quilting 1.4

Should You Get a Quilting Sewing Machine?

There are a few reasons why a person would want to buy a quilting sewing machine. If you run a quilting business for instance, you will definitely want to get a quilting sewing machine, if you want to make any real profit. There is really no way that you would be able to keep up, even with other people working with you, to keep up with the demands of the business if you are doing all the quilting by hand.
Even if you just like to quilt for fun in your spare time, a home quilting machine can be helpful because you can get your projects completed better and at a faster rate.

So if you have decided that you do in fact need a quilting sewing machine, you are now going to need to decide on a machine, and the good news is that there are plenty available for you to choose from, a few of the best which will be discussed in detail here.

Singer HD-110 Heavy Duty

Singer is a name that has been trusted for many, many years now, and one that you can definitely rely on when it comes to a quilting machine. These machines deliver the utmost in terms of power, performance, durability and value, and they are listed at very affordable prices as well.

This particular machine is one that you will definitely want to consider, and it features 10 built-in stitch patterns, 4-step buttonhole, built-in needle threader, commercial speed, includes extension bed, stainless steel bed plate, and circular sewing capacity.

Keep in mind that this is just one of the many different Singer quilting sewing machine options that are available, so you should take time to see what other models they offer as well.

Janome 1600P-DB High Speed Sewing Machine

Another quilting sewing machine that you may want to consider is this model, by Janome. This high speed sewing machine has the DB needle, and sews a straight stitch at 1,600 stitches per minute, which is actually the fastest on the market. Features include variable speed control, dual sewing lights, no oil holes on sewing bed, visible pressure gauge, dust cover, knee lift, optional extension table available, and so much more.

These are just two of the thousands of different quilting sewing machines that you have to choose from. Just make sure that you really put some thought and consideration into this process, so that you can decide on the right machine for you.


Where to Find a Free Quilt Block Pattern

Coming up with a great free quilt block pattern idea can certainly not always the be the easiest thing, but with a few helpful tips you will be well on your way and able to choose the perfect free quilt block pattern. First and foremost, you are going to need to figure out what sort of theme you are looking for. Maybe you have a friend or family member who is going to be having a baby soon and so you want to make a baby quilt, or perhaps you would like to stick with more of a theme and go with a Halloween or Christmas pattern.

No matter which particular free quilt block pattern you are looking for, there are a few companies that you will want to become more familiar with, and which you can always trust to go through when you are looking for a free quilt block pattern.

Free Quilt Patterns

This is one company that you will definitely want to check out if you are looking for free quilting patterns of any sort. No matter what theme or size of quilting pattern you are looking for, you will be able to find it here and free to boot.

This means that you never have to worry about spending a fortune just to get the pattern that you are looking for, which will be especially important if you quilt for a living and need to make as much money as possible and would have to constantly be buying patterns.


This is another company you can go through for a great free quilt block pattern selection. They are actually one of the best known companies of their kind, and one that is definitely worth you taking the time to check out. They are available online and you can browse through their entire selection here.

Remember, these are just a few ideas of the many different companies that are available and offering free quilting patterns so take a bit of time and see what else is out there as well. Another great idea is for you to ask around to your family and friends, see what quilting patterns they have tried out and which they enjoyed.

This is also a great idea because then you can check out the completed project and see what it is really going to look like in the end and whether you want to do it or not.


Free Baby Quilt Pattern Idea

If you are an experienced quilter, you know that there are almost endless options when it comes to all the different quilting patterns that you have to choose from. Whether you are looking specifically for a rag quilt pattern or free baby quilt pattern for instance, your options will be extraordinary and you can always find just the right one. Of all the different free baby quilt pattern ideas that you could try, here is one that will surely interest you.

Taking Flight

The name of this particular free baby quilt pattern is “Taking Flight”, and it is really gorgeous, perfect for either a baby boy or girl. For this quilt design you will need to get twelve traditional Birds in the Air quilt blocks and six Thrifty blocks, all place on point and then surrounded by setting triangles.

There are two straight borders that complete the quilt top and the outer border of the quilt includes cornerstones.

This quilt is particularly delightful for spring, with the fresh, beautiful pink and green colors. You need to start by cutting (6) 6-7/8” x 6-7/8” squares, cut each square in half once diagonally and set aside. Then you cut (18) 2-7/8” x 2-7/8” dark pink squares, and again, cut each in half once diagonally and set aside.

Now you cut (18) 2-7/8” x 2-7/8” dark green squares and (18) neutral squares of the same sizes, and then you combine unlike squares in pairs, resulting in (36) half square triangles that each measure 2-1/2” x 2-1/2” when complete.

The next step in this free baby quilt pattern is for you to arrange three half-square triangle unites and the three pink triangles into rows, and now you want to sew the components of each row together. Sew tightly so that the seams are not showing, and press seam allowances in adjoining rows in opposite directions and then sew the rows together, and press.

Center and sew one large green triangle to the longest edge of the unit created in step 5 of this free baby quilt pattern, and then you want to press seam allowance towards the large triangle, and repeat, making a total of 12 Birds in the Air quilt blocks.

It can definitely be a bit tricky to complete quilting patterns if you are just a beginner and just getting started, but just make sure that you have some patience and that you take care in your designs and the choosing of your patterns, and you should not have any problems.


Quilting frame

How To Use A Quilting Frame
If you are looking to make a hand crafted quilt you need to learn how to use a quilting frame properly. This is not a difficult task but can seem to be really daunting to the beginning quilter. This article will outline the simple steps to using a quilting frame so that you can make the best quilts possible. Instructions To Using A Quilting Frame The following instructions are for using a quilting frame, not a machine quilting frame. The first thing you need to do is prepare your…

What Is A Machine Quilting Frame?
If you are looking to start quilting the easiest way to get started is using a machine quilting frame. Now realize why you need to take a look at a machine quilting frame and see why they are so nice to have. They are completely different from a hand quilting frame, however the end products are nearly indistinguishable. I have used many a machine quilting frame and believe me, they speed up the time so much that it would be almost impossible to go back. Features Of A Machine Quilting Frame A machine…

Using A Hand Quilting Frame To Make Mementos
If you are looking for a hobby quilting may be something you want to try. You can make make wonderful vintage quilts and if made properly can last for a lifetime and then some. Using a hand quilting frame is not as difficult as it looks and pretty much anyone with the right amount of desire can begin using a hand quilting frame if they are willing to put in the time needed. Why Use A Hand Quilting Frame The main reason people will choose to use a hand quilting frame…

Making A Quilting Frame Pattern Properly
There are many resources out there available to those of you who are looking to quilt at home. If you are looking to make designs that are unique and original you need to learn how to build your own quilting frame pattern. Designing and constructing your own quilting frame pattern is not nearly as difficult as it sounds and with some simple materials you can make either wood or PVC quilting frames. How To Build Your Own Quilting Frame PatternYou first off need a solid base to build your pattern from. My frame of choice is the kit from Herrschners….

Why Use A PVC Quilting Frame
When you are looking to get started quilting there are many different kinds of quilting frames to choose from. From lap quilting frames to wood quilting frames there are many different options. I recently purchased and have been using a PVC quilting frame from Q-Snap and I can honestly say I am very satisfied with it. Why I Choose A PVC Quilting Frame One of the biggest problems I had with my previous quilting frame was how much space it took up. No matter what I did the wood quilting…

5 Reasons To Use A Lap Quilting Frame
If you are a home quilting hobbyist you no doubt have some kind of quilting frame. There are many different kinds out there with all sorts of bells and whistles. From large machine quilting frames to small lap quilting frames. there is a quilting frame for everyone. I am going to take a look at lap quilting frames and try to show you reasons why you should use one. While they are not for everyone, they are for certain people so read on to see if you fall into this group….


Rag Quilt Pattern: Where to Look

There are fortunately lots of great places that you can go to if you are looking for a rag quilt pattern, but books are going to be one of your best resources of all here. There are literally thousands of different rag quilt pattern books that you can choose from and peruse through to get great pattern ideas.

Whether you are looking for a machine quilting pattern or one that you can just whip up by hand, here are a few of the best rag quilt pattern books that you can check out for yourself.

A Year of Rag Quilts

This is one rag quilt pattern book that you will definitely want to buy. This is a great book that offers instructions on twelve different wall rag quilts that you can make, and whether you are just a beginner getting started with this hobby or you are an experienced quilter that can take on most quilting tasks, this book will be ideal.

Use these easy blocks for pillows and larger quilts too. The entire book is 96 pages, soft cover, and written by Annis Clapp.

Easy Americana Rag Quilting

Or perhaps you would be more interested in this book, which you probably would be if you are a more experienced quilter, as the projects are more difficult. It features twenty-four different projects with raggy edges, and this includes lap quilts, wall hangings, and pillows, all with frayed edges. The instructions are very easy to understand and there are even instructions.

Raggy Strip Quilting

This is another very popular rag quilt pattern book, and this book features several different quilts with wonderful instructions and detailing on how to create them. There are some terrific quilt pattern ideas in this book, but they are basically for more advanced quilters, as this is definitely the most difficult book of the three.

Besides reading books to get your quilting pattern ideas, there are other things that you can do as well. For instance, you can go online and use the Internet to search through various different websites that offer quilting patterns. You can often find free patterns that you can download and print off, making the entire process as quick and convenient for you as possible.

This would be the best idea if you make quilts for a living, because in this case you are going to need to be making quilts on a rapid basis, and will not be able to afford to pay for each pattern you use.


Basic Quilting Supplies You Will Need

As a new quilter, you probably aren’t sure which supplies you need to have to be successful at quilting. When you look at a quilting or fabric store or online, there are what seems like a million gadgets and gizmos, all important for the quilter to be successful. How can you tell which are really imperative? Or do all quilters have everything?

Before you go off and buy anything, think about what kind of quilting you want to do. Do you have a pattern yet? Maybe a picture of a quilt you like and want to make? The type of quilting you want to do will affect which quilting supplies you will need, for example, those who are machine quilting won’t need supplies like a quilting frame. But let’s discuss the supplies you need to just get that first quilt top made.

Basic Sewing Supplies For Quilting

There are some sewing and quilting supplies that you will need regardless of whether you’re quilting or sewing a dress for your little girl. They are important to have on hand. So be sure you have scissors, pins, a needle and thread, as well as a seam ripper.

Scissors that are sharp and pointed work best. If they aren’t sharp and you have to struggle with every cut, you’ll hate them. If they aren’t pointed enough, you won’t be able to get into tight little places to cut. Some quilters also use a rotary cutter and mat to do their cutting, but they aren’t necessary – traditional scissors will work fine when you’re just learning.

Pins are a simple thing that can be a real help. Think of them as an extra set of hands to help hold the pieces together while you sew. They can help those edges stay together, and they can mark where that seam should be, or where it needs to end. The cheapest pins are the steel ones with tiny heads. A step above that are the one with the colored ball heads. They are much easier to see! Want to go a step even better? Try the ones with the flowered heads; they are a little bit longer, too. They’re a bit more expensive, but oh, so nice to work with! That’s a sewing and quilting supply that can make quilting just a little bit closer to heaven.

If you will be hand sewing, have a few sewing needles. If you are sewing the pieces together by sewing machine, have extra sewing machine needles on hand. If your quilt is one basic color – like blue, or pown – use that color of thread. If it is many colors and fabrics, like a crazy quilt, choose either black or white thread, whichever blends the best with your fabrics.

Another sewing supply you should have available is a seam ripper. I know, none of us plan to make mistakes, but they somehow happen anyway, so it helps if we can minimize the frustration they can cause by having a good tool to fix our mistakes. As a new quilter, to whom all the techniques are new, you are very likely to need to do some “reverse sewing”, so keep that handy-dandy seam ripper within arm’s reach.
Basic Quilting Supplies You Will Need
As a new quilter, you probably aren’t sure which supplies you need to have to be successful at quilting. When you look at a quilting or fabric store or online, there are what seems like a million gadgets and gizmos, all important for the quilter to be successful. How can you tell which are really imperative? Or do all quilters have everything? Before you go off and buy anything, think about what kind of quilting you want to do. Do you have a pattern yet? Maybe a picture of a quilt you…

Machine Quilting: Which Supplies Are Needed?
If you’re new to machine quilting, the supplies you need might be a mystery. First, you need supplies for preparing your quilt top. Then you need supplies specific to machine quilting, which is very different from hand quilting. It is important to know which method you will be quilting with, so that you can get the correct supplies. Making The Top Of The Quilt When you are making the quilt top – whether you are hand sewing it together or using a traditional sewing machine – you will need basic…

Buying Quilting Supplies Online For Gifts
If you have a good friend who is a quilter, what better gift could there be than a gift that helps her with her hobby? It’s a thoughtful giver who gives someone something they’d like to have but just haven’t bought themselves yet. With these ideas, your quilting friend might not even know they exist! Specialty Cutters There are several types of cutters available online. This quilting tool is very useful for cutting threads while you’re working, without having to reach for a pair of scissors – wherever they are……

Where To Find Free Quilting Supplies
If you like to quilt, whether you’ve been quilting for years or you are just getting started, you have probably noticed that quilting can get expensive! Good quality fabric is often ten dollars a yard – or more – and usually when you’re in the mood to start a new project you don’t wait for a sale to get that “perfect fabric” at a better price. Many of the other quilting supplies are also expensive, like a rotary cutter and a mat and ruler. To get a good set, you…

Choosing Supplies For Hand Quilting
As a new quilter, you might not be sure which supplies are for hand quilting. Some things are needed regardless of whether you will be hand quilting or machine quilting. Others are hand quilting supplies that you wouldn’t use for machine quilting. Let’s take a look at the primary ones, and a few extras. Some hand quilting supplies are even cheap! Basic Sewing Supplies You Need When quilting, as when sewing, there are basic supplies. Scissors are an important supply whether hand quilting or sewing a dress. Quilters…

Some Cheap Quilting Supplies Anyone Can Use
So you like to quilt, but wince when you pay for your basic quilting supplies? Not cheap, are they! Sure, it’s nice to have the “latest and greatest”, but wouldn’t you rather be able to put that money toward the ideal fabric? Fortunately, there are some little known ways to cut down on the cost of your quilting supplies. Have you ever noticed that sometimes everyday products are also packaged as for a special use and the price goes up? They do! A lot of things that are also sold…

Basic Supplies For Quilting – Options To Know About
When you first start out quilting or have been quilting for years, you should know about your choices when it comes to your basic quilting supplies. New products are on the market all the time, and sometimes it is worth it to upgrade your basic quilting supplies, even if what you already have works “fine.” Pins – Is There A Difference? You can get the basic steel pins like our grandmothers had, but now there are so many other options, ones that make using pins more enjoyable and easy. The…
Sampler 5 Hourglass & Blocks
Hour Glass Units and Blocks
Next we will make the hourglass units and the blocks that include these. Although no instructions on how to make these units will be given some additional instruction will be given since they will not only be made with only 2 colors. Some have 3 colors. Now don’t be afraid they are really easy to make and use the same method of construction. These will be made using trim to square procedure.

Here is the key:

Cut 2 strip 5 1/2″ wide from each colors A,C,D. Cut 1 strip 5 1/2″ wide from color B.

From your strips cut 6 squares that measure 5 1/2″of B and 10 each colors A, C, and D.

Trim all the units you make to 4 1/2″.

Using 1 A and 1B squares make 2 hour glass units. You will only use 1 in the blocks but I would recommend you trim the other 1 anyway.

Using 2 A and 2C squares make 4 hour glass units.

Using 2 A and 2D squares make 4 hour glass units.

Using 2 B and 2D squares make 4 hour glass units.

Now we come to the units that have 3 colors. These will be done in 2 steps to allow for the 3 colors. The bias squares step will be done first and then the hourglass step using 2 different combinations of the bias squares.

Make the following bias squares but do not trim them.

4 AC (use 2 sqs. each) 2 AD (use 1sq. each)

4 BC (use 2 sqs. each) 2 BD(use 1sq. each)

4 CD(use 2 sqs. each)

Press toward the D and C sides.

Using the 2AC and 2AD squares make 4 hourglass units. Be sure that the A triangles are opposite when putting the RST. Trim to 4 1/2″.

Using the 2AC and 2CD squares make 4 hourglass units. Be sure that the A triangles are opposite when putting the RST. Trim to 4 1/2″.

Using 2BC and 2BD squares make 4 hourglass units. Be sure that the B triangles are opposite when putting the RST. Trim to 4 1/2″.

Using 2BC and 2CD squares make 4 hourglass units. Be sure that the C triangles are opposite when putting the RST. Trim to 4 1/2″.

You should have the following units measure 4 1/2″.

Hourglass Blocks
7 blocks can now be made using the hourglass units as well as the units made in the previous steps. Ohio Star, Stellie, Swamp Angel, Union Square 1, Union Square 2, Contrary Wife, Combination Star, and Morning will all be made.

Use the method for laying out and piecing the units into the blocks as you did for the Jacob’s Ladder block. For each block a diagram of the block laid out with the pressing directions as will as a completed block will be given.

The first 3 blocks are Ohio Star, Stellie and Swamp Angel. Look at the blocks and see how they are similar and how they are different.

The Ohio Star uses only squares and hourglass units in 2 colors. Stellie is made of the same units but adds one more color into the block. Swamp Angel adds a fourth color and a bias square unit in the corners. Each has its own look but are very similar in construction.

For Ohio Star you need 1 square A 4 1/2″ , 4 squares D 4 1/2″, and 4 AD hourglass units. Lay them out as in the diagram and sew together in the same way you have all the other blocks. Press in the direction of the arrows.

For Stellie you need 1 square B 4 1/2″ , 4 squares D 4 1/2″, and 4 BCBD hourglass units. Lay them out as in the diagram and sew together in the same way you have all the other blocks. Press in the direction of the arrows.

Swamp Angel adds bias square units replacing the corner squares as well as another color. You will need 1 square B 4 1/2″, 4 AC hourglass units, and 4 BD 4 1/2″ bias square units. Lay them out as in the diagram and sew together in the same way you have all the other blocks. Press in the direction of the arrows.

The next three blocks are Union Square I, Union Square II, and Contrary Wife (which of course I NEVER am. LOL). From the names of the first two that they are similar is obvious but look at Contrary Wife and see how it is related to the other two.

For these three blocks and also for the Morning block the corner units will need to be made. These will use the 2 1/2″ squares and the 2 1/2″ bias square units. You will need to make 4 of each combination. I won’t give the color combinations since they are so similar and it would only be confusing. Just look at the diagrams and your key and find them in your bags.

Lay them out like this,sew, and press in the direction of the arrow. Put them in your squares bag.

For Union Square I you will need the 4 BD square bias square units you just made, 1 B 4 1/2″ square and 4 BD bias squares. Lay them out as in the diagram and sewing them together,

For Union Square II you will need the 4 BC square bias square units you just made, 1 BD snowball and 4 ACD bias squares. Lay them out as in the diagram and sewing them together, and press in the direction of the arrows.

For Contrary Wife you will need the 4 CD square bias square units with the D triangles on the outside of the units you just made, 1 A 4 1/2″ square and 4 BCD bias squares. Lay them out as in the diagram and sewing them together, and press in the direction of the arrows.

Morning uses the same corner units as the previous block as well as 2 SC snowballs and 2 BD snowballs and 1 AB hourglass unit. Lay them out as in the diagram and sewing them together, and press in the direction of the arrows.

Now the last block of the sampler quilt, Combination Star. You should only have the following units left. All the others should already be made into blocks. It has 4 BA snowballs, 1 BD snowball, and 4 ACAD hourglass units. Lay them out as in the diagram and sewing them together, and press in the direction of the arrows.

Borders are strips of fabric that surround the central design of a quilt top. They can be simple strips of fabric or designed with pieced units or applique or both. Borders can be as simple or complicated as you want. Corners of the borders can be straight or mitered.

Strips for borders can either be cut lengthwise or crosswise from the fabric. I generally cut the strips crosswise sine less fabric is usually needed and the seams are not noticeable especially in patterned fabrics. I also do not do diagonal (mitered) seams in borders for the same reason. Depending on the design of the quilt blocks used straight or mitered corners can be chosen. If the block has many diagonal seams I choose mitered corners. If not, I choose straight.

For the sampler quilt simple plain borders with straight corners will me used. This will give you the basic technique of how to attach borders. On the wall hanging mitered corners will be applied.

Measuring the top
The top already has one “border”. The sashing strips border not only each block but also form a border for the top.

1. You will need to measure both the length and width of a top to decide which borders should go on first. Sometime the most efficient use of fabric will dictate this. If a border would have a seam in it very near the end it might be better to put the other borders (side or top/bottom) on first.

To measure for the borders fold the top both lengthwise and crosswise so that you have it folded in quarters.Measure the folds and multiply by 2. This will give you the length and width of the quilt. Measuring the quilt in this way avoids measuring the edges of the quilt which can be slightly stretched from the piecing.

2. Deciding whether to put the lengthwise or crosswise border is the next thing to do. Figure that you can get 40- 42 usable inches from most crosswise strips. If the width or length of a side is close to this or close to 83-84″ then do these borders first. This way there will be no seams right by the end of the border. If you did the other borders first there would be several seams very close together which tends to get messy.

3. To calculate the number of strips needed for your borders add the length plus the width plus the 2 times the width of the border (amount A). Take this number times 2 (amount B). Divide by 42 and this will give you the number of strips needed (amount C). Always round up.

length + width + (2 X border width)= A

A X 2 = B

B / 42 =C round up . This is the number of strips you need to cut for the border all the way around the quilt.

For this quilt the length is 72 1/2″ and the width is 58 1/2″. We will put on a 2″ border 1 using A or B fabric which will be cut 2 1/2″ wide.

Don’t be concerned if it is not this measure. None of us make perfect seams and every machine is different.

72 1/2 + 58 1/2 + 5 (which is 2 X 2 1/2″) = 136

136 X 2 = 272

288 / 42 = 6.48 so rounding up you will need 7 strips.

4. Cut the number of strips the width you need. For this quilt cut your strips for border 1 2 1/2″ wide. Occasionally you will find that you may need an additional strips since these are estimates or if you do mitred corners which take more fabric.

5. For this quilt the width and length are not so close to the width of one or 2 strips that it makes a difference as to which should be put of first. We will put the width strips on first. Measure across the middle of the quilt crosswise. If every seam is perfect the measure should be 58 1/2″. Don’t be concerned if it is not this measure. None of us make perfect seams and every machine is different.

This measure is how long you will want your border strips to be. Sew the strips together and press the seams to one side.

6. Some teachers will tell you to cut the border length from this strip. I have cut the strips 1″ to short to many times to recommend this. I measure it and put a pin at the proper length.

This way if I have mismeasured I won’t have cut the strip off wrong.

7. Fold the strip in quarters to the pin.

Place pins at each quarter spot..

8. Fold the quilt top in quarters across the edge the border will be added to and place pins at the quarter folds.

9. With RST align the border on the quilt matching up the pins and the edge of the quilt. Pin together at pins and between pins. If you need to ease a little do so evenly between the pins. If you are off less than an inch at the end fudge the end pin and distribute along the border.

Many quilters would not do this but I figure that at times my measurements may be off a little and it seems to work. If you have problems with this then remeasure very carefully and continue.

10. Sew one with the border on the top and the quilt on the bottom. Press toward the border.

11. Repeat with the opposite border.

12. Measure across the length of the quilt. (The length has now changed with the addition of the borders). Measure the border to this length. Fold in quarters and pin.

13. Fold the quilt in quarters along the edge the border will be added to and put pins in quarter marks.

14. Pin border to quilt and sew together. Press to border.

15. Repeat . The first round of borders is now complete. For the sampler quilt after the first round the quilt should measure 62 1/2″ X 76 1/2″.

16. All other plain borders are added in the same way. If you put the top borders on first in the first round then do these first on all the rest of the borders. Be consistent as to which sides you attach first.

Measure across the middle of the quilt.

Figure how many strips are needed using the following formula.

length + width + (2 X border width)= A

A X 2 = B

B / 42 =C round up to find the number of strips needed. .

Cut the strips to the proper width. Sew the strips together.

Measure for the first border strip to be added.

Fold in quarters and mark with pins.

Fold quilt in quarters along the border to be added. Mark with pins.

Pin border to quilt.

Sew and press toward border.

For the sampler the second border is cut at 4 1/2″

76 1/2″ + 62 1/2″ + 9 = 148

148 X 2 = 296

296 / 42 =7.05 round up to 8 strips.

17. Backstitch the final border on all quilts. This will keep the border seams from coming apart as the quilt is quilted.

18. Press the top. After the addtion of the second round of border strips the quilt should measure 70 1/2 X 84″.

To the Backing page

Back to Sampler Contents
Lesson 2 Cutting
Lesson 2
You will need practice fabrics for this lesson. About 3/4 – 1 yard of 2 different fabrics 1 light and 1 dark will be needed for both this lesson and the units lesson which comes next. Don’t use your best loved fabrics or the sampler fabrics for this. Use a less expensive or uglies for this practice.

Years ago templates, pencils, and scissors where the standard tools for cutting the pieces of to be joined into a quilt top. With the advent of the rotary cutter, rulers, and mat the way quilts are made has changed completely. Cutting strips, sewing them together, cutting the strips into units to be joined to other units, and into blocks has decreased the time it takes to make a top and increased the accuracy of the piecing. So rather than drawing templates and using them to make and cut the fabrics into small pieces to sew together, strips and squares are cut and used to make units which in turn are sewn into the blocks. Cutting accurately is extremely important for good points and flat quilts. In this lesson the basics of accurate cutting is discussed.

To wash or not to wash. That is the question. Whether it is better to prewash the fabric or not is one each quilter has to decide. Many people bring the fabric home from the store and immediately throw it into the washer and dryer. Others just take it to the cutting table and start to cut. Some of the reasons for prewashing are: shrink it before the top is made, wash out any excess dyes that can cause crocking (bleeding of colors), and wash out excess finish on the fabric. I myself have had little difficulty with shrinkage or crocking but sometimes want to wash out stiff and shiny finishes on the fabric as it slips and slides against other fabrics and the sewing machine. I don’t routinely prewash my fabrics. I don’t like all the ironing that is necessary if the fabric is washed and dried. I do test fabrics I think might crock. I also routinely wash flannels which do always shrink up a lot.

Crock test To test a fabric for crocking cut a 2″ strip off the end. Put the fabric in warm water and mix around a little. Look at the water and see if there is dye bleeding into the water. If there is rinse the fabric over and over until the water runs clear.

If the color doesn’t bleed into the water take a 2″ X 4″ piece of the fabric and place it on a wet piece of light or white fabric and allow them to dry. If the color of the test fabric bleeds onto the light then rinse the fabric over and over.

It used to be that salt or vinegar in a rinse water would help to set the colors. This doesn’t work anymore since the chemistry of the dyes is now different.

Preparing the fabric Whether you prewash or not, and that decision it totally up to you, the fabric will need at least a little pressing before you start to cut. If you have washed it you will need to iron the entire piece well. If you did not prewash the center fold and any wrinkles will have to be pressed out. A steam iron set at cotton with high steam is best for this. A spray bottle of water also helps.

Straightening the fabric In sewing class in school, a lot of years ago, we were taught to pull a thread that went all the way across the edge, trim to that mark, and pull diagonally on the fabric to “straighten the grain” if the ends didn’t hang together when the fold was held up. This is not recommended anymore. The way the fabrics are milled, folded and rolled make them impossible to straighten in this manner. The best you can hope for is that the grain will not be off so very much after you have pressed it. If it is so far off that you can see that it will not lie flat, wash or wet the fabric and iron it dry pressing it as straight as you can.

To straighten the edges as best as we can take the piece of fabric and hold it up by the fold and selvedge corners. If you have a long piece (over 2 yards) this is not possible to do well. If you have a fabric you are going to use for piecing and the back also just cut off the approximate amount needed for the piecing and set the backing aside until needed.

As you will see the selvedges probably won’t hang down together. Hold the fold and ease the selvedge of one of the selvedges up or down to bring the 2 selvedges into line with each other. This will cause the raw edges to move up or down. It can be really frustrating to have to cut off several inches of fabric but if you want straight cuts this step is very important.

Don’t cut the selvedges off until you have cut the strips from the fabric and cut the selvedges from the ends of the strips then.

Types of cuts
Straightening cut The first cut I call the straightening cut. It employs the same technique used in all cutting. By getting a good straightening cut all the rest of the cuts will be more accurate and so the pieces of the top will be more accurate leading to easier, better matched points and flatter quilt tops.

Strip cuts These are the cuts made to accurate measure for the size of the strip you will use in the construction of units within the blocks.

Clean up cuts These are cuts made after 4-5 strip cuts to straighten the edge again from the inevitable slight shifting from the 90°.

Unit cuts After the strips have been cut many will be sewn together only to be cut apart again into units. These are the unit cuts. The units will then be sewn into larger units and into blocks. Also squares or rectangles to be used as is are also unit cuts.

Finally, you say, we get to hold something besides paper. *BG* Well grab your cutter, mat, ruler, and fabric and let’s go for it.

Straightening cut After you have pressed and adjusted the fabric so the selvedges hang together lay the fabric on the cutting mat with the fold closest to you.

Lay the 6″ X 12″ruler crosswise on the fold fabric near the left end. (If you are left handed reverse the directions left to right and right to left) Line one of the horizontal lines on the ruler along the fold.

Just to the left of this ruler lay the 6″ X 24″ ruler. Be sure that this ruler is touching the short one along its entire width. Also be sure that the edge of both the top and the bottom layer of fabric are covered by the long ruler a small amount. Hold the long one in place and remove the short one.

Hold the long ruler down with the fingers spread to cover as much of the ruler as feels comfortable holding the bottom half of the ruler. Don’t have the bottom of the ruler right on the fold of the fabric. This leads to jabbing the blade against the bottom of the ruler nicking the blades.

Hold the cutter at a comfortable angle with the blade at a 90 degree to the table and ruler. If the blade is tilled toward the ruler you will shave off the edge of the ruler and make the cut strip slightly larger than the measurement. If it is tilted away from the ruler it will make the cut slightly smaller than the measurment and tend to head off away from the ruler into the fabric causing waste of the fabric.

Starting just off the fold of the fabric and with the cutter against the ruler, cut to about half way up the ruler. Don’t saw back and forth with the cutter. It will cut cleanly with one firm stroke. You don’t have to press to hard either. Don’t lift the cutter out of the fabric. Gently lift your hand and move it up to the upper half of the ruler. Holding the ruler down continue the cut past the top edge of the fabric. Discard the portion cut off.

You can do the other end of the fabric by moving the ruler to the other end, aligning a horizontal ruler line along the fold and cutting in the same manner.

Strip cutting
There are 2 ways to make strip cuts. Across the full width of the fabric like in the straightening cut and by folding the fabric and using the short ruler. The preferred method is up to you. Try both ways and decide for yourself which one you are most comfortable with. If you fold the fabric, carefully fold it toward you and line up the cut edge.

Find the measurement that you want on the ruler. Practice by using a 2 1/2″ measurement on your practice fabric. Line the 2 1/2″ line on the ruler along the cut edge and one of the horizontal lines along the fold nearest you. This will help keep the strips square.

*****Practice***** Cut 3-4 strips 2 1/2″ wide. After this amount it is wise to do a clean up cut. These strips will be used to make the practice 4-patch units and bias squares.

Clean up cuts
A clean up cut is just the same as a straightening cut that you did to start your cutting straight. Cut off as small an amount of fabric as you can. Don’t cut off more than the barest amount that you feel comfortable cutting off as this will waste fabric.

Be sure to hold the blade straight up and down against the ruler and not at an angle in toward or away from the ruler as this will lead to slightly smaller strips and the likelihood of heading off away from the ruler with the blade out into the fabric wasting lots of fabric with extra cleanup cuts.

Cuts from strips

After cutting the strips that you need from your fabric squares and rectangles can be cut from them. Turn one of the strips you cut crosswise in front of you with the fold to the right. The strip is still folded over in the center. If you folded the fabric during the strip cutting unfold it so that it is only folded over once.

First cut off the selvedge in the same way you did a clean up cut. Next align your ruler, usually the shorter ruler is easier to work with, with the measurement of the piece you need to cut aligned along the cut edge of the strip and cut as many as you need or that the strip will do.

*****Practice***** Cut one strip into squares by using a 2 1/2″ measure. Do a clean up cut after every 4-5 cuts.

Large segment cuts

Sometimes the length of the strip segments does not make the most efficient use of the width of the fabric to cut lengths from. An example of this is sashing strips for a 12″ finished block. You will need 12 1/2″ cut strips. By cutting a strip the width that you would need, say 2 1/2″, you would be able to cut 3 rectangles 2 1/2 X 12 1/2″ with about 6″ of the strip left. Instead you may want to cut the strip 12 1/2″ wide and cut 2 1/2″ strips from it. This would give you 16 -17 rectangles 2 1/2 X 12 1/2″ with very little waste.

If you need to cut a length of fabric larger than your ruler is wide you will need 2 rulers.

Subtract the width of your long ruler from the width that you need to cut your strip. Align the short ruler on the edge of the fabric so that the width of the long ruler and the measure on the short ruler add up to the needed measurement. Position the long ruler up against the short one and cut the strip.

Example: If your long ruler is 6″ wide and you need strips that are 12 1/2″ long then subtract the 6 from the 12 1/2″. That will leave 6 1/2″. Align the short ruler on the fabric to this 6 1/2″ measure. Position the long ruler up against the short one. This will make the total width of the fabric to cut to be 12 1/2″.

*****Practice***** Do one large segment cut from both pieces of your practice fabrics that measure 16 1/2″. These will be used to practice the bias squares and the hour glass squares.

***** A length of static sticker or tape along the line of the measurement you are cutting is a help when cutting a number of strips all one width. It helps in quickly finding the correct measurement for cutting.*****

*****Advanced technique~ Line up the long ruler for straightening or clean up cuts with one ruler to the right of edge to be trimmed and cut carefully with the left hand. Take it very slow and careful. If you get used to this technique you can save lots of time straightening and cleanup cutting.