How to Cut Out a Sewing Pattern

In this article, you will learn a few rules of cutting so that you avoid fugly results; several cutting approaches; and how to cut out a sewing pattern so that you end up with beautiful, smooth, even edges all the way around!

The truth is…

If you want to sew and, ultimately, flaunt insanely pretty dresses, then you must learn how to cut fabric properly.

After you’ve laid out the pattern pieces, honored the grainline, and pinned them to the fabric, you are ready to cut.

And when you cut, you want even, smooth raw edges, NOT edges that are uneven or jagged!

Because no matter how expensive the fabric that kind of sloppy cutting can only result in a junky, ill-fitting dress.

And who has time for that nonsense?!

Not me and not you!

Sewing Cutting Rules

First, let me start by giving you some pointers that you need to keep in mind if you are to avoid fugly results…

Rule #1: Fabric should be wrinkle and crease-free for cutting accuracy!

Rule #2: You have to keep the entire length of the fabric on the cutting surface at all times. Because fabric hanging over the edge of your cutting surface will drag the fabric downwards and lead to imprecise results.

Rule #3: As you cut, keep the fabric, pattern, and the bottom tip of the shears as flat on the table as you can!

Rule #4: You want smooth, even edges, not fugly jagged edges! And the best way to accomplish this is to…

Cut slowly and carefully!

Methods of Cutting Out a Sewing Pattern

One of the things I love about sewing is that there are many ways to accomplish the same goal.

And it is no different when it comes time to do the scariest thing of all…

Making that FIRST cut into your dreamy length of fabric!

But if you are ever to master the craft of sewing, you must muster up enough courage to cut.

And let me share with you several ways to cut out a sewing pattern:

  • You can pin your pattern pieces to your fabric. And then, use your dressmaker’s shears to cut your fabric.
  • You can layout pattern pieces, use pattern weights, and trace around the cutting lines. Remove the pattern pieces, and then cut out with your shears or rotary cutter.
  • You can layout your fabric on a self-healing mat. Anchor your tissue pattern pieces to the fabric with pattern weights, and then cut them out with a rotary cutter.

While I do love my rotary cutter, I will not be covering that in this article. For now, we will be using our dressmaker’s shears to cut out our sewing pattern pieces.

Are you ready?!

Then, let’s make some cuts…

How to Cut Out a Sewing Pattern

In my post on sewing ergonomics, I shared that, ideally, you want your fabric laid out on a cutting surface that will allow you to walk around all four sides. 

A setup like this allows you to walk around your cutting table as you cut so that you avoid moving your fabric and pattern pieces.

But most of us don’t have ideal situations. I know I don’t! So we just have to make the best of it.

So if you’re like me and don’t have the ideal setup, you could cut your pattern pieces apart into smaller, more manageable groups.

Then, place them on a cutting mat and rotate the cutting mat as needed.

Okay, now that you’ve got a plan…

Begin by double-checking your layout before you make your first cut!

Ultimate Guide to Reading a Sewing Pattern

Next, pick up your sharp dressmaker’s shears that you ONLY use for cutting fabric and get into position:

Position your body so that your supporting arm and your cutting arm are not cramped and you’re comfortable.

If you’re right-handed, place your left hand on the fabric close to the cutting line. You’re now in a position to cut around the pattern counterclockwise, keeping your left hand anchored on the pattern piece as you cut.

And if you are left-handed, do everything in reverse. Place your right hand on the fabric close to the cutting line. And you’re now in a position to cut around the pattern clockwise, keeping your right hand anchored on the pattern pieces and fabric as you cut.

Now, here’s how you use those shears

ONE, with the tip of the bottom blade on the table, close the blades of your shears just short of the points. You never want to close the points of your shears all the way!

TWO, slide your shears along the surface of the table, move your hand and anchor close by the new area, and close your blades again.

The key is to keep the bottom tip of your shears on the table at all time!

And by placing your hand next to the area being cut, you reduce the chance of the pattern and fabric from shifting.

When cutting straight and large curves, use long-steady strokes with the entire length of the blades of your shears.

When cutting around smaller curves, you will need to take shorter strokes.

But at no time, should you lift the fabric as you cut. The fabric and tip of the bottom blade must remain flat on the cutting surface throughout!

When you come to notches, cut right through them. Do NOT waste time cutting around the triangle shapes.

Because we will be marking them later.

And here is one final bonus tip: As you approach corners, cut slightly past them for the cleanest finish. Like so…

How to Cut Out a Sewing Pattern

When you’re done, you should have smooth, even edges.

Sew easy tip #1When cutting multi-size patterns, you may come to a very confusing intersection of all the sizes. The way to cut your size accurately is to point your shears towards the cutting line you want to end up on.

Sew easy tip #2: According to makers of Kai Dressmaker’s Shears, cutting through thin tissue paper (NOT printer paper!) — with their shears — will not dull your shears!

The End

Taking your time to cut out your pattern pieces with a little love and patience is just one of the many steps required to sew insanely pretty dresses. This is not a time to make haste.

Instead, stop, breathe in and breathe out slowly, and take a meditative approach to cutting.

When you get to the sewing machine, you’ll be over the moon that you did.

Now, that you know how to cut out a sewing pattern, it is time to make your marks.

Because if you don’t have time to mark, then you have no business cutting!

And remember…

Life is the ultimate red carpet event. Dress for it!

RELATED: Click HERE if you’re ready to unleash your dressmaking superpowers and learn how to sew a simple dress! Warning: This is a MEGA 5-part series!