These days because of the high cost of fabric, I am very careful when cutting it. That’s where accuracy comes in handy. You know the saying, measure twice, cut once. It’s actually a very good rule to remember. Another good practice it to cut the largest pieces from the fabric first and work your way down to the smallest pieces.
First things first: when you are ready to cut the fabric an important step is to have the right tools. Most quilt patterns today are written for rotary cutting, so I will focus on that for this post. You will need a self-healing mat, a rotary cutter and rulers.
My main focus is on safety. I’ve been the victim of a rotary cutting accident in the past and, believe me, it’s not fun. These tools are sharp because they are designed to cut through several layers of fabric, so they will definitely cut through you! A sharp blade helps with safety because it will run through the fabric smoothly. When you notice that you have to press down harder than normal for your blade to cut, that means the blade is dull. Time to replace it. Also, replace a blade with a nick in it immediately. Finally, never leave the blade open and use the lock button the cutter doesn’t accidentally open.
I also use a “klutz” glove and have rotary cutter safety shields on my rulers. These, of course, are optional but I would not work without them. The ruler guard is great because it will prevent the blade from hitting you if the cutter happens to skip over the ruler’s edge.
I even purchased extra of these safety shields (they only come in the 24” ruler size) and had my husband cut them down to fit my smaller rulers.
So, now that we have tools and safety covered, the next step in accurate cutting is squaring up your fabric. When fabric is rolled onto the bolt at the manufacturer, the lengthwise grain of the fabric most times ends up not being straight. So when you get your cut of fabric, you will need to square it up so strips that you cut from the fabric are not bent in the middle. Here is an example:
Notice how the strip on the left bends away from the line on the mat and the one on the right is straight? That’s why we square up!
Step 1: Press your fabric making sure to press out the crease from the fold.
Step 2: Line up the selvedge edges of your fabric:
If your fabric looks “wavy” (like the photo below) with the selvedges aligned, you need to shift the fabric, while keeping the selvedges lined up, so that it lays flat on the cutting mat. Don’t worry that the sides of the fabric don’t line up.
Step 3: Lay a ruler along the bottom edge lined up with the fold of the fabric. I use my small square for this.
Then lay your large ruler on the left side and butt it up against the small ruler, while holding the small ruler so it doesn’t shift.
Step 4: Remove the small ruler while keeping your hand on the large ruler to keep it from shifting. Align your rotary blade with the ruler’s edge and cut off the uneven edge of the fabric.
Now you have perfectly squared fabric! It’s ready for you to cut strips so you can cut the pieces needed for your project. If you are cutting a large amount of strips, you may have to re-square the fabric as it can shift slightly as you cut. If it looks to you like the fabric has shifted, perform the above steps again to re-square the fabric. This is one of the reasons why I like to purchase a little extra fabric when I buy. It gives me some breathing room in case I have to re-square my fabric or if I make a cutting error.
Hopefully, this cutting tutorial was informative! Whether you are an experienced quilter or a new one, it never hurts to refresh your memory from time to time!