What is cuttable width and why does it matter?
1. Cuttable width is the measurement of fabric from side to side, less the selvedge. Usually.
2. It matters because the marker must be made to use only the inside area of the fabric.
An example is the brocade above. It has a clearly defined woven edge. The cuttable width is the width of the fabric, less the woven edge.
Whoever makes your marker (usually the pattern maker or pattern grader) will need this measurement. To be certain they know you know, they may ask for the cuttable width and the “booked” width. Booked width is the full width of the fabric, including selvedge. It’s a good idea to keep track of both measurements on your Bill of Materials (BOM).
Most of the time, the cuttable width is 1″ narrower than the full width (less 1/2″ on either side) but you must confirm the width of goods you were sold as part of the fabric inspection process. Fabric inspection should be done as soon as possible after the fabric has been received. If you’re sending the fabric to the contractor and can’t inspect it yourself, see these guidelines on having fabric inspected at the factory.
As always, there are exceptions to gum up the works. For example:
1. What if your fabric doesn’t have a clearly woven edge?
2. What if the woven edge is less than 1/2″?
3. What if there are holes along the selvedge but also outside of it?
4. What if one selvedge is wider than the other?
Answers to #1 & #2 are easy. If you do not see a woven edge or the selvedge is narrower than 1/2″, the default is to subtract 1/2″ for each side to determine cuttable area. The reason we do this is because that no matter how evenly fabric is wound on the roll, the process of unrolling it with a spreader (that rides along a rail) can introduce inconsistencies. Subtracting 1/2″ for each side, 1″ total, prevents the worst of possible ills.
In the case of #3, what if there are holes outside the selvedge, you subtract where the holes end. Below is an example of this.
In the above example, the cuttable width is 5/8″ x2 or less 1.25″. By the way, the holes don’t mean the fabric is defective. Those are holes left by tenter hooks.
Last but not least, what if one selvedge is wider than the other? My off the cuff response would be to say that it is better that you shouldn’t use retail fabrics for production; this entry gives you 8 reasons why you shouldn’t, this would be a ninth reason. If you don’t have a choice in the matter, the easiest solution is to multiply the wider of the two sides by 2 and then subtract, to arrive at cuttable width. This sort of spread can be even more of a problem if you’re spreading several colorways at the same time and this particular color has the narrowest cuttable width because you’ll have to cut off the same amount of the other fabrics, wasting yardage.
An aside that doesn’t really fit in anywhere else: By default, the face of the fabric is on the inside of the roll. Not realizing this can cause a whole host of problems. The face being on the outside, is one way that you can tell whether you’re really getting goods from the mill or mill ends. And yes, you can buy mill ends from the mill but they darn well should tell you because the torquing is often greater (rippling on one side) since the goods have been rolled/unrolled twice, but most of all, the goods will be sewn with the presumption that the face is up. This can be particularly problematic if it is difficult to tell the face from the wrong side.