How to Sew a Men's Shirt - Reading the Pattern

How to Sew a Men's Shirt - Reading the Pattern

Your Patterns are Ready...Time to Cut!

Now that your pattern pieces are cut out and pressed flat, you are ready to arrange them on your fabric in preparation for cutting your fabric. I find this process to be pretty fun (I think because I like doing jigsaw puzzles) but some people really hate this part. I hope that, after this lesson, you too will enjoy laying out your patterns. This installment will focus on general aspects of pattern arranging. In the next installment, I will discuss customizing your pattern layout to take advantage of the fabric design features and allow for pattern matching.

Cutting Zone

The first issue is where to do this. It works best if you have a long, flat surface that you can arrange your pieces on without having to move them around. For years I used to do all of my pattern cutting on the floor which worked fine until my back and knees decided to stage a rebellion. Two big dogs walking around sniffing everything doesn't help either. So, a few years back, we purchased a six-foot long folding banquet table because we were hosting Thanksgiving dinner. That was the best $80 we ever spent. It makes a wonderful cutting table and it is easy to put up and take down. My favorite part is that I can walk completely around the banquet table while cutting, which I can't do with my regular sewing table. The items that you will need are: sharp fabric shears, pins (or weights), and chalk or some other marking tool. If you have a rotary mat and cutter, bring those out as well.

Prepare the Fabric

To prepare your fabric for cutting, you will need to first wash it and then press it flat. Fold it in half lengthwise with the right side facing out so that the selvages match up. Do not press this fold. Regarding pre-washing fabric, there are different opinions on this issue because some people swear by washing it first and others think that fabric is easier to cut before it has been washed. I worry about the fabric shrinking, so I always pre-wash my fabric (unless it is a dry-clean only fabric). Fabric shrinks across both its length and its width, with the length shrinking more than the width, usually. If you cut your garment patterns without pre-washing the fabric, you run the risk of your garment becoming distorted and out of proportion after it is washed.

How to Read a Pattern Layout

Now that your fabric is washed and pressed, you are ready to start working with the pattern pieces. The secret of laying out patterns is understanding how each piece functions and how they go together. Some patterns are placed on the fold or on doubled fabric and others are cut from a single layer of fabric. Some are cut in multiples, others are cut singly. This information drives how the pattern pieces are placed on the fabric. To help sewers with this process, most pattern companies include suggested layout diagrams on their pattern instruction sheet. As you become more familiar with the process, you will be able to arrange the pattern pieces to your own preferences. At this point, I rarely even refer to the suggested layouts because I find them to be somewhat wasteful. They usually call for the fabric to be folded in half, but there are others ways of folding the fabric that can result in fabric savings, which we will go into in more detail in a later installment.

Take a look at your pattern instruction sheet and find the diagrams that look like the one shown here. These diagrams suggest how your pattern pieces should be arranged on your fabric. Each style view will have its own drawing and in some cases, pattern sizes will have their own layout. Also, because some fabrics come in 44-45 and 60 inch widths, there will be arrangements based on the fabric width. Look at all of the diagrams and select the layout that applies to garment that you are making and the width of fabric you are using.
pattern arrangement

Click for more information on how to cut patterns

How to Sew a Men's Shirt Lesson Index

How to Sew a Men's Shirt - First Steps
How to Sew a Men's Shirt - Preparing the Pattern
How to Sew a Men's Shirt - Reading the Pattern
How to Sew a Men's Shirt - Cutting the Fabric
How to Sew a Men's Shirt - Matching the Fabric
How to Sew a Men's Shirt - Pocket
How to Sew a Men's Shirt - Sewing the Yoke
How to Sew a Men's Shirt - Sewing Shoulder Seams
How to Sew a Men's Shirt - Sewing the Collar
How to Sew a Men's Shirt - the Collar Stand
How to Sew a Men's Shirt - Sewing the Sleeves

You Should Also Read:
How to Sew a Men's Shirt - First Steps
How to Sew a Men's Shirt - Preparing the Pattern
Essential Sewing Tools and Notions

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This content was written by Tamara Bostwick. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Cheryl Ellex for details.