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Unread 07-14-2011, 10:39 PM   #1
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Handling large amounts of fabric.

So awhile back I tried to make a skirt for a friend, which was 9 yards long. It was longer than my table and the different pieces for the pattern of the skirt had to be cut in certain ways because of the length. I grew very frustrated because of the amount of fabric and quit.

Do you have any tips for working with lots of fabric? I know some historical outfits can be 20+ yards on occasion.
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Unread 07-15-2011, 05:25 AM   #2
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when I'm cutting, if its a really large piece like that, I tend to super clean the hardest floor area I have and do my pinning and cutting there. Its hard on the knees, but it does make sure that the stuff gets pinned and cut out proper. Or if you have a few extra card tables or something similar lying around you can set those up together to extend your table space.

For sewing something that massive, I tend to just set up a card table or a folding chair on each side of the sewing table to hold and catch the fabric as I sew it.
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Unread 07-15-2011, 09:36 AM   #3
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I have a regular dining table to cut on, and do myself injuries working on the floor, so I have to work in stages when cutting out big yardages.

I work out my cutting layouts etcetera in advance, so that if I can cut the length into smaller pieces to begin with I will. For example, the biggest yardage is usually the skirt, and if I can cut away the extra that's needed for the bodice, I have one manageable piece to cut the fiddly bodice pieces from. With things that require massive pieces (Usually 18th century gowns and crinoline skirts, for me) I often end up cutting large lengths, marking any relevant points onto them, and then shaping the cut (If I need to) as I pleat or drape the pieces into place.

For everything else, I rope in an extra pair of hands to help me fold the fabric in two lengthwise, if I'm cutting on a single fold, iron it, and then fold into foot-wide or so pleats so it's in one neat mass I can easily carry and unfold in stages (I usually find it's pretty easy, once it's folded, to iron it on a regular table covered with a towel or whatever and push it off the end as I go, and it should fall in pleats - if not, my extra pair of hands keeps an eye on it, or I have to go around every so often to sort the fall). If I'm working in silk satin, say, or something which a stretch, no matter what the yardage is it gets tacked or pinned flat to paper at each selvedge, single layered, and I adjust the cutting layout to accommodate that. Then it gets pleated the same for carrying and unfolding. The last thing I need with a large yardage of a stretchy or slinky fabric is that the weight of the folded sides causes the piece I'm cutting to skew or warp out of shape.

When I'm cutting on the table, because I trust my cutting diagrams done ahead of time, I usually lay out a table's worth of pieces, cut them, move the fabric along, rinse, repeat. The stack of fabric pleats goes on a couple of chairs - or, if possible, something table height - right next to the table, so that the fabric is not a way below what's being cut and pulling or stressing it. If the pieces are bigger than the table, see above with the draping. I know some people also lay out their pieces all in one go, sliding the fabric off the other end of the table, pinning out the next pieces, sliding it along again - which also works, I think, but you might need another set of chairs on the other side. I find as soon as the amount of fabric on the floor outweighs the amount of fabric on the table, it'll start sliding off, which is murder for your cutting.

Finally, if I'm storing the fabric between cutting sessions or before starting work, it really helps to have it rolled onto a cardboard tube - takes up less space, and means you don't have to iron it every time.
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Unread 07-15-2011, 05:40 PM   #4
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I scrub the floor clean, then borrow my Mom's kneepads to do the layout and cutting on the floor. If it tends to shift, I also weigh it down at both ends with cans (usually salmon, sometimes soup. In short, full).
Worked fine for my Seraphine cloak, which was seven metres- Here's a photo of it laid out on the floor; BARELY fit in the kitchen/dining room. Especially because Mom had only exactly 61" between the mantle and a load-bearing post.
However, my Schala cosplay required eleven meters, and that complicated things (of course, when I said fuckit to the orthodox pattern and decided to not waste fabric from double layered fabric, especially when I'd altered the mockup enough for each piece to be subtly different, I ended up not needing about four metres of it)..... for that, basically I took it piece by piece, also working on the floor. I first smoothed out and fanfolded the fabric at the bottom so I could easily pull more up as I went. Then I laid out the bodice and collar pieces, then once the pieces were pinned to the fabric, cut it off as a whole section, and moved the fabric up again. Followed by the block for each sleeve (those took up two metres each), and then finally cutting the skirt pieces out. Then with all the pieces cut into more manageable yardages, properly cut the pieces out.
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There's a vibe here that says "We're in this together!Through thick and thin fabric! Through cold water washes and burning hot irons! Though we might super glue ourselves to our projects, cut holes/gashes/oh-god-mom's-gonna-kill-me into the dining room table, we will stand strong together. Unless there is a 75% off sale at the Fabric store. Then you're on your own. And get the hell out of my way."<3
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Unread 07-17-2011, 01:08 AM   #5
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