Fabric Gymnastics 101

When I first made the transition from sewing for the love of it to starting a business, I had a lot to learn about production sewing: planning for the best use of precious fabric with minimal wastage, ideal pattern layout, and sewing as efficiently as possible without losing any attention to detail. Because I love to use beautiful, high quality (therefore expensive) fabrics, pattern layout is of special interest to me. Ideally, to maximize yield, fabric should be non-directional so the pattern pieces can lie both up and down, and the print should be consistent throughout.

Breaking all of these rules in the name of beauty over function, I recently fell in love with this fabric from Japan. This fabric would certainly make beautiful curtains, but how could I use it for clothing? The answer was instantly clear to me, and it determined the design of two of my new pieces for Fall:

As you can see, the skirt is cut from the upper section of the fabric with its soaring birds in a woodblock-print style, simple and elegant. The dress is cut from the lower section, centering the birds on the chest regardless of pattern size. The lowest section of the fabric, the rich green leaves, and the areas in between each dress, were used to cut the smallest pattern pieces – the front and back facings. And thus a piece of fabric that at first glance seemed so wasteful turned out to be both efficient and beautiful, after all.


  1. LOVE. is there a size that will fit alia?

  2. The smallest is a size 2, and they go up to 6. She’s pretty little, maybe for next summer? The fabric is great because it’s a linen/cotton blend (good for warm weather) but also has a bit of weight/texture so you can layer and wear through fall/winter. Not that that’s a problem for you in SoCal!

  3. I like the optimization problem of maximizing surface area used to surface area not used. Do you (or have you thought of) using CAD software to help?

    • We did use special software to help with the layout of this pattern, to create a marker for cutting the fabric. The illustration I showed is just my crude representation of how it worked. I think pattern layout is fascinating, economy and design rolled into one.

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