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Friday, November 13, 2015

How to Get the Most Out of Your Fabric

I was so excited to buy some adorable custom knit fabric for my daughter's Thanksgiving shirt. The knit was a bit pricey so I bought the minimum one yard and figured I could make it work. Of course then she chose a pattern that uses much more fabric than I had planned, after adding up the fabric requirements for each of the pieces. But because I didn't have any coordinating knit and because I love my daughter so much (awe), I decided to get out my ruler and see if it was at all possible to make the shirt with what I had. And guess what -- the math told me it would work out! So I put my trust in the numbers and cut very carefully with a few techniques. So that's what I'm going to show you how to do today! 

I do want to start out by saying that the Fabric Requirements we provide for our patterns are very accurate. We measure them out and calculate exactly; no guessing involved. They are based on worst case scenarios for the fabric, meaning that if you used a separate fabric for each piece and they were each directional prints, you would have enough to make your outfit. After all, you would not want to run out of fabric partway through your project!  So the fabric requirements are accurate and if you want to see exactly how we calculate those, you can read our blog post here

If you are planning to use the same fabric for some of the different pieces, however, you can often buy less if they don't take up the full width of the fabric because multiple pieces can share the width. And that's where my little trick for today comes in. If I had used separate fabrics for each parts of the shirt (front, back, sleeves, ruffles), then it would have added up to 1 7/8 yards for my daughter's size of Tween Brenda's! But because I didn't have that much, I wanted to see how little I could get away with. 

To do that, I printed out my pieces and measured them at their widest points using a regular ruler.  My shirt piece was 8" at the widest point and my sleeve piece was just under 6" at the widest point. I needed to cut each of them on the fold, twice, so I multiplied each width by four. Here's what I came up with:

8" x 4 = 32"
6" x 4 = 24" 

32" plus 24" equals 56", and lucky for me, my knit fabric was 60" wide. Perfect! 
I did need the ruffles too, and I measured to make sure that there was also enough length left in my yard to cut those after the main shirt pieces.  So the math all checked out (whew!) and the next task was to cut the pieces without any errors. I definitely have some tips to share on that! 

Tip #1 -- If you know you're going to be short on fabric, do NOT trim the selvages ahead of time. When you get down to the last little bit, you would be better off with a tiny bit of selvage than with nothing at all.  

Tip #2 -- If you are short on fabric, do NOT layer your fabric to cut multiple pieces at once.  It does save time to stack when you cut (and I normally do it) but you might lose half an inch here or there in the overlap. I opted to take a little more time and cut one piece at a time.  

So keeping those two things in mind, I folded my fabric over just enough to fit the piece on the fold without using the selvage. Also notice that I put my piece as high to the top of the fabric as possible, to save the fabric below for the ruffles. Then I cut out using my rotary cutter, just because I'm a little more precise that way. If you think you're more precise with pins and scissors, go ahead. Our back piece is done! 

Moving onto the front piece, I again folded the fabric over until there was just enough room to fit the piece on. I did it close to the top again and cut very carefully.  

Next up was the sleeves, and I admit I was getting a little nervous at this point. I folded the fabric again, just enough to fit the piece on. I was tempted to sneak the fabric to an angle, but I didn't. We need to keep the fold even with the grain, even when we're short on fabric. I carefully cut the piece out. 

I needed one last sleeve -- talk about cutting it close!  Look at that tiny little sliver I had left before hitting the selvage. Whew.  I cut out carefully and had my four main pieces, yippee!  

This is the fabric I had left underneath the pieces, that I was then able to use to cut my neckband and ruffles:


And here are all the pieces I needed to make a Tween Brenda's *with* long sleeves and bubble ruffles, using just one yard of custom knit fabric! 

(Somebody needs to call my math teacher and tell him I was able to score this much use out of one yard of fabric, thanks to my math skillz.  Just kidding, it wasn't that hard.)  

I have to show you this too. These are the itty bitty strips left of that yard of fabric. I'd say I did pretty great. Not much left for my scavenging kiddos to fight over. 

And of course my favorite part is SEWING the shirt.  When she got home and tried it on, she instantly fell in love with the style and now wants me to use the same pattern for the custom Inside Out knit I bought at the same time -- which means that I get to do the same process all over again. Fun.

And now YOU know how to get the most out of your fabric too!  If you want additional info on fabric widths, grainlines, combining yardage, etc, you can read this other blog post here.  And of course if you have any questions for us, feel free to post in our Patterns Group on Facebook! We'd love to help. 

Let's Create! ~ Kristen 


  1. Miss N looks so pretty in her new top! I love it! Good job momma! Can't wait to see the Inside Out one.

  2. That is great figuring. I really enjoyed this blog. This helps even the newest beginner, sometimes you just have to do step by step after seeing the blog and having your pattern pieces together. Very good and interesting blog. Recommend anyone to watch this blog before cutting out patterns with not enough yardage that pattern calls for.
    Great Job CKC again.