How to Make a Dress – Part 3: How to Lay Your Sewing Pattern Out On Your Fabric

Now that  you have your pattern ready for cutting (sorry if you have fitting troubles – I just fit my garments when I try them on), you can lay it on your fabric.

Fabric Widths
Fabric often comes 150cm wide. Which you have will affect how much fabric you need and how you lay the pattern pieces on it. Your pattern envelope will tell you how much fabric you need for either of the main widths (see the first post in this series). Inside, on the pattern instructions it will also tell you how to arrange your pattern pieces on your fabric.

Nap
Nap is when fabric looks different one way up than it does the other way up. A prime example of this is velvet – it looks shiny one way and soft the other. But nap also refers to stripes, uneven plaids, prints that obviously have a right-way-up and things of that ilk. Suppose your fabric had little hearts printed all over it in a repeated pattern. That fabric has a nap because it has a right-way-up. You would presumably way all the hearts to be the right way up so you would use the “with nap” layout.

Not all fabrics have a nap, plain linen for instance (like I used on the sailor dress). It looks the same either way up. So what does this mean for you? It means that you can dovetail some fabric pieces so that they fit in better and use less fabric.

Here you can see that the back piece was “dovetailed” so that it fit in better. Because the fabric doesn’t have a nap, it doesn’t matter which way up the pattern pieces are lain. This means that you can save fabric. Where you would have needed 1.5m with nap, you can probably use only 1m or less without nap.

Layout Pictures on Sewing Pattern Instructions
On the first page of your sewing pattern instructions there are pictures of “lays” (the plans for laying your pattern pieces on your fabric). These are easy to use. You just pick the ones you need for the view you have chosen, and arrange your pattern pieces on your fabric so that it looks like the picture.

There will be lays for the main fabric, for interfacing, and for lining if there is any.

But suppose your fabric is of an awkward width? What then? Well, you put the big pieces down first, then fit the smaller pieces around them. Easy. Just as long as you keep the grain lines correct and pay attention to the nap if there is one, you will be fine.

The Right and Wrong Sides of Fabric
Fabric usually has a right and a wrong side. The right side (often abbreviated to RS) is the side that you will see when the garment is worn. The wrong side (WS) will be the inside.

If you are new to sewing it may be difficult for you to tell the RS from the WS. Sometimes, like when the fabric looks the same on both sides, it doesn’t matter. But if the fabric looks different on either side, it does.

If the fabric has a print, the printed side is the RS. If it has a pile, like velvet, moleskin, or faux fur, the pile side is the RS. If it is twill fabric such as cotton drill or denim, the side with the diagonal ribs is the RS.

I hope that helps.
Until next time, Happy Sewing!
Sabrina Wharton-Brown
The Sewing Corner Haberdashery, Hornsea, UK

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