Or, how to save on fabric when you didn’t quite buy enough
One of the best parts of sewing for yourself is deciding how to use the fabric: will you put the stripes vertically, horizontally or on the bias? Will you fussy cut the motif from your print and make it the focus of your project, or even align your pattern pieces so the print repeats in a way to make the seams look invisible?
Two types of print I really have fun with are checks and plaids. And the best place to have fun with them is in a tailored shirt. I’ve made many shirts for my husband and whenever I get a check or even plaid I go a little overboard with my options. (You can do all the following with an uneven plaid, but keep in mind you won’t have the symmetry of an even one.)
I like to put any pieces I can on the bias; did you know most shirt pieces can be cut on the bias? No, it’s true! The only pieces you wouldn’t normally cut on the bias are the bodice front and back (and even these can be cut on the bias if you’re careful.) Everything else is fair game – the sleeves, cuffs, collar and stand, yoke and front band are all there for you to have fun with. Here are some example below:
Inner and Outer Collar Stands
Outer Cuff; the inner cuff in this example is on the straight of grain, but you can cut both on the bias or reverse them
The Front Pocket
The front pocket can also be cut on the straight of grain and then placed so it “disappears” on the front for a clean look
The Tower Placket is also a good place to cut on the bias for contrast
The Collar – Upper or Under. In this case, it’s the under collar, which is pieced
The Yoke, Inner or Outer is a favorite of mine – and the inner yoke is the best place for embroidery! Note the inner yoke is also pieced here
Here are a few tips for using pieces cut on the bias:
- Treat them gently – the edges will fray more easily with handling
- Starch heavily – small or narrow pieces such as the collar stand or tower placket will retain their shape better if you starch them well first
- Stay stitch long edges. Just as you stay stitch curves to prevent stretching (because it’s usually a bias edge) stay stitch long edges like the sleeve seam to prevent stretching
So how does this save on fabric? Well when you put pieces on the bias, especially smaller pieces, you can fit more pieces on less fabric. Say you needed an extra quarter yard of fabric to cut out the yokes, but you ran short. If your try placing the pattern piece in a different area on the bias, you can usually fit it in. This works especially well with wider fabrics, 54 inches or more.
Some other tips for saving on fabric when you don’t quite have enough:
- Cut on a single layer of fabric. You’ll have to trace out a second set of pieces but you can get a much tighter fit with most patterns this way
- Piece your pieces – instead of cutting a piece on the fold, cut it in two pieces – don’t forget to add a seam allowance where the fold would have been. Sew up the new seam and use the piece as usual. This works especially well with hidden pieces such and the inner yoke, under collar and inner collar stand, and can be used on the bias or straight grain
- Have fun with contrasting fabrics – use a different but coordinating (or not!) fabric for small or hidden pieces such as the inner yoke, inner collar stand, under collar and inner cuff; or be bold and use the contrast on the front band, pockets, or outer cuff, collar or yoke. One great way to match and contrast at the same time is to use the same print in different color ways
- Piece your sleeves – if your pattern has a single-piece sleeve, make it a two piece. Draw a line parallel to the grain line, about halfway between the center and back edge of the sleeve pattern. Add a seam allowance to each side of the cut and sew them back together – you’re right back where you started! This allows you to put the smaller piece – now the undersleeve – in a different area so you fit more pattern pieces on your fabric. You can even put the undersleeve on the bias or in a different direction if it helps you save on fabric.
- Piece your sleeve 2 – cut your sleeve right down the middle, parallel to the grainline. Draw a new grainline 45º to the old one (don’t forget to add a seam allowance to the cut edge!) and now you can put both pieces on the bias. If you have a plaid, stripe or check you can put the pieces on opposing bias and create a chevron pattern for your sleeve. The outer yoke is another fun place for this chevron technique
And you can do any of the above with plain fabric of course, it’s not just for checks and plaids!