Today I’m going to write a little bit about preparation. I know it can be frustrating to be thinking about preparation when you just want to get stuck in, but believe me, it’s worth it!
The number one thing to do with your fabric before you cut it is wash it. You should wash and press your fabric in the same way you’ll wash and press your finished blouse. It seems like a hassle, but take it from me, it’s worth it. You wouldn’t believe the amount of garments I have shrunk beyond wearable after their first outing!
Fold your fabric in half to check whether it stretched in any places during the prewashing process – perhaps because of the way it hung during drying. Depending on what type of fabric it is, you may be able to straighten it a bit using the iron. The aim is to get the grainline as straight and consistent as possible all the way through the fabric.
Cutting your fashion fabric
Once your fabric is prepared... you can get started on the cutting!
Cut out your paper pattern pieces to the correct size, if you haven’t already. Make a note of which pattern pieces you need for the view you’re making – for this pattern, it’s quite simple as it’s only the collar pieces that differ between view A and view B. You also need to know how many of each piece to cut, and which pieces need to be cut on the fold of the fabric. For Bellini, the blouse back is cut on the fold, and two of the collar pieces need to be cut on the fold as well.
Working on a clean, flat surface, spread out your fabric and get rid of any wrinkles. I’m using my kitchen table here as it’s very large, but the floor is also good, especially if it’s not carpeted.
I’m using bits of old sheet for my Bellini, but your fabric will likely already be folded in half down the middle. If it isn’t, fold it in half, selvedge to selvedge.
If, like me, you’re making a stripy Bellini, you’ll need to think about how you want the stripes to fall at this point. The stripes on my fabric are quite wide (6cm) and I want them vertically down my blouse. I want a stripe down the centre back, so I folded my fabric parallel to the stripes, down the exact centre of a stripe.
I also want a stripe down the centre front of my blouse, so I placed the centre front in the exact centre of a stripe too. The centre front is marked by a notch, and a line all the way down the front pattern piece. Because I folded my fabric down the centre of a stripe (along a line of symmetry of the pattern), the stripes on the bottom layer of fabric exactly match those on the top layer. So I know that both fronts will be identical.
Place your pattern pieces on your fabric in the right locations. If you’re using plain fabric, or a small print that doesn’t need to be matched, there is a layout plan in the instructions to give you an idea of the most economical cutting layout (on page 2).
Grainlines are marked on the pattern pieces (the long arrows with half-arrowheads). Check that they are all aligned with the fabric’s grainline.
If you’re cutting with scissors, pin your pattern securely to the fabric, trying not to disturb the pieces. I like to pin every corner plus every 20cm or so. If you use a rotary cutter, go ahead and use whatever weights instead that you normally use.
Now is the time to get cutting! Try to keep the fabric as flat as possible, don’t lift it from the surface of the table. This helps you cut more accurately.
Once you have the pieces cut, you’ll need to mark the notches on each one. Notch locations are marked on the pattern pieces – they are the black triangles. Up to you how you mark your notches on the fabric – I like to make a small snip into the seam allowance (don’t cut the whole triangle out, a single snip is more accurate).
Where a notch location is on the fold of the fabric, a half-triangle is marked, like this one at centre back. At this point, place your small snip on the fold.
I ran out of fabric for my collar so I’m cutting collar pieces from another part of the sheet which has narrower stripes. You’ll be cutting EITHER two of the straight collar OR two of the scalloped collar – I’m cutting both here as I’ll be demonstrating them both.
Cutting your bias strips
You’ll also need two bias strips for finishing your armholes. The bias strips need to be 3cm wide by around 45cm long. I prefer to use a ruler/set square and a rotary cutter for cutting these, for accuracy, but you can just as effectively cut these with scissors. If you’re using scissors, I recommend marking out the strips in pencil (or fabric marker) before cutting.
Note where the grainline and cross-grain of your fabric lie, and cut at a 45-degree angle. It’s best if you can be as accurate as possible with the 45 degrees, that’s why I use a set square (in the pictures I’m using a ruler/set square designed for patternmaking, called a pattern master).
If you don’t have a set square, you could draw a big square on your fabric and cut it from corner to opposite corner.
Once you’ve made your first cut at 45 degrees, the second cut should be parallel to the first, but 3cm away, to make a 3cm strip. Try to keep the fabric as still as possible.
Repeat for another strip.
Tips for cutting silky fabrics
Are you using very silky, slippery blouse fabrics? It can be very difficult to cut these accurately as they move around so much.
The best method I use for cutting these is to place a big sheet of tissue paper on the table. Then spread out the fabric so the selvedge is lined up with the edge of the tissue. Then place another piece of tissue on top and pin through the layers, along the selvedge. On top of this fabric sandwich, either lay out your pattern pieces, or draw around them onto the tissue. You’ll only have a single layer of fabric, so you’ll need to take this into account for pieces that are intended to be cut on the fold, and draw them onto the tissue correctly. Some pieces will need to be cut twice, like the fronts (and don’t forget, the fronts have to be a left and a right, ie, they are a mirror image of each other). Pin evenly and securely all the way around all the pieces and cut as carefully as possible for best results.
The type of interfacing I’m using is a medium-weight general purpose woven fusible, but you’ll need to select one that’s good for your fabric type.
Personally, I always do a test on scraps of material before I start, to make sure the interfaced fabric will have the required properties.
Check for adhesion, drape and stiffness.
If the interfacing feels right, go ahead and cut out two front facings and one collar piece from the interfacing and iron them on.
That’s it for cutting. Any questions before we start sewing?