Sunday, May 14, 2017

Cutting cloth with one way design

Well, first I need to say that I am just crawling out from under one of the most trying times at work.
I shall not go into it here but suffice to say that management errors have left our department with crippling amounts of overtime.

Hence the lapse in my best laid blogging plans.

Back to the topic at hand though.
The designer makes 99% of our fabric decisions, and although the cutters are sometimes asked their opinion on whether it is suitable or not, usually it arrives on our table and we work with it.
Many fabrics don't pose much of an issue. The easiest are plain fabrics without a nap or one direction design- think a good plain woolen cloth. You can top and tail the layout of your pattern pieces (this means you can turn a pattern piece upside down/top to bottom in the layout) taking advantage of every square inch of the cloth and being quite frugal in its use.

Up the ladder from the basic could be a cloth with a woven pattern in it- a symmetrical or balanced check or stripe. The challenge is to place your pattern on the cloth keeping in mind the centering of the garment on the woven pattern in the cloth, and matching the pattern where needed at centre front and back and sleeves to body. You can still top and tail the layout.

Another rung up the ladder might be velvet (or corduroy), a definite one way fabric. I remember as a teenager, cutting myself a pair of overalls in corduroy, and being completely stymied by the fact that one side of the body looked dark and the other side light. I knew nothing about "nap" and I don't think I ever finished them as I was so confused.
We often cut velvet "nap- up" for the stage because it usually reads as  a richer colour than when cut nap down. You must cut your pieces all in one direction- you cannot turn a piece upside down to fit better on the layout because it will end up a different colour than the rest of the garment. You can turn a pattern piece over, only as long as up remains up. These fabrics often have a fair bit of wastage depending on the garment type.

Next up could be asymmetrical/unbalanced or one way printed or woven designs. These could be plaids, florals, uneven checks or uneven stripe combinations. These fabric designs cannot be "book matched" at the centre front or back.  When they are folded in half, right sides together for cutting, the design in the fabric does not lay matched atop each other.

I have run into uneven or unbalanced cloth a couple of times this year. Twice with suitings and once with a velvet floral. I had no problem making the decision of how to cut the velvet but I started wondering about the options for the stripes.
Here is one of the striped fabrics:

It made me wonder about whether I should cut the jacket as a one way design or not. I could conceivably cut the yardage in half lengthwise, and turn one layer of the fabric to make it symmetrical. Hmmm....I didn't do that in the end, but it did make me wonder if doing so was a "thing" or a no- no.

Here is a visual of what I mean. Imagine that you are looking at the centre front of a jacket- does it look better as a one way pattern or symmetrical? Chime in by all means!

Here is an example of an 18th Century style waistcoat in the floral velvet where you see the one way fabric in the cloth and how I have laid it out so the pattern continues uninterrupted at mid centre front. It requires enough fabric to do this and there are a lot of offcuts, which I used for the facings and such so as not to waste fabric.

Of course, it also takes a bit more time when cutting out cloth like this as you have to be quite careful to make sure that all your pattern pieces are oriented the same direction. The tricky bit is with pattern pieces like trouser backs and undersleeves. These pattern pieces are developed from the trouser front and top sleeve respectively. They "face the same way" when they are drafted.
In laying them out on the cloth you must make sure you flip the trouser underside pattern and the undersleeve to maintain the directional patterning at the side seam in trousers and of the sleeve.
that sounds complicated so here is a quick sketch of what I mean.

Okay, I think that is all I can muster up in the bad drawing department this evening!

It is certainly a lot to keep in mind while cutting things out!


  1. The "flip" of the stripe is interesting! Would you then need to mirror image each sleeve and pants leg, front and back? I had to do a lot of jiggering with some donated velvet awhile back -- no chance to get more--that was not only napped but also ombré dyed. In a hurry it took me two tries to get one of the sleeves right, so I hear you on the planning of this issue! My out did a GORGEOUS job with that waistcoat front!!

  2. "Here is a visual of what I mean. Imagine that you are looking at the centre front of a jacket- does it look better as a one way pattern or symmetrical? Chime in by all means!"

    I don't think that the first is that noticeable because the light contrast stripe is so thin, but my vote would be for the second.

  3. I have a question after reading your post: as a intermediate sewer how does one handle a fabric with a one way design? I understand the importance of cutting it so that the fabric design is running in the same direction but in the description of the fabric it is stated that it has a 21 inch repeat. Is there a way to roughly estimate how much additional fabric I might need? The pattern itself has no information on cutting out "with nap" but it is a fairly simple dress with no additional adornments and just a few seam lines. It is described as a "cocoon"shape. If the fabric has a one way design but design is relatively uniform and fabirc and design are somewhat monotone is the fabric repeat really of any concern? Thank you

  4. Well it really does depend on the pattern for the garment, combined with the fabric.
    For instance, lets imagine a shirt. If the fabric is wide, you might be able to lay your front and back piece right beside each other, so the detail in the fabric is at the same level front and back. At the sideseam you wont have a vertical displacement.
    Think about wall paper, when it is on the wall, you don't want the pattern matching to be off in vertical displacement. It will not match by creating a full element at the sides (that should happen at CB and often at Cf )

    The challenges for a fabric with a 21 inch repeat is how strong is the pattern, is it a large floral or small elements?Are there strong vertical elements or horizontal elements? Where do you want to place the prominent element on the body?
    Also when you buy the fabric, you might lose some yardage because the previous cut end might not be at an optimal starting place for you.

    So I cannot tell you exactly what will work in your particular situation. If you want a better idea you can lay your pattern out on the floor, get a couple tape measures and see what you can figure out.

    1. The other option sometimes is purposeful disregard of matching. Sometimes that will work especially if you have no other way of arranging the fabric elements on the body. But it really has to be obvious, and obviously needed.
      Patterns that are a little bit off will look like a mistake.