5 August 2019

Jessa: Cutting, marking and prepping the fabric

Tilly and the Buttons - Jessa trousers jeans shorts sewing pattern
Tilly and the Buttons - Jessa trousers jeans shorts sewing pattern

Are you taking part in the Jessa shorts and trousers sewalong? If so, hello there! It's Nikki here and I am bringing you the next post in the Jessa sewalong series to help you on your way to a gorgeous pair of trousers or shorts.

Louise has written an excellent (as always) fabric and style inspiration post to help you decide which gorgeous fabric you want to use to make your Jessas. Our previous post in the sewalong covered fitting and adjusting the pattern pieces to make a nicely fitting pair of shorts or trousers, so make sure you've caught up with both these posts if you've missed them.

Ready? On to the matter at hand which is...

Preparing the fabric

It's a universal truth that the most exciting part of sewing is when you find the perfect fabric for a new project, whether that's in a fabric shop or from your stash. Once you find this magical fabric and pattern combo it can feel like the stars have aligned and all you want to do is bust out your sewing machine and get started right away.

However, I'm going to ask you to pump the brakes a little, because new fabric needs to be washed and dried before you start sewing. Fabric can often shrink the first time you wash it, so make sure you pre-wash your fabric in the machine before you start cutting to make sure your Jessa trousers or shorts stay the same size later on.

Once your fabric is dry, iron out any creases, making sure to test the iron temperature on a scrap piece of fabric beforehand. If you're sewing with corduroy, go light with the iron and try not to squish the ribs in the fabric. Tilly has written a great post with tips on how to handle corduroy fabric if you want more help.

Fold the fabric in half lengthways, with the right side (the nicer side) on the inside of the fold, bringing together the selvedges, which are the finished edges of the fabric. It's important to make sure the fold is hanging straight and the fabric isn't twisted. If you need to adjust the fabric, hold it by the fold and adjust until it's straight.

Keeping the fabric folded like this, lay it out on the largest table you have, or even the floor, preferably with a cutting mat underneath so you don't scratch what's underneath! Folding the fabric in half allows us to cut two symmetrical pieces at once, or one symmetrical double-sized piece where a piece is cut on the fold.

Tilly and the Buttons - Jessa trousers jeans shorts sewing pattern
Tilly and the Buttons - Jessa trousers jeans shorts sewing pattern

Laying out the pattern pieces

Now that our fabric is all lovely and neat, it's time to lay down the pattern pieces and prepare them for cutting. Cut roughly around the pattern pieces in your size, leaving 2cm (1in) or so around the lines. In the 'Cut Your Fabric' section of the instruction booklet it will tell you exactly which pattern pieces need to be cut, and how many times, for each version. Don't forget, the patch pockets and faux pocket flap for the front leg are optional, so now is the time to decide what pockets you want to rock on your Jessas!

The instructions include cutting diagrams that will guide you on how best to cut your pattern pieces in the most economical way. Find the diagram that corresponds to the version you are making i.e. shorts or trousers, and according to the same or most similar width of the fabric you are using, which is usually around 150cm (60in) or 115cm (45in) wide. There are also separate cutting layouts for sizes 1-3 and 4-8, so make sure you consult the correct diagram for your chosen size.

Lay the pattern pieces on the folded fabric according to the guidelines of the correct cutting layout. If your fabric has a directional print, or you are sewing with corduroy, check the print or the nap are running in the direction you want them to go.

Tilly and the Buttons - Jessa trousers jeans shorts sewing pattern

Before you secure the pattern pieces down you'll need to make sure all the grainline arrows are sitting parallel to the selvedges or the fold so the trousers end up hanging straight. A good way of checking this is to pop a pin in the top end of the arrow, through the pattern and fabric, measure from this end to the selvedge or fold, then measure the same amount from the other end of the arrow and pivot the patter piece to meet the tape measure.

Tilly and the Buttons - Jessa trousers jeans shorts sewing pattern

You'll notice that the zip guard and back waistband pieces have a double hooked arrow to one side and say to 'place on fold'. Line up these pattern lines with the fold of the fabric. This means we will get a single symmetrical piece once it's unfolded.

Tilly and the Buttons - Jessa trousers jeans shorts sewing pattern

Attaching pattern pieces 

Now is the exciting part - cutting out the pattern pieces! There are a few different ways in which you can secure your pattern pieces and cut them out - using pins or pattern weights to hold the pattern pieces down, and cutting out using scissors or a rotary cutter (don't forget to use a cutting mat underneath!).

Long-time readers of the blog will know that Tilly is a big fan of tracing the shape of pattern pieces onto fabric using a blunt tracing wheel and dressmaking carbon paper. This method keeps the pattern pieces intact without cutting size lines and the bonus is it's pretty fun to do and is an excellent way of marking accurate darts.

Put the carbon paper, side down, against the fabric. The paper should be sandwiched between the fabric and the pattern piece, and secure the pattern piece with weights or pins. Roll the tracing wheel over the top of your chosen size lines (don't be afraid to apply some pressure!) and this will transfer the shape of the pattern piece onto the fabric. Happy days!

Before you remove the pattern pieces from the fabric you will need to make sure you've done the following steps. Not every pattern piece will require you to do all of the below but make sure you check...

Tilly and the Buttons - Jessa trousers jeans shorts sewing pattern

Marking darts

The back legs of the trousers and shorts are shaped by darts (these help to give your booty a nice shape!). You can use dressmaker's carbon to mark the darts too. Remember to mark both layers of fabric, on the wrong side of the fabric - you can slip another piece of carbon paper underneath the bottom layer of fabric, with the coloured side facing up.

If you don't have this equipment to hand, you can also mark the dart with a chalk pencil or washable pen.

Tilly and the Buttons - Jessa trousers jeans shorts sewing pattern

Marking pocket corners

If you are opting to sew the patch pockets on the front or back (or even both!) of the trousers or shorts, you will need to mark the top corners of the pockets on the right side of the fabric. To do this, get a pin and push it through the pattern and both layers of fabric at the correct pocket marking according to your size. Removing some of the pins or pattern weights, gently peel the pattern piece back until you can see the pin sticking through the fabric. At the point where the pin is in the fabric, mark with a small dot with washable pen or chalk pencil on both layers, and on all pocket markings. Et voila! You'll now have perfectly neat and symmetrical pocket markings.

Tilly and the Buttons - Jessa trousers jeans shorts sewing pattern

Snipping notches

Most of the pattern pieces will have at least one or more notches on them - these will help you match the pieces together accurately when sewing. Snip the notches around 5mm (1/4in) long.

Tilly and the Buttons - Jessa trousers jeans shorts sewing pattern

Cutting out

Once you have marked any darts or pocket markings to the pattern piece and snipped all notches, it's time to cut your fabric! Using scissors or a rotary cutter (again, make sure you have a mat down underneath if you are using a rotary cutter - can you tell I have ruined a table before?), cut through the pattern markings on your fabric if you traced them on, or through the size lines of the pattern pieces if you have not. Make sure you don't cut through the dart lines though as we'll need to sew those in a bit.

Well done, you've now cut out all your pattern pieces, marked your darts and pocket markings. Join me again later this week where I'll be covering prepping the pieces and sewing the darts. See you then :)


Photos: Jane Looker
Models: Suzanne Hopkins and Alice Irvine
Pink and white denim: Higgs and Higgs
Teal corduroy: Like Sew Amazing