Best Pattern Cutting Tools
What Tools Are Required For Pattern Cutting ?
If you want to learn how to draft and make your own sewing patterns, you will need to know which pattern making tools to use. Some are essential, while some are useful, and others are just a waste of money.
There are a very wide variety of pattern cutting tools available for professionals, students and home sewers.
Pattern Paper And Card.
Pattern paper and pattern card are pretty obvious essentials for any pattern cutter, whether a manual or digital pattern cutter.
Another tool that a manual pattern cutter just cant do without is a pencil. Yes, you could use a pen at a push, but that doesnt really serve the purpose well.
A good pencil for a pattern cutter needs to be comfortable, hard wearing, and accurate. I tend to think that having an eraser is necessary too. Not only is it useful in rubbing out any unwanted lines, but it prevents you chewing the end too.
There are two main types of pencil used for pattern cutting : The mechanical pencil and the standard graphite pencil encased in wood.
Many disposable mechanical pencils are very poor quality, and poor value. The leads are often fragile, and the mechanics break down easily.
My preference is for the Paper Mate non-stop HB pencils. They just work. And they normally have an eraser attached to the end.
A thick pencil could add a millimetre or so to each line. This may not sound like much, but if you have multiple panels and you have to trace round the pattern pieces several times, this could add significantly to the final size.
Pencil Grade Chart.
The graphite core is made of clay and graphite. The hardness or softness depends on the ratio of these materials.
Pencils are graded from 9B – 9H. H relates to the hardness, and B to the blackness. Most patterns will use a pencil graded from HB to H2.
A wide variety of different types of pens and markers can be used in pattern cutting, depending on the purpose, and individual preference. Using different colours and thicknesses make the patterns easy to understand and read at a glance.
Each pattern cutter, or pattern room have their own system of colour coding. Different coloured thick felt pens may be used to draw a series of lines from top to bottom, so as to differentiate types of material to be cut. Red may be for lining, and green for interfacing for instance.
Most professional pattern cutters who use paper patterns, store their patterns in A4 envelopes. Some patterns, such as lined jacket patterns are too bulky to fit comfortably into this size, but most specialised tailoring pattern cutters tend to work in card rather than paper.
Calico can be used either to model on the stand, or to create toiles. There are a variety of different weights available, depending on the purpose.
Pattern hooks generally come in two sizes – Small and large. The small hooks are used for single patterns. The large hooks are generally used for graded sets.
Sometimes known as a graders set square, or graders triangle. This is a very useful tool for any pattern cutter. It is a right angled triangular instrument, made of clear plastic. It has metric or imperial measurements, and a 45 degree marked angle. It also has marked lines to assist with grading.
A pattern awl is a useful too, for marking points on a pattern, and for piercing the fabric when cutting samples from the pattern. Dont confuse this with a drill, which leaves a more visible hole.
Push pins, or map pins are a useful addition to a pattern cutters tool box. Apart from their obvious use of pinning down patterns, they can also be used to pin down garments if you need to copy a particular garment shape.
A very useful tame saving tool, used to mark through shapes and lines from one layer to another. Some may use this together with carbon paper.
Not a tool that I use, but some people like a help withdrawing curves. I prefer freehand curves myself, as do most experienced pattern cutters. Students and beginners may like this though.
Drill. Or Mushroom.
A pattern drill is used for marking referencing points on a pattern – Dart positions and pocket positions for example. The drill leaves a hole just large enough for a pencil or chalk. Some drills will automatically rotate as you push it into the paper, which helps save your wrists from over use.
Notchers are essential for pattern cutting. If you use card for your patterns, then any notcher will do the job, but if you use paper, some will not make a clean cut. You may prefer a wide notcher, or a narrow notcher. The wider one would be more appropriate if the patterns are to be chalked round for cutting out with fabric.
The metre rule, or yard stick has a number of uses for the pattern cutter. Most are made of wood, plastic, or wood. These can be either metric, or imperial. Or both. One annoying problem is that the markings can disappear rapidly.
Cutting boards are useful for preserving your worktop from damage. Sel healing cutting boards are ideal.
Stanley knives are generally used to cut out narrow channels in the pattern. These may be to mark a curved dart, or a pocket position for example.
Although a favourite for many, this isnt a tool that I use. Students particularly find them useful for drawing straight and curved lines. It is a multi-tool, allowing you to measure
Some patterns use weights to hold down patterns and fabric while thet copy round them. Most pattern cutters will just use anything that is available, but some will use weights specially designed for the purpose.
Another essential tool that allows you to trace through layers of paper
Essential for any pattern cutter. Tape measures can be in metric or imperial measurements. Or both.
Masking tape is great for quick taping jobs, especially if you need to write over the tape. They are also great for covering up unwanted notches and drill holes.
These days there are many different types of sellotape, in a number of widths. Pattern cutters tend to use the more expensive invisible write-on “Magic Tape”, as you can write over it in pen or pencil.
Fine steel pins.
I personally prefer to use a pencil that has an eraser attached. This is normally perfectly adequate.
No serious pattern cutter can do without at least one mannequin.
Grading sheers are a bit like tin sheers. They have a short blade, with long handles, so providing good leverage for cutting through multiple layers of card. They are also surprisingly good at cutting through cloth if you are cutting multiple garments at once. Not to be recommended for prolonged use though.
A pattern cutter normally has two pairs of sheers – One for cutting paper and card. The other for cutting fabric. One way of making a pattern cutter angry is to use their fabric sheers to cut paper.
Pattern Cutting Sheers.
Every pattern cutter has their own preferences regarding the type and size of sheers they use. Many prefer their sheers to be a little blunt to provide a little more control and accuracy to their cutting.
As a pattern cutter, your pattern cutting sheers, or scissors are your most used tool. They have to feel comfortable to you. Unlike fabric sheers, they do not have to be razor sharp. In fact, many pattern cutters prefer them to be a little blunt as it provides for more control.
Pattern Cutting Classes.
We run a number of pattern cutting classes for beginners and intermediates.