Saturday, December 20, 2014

Learn to Sew: Cutting Line accuracy

I've worked with many a beginning seamstress. Some are naturally meticulous (and can go overboard, even for me!) and others are...well, a bit sloppy. Not because they want to be, but because they don't know. When I start a project, 75% of the time goes to the prep work - pressing the fabric and pattern, checking and correcting any problems with the grain, meticulously arranging a double layer of fabric so that both layers are on grain and perfectly straight, and then carefully measuring each piece in the layout. With all this care that goes into the prep for layout, it makes sense that just as much care would go into the cutting. In terms of fit, assembly, garment hang/quality, and cost - cutting is the most important task there is, and in the industry, the cutters job is given only to the highly qualified.

Here is the pattern piece we will be working with. I use a mechanical pencil when creating my patterns so that the line is as thin and precise as it can be. I cut on the outside of this line leaving no paper margin, but yet the pencil line remains.The goal is to create an exact fabric replica of the paper.

In this photo example above, I cut the top and a beginning seamstress cut out the bottom. Do you need to ask yourself which side best matches the shape of the pattern? Just in case...

Both top and bottom should look like this example with smooth edges and crisp sharp corners.
Beginners should:
  • Use a sufficient amount of pins to keep all layers firmly together. 
  • Aim carefully using long strokes with sharp scissors. use short strokes for curves.
  • Don't lift your fabric up- keep it level with the table as much as possible
  • Cut in the same "groove" as the cut before it.
  • Ideally, move your body, not the fabric to get a better cutting angle. 
  • If you must move the fabric, cut around the pinned pattern piece leaving a fabric margin, then turn the piece to cut the margin away. 
Why is this important? Because our seam line is determined by the cutting line. If we take care at this stage in the game, everything else is smooth sailing.

Want to get away from meticulous cutting? Mark all of your SEAM LINES with dressmakers carbon. Then your cutting line can be as sloppy as you please and no one will ever know!

Now that you are no longer a beginner, you may want to get adventurous and explore some of my other tutorials. If you have a pattern that just doesn't quite fit, try Pattern Sizing Tutorial Part 1: Small to Large or Pattern Sizing Tutorial Part 2: Large to Small

Happy Sewing!


  1. Great tips - I might be being slow here, but what do you mean by "cut in the same groove"?

    1. No slow here. I just made it up! It's a term I use to mean that every cut begins where the last cut ended, creating one smooth cut line from start to finish. ...good question!


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