4 February 2014

How to Cut Fabric Without Cutting Your Pattern (Much)

Today I want to share with you my favourite method for cutting fabric to a sewing pattern - using dressmaker's carbon and a tracing wheel. Maybe some of you do this too, but it's not a technique that I hear reference to very often. In contrast to two other common methods - cutting through pattern and fabric at the same time, or cutting the pattern to your size before drawing round it - the beauty of this technique is that:

  • It keeps all sizes of the pattern pieces intact, so if you need to adjust the pattern or use a bigger size later on, you can, without having to spend time tracing off the pattern first;
  • You don't need to use your fabric scissors to cut through the paper pattern at the same time, so you won't dull the blades (so much);
  • You'll end up with pieces that have been cut more accurately than if you had cut the pattern at the same time as the fabric.

Sound good?

You will need:
Paper scissors
Pins or pattern weights (food tins work fine)
Tracing wheel - the blunt kind, not the sharp pattern drafting kind
Fabric scissors or rotary cutter
Cutting mat (if you don't want to scratch the table)

1) Roughly cut around your pattern pieces using paper scissors, an inch or so outside the lines of the largest size, leaving all sizes intact.

2) Lay out the cutting mat, fabric and pattern pieces, aligning grainlines and 'place on fold' lines as normal. Hold the pattern pieces in place either with weights or with pins. If pinning, pin about half an inch or so within your size lines.

3) Now for the fun part. Take a sheet of dressmaker's carbon paper in a contrast colour to your fabric (test them out on your fabric to see which one shows up the best), and slip it under the edge of one of the pattern pieces, with the coloured "carbon" side face down onto the fabric. Roll the tracing wheel along the pattern lines corresponding to your size, moving the dressmaker's carbon around as you need to until you've transferred all the cutting lines from all the pattern pieces. You can also use dressmaker's carbon to transfer darts, notches and other markings.

4) Remove the pattern pieces. You should have a neat outline of your pattern on your fabric. What's more, your pattern is still intact ready to be reused. Now you can cut your fabric, exactly on the lines you have drawn with the dressmaker's carbon, using either fabric scissors or a rotary cutter. Sometimes I pin the two layers of fabric together for this bit to stop them slipping apart.

Bonus tip: If you use the same pattern again and again, over time the perforations made by the tracing wheel can weaken and tear the paper, especially if it's a tissue paper pattern. I use sticky tape to reinforce and preserve the lines on my beloved patterns when they start to weaken.

So that's it! My favourite way of cutting fabric to a pattern. Does anyone else do this too?

PS. Thank you SO much for your warm welcome to the cover and concept of my book. It's pretty nerve-wracking to put something out into the world that I put so much work into, so your support really means a lot. Thanks guys!

[Soundtrack: 'Anything Can Happen' by Ezra Furman]