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New to sewing with lots of questions

user-7907503 | Posted in New to Sewing on

Hi all, I started sewing back in may as a hobby due to being out of work long term for medical. I love this site and all the information it has, but I still have silly questions. Everything started with quilting which I was not so good at and somehow moved to clothing based off patterns which I really enjoy  anyway here’s my questions:

1. Are you supposed to cut patterns to the cut line when cutting them out, or do you do the precise cuts when cutting the fabric?

2. no matter what I do, I have issues with the pattern “fluffing” when I pin it. I’ve tried weights, pinning corners first, ect with no luck. ( I do iron the pattern piece first)

3. cutting is the biggest issue for me. The edges wind up choppy or uneven. I use fiscers spring handle flat scissors ( the bottom when cutting is flat) and do a full cut but still issues

4. finally any advice you wish you had when you first started?



  1. Steph1973 | | #1

    Hiya! Glad to meet you! I’ll try to help as best I can.
    1. Depending on the pattern company, you either cut on the given line (most common), or add your seam allowance. The pattern directions will tell you if the seam allowance is included. If so, just cut on the line and you’re good to go!
    2. Are you referring to patterns you buy that are printed on tissue paper? If so, I usually transfer the pattern onto a sturdier material (I like polypropylene, or pattern webbing). This way I can draw out multiple sizes without cutting the tissue original. The sturdier material you use to trace it on won’t fluff up.
    3. You may find it easier to use a rotary cutter. Like a pizza cutter. If so, you’ll need a cutting mat to go underneath your fabric, so you don’t damage your work surface and cutting blade. I rarely use fabric scissors, I love my rotary cutter so much!
    4. What I wish I knew when I started? 90% of “sewing” isn’t actually sewing, lol! I now automatically wash, dry, iron, and fold all fabrics as soon as I get them home, so they are ready to be used any time. Invest in the best quality tools you can afford! Entry-level sewing machines will only get you so far as your skills grow. And make sure you sew for yourself, and not just for others!!! Most of all, enjoy the process of making beautiful, useful things!

    1. user-7735938 | | #8

      Ditto - yes, I too have my fabric pre-prepared & ready when I get the urge to start a project. My first step is to read & understand the instructions marking in red any special additions or changes. My second step is to size the pattern to fit my measurements. As My body ages & changes those measurements are very essential.
      Most of all - enjoy the process - give yourself plenty of time to complete your garment.

  2. lbeanss | | #2

    Have you tried using a rotary cutter? I am also new to sewing ( Feb 21) and I am way more accurate using a 45mm rotary cutter and the Fiskars foldable self healing mat and metal washers as pattern weights. I'm not sure what you mean by, "fluffing".

    Also are you ironing your fabric? I get, "janky" cut edges whenever I have wrinkled fabric or my blade is dull.

    1. user-7907503 | | #4

      Thanks I'll have to try the rotary! Sorry for the poor description, the pattern kinda balloons up so it's not flush with the fabric

      1. user-7915310 | | #13

        I'm not sure I would switch to a rotary for garment layout. Those curves can be a bear to cut with a rotary cutter! Don't be afraid to use lots of pins when you're laying out your pattern. As long as your fabric won't have permanent holes from pinning (satins, leathers--test on a corner if you're not sure) I get the pattern straight on the grainline, then pin it in place on the printed grainline. I then smooth the pattern out from that point of stability and pin around the perimeter, in the seam allowance. Also, I keep my hand on the pattern near where I'm cutting, which helps to keep the fabric flat.
        The best advice I can give you is know that it won't be perfect the first time. Use each mistake as a learning opportunity, and don't be afraid to ask questions! Press as you go--it makes a huge difference in how your garment goes together. Find a group of sewists in your town--I've been sewing for a very long time and still learn new things from these talented people. Good luck on your sewing journey and enjoy the process!

  3. FrancesC | | #3

    I hope I'm interpreting your first question correctly.
    I just cut to separate the pattern pieces, then cut them out precisely when cutting the fabric. I have always done it that way right back to when I started sewing but I knew someone who always cut out pattern precisely before pinning it to the fabric. So I think you could do it either way. But see my comments below.

    I would also cut just to the outside of the pattern outline. Then if you re-use your pattern, you will be able to see the pattern edge more easily.

    When pinning the fabric, use a weight while you get the pattern correctly aligned with the grain line. then pin the top and bottom edge. Carefully smooth the pattern on one side and use a weight if you need to keep it flat then pin top and bottom then fill in between. Do the same with the other side. Working from the centre to the outside edge allows you to push the air from between the fabric and the pattern.

    About cutting. Try to stand so that you are reaching in front of yourself to cut. Make sure the fabric with pattern is flat and smooth. Use long smooth cuts not short, choppy ones. As you move along, make sure the fabric stays unwrinkled. Shift the fabric, or shift yourself so that you remain in a good position for cutting.

    I don't remember any one thing that wish I had known when I started to sew but learning anything takes practice. Start with simple things, learn to read the pattern instructions, get a good book on sewing, take lessons if you can. Keep trying!

    1. user-7907503 | | #5

      Thanks for the info! Didn't think about using weights. Have to raid the BFs fishing gear

  4. user-7762799 | | #6

    If I understand you first question correctly, I separate the pattern pieces. cutting away excess bllank paper so that it doesn't cause problems with the most advantageous pattern piece placement. There is no need at all to cut the pattern pieces precisely before pinning the pattern pieces to the fabric.

    I don't remember having problems with pattern pieces ballooning when pinning them to the fabric. Perhaps a few pinpricks to the pattern pieces before pinning would solve this problem.

    Sewing advice: Wash and dry the fabric pieces as you will do for the finished garment before cutting. Do this more than once with rayon, a fabric that does shrink a lot; I would suggest doing it three times. Do not forget to preshrink interfacing too. I personally abhor iron-on interfacing, which can shrink unpredictably, causing bubbles that can't be removed in the interfaced pieces. The glue can also come through the fashion fabric if a hot iron is used when pressing your garment. Non-woven interfacing can pill and disintegrate with time. It's a bit more trouble, but sew-in, woven interfacing is what I use except in very, very unusual circumstances.
    Cut your fabric according to the "with nap" layout. Sometimes the nap is very subtle, but once the pieces are sewn together it becomes glaringly obvious.
    Study the fitting problems you have, and make sure you understand what they are. I've made many mistakes in the past because I misunderstood the nature of my fitting issues.
    Use the best quality of thread and needles, including hand-sewing needles. Learn to use a thimble, and take care with any hand stitching. It's OK to take time to do things just right; ultimately, it takes less time than undoing and redoing something badly done.

  5. allprojectsgreatsmal | | #7

    My trick for cutting accurate patterns is to print them on heavy cardstock then attach fusible fleece to the back. The fleece prevents the fabric and pattern from moving while giving the rotary blade something to ride up against.

  6. user-7851521 | | #9

    On Question 2. That's a bigger problem with bulky fabrics like fleece, heavy wools.
    On straight lines I like my rotary cutter along side a long ruler, then scissors on tight curves.

  7. user-7888162 | | #10

    I will post this but the idea is not for everybody, but what ideas are ? I made quilts for several decades but when I went back to apparel sewing my workroom was suddenly too small for cutting out patterns especially tunics for my size 14 daughter.
    My husband has many sawhorses and sizes of plywood in his workshop. We set up sawhorses for my ease of cutting height. But when I tried to cut on plywood it wasnt smooth enough. I had foam board which I had used as an idea board for quilting. It was very smooth and the wonderful thing I discovered was I did not have to weave the pins into the pattern/fabric sandwich. They held just fine poking them straight down through the sandwich and into the foam board an inch or so.
    Another benefit was I could rotate the foam board and not have to be an octopus to cut the far edges of the fabric.
    And when sewing with jersey that insists on curling at the edges I can pin the edges out flat on the foam board before pining the pattern. Saves on bad words.
    Like I said, not for everyone. I just happened to have what was needed. But the foamboard is cheap and you could cut it in half and put it on a kitchen table.

    I do not care for fiscar scissors. I bought some from Japan. They are about 20 per cent more but cut very straight no matter what the fabric is.

    Keep asking questions. Sewing is fun but there is a long learning curve.

  8. Jamesjordan | | #11

    Hiya! It's great to finally meet you! I'll do my best to assist you. 1. Depending on the pattern manufacturer, you cut on the provided line (which is the most usual) or add your seam allowance. If the seam allowance is incorporated, it will be included in the pattern instructions. If that's the case, simply cut the line and you're set to go! 2. Are you referring to tissue paper patterns that you purchase? If this is the case, I generally transfer the design to a more durable material (I like polypropylene, or pattern webbing). This allows me to draw several sizes without having to cut the tissue. The thicker the material you choose to trace it on, the less it will puff up.

  9. User avater
    GrandmaJudie | | #12

    Hi, happy to meet you! As you can see from all the answers you are getting, there is no wrong way to do this, only some better than others. You will get as many methods as you will people willing to help! I can throw another one at you for cutting out without ballooning. I've been sewing for nearly 60 years, and found that for me, a combination of weights and pins is most helpful. I don't bother with cutting out another pattern, I just use the tissue pattern with any alterations marked on it. I weigh the pattern down on the fabric and arrange the pieces the way I want them, then smooth the air out from underneath the tissue toward an edge. I pin that edge, placing pins about 3 or 4 inches apart, perpendicular to the cutting line. (Parallel to the line warps both the fabric and pattern along the edge and never really results in a straight line). Smoothing the pattern down on the fabric then weighing it down before pinning seems to be key for me. I use this method of attaching pattern to fabric for everything I cut out, whether by scissors or rotary. And the one tip I think might be most important in every stage of your project, and every project you do? Take your time. It's not a race. Avoid having to go back and do it again.

    Whatever you do, enjoy it for its own sake.

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