Thursday, May 16, 2024

Accuracy in Quilting - Trimming

 Trimming is one of my favorite ways to make sure my units are accurate before being put into my quilt blocks.

There is nothing more satisfying to me than trimming a unit and knowing that it is now the correct size. When I first started out we were still using the 7/8" method and expecting our units to be accurate. I am just not that perfect of a stitcher. When I discovered how to make the units just a bit larger and then trim them to size, my little perfectionist heart was so happy.


I know I've said this before, but rulers from the same company make a difference. If you don't want to invest in a bunch of new rulers, especially not knowing if you prefer one brand over another, see if any of your friends would be willing to lend you theirs to try out. Once you know the brand you like, you can slowly build your ruler set.

When you know that this craft is for you, it is time to invest in specialty rulers. They are made for trimming units like HST (half-square triangle), FG (Flying Geese), SIS (Square in a Square) units and more. There are also rulers for triangles with different angles. I have a list of my favorite specialty rulers on my Favorite Tools page. 

If you aren't sure that you want to continue with this craft, or specialty rulers aren't on the list yet, you can easily use your current rulers. All you need is a Sharpie marker and scotch tape, though truly neither is a necessity if you don't have them.

On your ruler mark the measurements that are important.

For instance for a HST unit, I would mark the trim size all the way around.

For a FG unit I would mark the trim size, but also the mid point so I know where the "beak" of my Flying Goose should be.

Cover the marks with scotch tape if you are going to be doing a lot of trimming, the sharpie will wear off eventually. When you are done trimming, a dry erase marker takes the sharpie right off.

Rotary cutter

Did you see this one coming again? If a dull blade makes a difference in accuracy when cutting yardage, imagine what it will do to smaller units. I know they are expensive, but having a few on hand will make your quilting life more enjoyable. I promise. The blades I use last just as long as the name brand blades, and I've only had one bad blade in all of the packs I have bought.

Spinning mat

A spinning mat can also help with your accuracy when trimming because it allows you to leave the unit as is, and not have to move it. I do not have any experience with them, so I don't have any recommendations, but I know quilters who love to have these.

I use an old cut up mat for my marking and my trimming. This saves my mat from unnecessary wear and tear, and also gives me the option to rotate units without having to pick them up. They aren't pretty, but they work!

If you don't have an old mat to cut up yet, flip your current mat over and use the backside for trimming as a way to save your mat. Be sure to change where you trim, as the cuts will start to stay, even with a self healing mat, if you do a lot of trimming.

This is the third article in the Accuracy in Quilting Series.

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