Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Quilt Night: Cutting Fabric

Once a month, I get together with a group of quilters for a six-hour session of sewing, eating and chatting — not necessarily in that order — and this was our quilt night weekend. When I talk about quilt night, I don’t mean an old-fashioned quilting bee with a group of women daintily hand stitching one woman’s quilt. We each work on our own projects, which are usually quilts but can also include items such as tote bags, pillowcases, wall hangings, or table runners. I’ve been going for about five years and, with the exception of a few down-to-the-wire Halloween costumes, have been working on the same project the whole time.

Detail of a portion of a Queen size quilt held in a hand quilting hoop with more of the quilt in the background.

I started this queen size quilt around 1999, and thought it would be great as my first hand quilting project. Hand quilting suits the layout of the Bride’s Bouquet blocks wonderfully, but I am clearly not a fast hand quilter. I’ve unintentionally given my fellow quilters a lesson in perseverance!

This week, a beginner quilter needed some help cutting her fabric. The wonderful J— offered to give a cutting lesson to all who were interested, and I’m glad I took a few moments to hear what she had to say because I picked up a few new-to-me tips.

Depending on the ruler, the line has a thickness to it that is about the equivalent of one or two thread widths. This can make a big difference over a complete quilt! Align the ruler so that the line is fully over the fabric, not straddling the raw edge or completely off the fabric. This will give you a little extra wiggle room when you sew. (I actually already do this, but never knew it was correct!)

Detail of quilting ruler line overlapping fabric edge.
You can see the ruler lines completely overlap the fabric edge.
When cutting strips, cut a larger piece then make it narrower. For example, if you need three two-inch strips, cut one six-inch strip. Lift the ruler and move it over to cut one two-inch strip. Then lift the ruler again the cut the last four inches into two two-inch strips. This method focuses on moving the ruler, not the fabric, so there is less chance that the fabric will become misaligned. In addition, when cutting multiple strips in a row, the strips can easily become a little more crooked with each cut. By cutting a larger piece and then cutting that piece down, it minimizes the room for error and the possibility that the fabric is no longer square.

Quilting ruler on blue fabric with previously cut veritcal lines visible.
Notice the vertical lines toward the right where the fabric has already been cut.
This next tip is helpful if you need to cut with a shorter ruler, or need to check whether your fabric is square. After folding the fabric selvage-to-selvage, lift the folded edge and align the pattern along the fold with a pattern repeat. By aligning the fabric repeats, you will know the fabric is square before you cut. This won't work for every fabric, but with the fabric I tested in my stash it was very obvious whether the repeats lined up or not.

Dragon fabric folded on itself to show pattern alignment and straight cutting.
The vertical line near the center shows where the fabric fold aligns with the pattern repeat.
What are some of your favorite tips for cutting fabric?

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