Georgia Dress Sewalong #4: Cutting your fabric

This is it guys, the moment we've all been waiting for... Today we actually get to handle our main fabric! No more toiles, no more faffing around with paper and pens. It's at this point in the dressmaking process that I often think of that episode of Friends when Phoebe is teaching Joey how to play guitar, but won't actually let him touch a guitar... Well, we finally get to touch our fabric today. We even get to cut it out. Woah.

Today we will be:

  • Making sure our fabric is pre-washed (hate to sound like a broken record, but this part is just that important!)
  • Laying out the fabric and pattern pieces
  • Talking about directional and non-directional prints
  • Cutting and marking our fabric

*To be taken to all the posts in the Georgia Dress Sewalong, please click here*

Pre-washing your fabric

If you haven’t done this yet, do it now! Just stick it on an express wash, same temperature as you would normally wash your clothes and then dry as normal. There is nothing worse, but nothing worse, than spending hours lovingly making a dress only for it to shrink the first time you wash it. In fact, it’s an excellent habit to just stick all new fabric purchases in the wash the minute you get home.

If you are using a very delicate fabric like silk, you could either put a small swatch in the wash first to see how it reacts, or simply omit the pre-washing and just remember to dry clean your dress instead.

Laying out your fabric

If this is your first time working from a sewing pattern, you may be wondering how to actually fold your fabric in the best way, what in the hell a “selvedge” really is, and exactly how to locate that elusive grainline… No fear, we’ve all been there!

Firstly, “selvedges” are the woven edges of the fabric that come infinitely off the roll, and the "grainline" refers to the threads that make up the fabric that run parallel to the selvedges. We always find things much easier to explain with a little drawing…

georgia dress sewalong - cutting your fabric - by hand london

When you fold your fabric ready to lay on your pattern pieces, you need to fold it lengthways, so that the fold is parallel to the selvedges. With the Georgia Dress, we have recommended two options for folding your fabric depending on its width. Fabric usually comes in two standard widths: 60" and 45" (although some fabrics may be anywhere in between). The wider your fabric, the less meterage you will need.

Using the diagram above as a guide, fold your fabric lengthways according to its width. If you have a wide 60" fabric, fold each selvedge length in to meet in the middle. This will result in two folds at each length. If your fabric is narrower, simply fold it in half lengthways, selvedges together and only one fold. Make sure that you fold your fabric keeping the 'right sides' together, ie. the side of the fabric that will be on show once the dress is all made up. Now you’re ready to start pinning on your pattern pieces ready to be cut. Use the layplans in the Georgia Dress booklet as a guide and take extra care with the grainline, and with the pieces that need to be placed on the fold.

georgia dress sewalong - cutting your fabric - by hand london

*If you are fully lining your Georgia Dress, you will need to cut the skirt pieces out of your lining fabric as well as your main fabric*

Directional & non-directional prints

Firstly, what are directional and non-directional prints? These terms simply refer to the design on a fabric, and whether it has a clear 'up' and 'down', like hearts or palm trees in a row for example (directional), or not, like plaid or leopard print (non-directional).

So when it comes to positioning your pattern pieces onto your fabric, the grainline is not the only thing to pay attention to - it is also vitally important to be aware of the design of your fabric and whether it is directional or non-directional. You'll notice from the layplans in the instruction booklet (shown above) that the skirt pieces are positioned facing different directions. This kind of placement is only OK on a fabric of a solid colour or one featuring a non-directional print. It is also fine to position your pattern pieces facing the same direction on a fabric featuring a non-directional print.

georgia dress sewalong - cutting your fabric - by hand london

If your fabric has a directional print, you will only be able to position your pattern pieces facing the same direction, so as to avoid having some of your skirt or bodice panels featuring an upside down print! This may mean that you will need more fabric in order to place the pattern pieces correctly.

georgia dress sewalong - cutting your fabric - by hand london

Cutting and marking your fabric

Now that you've got your pattern pieces all laid out correctly and pinned into place, time to start cutting! You'll need to grab the sharpest shears in the house, take a deep breath, and for Pete's sake - go slow! Accurate cutting is crucial here guys, just think - if you cut sloppily and accidentally add even just 1/8" all around your skirt panels, when the dress is done you will have added 3/4" to the finished measurement! A good tip is to always cut to the left of your pattern paper to avoid lifting and distorting your fabric as you cut.

Once you have all your pieces cut out, it's time to transfer the markings - and by this, we mean all those little black triangle notches and darts and pleats etc that need to be marked onto the fabric before we discard the pattern paper. Luckily with the Georgia Dress, there are no darts or pleats, just notches. To mark your notches, simply snip into the fabric (making sure you go through all layers), no more than a centimetre or so into the seam allowance. It's these notches that will help you when it comes to matching two seams together at the right places ready to be sewn up.

georgia dress sewalong - cutting your fabric - by hand londonThat's it for today, I can practically hear the whir of my sewing machine as it beckons me closer...

  • Elisalex de Castro Peake
  • AW 13-14cuttingfabricGeorgia DressGeorgia Dress SewalongSewalong

Comments on this post ( 2 )

  • Feb 27, 2014

    Hi Caitlin, up to you in terms of fully lining really. The bodice is lined as standard, but I would only line the skirt panels if you’re worried about the inside being scratchy ;)

    — Elisalex - By Hand London

  • Feb 16, 2014

    Hello! I’m using denim with about 8% stretch for the Gorgeous Georgia. Do you think I should line it? I haven’t worked much with denim before. Cheers!

    — Caitlin Ahern

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