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How to Cut and Mark Fabric

Learn how to cut your pattern and fabric accurately.

Posted in: Tutorials & Techniques • October 2, 2019

Learn how to cut and mark accurately for easier construction and better fit.

Preparing the Fabric and Pattern

Pre-treating fabric is an essential step in creating a garment that retains its quality through wash after wash. Fabric care changes significantly from fiber to fiber, but as a rule of thumb, pre-wash fabric using the same method that you intend to wash the finished garment. Of course, this rule has its limitations. For delicate fabrics or fibers prone to shrinking (such as wool, rayon, cotton, and linen) consider washing cold and hanging to dry. Once your fabric has been washed and is thoroughly dry, give it a final press to remove any wrinkles.

The cutting layout (included in the pattern instructions) will tell you whether fabric should be  folded in  half or  whether you should cut it on a single layer. If your pattern is cut on the fold, you can fold your fabric selvage to selvage, alining the grainline as illustrated above.

Just like your fabric, your pattern should be  wrinkle-free. Give it a  light press with a  dry iron to  smooth out any wrinkles. Cut your paper pattern carefully, cutting just on  the inside of  the cutting lines for your size.

Layout and Cutting

The type of  fabric you use may require a  layout other than what’s shown in the pattern instructions. Take a  look to  see if your fabric appears different when it’s held upside down or  crossways. Solid fabrics with a  nap or  pile (like velvet) will look different at  these angles, and so will one-way printed designs. If this is  the case, you will have to  use a  one-way layout, in  which all the pattern pieces have their top end facing the same direction.

Arrange all pattern pieces according to the pattern layout. Measure the grainlines. Check that the arrow on  the pattern indicating the grainline is  aligned with the grain of  your fabric. To do this, measure from each end of  the arrow to  the fold or  the selvage. If the measurement is  the same at  both ends of  the arrow, then your pattern piece is  parallel and aligned  correctly. You can use a clear ruler or a measuring tape for longer measurements.

Hold your pattern down with weights. While many people use pins to  hold their pattern in  place, using too many pins can pinch and distort your fabric, and significantly affect the final shape and fit. Pattern weights are a  great alternative. They have the added benefit of  making your pieces easy to  position and reposition. You can use just about anything small and heavy as  a  pattern weight, such as large metal  washers.

Next, use fabric shears or a rotary cutter to cut around all pattern pieces. Be careful not to trim away any of the paper pattern as you cut.

Transfer Marks

Before removing your paper pattern from your cut fabric, you will want to transfer all construction marks. Transferring all of  the construction marks from your pattern will help you sew your garment more accurately. The pattern instructions will refer to  these marks frequently, providing a  vital link between the instructions you read and what you see in  front of  you when sewing.

To transfer the markings, push a  pin through your pattern and fabric at  the point you want to  mark. Then just lift the paper pattern and mark the fabric at  the exact point the pin is  stuck  through. Lift the fabric slightly and mark the other side of the fabric before pulling out your pin.

You can use your scissors to  mark points that occur along the edges of  your pattern pieces, such as  notches or the edges of darts. Just make a  small snip in  the seam allowance at  these points.

Put your new skills to the test. Try sewing:

The York has few pattern pieces, making it a quick project to cut.


Put your cutting skills to the test with the Reggie dress.


The Kenedy dress’s simple shape makes it easy to cut.


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