Hopefully you’ve got your fabric and pattern all sorted out now, so it’s on to the fun part: cutting out your pattern pieces! This stage is worth really taking your time over, as it will be the foundation for your garment’s success (personally I see it as a good excuse to marathon episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer while I work).
My first step was to take a good look at my fabric. I could see pretty easily that the design is balanced (symmetrical) both horizontally and vertically, but I could also see that it’s uneven – i.e. it features rectangles rather than perfect squares. Just to make sure I folded a corner across the bias, and tried to match up the stripes. If the design had been even (square) then this would have been possible. However, although I could line up the edge of one stripe (the red line on fig. 1), the others soon became misaligned. This test confirmed that my tartan was uneven, but this wasn’t a problem – it just meant I had to be careful to cut all of my pattern pieces with the nap, which I had planned to do anyway (with the exception of the back yoke).
My next step was to ignore the layouts suggested on the pattern, because they all relied on doubling the fabric. Although I usually like anything that saves labour, with tartan fabric I prefer to use a single layer so I can be totally sure I’m cutting in the right place. This meant creating my own layout, but as long as you’re patient this isn’t too tricky. Handy tip: instead of pinning the paper on straight away, I traced the corners of each piece onto the fabric with chalk. This meant that I could easily adjust the placement of the pieces until I had a layout that worked well.
Obviously as I was no longer doubling my fabric I needed to trace second copies of some of the pieces (see fig. 2). With a bit of playing around I was able to be fairly economical with my fabric, whilst still making sure the patterns would match.
Front and Back
For both of these pieces I was careful to match the centre lines. On my fabric the dominant vertical stripes are the green ones. These have a very thin black line running down the centre, so I took this as my centre-line for every piece I cut out.
I also had to think about matching the horizontal stripes on the front and back pieces. Because the back piece is shorter at the top than the front (to allow the yoke to be attached), I decided to start matching from the bottom up, rather than top down (see fig. 3). Obviously the bust darts on my pattern mean that I lose the horizontal stripes just below the armhole, but it’s worth it while they last.
For these my main aim was to match the horizontal stripes on the sleeve with those running across the bust (from armhole to armhole). The bust darts mean that the horizontal stripes further down the sleeve don’t match those on the torso, but it doesn’t bother me too much (see fig. 4). I did almost forget to mirror my sleeve pattern the first time round – luckily I remembered in time!
I decided to cut this on the bias, just because I like the look. Obviously this is easier with an even (square) plaid, but with a bit of playing around you can also make an uneven plaid look good on the diagonal, though you wont be able to make it perfectly centred or symmetrical (see fig. 5).
Pinning & Cutting
Once I’d chalked all of the pattern pieces onto the fabric to create my layout, I could move on to pinning the actual paper pieces on and getting handy with the scissors.
Bonus tip: when you need two copies of a pattern piece, I find it’s easiest to cut only the first one out using the paper pattern. Transfer any markings and remove the paper, then you can use the fabric piece as a template instead (mirroring it where necessary – e.g. for the front and sleeves). This technique makes it much easier to pattern-match (see fig. 6). Make sure you transfer markings on to the second fabric piece too.
The rest of the pattern pieces aren’t too difficult to lay out and cut – just make sure you match any centre-lines (e.g. on the collar) with those on your front and/or back pieces.
In the next post we’ll get down to some actual sewing!
Follow these links to see the rest of the posts in this series: