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4 essential tips for cutting fabric for your quilt

 

Wasn’t yesterday’s blog post exciting? I was so afraid of bringing fabrics into the computer-based design software. Why would I want to do that? I do it all the time now and it never ceases to amaze me how the end quilt looks just like the picture!

Today it’s time to take our Northcott basics and start cutting!

I chose Toscana as my background and three solids from the ColorWorks collection as I wanted high contrast and a little bit of texture. The final size of the project is 24″ square so I can use it for a table topper or a wallhanging or it could be the center of a quilt. You decide. I’ll have a few more options to show you, so stay tuned for those.

materials

background

  • ¼ yd of Toscana Picket Fence (#9020-10)

Churn Dash

  •  ⅜ yd of the darkest fabric –  ColorWorks Oasis (#9000-640) for outer round and binding
  • ⅛ yd of each of two additional fabrics – ColorWorks Lagoon (#9000-641) and ColorWorks Clearwater (#9000-642)

backing

  • ¾ yd

 

Fabrics for the table topper
Fabrics for the table topper

 

In the photo below, you can see the difference between the ColorWorks solid (the blue) and the suede texture of the white Toscana.

I like to mix and match the fabric textures to provide more interest in my project.

 

Solid blue with no texture versus a suede look texture on the white
Solid blue with no texture versus a suede look texture on the white

 

Tips for cutting

1

When I cut my projects, I like to start by cutting the largest pieces required of each fabric. Then with the leftovers, I can cut the smaller pieces. Not all pattern writers write patterns in the same way and I’m forever making up my own rules when I cut.

Keeping that in mind, I would start by cutting the pieces I need for the outer border for this table topper – the dark blue and the larger pieces of the background.

The largest piece of background I need is a 7″ square to make the half square triangles on the corners. Instead of cutting 7″ squares from the fabric, it’s easiest to start by cutting a 7″ strip of fabric.

 

A 7-inch strip of fabric has been cut from the yardage
A 7-inch strip of fabric has been cut from the yardage

 

2

The next step is to cut off the selvage. Selvages are used in the manufacturing/printing process of the fabric. The weave is much tighter than the rest of the fabric and isn’t meant to be used in your projects. Cut it off!

 

Remove the selvages from your strip
Remove the selvages from your strip

 

Since I’m the designer of this pattern, I didn’t have a nice list of cutting requirements when I started, but I did have the rotary cutting instructions from the computer-based quilt design software.

There’re many ways to make half square triangles. My favorite is to make the units slightly larger than necessary and then trim them back to the desired size. You can see in the diagram below that I’ve taken the pieces that were marked to cut at 6 7/8″ and increased that measurement to 7″.

How do you determine how big to cut those squares for half square triangles? Take the desired finished size of your half square triangles. In this case, the finished size is 6″. Add ONE FULL INCH to that measurement and cut two squares to that size – in this case – that’s 7″. Make the half square triangle and then square it up to 1/2″ larger than the desired finished size. That would be 6 ½”. It easy when you keep the math simple – add one inch – doesn’t get any easier than that and by trimming, it’s a whole lot easier to get those perfect points.

 

Rotary cutting instructions from the computer-based quilt design software
Rotary cutting instructions from the computer-based quilt design software

 

Here are a couple other tips that make cutting fabric much easier.

3

When cutting yardage, you’re going to have to fold that fabric. I try not to fold it more than necessary and I like to have only one fold. This is usually the way the fabric comes off the bolt.

I keep that fold closest to myself on the cutting mat, rather than away from me. Why? If you don’t have a perfect 90° corner when cutting that fold, you’ll get wonky strips. It’s easier to see the lines on the ruler when the fold is close to you rather than at the other end of the fabric.

 

Keep the fold in the fabric close to you when cutting from yardage
Keep the fold in the fabric close to you when cutting from yardage

 

Can you see below I have a LINE near the bottom edge of my ruler aligned on the fold of the fabric? And I can see the line on the ruler is parallel to the cut edge. This means that I have a 90° corner at that fold and when I cut my strip, it’s going to be perfectly straight. No wonky lines happening here.

The other thing to note is I’m using a line near the bottom of the ruler, not the bottom edge of the ruler. It’s way easier to line up that line along the fold than it is to line up the edge of the ruler. And by having that little bit of ruler hanging over the edge of the fabric, there’s no danger of me nicking the ruler as I start to cut.

I’ve cut this way for years and it works perfectly every time.

 

Lining up a line on the ruler rather than the edge of the ruler makes it easier to see
Lining up a line on the ruler rather than the edge of the ruler makes it easier to see

 

Before I give you the cutting instructions, there’s one more thing that I want to point out.

4

There are times when your fabric frays after you cut it. Why is that? Have a look at the strip of ColorWorks below. I just cut this piece and there are no frayed edges and no loose threads left on the cutting mat. There are two reasons for this. The first is that ColorWorks has a nice tight weave and it’s less likely to fray.

And look at the condition of my cutting mat. It’s not new, but it’s in good shape.

 

No frayed edges on a freshly cut fabric strip
No frayed edges on a freshly cut fabric strip

 

Look at this cutting mat. Yep – that one has seen better days and I’d bet that if you cut fabric on it (if you could still cut fabric on it) that the edges would fray.

Keeping a sharp blade in your rotary cutter also helps. If you get an annoying knick in your blade, change it. The more you hack and slice at your fabric, the more your fabric will fray. You want one smooth motion from the beginning to the end of the cut to help prevent fraying.

 

A very worn cutting mat
A very worn cutting mat

 

As you amass a pile of solids, it becomes hard to know which is which. You can keep comparing them to the swatch card, but that takes time. I attach a label to the selvage of the solids so I know the number of each. Not that this is always important, but there are times when you want a very specific color and this makes it easy to pick out the exact one that you want.

 

Put a simple label on the solids to help identify the colors
Put a simple label on the solids to help identify the colors

 

One more thing to note before we get to the cutting. Some of the sections in the churn dash block can be strip pieced (the strips are sewn together before they’re sub cut) or they can be cut individually. I’ll provide instructions on both options.

Strip Piecing

You want to start by sewing the long edges of the strips together in whatever order is required. If you have more than two strips, you want to keep one end of the strip set somewhat even so that you don’t waste fabric. Keep that accurate ¼” seam allowance in mind as well. Pressing these strips can be a bit tricky, and I tend to use my fingers a lot to manipulate the fabric strip set and keep it straight on the ironing surface.

 

A simple strip set consisting of two fabrics. Notice one end is even.
A simple strip set consisting of two fabrics. Notice one end is even.

 

Once the strips are sewn together, the first thing you want to do is neaten up one end of the strip.

 

Trim up one end of the strip set
Trim up one end of the strip set

 

Now it’s time to sub cut the strip set to the lengths necessary for the project.

When you’re sub cutting the pieces, place a line on the ruler on the seam line to ensure that the seams in your section will be straight. If you use the top or bottom edge of the strip set, that center seam may not be straight.

 

Line up a line on the ruler with the seam line
Line up a line on the ruler with the seam line

 

I now have all four sections cut and ready for the next step.

 

4 sections cut and ready for the next step
4 sections cut and ready for the next step

 

And now my pieces are all cut out and ready to start sewing. I did not use strip sets to cut this – all these pieces were cut individually.

 

Pieces of the table topper are cut
Pieces of the table topper are cut

 

What you need to cut

Background

Cut one (1) strip measuring 7″ x wof:

  • Sub cut two (2) squares measuring 7” square
  • Sub cut four (4) rectangles measuring 3½” x 12½”

Cut one (1) strip measuring 4” x wof:

  • Sub cut two (2) squares measuring 4” square
  • Sub cut four (4) rectangles measuring 2” x 6½”
  • Sub cut two (2) squares measuring 2½” square
  • Sub cut four (4) rectangles measuring 1¼” x 3½”
  • Sub cut one (1) square measuring 3½” square

Darkest fabric

Cut one (1) strip measuring 7″ x wof

  • Sub cut two (2) squares measuring 7″ square
  • Sub cut four (4) rectangles measuring 3½” x 12½”

Cut three (3) strips measuring 2½” x wof for the binding

Medium fabric

Cut one (1) strip measuring 4″ wide x wof

  • Sub cut two (2) squares measuring 4″ square
  • Sub cut four (4) rectangles measuring 2″ x 6½”

Light fabric

Cut one (1) strip measuring 2½” wide x wof

  • Sub cut two (2) squares measuring 2½” square
  • Sub cut four (4) rectangles measuring 1¼” x 3½”

If you prefer to use the strips sets, use this set of cutting instructions

Background

Cut one (1) strip measuring 7″ x wof

  • Sub cut two (2) 7″ squares
  • Sub cut two (2) strips measuring 3½” x the remaining wof

Cut one (1) strip measuring 4″ x wof (assumes fabric measures 42½” wide)

  • Sub cut two (2) squares measuring 4″ square
  • Sub cut one (1) square measuring 3½ square
  • Sub cut two (2) squares measuring 2½” square
  • Sub cut one (1) strip measuring 2″ x the remaining wof
  • Sub cut one (1) strip measuring 1¼” x the remaining wof

Darkest fabric

Cut one (1) strip measuring 7″ x wof

  • Sub cut two (2) squares measuring 7″ square
  • Sub cut two (2) strips measuring 3½” x the remaining wof

Cut 3 strips at 2½” x wof for the binding

Medium fabric

Cut one (1) strip measuring 4″ wide x wof

  • Sub cut two (2) squares measuring 4″ square
  • Sub cut one (1) strip measuring 2″ x the remaining wof

Light fabric

Cut one (1) strip measuring 2½” wide x wof

  • Sub cut two (2) squares measuring 2½” square
  • Sub cut one (1) strip measuring 1¼” x the remaining wof

Now that you have those cutting requirements and some great cutting tips, you’ll be able to get this table topper cut in no time.

Tomorrow, I’ll have some essential tips on how to assemble the table topper made with Northcott’s Toscana and ColorWorks collections.

Have a great day!

Ciao!

 

This is part 3 of 5 in this series.
Go back to part 2: 2 tips to working with digital fabric files for your quilting ideas

Go to part 4: 2 tips for pressing seams that save the day and a lot of bulk

Elaine Theriault is a teacher, writer and pattern designer who is completely obsessed with quilting. Elaine’s Tech Tips column (originally published in A Needle Pulling Thread magazine) is now available online in e-book format at QUILTsocial.com. When not quilting, she enjoys spending time with her two dogs, Lexi and Murphy, or can be found cycling across the country. Her blog is crazyquilteronabike.blogspot.com.

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