When Single Layer Layout Pays Big Dividends

Recently I saw a discussion online – I think it was at Stitchers Guild, though I’m not positive – about  grainlines on pants. It came back to mind today when I was preparing to cut out a pair of shorts from some denim in my stash. The poster was complaining that she made (I think) a pair of jeans, or maybe denim trousers, but when she put them on, they got all twisty around her legs. That’s happened to me in the past, and here’s a technique to help you avoid that: Single layer cutting layout.

I know, I can hear the whining starting up already like lawnmowers on summer mornings, but hear me out. There are times when it is worth it to slow down and take a little longer to prep and cut. This is one of those times when the payoff is well worth the extra effort. I’ll show you what I mean. Here’s the denim I’m using for my shorts. It’s a very high quality denim from one of the premium mills. You can find this denim in jeans sold at Nordstrom and Neimans, among other places.
Denim Fabric

Now, most of the time, we all want to fold our fabric in half, cut and go. In fact, for anyone who follows pattern instructions, that’s what they tell you to do, right? Well let me show you what happens when I fold my fabric in half, lining up my selvages:
Twisty Fold

Keep in mind, this is first quality denim, not seconds. It’s not off-grain. But here’s the trick. This denim (like most) is a twill weave. That means it is woven on a diagonal, which will cause the grain to shift gradually. You can see it clearly on the back of the fabric:
Diagonal Twill Weave

If you follow the standard pattern layouts, disaster may ensue as the grain shifts with the twill weave. So what is a sewing enthusiast to do? Well, lay out each piece separately, using the grainline of the fabric as your guide. I fold my pattern piece along the pattern grain line and align that with the grain on the fabric, which you can see here is pretty easy to spot on the right side.
Align Pattern with Fabric Grainline
Just lay your pattern pieces out and cut them one at a time.

First Lay Out One Side
First lay them out on one side…
Then Flip the Pattern and Lay Out the Other Side
Then flip the pattern pieces and lay them out on the other side.

Ta daaa! Your pattern pieces will be on grain, no twisting. Does it take a little while longer? Yes. Does it work with pants as well as shorts? Yes. Is it worth it? Absolutely. Taking that little bit of extra time will give you much better results. And face it, wouldn’t you rather take a little extra time than end up with a wadder? I know I would.

Happy sewing!

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Gorgeous Fabrics

I own an online fabric store, www.GorgeousFabrics.com. The name says it all!

20 thoughts on “When Single Layer Layout Pays Big Dividends”

  1. And this goes double for printed twill. I just made myself some printed twill pants and got all upset when I put them together and the prints did not match up as I had supposed. So, twill of any sort is a candidate for single layer cutting out. No ‘fold in half and cut it out’ for me.

    1. I don’t know why you’re having trouble Mary. It worked for me both from my computer and from my phone. But I added the link. Thanks

  2. I have had this happen to me with different fabrics. When I fold a piece of fabric in half, it very seldom matches, so I work/shift the fabric along the selvedges until there aren’t any wrinkles as shown in your photo up top. Make sense?

    1. Actually, I would worry that the shifting would cause one layer to go off-grain. It’s much easier, IMO, to just open it out and do the single layer layout. As the wonderful couture teacher, Cynthia Guffey, likes to say – “It’s your hobby; what’s your hurry?”

      1. True – I have done the single layer in times past, but it usually depends on what fabric I’m using. I agree with Cynthia though, I do have to slow down 😉

        1. You are absolutely correct – it does depend on the fabric. Twill weaves are what I am talking about here. If you are dealing with a cross-woven fabric, you don’t have to worry about this problem as much. But it’s always a good idea to check the grain of any fabric.

  3. As a total newbie sewer who is attempting to teach myself to sew well, I ~so~ appreciate posts like this one where you explain the best way to do something and why. And so often (like your tips on pressing) it’s stuff I have dug into how to do properly with little info. Certainly no one ever said to press a seam four times. And I never found anything about single layer cutting before the loveliness that is the internet blogging community.

    Something that I really struggle with, if you have a strong opinion on it and/or ever feel compelled, is cutting. I’d love to hear your take on what not to do (other than double layers) when cutting.

  4. Ann, I so appreciate this information! Thanks for taking the time to post about it. Now I know how to handle denim pants. You’re a peach.

  5. I remember seeing the twisty leg discussion somewhere also. It reminds me of a pair of jeans my daughter got at H & whatever. (Cheap price, cheap quality.) Great tip!

  6. This is a great tip. I recently sewed a some jeans and experienced the twisting inseam and out seam and could not figure out what I did wrong. A sewing friend said it was the fabric but didn’t really elaborate and I was so confused by the whole issue I just tossed the jeans aside thinking I would just mull it over in my head. Well, now I know what the problem is and will cut the denim in a single layer from now on!

  7. I opted for a single layer layout just this weekend when I wanted to match stripes on a tee. I spent a good 20 minutes trying to make things work double layered and I realized that the time I spent trying to save time with a double layer layout was taking longer than doing it the right way and it was still going to be wonky.

  8. I got into the habit of single layer cutting once I started working more with Style Arc patterns, as that’s what they base their fabric recommendations on. It takes a little bit more time but the results are entirely worth it as everything hangs straighter and you can often get away with using less fabric.

  9. I remembered this post from over a year ago and wanted to revisit it, but I can’t get the pictures to load. I’ve hit the reload button multiple times, can you help?

    1. All set, Becky. The pictures resided on our old website. I fixed that for you. Thanks for the heads up!

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