Cutting Fabric 12 Mistakes To Avoid

Cutting fabric is an important aspect of making clothes. Learn the most common mistakes sewers make and avoid them! Small details like forgetting to prewash or using old scissors will ruin any project. Here are the 12 things you shouldn’t do when it comes to cutting fabric.

1. Forgetting to Preshrink

You don’t want to end up with 5 year old clothes!
Wash and dry your fabric before doing anything else. This will ensure that your patterns don’t shrink later on.

2. Leaving Wrinkles

Wrinkled fabric may look the same size as the pattern, but it becomes larger and changes shape after ironed.

Fabric should be perfectly smooth before you cut it. Remove all wrinkles and fold lines with an iron. This will make a big difference in the final result.

3. Letting Fabric Hang Off the Table’s Edge

When you use a small table for cutting, fabric usually falls down. Even if the part on top is straight, it’ll be pulled and twisted by the other part. To avoid this, spread out the amount you need on the table and neatly fold the rest by the side.

You should always use a large and flat surface to cut. A big cutting table is the ideal scenario, but a clean floor also does the trick.

4. Ignoring Pattern Layout Instructions

Commercial patterns have specific needs that you won’t find out about if you ignore the instructions. They have diagrams showing how to lay out the patterns and other cutting fabric info. Check them out to see the best way to go about this important step.

5. Fabric Nap in the Wrong Direction

I made a pair of corduroy pants without paying attention to my pattern layout. Big mistake!

When I tried them on, there was a tone difference between the front and back, and the legs were always twisting. This attempt taught me a valuable lesson:

Pay attention to the nap direction!

Fabric nap is the soft fuzzy surface on chenille, velvet, terry cloth and other fabrics. When you cut them, the fuzzy stuff should go in the same direction for all the pieces (or you get tone differences like I did).

Rub your hand parallel to the fabric selvage one way, and then rub towards the opposite way. You’ll notice that the fur looks lighter (in some fabrics it may also look smoother) towards one of the sides. This is the nap direction.

Cutting Fabric

When you arrange your patterns, make sure that the nap is going from top to bottom in all of them.

Cutting Fabric

Satin and some other fabrics don’t have nap, but they have direction. The color will vary if you cut the pieces going in different ways. Arrange the patterns the same way as you would with napped fabrics.

6. Upside Down Prints


Fabric with direction may use up more material, consider this when you are deciding how much to buy.

Some print fabrics have a one way design. When you arrange the patterns, make sure that all the pieces are going the same way to avoid upside down prints. (See the previous picture)

7. Unmatched Plaids and Stripes

Plaid and striped fabrics lose their effect when sewn without matching. They should line up at all seams and intersections.

Cutting Fabric
Unmatched at the seams


Cutting Fabric

Matched at the seams

When cutting fabric with stripes, make sure that the patterns are arranged so that the effect continues all the way around.

To cut patterns on the fold, you’ll need to match the lines at the fabric’s edge and sides. Here’s how:

      • Fold the fabric and match the lines at the sides and bottom edge
      • Pin to avoid movement before placing the patterns on it
Cutting Fabric

8. Cutting on Right Side of Fabric

Fold fabric with right sides towards the inside for cutting two pieces with the same pattern.

Placing patterns on the right side of fabric will make it hard to transfer the symbols and cut marks later on. It may also damage the fabric. Always place patterns on the wrong side.

9. Twisted Grain Lines

If you cut twisted fabric, even if the patterns are straight, the fabric will be unstable and lose it’s shape with use.

Fabric is made of two types of threads, crosswise and lengthwise, which should be perpendicular to each other. Straighten the selvage first. Then, move the other part of the fabric until the other threads are straight.

Cutting Fabric

10. Grain Going Crosswise, Not Lengthwise

Fabric is naturally more stable along the length. This is why most patterns should follow this direction. If you accidentally cut following the crosswise threads your fabric will lose its shape with use.

Always place the straight grain arrow from your patterns parallel to the selvage. Measure the distance between them to make sure that the grain line is always straight.

Cutting Fabric

11. Using Old or Dirty Shears

Old shears will make fabric edges uneven and fray more than necessary. They also damage the fabric and give you a hard time cutting.

Regularly sharpen your shears and clean them when they are dirty. If you just can’t get any more out of them, replace them with a good pair of quality shears. They may be more expensive, but they last longer and cut better, giving your pieces clean finished edges.

12. Moving Patterns

Cutting fabric without pinning the patterns results in pieces that aren’t the shape they’re supposed to be.

When you’re ready to cut, place the pattern on fabric and pin to hold it in place. Always grab the pattern and all layers underneath it. A great alternative to pinning are pattern weights, which are faster to use and achieve the same thing. Just place the pattern on fabric and put a couple of weights on top.

Cutting Fabric

I’ve made a couple of these mistakes when cutting my fabric, have you made any of them? Let us know in the comments below.

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