I have received multiple requests for quilting tutorials, and have resisted to this point because it is such a vast topic, where do I even begin? Well, I give in. I’m going to attempt it. My plan is to tackle nine basic blocks, spread out over the next few months, then do a few posts on sashing, borders, actual quilting, and binding. I sit here shaking my head at this, mainly because there are so many little tips and tricks I could throw in along the way, I’m concerned my posts will be like novels. This will certainly test my editing skills!
At the end of this adventure, we should hopefully all have beautiful sampler quilts, and a basic knowledge of quilting, which is really all you need. After that, you’re ready to experiment on your own, and trust me, you’ll be hooked!
So, let’s start at the very beginning…the basics of cutting fabric.
Cutting fabric. How hard could that be? I agree, the difficulty level is very low, but the importance of well cut fabric is immeasurable. If you start off with poorly cut fabric, you’re really setting yourself up for a headache when you get to your sewing machine. It’s worth the time to practice, and really make sure you’re pieces are accurately cut. The best way to cut fabric is using a rotary cutter, a cutting mat, and an acrylic ruler. For a beginner, if you’re purchasing these items for the first time, I suggest a 45mm rotary cutter, an 18″ x 24″ cutting mat, and a 6″ x 24″ ruler. As you learn new techniques, you’ll want to purchase different sizes (especially rulers). The directions that follow are written for a right handed quilter. If you are a lefty, you should reverse everything. It will be easier for you.
A note on rotary cutters: These things are sharp! Really sharp! Please, take it from someone who has been driven to the emergency room gushing blood from her finger, these things are sharp! Purchase a cutter that has a protective cover for the blade, and use it. After every cut, slide the cover in place. When cutting, keep your fingers clear of the blade, and always cut away from your body. Never bring the blade toward you while cutting. This may sound crazy, but cut fabric with shoes on. I have heard many horror stories of women dropping their cutters on their bare feet. These stories do not end well!
Back to cutting…
After your fabrics are washed and ironed, fold them in half, selvage to selvage, and lay them on your cutting mat, with selvages away from you. You cut fabric working across from one edge to the other, so it’s important to make sure you have a straight, square edge to start with. Align a horizontal line on your ruler with the edge of the fabric closest to you, leaving as little fabric as possible to the right of the ruler. Place your left hand on the ruler (keeping all fingers clear of the cutting edge) and cut along the right side of the ruler. Apply pressure with your left hand to keep the ruler steady. It sometimes helps to spread your fingers out some. Some quilters also like to leave their pinky finger hanging over the left side for more stability. You should now have a clean, square edge of fabric toward the right side of your mat.
Leave your fabric on the mat. Rotate your mat 180°. The square edge should now be toward the left side of your mat. You are now ready to cut a strip of fabric to your desired width. Let’s assume for this example you’d like a 3″ block. Align the vertical 3″ mark with the left side of your fabric. Align a horizontal line with the top edge of your fabric, and again, applying some pressure with your left hand, and making sure your fingers are clear of the right edge, cut your fabric with your rotary cutter. You now have a strip that is the length of your fabric (approximately 42″ long) and 3″ wide.
We will repeat a similar process to cut this strip in squares. “Square up” one end by aligning horizontal lines on your ruler with the top and bottom edges of your fabric, and cutting along the right side of your ruler. Rotate your mat. Align the vertical 3″ mark with the left side of your fabric and a horizontal line with both the top and bottom edge. Cut along the right side of your ruler. Yeah! You have your first square! Or at least it’s almost a square. You may need to practice!
Over the next few posts we’ll cover how to cut other shapes, including triangles, as well as how to get a good ¼” seam allowance every time, and how to press your pieces. I’m sure there will be questions about this post and others to come, so please don’t hesitate to ask, and if anyone has their own tips or tricks, please pass them on!
Welcome to the world of quilting!
Nikki, In Stitches
For other posts from Nikki, In Stitches related to the Relay Quilt, please see the following: