Once in a while, there is a pattern that you use SO much that you need it to be both indestructible and easy to use. That was the case for me with my poncho pattern. The original pattern had held up well enough, with the help of some tape here and there, but then I made plans to make so many ponchos that I knew it would be very useful to have something not only indestructible, but reusable with efficiency. I mentioned this to my engineer. (click on any photo to enlarge)
He had me lay out the pattern pieces for optimum use of space, so he would know how much “⅛ inch hardboard” he would need to buy at Lowe’s. It is the same basic material that he used to make a cutting mat for sewing for me, only this time it has some texture on one side. We didn’t plan this, but it helps to hold the board pieces in place on the fabric. But I need to go back to the beginning for you.
The big sheet of hardboard, roughly 45 inches by 100 inches, was put on my longish kitchen table, where I do most of my cutting out for sewing. I positioned the poncho pattern pieces as tightly together on it as I could, leaving a fraction of an inch between them for drawing their outlines. Since it was not fabric and there were no qualities of the wood product that made it necessary to consider how the pieces were aligned, I didn’t have to worry about that. I did use my pattern weights (rocks with flat bottoms would work) to hold the paper down. I put long straight edges of the pattern piece along what long straight edges of the hardboard that I could, so those edges would not need to be cut and there would be less waste.
My engineer suggested that I use a fat marker for drawing the outlines. I did find I needed to hold down sections of the edge of the paper as I went, to be as true to the pattern shape as possible. For the notches, I drew the triangle to the inside of the line, but told my engineer we wouldn’t be cutting those out. While the paper pattern was still in place, I also traced the grain line arrows and a couple other marks that might be useful. The marker went through the paper enough so that it was easy to re-draw those markings on the hardboard more clearly when the paper was removed. I had some trouble with the first marker, but determined that it was just too dry and needed to be thrown away anyway. A juicy marker made all the tracing much easier.
I was invited to try using the jigsaw to help cut out the new, heavy duty pattern pieces. It is a portable, handheld saw that my engineer said was “just like a sewing machine.” I watched him use it and said it was “just like an electric mixer, only more dangerous.” He guided me through applying even pressure with the presser feet on both sides of the saw (okay, that is like a sewing machine). I was also cautioned to keep track of the table the hardboard was resting on. We only wanted to cut where there was hardboard hanging out over the edge. That meant trying to keep it on the table enough that it was supported, but hanging over enough to allow for a couple inches of cutting at a time. And watch the fingers.
The power controls were like an electric mixer. That is, the saw moved faster as the red button on top was pushed farther forward. I found it fairly easy to learn to control the saw, and only accidentally cut a couple of curved lines. These were thankfully to the outside of the pattern pieces. My engineer offered to finish the cutting for me, because it looked like it might take me about 12 hours. Still, I think I could get better at it with a little practice.
When he was finished, the edges were looking good. He said I could sand them some if I wanted, but I don’t see that as becoming necessary. I decided to try cutting out a poncho right away. As mentioned earlier, the grippy side of the hardboard came in handy for keeping the pattern in place on the polar fleece. I would be hesitant to use it on delicate fabrics, like silk or rayon, but it should be fine for almost anything else that isn’t overly sensitive to snagging. A rotary cutter moved around the edges with ease. I did switch to a smaller rotary cutter for the tighter curves.
It went so well, that I went ahead and cut out some convertible mittens and an ear warmer from the polar fleece. These were from patterns on a crisp paper, but I was evaluating if I thought it would be possible and worth while to also cut the patterns out of hardboard, since I have half of the sheet left. I also thought of a few other things I sew multiples of, that it might be handy to have such a sturdy, reusable pattern for. Certain favorite apron patterns and bag patterns came to mind.
The main drawbacks are cost and storage. The hardboard is only about $9 a sheet, but that is still more expensive than paper. Such pattern pieces also don’t fold and do take up more space. So this is an idea that I will only be using for a select few sewing patterns. I think the poncho pattern was an excellent choice for this for me. I think it reduced my layout and cutting time at least by half. Now, to get busy and sew some, so the next time someone sees me or one of my daughters wearing one, then asks me if I sell any, I can say yes!