Last week I touched briefly on rulers, including my tips on using the same brand when cutting out a project and how to keep the ruler in place. I have some more ruler tips for you this week along with a few more cutting tips. All this goes towards accurate piecing which I will also talk about this week. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced quilter, I think it’s always a good idea to get tips on accuracy when piecing your blocks and quilt tops. Let’s get started!
More Ruler & Cutting Tips
Tip #1: You can use the ruler to find the center of a piece of fabric or block by using the markings on the ruler. Those intersecting white lines and the circle where they meet is the exact center of the ruler. This comes in handy when squaring up blocks or when you are fussy cutting a piece of fabric.
Tip #2: The 45 degree line comes in handy when you are trimming a half-square or quarter-square triangle square. Place the diagonal ruler line on the diagonal seam of your square to guarantee that you are trimming the square evenly on all sides.
Tip #3: To quickly identify where to place your ruler, notice the lines between the inches are different lengths. Early on in my quilting life I never paid attention to this. The 1/8″ lines are slightly shorter than the 1/4″ lines and the 1/2″ line is longer than both of those. This helps you find measurements like 2 3/8″ and 3 3/4″ quickly on the ruler.
This is true for the Creative Grids rulers I use, but you’ll find similar features on other brands as well.
Tip #4: This ruler tip relates to cutting safety. If you have noticed, I have ruler guards (also known as safety shields) on my rulers. I had a rotary cutting accident several years ago when my cutter slid over the edge of the ruler and hit my finger. Not fun! Here’s what my rulers look like now:
You can find these safety shields made by Olipfa at Joanne Fabrics and some quilt shops. It only comes in one size, but it can be cut down to fit shorter rulers.
A safety feature I like about my Creative Grid rulers: they have gripper dots and strips embedded on the back for less slipping. No need to buy anything to add to the bottom of the ruler.
Tip #5: Everyone probably practices this one… remember that old adage “measure twice, cut once”? There are times that I have thought I was cutting a 2 1/2″ strip when I really had the ruler lined up for a 2 1/4″ cut … I was in a hurry and didn’t check!
Always line up the ruler with the edge of your fabric and double check that your ruler is placed correctly. Also make sure it’s not crooked. To help with that, use some tape on the ruler’s measurement line, especially if you are cutting a lot of strips.
Tip #6: Finally, make sure you are holding your rotary cutter correctly while cutting. Make sure it is straight and hugging the edge of your ruler all the way through the cut you are making. You want your rotary cutter straight like the photo on the left (below). If you angle it like the photo on the right (below), the blade of the rotary cutter can wander away from the edge of the ruler and your strip will be cut inaccurately. And, of course, always cut away from your body.
Now we turn to accuracy in piecing. Part of the battle is won if you follow my cutting tips. This gives you accurately cut pieces to work with when it comes time to sew them together. If you are joining pieces that are not cut the right size, your block will not go together smoothly, with seams matching up, or will not measure the correct size. Here’s some piecing tips.
Tip #1: This one I hope all quilters are aware of… always make sure your 1/4″ seam is accurate. As you know, most quilt patterns require you to stitch pieces together with a 1/4″ seam. It’s always a good idea to test your seam allowance even if you have a 1/4″ foot. Thread thickness and needle position can effect your seam. So, for example, if you are starting a new project with some different thread than you’ve used in the past, check your seam allowance by sewing together two fabric scraps and then measuring the seam:
Tip #2: If you don’t have a 1/4″ foot, most machines have a marking on the throat plate that indicates wear to line up the edge of your fabric pieces for an accurate seam.
If you have this type of lined throat plate, you can use it, but I recommend testing it like above before you depend on it.
Tip #3: Alway pin in place the pieces you are stitching together. I know… it takes more time to do that. But, it takes a lot of time to “un-sew” too!
Pinning, no matter how small the seam, keeps the pieces to be joined from shifting while being fed through the machine. Also if you need to line up seams, pinning is the only way you can guarantee they won’t shift away from each other while stitching.
Tip #4: Measure units as you go so you won’t be frustrated when you are piecing the final block together. For example, if you are piecing a star block that is made up of squares and flying geese units, measure the geese units as you go to make sure they are the size they need to be for the block.
So that’s what I have on rulers, cutting tips, and accurate piecing. I’m sure I’ll think of other things for future posts. If you can think of other tips to share, feel free to do so in the comments. I will choose one of you from the comments as the winner of my new pattern, Star Trail!
The drawing will be on Monday, February 5th. Good luck! **We have a winner! Congrats, Mary W.!**