I’ve talked about choosing fabric and whether to pre-wash or not in the previous blog posts. So now, you should be ready to cut the fabric! An important step is to have the right tools and we’ll talk about those here. 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. So, be sure to change your blade when you notice that you have to press down harder than normal for your blade to cut. That means the blade is dull. Replace a blade with a nick in it immediately. Also, never leave the blade open. Use the lock button as well so no one can accidentally open the cutter.
I also use a “klutz” glove and have ruler guards 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 ruler guards (they only come in the 24” ruler size) and had my husband cut them down to fit my smaller rulers.
Tips on Squaring Fabric: I like to cover this subject for the newer quilters that read my blog, but it never hurts to brush up on your fabric squaring skills even if you’re an experienced quilter!
Now that you have the tools and are ready to cut your fabric, you need to square 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. Cut along the ruler’s edge to cut off the uneven edge of the fabric.
Now you have perfectly squared fabric! Ready to cut your strips so you can cut the pieces for your quilt. If you are cutting a large amount of strips, you may have to re-square the fabric as there can be slight shifts of the fabric as you cut. If it looks to you like the fabric has shifted, perform the above steps again to re-square. This is one of the reasons why you need a little extra fabric!
So, go cut out that quilt and get busy!
virginia tucker says
Thanks for posting, this was really helpful.
Larie Jacobson says
This was a wonderful tutorial. Thank You I needed to see how this was done.
I wonder some time if u could show us how to square up a quilt that has came back from the quilter. I need to cut all the excess off and bind it. I have had it for 3 or more years now. And don’t know what the right way is. It has a scalloped boarder. I am afraid to touch it for fear of messing it up. Thank you