How to Cut out a Sewing Pattern - 4 Helpful Tips

How to cut out a sewing pattern Post title
Hi there!  I've been sewing a lot with patterns lately... lots of pattern testing going on over here.  And can I just say that cutting out fabric with a paper pattern can be frustrating!   It's almost impossible to hold the paper down the whole time while you cut and it's tricky to pin the paper to the fabric. Inevitably the patter paper shifts  as the scissors slide under and then I've cut it wrong. Gah! Anyway today I'm going to show you how to cut out a sewing pattern using the 4 helpful tips I use to help make cutting out patterns way less frustrating.

What is a Sewing Pattern? 

A Sewing Pattern is a term used to describe the set of instructions and template pieces used to make a sewn items such as a garment, bag, or soft toy. You can buy sewing patterns 2 ways, from a store like Joann or a local fabric shop or a Digital pattern from the internet.

Printed Sewing Patterns that are purchased at a store come in an envelope or bag and are usually printed on thin tissue paper. You would carefully cut around each pattern piece before placing them on the fabric. If you are making a garment however, I would recommend tracing the pieces onto another large piece of paper to preserve the other sizes on the pattern. You may find that you want to try sewing a different size combination for a better fit after sewing your first practice garment. I use freezer paper but they sell pattern tracing paper for this purpose. 
Burda style printed pattern

Digital Sewing Patterns, also called PDF Sewing Patterns, are purchased online and come in a PDF format that you download to your computer and print at home.  You can print these as many times as you want but you do have to assemble and tape together the pattern sheet before cutting out the pieces. The BEST way to do this is to cut off the same 2 sides on each page before taping them together. I use my rotary cutter with an old dull blade to cut multiple sheets at a time. 
PDF pattern tips
Pattern: Baby Bumble Bee Costume by Blue Susan Makes

Once you have your pattern pieces cut out and ready its time to cut the fabric. Make sure to look at the marks on the pattern pieces such as lines that indicate where to place the pattern "on the fold" and lines that indicate the direction of most "stretch". Lay out all the pattern pieces  before cutting to make sure you have enough room to cut everything out.  

How to cut out a Sewing Pattern - 4 Helpful tips

Tip #1 Use kitchen knives as pattern weights. 

If you are a beginner sewist, you probably don't have a set of pattern weights on hand. The truth is you don't really need them if you have a set of table knives. This is a great trick I learned from my mom.  Grab a handful of table knives from your drawer and use them to weigh down that paper. Place them about 1 1/2 inches away from the edges and they are strong to keep the paper in place as your scissors slide by. They work great! If you want a cheap set of pattern weights, you can pick up a handful of large washers from the hardware store. Here's a link to a set that I made pretty with a little yarn. 

Table Knives as pattern weights
Pattern: Runaround Pants pattern by Fishsticks Design.

Tip #2 Pin it to the floor.

I mostly cut everything out on the floor because it's usually the only space big enough.  I've found that I can stick pins easily into my carpet and they hold the pattern and fabric in place better than anything else.  Seriously I was so excited when I figured this out! Ok, depending on the type of carpet you have, you may have to push all the way through carpet back and that would for sure dull your pins. So use this tip with caution.  I have Berber carpet so it worked great for me. 
pin it to the floor
Pattern: Crafty Satchel by Sew Sweetness 

Tip #3  Use a rotary cutter and self healing mat.

 Ditch the scissors and cut around your pattern with a rotary cutter. This works great for any pattern piece that is small enough to fit on the mat that you have. This method is much faster than using scissors but it does take some practice to get the hang of.  If you have straight edges you can use lay your acrylic ruler over the pattern to get a nice, quick, straight cut. If your pattern pieces are curved use those pattern weights or your hand to hold the pattern down as you cut around the edges. I find that the smaller 1'' rotary blade works better for going around curves than the traditional 2'' blade. Remember to go slow and be careful, you can easily slice off  a little sliver of your pattern. If this happens it's not too big of a deal unless you'll be cutting from that pattern over and over again. 
Pattern: DIY Valentine Heart Garland by Blue Susan Makes

Tip # 4 Practice, practice, practice! 

Just like anything you do, cutting out patterns will get easier the more you do it. Don't let a a little pattern cutting frustration prevent you from sewing something fun. Recognize that any sewing project with come with an inevitable set of challenges. The satisfaction and confidence comes in the process of pushing through these challenges, figuring them out, and accomplishing your goals without holding yourself to a level of perfection. You can do this. 

Your turn! What do you do to make cutting out your patterns easier? 
If you found these tips helpful, share them with a sewing friend. 

You might also like these beginner sewing patterns

Happy Sewing!


  1. THANK YOU!!!!! These are great tips, so easy but I would never have thought of them on my own!

  2. I wish I'd heard of this sooner "hide their clothes for our annual First Day of School scavenger hunt" as my last child just began his Senior year. What a fun tradition!!