Cutting out your pattern and your fabric

Posted by on Sep 12, 2014 in Lessons, Pillow, Projects, Sewing | Comments Off on Cutting out your pattern and your fabric

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This is part three of a series designed to walk you through the process of hand sewing a pillow. You can visit this link to find a list of all the steps in order.

You’ve made your pattern. You’ve added seam allowance. Now it’s time for what you’ve been waiting for: you get to cut out your pillow today!

First thing’s first – let’s gather all of the materials you’re going to need:

  • Your pillow pattern
  • Paper scissors
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Your pillow fabric
  • Fabric scissors

Let’s start with the pattern. Use your paper scissors to cut out your pattern along the outside lines. If you’re uncertain about your cutting ability, cut out the pattern a little bit outside the lines then trim it down.

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Now, before you can go any further, you’ll need to iron your fabric. Remember that, before you bought it, that fabric was, most likely, residing on a bolt folded in half. The cutter at your fabric store then cut it, with the fold still intact and folded it neatly before you bought it. Even if you bought the fabric yesterday, it has creases that will hinder your ability to cut it in a straight line. Even though, this time we’re making a pillow, it’s always a good to be in the habit of ironing before cutting. Make sure your iron is at the right temperature for your fabric and iron the whole length and width of it, paying special attention to deep creases.

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Yes, this is my 11-year-old daughter ironing her fabric before making this pillow.

Now, lay out your fabric on your cutting surface and look at it – really look at it. Virtually every type of fabric has what’s called a “right” side and a “wrong” side. On printed fabrics, the right side is where the design has been printed while the wrong side appears faded. Basically, the wrong side is what is on the inside of a garment or object.

right and wrong sides

Several fabrics showing their right and wrong sides.

Though it’s not important on this particular project, I always make sure to pin my pattern onto the wrong side of fabric. The purpose of this should become apparent as we get into garment making. For now, fold your fabric in half leaving the wrong side on the outside.

folded fabric

Yes, I do realize I just had you iron the crease out of the middle.

Now, if you have a piece of fabric that’s larger than the minimum size listed in the materials section, you’re going to take a moment to look at that piece of fabric. My daughter’s first inclination was to put her pattern in the middle of the fabric which will cause a big hole in the middle when you unfold it.

A diagram of poorly placed pattern pieces and their results. Click to see it in larger resolution.

Instead, you’re going to place your pattern at the end of the fabric so that the rest will be usable for future projects.


A diagram of a well-placed pattern piece and its results.

This, like ironing your fabric, is another good practice to get into. As we get into more and more complex patterns, you’ll want to lay out your patterns carefully to make certain that you conserve your fabric as much as possible. I know that fabric can be expensive, and I want to make sure you don’t buy more than you need.

Now it’s time to get out your pins. You’re going to want to pin your pattern onto the fabric by passing the pin through all three layers: the pattern, and both layers of fabric. Put at least four pins in it, one at each of the four corners of the square, but you can put more on if you feel like the fabric’s going to slip.

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Now, using your fabric scissors, you’re going to cut through both layers of fabric along the lines your pattern provides. Again, it’s okay if you go a little outside the lines and trim later, but don’t cut into the pattern – that will both dull your scissors and make your fabric unusable for this project.

Don’t rush; you’re not in a hurry.

Don’t rush; you’re not in a hurry.

After you’re done, clean up your space and put everything away. Next time we’ll talk about how to actually sew!

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