In cutting goods, economy of material is a consideration never to be lost sight of. Make a close calculation before using the scissors at all, and do not cut any part out until you have discovered the very best way of using the cloth to advantage. It will pay one to be very deliberate and take no step without due consideration. Of course, professional hands become so entirely familiar with their occupation that it does not demand much thought, but beginners will do well to ponder and plan and calculate closely the very best and most econonomical way of getting a garment out of a given quantity of cloth. Large patterns are desirable for dresses and some other things, but for most garments just enough is the best quantity to have. The extra half yard, or whatever portion is found to be in excess of the right length, is often useless, and with cloth, or other costly material, adds provokingly to the expense of a cloak, sacque, or whatever the garment may be.
People who economize very rigidly sometimes argue that buying paper patterns adds too much to the cost of garments to be prudent purchases; but that seems like faulty reasoning in most cases, for the time, strength and labor spent in experimenting, to say nothing of the eventual possible wasting of material, would more than cover the cost of the model, it is an ex-cellent idea for two or three friends to unite and purchase paper patterns together, dividing the expense between them, and selecting medium sizes, which would be readily adapted to their different degrees of slenderness or breadth.
If the dress is being made by a person of no experience, it will be well to cut the pattern out of old material, baste it together and try it on; this not so much to correct possible defects in the pattern as to guard against the mistakes of inexperience, though even these need not be made if accurate care is used in following the patterns.
In regard to cutting-out to the best advantage, imagine that the reader of this, having, fortunately for herself, finished making her own clothes, is about to make a polonaise for her small daughter or sister. Let her select the pattern she wishes, and, if it is a new one, cut a facsimile of it in old cloth, baste together and try on, making any slight alteration in waist or shoulder seams that may be needed. Then let her ascertain the width of the material decided on, and calculate as nearly as possible the quantity needed - say it is three yards and a half of twenty-seven inch goods. With a piece of chalk let her mark off upon the carpet a section of that length and width, and lay the different parts of the pattern within its limits, turning and replacing them again and again till they are assuredly arranged to the best possible advantage, and the whole garment made to absorb the smallest amount of cloth that is practicable. Of course the idea must be kept in view of a right and wrong side to the cloth, or an up-and-down to the figure, it there is one; but a little study and thought, after the pieces are placed, will correct any mistake of that kind. Then it is well, before taking up the pattern and brushing the chalk-line from the carpet, to make a rough sketch or outline of the position it occupied upon the floor, and not trust altogether to memory to re-arrange it upon cloth. All this performance seems rather formidable, but if a beginner will take the trouble to go through with it for a few times, she will find it like learning a trade, and a little experience will make her so thoroughly mistress of it that she will no longer need to be subject to such preliminaries, but will, almost by intuition, lay the pieces of the pattern to the best advantage, and acquire the very desirable accomplishment of cutting well and economically. To possess such an art one should be willing to take a little trouble and make some exertion.
In cutting a dress leave the sleeves and trimming till the last, then parings of gores and other pieces can be used up. Don't be afraid of piecing. The sleeves should be whole, if possible, upon the upper parts, but the under parts may be made of patchwork, if necessary, especially where the upper part is wide. Even where both parts are of equal width care, ingenuity, and a little practice, make it possible to use up very small pieces when material is scant. The waist also may be pieced more than an ordinary dressmaker, whose time is money, can afford; but if you make your own dresses you can sometimes get one out of a surprisingly scant pattern, if you are patient and ingenious about piecing. The fronts may be faced instead of hemmed, and narrow pieces may be put under the arms without being noticed. If necessary, in a basque or polonaise, all the parts may be joined at the waist. In making over a dress quite short pieces may be used to advantage in this way. It is also possible, when sorely driven by necessity, to piece the fronts from the armsize across, and craftily cover the seam by arranging the trimming to represent a square neek. Not more than an inch, if any, of the seam need be visible between the trimming and the armsize, and that will hardly be observed.
In cutting a basque or waist from an untried pattern, cut the lining first, baste it up and try it on; then, if any trifling alterations are necessary, they can be made, and the goods cut according to the improvements. Cut it as long as the basque is to be, but if it is for a polonaise or redingote, it need be only five or six inches below the waistline. Soft twilled muslin makes the best lining; that which is stiff and unpliable is very objectionable, as it is not only hard to fit, but soon stretches out of shape and leaves the dress goods over it without proper support. Dark linings, even for dark dresses, are now less in use than light. White is much used by dressmakers, but it soils too easily to be altogether unobjectionable. The best color is a pearl, or very light gray. For calico dresses, even for winter, the waist lining should always be white, as, in washing, the color of a dark lining will run into and cloud the colors of the calico. Both lining and outside of the waist should be cut the straight way of the cloth, and the seams and darts must be creased on the lining exactly by the pattern, which must be pinned evenly upon it. Lay the lining upon the length of the goods, being very particular to have it perfectly straight, and arrange the different pieces in a manner to save as much cloth as possible. If saving is a great object, facings can be sewed on the edges of both fronts, and no hems turned. By moving the pieces about it will be easy, where there is no up and down; to get the side pieces out between some of the larger parts. In basting the pieces together, after they are secured to the lining, be very particular to match them as the paper pattern indicates, following the creases exactly. To secure greater precision, it is best to mark the creases with a lead pencil. One can not be too particular about these darts, as they have much to do with the fit of the dress. Having basted the side-bodies evenly to the back, tack the fronts and back together upon the shoulders and under the arms, the darts having been previously basted up by the marks on the pattern. Try on the waist, and, if it is right, sew up the seams on the sewing machine and work the button-hole. Before cutting these (if the goods ravel very easy) outline each one by a row of machine stitching, leaving only room to cut the button-hole between the lines of stitching, and, in working it, take the stitches deep enough to cover the line, the same as when it is run around by hand. If it does not fit, the amateur dressmaker need not fall into despair, for, probably, a judicious taking in of the seams will make it all right. If the dress is for a person with some peculiarities of figure it will be necessary to study that in fitting; if, for instance, the waist is very tapering, the seams will have to be more deeply sloped than the paper pattern being cut for the average figure will indicate. If the person being fitted has a hollowing back, a plait or dart laid in the middle of the back of the lining will secure a better fit.