Monday, January 21, 2013

Hollyburn Sew-Along - Cutting Layout and Cutting

Welcome to the next post in the Hollyburn Skirt Sew-along! After all our decisions and preparation, today we actually start the process of making our skirt; will be talking about cutting layouts, and will cut out our fabric.

Incase you've missed any, here are all the posts so far:

Inspiration (Part 1)
Inspiration (Part 2)
Choosing a view
Choosing and Buying Fabric
Changing the Length
An Interview with Tasia
Pattern Alteration - Removing the Pockets
Pattern Alteration - Piping on your waistband
Prewash and Prepare Fabric
Thoughts on Grading Up in Size
Choices to make before starting to sew

With cutting layouts I recommend first taking a look at what Tasia has suggested for the cutting layout on the instruction sheet; it's always a good place to start. But remember, the suggested layouts are general ones for standard fabric widths, and for all sizes; you may be able to come up with a more efficient layout for the size, skirt length and fabric width you're doing/using.

I thought as an example of choosing and modifying the cutting layout I would talk through the process I went through when cutting out myself. First I measured the width of my fabric, it was about 50" wide - not a standard width.

As my fabric wasn't a standard width I took a look at the two suggested layouts:

The 44/45" Layout:

The 59/60" Layout:

Looking at the cutting layouts you can see that the key difference is that on the wider fabric width you can fit the skirt pieces when it's folded in half, whereas on the narrower fabric width you can't. So the key thing for me was to find out whether the skirt pieces fit on the half width of the fabric...

Thankfully the skirt pieces fit just in the the half-width of the fabric! Hooray! So I followed the 59/60" cutting layout.

Remember to make sure you've got space for all of your pieces before you start cutting, as you can't re-try a different layout once you've started cutting! Also make sure you've got all of your pieces. I usually like to tick off on the list at the beginning of the instructions. If you're planning on including button tabs or belt loops remember those pattern pieces too.

When preparing to cut out your pieces a really important thing to do is to make sure that your pattern pieces are cut on grain; this means to line up the grain-line arrows on the pattern pieces with the grain of the fabric. It's important to pay attention to the grain of the fabric when you cut, as if you cut it slightly off your skirt might not hang correctly. Do you want to know more about grain-line? There's a great post about it here.

I like to use my plastic grided rulers to check the grain, but you can also use your tape measure - all you really need to do is make sure that the grain-line arrow is parallel to the selvedge/fold - ie it is the same distance away along its length.

Once you've carefully positioned your pattern pieces on the fabric, the next step is to cut out your pieces. The two main options are:
  • Pin the pattern pieces to the fabric and cut around with scissors.
  • Use pattern weights to keep the pattern pieces still, and cut the fabric out with a rotary cutter.
It's completely up to you how you choose to go about cutting the fabric pieces out, the fabric you're using can impact that decision. I usually use the scissor method for nearly all fabric types except the really slippery ones or fabrics that are very shifty or stretchy. There's an article on the two methods of cutting here if you want to learn more. 

After you've cut out your pattern pieces you'll need to mark the notches onto your fabric pieces. I do this one of two ways, depending on the fabric I'm using. Most fabrics I will cut a little nick in the edge of the fabric piece, about 2-3mm long (~1/8"):


However this isn't appropriate for all fabrics - if the fabric that easily unravels or is particularly delicate I mark the notches with my marking pencil. For the linen I used in my examples I used this method as it's prone to unraveling.

For marking fabric I use a Sewline ceramic pencil which I LOVE. I have pink and green leads and that combination has served me well for all the fabrics I've used so far. 

Quick Tip: the standard for notches is to have a double notch on back seams, and single notches on front seams. Remembering that is useful for identifying your pattern pieces.

Now fuse your interfacing!
You'll also need to cut out interfacing. For all views you will need to interface the waistband, and if you're making the button tabs you'll need to interface them too. The best way to interface your pieces is to "block fuse" the interfacing onto the fabric before you cut out the pieces to the shape of the pattern pieces.

To do this, all you need to do is cut out a piece of fabric a bit bigger than what's needed for the pattern pieces, then fuse it to a matching piece of interfacing. Remember, when fusing the interfacing to the fabric PRESS with the iron; lift the iron when you need to move it, don't drag it along the fabric or your may get strain in the fabric or interfacing while you fuse it on. Once your interfacing is fused to the fabric you cut out the pattern piece as you did with all the rest. Rather than re-inventing the wheel, here is an example tutorial on block fusing.

Block fusing your interfacing is a better method than cutting out the interfacing and the fabric separately and fusing them after cutting, as your resulting piece of fabric/interfacing will be much more accurate to the pattern, rather than risking getting it stretched or distorted during the fusing process. Also, it's easier and less fiddly!

Quick Tip: When fusing the interfacing try using a piece of grease-proof paper to shield your iron from any of the sticky-ness on the interfacing. There's nothing worse than getting that stuff on the plate of your iron!

Are you Lining your skirt?
If you're lining you're pattern you'll also have to cut out your lining pieces too - for the lining you need to cut out the skirt back and modified skirt front pieces that we prepared the other day.

Are you using the 44/45" cutting layout?
Did you spot that with the 44/45" cutting layout the fold is actually perpendicular to the selvedges (rather than parallel)?

If you're using this layout, be sure to double check that your fabric is not directional - ie if you look at it from opposite directions does it look identical? If not, it's directional. A fabric can be directional either in the weave or the print.

If your fabric is directional, folding the fabric like this will give you half of your pieces upside down. to avoid this, cut along the fold, and rotate one of the pieces 180 degrees so that they're both the same way up.

Want to remove the centre front seam?
Were you planning on removing the centre front seam on the skirt? This can definitely be done, and with some fabrics it might look better without the seam breaking up the fabric. If you want to do this you'll need to cut both the both the front and back skirt pieces differently (even though the centre back seam will remain).

Here are the steps you'll need to follow:

  • Mark your centre front seam allowance (5/8"/1.5cm) on the skirt front. You will be cutting 1 skirt front piece on the fold. The marked line along the centre front is where you line up the fold.
  • Remark the grain line on the skirt back piece so that it is parallel to the centre back seam.
  • Play around with the pattern pieces to find a new cutting layout where the skirt front is on the fold, and the skirt back is oriented correctly with it's new grain line.

Any questions or comments? I'll be back tomorrow with my next post where we actually start sewing!

Missed any of the sew-along posts, or just want to re-read them? You can find the full list here.


  1. re the sticky stuff on interfacing & getting it stuck on your iron ...

    I've discovered that it comes off again reasonably easily if you iron (fairly immediately) onto cooking greaseproof paper.

    I recently pressed some fabric that melted (ahem, may have had temperature on too high...) and as that piece had interfacing on it, I then also had interfacing glue melted onto my iron. I panicked (a quite reasonable reaction, I thought) and just put the iron straight down onto some greaseproof paper which was hanging about (I use it as pressing 'cloth') and all the gunk disappeared as if I had never f****d up in the first place. Awesome!

  2. Hi,
    Just wondering if it's possible to show a picture detailing the instructions for removing the centre front seam?

  3. I am sewing my second Hollyburn skirt using your Sew Along! I am so grateful you did this sew-along and you did an awesome job with being detailed and your wonderful pictures. This one of the best sew-alongs I have participated in! Thank you!


Comments make me smile :)

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