Piecing 101: Accurate Cutting
July 25, 2014 § 12 Comments
When it comes to quilt making, accurate cutting can be just as important as accurate sewing. Especially when there are a million tiny little pieces! The first thing you will want to do even before cutting is to press & straighten your fabric. This just sets the foundation for better overall success.
(photo courtesy of Clothworks)
I’m sure you all know that when you cut fabric right off the bolt it is almost always a little crooked, right? Some fabrics are better or worse than others. Quilting fabric comes rolled on long tubes as the manufacturers receive it from the printing & dying facility.
Then it needs to be rolled onto a flat bolt. When the fabric is placed on the machine that folds & rolls it onto the bolt, it can really get messed up if it isn’t set up properly. Believe me, from working in a quilt shop, we hate those bad bolts as much as you do. They aren’t easy to cut and you end up with a funny shaped piece of fabric as well. Cassie at Elegantitus shows some good photos of fabric rolls to bolts in her post over here.
So, getting back to cutting basics.
First, straighten your fabric. Fold the fabric in half with selvages together. Hold the fold with your fingers on one side and hold the selvages in your other hand.
In this photo you can see that the cut edges from the bolt are lined up but the selvages are not parallel.
Shift the selvage side up or down until the selvages are parallel to each other. Here you can see that the selvages are parallel but the cut edge is not. This is how your fabric will look. It may not be this dramatic of a difference. Or it may be more. If you skip this step, this is why that “wow” or “bow” at the fold line of your cut strip occurs.
Carefully lay your fabric onto your cutting mat and line up the selvage with the grid on your mat. Trim away the uneven cut edge from the bolt.
Now, there are many ways to cut from there. Most people turn their mat around and start cutting, measuring from the left side of the fabric to the right. These people often say to NOT use the mat to measure, but use the ruler to measure from the cut edge of the fabric, from left to right. Your ruler may not match the mat.
Quilting teachers tell you to leave your fabric where it is, lay a ruler along the cut edge to measure from the right towards the left. Then lay your large ruler snug up next to that ruler, slide the first ruler away, and cut your fabric. They also say to NOT use the mat but to only use rulers to measure.
What I do is a modification of the last one. I measure from the right towards the left. But I use my ruler and line it up with the measurements of the mat. The extra ruler seems like an unnecessary step to me. I always look to make sure that at least two or more lines on the top & bottom of the ruler match the lines on the mat. This seems fairly accurate to me.
And for me, I have found that I cut more accurately using this method over the other two methods. I recommend that you try each one and see which gives you the best results.
Sometimes, if you have to make a large number of cuts, it is easy to start being 1/16th to 1/8th inch off no matter which method you are using to cut. Just line up the selvage with the mat again, trim off the little bit of uneven edge as in the beginning. Then beginning cutting again. Nobody likes to end up with that curve at the fold of the fabric.
If you have a fat quarter, just line up the selvage to the mat, trim the edge to make it straight and start cutting using your favorite method.
Now, go forth and cut.
By the way, this is going to be the binding on my low volume quilt. I had to find something to cut up for you.