When working with patterns, it’s necessary to make sure that nothing slides around while cutting the fabric for the design. That leads to the question of whether to use pins or weights. Traditionally, pins are used to hold things in place. With that said, using pattern weights to hold things down quickly & easily isn’t new either.
They sell special pattern weights. I’m sure they are wonderful. I’m seriously cheap though, and I’ve never bought them, although I have weighted many patterns over the years.
Long ago, I made a lot of small stuffed creatures, for gifts and for sale. They ranged from a tiny stuffed rocking horse about 4” tall (for a Christmas decoration) to large stuffed dolls. This is when I used a lot of weights in laying out patterns.
But have you ever cut out a gusset or ear for a 4” tall stuffed horse? Neither pin nor weight will actually fit. Heck, a DIME won’t fit! For those pieces, I would cut out a template from thin plastic or cardboard (disposable food container lids are great, as are cereal boxes) and hold that down with one finger, while I drew with a pen right on the fabric. Not a special pen either, just a plain jane black ink pen, the kind you use for writing with. Then, I’d cut out the pieces following the marked cutting lines.
But for weighting those patterns when I was churning out a batch I used food cans, straight out of the pantry. Anything would work, but I favored tomato paste cans (small diameter) and tuna cans (short). Tomato sauce ran a hot third in the weighting contest.
When would I weight instead of pinning?
I would only weight when it was a relative small, simple shape, especially if I was cutting multiples. I also had to be familiar with the pattern. I rarely would opt to use weights if I was cutting out a new pattern to make a prototype design. I also would not be using a tissue paper pattern—they are too prone to floating, flying, fluttering and inspiring other “f” words. I always cut out a sturdier paper pattern for a pattern design that I will be using repeatedly. For those heavier papers, weighting works wonderful, as long as your table is big enough to lay out the pieces and weight them into place without having to shift fabric this way or that way to get at it.
Weighting also meant not using any tailor marks, which was part of the reason I had to be familiar with the construction of that particular design. I personally found that transferring tailor marks on a weighted pattern was a situation that invariably resulted in disaster.
At the same time, weighting made a project’s construction much faster. Eliminating 2-3 minutes of pinning may sound inconsequential, but when you are trying to cut, sew, and assemble a dozen of something after a long day of work, that 2-3 minutes may be enough time when it is multiplied over that dozen to actually put one of them together.
On the other side of that is the simple fact that saving 2-3 minutes of pinning on a garment can cause problems to appear in construction that could have been avoided if the pattern had been more accurately cut out after pinning it in place before cutting. Don’t do it—you will regret it!
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