It’s the little things that make a big difference. A profound thought when considered from a philosophical standpoint. But I say this with sewing in mind.
In apparel construction class, in college, I was working on designing and draping a little summer dress inspired by the short-sleeved, knee-length skirted little things from the 1940s. I was working a bit sloppily with my pattern, eyeballing it and not taking exact measurements. The result was that I ended up having to *true up my pattern several times before everything fit together correctly. My professor had stressed the importance of even a 1/8″. But my brain was moving faster than my hands. I was excited to get to the next step. So I tried to cut corners.
In the end, my rush leads to mistakes. These mistakes were harder to fix than simply adjusting the pattern would have been, to begin with.
What I learned from this was a valuable lesson. Leading back to my original statement: it’s the little things that make a big difference. The old saying “measure twice, cut once” encapsulates this idea very well.
Beware of the details. Take the time to do each step carefully.
An area where this applies enormously is when cutting out the pieces for a garment with a pattern. If a 1/8″ will make a difference and cause potential issues, what happens if you accidentally cut the piece too small because your pattern shifted while cutting? Or that thing that happens when you’re pinning and the fabric gets slightly puckered in the pin, causing the shape to be a little off. And then there’s the margin for error when making adjustments when altering a pattern size. A quick sketched in line may seem easier than using your **styling design ruler to get a nice accurate line. But in the end, it probably won’t be.
It’s easy to overlook the importance of being precise. In the excitement of creating something, or moving on to the next step, it’s easy to cut corners. But being careful and intentional about how you do things will make your projects turn out so much better.
I know because I’ve done it both ways.
Be mindful of the details and your finished product will loudly proclaim your diligence, hard work.
One of the things that affect the accuracy of constructing a garment is the shape of the pattern pieces. This of course starts with creating the pattern itself. Once the pattern is ready then the fabric has to be cut. This can have a major influence on the finished garment. Cutting accurate and precise pieces of material that are true to the shape of the pattern pieces is key.
There are three ways that I like to use for cutting out patterns:
1- Cut out the pattern pieces from the paper or whatever other pattern material I’m using. Then pin it to fabric that has been laid out on a flat surface. Cut with fabric scissors around the pattern piece.
2- Lay the fabric on a cutting mat, place the pattern pieces on the fabric, then put weights on the pattern pieces to hold them in place. Use a rotary cutter to cut around each pattern piece. Go to my post Cutting Techniques: Weights and Rotary Cutting for further information.
3- Weight the pattern down with pattern weights. Trace around the pattern onto the fabric with a chalk pencil. Once the shape is transferred to the fabric then I cut out the piece using fabric scissors. This technique I find most useful on sturdy fabrics. It doesn’t work as well on delicate fabrics.
I am going to walk you through how I do the third technique. This is a simple process. Once you’ve traced the pattern piece perimeter it is easy to then transfer any other pattern markings onto the fabric. The challenge is to weigh the pattern down so that it doesn’t shift while tracing. Also, keep the markings as close to the shape of the pattern piece as possible.
Key things to accomplishing this:
2- Weights: Use small, but heavyweights. The size will make it easier to layout the entire pattern piece. The weight will of course hold it in place best.
3- Cutting Pattern Pieces: Be precise when cutting out the pattern pieces themselves. This is important since the shape of the piece your tracing will be the shape you end up sewing with.
4- Condition of the Pattern Piece: Make sure the pattern your working with is not wrinkled, torn, stretched out, or damaged in a way that alters the shape of the original design.
Layout the material on your work surface. I placed my fabric in half on a large folding table. The extra fabric I let hang off the end of the table.
Arrange the pattern pieces onto the fabric. Watch those grain-lines!
Layout the pattern pieces. Fit them onto the fabric as close as possible so you don’t waste material.
I generally use items from around my home as weights. I’ve been intending to make a few dedicated weights. A project for a future date.
Using your chalk pencil begin to trace around the edges of all your pattern pieces. Keep in mind the key tips for being the most accurate. Once each piece has been traced go through and add in any markings such as darts, notches, gather points…..
Take the weights off the pattern. The fabric may want to shift as you remove the weights. Remove the pattern piece. If working with large pieces place the weights back onto the fabric and cut around the shape. If you are cutting small pieces then hold your hand down on the fabric as you cut to stabilize it.
And that’s how to use the tracing method for cutting pieces with a pattern.
* true-up: to edit a pattern to verify that all pieces fit exactly together, all markings are in the correct places, and the garment will be completed as desired.
**Styling Design Ruler: a curved ruler that has a rounded top and curved edge. Allows designer to trace in an armhole and hip-curve as well as manipulate the placement of the ruler to sketch in all pattern lines when transferring draped pieces into paper pattern format.
Affiliate Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links to Amazon. I have not and will not suggest the purchase of any items that I have not tested and find useful myself.