Chapt 7 - Preparing to Begin
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Table of Contents ] Chapt 1 - Fabric ] Chapt 2 - Tools and Equipment ] Chapt 3 - The Sewing Machine ] Chapt 4 - Patterns ] Chapt 5 - Pressing ] Chapt 6 - Marking The Fabric ] [ Chapt 7 - Preparing to Begin ] Chapt 8 - Seams ] Chapt 9 - Seam Finishes ] Chapt 10 - Stabilization ] Chapt 11 - Control of Fullness ] Chapt 12 - Finishing Edges ] Chapt 13 - Hand Sewing ] Chapt 14 - Closures ] Chapt 15 - Body Measurements ] Chapt 16 - Ease In Clothing ] Chapt 17 - Pattern Alterations ] Chapt 18 - Finished Dimensions ] Chapt 19 - Common Terms ] Chapt 20 - Common Costume Fabrics ] Index of Sewing Exercises ]

Organization is the first step to good costume construction. Before any actual seaming and finishing can begin several steps in fabric, pattern, and notion preparation must be done:


Preshrink all fabric and notions (with the exception of thread and closures) before cutting. Washable fabrics should be washed as indicated on the manufacturer's instructions. If a fabric can be hand washed or dry cleaned only, then this process should be completed prior to cutting. Notions such as trim, zippers, and some interfacings should also be preshrunk.

Straighten fabric ends to coincide with the crosswise threads by snipping close to the selvage and pulling a crosswise thread until it puckers across the width of the fabric. Cut along the puckered line, this gives you a straight grain to begin working from. Some sturdy fabrics may be ripped across the width to find the crosswise grain. This ripping process must be a quick, smooth motion, or the fabric will rip down the lengthwise grain as well. Not all fabrics will tear, so the most accurate, albeit the most time consuming method, is to pull a thread.

Marking ends of fabric

Fabric is on grain when the crosswise and lengthwise threads are at a perfect right (90 degree) angle to each other. To determine if your fabric is on grain lay it out on a cutting table aligning a large corner of the fabric with the corner of the table. If the corners do not match, the fabric must be realigned. If the fabric is only slightly off grain fold the fabric in half, pinning the selvages together every two or three inches and steam press threads into proper alignment.

Checking the squareness of the fabric
Straighten fabric by pressing

If your fabric is very off grain, it can be straightened by stretching and pulling the fabric in the opposite direction from the way the ends slant until a perfect right angle corner is formed.

Straighten Fabric by pulling

Lightly press the fabric to remove the bolt fold line and any wrinkles present.


Sort all pattern pieces necessary to construct the chosen garment. If using a commercial pattern, cut the individual pattern pieces out along the cutting line.

Group all pattern pieces for lining, interfacing, etc. together.

Make any and all alterations to the pattern necessary for the proper fit. This process will usually have been done for you when using original costume patterns.

Press all pattern pieces flat with a dry iron.

After all of the above steps are completed, you are ready to begin laying out the pattern pieces in preparation to cutting the garment. Keep the guidelines below in mind as you proceed:

Lay out all pattern pieces before cutting. Commercial patterns have a lay out guide for each view and size. Consult this before beginning. Cutting before all pieces are correctly laid out may result in a shortage of fabric. It is far better to have this information before any cutting begins, as it can usually be remedied by using alternate layouts.

Place pattern pieces printed side UP unless otherwise indicated.

Pin first the lengthwise and crosswise grainlines and foldline. Each grainline must be checked by measuring from the grainline to the selvage edge of the fabric at top and bottom of the grainline.

Place the pins perpendicular to and about 1/4" inside the cutting line. At corners, place the pins diagonally. Space the pins two to three inches apart, closer for very slippery or sheer fabrics.

As often as possible, cut directionally with the grain.

Never lift the fabric from the table. Keep one hand flat on the pattern piece while cutting.

Cut the garments out with long, steady strokes.

Cut each pattern piece the correct number of times. Pockets, facings, cuffs, welts, etc. may need to be cut multiple times.

Save fabric scraps from cutting, these pieces may be necessary for plackets, buttonholes, etc. or can be used to test tension, press-ability, etc.

Fold the cut pieces softly and lay on a flat surface. Do not bunch the pattern and fabric pieces up, as the pattern may come off the pattern before all markings have been transferred.

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