How to Cut Fabric for Quilting

By Victoria Bailey ; Updated September 15, 2017

Things Needed

  • Cotton quilt fabric
  • Iron
  • Rotary cutter
  • Rotary mat
  • Rotary ruler
Don't use scissors to cut accurate quilt squares.

One of the keys to successful quilting is cutting out completely accurate patches with which to make your quilt blocks. Quilts are often made up of hundreds or even thousands of individual pieces, so a mistake of even 1/16 of an inch can multiply into quilt tops being many inches off in dimension, resulting in lopsided quilt tops with seams that don't match.

Rotary cutters began to be popular with quilters in the early 1980s and today these rolling knives are the accepted way to cut out quilt fabric. Rather than drawing around templates and using scissors to cut out each individual piece, rotary cutters can cut multiple patches at a time with much more accuracy than scissors ever had.

Make a list of all the quilt patch sizes and numbers that you will need to complete your particular quilt pattern. Know ahead of time what you will need so that you don't waste fabric.

Press your quilt fabric to smooth out any wrinkles, if needed. Fold your fabric in half, making sure that the fold is straight and not along a bias. Fold the fabric again in the same direction, making a folded piece with four layers.

Lay your fabric on the cutting mat with the folds at the top and bottom and a raw edge at the right. Line up the edge a little past the line marked for 1 inch.

Place the ruler on the fabric so that the right edge of the ruler rests directly on the 1 inch mark on the mat. Hold the ruler down firmly with your left hand. Do not allow any part of your hand or fingers to protrude over the edge of the ruler.

Click open the rotary cutter and place it on the bottom edge of the fabric, right next to the ruler. Push the cutter up along the ruler, cutting through the layers of fabric as the blade rolls along the surface. Keep pushing until the blade rolls up and past the top fabric edge.

Remove the fabric strip to the right of the ruler and discard it. This is the raggedy edge of the fabric, and is rarely of any use.

Move the ruler to the left, being careful not to dislodge or move the fabric at all. The distance that you will move the ruler will depend on your quilt pattern. If you are cutting 4 inch squares, move the ruler from the 1 inch to the 5 inch mark to create a 4 inch strip. Cut your fabric into the appropriately sized strips.

Move the strips into the same position that the fabric had after you have finished cutting strips. Cut off any uneven edge on the right, then keep moving the ruler and cutting until you have turned the strips into the correct size of squares.

Tip

Hold your ruler very firmly to prevent it from slipping and causing an uneven cut.

Reverse the right and left directions if you are left-handed.

Warning

A rotary cutter is a round razor blade with a handle. Always click the blade cover closed when you set the cutter down, even if you plan to pick it back up again in seconds.

About the Author

Working in sunny Florida, Anne Baley has been writing professionally since 2009. Her home and lifestyle articles have been seen on Coldwell Banker and Gardening Know How. Baley has published a series of books teaching how to live a frugal life with style and panache.