Friday, January 10, 2014

It's All in the Pattern Layout!

Almost all patterns come with a suggested pattern layout for the fabric. We've seen these, right? They look like drawing of fortifications with the moat and drawbridge over here in option for 45" wide fabric and over there in the option for 60" wide fabric.

Some fabrics have a "nap" to them (such as velvet), which may complicate your layout plan, especially if you have a limited amount of yardage. Besides helping you ensure proper grain for your pattern pieces, these layouts allow you to see what the pattern pieces will look like in your fabric before you cut it out.  This really matters if you have a pattern or print on your fabric, like words in only one direction, stripes or chevrons, any pattern can be a challenge depending on its size and direction. Just think about plaid!

Pattern layout is one of the most crucial parts of garment sewing. So much so that time spent on the layout, pinning and cutting is essential to the ultimate fit and finish of your garment, especially when you have spent your hard-earned dollars on a length of fine fabric such as silk, linen or wool. It's easy enough if you have a solid colored woven fabric; get it on the straight of the grain and go.  Things start getting a little dicey when you're working with knits, bold prints, stripes, plaids and border prints, etc. Spending time preserving the integrity of the fabric design pays dividends at the finish.

Take this striped fabric for instance. I chose this beautiful woven rayon-blend brocade fabric for the mock-wrap skirt we already had made in a wool crepe (remember the celedon colored wool skirt in the Not your ordinary Fabric Store post?).

I knew I wanted the stripes to lay horizontally on the skirt, and matching the wrapped front sections was easy enough. The waistband required more attention - our first attempt produced an odd, elliptical shape right below the waist. Laurel, my dressmaker, summed it all up: her observation -  "looks like a nasty potbelly effect to me!" She ripped it out and re-cut the waistband on the diagonal, thereby eliminating the bulls eye on the abdomen.

Yipes!!! Even the floor looks like it has a potbelly!
Much better!
Still need to hem it and put in the zipper, but WOW! I love it!

Cutting on the bias allows for more stretch and ease in a garment. We are working on the second garment using a wonderful stretch silk with Lycra charmeuse. Even though the Lycra does allow the silk some extra give, we decided to cut the bodice of Sandra Betzina's Vogue 1291 on the bias. An added design complication is that our fabric is a border print and we also decided to make the flowing sleeves out of a coordinating silk chiffon. Every now and then Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics receives the same print on different types of silk weaves from various designers!

The decision of where to place the bodice front and back is simplified by making a muslin pattern and placing it directly on the fabric and moving it around to find the best direction of the print. In order to find the best direction of the print, we simply laid the fitted pattern directly on top of the fabric, and moving it around until we liked it.

When you're working with a large pattern that had a long repeat, layout becomes very important. I love this rayon knit from France.  The large circles are in horizontal rows, but the repeat is a very long 25". Because the design is so bold, the placement of where the row of circles should cut across my figure took a little planning.

I chose the Shapes "Four Good Measure Top" and decided that we should just take the horizontal striped effect of this print out of the equation by cutting it on the bias.

Tip: You don't have to have a special tool to find the bias of any fabric - just take a piece of paper and fold it with a 45 degree angle.  Place the square edge of the paper on the selvage edge of the fabric and line up your pattern piece's grain line or edge to the 45 degree angle of the paper. Voila! On the bias!!

In my previous "Make your Wardrobe POP - Ooh la la" post, I featured a digital rayon knit from France. With such an amazing image, maintaining proper layout was especially crucial. Again, the Shapes top has one long pattern piece for the front and back, so cutting a shoulder seam (not in the pattern) allowed us to control the print images on BOTH sides of our garment. (Please note that we have sold out of this color way, but just got a new color way with greens!)

Working with these bold prints requires forethought.  This lovely polyester knit had some bold circular areas that if placed in certain areas of my chest would...well, use your imagination! LOL! (Pattern in this top is New Look 6098)

Because Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics has so many prints and pattern choices, my design choices have really expanded the overall personality of my wardrobe. I love these new fabrics and their complexities, so pattern layout and planning becomes the cornerstone of our designs.  Laurel says most of her efforts in making my garments is spent on layout decision and execution.  But when I see the results, I  would agree, it's time well spent. 

Try not to be discouraged about the time it takes you to cut out your garment - think of it as a wearable masterpiece - one in which you are the artist! What are you inspired to try sewing next?

Creatively yours,
2518 Shattuck Ave. @ Dwight Way
Berkeley CA 94704

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Greetings from our Winter Holiday in Park City Utah!
Let it Snow!


  1. Wow I visited your store about 5 or so years ago on an American Sewing Guild bus trip! I had such a great your blog!

    1. Hi Tee, Which ASG do you belong to? So glad you enjoyed your visit to should see us now! I am so glad that you are loving my blog, please pass it along to other sewists - we have a garment revolution to inspire! Cheers, SuZan

  2. Great fabrics! I love your bias-cutting tip. I have a 45-degree triangle leftover from an environmental design class that I drag out on occasion to check my angle. ;)

    I'm supposed to be making the Newcastle Cardigan (Thread Theory pattern) for my husband but my sewing machine is currently kaput. So I'm in fabric inventory and planning mode. But I do want to make some Renfrew tops and a dress in the coming months.

  3. Thanks Chuleenan! I am wearing the bias cut top today and I love it! Great drape and easy to wear. I love the effect of cutting on a 45 degree angle too! Try it on knits and other fabrics and let me know how it turns out. Sorry to hear about your sewing machine. I love the folks at Berkeley Vacuum and Sewing for all repairs :)
    Hope to see you soon, Suzan