You can easily make your own pattern weights to help you cut out your sewing pattern pieces faster with a rotary cutter. Find out how in this step by step tutorial, and get started today with the free template found below.
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What Are Pattern Weights?
Pattern weights are small, weighted objects that are laid on top of sewing pattern pieces to hold them in place on top of fabric. A rotary cutter can then be used to easily cut around the pattern pieces.
How Do I Use Pattern Weights?
To use pattern weights with a rotary cutter, you will need a large cutting mat. Iron your fabric, then fold and lay it on your cutting mat according to the sewing pattern directions. Take your pattern pieces and plan the layout on the fabric according to the instructions, taking fold, grain lines, and pattern direction into account.
When your placement is correct, place enough pattern weights onto a pattern piece as are necessary to hold it securely in place. Use your rotary cutter to cut around each pattern piece carefully. Move your pattern weights to the next pattern piece and continue until all pattern pieces are cut out. Voila! No pinning required.
Why Should I Use Pattern Weights?
Using pattern weights to hold sewing patterns in place, and a rotary cutter to cut out the pattern pieces is much faster than pinning the pattern to fabric and using scissors. It can also yield neater cuts than scissors do.
In addition, skipping the pins means you won’t put holes in delicate fabrics, or tear your tissue paper patterns.
What Can I Use For Sewing Pattern Weights?
In a pinch, you can use any small, heavy items you find around the house as sewing pattern weights. You can use soup cans, mugs, etc. I remember using things like my stapler and tape dispenser. However, smaller is better for placing in corners and holding down tiny pattern pieces. But why not make your own DIY pattern weights? It’s both simple and fun!
I love using a rotary cutter to cut out my sewing pattern pieces. A few years ago I designed and made myself a set of pattern weights. Since more is always helpful, I decided to make another set for this tutorial. They’re very easy and quick to make, and you can customize them to whatever colours you like. These pattern weights are made mostly of felt, which I love working with because it stitches up so nicely and it doesn’t fray. You’ll also find a free template at the bottom of the post to help you get started quickly.
Read on for the pattern weight tutorial.
How To Make Pattern Weights
Materials to Make Pattern Weights
- The free template, printed, which you’ll find at the bottom of the post.
- Washers from the hardware store – they should be large and weighty – see my notes and photos in Step 1. I recommend 8-12 of them, but the specific number is up to you.
- A piece of felt in the colour of your choice. You can use acrylic, wool-blend, or wool felt. I think I used acrylic on my original red set, and I used wool-blend for this yellow set. You will need enough felt to trace twice as many circles as you have washers. (Ie. 10 washers means 20 felt circles). There are many places to get wool blend felt. In Canada, I like to order from Canadian Felt Shop, which you can also find on Etsy. In the US, I recommend Benzie Design.
- Embroidery floss to match your felt
- Embroidery needle
- A small scrap of quilting cotton – you will need enough to trace one fabric circle for each washer you have. (Ie. 10 washers means 10 fabric circles). A fat quarter is more than you need.
- Thread to match your quilting cotton
- A sewing machine that can zig-zag
- Markers/pens/pencils to trace the circles – I find a Sharpie works the best on felt. I resorted to using a pencil on the back of my fabric when my fabric marking pen wasn’t visible. Use whatever works so you can see it. If you have a dark fabric colour, try a white pencil crayon, or try a gold Sharpie on dark felt.
- Scissors – for fabric, and for paper
Steps to Make Pattern Weights
Step 1 – Choose your template size and cut them out
The pattern weights are made with felt circles, stitched together around a metal washer, with a smaller fabric circle stitched on top. You want washers that sit inside the felt circle template with about 1/8″ of space around the edge.
For my original set, I chose washers that were slightly on the larger size than this new set. When I lay them out on the template, the size of the felt best fits the medium felt circle, with the washer being slightly smaller inside that. For this set I made 10 pattern weights.
When I went to the hardware store this time, I ended up choosing washers that were just a little bit smaller. When I laid them on the template, they fit best inside the smaller felt circle template with room to spare, which is what you want. I bought eight washers for this set.
If your washers aren’t a great fit for any of the three felt circles, you could scale the pattern by a small percentage on your printer until you find a size you like.
Once you’ve determined which circle best fits your washers, cut out the corresponding felt and fabric circle templates. The fabric circle should be 0.75cm smaller in diameter than the felt circle.
Step 2 – Trace your templates on fabric and felt and cut them out
Using whatever marking tool will show up best on your felt and fabric, trace the templates the required number of times.
Again, I chose eight washers, so I traced double, or sixteen circles on the felt with the felt circle template. I always find a Sharpie works best for tracing on felt. Don’t worry – we will trim off the Sharpie lines when we cut them out so they’re not visible.
And for the fabric, on the back side, I traced eight circles using the fabric circle template and a pencil.
Then, using fabric scissors, carefully cut out all the felt and fabric circles. I carefully trimmed off all the black Sharpie lines of my felt circles so they would not be visible in the finished pattern weights.
Step 3 – Pin and sew the fabric circles to the felt circle tops
Taking half of your felt circles, pin one fabric circle right side up in the centre of each felt circle. (Again, I have eight for my eight washers, and eight felt circles are set aside for the bottoms.)
On my previous set, I stitched the fabric circles onto the felt using an applique/blanket stitch. I prefer how these turned out. However, not everyone has a sewing machine that’s capable of doing a stitch like that. For the newer set I chose a simple zig-zag stitch. This really is a personal preference and depends on what kind of sewing machine you have.
On your sewing machine, carefully stitch (using a zig-zag or other stitch of your choice) around the edge of the fabric circle to attach it to the felt circle and enclose most of the raw edges. I found that it is very difficult to rotate the felt circle in such a tight circle as I was sewing. Therefore I suggest sewing a few stitches, then lifting the presser foot and rotating the felt circle slightly. Then sew a few more stitches, rotate again, and so on until you get back to the beginning and overlap your beginning stitches slightly. Again, you can choose settings to suit your preferences, but I chose stitch width of 4.5, and stitch length of 1.0 for my zig-zag.
Trim your threads. I found that the felt circles became a little bit warped by the time I was done sewing them because of the tight curve. That’s ok. When you stitch them around the washers, they will flatten out. Trim any little fabric threads unravelling from the edges of the zig zag.
Now we just have to stitch the layers together and we’ll be all set!
Step 4 – Stitch the felt sandwiches together around the washers
Take one stitched top felt circle, one plain felt bottom circle and one washer. Cut a longish length of matching embroidery floss and separate out one of the 6 strands. Put it through the eye of the needle and bring both ends together. Tie a knot at the ends.
To begin, I like to go in on the underside of the stitched top felt circle, coming in from under where the fabric is, going through the layer of the felt so it won’t be visible on the top and coming out at the edge. If you pull tight, then your knot will be hidden in the middle of your sandwich.
Lay the top felt circle, fabric-side up, on top of the washer, making a sandwich of felt around the washer centre. With your thread coming out of the top felt, bring your needle to the bottom and bring it up just through the very edge of both layers of felt. This creates a little whipstitch. Continue in this manner around the entire circle. Bring your needle to the bottom, up through the edge of both layers of felt. Your needle is always coming out the top and going in the bottom, with the thread wrapping over the edge.
When you make it around to the beginning and have stitched around the whole edge, I like to finish it by sticking my needle behind the stitched edge about an inch away. Then I will repeat that again, sticking the needle behind the stitched edge and coming out another ways away. Then I trim off any excess floss. If I ran out of floss before getting to the end, I’ll end it in the same way, and begin another length of floss in the same way from the underside of the top piece.
Stitch all the remaining pattern weights in the same way until you have a full set. Now that wasn’t so hard was it??
Make Your Own Pattern Weights Today!
You’ll enjoy making up a set of these quick and easy pattern weights. But most of all, you’ll love how they make cutting out pattern pieces so simple with your rotary cutter. Download the free template and get started. What colour will you make yours?
You might also like Anatomy of Fabric: 21 Top Terms Explained for Better Sewing.
I want to hear from you! Do you like using a rotary cutter to cut out your sewing patterns? Or do you prefer pinning a pattern and cutting it out with scissors? Have you ever tried pattern weights? Let me know in the comments below.
All the best,