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The Basics of Rotary Cutting and Piecing
by Mary Asper, Green Mountain Designs
As previously published in the Green Mountain Designs E-mail Newsletter.
Many of our subscribers are brand spankin' new quilters, and have written asking questions about how to get started. This issue, I've chosen to devote the Tips and Techniques space to them. If you are more experienced, never fear -- there will be something for you in future issues. And you never know -- you might learn something.
The advent of rotary cutting literally turned the quilting world on its ear. What was once a laborious task of cutting patches is now fast and accurate. While there isn't space to tell you EVERYTHING there is to know, here are some of the basics!
1. Choose a rotary cutter that fits your hand well, and that requires minimum effort to cut through at least six layers of fabric.
2. Use a cutter appropriate to the task. The very small ones are meant for cutting around templates, while the larger ones are for cutting strips, squares, triangles, etc.
3. Always hold the cutter as you would a pizza cutter, with your index finger on top of the handle as a guide.
4. NEVER cut toward yourself!
5. If you are right handed, place the ruler under your left hand and use your right hand to roll the cutter along the right edge of the ruler. If you are left handed, reverse the process!
6. I like to arrange my fabric so that all my cuts are vertical -- from the bottom edge of the fabric to the top.
7. Choose a ruler with clear markings -- ones that are easy for YOU to see. It is best to have 1/8 inch markings. I find the easiest to use are those with dual color markings, so you can easily see the lines on both light and dark fabrics.
8. You probably need an assortment of rulers. I mostly use a 6 x 12, 6 x 24, 6 inch square, 12 inch square and half/square triangle.
9. Little sandpaper dots attached to the back of your ruler will help it grip the fabric and stay in place.
10. Template handles -- intended to help place and pick up plastic templates -- make great handles for rulers, also.
11. While cutting mats with grids are great for measuring, they should not be used as a guide for cutting. Very rarely do the ruler measurements and mat measurements match exactly. Instead, lay the line of the ruler even with the raw edge of your fabric to measure your cut.
12. When making long cuts, place your non-cutting hand at the bottom of the ruler with the fingertips pressing the ruler and the palm curved up. Cut from the bottom edge to halfway up the ruler. Carefully remove your non-cutting hand, replacing it near the top of the ruler, and finish your cut.
For a simple rotary-cutting and piecing project, try some little 4-patches! These instructions make 5 inch finished blocks, so plan how many you need to make a little doll quilt, wall quilt or even something bigger!
1) Cut an assortment of light and dark fabrics into strips that are 3 inches tall by the width of the fabric.
2) Stitch light strips to dark strips, Right Sides together, using a 1/4 inch seam allowance. (To insure the accuracy of your seam allowance, place a ruler under your sewing machine needle. Bring the needle down at the 1/4 inch line. Use a permanent marker, heavy tape or other device to mark the outside edge of the ruler, 1/4 inch away from the needle. There are many other methods and tools for doing this -- but this is simple!)
3) Press seam to one side.
4) Cut the new Light/Dark strip apart into 3 inch segments. Now you have a bunch of little patches that are 5 and 1/2 inches wide by 3 inches tall.
5) Sew these segments together in this manner:
L D OR D L
D L L D
As you sew them together, finger-press each seam allowance so it goes in the opposite direction (e.g. the top s. a. is pressed to the left; the bottom one to the right). This makes accurate seam intersections. Again use a 1/4 inch seam allowance.
6) Now cut an assortment of fabrics into strips that are 5 inches tall by the width of the fabric. Cut these strips apart into 5 inch squares.
7) Assemble rows in this manner:
4-Patch 1-Fabric Patch 4-Patch 1-Fabric Patch 4-Patch Row 1
1-Fabric Patch 4-Patch 1-Fabric Patch 4-Patch 1-Fabric Patch Row 2
Row 3 - same as Row 1
Row 4 - same as Row 2 and so on 'till the quilt is the size you want it.
8) Sew the rows together, opposing the seam allowances as before, and you have a great little quilt top!
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