Cutting knit fabric and finding knit grainline // Nettie Sewalong // Closet Case Patterns
Sewalongs

NETTIE SEWALONG PT 5: CUTTING YOUR FABRIC

Hi gang! Hope you had a lovely weekend! I had the supreme pleasure of meeting Ginger for brunch yesterday; she came down to Montreal with her fella and the poor guy couldn’t get a word in edgewise as we squawked about the craft. I don’t get too many blog pal visits in these parts (ONE MORE REASON WE NEED A MOOD LOCATION, MONTREAL) so it was especially nice not to have buy a plane ticket to kvetch and catch up.

Today we are going to cut our Netties out. This used to be my least favourite part of making things; all you want to do is get that little needle going but instead you’re stuck fiddling around with grainlines.  I cannot stress enough how much more pleasant this part is with a rotary cutter – it’s insanely satisfying to see how quickly it can go with one of those bad boys.

Today’s agenda:

  • Figuring out binding length
  • Finding the grainline
  • Laying out the pieces to decide our cutting strategy
  • Matching stripes if necessary
  • Cutting out pieces
  • Cutting out fabric binding
  • Ironing and marking binding

BINDING

I include a chart with the pattern that shows the various lengths of binding required for the different neckline variations. Each binding is 90% the length of the neckline opening. Some of you may prefer less or more stretch depending on your fabric. Some of you may have experience inserting knit bands by feel and will ignore the chart all together. I found that 90% was a good overall stretch ratio in the gajillion Netties I’ve made up. You want a little more stretch than a typical t-shirt for example, since you want the neckline to cling to your body. A slightly tight binding means less shoulder slippage, but it can be a little trickier to install than one with less stretch (don’t worry, you can do it!) The leg bindings have a stretch ratio of 85%; you want your bottom to stay put, hence the additional tightness. Some of you may want even more, but you won’t know until you make your first Nettie.

Nettie Binding chart

Once you’ve decided what neckline variation you’ll be making, check your size for lengths of the neckline and leg bindings. Remember that the width of each piece is 4 cm or 1  1/2″. I did not create pattern pieces for them since it would have taken oodles of paper. If you have a quilting ruler, it’s a super breeze to cut them. If you don’t, you may want to make pattern pieces using scrap paper like so:

Cutting Nettie pattern-15

These will also help you visualize your cutting layout but if you keep in mind how much fabric you need you can freestyle it as well. Don’t cut them out yet but keep in mind where you will place them on your fabric.

FINDING A GRAINLINE

Before we start cutting, we need to fiddle with grainlines. SO-RRRRY. I use a few methods for finding the grainline on stretch fabric – it really depends on how you are laying your pieces out.

It’s fairly simple to find your grainline on a woven fabric. It’s no more difficult to do so with stretch, but the process is a little differerent. Fold your fabric in half so your selvedges meet and grab two corners in each hand. Chances are, your fabric was not cut perfectly on grain. You’ll probably see something like this:

Cutting Nettie pattern-5

You see all those ripples? That indicates that it’s not folded on the grain. What you have to do is move one of the corners over a little and give it a little wiggle until the fold on the bottom settles along the grain. It should look like this:

Cutting Nettie pattern-4

No ripples! Hallesewyah! Now that you know where the grainline is, you can trim your edges so that they run perpendicular to the selvedge. In the case of Nettie, this is an optional step since you won’t be cutting any pieces on the center fold of your fabric. I will explain a few other methods for finding the grain in a moment.

CUTTING LAYOUT

Before we cut anything, it’s important to lay your pieces out to visualize your cutting strategy. I hate wasting fabric and like an efficient cutting layout. That means you’ll be cutting your pieces one by one.

Here is a Nettie dress. As you can see, the fabric has been folded on each end, rather than in the middle:

Cutting Nettie pattern

Here is a Nettie bodysuit. I obviously need to cut that sleeve twice. This is around a yard of fabric; I wouldn’t have enough fabric to do the shelf bra or long sleeves in this case:

Cutting Nettie pattern-2

CUTTING FABRIC

Now that you know where your pieces will go, it’s time to cut out your front and back bodice. We need to fold the fabric once on each side in order to do this. When you are not folding your fabric down the middle, there is a different technique to find the grainline. Lay one of your bodice pieces down on the far side of the fabric so you can see where your fold will go. Place a yardstick or grid ruler next to the straight edge of your pattern piece and align it with one of the tiny ribs of the grain.

Cutting Nettie pattern-6

Its hard to capture in a photo since the ribs are so tiny, but you should be able align your ruler parallel to the grain.

Cutting Nettie pattern-7

Once you have your grain aligned, carefully fold the fabric over the ruler. Gently slide the ruler or yardstick out. You now have an on-grain fold to lay your pattern piece on.

Cutting Nettie pattern-8

Lay your pattern weights down (or carefully  pin around the edges) and cut out your your piece.

Cutting Nettie pattern-9

Don’t forget to mark your notches! I prefer to make a tiny snip (less than 1/4″) into both layers of fabric.

Cutting Nettie pattern-12

Don’t mind my RADIOACTIVE HANDS!

Repeat the same grainline routine for the other side of your fabric and cut out your other bodice piece (and shelf bra if necessary). Speaking of the shelf bra – this is not a separate pattern piece in the interest of conserving paper. If you haven’t traced your pieces, you’ll just need to fold your pattern at the indicated line when it’s time to cut it out.

Depending on how much fabric you have, you may be able to cut both sleeves out on a double layer of fabric. If that’s the case, use the same method as above to find your grainline when you fold the fabric.

Otherwise, through trial and error I’ve found a good way to stay on grain when you don’t have a flat edge to align.  See that long arrow on the sleeve piece that indicates grainline? With a pen, extend that line to the top and bottom edge of the sleeve. With the wrong side of the fabric facing up, lay your sleeve piece down to identify its approximate location. Then with a ruler or yardstick, use a piece of chalk or other impermanent marking tool and mark a long straight line to highlight your grain. Now put your pattern piece back on the fabric and match grainlines, like so:

Cutting Nettie pattern-14Cut out both sleeves, making sure you mark your notches!

MATCHING STRIPES

If you are using a striped fabric for your Nettie, you will definitely want to be mindful about stripe placement. Your garment will look super profesh if all your stripes line up on the seams.With stripes, grainline takes a second seat, especially if your pattern is printed as opposed to woven into the fabric. It is more important that your stripes match (in my humble opinion) then having your grainline be spot on. You can’t always have both.

When you fold your fabric, line up your stripes and place a pin every few inches to keep them in place. This will ensure your stripe runs horizontally across your pattern piece. When you cut your second bodice piece, use your first as a guide to make sure you have the stripe starting at the same point of the underarm seam.

Cutting Nettie pattern-3

For those of you who would like more information on stripe matching, I would like to direct you to Tilly’s entry on this topic for her (lovely) Coco pattern. She explains this super well if you need more clarification.

CUTTING BINDINGS

As I said before, you can make binding templates out of scrap paper. I personally find it easier and faster to cut them by drawing directly on the fabric with a quilting ruler or yardstick. I draw 4 parallel lines 4 cm or 1.5″ apart and then draw perpendicular lines to indicate overall length.

Cutting Nettie pattern-16

Super easy to cut out!

Cutting Nettie pattern-17

PREPARING BINDINGS

The last step today is to get these bindings ready to be attached to your garment. Unless you are freestyling your neckline binding by stretching by feel, you have to sew your neckline binding together at the shorts ends (right sides together). Now its time to press them. Since your fabric has lycra, we want to use a low to medium setting so we don’t melt the fibers! I also like to use a silk organza press cloth with a slightly higher setting.

Cutting Nettie pattern-20

Fold the neckline binding in half, wrong sides together and press all the way around.

Cutting Nettie pattern-21

Fold your leg bindings in half and give them a good press as well.

Finally, we need to mark our bindings at every quarter; this will help us evenly distribute them to our leg and neck openings later on. You can measure them and divide by 4, or fold them in half and then half again. Make sure you use a marking tool that can be washed away.

Cutting Nettie pattern-22

Cutting Nettie pattern-24

Cutting Nettie pattern-25

And that’s it for today! I’ll be back in a couple of days to walk you through attaching your neckline binding.

  • Helen McFadyen

    Thanks for the tips on placing on grainline. I’ve always just winged it a bit with knits, and thought “well I’ve tried my best”, but your tip for using the yardstick is so simple, but so genius! Thank you! Brilliant!

    • You know Helen, I often just roll with it too, since I don’t find grainline errors AS problematic as they are with wovens, but it’s better to be safe than sorry!

  • Finding the grainline is by far my least favourite part of sewing! Thanks for these great tips!

  • Andrea

    Wow thanks, such a great pos!!. Totally into knits at the moment and this will make life so much easier!
    Andrea

  • Sownbrooklyn

    That ruler trick is PRICELESS!! You don’t want to know the foolishness I get up to trying to stay on grain. I will be adding one to my to-buy list immediately!!

    • Quilting rulers are insanely indispensable! Totally worth the investment. Mine even has a little blade sharpening edge!

  • Sarah T

    Some really clever tips! Thanks!

  • I use your first method of finding the grainline for wovens too, it’s so quick and easy.
    Using a cutting mat makes such a huge difference! Cutting was my least favourite part, but now it’s fun! I bought a cheap no name mat from ebay in size A1 after you mentioned it in one of your first posts about Nettie. Best sewing tool ever. Thank you for the tip 🙂

    • YAY! that’s awesome to hear! Enjoy the ease of cutting!

  • The pleasure was all mine! I could talk about sewing with you for days!!!!!

  • Nancy

    Hi! Im really excited about attempting this bodysuit! Im trying to figure out what size bindings to cut, and I noticed your chart for figuring that out starts at size 2, but on my pattern I only see size 4 and up. I graded (according to the pattern size corrections list) a size 4 at the bust and waist to a size 8 at the hips, but would that be what your chart considers a 2 to a 6, because its the smallest size on the pattern to 2 sizes up. Does my question make any sense? (my measurements are 32″, 25 1/2″, 36″). Thanks for the clarification!
    Nancy

    • Hi Nancy. Sorry fro the confusion! I’ assuming you bought the first pattern draft (sorry for the boo boo!) Ignore my chart above because it’s for the revised pattern once I added a size. You’ll want to grade from YOUR size 4 to the 8 at the hips.That should do you fine!

      • Nancy

        Ok! Im still a little confused on what size my bindings should be– for instance the leg bindings, should they be 19″ or 20″ ? (confused because on my pattern 8 is the third size, on your chart 8 is the fourth size.). Sorry I’m a bit dense at times! 😉

        • You’re not dense at all! Cut the size 4 bindings for your neckline and 8 for your legs!