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Frankie Shirt Sew Along Part Two: Cutting and Marking

Frankie Shirt Sew Along Part Two: Cutting and Marking

​Welcome to the Frankie Sew Along! Today we are going to cover all the prep work you need to do before you can start sewing. Cutting, marking, gathering your notions, and perfecting your finishing techniques. Taking a little time up front to start your project the right way will pay off in the end. Let's get sewing!

In our last post, we talked about finding our correct size and making any needed pattern adjustments, see that post here if you missed it. When making your first Frankie Shirt, we recommend using a woven fabric like a medium-weight cotton, linen or silk. Assuming by this point you have chosen your fabric, now is the time to pre-treat. Choose the cleaning method for your finished garment. Test that method on a 4ʺ square of fabric before you start. This way you can check for shrinkage or any damage. Once you have decided on a cleaning method, go ahead and apply that to the rest of your fabric. While you are washing your fabric, why not head over and join our Sew Along Facebook Group? Here you can easily ask questions, post pictures of your project and see what everyone is working on!

Now let's establish the straight of grain.  As Linda says, this is one of the most important but often the most skipped step of the garment sewing process. It is vital that the pattern is cut on the straight grain of the fabric because this will keep your project from stretching out of shape or not hanging correctly. To find the straight of grain, snip into the fabric along one selvage edge and either tear across the crossgrain (or the weft of the fabric) or pull a thread across the width and cut along the loosened thread line. This will give you a straight edge where the warp and weft grains are at a 90 degree angle.

Now it is finally time to cut. Follow the pattern layout for your size/fabric width. You will notice that we have you cut each piece on a single layer of fabric. We have found that this creates a cleaner cut on the pattern piece. However, it is important to remember to flip any pattern that you cut out twice, in this case the Upper and Under Sleeve as well as the Front/Side Back piece. Make sure you have mirror images for the pieces and haven't cut out the same piece twice. 

Once your pattern pieces are cut, mark all your notches and dots immediately. I know some of you like to skip this step, but we don't recommend it! Pattern markings are essential to the sewing process. I start by snipping into my notches, as opposed to cutting triangles that protrude out. 

Now for the dots. Put away your marking pens and pencils. You are going to mark these with tailor's tacks. I know, it seems laborious and yes it takes a tiny bit more time than using a marker, but you will thank yourself in the end. I have to say that ever since I started using tailor's tacks, I haven't gone back to marking pens. Why? Because they stay in the fabric. They don't rub off, they don't disappear, you can leave the project for a week, come back to it and there they are, ready to help. If you use 100% silk thread for your tacks, you can sew through them and they still pull out easily.

  • Place pin through the point you want to mark.
  • Gently separate the pattern tissue from the fabric. Using a contrasting color of thread, take a single stitch where the pin enters the fabric, leaving a 1" thread tail.
  • Complete the stitch loop. Cut thread leaving another long tail.

In terms of finishing the seams of your Frankie, you have a few options. You can serge your seams with a three-thread serge stitch, which is what I will be showing. However, I know that not everyone has a serger. In that case you can simply pink your seam edges, or you might try the turn and stitch method. This fine sewing method will create a lovely clean finish.

  • Sew your standard seam first with a ⅝ʺ seam allowance, and press it open.
  • Turn under each raw edge ¼ʺ and edgestitch along the fold. Using an edgestitch foot allows you to sew evenly along the fold. 

A technique that we use in many of our patterns, including in the Frankie construction, is the use of pressing templates. Start by making your own templates using a manila file folder or tagboard of similar weight. For the Frankie you will cut four templates in the following sizes: 1ʺ, 1 ¼", 1 ½" and 2" wide x height of folder

Use the following method to press with the templates.

  • For the first fold, place the template on the wrong side of the hem edge. Press the hem up and over the template, matching the raw edge of the fabric to the top of the template. Press. 
  • For the second fold, place the smaller template in the press creaseline. Press the remaining fabric up and over the bottom edge of the template. 
In the example below, you can see that the first fold is made using a 2 ⅛"-wide template. The fold that is pressed will be the bottom edge of the garment. Then, to press an even ½" under, use a second template that is 1 ¾" wide is placed along the original foldline, and the excess fabric is pressed to the wrong side. 

Templates will be used on the sleeve hems, vent openings and the center front hem. ​

Now it's time to check your sewing tools. Test your needle, thread and fabric combination. We recommend 100% silk-finish cotton thread on wovens. I'll be using ISACORD machine embroidery thread in my serger, which is finer and smoother than regular serger thread, resulting in less lint residue and has less "show-through".

Start your project with a new needle. I am using a Universal 75/10 needle. But that is what works with my fabric/thread/machine combination. Test your combination first. This will help resolve any stitching issues before you begin your project. 

Having the right tools will increase your sewing success. Here are tools that I found helped when I made my Frankie shirt. 

Fusi-Web – This is really a must-have for this project!

Glass Head Pins – My personal favorite pins.

Tailor's Ham  – If you are a garment sewer, you should have this in your toolbox – no excuses.

Seam Roll – A huge help when constructing the collar.

Tailoring Board – See all those crazy curves and points? They will help you get into all the nooks and crannies of collars, sleeves, etc. and it holds your tailor's ham!

Sleeve Board – This makes working on sleeves and cuffs so much easier.

Join us for the next post when we sew the Front/Side pieces of the shirt. 

Sewing Coated Fabrics
Introducing the Frankie Shirt!