Quick fabric cutting tip: get a lot from a little!

Cutting out

We thought we’d share a quick fabric cutting tip that we often find ourselves recommending to customers. We’ll begin by apologising to those of you who are old hands at making the most of your remnants when it comes to fabric cutting. (You know who you are!) However we get lots of calls from customers who want to know how much fabric they need for a pattern, particularly when a fabric is an unusual width – or when we’ve posted an oddly-shaped remnant on the website!

Most patterns will give fabric cutting layouts for fabrics that are 115cm wide (aka 45″) – and again for 150cm widths (that’s 60″ in old money). What happens though, if there’s a mis-shapen (but potentially useful) remnant on offer? Or if the fabric you want to use is an odd width, such as 140cm? You’ll often find that linen and viscose fabrics in particular lie between the standard widths – and obviously the pattern publishers can’t cater for every eventuality.

You could of course use the amount given for a 115cm fabric – however if you do, then you’re probably going to have lots left over – and unless you’ve a use for that surplus, then that’s money you could have spent on something else (shoes, bags, more fabric – take your pick…)

We’re always very happy to advise on a project whenever we can, but when it comes to pattern cutting, even if we have the pattern in question and can see the recommended layout, there’s not a lot we can do to help. Absolutely, we know that if you can squeeze a sleeve alongside a bodice piece then that might be half a metre saved at least. However layouts can change between sizes – and never underestimate the width of a sleeve head. Before you know it, a couple of centimetres in a fabric width has become the difference between triumph and disaster.

However we’re just as keen as you are to get maximum monetary value from your sewing. That’s why we usually recommend that you get yourself a roll of sticky tape and a newspaper – in true Blue Peter Style.

Cut and stick your newspaper until you have a length that’s the width of your folded fabric and then use this as a template to represent your length of fabric. Lay out your pattern pieces to try out different fabric cutting layouts.

Fabric cutting tip
Here’s one we made earlier…

For a start  you might want to stick to the approximate layout recommended by your pattern, but as you become more expert, you can get quite cunning. However we should sound a couple of notes of caution…

DO make sure that you take note of pattern and nap directions as you position your pieces – your newspaper print might not be important but the print on your fabric might be!

DO be accurate in measuring to make sure your pieces line up with your newspaper ‘selvedge’ too – that’ll affect the angle of your pattern pieces and how they’ll fit.

It won’t take long – just 10 or 15 minutes. If you like, email or call us first and we’ll be happy to reserve your fabric while you do your calculations. Don’t forget – we’re always able to cut to any length if you place your order by telephone or email.

Do you have any other clever tricks for saving fabric or for fabric cutting? Let us know if so!

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4 thoughts on “Quick fabric cutting tip: get a lot from a little!

  1. Ann T says:

    And if you are a small person (I’m 5 ft tall) you never ever buy the amount the pattern envelope says! (Though I got caught out once when I was young and didn’t understand about corduroy, and cut 2 left sleeves….they ended up with contrasting cuffs which came almost to the elbow. I still loved the dress.)

    • ClothSpot says:

      Absolutely – this is one of the occasions when being smaller can help, Ann! Thank you for the timely reminder about corduroy…we really must do a ‘disasters rescued’ gallery one day…. 🙂

  2. Sarah Skinner says:

    All good advice ! I take all sorts of liberties with seam allowances and facings ( do they need to be that big, could I cut them in contrasting fabric or eliminate them, for example ). If something needs to be cut on the fold could I cut it as two pieces instead ( allowing for small seam allowance ) instead ?
    I have also noticed that Named Clothing allow for 5% shrinkage in their fabric allowance which is useful, and prudent, but also lets you know that the allowance is generous.
    When choosing a remnant that might be less than you need, avoid anything with an obvious pattern of repeat. If it is plain material then you might be able to cut it out sideways ( if it has stretch make sure it still stretches in the way that you want )
    However, as Alice advises, I still always go with grain, however tempting it might be…
    Overall, I love the challenge of a remnant ?

    • ClothSpot says:

      Excellent advice from the Remnant Queen – indeed we know you love a challenge! You’re right – pattern repeats and matching are a whole other ball game, we know… Thank you very much for the additional tips, Sarah – combining different fabrics is an especially good one to remember when you want to eke out a favourite fabric, we agree 🙂

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