Creative articles about sewing

Bernina Sapporo Coat Sewalong – Week 2 Fabric Prep

Here we are at week 2, an important week – fabric prep & cutting. And you also get to see what fabric I chose to go with. 

Prepping or pre-washing your fabric is quite important. There is nothing more disheartening than spending ages making a garment then having it shrink in the first wash!! I was dreadful at prewashing in my earlier sewing days. I definitely paid the price on more than one occasion. Nowadays, as soon as I get my fabric home/delivered – I overlock or zigzag the raw edges, and depending on what sort of fabric it is, I throw it in the washing machine & then dry it in the dryer. I prewash how I will continue to wash it once made. Then if it’s stash fabric, I know it’s already been washed because of the overlocking.

But not all my fabric gets prewashed. Wool for coats for eg, I treat differently (and some silk, I will hand wash and dry on the line). I read on the Internet ages ago, that to pre-treat wool for sewing, a great option is to put it in the dryer with a wet towel (the wool has not been wet) and the heat from drying the towel will help preshrink the fabric. On occasion I have done this. But I have also not done any pre-treatment for wool coating as well. My theory is, for garments like coats or blazers, you will more than likely not be washing in a machine once made & could quite possibly be getting them dry cleaned. Coats are not everyday items that get dirty easily. Plus, I also figure a garment that is oversized won’t have the size affected if it does shrink a wee bit. In non Iso times, there is also the option of taking your fabric and having it dry-cleaned before cutting out, this I have done and I know Sewsters who also do this. I also know Sewsters who never pre-wash their fabric, and there have not been any tears (that I know of!).

So let’s talk about fabric grain. The grain of a fabric runs parallel to the selvedges, cross grain runs perpendicular to the selvedge and the bias runs at a 45degree angle. The selvedge is the edge of your fabric that doesn’t fray. In very basic terms, it’s where the fabric gets held on the loom for weaving. In nearly all cases, you want your pattern pieces to run with the grain.  And how you know you are doing this correctly is your pattern pieces have grainlines on them. They are the long straight lines that appear on the pattern piece and sometimes have arrowheads at one or both ends – these need to be parallel to the selvedge – and I use a ruler to make sure that I have the grainline correct.

You can see the selvedges here

A pattern piece ready to be cut on the fold

And here is a grainline

You can see here I have my grainline running straight with my selvedges

This is really important when it comes to fabric that has a nap or direction. A nap is fabric like velvet for eg – it’s a fabric that has a ‘pile’ or raised fibre. If you run your hand along velvet it feels smooth one and way and a bit rough in the other direction. This is the same for some wool fabric too. The correct direction is that it should feel smooth as your hand is running “down” the fabric. If you don’t cut all your pieces with the nap going in the same direction, your garment will have shading issues – because the fabric has lighter or darker shades depending on the angle you look at it.

 A fabric that has direction is a fabric with a print or stripes for eg. Imagine a fabric covered in pineapples. The green top of the pineapples are all pointing up. If you were to fold your fabric incorrectly and not have your selvedges running parallel with each other when making a shirt for eg, the front of your shirt could have pineapples the right way up on one half and upside down on the other. Not ideal, but you could definitely pass this off as a deliberate design choice!!  Just remember to cut the sleeves the same way lol.

Most patterns come with a fabric layout plan to help you cut out. These are certainly helpful, but I more than often do my own thing. I always start with the “on the fold” pieces, and I will try and maximise my fabric and save as much as I can (it’s the quilter in me lol). I also always layout all the pieces before cutting to make sure I have enough fabric (this is particularly important for fabric from your stash). Once I have established my layout plan, I often take a photo to remind me where all my pieces fit.

Working on pattern piece placement before cutting out

Right, let’s get your pattern pieces onto your fabric for cutting (don’t forget to breath when you start cutting!). Don’t forget fabric is nearly always folded in half with your selvedges running parallel to each other and it’s a good idea to fold with right sides together. Your pattern piece will tell you how many pieces you need to cut out. Papercut say Cut 1 Pair (other designers may say Cut 2) or cut 1 on fold. Because your fabric is already folded, this is how you get to cut 2 at once (and they are mirror images of each other). Pay attention to the direction of your fabric if you have nap, stripes or directional pattern (as discussed above). The pattern piece will also tell you if it’s for fabric, lining or fusing (sometimes the same piece is used more than once). Obviously if it’s a lining piece only, you wouldn’t need to use it on your main fabric and vice versa. Keep an eye out for notches and mark these on your fabric – either with a marking pen, or I like to do a little snip into the fabric (emphasis on little, you don’t want to go to deep or you’ll cut through your seam allowance).


Personally, I don’t pin all the pieces at the same time (and speaking of pins, pin parallel with the pattern piece and try and keep close to the edge, within the seam allowance). Once I have established my layout plan and made sure I have enough fabric, I generally cut one or two pieces at a time (if you are new to sewing, you will develop your own method as you do more projects). This certainly wasn’t the case when I first started sewing *ahem* 42 odd years ago. But I find that doing it this way I certainly save on fabric waste. I also prefer to use a rotary cutter and cutting mat rather than scissors. I do find I get a smoother cut using a rotary cutter. So if you’re used to using this method for quilting, try it for dressmaking too.

You get to do this all again with your lining fabric and fusible interfacing. If you are using fusible interfacing, there are some fusing strips you need to cut that are not pattern pieces, have a look at the layout plan and you’ll see what mean.

Make sure you remember to cut the fusing strips as above (if you’re using fusing)

Pay attention to the Back (# 3), Back Side (#4), and Sleeve (#5) as they are for fabric and lining, the lining however is cut within the red line/s. For the hem on #3, it’s just a matter of folding the pattern piece, but for the neck edges & bottom of the sleeve this is a bit harder to fold due to the curve. So a top tip – cut the pattern piece down to the red lines a few times and it folds right back (see photo), that’s a boom top tip for sure!

Top Tip!!! Cut down to your red line and then fold over when cutting out your lining!

I wasn’t going to tell you this at the start, but I make no secret of the fact that the cutting and prep is my least favourite part of sewing. I just want to get into the fun zone and start sewing!

And that, my friends, is where we are going to be next week – in the fun zone sewing the outer shell of your Sapporo Coat. Start getting very excited!!!

See you all next week.



Difficulty level: Intermediate
Time to Complete: A week or more
Used Products:
Edgestitch Foot #10
Edgestitch Foot #10
Reverse Pattern Foot with Clear Sole #34
Reverse Pattern Foot with Clear Sole #34

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