Cutting Layouts

The Importance of Making a Cutting Layout

A Cutting layout is just a plan of how and where you will making the cuts in your fabric. Making a layout of any type is one of the most crucial and important parts of the cutting process. Your layout will tell you if you have enough fabric for the job. Your layout also gives you a plan of where to make the cuts in the fabic.

The type of layout you use can be anything from some written measurements with a crude drawing up to a very detailed layout. The type of layout you make will be largely determined by your abilities and talents. For me, doing a detailed layout on the computer helps me greatly. Conversely, if a person is not computer literate, then a computerized layout could be a nightmare. However the concepts of how to do a layout is common to all types of layouts. If you do a layout by hand, then you must be reasonably good at math. You will be measuring and will be adding many dimensions. One major adding mistake can render your layout worthless.

Planning Where to Cut

A cutting layout (or a cutting plan) can be anything from a few measurements hastily taken to a very detailed layout plan (see illustration below). The amount of detail and/or the complexity of the plan depend upon a wide number of factors. A very simple job may not even need a written plan (although we may have a plan in mind), while a very large project with many parts may need a very detailed plan. Justg keep this in mind, if you start cutting without a plan, you have a large potential for not having enough fabric. (You may cut the wrong pieces in the wrong places, thereby causing a very inefficient use of the fabric.)

Various upholsterers use different methods to plan out how to cut their fabric. Some do a layout on paper, some just measure the sizes they need and cut from that (without making a layout. A few don't even make a layout, they just cut. For myself, before I start cutting the fabric, I prefer to plan out how I'll be cutting it.

Here is an example of one of our layouts, which I created using a drawing software. (To see the full size layout, click on above image. Note, after the full sized picture appears, click on it to enlarge it to full size. then use the scroll bars to see all the picture.)


The Software: I have been doing my layouts on my computer for probably about 10 years or more. I have used MS Publisher 97 for a while, but it didn't have the features I wanted. In recent years I have used both Open office draw  for a while (which has been improved and released as LibreOffice Draw) and then I've used TurboCAD 12. While neither of these programs are idea, I'd rather use either of them than doing a layout by hand.

The Process goes like this. Since I make a lot of layouts I usually set up a document template that contains all the pieces that I need. (If you will only be doing one layout, you'd just create a document.) For example, to make the template I rescale the dimensions of the template to be about 20:1. Then I create a large rectangle (that is scaled to the dimensions of the roll of fabric) that I place in the background, which will represent the roll of fabric.. After this I create smaller rectangles to represent all the pieces of fabric to be cut for each job. For example, some of the rectangles will be used as the Inside Arms, Outside Arms, Front Deck, Inside Back, Cushions pieces etc.  I attach dimension lines to all the rectangles. When I have all the pieces finished, I save the file as a template file.

For each new piece of furniture, I create a new document using the template file, which will have all the rectangles with attached template files already made. Then I simply resize the fabric rectangle in the background to be the same measurements as the roll of fabric. Then all the other rectangle pieces will be resized to fit the sizes of the current furniture.

When all the rectangles for the sofa pieces are resized, they will be place within the lines of the "fabric" rectangle. I'll visually guess which will go where, and will rearrange the pieces until it fits right. After saving the file by the client's name, it will be printed out. As each piece is cut, a check will be placed on the corresponding piece on the layout paper.  The layout paper becomes a cutting plan. By keeping track of which pieces are cut, it is easy to take a break and then come back.


Measure Your Furniture

How to Measure the Sofa or Chair

In order to make a cutting layout we need to measure every piece of fabric on every part of the sofa. (The actual pieces you measure will vary depending upon the style of your sofa.) Write down the widest point and the tallest point of every piece. Then add several inches to each measurement to allow for seam allowance and extra fabric to grab hold of to pull it. Measure all the welting. For a standard sofa, here is an example of what to measure (will vary with each sofa):

On the sofa deck (under the cushions) the fabric pieces that you need to measure are:

the Front Deck

Front Band

Front Band welting

On the arms measure

the Inside Arms*

Outside Arms

Arm Facing

Arm Facing Welting

On the backrest, measure

the Inside Back*

the Banding

the Banding Welting (add about 20 inches to what shows. This welting needs to be long enough to stick through the frame slots and put through to the outside. More about this later.)

the Outside Back

The Outside Back Welting

On the Cushions measure

the Cushion Faces (top & bottom),



Zipper pieces

There may also be other pieces to measure that are not listed here.

*The inside arms and the inside back need special consideration. First you need to determine whether or not you will be using a stretcher cloth at the bottom of these. If so, then you will add about 3 or 4 inches at the bottom of each of these


Computerized Cutting Layouts

Choosing a Software


(You can probably use many drawing or CAD softwares to make a computerized cutting layout. If you already have a software that you already know how set up and to use, you can probably just use that software instead of the sofware listed below. However, you can probably use these instructions to set up and use your own software.)

"Automatic" Layout Software?

Just to be clear about what I mean by "computerized" layouts. There are two possible type of computerized layouts: automatic layouts and manual layouts. When some people hear the term "computerized" they might think that the software will automatically do the layouts for you. I have only seen one or two software that do "automatic" layouts. That means that you enter the measurements of the various pieces and the software will automatically do the layout for you. I've never used one of these. The one I mainly investigated was programmed using old style software and it was very expensive. Also, I haven't been able to find it in recent years.

Theoretically I would love to have a fully automatic layout softare. However, there are so many variations in doing layouts (i.e. doing pattern matching, etc.) that I think I prefer doing the manual layouts. I doubt that anyone will ever create a really high quality automatic layout software for upholstery because there are not enough upholsterers who could afford such a software.

Manual Layout Software

What I mean by "computerized" in this case is that I use the software to manually do the layout on the computer. This is very similar as if you were to draw the layout on some graph paper. The advantage of doing it on the computer is that you can easily move the pieces around until you get a good layout. And, if you don't like your first layout, you can easily rearrange the pieces again.

Desirable Software Features

Over the years I have tried out various drawing and publishing software to attempt to make cutting layouts. Over this time I have developed a list of features that a software MUST have in order to make it workable for creating layouts. While these features are directed at doing manual layouts, they could be used as a starting point if someone eventually wanted to ceate an automatic layout software or template.

  1. Must be able to create scaled-down large documents
  2. Need to have side and top rulers that are scaled to the sizes to be used.
  3. Must have a large area to create and layout pieces.
  4. It is very helpful to have multiple layers (a background layer (to create the fabric) and a foreground layer (to layout the pieces without affecting the background layer)
  5. Must be able to create transparent resizable rectangles, should be able to attach dimensioning lines to the rectangles
  6. Should be able to get rid of arrows and overhangsfrom the dimensioning lines.
  7. Need to be able to enter text into those rectangles. It would be helpful if the text could be moved around and/or have the font & size changed if needed.
  8. Be able to create polygons (such a T-shape or an L-shape) where edge can be easily adjusted either individually or as a mirror of the opposite edge. All edges should have the ability to have dimensioning lines attached, as well as showing the overall L X W of the entire object.
  9. ....... more to follow.............


To Match Patterns

In addition those features listed above, in order to help match patterns, the sofware needs

  1. The ability to have some type of grid system in the backgroud:
    1. where the grid point markes can be larger enough to be easily seen in the printed out layout
    2. where the grid size can be changed to correspond with the Horizontal and Vertical repeats of the fabric pattern repeats
    3. Have the ability to have choose the grid starting point. This would include being able to correspond with a beginning pattern match point on the fabric.
  2. Each Item Rectangle should have the ability to put a visible match point anywhere within the rectangle. The match point should have visible Horizontal and verticle dimension lines with measurements that print out inside the Items rectangles
  3. Optional: Be able to snap the match points in the Items rectangles with the grid markers on the background. 



Setting Up LibreOffice To Make Cutting Layouts.


The Software: Libre Office Draw

There may be many other fine drawing software that would work as well, or maybe even better, than Libre Office Draw. But this software is free and it is a quality software which does the job we want it to do. These instructions are for using the Draw features of Libre Office But Libre Office is a branch of Open Office and the instructions should be very similar if you are using the Draw package of Open Office. If you have not already done so, download and install Libre Office. When you first open LibreOffice it asks that you register it. Go ahead and take a few moments to register your software.

Setting Up "Draw" For Making Layouts

As you follow this tutorial, I suggest that you save your Cutting layout as a drawing document right away, and then save it every so often, just in case something happens that you loose it along the way.  When you get it all finished, you can then save it as a Template so that it will be available every time you want to make a new cutting layout.

Here is an example of a basic cutting layout template which I created. On the Master  view (which is the background page, is the Fabric rectangle (by itself). Then on the "Normal" view (which is the foreground page) I've created three "Items" rectangles, which have the dimensioning lines attached ready for use. In the Normal view you can see both the background Master view (with the Fabric rectangle) and the forground (with the Items rectangles).

Here are the features that you need to change to make Draw more useful:

Setting up your page size: 


  Under the Page tab, Paper format, for Format choose Letter (it will automatically change to User when we are finished here). For Orientation choose "Landscape". With the Landscape orientation, the height should be 8.50", for width, choose 20"

The Width will vary from 11" to 30" to 40" or more, depending on how many yards your are laying out. When setting your page width, the variable is this, for every 5 yards of fabric, you will need 9" of width (plus your margins). As an example, if you have a 10 yard job, you will need the width to be 18" (plus margins). You can change the Width with each cutting layout. So, for this template we chose a width of 20" because it is a nice round number, it will handle most small to medium jobs, and because it will print out on 2 sheets of paper.

Setting up the measurements and other misc.

Now let's set some of the miscellaneous settings:

Tools>Options>LibreOffice Draw>

First choose the General Option>

  • Settings:
    • Objects always moveable
    • Unit of measurement : Inch (If you use a different unit of measure, set that here.
  • Scale    Change Scale to 1:20 - This changes the scale of the rulers and objects so that you can do your layouts to print out on regular paper. 

Then choose the Grid Option (see above picture)>

  • Under Snap, choose "To object frame" - This allows you to easily attach the dimensioning lines to your rectangles.

Finally, choose the Print Option>

  • Under Page Options   Choose "Tile Pages". This allows your larger layouts to print on multiple pages, which you can tape together.

Setting up the Dimension Lines.

Although I'm showing you how changings the settings below will affect the dimension lines, you won't be able to see the dimension lines or the measurements connected to the drawings until we set that up later below. I am only showing you those pictures to show you why you are making the changes to the settings.

Because we will be working with small rectangles on screen, we need to get rid of the arrows and overhangs at the end of the dimension lines. Here is an example of how the normal dimension lines look with the normal sized arrows and overhangs. They take up about half the interior of the rectangle.

Press F11 to open the Styles and Formatting box.

Right-click on "Dimension Line", choose "Modify".

Click on the Dimensioning tab, set all these to zero,

  • Line distance - Set to 0.00"
  • Guide overhang - Set to 0.00"
  • Guide distance - Set to 0.00"
  • Left guide - Set to 0.00"
  • Right guide - Set to 0.00"
  • Decimal places set to 0 for only full inch measurements, or set to 1 for full inch measurement with one tenth decimals


Click on the Line tab. The dimension line will be place on top of the rectangle lines. To make it stand out on the rectangles, do the following:

  • Under Color choose "Blue"
  • Under Arrow Styles "Style" chose -none- in both the right and the left arrow menu boxes. 

This is what the above rectangle with dimensioning lines now look like.

However,  the numbers are still too large, especially when we make very small rectanges, i.e. 10" x 12" etc. So let's make the numbers smaller, yet they still need to be readable.

Still in the Styles and Formatting box, right-click on the Dimension Line, click on the Font tab, Choose the Arial Narrow Font, Regular Style, and size 10. The numbers are now this size.

Next, we want to change the ID font to be a small but readable font. Still in the Styles and Formatting box, right-click on the Default label. Choose Modify. Then click on Font, choose Font: Arial narrow, Style: Regular, Size: 12. Click OK. The text in the center of your Items rectangle will look like this. (You won't be able to see it until you enter some text in that location, to be covered later on.)

Now you are finished setting up your Items rectangles.

When you are finished making your choices, click OK.

Setting Up the Fabric Rectangle Background

Drawings in LibreOffice Draw have both a background, which is called view "Master". You can put anything on this Master view that you want in the background of your drawings. Whatever you put on the Master view won't be affected by what you do on the drawing. 

We will use the Master view to put a rectangle representing the fabric for our layouts. To begin, go to to the top menu and choose View>Master:

This brings ups a blank page. You will know that you are in the Master view because a Master View message box pops up. (See right side of the larger picture below.) Start by clicking the rectangle icon in the lower left of the screen.

Since we will be resizing it below, draw a rectangle on the screen (see below) of any size. While the rectangle is still highlighted (it has the blue squares at the corner), choose the color white in the top menu, as shown below.


Resize the rectangle

While the rectangle is still highlighted, press f4, which will bring up the Position and Size box. Enter the Width as 360" and the height as 54". These measurements represent 10 yards of fabric. Click OK.


This should resize the fabric rectangle to be the full width of the page, as shown below. Just remember, in the future you can resize the page and readjust the size of the fabric rectangle for each job as needed.

Now click on the "Close Master View" button (see above picture.)

Setting Up the Items Rectangles

Click on the Rectangle icon at the bottom left of the screen

Draw a small rectancle of any size. While the rectangle is still highlighted (small blue squares in the corners) press the "f4" key, which will open the Position and Size box. 

On the Position and Size box that pops up, choose a width of 30" and a Height of 24". (You can actually make these any measurements that you want.)

Now to add the Dimensioning lines. At the bottom left of the screen, click on the "down" arrowhead by the arrow button (A in the picture below). The choose the dimension line icon (B).

Notice that the rectangle is no longer highlighted. Carefully put the tip of your mouse at corner A and draw your mouse to the right to corner B. Let go of the mouse button. If you have done it correctly, you should see a blue line with a 30" measurement on it, as in the picture below. (Note, your drawing will not have the arrows or the corner letters that are in this drawing.)

Click the tip of your mouse at corner C and drag it carefully down to corner B, and let go of the mouse button.

When you are finished, your rectangle should look like this below.

However, the dimension lines are not attached to the rectangle. When you move the rectangles, the lines won't go along. So we need to attached the lines to the rectangles.

Click your arrow cursor at the bottom left (A in the picture). Then click and drag a larger rectangle clear around the Items rectangles. This larger rectangle should be large enough to go all around with a little extra. If even one tip of the rectangles or lines are not in the rectangle, the next step won't fully work.

When we selected everything in the last step, the rectangle shows that it is chosen (see the little blue boxes at the corners). Carefully right-click with the exact tip of the mouse anywhere on the highlighted rectangle. From the context menu choose "Group."

When you are finished, the rectangle will look like this. You won't be able to see anything different. To determine if the Grouping work, just click on the rectangle and move it anywhere. If the Grouping worked, the dimension lines should have moved with the rectangle.

Now that we have all the parts finished, copy the Items rectangle (draw thelarger rectangle around the Items rectangle & press "ctrl+C") and make several other copies, ("ctrl+V") and move them wherever it seems good to you. In the picture below you will seen where I placed everything.

Create a Template-Making It Easy to Use Each Time

Now let's save this page as a template.

LibreOffice Draw is a very useful drawing program. Since you may want to use it for making other drawings as well as creating layouts, you need to create a couple templates for your cutting layouts. A template contains all the specific Draw settings for your cutting layouts. To make it more efficient to make cutting layouts, we have changed (above) some of the basic document settings.

Draw uses templates to remember the measurements and other settings in each document. It has a standard template that it uses whenever you create a new document. Since we want all of our cutting layout documents to use all the settings that we have created above, we need to save this documet as a template so that we can use it over and over again.

Now that you have all of your settings configured, save this blank document as a template: File>Templates>Save  Give the template a name under "New template" (We'll use "Horiz Cutting Layout Blank" as our example name) and choose the "My Templates" category. Click OK.

Whenever you want to create a cutting layout using these settings, go to File>New>Templates and Documents, click on Templates in the left pane, and then choose our cutting layout template in the middle pane (which we had named "Horiz Cutting Layout Blank"). Click on Open.


(to be continued)

Creating a Cutting Layout in LibreOffice

Before starting this tutorial, please read the pages on Computerized Cutting Layouts, and follow the instructions given on "Setting Up LibreOffice To Make Cutting Layouts."  Here is an example of a cutting layout using this method. (Click on the picture to enlarge)

You should also measure the cuts on your furniture and have that list of the ID's (i.e.  IB, IA, OA, etc.) and measurements in front of you before you start. You will be using that information to make the following cutting layout. (or use a sample list to practice with)

Getting Started

After opening LibreOffice Draw, start a new document by using File>New>Templates and Documents>Templates. Choose the template that we previously created "Horiz Cutting Layout Blank"

Resize the page: Format>Page>Width

Start by resizing the page (if needed) for the amount of fabric you will be using. Remember you need a width of 9" for every 5 yards that you will use, plus margins. Then add a little extra.

Resize the fabric rectangle: 

  1. View>Master
  2. Click on the edge of the fabric rectangle and press the f4 key.
  3. In the "Position and Size" box change the width to the number of yards needed, in inches (multiply your yards X 36).
  4. Click OK
  5. Check to make sure that the fabric rectangle is center inside both side margins.
  6. Close Master View


............. This page is not yet finished, more to follow............

Cutting Layouts for Leather

In the near future I will be doing a button tufted sofa using 4 very expensive hides. I don't want to taking a chance on just cutting the piece without much planning. That could lead to some very expensive mistakes. So, I've been thinking about what the steps would be to plan out how to cut the leather pieces using a cutting layout template that I've created.

How do you make a cutting layout for leather? This is  especially useful if you have multiple leather hides for your job and you want to be able to do a computer layout on top of the leather hides.

A. Set Up Your Computer

  1. If you have not previously installed Libre Office (LO) on your computer, do that now. Go here:  Libre Office, download it and install it.
  2. If you don't have gimp or the professional grade of photoshop on your computer, you can get get Gimp here. Download and install it. The reason that we will be using Gimp is that the pictures of the hides will be distorted, so we will use Gimp to  straighten up the images so that be closer to realistice sizes and perspectives. Otherwise we would not be able to use the hide images with our LO Draw layout templates.
  3. If you have not yet previously set up Draw for making layouts, do that now. To do that, go follow these instructions now: Setting Up LibreOffice Draw for Cutting Layouts.
  4. Watch this YouTube Video: Gimp Tutorial, Using The Perspective Tool. Althought it's not quite the same as what we will be doing, it will give you a good idea of how the perspective tool works and will help prepare you a little for what we will be doing.

B. Prepare The Leather

  1. Now, let's get to working with the leather hide.
  2. Find a large flat smooth place to layout the leather hide.
  3. Carefully inspecte it for flaws, marks, holes, etc. Remember, these are all part of the character of leather. We are mainly looking for those that will ... be too much that affect the quality of the leather.

C. Measure The Leather

  1. Find the largest usable rectanger in the midst of the hide..
  2. Using large squares..... carefully lay out long rulers or long straight boards in that large rectangle shape, the outlines the largest usable area. Make sure that the corners are square and that is it a perfect rectangle.
  3. Measure the exact size of the outer edges of the rectangle, write the measurements down and bring them with you.
  4. Get a very tall ladder and set it up as close as you can get to the center of one side of the leather.
  5. Take your camera with a wide angle lense (a phone camera probably wouldn't be very useful here.)
  6. Climb up high enough on the ladder to get the whole hide in the picture. (The higher the better to get as close to a center shot as possible. If you could figure out a way to get dead center over the top of the leather, that would be perfect. However, since I can't do that, I take my pictures to the side, which leaves the picture in a perspective mode.

E. Now To The Computer

  1. Load the picture into the computer into a folder where you know where it is.
  2. Load the photo of the leather hide into Gimp (or Photo Shop). For this to work, it is important that the image software have a perspective mode. Gimp does and I think that Photo Shop also does.
  3. Use a filter that turns the photo into a drawing. that gets rid of all the color so the photo will be easier to work with in the future.

F. Correcting the Shape of the Image

Unless you took the picture exactly over the top of the hide and had your camera exactly square to the hide, the picture of the hide will be distorted. I will have a perspective distortion. This won't be very useful in trying to use the image of the hide in a layout. So, we will need to correct that distorted shape of the image.

  1. Scale the canvas size of the Leather image hide up to about 200 percent or larger, so there will be plenty of space for us to manipulate the image. Center the image on the canvas. Click the resize button.
  2. Open up LibreOffice Draw and create a new document from one of your Cutting Layout templates. Create a rectangle scaled to the same sizes as the rectangle you made on top of the leather hide. Copy the rectangle into the computer memory.
  3. Paste the rectangle into another layer of the same file as the leather hide. Center it on the layer.
  4. Scale the slide with the rectangle up to approximately the same size as the rectangle on the leather image.
  5. Drag the leather hide slide to be the top layer. Make sure that this layer is selected.
  6. Click on the Persective tool. If needed, watch is video again: Gimp Tutorial, Using The Perspective Tool
  7. In the settings below, adjust the image opacity to something about 25 to 50%. You want to be able to see the LO Draw rectangle in the lower layer as well as the rectangle on the leather.
  8. Since the bottom of the hide image will be wider than the top, move one of the bottom corners of the rectangle of that slide to line it up with the same corner of the LO Draw rectangle on the lower slide.
    1. Then move the other bottom corner of the hide rectangle to line of with the other corner of the lower rectanger.
    2. Take one of the top corners of the leather rectangle and line it up with the lower rectangle. The do the same with the last rectangle.
    3. Now, as you may have noticed, each time you move one corner, it also moves the rest of the corners. So, will have to keep going from corner to corner and readjusting each corner until you finally get all the corners lined up.
  9. Once you get all the corners lined up, Flatten the image so that  both layers are combined into one.
  10. Crop the excess blank space around the image.
  11. Save the file.

G. Using the Corrected Image in our Layout

Now that we have corrected the shape of the hide image, let's take it to our cutting layout.

  1. Copy the image into the  computer memory.
  2. Go back to the file you created in LO Draw (or create a new Layout file)
  3. Paste the image into the layout file. It may fill the whole page.
  4. Using the dimensioning tool to check the size, resize the rectange on the hide so that it is the same size as the rectangle that you made in step 18.
  5. Now your hide image should to the correct scale.
  6. Move it to the Master page (in the background)
  7. For each additional hide, start at step B3 and do which steps are necessary.

Uses For Computerized Layouts


Making a Cutting Layout

The most common use of this LibreOffice Draw template is to make a cutting layout for the upholstered chair or sofa that I'm working on. Then I print out the layout and use as a cutting guide. It tells me where to cut each piece and how big to make them. I also check off each piece as I cut it so that I can keep track of which pieces I've cut. Here is example of a cutting layout for a wing chair. (Click on the picture to enlarge)

Estimating Yardage

Another use for the cutting layout is to figure yardage more precisely whenever needed, such as when estimating a very large job. Although for most of my quotes I give an estimate of yardage based upon standard yardage charts combined with my experience, some jobs can use some extra help. For instance, I recently had to give a quote on 99 cushions to be done in vinyl (48 in purple and 51 in blue). The zippers would be done in a matching fabric to allow for better air flow. The job also included furnishing new foam for all the cushions.

Because of the client's ordering and budgeting restrictions, they had a certain budget that they could use each year for this. So the order had to be broken up into four years. Also, because of my job schedule I couldn't do it all at once and to break each year's portion into a manageable size for me. I was also ordering new foam for the cushions. Using the software I did a number of test layouts to see how many cushions to do at a time. (Using the software it is easy to create all the parts of one cushion, and then duplicate those parts to make many more cushions. It is fairly simple to use those parts to test out doing 5 cushions, 6 cushions, 7 cushions, 8 cushions, 9 cushions, 10 cushions, etc. at a time. Combining what I learned from doing these test layouts with the size of the cushions and the size of the foam sheets, I finally figured out that nine cushions was the best quantity to make each time.

Here is how I laid out the vinyl pieces (without the zippers) of that group of nine cushions. (Click on the picture to see the full size layout.) This drawing is only a piece of the larger layout below it.

So I used my LibreOffice Draw customized template to create two cutting layouts (using nine cushions in each group), one layout for the cushions using the purple vinyl and one for the blue vinyl. Shown below is the cutting layout for all 48 of the purple cushions. (Click on the picture below to enlarge) I also did a similar layout (not shown) for the blue vinyl cushions. I made a very simple layout for the zipper fabrics.

 You will notice in the layout that each group of nine cushions circled in a different color and identified by a number. This makes it easer to keep each set separate. Also, since the job covers 4 years, having this layout will help me keep track of  (and remember) what I've done and what needs to be done, as well as where to cut cut everything. In figuring the total yardage I add the normal extra yardage amount for the cutting allowance. I mark that out on the layout so I can remember what I did.


............ more to follow ....................




Making a Paper Cutting Layout

Not yet written, please be patient.