Sewing 101: Pattern Layout and Cutting

Have you ever been super confused about how to layout your fabric and cut a sewing pattern?  It could a paper pattern from the store or even a PDF pattern you've downloaded online.  Maybe it says to Cut out 2 - mirror images.  Or place on the fold.  What do these things mean? 

Sewing 101: Pattern Layout and Cutting
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Today for our Sewing 101 let's talk about sewing pattern layout and cutting.  The process of cutting out the pattern and fabric pieces is probably the most time consuming and stressful part of sewing.  Honestly, NO ONE likes it.  

How about a few tips and tricks about pattern layout and cutting to make the entire process a bit less stressful.

Essential Tools
There are a few essential tools that you'll need to have the most effective and accurate pattern cut.  

Measuring Tape
First, a measuring tape is a must.  I like this one because you get 3 measuring tapes and I can never seem to find one when I need it.  You can have one for your neck, one for your table and one stashed way up high so that little people can't reach it and run away with it.

A nice and sharp pair of scissors is a MUST.  Cheap scissors can really ruin your fabric and frustrate your pattern cutting.  Personally I love my Ginger Scissors.  They are pricey but TOTALLY worth it.  Just make sure to either label them or hid them so no one uses them for any other projects.

Sewing Pattern
You'll need a pattern to start.  You can use a paper pattern from the store.  Or we have easy instant downloadable PDF sewing patterns in our GYCT Pattern Shop. If you are new to the PDF pattern world, you'll be hooked in no time.  Current, trendy and you can print them right from home.  The pattern I'm using in this tutorial is the Jean and Jamey Jammies Pant pattern {pictured in the middle}.

Pattern Anatomy
Okay, now we need to know a little bit about the anatomy of the fabric we are using.  Lay your fabric on a flat surface.  If your pattern says to "Cut 2", you'll want to fold your fabric half with your selvages together.  (If you are unfamiliar with the word selvage, check out our Fabric Anatomy post.)  Notice the selvages are on the right side and the fold is on the left.

Sewing 101: Pattern Layout and Cutting by GYCT

What if it says mirror or mirror image?
This is a fairly new term we see in many PDF patterns.  If your pattern says "mirror" or "mirror image" this means the designer wants you to cut 2 pieces of the pattern that are exactly opposite of each other.  Why?  Well, do you have a right leg and a left leg?  Or a right side of your bodice and a left?  This ensures that your pattern pieces are opposite from each other and you don't end up with 2 right leg pieces.  (Been there, done that).

Easiest way to cut "mirror images" is to have your fabric folded in half like the example above and then pin your pattern.

Sewing 101: Pattern Layout and Cutting by GYCT

Find the Grainline
Before you start pinning your pattern down, you want to ensure your pattern is on grain.  Why does this matter?  Well, have you ever had an article of clothing that always pulled to one side or the other.  That is because the fabric wasn't cut on grain and once sewn it always pulls to try and get on grain again.

First thing to do is find the grainline on your pattern.  This should be a line on the pattern and should be marked.  The grainline should always be parallel with the selvage.  Even if your grainline is crosswise or bias, it will need to be parallel to the selvage.  

Sewing 101: Pattern Layout and Cutting by GYCT

To ensure this, grab your tape measure.  Line your tape measure up at the top of the grainline across to the selvage.  Take that measurement.  So below it is about 6.75".  Now pin the top of your grainline to the fabric.

Sewing 101: Pattern Layout and Cutting by GYCT

Move your tape measure down to the bottom edge of the grainline.  Measure from grainline to selvage.  This should measure the same as the top edge.  If it doesn't, move your pattern piece until it does.  Then pin.  That is how you ensure your pattern is on grain.  Now you can finish pinning and start cutting out your fabric pieces.

Place on Fold
If a pattern piece is to be placed on the fold, the principle of grainline is still the same.  The only difference is you should have a pattern symbol similar to the one below.  Helping you know to place the fabric on the fold of the fabric.

Sewing 101: Pattern Layout and Cutting by GYCT

Like with our Rival Raglan pattern.  Most of the pieces are to be cut on the fold.  Again, prepare your fabric.  One side should be on the fold and the other matching selvages.  If you wish to save on fabric, you can fold only a short side of your selvage in.

Sewing 101: Pattern Layout and Cutting by GYCT

Now place your patterns on the fold.  Pin the top of folded side and then pin the bottom folded side.  Continue pinning and then cut it out.

Sewing 101: Pattern Layout and Cutting by GYCT

Pattern Markings
All patterns are a little different, especially now since there are so many PDF pattern designers and each one does things a little different.  However, most patterns have similar pattern markings to help you identify what to do or where something is located on the pattern.  

Common Sewing Pattern Markings

There you have it.  Simple yet accurate way to layout and cut your pattern pieces.  Over time you will find easier to layout your pattern pieces.  Remember it's all about Practice, Practice, Practice!

Sewing 101: Pattern Layout and Cutting

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