Cutting good pieces is the basis of a good quilt top. If your fabric pieces seem a little skewed or stretched when you sew them together, it is likely because your cut was a little wobbly.
If you use a rotary cutting wheel, you can help avoid this problem by using a good ruler and using it properly.
Before you make a cut, prepare your fabric. If it has been folded and is still creased, or if it is wrinkled from extended time in your stash, you will need to iron the fabric first. Whether you starch or not is a personal choice. Having the fabric uniformly flat will help promote uniform cuts.
Don’t try to use a rotary cutter without a mat. Some quilters try to rig a mat of their own, using a wooden board or counter top scrap. It’s really not the same. First of all, neither of those mats are “self healing.”
Most of the rotary mats you see are labeled as self healing. That means that once you slice through fabric (and almost always through the mat itself a little) the nicks created won’t hinder the wheel blade in future cuts.
If you used wood or a countertop scrap, you would essentially carve indentations into it with every cut. Those ridges will make a rotary wheel jump and skip as well as wearing down the blade.
Make sure your mat lies flat. It needs to be on a flat surface that is sturdy enough to hold up to the pressure you’ll be putting on it while you cut. Even the best mat and wheel won’t produce good fabric cuts if you work on a table that isn’t sturdy.
When it comes to cutting good quilt pieces, it is important to know that not all rulers are created equal. One size does not always fit all. If you happen to be cutting strips of fabric, you might find that it is easier to use a narrow ruler. Narrow rulers tend to slip less during cutting.
No matter what size ruler you choose, always make sure to choose one that is a little longer than the fabric you are cutting. Having the ruler extend over both ends of the fabric help stabilize it as you cut.
Which ruler is right for you? If you are a beginning quilter, you may not want to run out and buy every size ruler available. Select your first quilt project, and buy a ruler to suit its requirements. If you continue to quilt more, you will probably build on your ruler collection.
As you prepare to cut fabric strips, you will need to begin with a straight edge of fabric. Line up the ruler on top of the fabric, using the mat grids to help make sure the ruler is straight at both the top and bottom.
As you hold the ruler on the fabric, use your ring finger to keep the ruler from slipping. This finger should rest on both the fabric and the edge of the ruler. If you hold just the ruler, you run the risk of sliding it. Even the slightest move of the ruler will ruin your cut.
Once you have the fabric lined up for a straight cut and have the ruler firmly in place, you are ready to slice through the fabric. Keeping a sharp blade on your cutter makes this an easy task. Change your blade often.
You don’t have to waste the blades after changing them, though. Keep the “old” blades that are a little too dull for fabric and use them in another cutter for paper. They’re great tools for scrapbookers and even for cutting quilt patterns out of paper or cardstock!