Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Against the Grain Quilt Along - Cutting

 Hopefully your fabric is prepped, because it's time to start cutting!

Before we start cutting our fabric it is really important to press the fabric. Using a stabilizer like Best Press is up to you, but pressed fabric will make cutting, sewing and accuracy so much better and that will lead to a happier quilting experience.

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Reading the pattern and preparing to start

When starting out on a PBJ pattern I recommend highlighting (or circling) the size you are making at the top and then going through and highlighting each step. Here I am marking the strips I need to cut and then each step after.

If you are like me and highlight the wrong size (Yeah, I did that.) don't scratch out what you marked incorrectly, simply go through with a different colored highlighter and mark the correct size.

Fabric Cutting Tips

When cutting your strips you want to make sure the markings for the measurement you need are on the fabric. In the picture above you can see I have them laying right on the fabric, not next to it. Those extra couple of strands are going to make my piecing more accurate.

When you cut like this, using your ruler not the mat, you will notice that after a few cuts your fabric doesn't line up with the mat lines anymore. That is ok. This is because you are taking a bit extra because you're lining your ruler up on the fabric, not next to it.

In this particular pattern we are cutting strips for strip piecing. I like to clip them together and set them aside so I don't accidently sub-cut the strips I meant for strip piecing. There are many different options for clips, including the Alphabitties as well as Wonder clips. I found this set of clips in the Target Dollar Tree area. I've also used pieces of paper pinned to a grouping. Whatever works for you works for me!

To keep my workflow running smoothly I like to sub-cut multiple strips at the same time. If you are a new quilter I suggest doing one strip at a time, just to make sure you are cutting accurately. You'll be cutting multiple strips in no time.

I leave the selvage on my strips until I'm ready to sub-cut them. Then I line my strips up together and trim the selvage off all at once. That way I know I am starting with the same straight edge when cutting.

My fabric was wider than the 40" that the requirements are based on and because I don't wash my fabrics there wasn't any shrinkage. Your fabric might be the same, it might not be, but if you have extra fabric you can match up the ends of two strips and cut another pair of units. 

If you end up opening up the end of the strip to cut another unit there will be a crease from the fold. Make sure your fabric is flat when you are cutting it and it will be fine once sewn.

Tips for accurate marking

Here are my favorite marking tools for dark and light fabrics. A simple mechanical pencil, I love the nice thin line it draws. The Bohin chalk pencil for dark fabrics. Frixion pens. I know there is a lot of differing opinions on this marking tool. Here is why I don't worry when I use them. I never use them on the front of the fabric and I never use them on batiks. When I follow those two rules I don't have any trouble.

I use an old cut up mat to mark my fabric. That's years worth of markings that I kept off my mat. If you are just starting out and don't have an old mat to cut up I would suggest flipping over your mat and using the back side for marking and for trimming. That way you save the top of your mat for years of use.

When marking your squares on the diagonal place your ruler so it's just a tish over from the actual corner.

This way when you draw the line, no matter how thick the marking tool is, you will get an accurate mark from corner to corner.

This is a great pattern for getting those "bonus HST" units. By marking on the diagonal, then marking 1/2" from that drawn line, you can get already sewn bonus HST units. I'll show more when we get to the actual stitching part of the quilt along.

The Quilters Magic Wand™ is perfect for quickly marking two lines at one time, just ignore where I hit my thumb and went wonky. It happens. A lot. Ha.

A note about fabric requirements and cutting instructions. Industry standards say to give one extra cut of the largest size needed when figuring out fabric requirements. Many designers, myself included, use 40" as the standard width of our fabric because of shrinkage due to washing, or coming off the bolt wonky. This means there can be excess fabric leftover that has you thinking, "What in the world was she thinking?!"  What I like to do is cut one strip of fabric, sub-cut that one strip and see how many units I can get from it. Then I know if I need all of the strips or not. I will also, especially in the case of the largest cut we have in this pattern, sub-cut the remaining into the smallest size I need. I was able to cut all of the smallest squares from the left over ends of the back ground strips. This leaves me a lot of extra fabric that I can 1) add to my stash or 2) use for the backing. New quilters you can mess with the math or cut exactly as stated. You will find your groove.

Ok that's it! You have 2 weeks to cut and mark your fabrics! Let's get our sew on!

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