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How and When to Use Fabric

Using Fabric

BEFORE YOU BEGIN A SOFT furnishing technique, there are a few basic rules about handling and estimating amounts of fabric that you need to bear in mind. Cutting out fabric and joining panels are skills that are essential for almost every sewing project.

When using a patterned fabric, you must match the design motifs between joins in panels, and between pieces of fabric that will be positioned side by side, as in the case of curtains.

Before you cut out the fabric, assess the final appearance of the pattern by placing it against the object that it will cover and adjusting it until the design motif is positioned to your satisfaction.

Placing the Pattern

When you intend to make up a soft furnishing using seams in the fabric, as well as over panels of fabric.

Use a patterned fabric, first consider the placement of the pattern in a tape measure to determine the size of the pattern repeat in relation to the item you are decorating, such as a window or a fabric.

It is important to bear in mind the size of the pattern piece of furniture. You should match the pattern across any repeat when calculating the amount of fabric required.

Measuring Pattern Repeat

Manufacturers indicate the size of the pattern repeat on the selvage, or on a ticket attached to the roll, To establish the dimension of the pattern yourself, measure the distance between identical motifs.


Matching Across Panels

When making up a pair of furnishings to hang side by side, such as curtains, consider how the pattern matches across the drops. Make sure the pattern will match edge to edge when the curtains are closed. Cut out one curtain, then match the second to the first.


Partial Repeats

When dressing a window with a curtain or blind, it may be impossible to avoid having a partial pattern repeat at the top or bottom.

For a short curtain (left side of the image), place the partial pattern above the heading, and the full pattern at the bottom hem. A full-length curtain should have a full pattern at the heading (right side of the image) and a partial pattern along the bottom hem.


Cutting Out Fabric

Cutting out fabric is not difficult as long as you are careful and use a sharp pair of scissors. The most effective and comfortable method of cutting out fabric is to lay it out on a smooth, flat surface.

You may need to use a clean floor as a worksurface when cutting out a large piece of fabric. To cut out fabric accurately, you will need the basic sewing kit.

1. Marking Fabric should be cut on the grain - along the weft threads and across the warp threads. Lay a set square at right angles to the selvage, and mark the cutting line using a vanishing-ink pen.


2. Cutting Fabric using a pair of dressmaker's scissors, cut steadily along the marked line. Some loosely woven fabrics can be cut following the gap made by pulling out a single thread.

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Notching Fabric: you may need to join lengths of fabric from the bottom edge to the top edge. To identify the direction of the lengths, and to continue any pile or shading from length to length, cut notches at the top edges.


Joining Plain Fabrics

For most soft furnishing techniques, you will need to join when greater strength or flatness is desired, however, use panels of fabric to form a single, large piece. Most techniques require joins to be made with plain flat seams.

When greater strength or flatness is desired, use flat fell seam or french seams. To join panels you, you will need matching thread and the basic sewing kit.

1. Tacking Panels after the fabric has been cut to size, layout the panels right sides together, and match their raw edges. Pin and tack the panels together, making a seam 1.5 cm (% in) from the edges.


2. Sewing Seam Remove the pins before machine sewing along the tacked line. Remove the tacking stitches after you have finished sewing.


3. Flattening Seam Press the seam allowance flat to smooth the finished join.


Joining Patterned Fabrics

When you are using patterned fabric, you will need to match the pattern repeat across seams. Before cutting out the fabric, decide where you want the pattern to lie when the soft furnishing is complete.

Cut out the first piece, then cut the second piece by matching the pattern with reference to the first. Join panels after all of the required pieces of fabric have been cut out. To align the pattern repeat when joining fabric, you will need matching thread and the basic sewing kit.

1. Matching Pattern Along the edge of one panel, press a 1.5 cm (% in) seam allowance to the wrong side. Turn the panel over and place the pressed edge on top of the raw edge of the other panel, right sides up. Match the pattern over the panels.

Keeping the edges together, fold the pressed panel onto the other panel, right side facing. Pin the panels together along the fold line.


2. Stitching Panels Open out the panels and make sure the pattern remains aligned. Ladder stitch along the fold line to temporarily secure the panels together. Fold the panel's right sides together again, and sew a plain flat seam along the fold line. Remove the ladder stiiches.


Placing Joins

The placement of joined panels of fabric on or across large pieces of furniture or windows is as important as the positioning of pattern repeats. Place the fabric against the furniture or window, and decide what looks most appropriate for each type of furnishing and fabric. Across a window, place the fabric joins to the sides. For bed and table furnishings, center a complete fabric panel down the middle of the length of the furniture.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Temoor Dar

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