Pattern layouts are wasteful.  In this post, I will describe how to get the most out of a piece of fabric using Sandra Betzina’s Vogue 1452 as an example.  This method also works well with scraps and irregular pieces.

I know how much I need (approximately) for any garment.  I start here when assessing whether I’m going to need to use a contrast or coordinate fabric.  I’m about a women’s size Medium, and the general “rule” of thumb pays off quite well (excepting directionally patterned, paneled or high amounts of ruching):

  • short sleeve shirt: 3/4 to 1 yard of 54″ or 60″ wide
  • long sleeve shirt: 1 yard to 1.5 yards of 54″ or 60″ wide
  • knee length dress:  1.5 to 2 yards of 54″ or 60″ wide
  • maxi length dress: 2 – 3 yards of 54″ or 60″ wide
  • add another 1 yard for a gathered or ruffled design to any dress above
  • leggings: 1 1/4 – 1 1/2 yard of 54″ or 60″ wide
  • pants: 2 yards – 2 1/2 yards (depends on waistbands, pockets, etc)

BUT … even so … you can get a whole garment out of even less yardage if you have another fabric you can use as a contrast or coordinate.

My example is Vogue 1452, which calls for a whopping 4+ yards to make top+bottom.  I was well prepared to come up short with a lycra blend from the National City Swap Meet.  It was $2/yard and I had only 2 yards, plus change.  I absolutely wanted to make BOTH pieces of the pattern in it. By “rules” above, I wouldn’t have enough … so here we go

Step 1: Identify coordinate and contrast options from your stash

I searched my stash and I found a Navy lightweight poly-cotton jersey and a sunset pink lace, which I thought would “work” as an accent or contrast panel when overlaid

Step 2:  Sort your pattern pieces by MUST, MAYBE and WHO CARES? 

  1. (MUST) First, you are going to decide which elements of the design have to be in the desired fashion fabric.  Put them in a pile.
  2. (WHO CARES?) Next, you are going to pull out anything that is a facing, or non-showing, and put them in another pile.
  3. (MAYBE) These pieces are what’s left.  These are your coordinating or accent pieces.  You would LOVE to have them in your fashion fabric, but you’ll settle for contrast if that’s all you have to work with.

Step 3:  Arrange the cutting order of the MUST pieces

My rule of thumb here is cut the biggest, most visually focal pieces first.  The smaller pieces can be worked out of the scraps.  Order your pieces by largest to smallest

Step 4:  Do a preliminary layout

Start arranging your MUST pieces.

hint: You might find that folding the fabric down the center is not the best use of the fabric. Personally, I find that if I fold the fabric over just enough to cut the biggest piece, then there’s a healthy piece of fabric still left to work with.  You may want to take that piece and fold it over (vertically) to cut another piece.  For my example pattern, I folded the fabric just enough to cut the largest piece of the back, and then cut off and used the scrap (mirrored) elsewhere.

Step 5: Start cutting

OK, so this is the intimidating part.  You’re going to start cutting without any safety net.  This step assumes that you have at least a plan to get the MUST pieces out of your yardage.  If you couldn’t fit them, you might want to consider piecing, or joining the contrast to some scraps to make patchwork pieces.

As you go, scoot the pieces as close as you can.  I actually don’t even pin as I cut.  I just weight the pieces with whatever I have on hand.

Once you get close to your last piece, grab your MAYBEs and see if they will fit if you make some adjustments.

Step 6: Start cutting the MAYBE’s

Now, before you move on to your contrast fabric, take a look at the scraps of your fashion fabric.  Can you get one, some, or all of your MAYBE’s?

If so, cut them out already! LOL!  Just make sure you do the order largest to smallest.

In this case, I found I had plenty of fabric to cut all of my MAYBE pieces! YAY! so my contrast fabric goes back in the stash for another project …

Step 7:  The WHO CARE’s?

Same as Step 6.  If you have any of your main fabric left, go ahead and start cutting them out (largest first).

Wait, what?  I had enough left to cut these, too!

Step 8: The scraps

Do you have scraps left?  Do you really like the fabric? Maybe you can use it for something else.  I decided to make an asymmetrical yoke for a top with mine!

The crazy part about all of this is that I got a wide-legged pair of pants and a ruched top out of 2+ yards!!