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Conversational Threads

First time cutting pattern pieces

tunibell1974 | Posted in General Sewing Info on

Question from a beginner…when I cut out a pattern, do I cut inside the line, down the center of the line, or outside of the line??


  1. moira | | #1

    I'll be interested to see if opinions differ on this one! For accuracy, right down the centre of the line is correct, I think, but tricky with scissors. The thing is that if you are 1mm out either way on one cut edge, that could add up to over a cm on the whole garment. I know you're new to this, but when you have a bit of time to play, get yourself a rotary cutter and a mat and see how much more precise you can be. I don't mean to be patronising, but if you do get one of those cutters, be aware it's razor-sharp!

  2. Bel Argent | | #2

    I was taught that you should cut off as much of the black line as possible, as that is just "extra" and can affect the final fit of your garment.

    But I don't lay out patterns on the fold, I only lay out on the flat and I trace around my pattern pieces and then cut them out. So I cut out the pattern first, on a cutting mat with a rotary cutter, then layout and trace and mark on my fabric, then cut out the marked fabric with a rotary cutter.

  3. starzoe | | #3

    A millimeter more or less is not going to make a difference in the fit assuming that you are going to tweak the pattern fit when you are sewing. The important thing is to keep the fabric and pattern flat when cutting out, in other words, do it on a firm flat surface, not on a bed or a carpet.

  4. Teaf5 | | #4

    The pattern instructions say to cut the line off, but I've never done that, as it makes it harder to use the pattern a second (third or thousandth) time.  Just be consistent, and if you want to adjust for that millimeter difference, have the edge of the fabric slightly over the 5/8" seam marker on your machine as you sew the seams.

    The other tips are excellent; one that first-timers may not realize is that you should always cut with the scissors to the right of the pattern (counter clockwise around the piece) if you are right-handed using right-handed scissors. 

    Even when using pins, use your left hand to keep the fabric/pattern still; keep the bottom blade of the scissors as flat along the table and straight up/down while you cut. (Allowing the angle to change will result in wobbly cut lines.)

    Open the blades fully, cut till closed, then open them fully again before continuing.  Test your blades on a scrap of the same fabric before you start cutting to make sure they're sharp and smooth. Have fun!

    1. scrubble4 | | #6


      "you should always cut with the scissors to the right of the pattern (counter clockwise around the piece) if you are right-handed using right-handed scissors.  "

      I never knew.  I thought you were to cut from the centre top down on each side, which I think is the way you are to sew.  Your suggestion makes so much sense.  I am way past beginning, but still so much to learn.  Scrubble4

      1. moira | | #12

        I almost always sew seams from bottom to top, and read a great article somewhere online a while ago that explained all about sewing with or against the grain. I wish I could tell you where it was now. But I was interested to read your thought that you should sew from top to bottom.

        1. scrubble4 | | #13


          "I almost always sew seams from bottom to top, and read a great article somewhere online a while ago that explained all about sewing with or against the grain."

          So that led me to do a search and I found it and copy it here for other newcomers to Gatherings to benefit from as I did in reading it. 

          From Gathering 7297.1

          "Of course, each of the areas described are stitched directionally, that is, with the grain, not against the grain.  Stitching against the grain on any given unit is what causes the fabric to pucker. If the unit is stitched directionally in virtually every case, not even stay-stitching (unless there is a thread tension problem) will produce puckers.

          Stitching against the grain forces the grain out of position.  Straight edges can be stitched in either direction without distorting the grain.  A general rule to follow is to stitch from widest to narrowest when the shape of the pattern piece allows.  For example, stitch a skirt from hem to waist or a fitted bodice from underarm to waist. For woven fabrics, if it is difficult to determine in which direction to stitch, slide your thumb and forefinger along the edge.  If the edge stays smooth, you are going with the grain; stitch in this direction.  If the yarns at the edges stand out (like petting a cat "against the grain"), you are going against the grain; stitch in the other direction.  For knit fabrics, if it is difficult to determine in which direction to stitch (yes, knits too will pucker if sewn against the grain), it is most important to stitch related seams in the same direction.  For example, the seams in a skirt should all be stitched in the same direction.  The rule is: Follow these directions unless the design dictates otherwise.

          When joining seams, it is imperative that you move the work to the inside of the machine in order to maintain the stitching directionally, even if the area has been stay-stitched.  This can take some practice for new sewers.  I have seen this idea pooh-poohed by some professionals in the sewing industry today.  I couldn't disagree more strongly.  My suggestion?  Try it and see the results for yourself.  Experience is the best teacher."

          So I have been doing it wrong.  I like the suggestion of running your finger along the seam to check if it is smooth or not.  Thanks for your idea that you had seen it somewhere recently.  I love the search here.  I am always learning from it.

          Thanks Scrubble4

          1. SAAM | | #14

            Scrubble, thanks for posting this. I had remembered reading about this a while ago, but couldn't remember the details.Sherry

          2. moira | | #16

            Hello Scrubble. Yes, that was from the same article I referred to, and which I found so helpful. Thanks for taking the time to locate it. It does seem that there are as many ways to cut out a garment as to skin a cat! And in the end, you do what works for you - but sometimes it's nice just to know why a particular method seems to work.

  5. sewelegant | | #5

    WOW, this seems to be a loaded question, but I am sure anyone who has ever cut out a pattern has pondered it.  I have always aimed for the outside edge because I like seeing that black line around my pattern pieces and if I shave a bit off in the process I still can see it.  With many pattern companies now-a-days not showing the seamline I can lay my standard tape measure along the inside edge of the black line and make a mark (or line) so I can measure just how much room is allowed in the pattern.  After 50 years of  sewing, I do not think the width of that line is going to make enough difference to matter in your end product.  After all, we don't stay the exact same measurements day to day either.  Where it might make a difference is around the neck, if you get sloppy and don't cut as close to the pattern edge as you can you could change the size.  I have always tried to cut as close as possible and do not find cutting up the left side of the pattern makes any difference and sometimes it even works better. 

    What I do like to do is cut the pattern out before laying the pieces out on the fabric.  While cutting it out I get a feel for how it is going to go together and I have even rejected some patterns at this point.

    1. Pattiann42 | | #17

      "After all, we don't stay the exact same measurements day to day either."

      I agree.  However, I do not stay the exact same measurement hour-to-hour on any given day let alone day-to-day.

      Back to the original post ..........

      That little back line makes very little difference,  and I do not cut the pattern out first, just enough to separate it from the sheet that it is printed on. 

      If scissors get dull, make a few cuts through aluminum foil and they will be sharp again.........I found this to be true when I trimmed the top of a bag of chips and found my kitchen shears where sharper than before the trim.



      "I strive to learn something new each day."

      Edited 2/24/2008 12:56 pm ET by spicegirl1

      Edited 2/24/2008 12:57 pm ET by spicegirl1

      1. ellaluna | | #21

        I never actually cut patterns out. I put tracing paper under them and trace the entire piece with my tracing wheel. This way I can do all the markings as I go, cut precisely with no pins or weights getting in my way, and re-use the patterns in another size.Of course I rarely sew for myself, so I think the reason I started cutting this way is because I sometimes think I am going to need the pattern in more than one size. Although, come to think of it, in the last 15 years I don't know if I ever have. HAHAHA!

      2. birdlady1 | | #57

        Hi Everyone!


        It is interested to hear from everyone about where to cut on a pattern.  I also notice that some of you do not cut out the pattern pieces from the sheets that the manufacturers produce or am I not understanding?  I find that when I do cut out the pieces, some of the black lines get cut out by accident.  Would this affect the outcome of your outfit?  Also, I notice that when I have cut out a pattern on the fold and have to mark the lines, etc. with carbon paper when using a wheel, I find that the two marked lines are off somewhat.  In other words, if you were to put the fabric up to a light and put them together, the lines on each piece are not lined up.  What could be the problem?  Also, when I have the material laying flat on a table and start to cut the fabric, I do not get a straight cut.  Sometimes the fabric might be cut 1/2 inch in from the sewing line or may be perfect.  These questions may be silly to some but to me it is something I have wanted to know for awhile.   

        1. Pattiann42 | | #58

          Hi Birdlady.

          I cut each pattern piece from the pattern sheet, but not always right on the line to save time.  This would be your choice.  If you are more comfortable with exact cutting then you are expressing your personal preference.  It is the way I was taught, but decided it took more time to get to the garment cutting.

          Garments have ease built in, so I do not worry about cutting exactly on the line or next to the line.

          Fronts and back are not always the same width and length, if this is what you are comparing. 

          When laying the pattern on the fold, pin.  Mark center with a small snip at the fold, top and bottom.

          You can use the same method (snip) to mark arrows for matching.

          I do not use a tracing wheel or paper.  I run a straight pin through the dot and gently open the fabric so the pin stays in place and mark with a water soluble pen or chalk.

          My cutting is not always right on - if the cut is too wide, just trim. 

          If the fabric is hanging over the edge of a table it can stretch or slip as you are working with it and cause uneven cutting. 

          I hope this will help.  Are you in the US?  Countries do differ in educational material that is available and I would not want to recommend something that you do not have access to - although the Internet is very convenient. 

        2. starzoe | | #59

          Small deviations in cutting make no difference as long as you have sufficient seam allowances. You can't expect a pattern to fit just going by the seaming or cutting lines, matching markings is more important and more than likely the garment will need some tweaking here and there.

      3. blondielou | | #62

        Hi there "Spicey".....


        Never heard of your aluminum foil idea for sharpening scissors....I'm going to try that out first with my non fabric scissors.


        Question though.....does this work for pinking shears or scalloped scissors?





  6. zuwena | | #7

    One additional comment.  You should cut away all extraneous paper from around the pattern before laying it on your fabric, whether you do so single or double.  The point is to avoid "dulling" your scissors by having them go through both paper and fabric.  Fabric  scissors should only be used for fabrics.  They will last longer that way and will not need to be sharpened as often.  Z

    1. blondielou | | #61

      Very true....I cut away all the extra tissue while sitting on the couch watching a favorite TV show or movie and then put the pieces in a bin.  Once I have them all together cut out, I iron them all.  I take little pieces of knit fusible interfacing (the only kind I use for everything) and fuse the interfacing everywhere I know I will pin.....like on both edges of the grainline arrow (or along the entire arrow if I have enough interfacing), around the notches, around any markings, every so often that I usually pin so that I can cut the pattern out accurately.  It doesn't take long to do this and then you are not tearing the pattern with the pins when pinning the pattern. 


      If I re-use this pattern 2 or 3 times, this interfacing is sufficient.  If it becomes what I call a "master pattern", I will then take interfacing and interface the entire piece and then hang the pattern pieces over wire hangers (I never use wire hangers for anything else but paper patterns that have had interfacing ironed to it.....clothes are all hung on Joy Mangano hangers and skirt/pant clip hangers).



  7. joanfitzu | | #8

    I have been sewing for 40 years, I always cut just to the outside edge of the black line. You can check where 5/8" should be by using your seam gauge and measuring out from the center of a circle (matching point) and see where it lands on the cutting line. If you have fabric that ravels at all, I would not be too scant with the seam allowance. Better to have too much than not enough. When I was in school for fashion design we cut some seams using 1" seam allowances for fitting purposes. I would recommend using shears to cut your fabric. Just go slowly and be consistant, a better cutting job means a better sewn seam, if it is jagged you won't be sure where you should be sewing.

    1. sewingkmulkey | | #9

      I totally agree with cutting on the outside of the black line.  And I have no problem cutting through tissue patterns and the fashion fabric with my excellent ginghers shears.  That's the way my grandma taught me 50 years ago and it has served me well.  I'd rather spend the time cutting out and sewing a muslin (for fit) than cutting around all the tissue pattern pieces first.  That's just my opinion...

      After sewing professionally for many, many years I've found that all the sewing "rules" can be broken and that the end result it all that matters.  I encourage all new sewers to read as much as they can get their hands on and talk with other seamsters (like this forum) and then choose what method works best for them.  The important thing is to have fun and learn to love this wonderful creative craft!!!



      1. stitchagain | | #10

        Really well said

      2. rodezzy | | #11

        Very, very well said.  My hat off to you.

      3. sewelegant | | #19

        I love this discussion!  It makes me look inward and realize the reason, I think, I really took to sewing in the first place (age 10 or 12) was because I adored paper dolls!  The cutting out, the fantasy, the pretty clothes, etc., etc. every aspect was a fascination for me and I was getting "too old" to indulge anymore.  Every time I pre-cut the pattern I am cutting out paper dolls again.  The beauty of it all is that some of my fantasies have come true in my finished garments.  I have to admit I wasn't saving any money by sewing, but I have never needed a therapist to help me get through life's little traumas and even today, if I get bored, I can always retreat to my sewing, craft room and the hours fly by.

        1. rodezzy | | #20

          Amen to that.  Whenever I've been at a low point in life, my crafts and sewing have rescued me from having to think about things too much.  I start working on some projects and before you know it, I'm so involved in the process of what I'm doing and anticipating the outcome of the project that I have lifted my spirits to a happier state of being all on my own.  I love it.  I've also been able to work through problems by being able to think things through while doing some crocheting or knitting that is mindless row by row work that needs no concentration on my part.  It lets me think things through that need me to settle down and get an answer to the subject at hand.  Yes, it all has served me well. 

        2. solosmocker | | #22

          I absolutely loved paper dolls, too!solo

        3. sewingkmulkey | | #23

          Okay - I get it - cutting out around the pattern pieces is like cutting out paper dolls for you.   Thanks for the explanation and happy sewing!


          1. sewelegant | | #24

            Well, we didn't have Barbie Dolls!  I'm sure that would have been my passion if she had been invented a bit earlier.  I did have a Mary Hoyer doll (does anyone remember her?) that I did try to sew clothes for.

          2. Palady | | #25

            The Mary hoyer doll was new to me.  Googled and there were several hits.  One of which follows.  Was this the one you had? 



          3. sewelegant | | #27

            Thank you for that!  She is very similar to the doll I had.  Mine must have been the wood composition because she wasn't plastic.  I wasn't supposed to comb her hair either, but that was just too hard to resist.  I (my mother) ordered her from the McCall's Needle and Craft magazine.  It was always advertised in the back of the magazine and you could buy patterns for knitting garments.  I do not remember clothing patterns.  It encouraged me to learn how to knit.  My mother could do it, but was not a knitter so not much came of it.  Years later I thought I would buy a new doll and try out my knitting prowess, but by that time she was no longer advertised and I could not find out any information so forgot about it. 

          4. Palady | | #28

            Your welcome for the doll link.  If you choose, there are more hits on the Google link.  I live in NorthEastern PA, and noticed the doll originated in Reading, PA and was sold in Ocean City, NJ


            I have some old McCall's Needle & Craft magazines.  You have me getting to them to see what I can find. 


          5. fabricholic | | #41

            Those dolls are so cute!

          6. blondielou | | #63

            Hi....did anyone else have Madge....Barbie's red headed friend?  I came from a poor enlisted Air Force family and we couldn't afford Barbie....so I got Madge.....  I don't know if anyone else eer heard of her....she had lots of freckles.  I am not a red head.  I was a natural blonde up until age 14; I have blue eyes and very pale porcelain skin....



          7. Palady | | #64

            There may be a "Madge" in the doll boxes in the attic.  My daughter was born in 1958, and I'm remembering Madge surfacing in the 1960's.  So it's possible "she" is tucked away.  I know for certain there's a "Skipper". 

            We were a USMC family back then.

            If you choose to post a reply, please realize I'm going off line today until June 1.  Ergo, I'll be catching up after that date.


            ETA - corrections to typos.  

            More Me


            Edited 5/17/2008 2:03 pm ET by Palady

          8. blondielou | | #65

            Yep, my birth year is 1957....  I think I remember Midge's friend, younger friend was Skipper but I didn't own her.  My mother did make some lovely clothes for Midge.  My mom made my sister and I most of our clothes and as the middle child, I got all the hand-me-downs as well.  My sister was popular and went to all the homecoming dances and proms and I didn't go to a single one.....I was 30-40 lbs overweight and didn't do any afterschool activities and hated school.  I have since made up for it.  I now have the best body I've ever had....a volptuous hourglass size 10, never weighed less and took up ballroom dancing in 1980 and go to ballroom dances 2-4x a week and am an excellent dancer....  I have gorgeous outfits I have made for my dancing where I have added sequins, rhinestones, appliques, feathers, fringe.....wear very fitted bodices that show off my great cleavage and backline with long full skirts of various types that move and flow with the dance moves I make.   



      4. HisChildBeth | | #54

        For all intents and purposes, I am an "old" newbie.

        I have never heard of cutting out muslin before cutting out your fabric.  Is that what you do to fit the pattern to a person, and then use the muslin as your "real pattern" to lay out on your fabric and then cut it?  If that is correct, why is it done that way -- to save fabric or what?  Is this something that professionals do?

        1. starzoe | | #55

          Muslins are used as a trial garment, to ensure the final result fits as it should. As a word "muslin" does refer to a particular type of fabric but it also does mean a trial garment. It is not done to save fabric, but to avoid a mistake with expensive or otherwise unique material, or just to get a good fit.A muslin should be made of fabric close to the equal weight and hand of the finished one. If you are already sure that a certain pattern fits, of course do not make a muslin, but if you feel you want a super fit or there has been a problem in the past with this particular pattern, by all means take the time to sew a muslin. I rarely make a muslin, and if I do, I only use that part of the pattern that needs to be changed - move darts, tinker with set in sleeves. Most likely I would do it if I wanted to drastically change the paper pattern.

          Edited 4/30/2008 12:42 pm ET by starzoe

        2. sewingkmulkey | | #56

          Starzoe responce is exactly correct. I always make "muslins" for all my customer sewing and am, therefore, assured of a perfect fit before I cut out the expensive and often non-replaceable fashion fabric. I would encourage all new sewers to take this extra but important step until they "know" their figure/shape. I would add that after making the "known" adjustments to the paper pattern I cut up and sew the muslin in pretty rough form...sewing darts, all fitting seams, etc. but no finishing like facings and hems.
          I then fit the muslin on the client, make necessary adjustments to it and my paper pattern and can then "dive" right into the fashion fabric with no fears or concerns that the garment will work! The muslin process goes much quicker than one would expect and saves many otherwise "spoiled" garments. This extra step has served me very well over nearly 40 years of sewing for very happy clients. Karen

  8. ctirish | | #15

    Hi, You have received all sorts of answers. The main thing to do is make a decision on where you are going to cut your patterns and do it consistently. I have been sewing for 40 years and I try to cut on the outside of the line.

    The reason to make a choice and do it is so you don't have to think about it when you are trying to solve the other problems that will come up while you are creating a masterpiece.

    Good luck, jane

  9. clb707 | | #18

    From what I understand, the pattern industry intends for the pattern line to be cut-off.  So in other words, cut inside the line.

  10. Ckbklady | | #26

    Hi there,

    Wow - I just came across this discussion. What a great question!

    I learned to sew in home ec class in the 70s, so it's been a long time. If my teacher told me on which side of the line to cut, I don't remember it. I generally shoot for cutting outside the black lines so I can still see a line when I'm cutting out the fabric.

    I noticed a poster here suggest that the important thing to do is to pick one or the other and stick with. I would humbly suggest that even that may not be hugely important. My hand shakes a lot, so I usually end up on both sides of the line as I cut, and I've never had problems as a result. I think, as another poster suggested, that the line is awfully thin, and can't really change the pattern that much (unless you're sewing something really teeny like doll clothes, perhaps). It's sure neat reading everyone's take on the question, though. I've learned to look a little more closely at things I do automatically.

    So welcome to the world of lots of opinions! :) It can open up a world of creative possibilities to have more than one choice.

    :) Mary

    1. blondielou | | #29

      Hi, I have sewn for 40 years now and I cut outside the black line.  If I were to cut the black line off, it would be easy to occasionally cut into the tissue and you could then make the garment smaller than it was intended to be.  I am learning to fit (my ex used to do it for me; we took a flat pattern making course together 20 years ago so now I need to learn).  I have gotten out my old measurements and old sloper and have made the dress up and find it fits pretty well (just a little big perhaps).  I will now make the bodice and skirt.  Then I will go to the local large fabric store, G Street Fabrics and pay for one hour of their time $79 and have them do a complete set of measurements done correctly and to check the fitting of the fitting shells (I made them out of gingham).  I will then take them apart and make them on cardboard tag. 


      I found that my Uniquely You shell had to be taken in too much for it to fit the existing foam....so I bought a smaller foam size of the Uniquely You.  I fit in on myself (with the help of full length mirrors) and put it on the new Uniquely You, then checking my measurements and hers....pretty darn close.....  Looking at me and looking at "Daisy Mae" as I call her we are pretty darn the same.  I tried on the red gingham fitting shell and it fit but a little large and then put it on Daisy Mae and it fit the exact same way. 


      Now I need to learn how to use the cardboard sloper (once fitted exactly) and all the measurements I have taken by the expert to check existing patterns.  The fitting books emphasize that 25% of your sewing time should be spent on fitting; and the need to pin fit with the pattern pieces (I can use Daisy Mae) and to fit the garment on you at every major point of the sewing process.


      So the sewing line is not a significant factor.


      Laura  .

      1. Ckbklady | | #30

        Hiya Blondielou Laura,

        I totally agree - once that black line is gone, it's a slippery slope down to cutting where you don't want to be cutting.

        I also grudgingly agree with the 25% fitting time. It's nowhere near as much fun as making that machine whirrrrr!

        That's so neat that G Street does a fitting service. How satisfying to get that done!

        :) Mary

        1. blondielou | | #32


          I just like the security of the "black line".....


          You pay for one hour of one of the special seamstresses at G Street Fabrics; you get one of their teachers and they will do whatever you wish for the one hour.  If you are stumped on a project, they will work with you.  If you need help with a sewing machine or serger, tell them ahead of time which brand and they will help you work with it.  They are an exceptional store; the best in the Washington, DC area.  You pay for this by living in this area....the high cost of living in this area is unreal!  I could live elsewhere but then don't have access to these kinds of things, historical places, many theatrical sources, shopping extraordinaire, restaurants from all countries around the world and most important to me one of the best areas for the particular chronic pain management I require (Hopkins, Georgetown, etc.) and the ballroom dancing is one of the top 5 or 6 in the country for International Modern (fox trot, waltz, tango, quickstep) where there is dancing every night of the week and choices of where to dance.....   My ex and I originally moved here from Dayton, Ohio for the dancing.....there was a dance maybe 2 or 3 Saturdays a month/dance lesson every 8-12 week....whereas with him, I was dancing 3 to 4 nights a week/private dance lesson once a week!


          I know in many sewing stores even finding staff that sew is a challenge; much less staff that are experts and sew better than yourself (who are minimum high school home ec/college teaching level seamstresses).....  I think at every store there should be a minimum of 2 or 3 top quality seamstresses that could also do this and in some areas they may have this but there are just as many areas that don't, sad to say.


          I don't have sewing friends or a spouse who has any interest in doing correct measurements so I need to avail myself of the experts at GStreet Fabrics!



          1. Ckbklady | | #34

            I giggled at your mention of the security of the black line - I feel that too!

            I also giggled at your mention of the cost of living in DC - I hear ya! Here in Seattle it's not much better, but at least we have the fish. :) They look funny ballroom dancing, but their rhythm's getting better.

            At a day-long fitting class I attended at the Sew Expo in Washington a few weeks ago, the instructor said emphatically that we mustn't allow spouses to help with our measuring. In fact, she barked it out, "NO husbands!!" Over the course of the day she maybe said it three or four times, but it sure sunk in. Two days later, I attended another fitting class at the show which was taught by a different instructor. She asked us if we would ask our husbands to help with measuring. She was startled by the emphatic shout, "NO!" from the crowd. We all looked around and saw friends from the previous class, and all burst out laughing.

            For measuring, you might appreciate the second instructor's invention. Her name is Lorraine Henry. She's the creator of the Two Easy Tape and Inseam Companion (and is the sunniest, smartest teacher on the subject of measuring, fitting & pattern alteration). These two measuring tapes come with a booklet to aid in their use. It's a brilliant idea - the tape starts at zero in the middle, and goes out evenly on either side. It's a snap, for example, to put the zero at your side seam and see what your bodice front and back measurements are on either side of you. It's great for those of us with uneven measurements. You can use the tape with its companion tape (which has a little metal clip to connect them in a T shape) to measure your crotch curve and inseam in one accurate shot without bending. There are a gazillion uses for the tape set - I bought one at the show and have used it constantly (even for centering hanging pictures, giggle).

            Here's a Sew News article about her tape set that includes ordering information: http://www.sewnews.com/resources/mc/mc1106e/. If you ever see her name on a class roster at a show near you, I urge you to go see her. She's a marvel.

            :) Mary


            Edited 3/19/2008 1:01 pm by Ckbklady

      2. Ocrafty1 | | #31

        OK, I feel really uninformed, (e.g. stupid). I've been sewing for over 30 yrs.(a lot for clients) and have no idea what a sloper is. I've seen the term used a couple of times, and have an idea that it is a really important fitting tool, but what is it, and how do I get/make one. I live in rural IN...no big fabric/designer houses here! Can someone explain and help me out?


        1. blondielou | | #33

          I don't know if it is worthwhile making a sloper for clients.....but if you sew a lot for yourself I think it is for yourself.


          What a sloper is is a pattern fitted very tightly to yourself.  Each pattern company, Mc 2718, has a fitting shell pattern that you make in either a muslin or a gingham and you fit this dress very close to your body (helps to either have a good 3 way mirror or a good sewing friend to help with fitting).  When you have this fitting pattern fit to perfection, then you take it apart and put it onto cardboard tag paper (or you could use heavy sturdy paper or interfacing)......anything that will withstand repeated use...


          You use this to put over commercial patterns to check to see if they will fit you or not....


          Also, you can make your own patterns using your sloper....


          There are numerous books on this topic of fitting that I would suggest going to http://www.amazon.com and put in fitting in the search engine.  Then read what it says about slopers, fitting shells, fitting and see what is most accurate to what you are interested in investing in time.... 


          It helps to have a dressmaking dummy; but you don't have to have one.


          If you really want to know the names of some books, I will go through mine and give you the names of my particular favorites.  I have about a dozen.  Threads makes one, "Fitting Your Figure".  Sewing With Nancy has several, Singer has a good fitting one as does Vogue.   You may wish to look at some sewing friends or go to the library before deciding which one(s) you want.  Also with http://www.amazon.com you can buy used books for very reasonable cost (I got many of mine this way) and slowly build a library.  Also, the pattern will tell you a lot.


          I think you could also put in your search engine, fitting, fitting shell, fitting pattern, sloper and read the results to start to gain in your understanding.


          A lot of this depends on how difficult your body is to fit; but I have yet to meet the woman whose body fits any of the pattern company's right away!!!


          Good luck!



          1. Ocrafty1 | | #35

            I just found an old (1978) copy of the 'Sew/Fit' Manual. A friend, whose late wife was a seamstress, found it among her things and gave it to me. Nancy Ziemann is one of the authors. I've been studying it for the past 3 days, and think it will help with a lot of fitting needs. It doesn't have anything about fitting 'bra-like' tops, and that is the info I really need right now.

            I've done extensive alterations before. My biggest/toughest project was a client who bought a $2,800 wedding gown on sale for $900. The gown was absolutely gorgeous, but was a size 14....the client wore a size 4. I had to take the gown completely apart and remake it in her size. It also had a very low cut bodice, both front and back. I added tulle and lace to 'cover' her and also added 30 covered buttons down the back.  She was the fiance of a dear friend....I put her check for the alterations inside the wedding card I gave them.  I've attached the pix I have. This gown had more sequins and beads than I'd ever seen on a gown. I made the collar from lace/beads/sequins that I removed from the gown. I also made her veil. I made a pattern/copy of the train. I may want to replicate it sometime.


          2. rodezzy | | #36

            That was an awesome, wonderful, beautiful job you did.  I just can't find enough words to say how great a job you did. 

            To take that dress from a size 14 and make it a size 4 and it looks like a million is incredible.  I could never do that.  I barely make clothes for myself.  So, I can only marvel at your skills....I'm not worthy.....I'm not worthy.

            People find out that I sew and immediately they start wanting me to make suits for them, do alterations and repairs.  They don't realize what goes into making quality clothes.  I used to get really techinical with making clothes for myself when I was very young and in high school.  I did some good stuff back then, but nothing of your skill level. And I just make clothes occasionally.  Nothing too detailed.  Can't do it.

            And I'm like no..no..no..!  I don't have mad skills in doing nothing with clothes....I do the bulk of my sewing on quilts and other sewing projects.  I'll sew a human sized doll before I make clothes for people.  Just don't have the skills or patience, nor desire.   

            So, here's to you, you are great.

          3. Ocrafty1 | | #37

            Thanks Rodezzy,

            I learned by doing. I made lots of clothes from patterns and made lots of mistakes. I think once I figured out how they really go together, everything else fell into place. That dress was not much different than making one from scratch, once I took it apart. I just had to figure out how much to remove from each area. I did that by pinning to fit her. I got the bodice to fit, and sewed that; then moved to the sleeves....took some off of the top of them, some out of the 'width around', then put them back in..and on down the rest of the dress. Then I tackeled the inset for the neckline and the buttons down the back. When you break it down, it really is not that hard....just labor intensive. I was more afraid of getting it dirty than I was of messing it up....There's a lot of lace that could have been used to 'hide' mistakes...but I didn't have any..that I can think of.

            I made 1 complete quilt in my life. A 'Friendship Dahlia' done in squares then put together. I've hand pieced the top of a 'Double Wedding Ring' and started to quilt it, but after hand quilting about 1/8 of it, I realized that the batting I was using was way too lofty. It is still sitting in a box....waiting for me to do something with it.  I like detail, and I do crocheting (doilies) and counted cross stitch, but only on 18 count or smaller.

            Thanks again for all the compliments.  It sure boosts my morale!


          4. rodezzy | | #39

            Ocrafty1:  you are the best.  Most people like you do exquisite work because they love details and can concentrate for long periods of time on a project.  They can put it down and come back to it.  It's a wonderful trait to have and I give you all of your cudo's.  Keep up the work, I know you are appreciated and I just hope you are compensated properly and handsomely.  You deserve it. 

          5. blondielou | | #38

            I sew a lot for myself but have no desire to sew for anyone else, though I get tons of requests.  I always tell people to go to a good seamstress and get their clothes altered or made.....instead of going like sheep and buying the same clothes that everyone else does.  I suggest women have a 2 to 5 piece wardrobe made two seasons out of the year that coordinate and each season have another grouping made .... then they can have the style, color and hopefully fit just for them....


            I would rather make something from scratch, most of the time, than alter something complicated like you did with the wedding dress.....I find it easier personally!   I do buy RTW and add ornamentation, however, to personalize it for me.....



          6. MaryinColorado | | #47

            I am extremely impressed with your ability to alter this gown, absolutely lovely.  The veil really completes the elegant dress without being too little or too much.  It was so labor intensive that I'm sure was a very generous gift from the heart!  Mary

          7. Ocrafty1 | | #48

            Thanks for your compliment. It was a labor of love...both for the young groom and the love of a challenge.  I got my newest one today. A young bride had phoned...she had bought a gown several yrs ago that is now too small. I went to see her in it today. The gown is a size 30, not sure what her size is,but her above bust measurement is 52, with a 58" waist. The skirt of the gown can be let out enough to fit her, but the top of the gown is not.  I told her that I can make a new bodice and attach it to the gown.  She had seen 4 other seamstresses who told her that nothing could be done. She cried so hard when I told her that I could fix her gown, that I was embarrased.  I will have to draft a pattern, and make it out of muslin to start. I'm also planning on making the Kenneth King 'bustier' inside the gown, as she has a very difficult time trying to find proper undergarments to fit her. I know it will be a huge challenge...but every bride deserves to have the wedding gown of her dreams if it is possible. She told me she didn't care if I sewed a t-shirt to the top if she could have that skirt. I won't make much $$ on this one, but the word will spread...and it will sure make me feel good.  This young woman takes care of her invalid grandmother and from what I saw while I was there, treats her like a queen. What goes around comes around...


          8. rodezzy | | #49

            What a story, you are a trouper.  The world is better for having you in it.

          9. Ocrafty1 | | #52

            Thanks!  I've always said, 'What goes around, comes around.'  I think its just what we're supposed to do.  Not everything is about the $$$$...otherwise I'd have a lot more than I do now...LOL. I know I won't make anything close to what I should for this project, but its the right thing to do.  If it weren't for people helping me when I was young and learning to sew, I wouldn't be able to do what I can do now...I guess the new way of saying it is "paying it forward."

          10. User avater
            VKStitcher | | #60

            Not everything is about the $$$$...   My feelings exactly.  The world would be a better place if more people believed this.

            You are doing a wonderful thing for this bride.  As my mother-in-law says, "You'll get your reward in heaven."

          11. MaryinColorado | | #50

            God bless You!!!  You are truly living the "Golden Rule" and then some.   You seem to be a very positive and giving person, and one who loves to challenge herself to learn and accomplish new things and do them well. 

            I was very tiny as a teen and young woman, it was very difficult to find clothing and undergarments to fit.  Now things are finally made in those tiny sizes for adults.  It would be a better world if clothing manufacturers would do the same for those needing the larger sizes. 

            Are you going to use pieces from the top to create the new bodice?  If not, perhaps it could be used for a ring bearer's pillow or a wedding album cover, hankie.  It is so wonderful of you to provide all the extra effort and time it will take to make the support garment or build it in.  It sounds as if this bride felt that what you are doing was beyond hope.  You were able to give that hope back to her.  Her tears may have embarassed you, but they were tears of joy.  You have given her an intangible gift, beyond the redesigning and creation of her gown for her wedding day.

            I wish for you a very successful business!  Mary

          12. Ocrafty1 | | #51

            Unfortunately, there is no way I can use any part of the bodice for her gown, but I may be able to use the fabric, as you suggested, for another part of her wedding.  She has a little chihuahua (sp) that is going to 'carry' the rings down the aisle.

            Last night she sent me a link to the bodice that she likes. It was in a style that I recommended, and will work very well.  I know this will be a lot of work, but it will be worth it when I see her in the gown.  The woman she bought the gown from had told her to keep it stored in a black trash bag...and she did.  It was all wadded up....still on an old metal hanger.  I cringed, but didn't let her see.  She didn't have room in her closet to hang it properly, poor thing.  The veil she'd purchased was in the same shape.  I'm going to make her a new one, as well.  In the email she sent last night, she asked if I could make her bridesmaids gowns as well.  Looks like I'm gonna be busy for several weeks!

            Keep your fingers crossed for me!  DH and I have discussed purchasing a new sewing machine for me.  I've looked at a really nice Janome...the same model my sister-in -law has, at a much reduced sales price.  If the tax return is good, I may be able to replace my old 1975 Kenmore.  My biggest fear is that it will 'die' while I'm in the middle of a big contract like this one.  BTW... the broiler in my 1960 oven died last night....when it rains it poors!  LOL


        2. denise | | #40

          Me too being an aussie  ( Australian) the word had me really worried here it means someone that does not care about their appearance, 

          So then when I discovered it was a  SAMPLE, I thought well that's appropriate because a sloppy sample is o.k.

          Also the term muslin that had me wondering also, then that turned out to be something made in  cheaper fabric I think we would use calico here so we would say a calico.

          We learn something new everyday.  But it has made me a better fitter because I now make my  slopper my muslin and calico and just stick to those patterns with different fabric.

          BETTER NOT EAT TOO MUCH CHOCOLATE SO I DO NOT HAVE TO MAKE MORE OF THE ABOVE   but read recently that chocolate is very good for you so I will stick with that and enjoy all the things that Easter bring especially peace and tranquility.

          1. sewelegant | | #44

            If you go to this web site it starts out with a definition of the word "sloper"    I was sorry to see that it did not give any pronunciation knowledge.  The word is slow-per, not slop-per.  I did read one time where the word came from but can't remember exactly, something about the word meaning slant... (the ground sloped away...) maybe you could think about the fabric that you are draping slanting or "sloping" away from your shoulder or where-ever.  Does that make sense?  It's a good tool to have to lay over a new pattern to see if it will have enough room in it for what you need!  I have no idea how to use it for making my own patterns.  I think I would need to watch someone else using it.


          2. blondielou | | #45

            I took a flat pattern making adult education course decades ago for four months and it ended up with my husband altering ready-to-wear patterns often combining patterns and with major changes but almost always starting from an existing pattern.  He had the math and drafting ability; I had the sewing knowledge so we were a team for 23 years until he decided he didn't want to live with someone with my physical limitations (I have had chronic headaches/migraines and neck pain, also back pain since early teens that was occasional mild-to-moderate and episodic.....it did not become constant severe-suicidal and chronic intractable then resulting in a spinal surgery until 1990....when he found I could not be fixed and that I was "broken" and it could only be managed).

            I am now learning how to fit patterns myself and I finally have figured out how to set my Imagine Wave (the prior 3 sergers I used the ex always threaded).....

            How do you currently fit your patterns?  What are your particular "fit" challenges?



          3. sewelegant | | #46

            I suppose you meant your post for ALL and not just me, but I'm going to answer it anyway... I feel for you with your physical problems.  Have you noticed how everyone wants to talk about their own problems every time you might mention something ailing you?  I have to laugh at my husband... he is sure men go through menopause too!  I was in a room full of ladies just last week when arthritis was mentioned.  Honestly, I didn't know they were all such invalids!  The worst these days is fibromyalgia... that favorite diagnosis, it seems, when they can't figure out what is wrong.  And... for it affecting only 10% of the population, I find that hard to believe when I have met or heard of so many who have it!!!  (Just being facetious).  I'm sure you must miss your husband very much since he was such a big help, but it makes us realize we really go through this world alone, doesn't it?  My DH avoids helping me like its the plague, but I know it's my fault because I go behind him changing everything to my specifications.  We have very few areas where we can work side by side, but since he has retired I have felt very lucky to have him help around the house.  He's gets things done while I'm still thinking about how to go about it.  I tried getting him to help me with making a sloper or body double, but that didn't work out at all.  I've gotten very good at measuring myself and never had any problems making the styles I wanted to until I acquired this ample apple shape!  Now A-line seems to be the only way to go and I'm getting tired of that.  I have a friend who goes swimming several days a week with me and that is a great way to stay toned, but not much for taking the wt. off.  I'm slowly changing my eating habits because diets don't work long term, but am thinking I may have to finally do it so I can get down to a manageable wt. and enjoy sewing again (as well as life).

          4. blondielou | | #53

            Yes, I've heard swimming doesn't do much for losing weight.  It is good for your health though.  Losing hip and leg fat is impossible.  When I lose weight I lose it everywhere first....face, hands, feet, back, boobs, clavicle, ankles, waist.... each time I do lose any weight I go the same cyle....NEVER lose where I need which is more the thighs even more than the hips at this point.  Being once 300, I am very jiggly with cellulite....I never had kids so the stomach dd snap back fairly well (pretty flat) and my mom told me I have a flat #### (no Jay-Lo here).    The dancing hasn't helped with the legs.  I've thought of taking up tap dancing thinking I'd never seen a tap dancer with fat legs, have you???


            I had always thought I was a pear shape too but my ex put the brown paper on the wall and traced it and I found my hips and shoulder lined up exactly so I found I am not a pear but a perfect hourglass with my waist going in between 6-8" (fluctuates)....  So it is amazing the thought process we think of ourselves.


            Can you get a fellow seamstress in the area to take a complete set of measurements?  There are a few good fitting books (if you don't have any or don't know of any, I can look up the names if you want) that have the measurements you should take for the best fitting.  Or how about the American Sewng Guild or other sewing group in your area.  Or worse case paying a seamstress for an hour of her time?  That is what I am going to do.....the local biggest fabric store in the area, G Street Fabrics offers that service.....I did have an old sloper...I am almost finished making up the gingham bodice from it (calso checking my Uniquely You fit and it looks good on "Daisy Mae" which is my Uniquely You dressmaking dummy's name) and then I will have her check the fit on it (it is a little loose).....I don't know if I will change my old sloper or use the one I had from 1985.  I think having a current complete accurate set of measurements and also having a seamstress tell me if my boobs hang high or low, tell me if I am short/long waisted, if my back is narrow, etc. whether I need to be doing any of those "fit challenges" I see in the fitting books or not....having that expert eye tell me what my particular issues are....someone who has no reason not to be very truthful. 


            I bought a weight Universal pulley system (overhead and on the floor) with a leg curl/extension that my new husband has to finish putting together.....I lost the weight intially in large part due to actively lifting weights at that time.  Lifting some type of weights is crucial.....even getting 3, 5 and 8 lb weighs and a basic Karen Voigt of Kathy Smith how to lift weights basic video....this does help to rev up the metabolism.  I had gone to an encronologist and he has told me I now have a fast metabolism due to my exercise, lifting weights and dancing and is why I have kept the weight off and that I am 1 in 1000.....most put the weight back on.  If you can find some exercise you enjoy (like I do with the dancing, it would really be better)....do you like roller/ice skating....my local rink has an adult roller skating in the mornng M, W, F?  Try to find something....good luck!



  11. rodezzy | | #42

    I cut on the outside of the line.  Sandra Betzina said on her shows to cut on the line.  But I prefer to cut outside the line on the very edge of it.  And since I've been quilting, I've learned to use a rotary cutter and mat to cut out the few patterns I do cut these days.  I don't make many clothes.

  12. Brine | | #43

    I prefer to cut on the outside of the black line, mainly because it usually makes it much easier to see.

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