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.