Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Cutting, why so difficult?

I love almost everything about sewing. Except one thing. One thing, I really strongly dislike.

I hate cutting into my fabric. Not because I am messing up a beautiful thing by cutting it. No, it's because I am so terribly awful at measuring and cutting accurately. 
Why is it so dang hard? Do you have issues with this step, too? Or just me?

Little projects aren't so bad. And I can, for the most part, trace a pattern. It's when I have to cut a large piece of fabric and am given dimensions that I run into trouble. Like this weekend, when I needed to cut something 24 inches by 24.25 inches. That is when I wanted to stomp around my house in a dizzy and throw my cutting board on the roof. 

Let's take a looksie at some photos so you can see what I mean.

Here you can see my fabric on my dining room table. Ready for cutting. But wait. What are all those lines? Oh, let's take a closer look. 

 Ah, I see. Those are the lines I drew after measuring 24.25 inches wide. That's right, six different lines for the six times I measured. As you can see, there is about an inch difference from one far line to the other far line. Which one is right? Who knows! I obviously didn't. I measured six times and couldn't figure it out. So what to do? In my case, I just swore a few times, picked a line that looked good and said what the hell. Then I cut.

At this point, I'm thinking... maybe it's OK? I mean, this is for a shirt, does it need to be exact? Then I remember that, oh yes, I'm attaching this piece, the main body of the shirt, to a contrasting band on the bottom. So yes, it does matter. They will need to line up and be the same size. I needed to be relatively sure that this was indeed 24 inches by 24.24 inches. So I inspected. And what did I find?

 Oh yes! It's a good inch wider at one end.

Why so hard??? Why?????

To give you a sense of my process, here are all the things I've read you're supposed to do to try and get a nice accurate cut. All rules I typically follow.
-- Prewash and iron my fabric
-- Use one of those big clear rulers with my rotary cutter and cutting board.
-- Draw a faint line when I measure to make it easier to see where I should cut
-- Stand while I'm cutting and use a "spider" type grip on my ruler.
-- Pray a lot and also curse a lot

None of that seems to really work for me. Not when it comes to cutting a big piece.

Any idea how I can make it easier on myself?

I'm actually done with the shirt I made from the above yellow poppy fabric. This story does have a happy ending. But that's not always been true for my badly-measured projects.

This is the no-sew Roman shade I made myself last fall. It is functional enough and a huge improvement over the ugly curtains I lived with for four years. But as you can see, my measuring and cutting accuracy failed me there, too. My curtain is a good two inches too short.

So please, give me some advice! How do you cut a large piece of fabric accurately without wanting to strangle an innocent member of your family?

Linking up... 


  1. If you figure this one out, let me know! I specifically avoid projects with large cut pieces because I screw it up! Glad I am not the only one - I thought it was just because I was a beginner sewer.

    I will be checking back on this post to see if you get any help :)

  2. I hate cutting too!!! I'm just like you!! but I always measure on the wrong side of the fabric so the pencil lines won't show. And when cutting large pieces I always ask for someone to help me... or I'll strangle them!!!
    Hope that someone will post a helpful comment:)

  3. Hi Krista,
    Have you tried ripping your fabric? I used to have the same problem with cutting so I gave it a try. It really works well for me since the fabric rips along the warp and weft of the fabric, which should be straight. The trick is to first rip the edges straight. Once you have a straight line, measure, snip and rip.
    I was not a believer in ripping until I did it right. It's now the only way I'll "cut" a large piece of fabric.
    Email me if you want more info. I was thinking of writing a blog post to show how I do this. Hope this helps!

  4. Oh geez, I do the same thing. I've been working on a wide-brim hat for months because I can never get the crown and brim to fit together. Why? Because my cutting sucks.

    I feel your pain.

  5. I was (still am) a quilter before I started sewing clothing. The biggest thing that stood out to me about the proses that you are using is the fact that you don't fold your fabric. I never (unless I am cutting a pattern) cut into a huge piece of fabric like that. This is what I do. I don't know if it will help but it can't hurt right. Fold your fabric in half (length ways) at least once put your fold on the lowest line on your cutting board. Get your sides as close as possible. Line them up on a line on your board. What we are doing is squaring the fabric. Your fold should be strait the side will not be. Cut along your line (the side) wasting as little as possible. Then you have a square piece of fabric. So when you measure over and cut your fabric it should be strait. This method makes the fabric much more manageable.
    I am not sure if this made any scene and I think photos would help. E-mail me if you have questions. Let me know if you think a tut would help. I could post one pretty easy.
    Kadie @ Seven Alive

  6. I've been sewing for many years, and I still have the same problem. Recently I made a porch awning out of a drop cloth and for that application, this technique worked beautifully: I held one end, DH held the other, and using a tape measure stretched between us, I marked the length with a fabric pen. We turned it over, did the other side, then with a chalk line from DH's tool box I snapped a line between the marks. I know, ridiculous, and prob'ly not so great for good fabric, but I'm thinking the next time I need a big piece of fabric, I'm gonna modify the technique in some way.

    Ripping is good for fabrics that rip well. Some don't. Pulling a thread is another good technique, but not all fabrics have threads that pull easily. The last thing I'd suggest is to make a card stock pattern, weight it down, and use your rotary cutter.

  7. I know what you mean. If you're cutting a fabric with a pattern it's easier because you can just cut evenly along the pattern. I usually will just measure and cut down one side of the fabric so I have at least 1 side that's straight to work off of, then I base my other cuts off of that one straight side. I end up doing the same thing you do a lot though, drawing and redrawing lines. Another really easy way to do it is to fold your fabric and cut one side so both sides mirror each other when the fabric is unfolded and you have the same measurements on either side - make sense?

  8. I have to laugh because cutting is my least favorite part of sewing, too. The "spider" grip on the ruler is only half of the solution for me. I use the spider grip at the top of my ruler and press my knee into my ruler at the bottom. That way it doesn't shift as much when I''m cutting. I am also a big believer in cutting on the floor. When I'm cutting I am crawling all around... also helps when using the knee on the ruler :)

  9. "Prewash and iron my fabric" I do the same :)
    "Pray a lot and also curse a lot" - trust me you can't curse more than me :).
    BTW, greetings from Poland!!!