Other posts in this series: All about Patterns, All about Fabrics, How to Dye Silk for Fabric Skating Skirts, Altering Your Growing Skater's Figure Skating Dress, Laying out the Pattern.
Like adjusting the pattern and laying it out, cutting is one of those unglamorous steps that you shouldn’t rush. I have my cutting table in the center of my front room, a movie in the DVD player, two stools, one on either side of the table, and plenty of good light.
If you haven’t copied, adjusted and laid out your pattern yet, you need to do that first. Instructions assume that you’ve done that.
Make sure your shears or rotary cutter is sharp. Never let your kids or husband run off with your sewing scissors to cut paper, plastic, or sheet metal. I buy a ton of cheap scissors and plant them in every room of the house, sometimes two pair. This prevents anyone getting the ridiculous idea of using my good Ginghers for anything. I even keep those cheap scissors in my sewing room's scissor drawer, just in case anyone gets the very dumb idea of grabbing my Ginghers for something. I buy the scissors at the back-to-school sales in August, when they're at a deep discount. Ginghers, however, are never cheap.
If you don't remember the last time you've had your scissors sharpened, it's time to take them in. Call your sewing store to find out who does them and how long you'll have to be parted from your scissors.
- Sharp shears
- Rotary cutter and cutting mat (optional)
- Sharp snips
- Tailor’s chalk or disappearing fabric marker
- Make sure everything's flat. Fabric and pattern pieces need to be as flat as possible against the table. If they’re not, unpin, re-adjust, and re-pin. You’ll be wasting your time if the fabric is lumpy. It won’t fit right.
- Cut along the pattern cut lines. If you’re using shears, keep the bottom blade as flat against the table as practical. Try to cut very smoothly and do not lift up the fabric as you cut. If you’re using a rotary cutter, make sure your mat is under your pattern pieces. Roll the blade like a pizza cutter along the pattern’s cut lines.
- Cut notches. When you arrive at a notch, stop. Using your snips, snip along the triangle and up past the triangle’s point. The idea here is that you’ll extend the triangle’s side to about double its size. Come from the other direction to cut the other side of the triangle. You’ll be making a big X in the fabric. The reason you’re doing this is so that you won’t have to lift the fabric. If you need room for your shears to cut along the rest of the cutting line, use your snips to cut a few inches. Those inches will give you room to use your shears. (Note: sometimes seamstresses will cut through the notch and make a little snip into the seamline at the center of the notch. I do this in regular garment sewing where I have a more generous 5/8-inch seam allowance. With skating dresses, I rarely have that much of a seam allowance, so I just cut the triangles instead of risking cutting past the seam allowance.)
- Leave it on the table. When you have your piece cut, don't move it yet. Remember those marking holes you reinforced with paper tape when you adjusted and traced your pattern? This is a great time to use your tailor’s chalk or disappearing fabric marker to mark the spot. If you’re using the marker, remember that you can’t iron over the mark because it will become permanent.
- Unpin the pattern piece. I usually fold the piece and the fabric in half and stack them in order according to the pattern piece’s number or letter. That way, they’ll be in order when I want to sew them and I can refer to the pattern piece if I have questions.
- Finish cutting all pieces. Mark, unpin, fold, and stack.
- Keep some of your scraps. You’ll want them to practice on when it comes to sewing seams. If you have a serger, they’re great for running through the machine to make sure that your loops aren’t too loopy. I keep just a few scraps and throw the rest away - unless I so much fabric that I might be able to cut out a skirt panty, skirt, or extra pattern piece if I mess something up.
Next time: sewing seams.
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