Hi I’m Krystal the sample maker here at Megan Nielsen Patterns! As well as working on sample making and assisting with pattern development here at Megan Nielsen Patterns I have also been working in the live performance industry for the last 12 years making costumes for theatre and dance. Over the years I’ve had to become very efficient at making multiples of the same garment with accuracy and speed, and today I’m sharing with you my tried and tested tips to make batch cutting simple and more efficient!
Did you make the mistake of telling your child’s classroom teacher that you know how to sew? Are you now tasked with making costumes for their assembly item? Maybe you’re making bridesmaid dresses for you friend’s wedding. Or you’re getting a head start on matching Christmas pyjamas for the family. Don’t worry I’ve got you covered!
Make a master list
The first and most important step is creating your master list. After measuring performers, I like to make a spreadsheet that lists all their measurement. Then I assign them a size that corresponds to their measurements and make notes on any adjustments that need to be made, for example: lengthening a hem, lowering a neckline etc. Next step is to group these into sizes so you can cut one pattern at a time without swapping out pieces. Add a column or two for you to record your steps i.e.: cutting, fitting, finished. You’ll get the satisfaction of ticking off your tasks as you go.
Trace off your patterns
Now it’s time to trace off your sizes but because you’ve done all the prep work, this part is easy. Trace off all your pattern pieces in each size you need. Make sure your pieces are labelled to make your life a little easier. I usually clip together each size with a bulldog clip. These can then be hung off coat hangers and put on a rack for easy access or pinned to a pin board.
Make name labels
Before I start cutting from fabric, I make labels for each performer, usually just first names on a small piece of blockout. Hot tip: Curtain blockout makes great labels because it doesn’t fray and is easy to write on.
Cut same sizes/views first
All the prep work is done so now it’s time to cut! Cut one size at a time so you don’t need to mess around with all your pattern pieces. As you cut out a garment, pin a label to each bundle to keep a track of which one belongs to who. Make sure you mark off each garment as you cut it out on your master list (see how satisfying it is?).
Cut using a lay
What is a lay I hear you ask? A lay is a term used in bulk cutting where you lay more than one layer of fabric on top of another and cut through all layers at once. You’re cutting out twice the amount with half the effort! This works well with woven and knit fabrics, but the fabric must be quite stable. You don’t want to do this with slippery fabrics like satin as the grain tends to move around a lot more as you cut. The trick is to use pattern weights to hold it all in place.
Cut elastics, add zips, buttons etc and bundle
After the main fabric pieces are cut out, fold them up into neat little bundles with you labels clearly pinned to the top. You can now move on to all the extras. Interfacing, elastics and buttons can now be cut, counted and tucked into your bundles.
You did it! Sit back and admire all that hard work and treat yourself to a coffee.