I am super excited to welcome back Dianna ….our awesome author of “Let’s Talk Top-stitching, With Dianna Leckner!” and “Creating Fabric Using Color Weaving – With Dianna Leckner!“. Dianna has not only agreed to write some blog guest posts BUT she is also now a proud new member of our Admin team over in our Facebook Group. Welcome aboard the CWD team, Dianna, I am very proud and honored to have you join us! 🙂
Dianna has an awesome new post to share with us so enough of my rambling, over to you Dianna:
Meet Me in The Mom Cave
Hi, everyone! Christine recently asked me to do a guest blog post, and I knew right away I wanted to talk about a technique I use to help me get consistent results when I cut fabric for my bag making projects. Before we go there, though, I want to talk about my sewing room/craft room/office, which my family and I affectionately call “The Mom Cave.”
Like many of you, I’ve been sewing for most of my life. I started in 1971 at the age of ten when my sewing-machine-salesman dad brought me a straight stitch model he took as a trade-in. Also like many of you, I always wanted a dedicated space for crafting, sewing, and dreaming up new ideas. Mine is a typical tale of growing up, getting married, and producing offspring, all three of whom seemed to need places to sleep and store their stuff more than I needed a place to sew. Hmph!
Once all my fledglings abandoned the nest, I finally got my Mom Cave. See? Typical story.
Though it usually looks like a cyclone just raged through it, The Mom Cave is my favorite place in the house. Front and center in the room is my prized cutting table. We bought the “pub height” (36 ½ inches tall) dining table for our eat-in kitchen about ten years ago, and I hated it from the moment it came home. After about three or four years I decided I couldn’t stand it anymore and tried to find someone to take the awful thing off my hands in favor of a standard height table. No takers.
One day I decided to disassemble it and move it outside for my sons to either haul off or move to a large shed on our property. I swear it must weigh three tons, but I got it upside down in the middle of my living room trying to figure out how to take it apart when I finally realized what I had. How is it that I couldn’t see its potential as the perfect cutting table while it stood in my kitchen in all of its 42-inch by 72-inch glory? Why could I only see it for what it was when it was wrong side up? I did see it, though, and I immediately gave up my shaky-folding-banquet-table-on-PVC-pipe-stilts for this lovely, stable, perfect height, ideally sized dream table. I’ve been in virtual sewing heaven since that day.
On one end of my table there always seems to be a collection of sewing and crafting paraphernalia, but the business end of this table (where all the magic starts) holds my cutting mat and six large spring clamps. These can be had at just about any hardware store for about $3 USD. The one-inch wide clamps are a perfect fit for my table, but the clamps come in a variety of sizes and styles so you are very likely to find a type that will work with yours. Be sure you get clamps that are strong and have a tight spring.
Let’s talk about why those clamps are so important to me for accuracy in cutting fabric.
First, I use them to keep my cutting mat secured. With one clamp on the top left corner clamping the mat to the table, and one clamp on the bottom right corner doing the same thing, my cutting mat literally never moves at all.
Sometimes one or the other of those clamps are in the way of what I’m trying to do, so I just configure the clamps differently to suit my needs, or I slide the cutting mat to the right side and clamp it the opposite way.
Second, when I use a long acrylic quilting ruler, I can lay out my fabric, clamp everything down, and then place my ruler. As you can see from the photo, I also clamp my ruler, and I sometimes abut a second ruler against it so it won’t slide, clamping ruler number two in place, too. I’m right-handed, so I place my fingers against the left side of the ruler so it can’t slide to the left, and then I make my cut. Safe and accurate, accurate, accurate.
The third thing I use these clamps for may be my favorite. I use ½ inch thick foam core board for another craft I do, and I have a dozen or more of these 20-inch by 30-inch boards in my Mom Cave all the time. Foam core boards are available in the US at Hobby Lobby stores, though I don’t know about availability elsewhere. They run about $8 USD, but I never buy them unless they’re on sale. They come in at least two thicknesses, but if you decide to buy one or more, be sure you choose boards that are at least ½ inch thick.
You should know that I print all my ChrisW Designs pattern pieces on heavy card stock so I can use them again and again. For pieces meant to be cut on the fold, I also create a full pattern piece (PP) by printing two copies, flipping one over, and joining them at the fold line. I duplicate Chris’ PP joining technique by adding tabs I draw myself, and then tape everything together. I also attach an adhesive label showing the name of the pattern piece and how many of them I need to cut out.
Why do I think you should consider doing this, too? Having full pattern pieces allows you to maximize your pattern layout very efficiently, but more importantly, it saves time in getting that efficiency. One thing I try to avoid when cutting out patterns is pressing my fabric more than once. If I had to cut several pieces on the fold, I certainly didn’t want that fold to be running down the center of my fabric because it’s potentially wasteful. Before I began using full pattern pieces, I would fold the fabric only wide enough to accommodate a specific PP, press a crease, and then cut out that single piece. For varying widths in other pattern pieces, I would unfold, press flat, refold, re-press a crease, and finally cut the piece out, repeating this routine over and over. These days, that’s a no from me.
Now, when I need to cut pattern pieces for a project, I place a foam core board on my cutting table and clamp it down so it won’t move.
I then place my uncreased, unfolded fabric on the board. You can cut multiple layers this way, but I usually don’t do more than two layers at once. Be careful when layering fabrics so pattern shapes are oriented correctly once they’re cut out. For example, if you’re cutting a shaped Genevieve flap and its lining at the same time, the exterior fabric should be placed right side up on the board, but the lining fabric should be placed right side down.
Because this board has a foam core, sewing pins can easily be inserted to hold your PP in place atop the fabric. Sometimes I pin the fabric to the board first if it is large and may slide around, or if I am cutting more than one layer. Typically, though, I just place the PP on top of the fabric, determine the straight grain and pin the PP beginning at one end of the printed grain line.
I measure the distance to the straight edge of the fabric and then insert the second pin at the other end of the printed grain line at the same distance from the edge. That squares everything up and I’m ready to pin down the rest of the PP.
Once that’s done, I trace around the PP with a FriXion pen or another disappearing marker. I remove the pins and cut my pieces. If I am cutting more than one layer, I first pin the fabric layers together every few inches just inside my drawn lines so the fabric layers don’t move as I cut.
I want to mention one more thing I like to use the foam core board for when sewing. I have a desk my grandfather made for my mother and her sister in the 1940s or early 1950s. It’s a two-person desk, meaning Mom sat on one side and had a single drawer to her left for storage. My Aunt Millie sat on the opposite side and she also had a single drawer on her left for storage. Each of them sat to their respective far right sides, leaving room for the other person to work.
As you can imagine, this desk holds significant sentimental value for me, but it also holds my sewing machine. It’s small and there isn’t much workspace, especially with my large sewing machine sitting there. While I’m sewing, I can create a small workspace courtesy of a small piece of foam core board I place as needed, right over the drawer. I use it if I need to re-pin, or clip, or match something, or make an adjustment, or whatever it may be.
Again, I can pin things to the board or use it as a surface for anything else I may need. I don’t have to get up and move to another spot, and when I’m finished with the temporary work surface, I move it off the drawer, close it up and I’m ready to roll. If I am reading pattern instructions from my computer as I work on a specific step in a project, I place that small piece of foam core board on my computer desk and do the work right there. I consider foam core board to be a vital tool in my Mom Cave. I think you will, too.
I hope you enjoyed your visit to my Mom Cave, and I also hope you’ve taken away some useful tips for increasing accuracy and efficiency when you’re cutting out your patterns. I hope to write future blog posts for Christine and would appreciate your comments or suggestions.
Thank you so much for sharing that with us Dianna, I must admit I LOVE your cutting table and Mom Cave! I look forward to seeing and hearing from you again soon! 🙂
If YOU have any comments or suggestions for future blog posts for Dianna to consider, please do leave them in the comments below!