Assuming you don’t have access to a large format laser cutter, there are four stages involved in cutting out latex pieces.
- Print/draw the pattern onto paper/card
- Cut out the paper pieces
- Trace around the paper pieces onto the latex
- Cut out the latex pieces.
Printing the pieces
If you have the pattern electronically then you need to print it out life size. (Ensure there is some measurement you can make on the printout to confirm that it has printed life-size.) If you have a printer that can take roll paper then see my page on printing to lining paper. If you only have access to an A4 printer then you will need to print the pattern across several sheets and carefully tape these together.
Cut out the paper pieces
If the pattern includes perfectly straight lines then these can be cut with a rotary cutter and purpose made ruler. Smooth curves are best cut using a rotary cutter; tight curves using scissors. If you have rejected a blade from latex cutting purposes because it has become dull then switch to it for these paper cutting duties (preserving the sharpness of your latex cutting blade). See notes at the end of this page on using a rotary cutter.
Cut the pieces as accurately as possible. I use 1pt lines in my patterns, you should be aiming to cut along the line accurately (i.e. dissecting it). In practise it is rare that you need to be that accurate, but if you at least strive for an accurate cut then you are unlikely to run into difficulties later. Ensure that if the edge is intended to be used to double-up the piece (the fabric equivalent of cutting on a fold) that the broken line remains clearly visible on the cut piece.
For my patterns I use a 140pt:2pt dashed line (the dashes are 5cm long) to provide alignment markers. Sometimes this line is the actual edge, and sometimes it is on a line lying just inside the edge. Where there are alignment marks on a pattern piece for which both an as-is and reversed version are required, these need to be made accessible on both sides. Create little notches (2-3mm) using scissors for each alignment mark.
Tracing onto latex
The latex sheeting itself is one of the most expensive inputs to the process and therefore you should always be seeking to arrange the pattern pieces in such a way as to minimise wastage. Many pieces will be required to be traced both as-is and reversed. Take great care to ensure that you don’t get this confused. Some pieces are symmetrical and the paper pattern piece only represents half of the required piece (I use a broken line to indicate this symmetry requirement); ensure that you take this into account.
Only mark the matt side of the latex with the pen. Pen marks do come off with cleaner, but can sometimes still be faintly visible.
Use the white gel pen to trace around the pattern pieces. Check that you have all the pieces, that the pairs are mirror images where required and that pieces that should be doubled-up have been.
Ensure that all marks from the pattern are transferred to the latex.
- Piece name, version, and orientation (if the pattern piece says LEFT, then you draw around it as-is and mark that piece as LEFT and then flip the pattern piece over and mark that one as RIGHT). My patterns assume you are marking the matt side of the latex and are from the perspective of the wearer.
- Seam assembly order and direction
- Glue matt / glue shiny indication. If the pattern says ‘glue-matt’ then write ‘G’ on the latex (we’re marking the matt side) a little way from the edge (so that this remains visible when you clean the edge). If the pattern says ‘glue-shiny’ then write ‘GR’ close to the edge (meaning Glue Reverse).
- Any special instruction (such as trim later). (A ‘trim later’ edge should be drawn accurately and then also given a 6-10mm margin that we will initially cut along.)
Cut out latex pieces
Ensure that there is nothing under the latex other than the cutting board (it is easy to have the latex accidentally folded).
Tips for using a Rotary Cutter
- The blade, when new, will be razor sharp. Always retract the blade before you put down the cutter – regardless of how temporarily.
- Keep the blade perpendicular to the cutting surface.
- Maintain an angle of approximately 45deg so that you are pushing both down and forward (see what works best for you and the thickness you are cutting)
- Keep the cutter in line with wrist and forearm. Move you upper arm and body smoothly to follow the curve. I.e. you shouldn’t be following the curve by flexing your wrist – moving your body will give you a smoother curve.
Practise on some scraps of latex until you get the required pressure just right:Too much pressure: fatigue; wear and tear on blade and cutting boardToo little pressure: incomplete cut – subsequent faffing about
Make the cut in one continuous go. If you do need to lift the cutter off and then continue a cut then slightly separate the already cut pieces to provide you with an acutely angled run-in.