Why cutting fabric is like playing Tetris

I hardly ever follow the recommended pattern placements for cutting fabric. I like the challenge of figuring out how to minimize fabric waste. So I rearrange pattern pieces, keeping the grainline and fabric prints in mind, until I am completely satisfied that I have wasted the least amount of fabric possible. All those years of playing Tetris have somehow paid off. Although it does slow down the sewing process–it usually takes me several days to finally cut my pieces.

So imagine my disappointment after finishing my Wiksten Tova in Nani Iro and my fabric remnant looked like this:

Since the confetti-dot print is heavily saturated in the middle of the fabric and gets more sporadic and non-existent near the selvedges, I had a hard time thinking up a project for the remnant. After staring at the fabric, I realized I could make an infinity scarf! I made one using this tutorial last Christmas for my mother-in-law and really liked the drape and look of the scarf. I wouldn’t call this post a “tutorial” because I used Anna Maria Horner’s original tutorial, but just a step-by-step process on how I made my version.

Again, to minimize waste, I simply cut out a rectangular-ish shape by cutting straight lines.

One side is completely uneven, but as a wrapped scarf, it doesn’t even matter. The one important thing that I forgot to do was to make sure each end is the same width. (You’ll see why later on.) The total length of the fabric was about 62″. At its widest point it was 12″.

After cutting out the rectangle, I flipped the fabric over so the right sides were facing each other. I pinned it together to hold it in place. I don’t always use pins, but with such a long continuous piece, it’s a good idea so the fabric top doesn’t shift too much while sewing.

I put a small marking 1/2″ from each end and on both sides. This is an important step! Do not start sewing from the edge, but instead, start and finish sewing at your markings.

I sewed both sides with a 1/4″ seam allowance.

I then finished the cut edge with a zig zag stitch. I dream of the day that I have a serger to finish my seams! After zigzagging the edges together, I cut off the frayed bits and pieces, being careful not to cut into my stitches. I love my quilted fabric notebook that I got from a hand-printed textile shop in India.

The next couple of steps require ironing, my least favourite task. I wear wrinkly shirts all the time, just to avoid ironing. My ironing board is wretched, so I covered it with some cute fabric. Here are the steps: 1. Press seams. 2. Flip right-side out and press seams flat to one side. 3. With seams on the very edge, press both sides together.

Then I pressed one end 1/2″ back, right-sides facing together. This was done on both ends. Then the 2 unpressed ends are pinned together and sewn, making sure that there are no twisty loops in the scarf.

So here’s where I messed up. If both ends were the same width, the edges would line up perfectly. Instead, I had one end wider than the other. So I folded a pleat in the centre. Since this seam will be worn at the nape of my neck, I figured it wouldn’t be such an obvious mistake.

After I sewed the ends together, I zigzagged the edges together and zigzagged each open end individually.

Now for some more ironing. Ugh. Here are the steps: 1. Press sewn seams and one end to the inside of the tube. 2. Using the pressed line as a guide for a fold line, press the other side while tucking in the edge. 3. I realize now that this is just step 2 with the iron at a different angle.

Almost done! Now for the top-stitching. The original tutorial calls for hand-stitching, which is my 2nd to least favourite task. So I went ahead and machine stitched it altogether. The stitching on the backside mostly fell in between the seams and doesn’t look too horrible. In the pictures below, you’ll notice that I inverted the outside pleat. This was not intended. Oops.

Finally, some photos of me wearing the scarf. The first one as a single loop.

This one shows the scarf wrapped twice around my neck. Super soft. Super lightweight. Super cozy, without being too warm. Perfect for the SF bay area.

A close-up. You can’t even tell that one side is uneven.

I made a couple of blunders, but take a look at this:

From 2 yards of fabric, I only have a couple of itty bitty scraps left! These scraps are going into a scrap bin, of course. I’m not sure what they will become, but as in Tetris, it is completely satisfying to clear every last brick.

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5 responses to “Why cutting fabric is like playing Tetris

  1. Lucinda

    Well done! I well remember the days of Tetris, and closing my eyes at night and seeing the pieces fall. You’ve taken your Tetris skills and applied them very skillfully, resulting in such a great scarf! I’d love to see and feel this fabric in person – it looks lovely!

  2. Grace

    This is an awesome post for all those extra strips of fabric I’ve been hoarding. Guess what everyone is getting from Chistmas?! Just an aside – where did you get that gorgeous grey cardi from? The ruffles look so good with the infinity scarf.

    • Thanks! Infinity scarves would make great handmade Christmas gifts. I bought the cardigan at Winners in Canada over 5 years ago. It’s a discount department store similar to TJ Maxx in the US. A lucky find, I guess!

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  4. I love this! Also, that bird shirt you have on is FANTASTIC!

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