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Make Your Laser Cuts 3D: Make Them Stand Up & Stand Out!

There are many ways to make flat laser cuts 3D: designing 2D to 3D expandable patterns, stretching materials and then cutting to distort shapes, interlocking cut pieces post process... so many possibilities!

In this Instructable, I'll show you how I made this 3D texture from flat laser cuts in my "Breathe" dress inspired by the lungs of human anatomy. This technique can be used for garment making but is not just limited to fashion, fiber arts or fine arts... there are many possibilities for potential applications.

Step 1: Design the Initial Pattern

First I made a hand drawing for the pattern.

This design was inspired by lungs.

Step 2:

All of my art work is about and for the body and the human condition.

I have always been fascinated by human anatomy, but this design has an extra special inspiration. Lisa, my dear friend since birth has been living with Pulmonary Hypertension for 9 years and is undergoing tests to determine if she is a candidate for a double lung transplant. Throughout her fight with this terrible illness, Lisa has shown such incredible strength of character and with every hardship repeatedly shows a profoundly inspiring example of spiritual-emotional grace and beauty.

Step 3:

It is Pulmonary Hypertension Awareness Month so I wanted to create something to honor her and highlight her beauty that has shown through brighter than this devastating illness. That's when I came up with the concept for this dress.

Step 4: Pick Out Fabrics

First I picked out fabrics. I chose chiffons and intended to cut many layers to increase opacity and structure. Your chosen materials do not have to be fabric, this could be a very interesting technique executed in non fabric materials.

I then scaled the drawing to fit the body and laser cut an initial test piece.

For instructions on how to laser cut out fabrics from your drawings for garments and fashion pattern making, check out my Instructable: Turn Drawings into Laser Cut Fabric For Custom Fit Garments and Fine Art. This Instructable also includes instructions on how to fit your drawings to the body for custom fit garments.

Step 5: Laser Cut Test Piece

When I lifted up this initial laser cut, I got the idea that the design would look great in 3D: it displayed an ethereal, feather-like aesthetic, similar to the vasculature of the lungs.

If creating a garment with this technique, make sure the test piece fits the body or bust form correctly, and make adjustments to the pattern as needed before you proceed to cutting many layers.

Step 6: Laser Cut

Determine if you need to cut each layer separately or if you can cut multiple layers at one time. Some materials and fabrics will sear/ weld together from the laser, others can be cut many layers at a time without welding together. Conduct a small laser cut test in the corner of your material to be sure that your settings are correct and to determine your satisfaction with the behavior of the material.

I used silk, cotton and synthetic chiffons layered on top of one another. The silk burns and frays over time. The cotton burns but does not fray as much as the silk. The synthetic that I used burned along the edges and will retain the design the longest. Layering these together allowed me to separate them after cutting, whereas if I only used synthetics I would not be able to separate them without tearing.

Step 7: Remove the Positive in One Piece

If you cut multiple layers, try to pick up your design so that it remains all together; it will most likely be easier if you separate them later.

If you cut each layer separately, skip this step.

Step 8: Zero-Waste Patterns: 2 for the Price of 1

When appropriate to the design and layout, I like to save the negative of my laser cut as well, so that I may create 2 different garments out of the one design. I tend to use high end fabrics and this is not only cost effective but reduces or eliminates waste all together. After I pick up the positive, I lay adhesive backed wax paper over the negative and burnish over the design, then lift it to save the design intact for use for another garment.

Step 9: Determine Attachment Sites (if Any) and Attach

Next, determine what part of your design that you would like to remain attached, if any and what part you would like to separate. You may want to separate all pieces, and allow them to organically intermingle. For my "Breathe" dress, I wanted to have the center part remain together and mostly flat, and the ends to feather out.

If you would like to attach a section, determine how you would like to attach and attachment points. You may use rivets, grommets, sewing, welding, screws, decorative tacks or staples, etc. I chose to sew my pieces together.

Step 10: Separate Layers

Gently peel back your layers and fluff or pull into place to separate. This process will be different depending on what materials you are using.

Layering the natural and synthetic fabrics together caused a slight bit of welding from the synthetic layer. I liked that some stretching and distortion occurred as I pulled the layers apart because it gives a more organic look. Experiment to find what aesthetic speaks to you.

Step 11: Finish Your Piece!

Put the final touches on your piece...

Step 12:

Step 13: Share What You Make!

Share what you make & have learned in the comments below and with your community! Your work may touch and inspire others more than you know.

Happy Making

<3 Amy

Step 14:



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    3 Discussions


    1 year ago

    Beautiful!! Sure would love to get it on a model for ya and have it photographed. Let me know.


    1 year ago

    Hi do you need a special printer to make this ??? your work is amazing by the way


    2 years ago

    Beautiful and inspiring work! I really like how three-dimensional you can make laser-cut fabric.