Clothing Pattern Preparation

Clothing Pattern Question - My co-worker and I were having a discussion this morning about what we do to prepare a pattern before we start cutting the fabric. I was taught to cut out each pattern piece before I place it on the fabric to be cut. I also iron the pattern piece before I pin it to the fabric. She does a rough cut around the pattern piece and then pins it to the fabric. She only cuts once.

We are wondering what others do to prepare the pattern before it is placed on the fabric for the cut?

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I went to college for fashion design so my technique will be quite different. I never, ever cut a commercial pattern. Each piece for the chosen size is carefully traced onto tracing paper along with any notations (notches, grain line, how many pieces to cut, etc). It is much easier to cut fabric accurately if you leave some paper, about an inch, all the way round the pattern piece. Pin to fabric, then cut both paper and fabric along the line. Yes, that is harder on your good scissors but it is worth it for accuracy.
Each size copied for the pattern is stored in a separate envelop, the original stored carefully in case another size is needed.
I iron all pieces of paper flat before pinning as well. I also pin parallel to the cutting line rather that through it so pins don’t need to be removed as you cut.

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I prefer the cut once method b/c I find it easier to follow the lines when I’m cutting them; I’m also ridiculous & keep all the edges I cut off commercial patterns so I can piece together other sizes later if I have to.

That said, I also do a lot of modifying (If I’ve ever sewn a commercial pattern entirely as written it was kid clothes) and generally use chalk if I need to adjust a line I can’t eyeball. I also pattern early medieval stuff (all straight lines except some hems & necklines) straight onto the fabric w/ chalk & a yardstick, so my pattern is a tiny sketch on a piece of paper with the measurements that apply to me instead of the fabric.

Eta: oh, and I’ve been drifting towards pattern weights rather than pins when there’s nothing too fiddly to cut.

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How I was taught and how I now actually do it is totally different. Since I only sew clothing for myself anymore, I don’t need to worry about all the sizes.

I cut around the pieces leaving an inch or so all around the pieces, iron flat , pin, and then cut through paper and fabric. I cut all my notches outward and then use tailor tacks for any other markings. I rarely use a pattern more than once but just in case, I write notes on the pattern or envelope…make this longer, widen this sleeve, etc.

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That is the beauty of transcribing a pattern to your own paper. You can modify it and trace it again to get a new pattern. In school we used pattern blocks which are the basic shape of any garment (shirt, skirt, pant), traced onto rough brown paper, pattern altered, final draft traced onto tracing paper before making a muslin. Any adjustments are drawn right on the muslin then transferred to the brown paper draft which is then retraced and sewing into a new muslin until the fit is perfect. Final garment creation is last, this may include more alterations depending on fabric drape etc. It’s quite the lengthy process but all those steps are supposed to be for a pattern that would be made many times over commercially. I cut out a few steps when making one off clothes but tracing out a final pattern on my own tissue is a given. I prefer the notation we learned in school to what is written on commercial patterns.

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Bookmarking this thread because patterns are exactly what I need! I have only started making my own clothes seriously with 2 pairs of pants and 3 skirts (from the same pattern each), and I can only stress how important notes are! On the pattern or envelope. Do not try to remember, no matter how obvious it seems.

Me for example, I need to adjust leg length because one is longer than the other thanks to scoliosis. I started out with two cm, now I find that I either need two inches, or I lengthened (or shortened, that StyleArc Linda has legs for miles!) the wrong leg. Then again maybe I’m the only one who cannot remember which leg is which… :woman_shrugging:t2:
And maybe one day when I know what I’m doing I’ll even start thinking about adjusting the waist height on one side, too…

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I hand smooth the pattern, hold it down with various things lying around the room (maybe someday I’ll remember NOT to use the scissors as a weight), cut out and clip markings.

But I mostly make fairly loose clothes, and cut fitted garments more carefully.

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I have a basic dress pattern that I made this way, it’s basically my body shape in a pattern. It’s traced from brown paper onto cardboard.

I know the basics about pattern making but the patterns I make myself, based upon my own measurements, are never perfect because they are 2D, not 3D. I draw my own pattern block based on my measurements onto tracing paper, compare this to my cardboard body shape and make adjustments on the tracing paper.

Then I sometimes trace details from commercial patterns, for example a neckline or a certain sleeve shape, sometimes I draw them myself. My sewing teacher is actually not extremely happy about my way of doing things because I’m not following The Rules of our method of patternmaking, but this gives me the best/fastest results. I really don’t have time to make muslins for every new design. I can only do the basics, skirts, dresses, pants, collars. I don’t do complex tailored designs.

I actually didn’t know people cut into commercial patterns, aren’t those usually on super thin paper? I thought everyone traced them, why else do all fabric stores have so many rolls in stock?

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I trace the pieces onto the paper they use in a Dr’s office, it’s stronger then tissue but still easy to see thru. You can also pin it to your dress form to make alterations. Then I use pattern weights and the small blade rotary cutter on a cutting mat to cut the pattern pieces out. I also use a pattern notcher to mark my notches. I prefer the notcher rather then scissors because I won’t accidentally cut my notches to deep.
I get the exam paper and notcher on Amazon. The roll of paper lasts forever.

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Oh, I know how it’s supposed to work; I’m just far too lazy since I can’t remember ever actually using the edges! I just don’t like the idea of losing information that might potentially be helpful. :laughing:

Likewise, though I gave up tailor tacks long ago b/c they just took too much time. (Other than the ironing, this is how I learned from my mother.)

Would it be easier to cut them both in the longer length & just adjust the hems?

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Maybe a stupid question, but if you don’t do tailor tacks, how do you know where to sew? I don’t use them if I’m making PJ pants of something but I really need tailor tacks to show me where to sew for anything that needs to have a shape.

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That’s what I do, I like easier. I have to really as I cut two layers at once.

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If it is something casual and washable, I have been known to use the tracing wheel and paper. I also have various marking pens that bleed right through the pattern onto the fabric…but they disappear after a bit and unless I sew quickly, I lose those markings…maybe that is what @thanate does as well?

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I have a bunch of tiny chalk nubbins that live in my box of pins, so I mostly use those.

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I forgot about those! I also have them…and a supposed “holder” that never worked… :smiley:

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I’m sorry, I still don’t get it. I have marking pens and chalk and all that stuff but that only covers one side of the fabric, right? Unless there’s a magic trick I don’t know yet. I just spent ages tacking these (can you say that as a verb in English? In Dutch it’s called lussen - literally looping) and I just don’t see how I could get the same result with a marking pen? I could draw them on this side but then I wouldn’t know where to stitch the dart on the other side.

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I am confused about what you are doing. Do you mean to say that you make a line of stitching around the entire pattern to show where to machine sew? I have never heard of doing this, it’s really a lot of extra work.

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Yes - tacking is a verb in English - both for sewing and sailing :+1:

I wouldn’t tack those darts, I would either use tailor tacks or dress makers carbon paper and a marking wheel.
Another way would be to mark that side with chalk/marker pen then remove pattern and place on other piece of fabric and mark that one. This works better if the pattern piece has a built in seam allowance.

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I cut out the individual pattern pieces, lay them on the fabric, trace around with a pen, add the darts or other notches, then cut the fabric. Sometimes cutting through more than one layer, depending on what I am making and how many of them. Seam allowance is 1/4 inch so no actual sewing lines are drawn, unless for darts, etc. I can never get a cut pattern back into the envelope in a nicely folded manner. All cut and uncut pieces are then placed in a ziplock type bag with the pattern envelope and any notes. For pattern weights, I use bags of dried beans or lentils, or sometimes canned goods.

Isn’t the seam allowance for most commercial patterns 5/8?

I use two pieces of carbon down and use my tracing wheel to mark the wrong side for all my darts all at once.

@Immaculata How to mark your pattern

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