Four Ways to Cut Fabric

While I was writing about Jimi Makes a Quilt, I realized that in order for you to learn how to miter a printed fabric, you first needed to know how I cut printed fabric. Which got me thinking about the different ways I cut things up.

I cut fabric for making quilts in four very basic ways.

#1 Cutting Fabric with a Ruler and Grid Lines

I fold my fabric in half width wise and iron it. Then I fold it again and iron it making sure that I do not have any creases that will affect my cutting. I place the fabric on the mat grid line it up with both horizontal and vertical grid lines. I am right handed to I place the fabric so the edge is in front of me and the excess fabric flows to the right. I would do the opposite if I were left handed.

I fold my fabric in half width-wise and iron it. Then I fold it again and iron it making sure that I do not have any creases that will affect my cutting. I place the fabric on the mat. I line the fabric up with both the horizontal and the vertical grid lines. The fold of the fabric is closest to me. This way when I cut–I am moving excess fabric out instead of trapping it. I am right handed this means I place the fabric so the edge is in front of me and the excess fabric flows to the right. I would do the opposite if I were left handed.

Next I use the straight edge of the ruler to finish the edge of my fabric off. Essentially I am cutting away in rough edges. My favorite Ruler is a  Olfa $' x 16" and my favorite cutter is a Olfa 45mm with an old school handle.

Next, I use the straight edge of the ruler to finish the edge of my fabric off. Essentially I am cutting away any rough edges. My favorite Ruler is a Olfa 4″x 16″ and my favorite cutter is a Olfa 45mm with an old school handle.

I place the ruler on top fo the fabric. I line up the lines on the ruler to match the lines on the mat. I am double checking my work by doing this. I then cut the fabric moving away from myself.

I place the ruler on top of the fabric. I line up the lines on the ruler to match the lines on the mat. I am double checking my work by doing this. I then cut the fabric by with the edge closest to me and moving away from myself.

Here is my cut piece of fabric. I would then iron the fabric open so that I remove any crease lines. This will improve my construction when I start stitching.

Here is my cut piece of fabric. I would then iron the fabric open so that I remove any crease lines. This will improve my construction when I start stitching.

#2 Cutting Fabric with Grid Lines Only

To cut fabric using the grid on the mat as a guide, I first iron the fabric folded in half--just like it came off the bolt.  I do not fold the fabric again. Having only two layers of fabric to gut,gives me much greater control.

To cut fabric using the grid on the mat as a guide, I first iron the fabric folded in half–just like it came off the bolt. I do not fold the fabric again. Having only two layers of fabric to cut instead of four gives me much greater control.

I use a ruler to trim the edge of the fabric. Because I only folded the fabric once, I use my larger 6" by 24" ruler to make this cut.

I use a ruler (on not depending on how rough the edge is) to trim the edge of the fabric. Because I only folded the fabric once, I use my larger 6″ by 24″ ruler to make this cut.

I cut just a small amount off--only as much as it takes to smooth the edge.

I cut just a small amount off–only as much as it takes to smooth the edge.

I then line my fabric up using the gridlines on the mat. If I am working with yardage I move to my cutting mat that is big enough to accommodate more fabric.

I then line my fabric up using the gridlines on the mat. If I am working with yardage I move to my cutting mat that is big enough to accommodate more fabric.

I then make the cut. I cut moving the blade away from me. Before I start cutting I think about the size I want. I tell myself that I want to cut a 1 1/4" strip, I visualize it, and then using the guidelines on the mat, I cut. This gives me a personally cut line which is much more interesting than a ruler cut line. But it is not so crazy that I can't stitch it accurately.

I then make the cut. I cut moving the blade away from me. Before I start cutting I think about the size of strip I want. For example, I tell myself that I want to cut a 1 1/4″ strip, I visualize it, and then using the guidelines on the mat, I cut. This gives me a personally cut line which is much more interesting than a ruler cut line. But it is not so crazy that I can’t stitch it accurately.

#3 Cutting Fabric Without a Ruler or Gridlines

Again, I iron the fabric. I only fold it once, just like it came off the bolt. I straighten the edge but I do not use a ruler to do so.

Again, I iron the fabric. I only fold it once, just like it came off the bolt. I straighten the edge but I do not use a ruler to do so.

Here is the straightened edge.

Here is the straightened edge.

I know make the cut moving away from myself. I try not to make to crazy of curves, but I do want there to be clear that this was cut without a ruler or a guide. There will be more wonkiness during the construction stage. We will deal with that in another post.

I now make the cut moving away from myself. I try not to make too crazy of cut, but I do want it to be an original line. There will be more wonkiness during the construction stage with this cut, but we will deal with that in another post.

#4 Cutting Prints with 1/4″ Seams

I iron the fabric open to cut this way. i usually don't iron all of it, just the section I will be cutting.  I DO NOT cut the  selvedge side. I like to keep the selvedge attached to my fabric for as long as possible. This way I can easily find this information if I need it.

I iron the fabric open to cut this way. I usually don’t iron all of it, just the section I will be cutting. I DO NOT cut the selvedge side. I like to keep the selvedge attached to my fabric for as long as possible. This way I can easily find this information if I need it.

I want to isolate on row of the dots. To do this, I must cut 1/4" from away from the actual area I want to show up in my quilt. I line the 1/4" up with the black line on the fabric and begin to cut.

I want to isolate one row of the dots. To do this, I must cut 1/4″ from away from the actual area I want to show up in my quilt. I line the 1/4″ up with the black line on the fabric and begin to cut.

Here you can see that I have created a 1/4" seam for the print.

Here you can see that I have created a 1/4″ seam for the print.

Because I am working with a print, I must continually be slightly adjusting my ruler. I am using the 1/4" so that when I stitch I will have a 1/4" seam along the edge of the print. This is results in an even quarter of an inch seam in relationship to the black line on the fabric.

Because I am working with a print, I must continually be slightly adjusting my ruler. I am using the 1/4″ so that when I stitch I will have a 1/4″ seam along the edge of the print. This ¬†results in an even quarter of an inch seam in relationship to the black line on the fabric.

ONce I cut one side, I flip the fabric and cut down the other side exactly the same way. I use the black line in this print--I cut exactly 1/4" from that line the entire length of the fabric.

Once I cut one side of the dots, I flip the fabric and cut down the other side exactly the same way. I cut exactly 1/4″ from the black line the entire length of the fabric.

I move my ruler and my blade together down the fabric. I slide the ruler, check to make sure it is lined up so that the black line on the fabric is 1/4" away from the edge of the ruler and then I cut. I do this all the way down the fabric edge.

I move my ruler and my blade together down the fabric. I slide the ruler, check to make sure it is lined up with the black line on the fabric, and that it is 1/4″ away from the edge of the ruler, and then I cut. I do this all the way down the fabric edge.

Here is a close up. Because the black line moves, so does the amount of white space on the edge. Even though the white space is different, the black line is consistently 1/4" from the edge.

Here is a close up. Because the black line moves, so does the amount of white space on the edge. Even though the white space is different, the black line is consistently 1/4″ from the edge.

Here is what that print looks like pieced into a Color Grid.

Here is what that print looks like pieced into a Color Grid pro to-type.

It took me about ten years to figure this out! I did not want to use templates, but I did want to isolate images from prints–this is my solution. I hope you find this information useful. Do you have tips or tricks for cutting prints? I’d love to hear them.

This entry was published on March 30, 2013 at 12:41 PM. It’s filed under My Process-Quilts and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

9 thoughts on “Four Ways to Cut Fabric

  1. Formidable! Maria, I can’t tell you how much I admire and appreciate your blog posts. The writing, the photographs, and the teaching are superb. Keep ’em coming!

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  2. Great tutorial, Maria!

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  3. I agree. You have the gifts of creating, teaching and writing. Thanks for taking the time to write about your art and process! I am enjoying following what you are up to.

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  4. Hi Maria, I just stumbled on your blog this morning via Nina-Marie’s Friday link-up posts. I have admired your work on your website, and known of you through the grapevine. (I’m a Nancy Crow “newbie” and also a graduate of one of Lisa Call’s classes) but didn’t know you had a blog, so it’s been fun and educational to browse through all your “how-to” posts. Thanks for sharing!

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  5. Pingback: Ruler Made Stripes | Maria Shell

  6. Pingback: TRIBE | Maria Shell

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