Agnes Sew Along (2): Cutting and Marking

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This is part 2 of the Agnes Skirt sew along series. The other posts in the series can be found here. In part 1, we prepared the pattern and thought about fabric choices, so now we can work on cutting and preparing the fabric pieces.

Review your pattern pieces 

Take a moment to review each of the pattern pieces you have now cut out. Familiarise yourself with where the notches, awl points (marked with small crosses), darts and pleats are. You may wish to highlight the markings for your size so you don’t accidentally miss any when transferring them to the fabric.

It can also be helpful to cut out the notches on your pattern paper before placing it on your fabric. I use a drill punch to punch a small hole for marks within the pattern piece, and a notch cutter for notches at the cutting edge. You absolutely don’t need these tools - you can just snip the notches and sew thread tacks through the paper - but I mention them because I find that they save me time, and I do use them regularly. I think they cost me about £12, together, in case that is helpful.

Cut out your fabric

Start by laying out your pattern pieces on the fabric, ready to cut out the fabric pieces. The instructions booklet includes a suggested layplan, showing how you might place your pattern pieces.

For the main fabric pieces, you'll want to have the fabric folded with the selvedges (also known as selvages) together, in the usual manner.

For the lining, fold the fabric with the right sides together and selvedges parallel, but don't bring the selvedges all the way together. You only need the folded section to be wide enough for your lining skirt front and (for view A) pocket lining pieces. The two lining back pieces, and the zip shield, are cut on the single layer of fabric as you only need one of each. And, although I seem to have omitted it from the photo below, if you are making view A then the pocket lining piece should be on the folded double layer, above the lining front.

As you lay out your pattern pieces on the main fabric or lining, make sure that for each piece the grainline is parallel to the selvedge. As you pin the pattern pieces in place, use your tape measure or a long ruler to measure the distance between the grainline and the selvedge, at the start and end of the grainline. Adjust the pattern pieces so that this distance is equal, which will mean that the grainlines of the pattern pieces are parallel to the selvedges.

Pattern matching considerations

If you need to match a stripe or plaid pattern around your skirt, you need to pay close attention when placing your pattern pieces for cutting out the fabric. The hemline of the skirt is probably the easiest place to match a horizontal stripe or pattern. If you make sure the skirt front and back are “sitting” on the same stripe or part of the pattern you are matching, then you should achieve a good horizontal match along the side seams. 

Unlike the skirt, the waistband does not have side seams, so you can only really pattern match from one point, and the matching will be disturbed by the darts and side seams on the skirt itself. I usually make sure that the waistband pattern piece is placed against the fold of the fabric in line with the skirt front pattern piece. This way they are in the same vertical portion of the fabric’s pattern. I would then also cut the waistband piece with a few inches of extra length so that I have some wiggle room to play about with pattern matching when it is ready to attach to the skirt.

Preparing your fabric pieces

There are a few places where you’ll want to apply some fusible interfacing to support the main fabric: along the pocket edge, behind the zip, and along the vent and the hemline. Use narrower strips of interfacing (1”/2.5cm wide) for the pocket and zip areas and wider strips (2”/5cm wide) for the vent and hem areas. Whenever I have large scraps of interfacing left after a project, I cut it into strips of these widths so that I always have a little stash of them for projects like this. I use them every time I need to insert a zip, for example.

Once you have all your pieces cut out and interfaced, it's a good time to think about finishing the raw edges. The insides of the skirt will all be hidden by the lining, but finishing the edges will help to prevent the edges from fraying, which can weaken the seams. 

Depending on the fabric you are using, and the resources you have available, you may want to use one of the following seam finishes:

- zig zag stitching on a regular sewing machine;

- serging/overlocking on an overlocker; or

- pinking with pinking shears (or with a pinking blade on a rotary cutter).

In each case, you can finish the raw edges of the skirt and lining pieces now, but try to do so without losing any of the seam allowance. So, if you're serging, place your fabric so that the overlocker stitches over the edge without trimming off any of the seam allowance. And if you're pinking, line the outer points of the zigzags/triangles up with the very edge of the seam allowance.

Another thing to bear in mind, if you're serging, is the angles of the vent edge. You'll need to be careful not to cut those corners accidentally as the serger blade gets close to them. The video below shows how to tackle the vent corner, and the same applies to the bottom of the skirt where there is a slight outward angle at the hemline. 

I usually finish all the raw edges of the sides, hem allowance, and centre back/vent edges of the main skirt and lining skirt pieces before starting to assemble the skirt. There's no need to do the waist edges as they will be encased within the waistband. You can also do the pocket bag, pocket lining and the long straight edge of the zip shield pieces.

Transferring pattern markings

For the notches at the edges of the pattern pieces, make a small clip in the fabric (small enough to be within the seam allowances when the seam is sewn). Our seam allowance is 5/8” (1.5cm) so make your clips 3/8” (1cm) or less.

For awl points (marked with small crosses) such as at the dart tips and the corners of the vent, you have a few options:

  • You can mark the points with chalk or a suitable fabric marker. Stick a pin through the awl point and both layers of fabric. Use chalk or fabric marker to mark each layer of fabric on the wrong side, where the pin pierces it. 
  • You can use a tool called an awl to pierce a small hole in the fabric, just to the inside of the seam allowance (or dart tip) where the awl point is marked. The awl creates a hole by pushing the threads of the fabric apart rather than by cutting out a hole. This is not suitable for all fabric types - loosely woven ones for example are unsuitable as they won’t “hold” the hole particularly well.
  • You can use a needle and thread to mark the point with a tuft of thread that you leave in place until the dart or seam is sewn. These are called “tailor’s tacks”. If you use a basting thread to make them, rather than regular thread, you’ll find it easier to remove them if you sew over them. 

I tend to use the chalk method, unless the fabric is loosely woven or too colourful for the chalk to show up well, in which case I will use tacks. Here’s a quick video overview of how I use both methods, although I confess that actual tailors might disagree with my rather informal approach to the tacks in this video - I was a little distracted my by children whilst filming this step!

 For the vent corner markings, if it’s easier, you can just mark the corner points using a ruler and chalk / fabric marker. The awl points are where the stitching lines cross (5/8” / 1.5cm inside the raw edge of the vent).

So there we have it! Pat yourself on the back, because we’ve done quite a lot of prep work here. But getting all of this out of the way will make the assembly of the skirt quicker and easier. Once you’re happy with the fit of the skirt, you might find it more efficient to cut and prepare the pieces for more than one Agnes at a time. That way after one big prep session, you could have two or three skirts ready to sew at your convenience.

 

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