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Cutting Out

Photo: David Page Coffin

by Jan Bones
From Threads #85, pp. 20, 22

Accurate cutting is important for a well-sewn garment, but this step doesn't have to be difficult if you keep in mind a few simple things. After checking and adjusting your pattern for proper fit, follow the pattern's cutting layout; then you're ready to cut.

Tools and tables
Don't compromise when it comes to scissors. A good-quality pair of sharp, bent-handled shears that allow the fabric to lie flat on the table is necessary for accurate cutting. There are many types and styles of scissors to choose from, and you may want to have more than one pair. I like the Softouch spring-action scissors by Fiskars because they're lightweight and have a comfortable handle, which is suitable for left- or right-handed sewers. They work best on light- to medium-weight fabrics.

Bent-handled shears Rotary cutter
Use bent-handled shears, and cut with pattern and fabric to the left of the scissors (vice versa for lefties). Cut with long, steady strokes along the cutting line using the entire blade of the scissors. And keep the fabric flat on the table.   A rotary cutter is a fast, accurate way to cut out patterns. Use a ruler as a guide on straight edges, and always use a special rotary-cutting mat.
Some sewers prefer to use a rotary cutter rather than scissors. It takes a little practice to get the hang of using a rotary cutter, but once you do, it's fast and accurate. Rotary cutters are available with blades in various sizes beginning with 1-1/8 in. (28mm) and should be replaced or sharpened with a rotary-blade sharpener when they get dull (see Sources). Use a hard plastic ruler to hold down the pattern and fabric and to guide the cutting blade when cutting long, straight edges. And switch to sharp scissors when cutting tight corners or small curves. Always use a mat that's especially designed for rotary cutting on a table surface.

Table height is also an important consideration. A table that's about 34 in. high, or 4 in. higher than a standard dining table or desk, makes cutting much easier and is better for your back. Of course, this depends on your height (I'm almost 6 ft. tall, and my cutting surface is 37 in. from the floor). Portable cutting tables are available at many fabric stores or by mail order. If possible, position your table so you can approach it from both sides for easier cutting.

Cutting reminders
Keep the entire length of fabric folded on the table (not draped over the edge) while you cut, so the fabric's grain won't be distorted. Most of the time, it's more efficient to fold the fabric and cut two layers at once, but occasionally, it's easier and more accurate to cut a single layer at a time: for example, when the fabric is heavy or especially delicate and hard to control or when cutting plaids and other designs that need matching. When cutting single layers, always be sure to turn the pattern tissue to the wrong side to cut the second piece; otherwise, you'll end up with two right or two left sections. And to save time, get in the habit of cutting everything at once--interfacings, linings, and so on.
ThreadsMagazine Threads Magazine, editor
Posted on Nov 19th, 2008 in tools & supplies, fundamentals, notions

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