Tips For Cutting Out Paper Patterns

paper scissors

Have a dedicated pair of paper scissors, only used for cutting out pattern pieces. A sharp blade makes all the difference.


Tick off each piece as it’s cut out. This gives a sense of achievement and forwards progress. It also means you can keep track of what has or hasn’t been cut out, without having to disturb feather-light pieces of tissue paper.

paper pieces

Cut out pieces roughly in the first instance. This avoids wrangling with huge sheets of tissue paper as you then cut out accurately.

paper scraps

Save the leftover scraps of tissue paper to use for future pattern tweaks. If you regularly do FBAs, for example, you’ll need spare paper to tape to your adjustments.

Pressing Collage

Press each paper piece with a moderately hot iron. Not only will this help with accurate cutting out, but it’s an opportunity to study the details of the pattern.

ironing fabric

Immediately follow up with pressing your pre-laundered fabric, folded right sides together with selvages meeting. If you’re feeling extra saintly, flip and press both sides of the fabric.

If you can turn this process into its own satisfying ritual, you’ll learn not to rush to the instant hit of slicing into fabric. Rituals can make all the difference between success and failure.

Now, how to stop those pressed paper pieces from curling?

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18 Responses to Tips For Cutting Out Paper Patterns

  1. Robin says:

    I go through this process, but have no solution to curled paper. Perhaps a bit of spray starch? I will give that a try this morning. My pattern preference for this very situation is for Kwik Sew patterns, which come on heavy paper, and so are a joy to work with. Most times I reserve pattern cutting for an activity to accompany telly watching. I can imagine sewist with cats find this a challenging part of sewing, but then again cats probably enjoy all sewing-related tasks.

  2. Bunny says:

    Ackkk. Don’t use spray starch. Also don’t use steam. I’ve learned these lessons the hard way. Any moisture will cause the pattern paper to shrink up and get distorted. I press the little pieces first and lay them on a flat surface sometimes even the floor. Then I do each bigger and bigger piece so the top piece is laying on top of a smaller piece. Let them relax on the floor for a bit and the curl will be gone in minutes.

    Like Robin, I will do the rough cutting in front of the TV and then rotary cut the pattern removing the black lines. The rotary cutter gives more accuracy and is quicker. If I decide the pattern is has graduated to tried and true status I will mount it on oaktag when the garment is complete and cut that out with the rotary cutter.

  3. racurac2 says:

    Yesss! I don’t understand when you see sewing bloggers cutting fabric with wrinkled paper patterns! I also use the iron for paper and fabric.

  4. Also, if you press both sides of the pattern paper lightly, and then immediately move to a cool surface, they’ll relax faster. No steam, just med-hot dry iron!

  5. Jenny Lester says:

    Good points Karen – ticking off pattern pieces as you cut them out. When using more traditional pattern Vogue – Butterick etc I find that I “ring” each piece which I require and also put a ring around the pattern placing/cutting instructions for my size and design choice – helps when pinning pieces on when crawling around the floor!!!

  6. Emma says:

    It’s never occurred to me to iron my fabric folded, and so I have been spending ages crawling around on the floor trying to line up the selvedges. I’m an idiot! 🙂

  7. for the first time ever, after reading your tip have pre washed my fabric! Why I have never done this before defeats me, all ready to cut out tomorrow!

    • sew happy says:

      do not beat self up about not pre-washing your fabric. it is a personal thing. some people do. some do not. Fabric today is not like our grandmothers

  8. sewchet says:

    If you iron both sides, it doesn’t curl. And I never use a hot iron – only a medium which helps, too.

  9. I am getting very good and do all of the above, no steam on the paper at all though. Afraid that I fall into the tracing camp so was cringing at the thought of cutting into a printed pattern. I know we all tend to fall on either side of the fence but I am hoping that my stash will one day go to Sprogzilla or another future seamstress. I get to enjoy so many vintage patterns that way I might as well pass it on. 🙂 Xx

  10. bylorna says:

    Great tips! I use an old rotary cutter and save my slightly-dulled blades to cut paper patterns. This method is especially helpful with PDF patterns and makes things go much faster!

  11. elle says:

    I use masking tape to stabilize the corners of pattern pieces. It’s not really able to handle heat but then again, I don’t need to iron the edges because they’re already flat from the tape!

  12. Pingback: What Are Your Sewing Rituals? | Did You Make That?

  13. Jess Hyde says:

    “How to stop those paper pieces curling?”

    That’s a simple one, iron on the other side too.

    This has always worked for me, I hope it does for you too.

  14. Irene says:

    I never cut the original paper patterns. I trace them……

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