Cutting Fabric Folded vs. Flat

Grainline Studio | Tips & Tricks | Cutting Fabric Folded vs. Flat

I was cutting out this sweatshirt over the weekend and ended up trying a few different layouts before I settled on the one that worked. I thought I would show the difference in yardage needed to cut this pattern with the fabric folded vs. the fabric flat.

Grainline Studio | Tips & Tricks | Cutting Fabric Folded vs. Flat

Home sewing patterns have you cut your pieces out on the fold, cutting goes more quickly this way since you’re only cutting half, and the fabric fits more easily the size tables most people have in their homes. Unfortunately it’s almost never the most effective way to a great fabric yield. With this first method, fabric folded selvage to selvage I’m about  1/4 yd short.

Grainline Studio | Tips & Tricks | Cutting Fabric Folded vs. Flat

With the selvages folded towards the center I can fit both front and back on the fold but only one sleeve. So close yet so far!

Grainline Studio | Tips & Tricks | Cutting Fabric Folded vs. Flat

With the fabric laid out flat everything fits perfectly since you’re not wasting any of the fabric by folding it over. To make the full pattern I just traced the front and back pattern pieces on a folded piece of large white butcher paper and then traced an extra sleeve. Moral of the story, if you’re a tiny bit short on fabric  and you’re really dead set on using it, or if you’re just obsessed with yield like I am, try laying it out flat…you may be able to get it to fit!

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40 Responses to Cutting Fabric Folded vs. Flat

  1. Erin Gilkes says:

    Wow. I’ve suspected the suggestion on the pattern isn’t the best. So glad to have it confirmed! Thanks Jen.

  2. Thanks for the tip! I am totally for getting the most out of your fabric – I will definitely try this next time I’m in a yardage bind!

  3. Isabel Cardoso says:

    Very cool sweatshirt!!! And great tip! I always fold fabric next time i’m gonna try flat and see what happens!! :D Do you use any pattern or did you draft yourself? i would love one like that!

  4. Jenny says:

    So that’s why I’m always getting grumpy when I have so much fabric left over when I follow the fabric requirement on envelopes!! It’s kind of annoying but lately I’ve started doing practice layouts before I go fabric shopping so I’m not left with odd/ un-useable lengths of fabric.

    • Katie Emma says:

      Oh, good idea! I would probably take a picture of the layout on my phone so that I’m not left scratching my head on how I made it work before when it’s time to cut into the real fabric.

  5. mariacshell says:

    This is very helpful! Thank you.

  6. Nina says:

    I often cut my 2 sleeves separately, and I always make the narrowest possible fold to get the biggest possible scraps, but I haven’t tried making a full pattern piece and then cutting it *all* on unfolded fabric – must give it a go for the 1m of stripy jersey that I really want a long-sleeved top from. Thanks!

  7. Michelle says:

    I try to squeeze as much out of a yard of fabric as I can. Do you have any tips on maximizing for printed fabrics, as rotating pieces wouldn’t be an option.

  8. Kristi says:

    Most patterns seem to way over estimate the amount of fabric needed. I guess I should save any expensive fabric, for the second time around.

    Love the sweatshirt.

  9. I’m glad I’ve never ever stuck to the cutting layout on a pattern! It’s great to see just how big the difference is between the various methods demonstrated so clearly.

    When I still can’t get a top pattern to fit I tend to start slicing into the back pattern piece – adding a yoke or a centre back seam or both – and that usually works to get even more out of the yardage (Just remember to add seam allowances! To save some space I usually cut mine at 1cm.).

  10. Lisa says:

    Feeling like an aha moment right now. This morning I cut out a shirt pattern on the fold thinking I had enough for all the pieces. If I had left the fabric open… Most definitely would’ve had enough. :( next time for sure, as I like least amount of waste too :)

  11. sewlaurasew says:

    Wow – this is so interesting. I never would have guessed the difference was so drastic. I definitely need to try this out!

  12. Add me to the chorus of people who would love to see a pattern of that sweatshirt! I have the same problem where every commercial one I can find is either choking me or slipping off my shoulders. Looks perfectly cozy!

  13. gilliancrafts says:

    That’s a very helpful visual! I have to admit that I never lay all the pieces out at once… I just start cutting and hope they’ll fit! It seems to work for me… usually! :P I”ll start trying your method though when fabric is tight!

  14. rillafree says:

    Definitely better flat, but just make sure to always remember to cut pairs of things! Been there before where I’m short of fabric and cut 2 right fronts of a shirt instead of a left and a right! Doh!

  15. Fadanista says:

    Thank you for such a clear and eloquent description of saving fabric. I always consider getting a piece of clothing out of the smallest possible piece of fabric something of an extreme sport – gets me excited and my adrenalin running :)

  16. maddie says:

    It’s like a puzzle. There was someone in the production department (when I worked in technical design), whose job was to get the best yield.

  17. macstars says:

    Love this idea! I always creatively fold in narrow sections and the unfold and sometimes refold differently for different pieces. This seems easier.

  18. erin says:

    oooohh this is good to know, thanks!

  19. When I made by BHL Georgia dress, I cutwith my selvedges towards the centre, worked a treat, saved heaps of fabric :)

  20. megannielsen says:

    This is a really great visual Jen! I totally agree – unfortunately my cutting table isn’t big enough for a flat cut, so i almost always end up cutting on the kitchen floor hehehe so classy :)

  21. caroline says:

    Totally – I always do this. I can’t stand having to buy metres of fabric then having heaps left over.

  22. I’ve started cutting flat after reading your post about plaids (which I found after having cut a checked fabric on the fold and despite careful selvage matching the lines and thinking I’d pattern matched my side seams the lines drifted off on my back piece meaning I only ended up with one matching side seam).
    I hate cutting out and it seems counter intuitive to do more than I need to, but I find that I like the challenge of squeezing an extra piece out and/or having a more usable sized piece left and the satisfaction of beating the pattern layout more than makes up for the chore of extra cutting.
    Thanks for the great posts, I find your style really clear and engaging – explaining technical things simply without overcomplicating them or being patronising.

  23. rebecca says:

    such a great idea. Worth taking the time to trace out a full pattern piece. Love the grey marle!

  24. this is v interesting I will be noting this in the future when I’m effing and jeffing about using fabric.

  25. Sara says:

    Great tip! I almost always ignore the cutting layouts. I always thought I was using my fabric more efficiently. This is great visual proof!

  26. Thank you for this great tip! I always try to get the most out of my fabric, but I think laziness has been a big factor in my focusing on cutting on a fold, in some shape or form. I think I’ll be cutting fabric flat from now on! :)

  27. Thanks for the tip. It’s useful if you’ve scrimped on the fabric if it’s an expensive one. I never pay attention to the lay plan on the pattern as I like to take short cuts.

  28. emily marie says:

    Totally! I almost always cut flat and always buy a little less (1/4 up to a yard) fabric than the pattern calls for. Over the years I bet it’s saved a lot of money and waste.

  29. nancoise says:

    I’m sure that I will be using this tip from now on and most definitely sure that I need to make my own sweatshirts! I too, am hopeful there will be a grainline pattern : )

  30. Maureen Murphy says:

    that is an awesome tip. love the sweatshirt…pattern?

  31. Colleen says:

    Wow! I feel so….foolish! Thank you!

  32. lsaspacey says:

    Cool. I just cut out a gorgeous ponte dress and after cutting off its extra length from the pattern before cutting the fabric I realize I have enough fabric to make a skirt with it too. So, I love things like this. In fact, have enough extra fabric left over from two other items to make two(!) tops to go with this new unexpected skirt!

    Though hopefully, everyone will remember that you still have to think about the grainlines when you do this. Making it fit, but ignoring the grain or where your selvages are will defeat the whole thing.

  33. I always thought I was cheating when I did this – Mum used to do it. She was rather thrifty with fabric as she learned to sew during WW2 when you had to make a little go as far as possible.

  34. quinn says:

    With mainstream patterns, I always fold just enough to fit the largest cut-on-fold piece first, and go on from there with the remaining pieces; don’t think I have ever followed the diagram that comes with a pattern. And the only time I buy as much fabric as a pattern calls for is when matching, etc., is really important…usually I buy at least 1/4 yd less. Can’t imagine how big my scrap stash would be otherwise!

  35. Thanks for this – now I feel empowered not to cut on the fold. :) I’m sewing up my first garment with this method (a pair of Oliver + S pants for my kid); I’ll let you know how it goes.

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