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Wally's Wisdom

How do I make the most of my fabric?

Posted in: Creativity & Mindset • September 30, 2016

Dear Seamwork Team,

Do you have any tricks for making the most of yardage? Are there tricks to arrange your pattern pieces so you can use the least amount of fabric possible?

Fabric Strategist


Dear Fabric Strategist,

With a little creativity you can save a lot of fabric. There are both traditional and non-traditional methods for less fabric consumption depending on your own personal taste and style. Keep in mind that how much play you have with a pattern layout will always depend on which size you are sewing, fabric width and directional fabric/pattern alignment.

For a more traditional approach, I recommend what I refer to as “opening up the pattern pieces.” Typically in home sewing, a piece of fabric is folded in half with many of the pieces being cut on the fold. While this method saves time, it does not always save fabric.

In ready-to-wear garment production, cutting on the fold does not exist because it is very wasteful. I worked in RTW production before starting at Colette, and the thought of cutting on the fold seemed “cray” to me.

For patterns that you love and would like to sew multiple times, consider doing yourself a huge favor and creating a new pattern piece by tracing over a pattern piece that is cut on the fold and taping this onto your already existing pattern. This allows you to place all of the pattern pieces on fabric laying flat (not folded in half) very close together and you have the freedom of rearranging the pieces as many times as you’d like before cutting.

The “quick and dirty” way of doing this same process is to use a chalk wheel or tailor's chalk to trace one side of the pattern piece before flipping it over (make sure you mark the center of the piece with small lines so you know where to line up the flipped side). The downside of the quick process is that once you mark on the fabric, you will have a difficult time rearranging pieces to create the least amount of waste.

Now the fun begins! To save fabric I love to “think outside the box a bit.” While many sewists might consider it bold, one of my favorite parts of home sewing is that I get to set my own rules and create my own style.

When I’m sewing up a pattern that has panels or smaller pieces I try to go through my scraps and imagine which fabrics would compliment one another; keep fabric weight and stretch in mind, you don’t want to pair denim with a lightweight chiffon. A great example is the Selene skirt from Colette, try sewing it up with contrasting princess panels and waistband or just contrast pockets. If you have some extra Seamwork credits or prefer knits, consider the Florence bra and Geneva undies. I sewed a sweet pair of Seamwork Aires leggings from some active wear scraps I bought at a “fabric by the pound” sale.

Just remember, don’t be afraid to mix up your fabrics or get creative and stray from the cutting layout in the instructions!

Pugs and kisses,


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