You sew what you cut… a word about the cutting process

What a beautiful Summer’s evening. Our baby son slumbers in the cot nearby and the sounds of the evening join my thoughts from the ajar window. Peace. I love these moments.

I recently joined a sewing circle called Sew Weekly which has lots of great, like-minded individuals all trying to sew vintage patterns, typically with a “weekly challenge”. On one of the forums, there were a number of comments made about the cutting process- it seems to be the part that people like the least. It literally isn’t “sewing” but in a very important way it is. If the pieces aren’t cut properly, it can lead to disaster.

I am no “expert”. But honestly, when I cut pattern pieces (after studying the pattern) I am always sure to do it when there is a decent block of time when I am unlikely to be interrupted. I have a cup of coffee not too far away and when I am finally in that “window” I take pains to cut properly. Cutting properly in itself has been a learning process… there is the type of fabric that slips beneath the scissors too easily which means more pins etc etc.

Marian Corey sets a whole section of her book “McCalls Complete Book of Dressmaking” (1951, the Greystone Press) to cutting. She advises that one only cuts when they have gone through a little checklist: has the fabric been shrunk and subsequently pressed until the centre fold is no longer visible? Have the pattern pieces ironed out and are the ends straight? Have the extra pattern pieces been put away? Corey elaborates on each of these things. Only at that point, does Corey advocate commencing the project. The key, it appears, is being methodical or “professional”.

The other key points Corey makes that stand out to me are about 1) putting the pins in the lengthwise grain; and 2) cutting out all the pieces at once- it avoids later confusion and procrastination. I followed point one with my most recent project and I have to say, it made cutting easier. She argues it gives you a more true cut. I would have to agree.

There are no shortcuts, (excuse the pun) when it comes to cutting… it is something that just has to be done, I figure if you block an adequate amount of time out and see it as an opportunity to relax (and dream about the garment it is going to become), it is not nearly as painful.

The Roman Holiday dress... perfect with a scarf knotted at the neck in Liberty tana lawn for day, or in sensuous black and some serious bling for night...

Today’s pattern of the day is Butterick 4535 from (I believe) the early 1940s. I love this decolette dress and its flattering, off the shoulder neckline. The caplet (for evening use)? isn’t common but overall, it is a very attractive pattern. I always think of it as “The Roman holiday” dress. A pair of strappy sandals and its easy to imagine someone meandering through the old streets of Rome in search of an afternoon coffee or gelati! Very Romantic. And definitely the kind of dress that is worth a little patience in the cutting process.

Any other tips about the cutting process, please do feel free to leave a comment, I would love to hear!

3 thoughts on “You sew what you cut… a word about the cutting process

  1. I have a great book which helps with dating patterns and it puts this one at 1948. (The book is called “BluePrints of Fashion: Home Sewing Patterns of the 1940s” by Wade Laboissonniere.) It’s filled with gorgeous pictures but also gives quite a bit of detail about the fabric rationing and how that affected the different styles in the 1940s. I’m no expert but the fullness of the skirt in your pattern is more likely to be late forties. Early forties seem to be a little shorter and often in panels rather than full circle skirts in keeping with the fabric shortage of the times.

    I do agree with you re: you sew what you cut. I don’t like the process either but I’m with you on waiting for the right moment when you can cut all of it. And the cat’s asleep.

    • Thanks for your comment. I will have to look out for the Laboissonniere book- sounds very interesting… The fabric rationing point sounds about right, great to have a date. As a point of interest, I did read an article on the web somewhere recently about the use of printed feedsack fabric during the time (thriftiness is not new, they tell me)! Feedsack idea feeds into the panel point you made… Wish Butterick had dated their patterns! So few pattern companies did.

      Happy sewing and thanks again for the tip!

    • Thanks for your comment. I will have to look out for the Laboissonniere book- sounds very interesting… The fabric rationing point sounds about right, great to have a date. As a point of interest, I did read an article on the web somewhere recently about the use of printed feedsack fabric during the time (thriftiness is not new, they tell me)! Feedsack idea feeds into the panel point you made… Wish Butterick had dated their patterns! So few pattern companies did.

      Happy sewing and thanks again for the tip!

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