Saturday, December 31, 2011

Cutting Strips of Fabric

It all starts with the first cut...

There are many ways to cut strips of fabric from yardage, some use their rulers, some use their mats, I use BOTH, my ruler and my mat! Double the accuracy! I thought I would share with you the way I cut my strips of fabric. When it comes to piecing together pieces, especially odd shapes, cutting accurately is an important part of getting your blocks to line up right.

The ruler and mat play a large part in cutting acccurately, so it is best that the ruler and mat are not warped or distorted.

How to Check Your Mat-
Take your long acrylic ruler and line it up with the vertical lines on your mat. If all your lines on the mat line up with the lines on your ruler, you are good to go. 
Because of the angle of my camera, you can't see that all my lines line up exactly, only the 20" line... But they do... 
If they do not line up, rotate the mat and try lining up the ruler with other lines on the mat that run the other direction. Some mats have line on both sides, maybe see if those lines are accurate. If your mat is super warped and wonky, it might be time for a new mat...

Starching Your Fabric-
Everyone has their own thoughts and feeling about using starch, but for me - I starch all my fabric before I cut it. The starch helps adhere the fibers in the fabric together so that when working with the cut pieces, the fraying and stretching of the pieces will be reduced.

Leave the fabric folded in half, with the selvages together. 

Lay it on the board and spray with starch. Give the fabric a second or two to absorb the starch. Press, not iron, by lifting the iron up and moving to a new area on the fabric. Repeat until fabric is pressed dry. Flip over and repeat the starch steps for the other side.

Squaring Up Your Fabric-
Start by laying your fabric on your mat with your mat arranged so that the whole piece of fabric (from fold to selvage) will lay on the mat. You want the bulk of your yardage out to your left with the raw edges to your right (reverse if you are left handed). You want to lay the folded side of the fabric closest to you, with the selvage edge away from you. 
Line up the fold in your fabric with the straight horizontal line on the mat. At the same time - making sure the somewhat-vertical raw edge of the fabric extends to the right side of a vertical line on the mat. **As a way to extend the life of my mat, I always pick different areas of my mat to start cutting. In the picture above, I used the 1" line, but sometimes I'll start on the 1/2" or even the 5/8" line - or even the 6 1/2" line - I really mix it up. 

The first cut you make will square up your fabric, so that when you cut strips in the next step, your strips x WOF will be straight when you unfold them. **I do not ever fold my fabric a second time and try to cut, as this makes two folds I would have to line up in order to make the strip straight when I unfold it.

Place your long ruler on your fabric, the cutting edge of your ruler close to the raw edge of your fabric. Line up the lines on the top and bottom of your ruler (red arrows) with the top and bottom lines on your mat. Check to make sure your fabric is extended slightly past the cutting edge of your ruler. 

Measure twice, cut once. Double check everything is as it should be and cut off the wonky edge of fabric with your rotary cutter. Now you have a nice square piece of fabric ready for you to cut strips from.

**Take care to ensure the rest of your fabric doesn't shift during or after you cut your fabric**

Cutting Width of Fabric Strips- I am cutting 3" strips here, but this technique works with any width of stips

Gently lift your ruler off your fabric and move it to the left by 3".
Line up the lines on the top and bottom of your ruler (red arrows) with the top and bottom lines on your mat. Double check to make sure you have counted exactly 3".

Cut off your first 3" strip. Hold your ruler in place and slide your 3" strip away to ensure the fabric cut through both layers of your fabric. If it did not cut all the way through, it might be time for a new blade.

**Take care to ensure the rest of your fabric doesn't shift during or after you cut your fabric**

Repeat 'Cutting Width of Fabric Strips' steps above and cut off your second 3" strip of fabric.

A Little Tidbit -
Rarely do I ever see fabric folded on the bolt with a perfectly straight fold. Check out this photo - notice how the bottom fold is not straight all the way across? **Click on the photo to view it larger.
As a way to compensate for this uneven fold as I cut strips, I will re-align my folded edge of fabric up with the line on my mat after I cut a few strips and I will square up my fabric again. 

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