Before you become an accomplished sewer, you must learn how to cut fabrics? It might seem easy but it requires deft handling of both the fabric and the cutting tool. One wrong move can ruin your fabric forever. Your seams could mismatch, your patterns would be difficult to piece together and the edges of your fabric could fray if you apply wrong cutting techniques. It isn’t difficult to learn actually, but it must not be taken for granted. How your final product would end up depends a lot on how you start by cutting your fabric. So, whether up have to sew or quilt a fabric, it all begins with cutting. We will provide you with an easy to follow step-to-step guide on how to cut your fabric properly. So, let’s get started on it.
The first thing to do before you cut your fabric is to wash it thoroughly. Please do not skip this part. It does more than just cleansing the fabric. Some fabrics have a tendency to shrink after washing. You don’t want your dress to feel tight after you stitched it so soak your fabric for a few hours and then let it dry in the sun. You can also follow the fabric manufacturer’s recommendations on washing.
After washing the next step is ironing the fabric. This is also an important step before you get on the real job of cutting the fabric. Ironing evens out the wrinkles and smoothens the edges. A flat surface is ideal for cutting. You will get precise measurements and the chances of error will diminish. While ironing, do not stretch or pull the fabric too much to deform its natural texture.
Before you start the cutting process, make sure that you have the right helpful cutting tools. There are different types of scissors available for different fabrics and cuttings. There are long fabric scissors, pinking scissors, thread snips, seam ripper, all-purpose scissors, and rotary blades. Choose the one that is best qualified for your fabric. As important as it is to choose the right scissor it is equally important that the scissor should be sharp and in working condition. Dull scissors can damage the fabric. You want the fabric cut neatly in crisp, straight lines and for that, you need a sharp cutting tool. The seams will rest perfectly on the edges and hemlines if the cutting is done right. Also do not cut any other material or paper with your fabric scissors. If the blades need sharpening to take them to the blacksmith to do the job. A dull scissor would require extra pressure from your hands and will needlessly get sore and fatigued.
Know your fabric:
It is always a good idea to get to know a thing better before you actually start working on it or with it. So, before we know how to cut fabrics, let’s first know what exactly is a fabric? Any piece of fabric is basically threads interwoven in the form of a pattern or design. The threads along the length of the fabric are called warp threads and those along the width are called weft threads.
Usually, in sewing, the fabric is cut lengthwise, along the warp threads. They are much stronger and not stretchable in woven fabrics.
Sometimes a fabric is cut widthwise too, along the weft threads. This is done because of a particular design or pattern requirement or to save the fabric.
Each fabric consists of tiny fibers that are woven together to form a fabric. The orientation of these fibers is called grain. These fibers run parallel or perpendicular to the edges of the fabric. This is what we call the grain of the fiber. It is important to know the grain of the fiber to cut straight lines that are perpendicular or parallel to the edges. You have to observe the fabric to determine its grain. Sometimes due to the print of the fabric, the grain may not be visible easily so look closely and create a line along the grain of the fabric. Some materials like fleece or leather do not have fibers so they essentially do not have a grain. You have to put your pattern perfectly on the grain when you cut it out. You can do this by measuring the distance from the selvage to the grain and ensuring that it is equidistance.
Cutting the edges:
Many people prefer to cut the edges of the fabric before going for actual cutting. This is not really important as you will be cutting the edges anyway when cutting patterns off the fabric. But still, if you want to cut them first u may do so. These edges are called selvage. These are usually straight but sometimes wavers. You can cut them by folding the fabric neatly in a square or rectangle shape. Make sure the borders of the fabric meet as neatly and as perfectly as possible. You can then cut off the selvage using a scissor or shear. Selvage is usually perforated or in the form of fuzzy threads hanging out. Once you cut them off.
Before actual cutting, you must restore the fabric to its original form. You can do this easily by pulling on the top-left and bottom-right corners of the fabric. Then you can pull on the top-right and bottom-left corners of the fabric. If the fabric is very large you can do this with the help of somebody. This step is very important for combination fabrics like cotton/elastane.
Cutting the fabric:
Now we come to the actual process of cutting the fabric in your desired shape and design. Follow the following steps to achieve the purpose;
- Evenly spread out the fabric on a large table or hard flat surface. Spread as much as you can. It will even out the creases and gives you correct measurements. Keep the unused part of the fabric neatly folded on the table. Do not let it hang loose. It will make it hard for you to take exact measurements. This is important for smooth cutting.
- If you are going to use a pattern for cutting put the pattern on the fabric and pin it. If the pattern is of paper make sure it is crisp and clear of creases. In fact, it is a good idea to iron it lightly to even out the wrinkles. Use as many pins as you like to hold the pattern. The pins will keep the pattern intact. You can also use weight to keep the pattern still.
- Now using chalk draws a line along the edges of the pattern. Once this is done, you will need a scissor to cut the outline. Do it neatly and keep a steady hand.
- You can also have a loose and rough cut of the pattern first and then do the neat cutting.
- Do not ignore the notches. It is advisable to cut the notches outwards as this will decrease the chance of cutting into the seam allowance unintentionally.
- This is how you cut the pattern from the fabric. Now we will take a look at how to cut some specialized fabrics.
Now that we have explained to you how to cut fabrics, lets discuss popular types of fabrics and understand how they are cut. Let’s begin with a fabric that looks the same from the front and backside. It can be difficult to cut simply because you don’t know which side to use. The shinier side should be used usually. Once you identify the correct side, better mark it with a chalk line for future reference.
In the case of leather or faux leather cutting tool is very important. Use a sharp tool, preferably rotary cutter. You can use scissors too if you are confident of their sharpness. Do not use pins for holding the pattern on the leather. The pin will leave marks that can deface the leather.
For cutting chiffon or such slippery type of fabrics it is better to spray them a bit. This will make the weightier and easy to manage.
For delicate and fragile fabrics like paper silk, tissue, etc. use a paper scissor. You can also use a thin sheet of paper and put it with the fabric as support. This will help in cutting it.
While cutting printed fabrics it is important to follow the flow of the print. Join the print on the seam lines.
When cutting a striped fabric go lengthwise. This is especially true when you are cutting fabric for the body and sleeves. Balance is also very important. Make sure there is an equal number of stripes on both sides of the fabric.
Similar to striped, there should be a balance in cutting check fabrics as well. A check that does not match would look horrible and ruin your outfit completely.
Cautions while cutting:
While cutting fabrics make sure you do the following otherwise your cutting job will not come out as nicely as you expected.
Washing and ironing:
We have discussed it in detail at the beginning of this article. We want to emphasize their importance once again here. Do not skip these steps. Actually, when the fabrics are woven in factories their fibers get stiff and tense. The fibers of the fabric relax when wet, and get back to their original position when we apply heat on them. This takes care of the shrinkage problem which can be problematic if you encounter it later.
Truing and squaring:
Truing and squaring of fabric in simple terms means cutting the edges of the fabric in a straightway. There are certain tricks and techniques to do just that. It helps in defining the fabric and helps retains its form and texture.
More fabric for stripes, checks, and plaids:
Always buy a little extra fabric when the print is stripes, checks or plaids. If you buy just enough then there are chances you won’t be able to match them properly. It is the width of the fabric that determines how much you actually need. So, exercise your best judgment when buying this kind of fabric.
Counter checking your cuts:
A good way to check that you cut straight lines is to fold your fabric in half and see if the width along one side is exactly the same as the width along the other side. Then fold again the opposite sides and see if it is the same. If there are any discrepancies you can trim, adjust accordingly.
If you want to cut a perfect square, fold it diagonally and check the angles. The edges should be even and the angles folded in half.
Cutting fabric is not that difficult. But you have to know the right way of doing it. Cutting the right way can ease the main job of sewing fabrics and making your desired piece of garment. If you skip the preparatory steps of cutting fabric, like pre-washing you could end up with a garment too small or too tight. Once you are adept at how to cut the fabric you can modify and adjust your techniques to cut any type and material of the fabric.