Last week I talked about choosing background fabrics, pre-washing fabric and other fabric facts. This week, as we move onto actually using the fabrics, I’ll talk about things like fabric bias, cutting up fabrics for scrap quilting and squaring up fabrics. So, let’s get started.
Fabric Grain & Bias
The grain and bias of a piece of fabric determines how that fabric will perform in a quilt block or quilt border. The lengthwise grain of the fabric runs parallel to the selvage and is the most stable grain of the fabric.
The photo on the left shows the lengthwise grain ( the line I am pointing to). As you can see by the photo on the right, the fabric does not stretch a lot when pulled in this direction. It’s a good idea to cut in this direction for long pieces needed for the project like border strips, if possible.
The crosswise grain is a little less stable than the lengthwise grain. It’s perpendicular to the selvage. As you can see in the photo below, there is a little more stretch to the fabric in this direction.
Finally, the bias of the fabric is at the 45 degree angle from the selvage. This is where the fabric is the least stable.
As you can see in the photo on the right, the stretch in the fabric in this direction is more than the lengthwise and crosswise grains. Since it has a lot of stretch, binding for scalloped edge or circular quilts are often cut on the bias. Beware, any seam sewn on the bias (like in half-square triangle squares) must be handled with care when pressing or ripping out so the fabric is not stretched out of shape. Once fabric is stretched on the bias, it usually stays distorted.
Cutting Up Fabrics
As you are aware by now, my favorite type of quilts are scrap quilts. That’s why I like to cut up fabrics and have lots of smaller cuts in my stash. I mainly work with 1/2 yards, 1/4 yards or fat quarters, and 1/8 yards and fat eighths. Also strips…. lots and lots of strips! So here is my process:
Sometimes if I have a yard of fabric I bought a while back but do not think I can use it in a big chunk, I cut it up for scrap quilting. I also purposely buy a yard or more of fabric I like to do this.
First step, I lay out the yard of fabric and cut it into two half yards (each approx. 18 x 40-44″).
One of those half yards is folded up and put aside for storage. The other half yard is cut in half on the fold (center photo below) to make two fat quarters that are each approximately 18 x 20-22″ (last photo below) :
Like the half yard, I fold up one of the fat quarters for storage. The other fat quarter is folded lengthwise so it is 11 or 12″ x 18″ (photo on the left below). I cut it in half to make two fat eights (right, below).
One of the fat eights is stored with others fabric of the same size, rolled for storage instead of folding. That’s actually an easier way to store pieces of that size.
The other fat eight is cut into strips (below).
The photo below shows all the different sizes I now have in this color print. Two 1 1/2″ and two 2 1/2″ strips, a fat eight (rolled for easy storage), a fat quarter and a 1/2 yard.
Doing this with most of my color prints helps me to build a large stash of fabric. I use tubs labeled with color and size to store these. Here’s an example below:
The fabrics I use for backgrounds generally remain in large chunks, like 1 and 2 yard chunks, unless I plan to make the backgrounds of my quilts scrappy like the color prints used.
Before you start cutting fabrics for storage (like above) or for the quilt you have chosen to make, you need to square it up. Squaring up your piece of fabric is a very important step that should not be skipped. Especially if you are cutting long strips that you will sub-cut into smaller pieces. If you start with a distorted strip, all the pieces you cut from that strip can be off in the measurements. This is even more important if you are making strip sets and sub-cutting those. You need to square up fabric because it’s often not square when you buy it off the bolt. What causes this is when fabric is rolled onto the bolt by the manufacturer, the selvage ends of the fabric can shift in the rolling process.
I made a mini video tutorial on how to square up fabric. I think this will give you a good idea of what you need to do with each fabric you want to cut. I recommend squaring it up after pre-washing fabric if you like to pre-wash your fabric.
So, that’s it for this week. Leave a comment below or ask any questions you may have and you will be entered into the drawing for my quilt pattern, Bountiful!
The drawing will be on Monday, February 14th. Good luck!***We have a winner! Congrats, Shirley!***