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Rotary Cutting for Quilters


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Rotary Cutting First Steps
Learn to Rotary Cut Fabric for a Quilt

Square up one end of the fabric so that it is at a 90-degree angle to the fold.

© Janet Wickell

Long strips of fabric are the starting point for the majority of rotary cutting tasks used in today's quilt patterns. From there, individual shapes can be 'sub cut' from strips as needed.

Accurate rotary cutting is essential for successful quilts and quilt blocks. New quilters... practice with inexpensive muslin or bargain fabrics before you begin cutting more expensive quilting cottons.

The instructions for most quick-pieced quilt patterns tell you to rotary cut long strips from selvage to selvage -- across the fabric's crosswise grain, and that's what we'll cover in this tutorial. It's perfectly fine to cut strips along the less stretchy lengthwise grain.

How to Rotary Cut Fabric Strips

It's very important to square up one end of the fabric before rotary cutting strips. After squaring up, the leading edge should be a 90-degree angle to the fold

  1. Fold the fabric along its length, selvages together. The fold should be straight, with no puckers. Selvages might not be perfectly aligned, but that's okay, it's most important for the fold to be accurate. Press.
  2. If you are working on a small rotary mat, you may need to fold the fabric again, making it four layers deep. Beginning quilters should stick to one fold, because each new fold makes inaccurate cuts more likely.
  3. Place the fabric on a rotary mat with the fold near the bottom edge of the mat and the side to be squared on the left. Align a rotary ruler with the folded edge, its left side near the left edge of the fabric, but with a bit of excess (in both layers) beyond the left edge of the ruler.
  4. Place a long rotary ruler to the left of the first ruler, edges flush against each other.A horizontal line on each ruler must be exactly matched to or parallel to the fold.
  5. Remove the right-side ruler. Place your hand on the remaining ruler to hold it firmly in place and roll a rotary cutter from bottom to top along the ruler's right edge. Spread your fingers out to hold the ruler securely, but take care to keep them out of the path of the cutter.
  6. The fabric's cut edge should now be at a 90-degree angle to the folded edge.

If you are left handed, work from the opposite side of the fabric, placing fabric and rulers in mirror-image positions.

Quick note... some quilters square up an edge from the right side of folded fabric, aligning a rule on the ruler with the bottom edge and trimming off a small excess allowed to remain on the right. Afterwards, they flip the fabric around to cut from the left.

I prefer the method explained in the four steps above, since there's no need to flip the fabric, which sometimes allows its layers to shift.

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