Three Deep Questions

scissors or rotary blade

Question One Is there a case for launching straight into a make, without toiling first? I hope so – because I’ve just done precisely that.

I do this when:

  • The general fit is forgiving
  • It’s an outerwear make that doesn’t require uber precision
  • There’s enough fabric to allow you to cut generous seam allowances – fit can be let out. Remember, you don’t have to follow the 15mm rule
  • I’ve studied the construction lines and judged opportunities to tweak fit as I work

Question Two How do you cut out fabric when there are lots of fiddly pieces?

I usually swear by my Olfa Rotary Cutter but my Merchant and Mills shears have proved themselves to be a reliable, workhorse alternative – especially when there are odd little quirks to a pattern piece that a blade needs to negotiate.

damp fabric

Question Three Do you ever impatiently cut out pattern pieces when your fabric is still damp from its pre wash?

I have! Here are the cut pieces, out in the garden to complete their drying session in the sun. Yes, there may indeed be some shrinkage. I don’t think I particularly care.

So, what about you? Do you toile, do you snip, do you damp cut? Do tell!

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29 Responses to Three Deep Questions

  1. Chloe says:

    1. I’ve learned to toile (or muslin, as we say here in North America!) for most projects, but it’s certainly not a necessity. But I do it more than I used too, and have better results in most cases!
    2. The rotary cutter is getting more use lately, as then I can avoid pinning! But I cut on the floor, and only have a medium size cutting mat, so shears are also indispensable.
    3. Nope. Never even crossed my mind!
    Have a great day – hope your sewing is smooth!

  2. 1. I toile when I’m making something that really needs to fit well, or if I’m planning to use a fancy fabric, or a pattern company I’ve never used before. If it’s something more forgiving I might make a wearable muslin, but I find my size is pretty average and I usually don’t need to make a lot of pattern adjustments.
    2. I only have a small cutting mat so my rotary cutter doesn’t get that much use. I do use it to cut lightweight interfacings though, because that stuff is awful to cut with shears.
    3. Never did that! I do sometimes use a hairdryer on my clothes when they are not completely dry yet by the time I want to wear them. Ahem.

  3. artcoopsville says:

    I had issues lately when I didn’t make a toile and assumed the pattern would work. It’s wearable, but only just. I can rest a refashion in the near future.

  4. shoes15 says:

    Love the rotary cutter too! Never cut damp fabric, I must say. And toiles? Sometimes… I kinda hate doing them. I’ll do a “wearable” one out of cheaper fabric and if I love the pattern, I’ll make another out of nicer stuff.

  5. Carolyn says:

    Don’t toile/muslin, use a pair of scissors because I love the sound the scissors make when cutting through the fabric, and never use damp fabric. Well that was easy!

  6. I rarely toile, never trace, always use scissors/shears [I really don’t get this love affair with rotary cutters…all that dragging the fabric around onto a too-small cutting board? Madness] I rarely even pre-wash. What a slob…and yet, in 40 years I have only ever had a couple of garments shrink or spoil in their first wash…but then I never hot wash, and have never had a tumble dryer, which I suspect is the cause of all the fuss.

  7. It would never occur to me to cut damp fabric; doesn’t your pattern get damp too? Not that I ever have the temptation anyway because I usually wash fabric a few days in advance of using it. I cut with a combo of scissors and rotary cutter. I do all the big pieces with scissors and then move the smaller bits of fabric to a mat to do the little ones. I almost never make toiles. I’m lucky enough to have a fairly standard shape so I usually get away with it. Not always though!

  8. craftycreeky says:

    I rarely make a toile, if I do then it is actually the lining of the garment, I always use scissors to cut out, I use a rotary cutter for patchwork, but just can’t get the hang of using one to cut patterns out. I don’t prewash, so drying isn’t an issue!! All that ironing!

  9. Cherry says:

    Oh you lucky no-toile peeps! Since returning to making my own clothes after a very long break I no longer have the Vogue 12 sewing pattern certainty of my young self and nothing will fit without work on the pattern. Even a b****y apron! Sob.
    Rotary or shears whatever seems appropriate and always wash unless drycleanable only.
    Happy sewing Karen!

  10. Heather says:

    Hahaha I thought I was the only person in the world that couldn’t wait for the fabric to dry. Everything here goes on the line and some days I just cant wait, and as a plus the pattern doesn’t move on damp fabric.

  11. I always toile – just wreck a couple of metres of silk and you’ll be a convert I say! Now I wouldn’t consider it. I took a great fitting workshop last weekend with Alexandra Morgan here in Victoria BC Canada (she has some useful videos on youtube for those who need fitting tips) https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCRB1MzYqaU7iDi0z1n9qMUQ and she’s adamant – don’t miss the toile stage but she’s also taught me how to make the most use of the process to get a great fit. I love my rotary cutters too! I have a few – one I use for cutting paper, one for knits and one for wovens. I have several pairs of scissors too – geez can you ever have too many cutting tools?!

  12. Annie says:

    If the garment is woven and fitted, then I would go for a wearable “muslin.” But honestly, I don’t like super fitted clothes. I would also look carefully at the finished garment measurements and possibly compare the pattern to a TNT.
    Cutting is usually with my Kais. Typically faster than rotary for me, except for binding or other straight bits.
    I never have cut damp fabric. Wash, tumble dry to ensure shrinking happens before sewing, and iron before cutting.

  13. Robin says:

    I can’t be bothered with a toile, and usually will just sew a wearable practice garment instead, and make modifications if necessary and add notes to the envelope for future projects. Fortunately, the pattern fits well enough from the envelope that minor adjustments can be made for a closer fit if desired. If I have a special fabric, I will pick a TNT pattern. There is just too much fabric and too little time!

    No to rotaries – I too love the sound and feel that shears provide, and the mat is never where I want it to be. Also, I am afraid of slicing my fingers.

    I always prewash fabrics I think will shrink, but I tend to draw out the enjoyment of the process of making a garment. I just love handling the fabric, and cutting is my least favorite part.

  14. Lynn Barnes says:

    1. When trying a new pattern, I will do a wearable muslin. Even if it doesn’t fit me, it will fit someone.

    2. I only use rotary cutters for piecing patchwork. I feel I have better control of the cutting if I use scissors or shears.

    3. I wait until my fabric is dry, because my cutting options are a decent wooden tabletop (don’t want the fabric to ruin the furniture) or the top of a slightly-rusty chest freezer in the basement (don’t want the furniture to ruin the fabric).

    In humid summer months, I use an electric clothes dryer. In dryer months, I love to hang out the wash, on a rotary line that spins as I stand in one spot and clip on the clothes.
    When we lived in northern Illinois, I’d walk from one end of our straight clothesline to the other, pegging out the wash. By the time I reached the end of the line, it was time to trot back to the beginning of the line and take off the already-bone dry wash. We lived on the edge of a prairie. The wind blew all the time. One could understand how early immigrants were driven to madness by the constant soughing.

  15. Kathy Lynch says:

    Never toile, always shears & I’m still chuckling at the thought of you ripping the damp fabric off the line, impatient to get started! Now THERE’S enthusiasm! Love it! Teehee. šŸ™‚

    • Kathy Lynch says:

      Oh! And YES to that heavenly sound of shears cutting fabric. That is one of my earliest memories as a child, sitting on the bench seat watching (& listening) to my Mum cut out her next creation. Lovely!

  16. Jenny Bowman says:

    I always toile a top or dress cos boobs and most patterns are generally not a match made in heaven. Don’t bother with skirts or trousers although a somewhat growing roundness in the tummy area makes me suspect I will need to soon. (or lay off the chocolate and wine and that’s never going to happen!)
    I’ve never tried a rotary cutter except for strips of binding. I know without a doubt that I would slice through my pattern and fabric. So it’s shears all the way for me.
    And what’s this washing fabric malarkey. I don’t have time for that. When I get the urge to sew something I want to do it now not tomorrow! It seems to me it’s amazing I have a wardrobe full of wearable me made stuff, but I do and I love it. Xx

  17. Megan says:

    Oh well, how terrible am I? I rarely make a toile only several times in my life… I wash tape the pattern together to try on. I use scissors mostly as I don’t trust the rotary cutter unless I have a quilting ruler… and I have never pre washed fabric. I must be pretty lucky, I rarely have a disaster. I am dicing with death though aren’t I?

  18. esewing says:

    I do make toiles, but not always , it depends on how much I need to start sewing, shears always , I only use a rotary cutter for small pieces like toys or quilting, that might be something to do with not having a large cutting mat ! Pre washing is confined to bargain pieces of fabric found in charity shop and have definitely cut damp fabric before , pressed it dry

  19. Sheree says:

    My younger self never made a toile or pre-washed fabric. Mostly bought fabric on a Saturday morning and wore finished garment that night! These days I will always pre-wash (in advance!) and toile ( not in calico, normally a cheap fabric). These garments will be finished and worn if fit works out. Have never once used a rotary cutter. Love to use my scissors.

  20. natashacleeton says:

    I toile as things rarely fit me straight off the pattern – small shoulders and chest doesn’t help! I do like the sound of cutting shears but find the rotary cutter more precise. Ha! I love the idea of you cutting out whilst it’s still damp!

  21. tinygoldenpins says:

    It depends on the pattern whether or not I make a muslin. Right now, I’m making a combo of pattern pieces for a dress that has the Anna front bodice, the Elisalex back bodice, and the Flora skirt. I’ve made a muslin of the top before I cut my fabric and now that I have a finished bodice with zipper in and all, I still have to make adjustments. But, for things that are looser — the Named shirtdress Reema, for instance — I just cut with VERY large seam allowances (since Named doesn’t give seam allowances, anyway, it’s not a big deal. I have been using my rotary cutter almost exclusively lately, but for smaller pieces I’ll cut a big blob with the rotary and then just fiddle with smaller scissors.

    I’m afraid to say that I can usually wait for my fabric to get almost dry!!!! However, I just read about a technique yesterday that I want to share here. And that’s to put all your pattern pieces that require interfacing all together on one big piece of interfacing. You have to make extra copies of collar and such. Am I the last person in the world to learn this technique?????

  22. Chris Griffin says:

    Muslins sometimes. I tend to match up patterns with things I know fit already. Gives good insight! Muslins are for when I can’t figure it out or know something will be hard (button up shirts, jeans, …).
    Rotary-lover. Shears only when needed.
    I wash, dry, wash, dry, wash, dry and maybe another round, so … no… then again, I tumble dry all my clothes, so I want them pre-washed as harshly as possible!

  23. Jacqueline says:

    I tend not to toile, then get disappointed when the item doesn’t fit. Massive skirts and tiny tops! I need learn to to measure better.

    I always use scissors to cut, as I tend to cut my fabric on the floor.

    I always pre-wash, but then I get cold feet about cutting the fabric, so it gets folded up and laid away again.

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