A common mistake people make when cutting out pattern pieces is letting the excess fabric hang off the edge of their cutting surface. If you’ve ever had a sewing project turn out lopsided or it didn’t seem to drape correctly when it was finished, it might have been because your fabric was stretching as you were cutting.
When extra fabric is draped off the edge of your cutting surface, the weight causes the fabric to stretch, even if only a little bit is dangling off the edge. This results in an inaccurate cut because the pattern pieces near the edge of the cutting surface where the excess fabric is hanging off are being pulled more tightly than near the other end. Stretching is a bigger problem when cutting out knit fabric and other fabrics that have a lot of stretch, but all fabrics are affected to a certain degree.
To prevent your fabric from stretching when you are cutting out a pattern, fold the excess fabric in an accordion style at the end of your cutting surface. The fold doesn’t have to take up very much space, and it will make your project turn out a lot better in the end, especially on very stretchy fabrics. Plus, it’s less likely for you to accidentally move the fabric and throw off the grain or center fold. One time my cat got a hold of the fabric I had dangling from the edge of my cutting table and pulled the entire project to the floor — I had to do a lot of repinning and lay out most of my pattern pieces again.
Another solution is to use a larger cutting surface where none of the fabric has to hang off the edge, although most people don’t have the luxury of that much space. It will surprise you how much of a difference changing this little habit will make in the overall quality of your sewing project. If you have the money, buy a special fabric cutting table that folds up so you can store it when you’re not using it.