Measure Twice Cut Once. A Cutting Tutorial.

by Shelly.

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Most of us have heard the advice “Measure Twice & Cut Once” and that is advice I’ll always listen to.  I’ll admit, I have sewn many a garments without taking an updated measurement and the creation ended up as a gift or tucked away out of sight. I found the best little tutorial online regarding taking proper measurements on the Sugardale Blog, take a look.

I have a class in March teaching the Rooibos dress by Colette patterns and I thought this would be a great pattern to help guide someone through proper cutting.  Colette patterns have accurate measurements which make for a terrific finished garment; they also use many commercial pattern terms and symbols, thus providing a great opportunity to learn some of them. 

Here are the most important symbols to know:

Solid Black Lines represent a cut line.  When patterns have multiple sizes you’ll need to look at how the black line is varied in pattern and  make sure to follow that line all the way around the pattern.   

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V-Shaped Notches illustrate where two pieces of a pattern will match up.  When cutting your pattern piece it is important to either mark your V's by sniping inside the seam allowance (be sure to keep you cut to a depth of 1/4 inch or less, otherwise you may not have the ease you need to make adjustments to your fit at a later time).  Most of the time you’ll find V's on curves so that the two pieces line up correctly.  If you see two V-notches do the same thing but twice.

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A solid line with two arrows pointing to a solid line this indicates a “fold” line.  Meaning you want to place the solid line along the fold of your fabric.  This creates one continuous piece once it's cut out, so there is no seam down the center.

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A Long line with an arrow at the top and the bottom indicates the grain of the fabric.  This is very important because the grain of the fabric defines how the garment will lay on your body.  Generally, the line will run parallel or perpendicular to the selvedge edge (that is the finished edge of the fabric, not the cut edge).  When the arrow runs diagonally across the pattern piece, it means that they would like you to cut on the bias for extra stretch.  

Dots. There are three things dots can mean: they can indicate where to begin stitching, indicate where a fastener of some sort (button, snap etc.) should be placed, or where two pattern pieces will be placed together.


Now that you know how to read the pattern symbols it’s time to cut out your pattern pieces.  If you see that your pattern is wrinkled use your iron to press it flat but make sure your iron is set on the lowest setting. Be sure to look at your pattern instructions for a cutting lay-out diagram. This will help insure that all the pieces fit on the fabric and that you have accounted for each piece. Also, it can help you make a bit more sense of the directional grain line markings. 

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For the Colette dress I was a size 10 for the bust and a size 8 for the hips so when I cut my pattern pieces I knew to cut out the size 10 for the bodice and midriff pieces.  For the skirt pieces I cut out a size 8.  If you are between sizes it is best to cut the larger size because you can always take your seams in as opposed to having a dress that is too small.  During the Rooibos class I will teach those students with multiple sizes how to ease these pieces together for a great fit.  

Before you lay your pattern pieces on the fabric fold your fabric so the “right” sides are together.  On some garments you will need to make chalk marks or fabric pen marks and most of the time you are sewing pieces inside out and you’ll want to be able to see these marks. When you have arranged your pattern pieces according to the guide in your pattern booklet the end result will look like this:

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Pin your pattern pieces down so that your pattern will not shift or move.  Some people like to use weights but I feel pins are more stable.  Make sure your fabric is smooth and flat so that your cutting is accurate.  

Remember when you come across a V shaped notch be sure and snip the V and when you see dots take your fabric pen and press directly onto the pattern and it will bleed through to your fabric.  If your making the Rooibos dress you’ll notice Long V symbols.  Place a straight pin so that it lines up with the V and mark the fabric with chalk.  I recommend the Clover Chaco-Liner Marker.  

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When you have darts or pleats on a pattern piece that is cut on the fold you need to mark both sides. To do this you’ll need to unpin the pattern flip it over (to reverse it, not turn it upside down) and place it on the other side of the fabric. 

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When you finish cutting all your pieces to your pattern lay them flat and double check that you have all the pieces you need. Keep the pattern pinned to your cut peices until you are ready to use them, this will help keep them organized and you will not loose track of small pieces as easily this way. 


Now I’m going to go sew up this gorgeous Colette dress and I’ll see you in class on March 10th & 17th from 6:30-9pm.