So you want to learn to quilt : part 2 : cutting your fabric

Beginner Quilt Series: cutting your fabricHappy Friday! Its our second week of the Beginner Quilt Series, and I’m excited to show you how to cut your fabric today. If you haven’t picked up a kit and would like to, its not too late, but there are only a few left, so pick one up while you have a chance! You can find them here, here, and here. Or you can just read Part 1 of our series to read all about the tools and materials you need if you want to join us. This is the quilt we will be making, and these are the very fabrics I’ll be using for my posts. ochre pixelated quilt kit

note: If you would like to see this tutorial in video format, we will be doing that on Facebook LIVE this afternoon. The plan is to start a 6pm EST. You can go to our Facebook Page and Like and Follow to get notified of new videos! Beginner Quilt Series : cutting your fabricSo! Today we will need those tools I mentioned to you last week- a rotary cutter, self healing cutting mat, and sturdy acrylic ruler (not a school ruler!) If you haven’t picked up a kit or would like to use your own fabric, you’ll need the following for a 40″ square quilt (perfect size if you are new to quilting!):

  • 1/4 of a 1/4 yard for the center square
  • 1/4 yard for the first ring around the center
  • 1/2 yard for the second ring around the center
  • 1 yard for the corners
  • 1 1/4 yard for backing (you won’t need this now)
  • 1/2 yard for binding (you won’t need this now)

Alright! Before we start cutting, I want to give you a few tips about using a rotary cutter. Its essential that you use this tool carefully and partner it with the ruler and mat so you can keep your fingers intact!

  • Always keep your rotary cutter closed (with the guard up) if you are not using it to cut. Even between cutting, keep that guard up, because if the cutter falls off the table or you hit it with your hand, that blade will cut pretty deep.
  • Always cut in the same direction. You will see me cut on my right side, never on the left or on top or underneath. Rotate your mat or move around your table so you are always cutting on the side of your dominant hand. This will keep you from slipping and jumping your ruler or making an inaccurate cut.
  • Only use your rotary cutter for fabric. If you use your cutter for paper or other materials, it will swiftly dull or the blade, and you’ll have to change it out often. This same rule applies for scissors you may designate for sewing- they will instantly dull if they are used for paper, so keep them sharp, and maybe attach a little key fob so you and your loved ones know they are only meant for fabric.
  • Never use your cutter on a surface other than your mat. You’ll tear up your floor or table if you try to use it on a surface other than the self healing mat.

Beginner Quilt Series : cutting your fabric

one more note before we cut: I never prewash Liberty fabric or standard quilting cotton. I have written a post all about using Liberty fabrics, which is the lightweight, high thread count lawn that is included in all the kits that are available. If you are using something like linen or flannel or a screen printed fabric, you’ll probably want to wash and dry those before you use them so they are preshrunk. This is something that is entirely up to you, and I wanted to inform you about. I personally only prewash flannels and things I know will shrink a lot. Under no circumstance do I ever prewash Liberty lawn. It is so much easier to work with the way that it comes, and it doesn’t shrink. 

Let’s go ahead and cut our center square from the smallest cut of fabric. You don’t need to use the guides on the cutting mat right now, just make sure your fabric fits onto your mat. Use your ruler to cut two sides at 8.5″. Remember to keep your rotary cutter on the side of your dominant hand, and ensure that blade is right up against your ruler as you cut. You do not need to press hard if you have a nice, fresh blade on your cutter.

Then you can rotate your mat and line up your 8.5″ marks on the two sides you just cut, and cut the remaining two sides so you have a perfect 8.5″ square. I only had to cut two sides to get my square since my fabric was already nice and square on two sides. Beginner Quilt Series : cutting your fabricBeginner Quilt Series : cutting your fabricBeginner Quilt Series : cutting your fabric

You’ve cut your first square! Set this aside and grab the fabric that will form that first “ring” around your center square. If you have a kit, this will be your 1/4 yard cut. From this fabric, you will cut 4 8.5″ squares. This fabric should be in a strip if you ordered a kit. Keep it folded in half, so that you are working with two layers. Align your fabric so that you have at least 17″ of fabric on your mat.Beginner Quilt Series : cutting your fabric

First, we are going to trim off the edge of the fabric so we are working with a straight edge. To do this, you can align your ruler with a straight line on your mat, and trim off your selvedge edge (the fluffy or labeled edge of the fabric). Beginner Quilt Series : cutting your fabric

Now we are going to line up our ruler on the long side of the fabric and trim off the uneven edge along 17″ of the fabric. Again, we are making sure we have a nice, even square edge. Beginner Quilt Series : cutting your fabric

Now use those straight edges to line up your ruler to cut out 8.5″ squares, which you will be able to cut out two at a time since the fabric is folded over. Trim off any excess on the opposite two sides so that you have 8.5″ squares. Beginner Quilt Series : cutting your fabric

Repeat your 8.5″ square cut to get two more squares.Beginner Quilt Series : cutting your fabric

You should now have 4 8.5″ squares. Set them aside with the center square.

Now we will cut the second “ring” of squares. From this fabric, we will be cutting 8 8.5″ squares. We will do this in much the same way we cut the second fabrics, we are just using a little more fabric to begin with. Beginner Quilt Series : cutting your fabric

Go ahead and line up the selvedge edge of your fabric, and trim off that portion. You can do that along the whole 1/2 yard. Remember to keep it folded so you only have to do half the cutting.

Now cut off a 17″x8.5″ rectangle.Beginner Quilt Series : cutting your fabricBeginner Quilt Series : cutting your fabric

Cut it in half so you will have a total of 4 8.5″ squares.Beginner Quilt Series : cutting your fabric

Repeat those two steps to get four more 8.5″ squares.Beginner Quilt Series: cutting your fabric

We’ve cut 8 more squares! Time to grab that last fabric. We will be cutting 12 8.5″ squares from this last fabric.

Again, keep your fabric folded in half and cut off that selvedge edge. Cut off a 17″x8.5″ rectangle, then cut it in half into two 8.5″ sections. This will yield 4 8.5″ squares. Beginner Quilt Series: cutting your fabricBeginner Quilt Series: cutting your fabric

Alright! That’s all there is to it. You should have a total of 25 8.5″ squares.Beginner Quilt Series: cutting your fabric

We will sew them together next Friday, when we meet back here for Part 3 of our series! If you are just now joining us, it is certainly not too late. These tutorials will stay up on my blog, and even the videos on Facebook will remain accessible. If you have any questions, leave me a comment below, and I would be happy to help. Chances are, if you have a question, someone else has the same one!

Happy cutting!


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Welcome to Olivia Jane Handcrafted! I'm Meredith and this is my creative journal. Here you'll find loads of inspiration for a handmade wardrobe, home decor, bags, and quilts. I even have plenty of projects and tutorials to get you started or help you along the way.

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