Quilting Basics: fabric cutting

Source: Pile o’ Fabric


  • Cutting mat
  • Rotary cutter
  • Quilting ruler
  • Iron and starch

Best practices and preparation

  • Ensure rotary cutter blade is sharp, clean, and installed correctly per manufacturer’s instructions
  • Use correct size blade
    • 45mm = all purpose
    • 60mm = heavy fabric or lots of layers
    • 28mm or smaller = curves and circles
  • Replace or flip over mat with gouges in it
  • Check measurements on mat for accuracy before depending on them
  • If ruler slides too much, use ruler grip (e.g. Omni Grip)
  • Re-check angles on edges frequently
  • Press and starch fabric to avoid inaccurate cuts
  • Stand while cutting to avoid ruler slips
  • Press down with off hand fingertips to keep ruler still
  • Use dominant hand to cut fabric along ruler edge
  • Cut away from your body with one smooth motion


  1. Trim uneven, raw edge from fabric
    1. Place cutting mat near edge of table
    2. Put pressed fabric on mat with excess hanging toward your off hand
    3. Take ruler and square top folded edge with the lines on ruler
    4. Cut off uneven edge
  2. Cut strips for pattern
    1. Flip fabric to have excess hanging toward your dominant hand
    2. Line up clean edge of fabric with the appropriate measurement line on your ruler, and cut fabric strip to needed width
    3. Continue cutting strips until you have as many as your pattern needs
  3. Cut strips into patches
    1. Take a folded strip and lay it on mat with excess hanging to your off hand
    2. Using smaller ruler to line up top and bottom edge of strip with lines on ruler
    3. Cut off selvage edge
    4. Flip fabric so excess is toward your dominant hand
    5. Line up new cut edge with appropriate width mark on ruler and cut square
    6. Repeat until end of strip

Fabric calculations

Patchwork quilting is largely American influenced, and they use inches and yards. Don’t blame me.

Yardage yields:

  • 1 yard = 56 charms (seven 5″ strips)
  • 0.75 yard = 40 charms (five 5″ strips)
  • 0.5 yard = 24 charms (three 3 5″ strips)
  • 0.25 yard = 8 charms (one 5″ strip)
  • 1 fat quarter = 12 charms + change



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