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Anna Dress Sewalong #3: Cutting & marking your fabric

Has everyone recovered from all those intense pattern alterations we did over the weekend? Just about? Excellent. Now the fun really begins. In today's instalment of the Anna Dress Sewalong we are going to:

  • Pre-wash our fabric
  • Show you how to lay the pattern pieces onto your fabric
  • Go through some helpful tips for cutting silk
  • Cut out and mark our fabric

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


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.

How to lay 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. We always find things much easier to explain with a little drawing...

Anna Dress Sewalong - cutting & marking 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, and from there the rest is easy: the grainline is also parallel to the selvedge!

Once you've located the selvedges and folded your fabric according to the diagram above (right sides of the fabric together - this makes marking easier later on), you're ready to start pinning on your pattern pieces ready to be cut. Use the layplans in the Anna Dress booklet as a guide and take extra care with the grainline on the skirt panels, and with the pieces that need to be placed on the fold.

*If you are fully lining your Anna Dress, you do not need to cut out the neckline facings - but you do need to cut out the bodice front and back pieces from your lining fabric, plus all skirt panels. Basically two of everything (one main fabric, one lining) minus the neckline facing*

Cutting silks and other slippery fabrics - some helpful tips:

  • Sharpness is key - make sure your scissors and pins are not blunt! You will also need more pins than usual to help you cut accurately
  • Trim away all pesky little scraggly threads before you lay out your fabric - if you don't, they will get caught on something at some point and distort all your careful layings out
  • Don't try to cut everything out at once - instead cut off enough fabric to cut out your bodice first and go about the cutting process in smaller, more manageable sections

Anna Dress Sewalong - cutting & marking your fabric - By Hand London

  • Pin selvedges together and line up the fold with something straight - a floorboard or metre stick is ideal - to be sure you are not distorting the grainline
  • Once you're happy with your fabric laid out all straight, weigh it down with pattern weights or small and heavy items to keep it in place - even the smallest gust of wind can cause you to start all over again...
  • Be extra careful not to distort the fabric as you're pinning your pattern pieces into place - insert pins as horizontally as possible to avoid lifting the fabric
  • If you're worried about your pins leaving a mark in the fabric, make sure you place the pins close to the seam allowance edges of the pattern pieces so any marks left won't show on the outside of your garment
  • When cutting, always cut with your scissors to the left of the pattern piece to avoid moving the fabric too much as you cut

Anna Dress Sewalong - cutting & marking your fabric - By Hand London

Cutting and marking your fabric:

Once you've cut out all of your pattern pieces, it is vitally important to transfer all notches and markings from the pattern to your fabric before unpinning the pattern paper. The notches, especially those on the skirt pieces, serve to show you which pieces match with which piece, so carefully give them a little snip - no deeper than 1cm - through the centre of the triangle:

Anna Dress Sewalong - cutting & marking your fabric - By Hand London

For the bodice back darts, first snip the waistline notches, then stick a pin right through the top of the dart - through the pattern paper and both layers of fabric:

Anna Dress Sewalong - cutting & marking your fabric - By Hand London

Then carefully pull back the paper so you can see the pin, and from there you can draw the dart with a ruler and tailors chalk, joining the pin with the notches at the waistline:

Anna Dress Sewalong - cutting & marking your fabric - By Hand London

Keep the pin in place, and repeat this on the other side.

Anna Dress Sewalong - cutting & marking your fabric - By Hand London

This same technique can be applied to marking out the pleats on the bodice front:

Anna Dress Sewalong - cutting & marking your fabric - By Hand London

So now you should have all your pattern pieces cut out, notched and marked. Double check those skirt notches!

In the next post we'll be assembling the bodice, talking about French seams and showing you the difference between the neckline facings and a full lining. We can't wait to see our new Anna's start to take shape!

Comments on this post (2)

  • Sep 30, 2015

    Hi Scarlet, I’m afraid that you will need a wider fabric in order to fit the longer sleeve on… Longer kimono sleeves can be tricky like that! You’ll be fine with a 60" width fabric though! All the very best, ~Elisalex

    — Elisalex - By Hand London

  • Sep 30, 2015

    Hi BHL!

    In love with your patterns, and I am currently making my third Anna Dress. I wanted to include the 3/4 sleeve on this third dress but I am unsure of how to position the pattern on my 45 inch wide fabric. I am a size US 14 and if I include the 3/4 sleeves, the bodice pattern does not fit.

    please help!


    — Scarlet

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