Education Sampler Sew-A-Long


Before you start cutting, please watch Power Cutting (Ep. 101) – YouTube.  This is one of the best explanations and demonstrations on how to cut accurate strips I have seen.  Follow the advice and you will be cutting accurate strips like a pro.  Accuracy in cutting and sewing a consistent scant 1/4″ seam is the secret to quilts that fit together just like designed!

The square ruler used in the You Tube video is great, however if you have purchased a rectangular ruler, you can use it in much the same way, lining up the bottom and the top fabric with markings on the ruler with the edge of the ruler along the cut edge.  If those all line up, you have squared the fabric.

Additional Tips:

Here are tips I hope you find will help you as you cut your fabric.

Tip #1

Tip#1: A ruler that extends three or more inches beyond the fabric can be responsible for slipping. Avoid this by placing fabric the same thickness as the fabric you are cutting, under the extended ruler. (see photo below) This will give stability to the ruler and keep it from shifting. No more than one or two inches should extend off the fabric closest to you.

Tip #2

#2: Follow the trick to keeping the ruler stable in Tip #1 if the ruler extends more than one to two inches to your left off the fabric.

Tip #3

Tip #3: I learned the trick of using hand weights on the ruler from Donna Jordan of Jordan Fabrics in Grants Pass, Oregon. I use three-pound hand weights (see photo below) and it has helped me cut accurately from start to finish, even on long cuts. Catch Donna in her quilt videos on Jordan Fabrics.

Tip #4

Tip #4: Do not leave your cutting mat in a hot car and avoid putting it in sunlight to avoid damage. You can repair the warping that results from the hot car and the sunlight exposure. The repair suggestion I would try is covering the warped areas with a pressing cloth and heating the mat, followed by placing heavy objects on the area to reinforce the flattening. It may require redoing if the first press and reinforcement didn’t do it, but it’s worth a try.

Tip #5

Tip #5: Rotary cutter blades should be sharp.  Dull blades can: pull fabric askew when you are cutting; damage a cutting mat due to excess pressure to make a cut; and cause more injuries than sharp blades do. To temporarily sharpen a dull blade, cut through a stack of aluminum foil several times which will sharpen it for a few cuts.  Running over pins will pit the blade, so avoid pins.

Photo: The hand weight is placed on the ruler to keep it from sliding.  Fabric on the left raises the ruler to the height of the fabric being cut.  Both help to avoid a crooked cut.

Preparing to Cut:

Preparing to cut includes labeling sandwich bags for the following measurements: 2 1/2″, 2 1/2″ x 4 1/2″, 3″, 3 1/2″, 4″, 4 1/2″, 5″, 5 1/2″, 2 1/2″ x 5 1/2″.

My cutting instructions presume you will have a 42″ cutting width.  I use fabric efficiently, waste little, and will leave fabric for re-cutting mistakes and/or to use for the back of the quilt, binding, or building your stash! I did increase some of the cut sizes above just a bit to allow for some trimming. I’d much rather trim than rip out seams to adjust to get the right size.

WOF – width of fabric (selvage to selvage) you will see in the cutting instructions.  Selvage is the non-cut edges of the fabric when purchased.

Put all fabric aside except for the piece you are cutting.  When you are comfortable with the rotary cutter, you will be able to combine fabric requiring the same strip width and cut more at a time.  Cutting instructions for this sampler will address each fabric separately.

Identify Fabric by Number

Identify the fabric by number before beginning to cut. I usually put the number on scrap paper and pin it to the yardage. Some people list the numbers on a paper and glue a sample piece by the number for reference.

Put all fabric aside except for the piece you are cutting.  When you are comfortable with the rotary cutter, you will be able to combine fabric requiring the same strip width and cut more at a time.  Cutting instructions for this sampler will address each fabric separately. Cut all pieces for each fabric before moving on to the next fabric. Also, place pieces cut in the corresponding bag before changing fabric number.

Finding the Cutting Directions

You will find the cutting directions at this link . It is going to be lengthy, so I felt it would be better to divide the posts. If any of the cutting instructions don’t look quite right, please let me know right away. I am checking all the numbers twice and having my best friend check the math. She is not a quilter yet, so, she won’t be distracted away from the numbers.

Fabric 1:  1/2 yd dark

Cut – (1) 2 1/2″ WOF strip and (1) 12″ WOF strip

Following what you learned in the Power Cutting video and after squaring up the right side, the first cut is 14 1/2″ (2 1/2 + 12) from the squared edge. On the lined side of the mat you count 14 1/2 vertical lines to your right from the squared edge.  Place the right edge of the ruler on the 14 1/2 line above and below the fabric.  Note, when you are lining up your ruler on a 1/2″ mark on the mat, the 1/2″ mark on the ruler will be on the inch line on the mat.  This is an effective way to check you have correctly placed the ruler before you cut.

Place your weight on the ruler to keep it from moving. Your hand should be spread like a spider on the ruler over the fabric and away from the cutting edge.  You can also stop movement of the ruler by placing your little finger on the fabric just left of the ruler edge.  Make your first cut.  Move your ruler 12″ to the left, cut. The remaining strip should be 2 1/2″ wide.  You now have a 2 1/2″ strip and a 12″ strip.

2 1/2″ Strip: Sub-cut (12) 2 1/2″ sq.; (2) 2 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ rectangles 

Keep strip fabric doubled, make a square cut to remove selvages, turn mat so cut is to your left.  How I cut fabric when width is smaller than the width of the ruler – turn ruler so the length is horizontal with 1 inch to your right.  You will be placing the ruler on the strip lining up any solid line with the top or bottom of the strip.

Place the 15″ line just on the short cut end and line up the ruler on the long edge.  Cut at the right end of the ruler.  Now move ruler to 12 1/2″ and align just on the left end; cut at the right.  You should have two 2 1/2″ square cuts for a total of (4) 2 1/2″ squares because the fabric is doubled.  Continue this same method placing the ruler next at 10″, 7 1/2″ line, 5″ and then 2 1/2″.  This will give you twelve 2 1/2″ squares.  Place in the corresponding bag.

Again, with the ruler in the horizontal position, 4 1/2″ line on the left cut edge, cut at the right end of the ruler, giving you two of the eight 2 1/2 x 4 1/2″ pieces.  (6) will be cut from the larger strip.

12″ Strip: Sub-cut (2) 2 1/2 sq.; (6) 2 1/2″ x 4 1/2″; (11) 3″ sq.; (2) 4 1/2″ sq.; (2) 5″ sq.; (2) 5 1/2″ sq.

Cut off the selvages and open the strip so there is just one layer. WOF will be horizontal.  Sub-cut strips according to instruction and then each sub-cut will be cut again.

From 12″ single layer strip, cut widths with ruler vertical: 5 1/2″, 5″, (3) 3″, 4 1/2″, (3) 2 1/2″.

Cut (2) 5 1/2″ squares from the first sub cut; (2) 5″ squares from next cut; (4) 4″ squares from each of the (3) sub-cut 3″ strips (one square will be extra); (2) 4 1/2″ squares from the 4 1/2″ sub-cut; 2 1/2″ strips need to be cut twice for a total of (6) 2 1/2 x 4 1/2″ pieces. 

Put all pieces in corresponding bags. 

Fabric 2:  1/4 yd med dark

First cut after squaring and turning mat, 8 inches from squared end.  Move ruler 3″ to the left and cut again.  You now have a 3″ strip and a 5″.

3″ strip: (12) 2 7/8″ sq.

Sub cut into total of twelve 3″ squares (Keep fabric double and cut six which yields 12.) Trim each square to 2 7/8″.

5″ strip: (1) 4 7/8″ sq.; (2) 3 1/4″ sq.; (6) 2 1/2″ squares

Opened to one layer:  sub cut one 4 7/8″ square; two 3 1/4′ squares; three 2 1/2″ strips cut into two 2 1/2″ squares each for a total of six 2 1/2″ squares.

Fabric 3:  7/8 yd light

First cut after squaring and turning mat will be at 14 1/4″ from squared edge.  Move ruler to 9″ and make next cut. You have a 5 1/4″ strip and a 9″ strip.

5 1/4″ strip: (4) 2 1/8” x 5 1/4″ rectangles; (10) 2 1/2″ strips; (1) 5 1/4″ sq.

Open to one layer:  four 2 1/8″ cuts; ten 2 1/2″ strips cut into twenty 2 1/2″ squares; one 5 1/4″ square

9″ strip: (14) 2 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ rectangles; (21) 2 7/8″ sq.; (4) 2 1/8″x5 1/4″ rectangles 

Open to one layer:  seven 2 1/2″ strips sub cut to two 2 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ segments for a total of 14; seven 2 7/8″ strips sub cut into twenty-one 2 7/8″ squares; one 5 1/4″ strip sub cut to four 2 1/8″ x 5 1/4″ segments.

Fabric 4:  1/2 yd med light

First cut after squaring and turning mat will be at 11″.  Move ruler to 6″ and make second cut to give you a 5″ strip and a 6″ strip.

5″ strip: (8) 2 1/2″ sq.; (6) 2 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ rectangles; (2) 4 7/8″ sq.; (1) 3 7/8″ sq.

Open to one layer:  four 2 1/2″ strips sub cut to eight 2 1/2″ squares; six 2 1/2″ strips cut at 4 1/2″; two 4 7/8″ strips sub cut to 4 7/8″ square; one 3 7/8″ strip sub cut to 3 7/8″ square.

6″ strip: (3) 5 1/4″ sq.; (4) 2 7/8″ sq.

Open to one layer; three 5 1/4″ strips sub cut to 5 1/4″ squares; two 2 7/8″ strips sub cut into total of four 2 7/8″ squares.


Any questions at all about these cutting directions should be asked before you cut.  Questions left in the comments will be answered within 24 hours.  Be sure all pieces are placed in the bags according to size!