Article: Cutting Out

FGF2Home from the fabric store and you are undoubtedly excited about starting your first pattern project!

Start out by slipping everything out of the pattern envelope. Look at the picture on the front of the pattern and decide what view you want to make. Patterns often give options of different collars and different sleeves for different views.

 FGF1Looking at the guide sheet, find the section marked “layout.” Find the layout for the view you are interested in making. Two or three layouts for your view will be shown depending on fabric width. Locate the layout for your fabric width, and circle it. Fabrics come in three common widths: 33-36″, 44-45″, and 58-60″.

Unfold pattern tissue sheets. Determine from the layout you are using which pattern pieces will be needed. Often the view is marked on the pattern piece as well. Separate the pattern pieces you need from those you do not. Put the unneeded pieces back in the pattern envelope.

FGF3 Take a good look at your fabric on both sides. Do you prefer one to the other? Many fabrics look the same on both sides, while others have obvious or subtle differences. As you look at your fabric, you will notice two parallel sides are finished and will not ravel. These parallel finished sides on fabric are called selvages which indicate “length of grain,” the strongest direction of the fabric.

The remaining two sides are the cut edges or crosswise grain. To determine the width of the fabric, measure across one entire cut edge, from selvage to selvage. Fold the fabric as indicated on your layout with wrong sides together. The most common layout is created by folding the fabric lengthwise with the two selvages on one side and a fabric fold on the other. Other layouts are sometimes suggested for the most economical use of the fabric.

Move the major pattern pieces onto the fabric. Although the pattern piece tells you many things, at this stage you are primarily interested in the grainline and the number of times to cut the piece. The grainline of the pattern piece is always parallel or runs in the same direction as the selvages (the finished sides of the fabric). Consult your suggested layout and see if any of the pattern pieces are placed on the fold. This will be indicated on the pattern piece as well.

Often the center front of a garment is cut on the fold. Pin any piece which says “cut on fold” along the fold of the fabric. Anchor the pattern piece to the fabric in all corners and every 3”-4” in between. Get in the habit of pinning fairly close (3/8″ to 1/2″) to the edge of the pattern. If you look at other pattern pieces you will notice that all pieces are marked with a grainline. To cut on grain means to line up each piece so that the grainline is parallel to the selvage. Cutting on grain helps the
finished garment to keep its shape. Consult “layout” for approximate placement of each pattern piece on the fabric. Remember that the grainline on the pattern is parallel to the selvages of the fabric.

Anchor the pattern with one pin at one end of the grainline arrow. Using a ruler, measure the distance from the end of the grainline arrow to the selvage. Slide ruler in the direction of the other end of the grainline arrow. Pivot pattern piece so that the distance from one end of the grainline arrow is equal to the distance from the opposite end of the grainline arrow. Place the second pin at the opposite end of the grainline. Anchor pattern to fabric by pinning at all corners and 3”-4” in between. Since most layouts call for cutting through folded fabric, any pattern piece which is cut will result in two cut pieces, one for the left and one for the right side of the body. If the piece was cut on the fold, the result will be a piece double the size of the pattern piece. If any pattern piece says “cut four” such as a sleeve cuff, cut the pattern piece a second time through double fabric.


To cut, use sharp shears, using one hand to anchor the pattern to the fabric and one hand to use the shears. On every pattern, except Burda, the bold dark tine which outlines the shape of the pattern piece indicates the cutting line. Cut out garment by cutting fabric and pattern to the inside edge of the pattern cutting line. Cut so that the bold cutting line disappears. Cutting to the outside edge of the bold cutting line results in garment fabric pieces which will not go together smoothly.

If you are using a Burda pattern, follow the same instructions for layout except space pattern pieces far enough apart so that seam allowances (5/8″) and hem allowances (l ½ “) can be added. To add seam allowances, merely measure 5/8″” from outside pattern edge. Mark with chalk. To add hem allowance, measure 1 ½ ” away from bottom edge of skirt, pants, jacket, etc. Mark with chalk. Instead of cutting along the bold cutting line as indicated on the other patterns, cut Burda patterns on the chalk lines along the outside edges of pattern pieces. Although this may seem like a bit of a hassle, Burda’s excellent fit and styling are worth the extra effort.

For more information, watch Sandra’s FREE show, “Finding the Grainline on the Fabric”