How to read a sewing pattern part 3: Cutting out your pieces

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I'm back today with the next steps in reading a sewing pattern! If you haven't read the first two posts, you can find Part 1 here and Part 2 here. Today's topic is getting to the fun stuff: how to cut out your pieces. 

How to read a sewing pattern part 3: cutting out your pieces, by www.pincutsewstudio.com

If you're looking at that first sheet of pattern instructions, it may look like Greek and you may feel completely overwhelmed. I'm going to try to explain what all of that stuff means, which of it is important and which of it you can just ignore. (Spoiler, most of it you can ignore.) 

For today's example, I'm not going to use the girls' shorts pattern I've used thus far in the series because it's almost two simple for this step! I think they've geared that pattern more toward beginners and children, which is great! But chances are, your first chosen pattern will be more complicated than that and will include more than the two pieces my shorts pattern has. So I'm going to choose a pattern I've made recently, Simplicity 8601.

Simplicity pattern 8601

The first page of instructions includes some basic terms and your seam allowance, we'll get to that in Part 4. For now, you need to find the pattern pieces of the view you're going to make. For my shirt pattern, I like View C. So you can see in the "Cutting Layouts" section, I've found "C Top" and it tells me I need pattern pieces 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, & 8. I'm going to open up my pattern tissue and find those pieces and cut around them roughly. You do NOT need to cut them out on the lines! Doing so is a waste of time. Your fabric scissors are fine on this tissue and you can just pin the piece to your fabric as-is, cutting on the lines as you cut your fabric. 

How to read sewing patterns by www.pincutsewstudio.com

Pro Tip: I usually don't even refer to these Cutting Layouts. I simply open the pattern tissues and find the pieces that say "C" or whatever view I'm making. Once you gain confidence, all of this will be intuitive, but for now, if you're a beginner, you will probably find these layouts helpful. 

You'll notice many pieces share pieces between views. The front piece may be the front for all views (like my front piece below). Also, some smaller pieces, like facings, may have a pattern piece for each size. Refer to my last post about choosing your size if you're unsure on that! 

Reading sewing patterns by www.pincutsewstudio.com

Once you've found all your pieces, you need to lay them out on your fabric. We almost always cut patterns out with the fabric folded selvedge to selvedge. The selvedge edge is that finished edge that doesn't ravel. So you fold the fabric in half lengthwise so those selvedges meet up and you get a nice folded edge. The cut edges may not match up when the selvedge does because the person who cut your fabric may not have cut it straight, but it's really only important that the selvedges match up because this is how you'll be sure and cut your pieces out "on grain", which basically means the fibers running through your fabric will be straight and not slanted, which matters in the way the finished garment hangs on the body. Below is a photo of what selvedge edges look like on a few different fabrics. 

Selvedge edge examples. Series on reading sewing patterns by www.pincutsewstudio.com

Another thing you'll notice is that fabrics have more stretch going one direction than they do the other. The stretch runs the opposite direction that the selvedge runs (almost always) and you always want the stretch going across your body, not up and down. There are exceptions to this, like swimsuit knits which stretch every which-way and fleece, which has no grain, to name a few, but the rule is still true of most fabrics. 

I hope I'm not bogging you down in details, but I have to add one thing! Just as we talked about how the back of the pattern has yardage requirements for either 45" or 60" widths of fabric, the cutting layouts cover those same bases. Choose the diagram that matches your width of fabric, obviously. 

Let's move on. Pay attention to which pattern pieces need cut on the fold and how many of each piece you need to cut. You can see in that first photo at the beginning of this post that my cutting diagram for view C places the front piece on the fold along with the sleeve front and facing and shows me how best to fit my pieces onto the amount of fabric the back of the envelope said it required. Interestingly, (or confusingly?) my front and sleeve pieces have seams and don't need cut on the fold. I assume they mean to cut that fold open after you cut your pieces, but that's dumb. I'd place them a bit away from the fold and cut them in two pieces. Most tops, however, will have the front cut on the fold! See below, the facing in the photo on the right does say to place on the fold, whereas my front piece on the left says "center front seam" on that straight edge and to cut two. (You're cutting two at once, because your fabric is folded, remember?) 

How to cut out sewing patterns by www.pincutsewstudio.com

Pro Tip: I always order a bit more than the envelope says, because these diagrams have the pattern pieces squeezed into a pretty tight fit! Fabric often gets cut crooked when you buy it, which takes some inches away, and they also may shrink in the wash (always prewash and dry your fabric!) so I just like to have a buffer. Not to mention, I sometimes make cutting mistakes! 

Finally, pin your pattern pieces on (don't get crazy, just a pin in each corner, on curves, a couple on long edges) and cut out your correct size, that's all there is to it! I like these kind of pins best because they're long and sturdy, but another option is to use pattern weights like these. Also, I often cut patterns with a rotary cutter and mat to save time. (This works best when the pattern tissue has already been cut to size). I have several of this set for my classes. A rotary cutter and ruler is a good investment for anyone who sews! 

Some of your pattern pieces may say to also cut from interfacing. Interfacing is an iron on stabilizer often used in parts like facings, collars, button plackets, etc.... and the back of your pattern envelope tells you how much you need along with your fabric requirements. I like this knit kind best and you can buy yardage of it at your fabric store, although that blot from Amazon is a good deal. Here's an example on my facing piece where you can see below it that it tells you what to cut it from:

Tips for cutting out patterns by www.pincutsewstudio.com

Here is my finished top made from Simplicity 8601, although I decided to eliminate the sleeves and lower the neckline. I do sure love the tie waist tops this season! You can see all the things I've made recently in my last post if you missed it. It's always fun to see what others are making! 

Simplicity 8601 by Nikki Schreiner

Here's a list of the installments of this series I have so far!

Part 1: Choosing a pattern

Part 2: Making sense of sizing

Let me know if there are steps I'm missing or questions you have and I will address them in the last post of the series! 

Cheers and Happy Sewing 

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Kids Can Sew Shorts! Tips for sewing clothing with kids

This post contains affiliate links, which mean that while I am not paid to promote certain items, I will earn a small commission should you purchase items through these links.  For more info, see my disclosure policy.

The weather is warming up and we've been making shorts! My afternoon sewing class on Mondays has been itching to make clothes, I could tell. This can be hard in a group setting, but pajama shorts were something I knew we could manage and I'm so glad we did! 

Tips for teaching kids to sew clothes

Natalie made up a pair just for fun using Simplicity 8401 and it's such a simple pattern, I knew it would be perfect for my students. Plus, it includes a matching doll shorts pattern! 

This pattern takes just one yard of fabric and has only two pattern pieces! I've made pajama shorts with sewing classes before and we used a Jalie pattern that was much more complicated (although very nice). This Simplicity pattern was easy to fit and easy to adjust by taking in the side seams if they were too large. 

Here are a couple things I've learned when sewing clothing with kids: 

1. Size up. I either take measurements beforehand or ask their moms to send me the needed measurements so I'm prepared with the right sizes. It's easier to make smaller than to make bigger, so if someone is in between sizes, I go up!

2. Explain pattern sizing to them. Make sure they know that pattern sizes are different than ready-to-wear sizes. If you have a child who may be sensitive about the number of the size she is sewing, do what you can to make sure she knows that the number doesn't mean much. This can be hard, I know. To avoid the issue altogether, I've sometimes traced patterns and put only their names on them and NOT the size that I traced. Everyone gets their own pattern and no one has to dwell on what size it is. Instill in them that the beauty of sewing is that we can make things to fit our own unique bodies! My 13-year-old, who has a hard time finding dresses off the rack to fit her long and lean frame, sews a size 10 in patterns, but with a size 16 for length! 

Natalie made her Easter Dress this year! We used New Look pattern #D0917

Natalie made her Easter Dress this year! We used New Look pattern #D0917

3. Give them one step at a time. Sewing garments can seem very abstract to someone not used to it. When sewing with one of my own kids one on one, we do read the instructions and I help them understand step by step, but in a group setting I offer one step to the class at a time and we do our best to stay together. It seems like ages 12 and up are better able to understand pattern instructions than younger ones, in my experience. 

4. Let them choose fun fabrics. I try to provide everything we need for my classes, including fabric, but sometimes I do let them know they are welcome to bring their own if they want, and tell them exactly what to look for and where to find it. Who doesn't love going to pick out their own fabrics?? For those who don't, though, I keep a stocked stash of fun and trendy fabrics. For this shorts project, I added a few trims to my stash too. Although I already have a nice stash of laces, I was low on pom-pom fringe and I knew that's the one they would all likely want (I was right!)

5. Explain useful terms as you go. For example, when cutting, show them the arrow that goes with the grain line and with the selvedge, and why you want the stretch to go across your body, not up and down. Don't bog them down, but help them learn terms that will be useful for next projects, like hemming, edge stitching, basting, casing, seam allowance. That kind of thing. Help them learn the lingo and they'll better be able to attempt using patterns on their own! 

Sewing clothes with kids

I'm already brain storming more clothing projects because these girls really loved making something they could wear and most said this was their favorite project so far. Layla thinks circle skirts would be fun! I own the books #ootd and Girl's Guide to DIY Fashion and they both have some promising choices. I'll let you know what come up with! 

Cheers and Happy Sewing :)

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