Measuring Up!

Over the years I have learned how to cut fabric from different sources, all with excellent reasoning for why their method is the best. Whether the fabric is lined up with the mat lines or the ruler lines, there seems to be good reasons for both. The bottom line is being consistent – having a sharp rotary blade, quality tools, and care in cutting for accuracy and personal safety.

There is the school of thought that uses the lines on the mat to line up their fabric and cut the pieces. My issue with this method is that the mats wear out too quickly from using the same popular lines over and over. In addition, some mats have lines up to 1/8″ thick which can throw off some patterns depending upon those 1/8″ measurements for accuracy in piecing. I will admit that it is tempting, especially when cutting strips, but the possibility of getting bowed strips with this method is multiplied because of those little differences in measurement. One alternative to this is to use June Tailor’s Shape Cut or Shape Cut Plus. It is made to cut multiple strips in 1/2 inch increments. A tutorial is available at The small version is readily available at your local JoAnn Fabrics store, but I have only seen the large version in quilt shops. It is most likely available through online shopping as well.

Using the ruler as a guide is my preferred choice as many of the designs I sew need precise cutting. Being off even 1/16″ can cause problems with the finished size of the block as well as trying to sew them together for the quilt top. When I started quilting I used Olfa rulers, but the yellow lines became annoying and difficult to see the measurement I needed. Years ago, a quilt teacher introduced me to Creative Grids rulers and I was sold! The lines are thin and in black and white, which seems to be easier for me to see as I have aged. In addition, the rulers have built-in grips on the bottom, preventing them from sliding as you cut. Creative Grids are only available through quilt shops and they have developed many specialty rulers over the years. After all, a girl can’t have too many rulers, right? The entire line can be viewed at .

Whichever brand you choose, you still must decide which sizes to purchase first. On a limited budget I would opt for the 6 1/2″ X 24 1/2″ to cut strips and segments for most patterns. From there it would be helpful to have a 12 1/2″ square, the most common block size, and perhaps the 6 1/2″ square for smaller units. I might be embarrassed for you to know how many rulers I actually own, but my new favorites are the 2 1/2″ X 12 1/2″ and the 4 1/2″ square. You can find a use for any ruler you buy and get carried away with the possibilities.

There is a wide selection of specialty rulers and templates used for a particular shape or block from Creative Grids and dozens of other retailers. Some of my favorites include the Hex N More and Sidekick by Julie Herman of Jaybird Quilts ( ), the Marti Michell rulers (  ), and almost any of the templates from Missouri Star Quilt Company.

Marti Michell’s cutting methods are different in comparison to others, but definitely deserve attention. She has also developed a cutting plan for the blocks in the book The Farmer’s Wife Sampler Quilt, simplifying the process for making the sampler blocks by cutting all the pieces for ten blocks at a time. That quilt is on my list but I can’t say how soon I will be cutting my teeth on it.  Another one of her ruler sets I absolutely love has templates made especially for 2 1/2″ strips, also known as jelly rolls or Bali pops, making it easy and convenient to cut a variety of shapes for different blocks.

No matter which cutting method you use, remember to be consistent throughout the same quilt and the results will be fabulous!

This week I have some ideas forming in my mind for a couple of new quilts and I am always seeing new things to whet my fabric appetite. My crystal ball tells me some great fabric lines are coming our way over the next three to four months. You can check them out on the Future Pre-Cuts pages at Green Fairy Quilts ( ) and on the Coming Soon pages at The Fat Quarter Shop ( ). I know I will be adding to my collection!



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s