Tutorial 8. Cutting the Dress.
The cutting process starts from transferring all adjusted patterns onto batiste. I prepare batiste for the face and for the lining simultaneously by folding it twice.
I arrange the patterns on the folded batiste the way they are supposed to lie on the main fabric and trace them. I keep in mind that the back of the skirt will flare at the sides and there will be a kind of a train in the seam at the back. There will be a light flare along the front princess seams, too. I secure the layers of batiste with pins to fix the patterns in place without piercing them through completely.
Then I cut the patterns to separate the fabric without following their outlines. And I trim them at the hip line.
Batiste patterns are ready for the proper cutting process:
I take the skirt patterns I’ve prepared. One pattern is used for the princess seams at the back and the other one – for flaring the side seams. I fold the skirt patterns along the hip line.
I have spread the main and the lining fabrics on the table in advance. There are four layers of fabric with a fold line. I have secured the fold line with pins. The face of the lining will be its shiny side and the face of the main fabric will be its matte side. I am going to cut the lace overlay separately.
People often ask me how to estimate fabric consumption. According to my estimations I need 2.3m of fabric each for the face and for the lining – a total of 4.6m. I am going to cut it crosswise with the selvage located vertically.
How did I determine it? I took my paper patterns and lay them out on the table the same way as during the cutting process. I imagined the fold line and placed the first central front piece at it. Then I imagined the flare of the skirt and placed the second pattern there. Then I imagined the side seam, etc. And then I took a measuring tape and measured how much folded fabric I need. It was 1.1m. I made it 1.15m just in case. Then I simply multiplied it by four and got 4.6m.
In short here is the algorithm to calculate fabric consumption: you image that your 150cm wide fabric is lying on the table and imagine putting down your patterns gradually moving away from the fold line. And then you measure it.
Let’s start cutting the dress.
I step inwards from the selvage and mark 115cm – it’s the length of the skirt when finished. Then I place the central front pattern with its waistline right at that mark and secure it with pins.
Next I measure the distance between the fold line and the outermost point of the hip line – it is 10cm. I mark the same 10cm down the bottom of the dress and add another 6cm for the flare. It’s not that wide because I don’t want a big flare at the front.
I mark the hemline of the skirt with a 115cm radius from the waistline to the bottom.
And then I draw a straight line from the hip line down to the bottom and secure the piece with pins.
Why does the flare start from the hip line? I want the dress to have a tight fit in the hips and preserve the beauty of natural curves. It could start from the waistline if you chose a different dress model. But modern silhouettes favor dresses that are snug around the hips.
I take the side front pattern made of batiste and perform the same procedure from the other side of the fabric.
I mark 115cm upwards from the selvage. The location of the waistline is now determined.
I place the side front piece at the waistline and pin it down. Make sure the waistline stays parallel to the selvage. I measure the distance between the fold line and the outermost point of the hip line (18.5cm). I mark the same 18.5cm from the other side and mark the same degree of flare as on the front (6cm). Then I draw a straight line from the hip line to the bottom.
I place the corresponding skirt pattern next to the piece matching their side lines. That’s our bell skirt piece. I match the hip lines of the dress top and the skirt and trace it. That’s how the construction kit principle works.
I mark 115cm down from the waistline along the side.
This way you find the outermost point of the side line and you can draw a smooth transition to the opposite horizontal point using the pattern as a stencil. It’ll be the hemline of the piece.
I remove the paper pattern and secure the piece with pins. That is all – we have outlined all front pieces with regard to the model!
Now let’s move on to the patterns of the back.
The side back pattern: you need to determine the location of the waistline before putting this piece in place. The waistline is parallel to the selvage but don’t forget that we want to have a small train, about 20cm long. I have added a train solely to show you how it should be cut. You could also make a longer train but this fabric is not wide enough. If your client wants a longer train, you’ll have to look for other ways to cut it. I cut dress patterns crosswise because it’s easier to sew their vertical seams then. It’s a lot easier to sew in the crosswise direction. I am speaking about the fabric I’m using right now but it also concerns crepe-back satin and many other synthetic fabrics available today. You can test your fabric and if you get good results sewing in the lengthwise direction along the selvage, then you can safely cut it lengthwise and make a train of any desired length. You can lay patterns of any length along the selvage whereas the crosswise direction will be limited to 1.5m (i.e. the width of your fabric).
If you have to cut a long train crosswise and there’s no other way, try to come up with some gores, inserts or feel free to use any other tricks that will allow you to cut the dress crosswise and add a long train with the help of some decorative elements.
Let’s return to the location of the waistline.
I want to make a train that’s 20cm long. This length should be distributed between two back pieces – the central one and the side one. I have decided to prolong the side piece by just 10cm and prolong the central piece by full 20cm.
So I need to mark 125cm from the selvage (instead of 115cm) to determine the location of the waistline on the side back pattern. That’s where the waistline passes. I put down the side pattern made of batiste, match its waistline with the waistline drawn on the main fabric, and pin it down.
You should be very accurate when laying the patterns over the fabric: if the waistline is not parallel to the selvage, the symmetry will be disturbed, all seams will go askew and the dress won’t fit well.
I lay down the same side pattern of the bell skirt that I matched with the side front piece before. It’s the same pattern with the same degree of flare. I match their hip lines again and trace it.
The side seam length should always stay the same – 115cm.
I extend the length of the pattern and mark the end of the side seam. The side seams have been traced and I won’t need the bell skirt pattern anymore.
You must have noticed that I don’t care what size my skirt pattern is. All I need is the side seam configuration. Similarly, the configuration of the princess seam at the back is the only thing I need from the fishtail skirt pattern.
Now I take the pattern of the fishtail skirt used for the princess seams at the back. I place it at the side back piece matching their hip lines and then trace it.
I need to mark 125cm along this princess seam, not 115cm.
I extend the flare line and draw the hemline of the dress by connecting the end of the side seam and the end of the princess seam. I secure the pieces with pins.
And now it’s time to work with the last piece – the central back piece.
I place the central back piece made of batiste at the very edge of the fabric and secure it with pins. Although I had to shift the fabric in order to take pictures, you must never do this during the cutting process! I place the fishtail skirt piece so as to prolong the princess seam, match the hip lines and trace it.
The length of the princess seam from the waistline down should be 125cm, same as on the previous side back piece.
I prolong the line of the princess seam and mark the end.
Then I place the fishtail skirt pattern at the central seam line, match the hip lines and draw the central line of the back piece.
I extend this central line down to the very bottom as far as it can go. Then I measure its length from the waistline. It is 130cm. Therefore 15cm is the longest train I can make.
Let’s draw the hemline of the central piece of the back. Make sure each end of the hemline starts at the right angle to the side seam or the princess seam – it’ll help match the patterns better.
I’d like to point out that a 15cm long train is not exactly a proper train but freely falling fabric at the back. Wedding dresses usually have a train of 0.5m or longer. Just try to choose fabric that’s suitable for sewing in the lengthwise direction whenever you plan to make a dress with a train and you won’t have any problems with the cutting process. But if your fabric happens to suit only for sewing in the crosswise direction, you’ll have to experiment with gores or separately cut inserts. That will affect fabric consumption, too. Make sure to take everything into account in advance.
We have prepared our dress patterns and now we simply need to cut them out of the main fabric and the batiste following the outlines.
First I cut the patterns of the back.
Let’s cut the front patterns with duplicated cups.
I take a piece of stiff iron-on fabric and put it underneath the cup area of the side front piece. I bend back the main fabric and place two layers of stiff iron-on fabric underneath it. I like cutting it all simultaneously – it comes out much more precise.
I secure the iron-on fabric with pins.
Remember to make notches when you cut the front patterns of the dress! All necessary notches should be transferred onto fabric.
I bend back the cup area and trim the excess of iron-on fabric up to the notches underneath the bust.
And I’m going to put the same stiff iron-on fabric underneath the cup area of the central front piece – only this time with a fold line – and trim the excess after cutting it out.
It’s safe to say that we’re done with cutting the dress and its iron-on duplicating parts!