabric in half
Really, that’s it? Just fold it in half? Not so fast—this isn’t just a matter of hotdog style or hamburger style. You need to fold the fabric in half so that the selvage edges unite.
For sewing newbies: your fabric has two kinds of edges, raw and selvage. The raw edges are the sides with the stringy fringe, and the selvage edges are the straight, finished-looking sides. Now that we’re on the same page: fold your fabric in half so that the selvage edges are matched up.
What Could Go Wrong? You’re a busy person: you don’t have time to learn how to cut fabric from a pattern or look up fancy sewing terms like “selvage edge.” So when you try to make your dad a last-minute Father’s Day apron, you take a guess and match up the two stringy sides of the fabric.
It’s not until you start to sew your pieces together that you realize what you’ve done, and now, all the Lakers logos on the novelty fabric you bought are sideways. It’s too late to get another present, so you give your dad the wonky apron. He swears he likes it that way.
Step Three: Cut out the correct size of pattern
We know this blog is about how to cut fabric from a pattern. But first, you have to cut your pattern from your pattern. This is where those regular old scissors come in—NOT your good fabric shears! Your fabric shears are made for one thing and one thing only: shearing fabric. So don’t dull them by using them to cut your paper pattern. Follow the directions of the pattern to cut out the correct size or style option. Most patterns have different colored lines to differentiate sizes, but if not, go ahead and trace over the lines for your size with a pencil.
What Could Go Wrong? You’re mindlessly cutting out your pattern while you watch TV; you finally got around to watching Game of Thrones. It’s the end of season one and just as Eddard Stark meets his doom you gasp--what a twist!--and your razor-sharp fabric shears fly from your hand, slicing through the middle of your paper pattern as cleanly as Ser Ilyn Payne’s broadsword went through--well, you know. Ugh. Bummer.
Step Four: Pin the pattern to the fabric
Now we’re getting somewhere! This is the step you had in mind when you began learning how to cut fabric from a pattern. Much of this step comes down to following the instructions in the pattern itself. Still, there are a few things to keep in mind. Pay attention to which pieces are supposed to be lined up against the fold. Some pieces will have a line down the middle called a grainline. You need to measure from the edges of the fabric to the grainline in multiple places to ensure the pattern piece is straight.
What Could Go Wrong? You’ve come a long way since you first learned how to cut fabric from a pattern. In fact, you’ve mastered the fundamentals of sewing and have been cast on the latest season of Project Runway! The success goes to your head. You get cocky. Maybe beginners need to measure to the grainline in multiple places, but not you! You fail to measure correctly during a crucial runway challenge, and your barkcloth suit is a disaster. Tim Gunn shakes his head. You did not make it work.
Step Five: Cut the fabric
This is the moment you’ve been waiting for--all the time you spent learning how to cut fabric from a pattern has finally paid off. This step is actually pretty simple: just cut out the fabric, tracing around the pattern pieces you have pinned on. You may want to cut the notches outward instead of in so that you don’t accidentally cut them too deep. That’s it!
What Could Go Wrong? This part is easy as long as you have a nice, sharp set of fabric shears. If your scissors aren’t sharp your fabric might fray and refuse to cooperate when you get to sewing. Rookie mistake!
We hope you made it through these steps without any major disasters, but if you ended up making a mistake, don’t sweat it. That’s all part of the learning process. Give it another try and soon you’ll be moving on from How to Cut Fabric from a Pattern to more advanced tutorials like How to Sew a Fabric Basket with Handles, or How to Make a Minecraft Quilt. No matter what goes wrong, everyone here at the Little Fabric Shop is rooting for you.