The best way to cut fabric is the way you find easiest to achieve accurate results. Cutting fabric can seem simple, but can be the first problem that many of us encounter with any project.
For all projects, other than dressmaking, I cut fabric in strips using a rotary cutter. Most importantly, I carefully fold the fabric before I cut it, folding it to the cutting board’s size.
How to fold fabric for cutting
If your fabric is full width, identify the selvedges and lay them on top of each other. The material will have a fold at one side and the selvedges at the other. The fabric on the board will now be two layers thick. If the folded fabric is still too large for your board, we need to fold it again. In this case, move the fold on top of the selvedge edges, creating a new fold. The fabric will now be four layers thick.
It is crucial to line up the folded edge and the selvedge edges with a horizontal line on the cutting board. If your fabric’s cut edge is untidy, now you can use the vertical lines on the board to cut them straight.
For fabric pieces less than full width, the same principle applies. Fold the fabric to the maximum size, which will fit on the cutting board. Line up the material with the lines on hour board and cut off any uneven edges before you start
Using a ruler and rotary cutter
I like a straight-handled rotary cutter with a 45mm blade. Compared to those with more ergonomic handles, straight handled cutters provide more edge to cut through your fabric bundle. I change my blades regularly as a sharp blade is hundreds of times more comfortable to work with than a dull one.
Once folded, you will need to decide the strip size to cut. For example, for my cushion video class, I was creating a 16″ cushion front and cut a strip of that size. That strip can then be rotated through ninety degrees and cut into sections. I would need a 16″ piece of this strip for my cushion front. This piece would be a 16″ square, and I would need a 23″ section for the back of my cushion where I would be inserting a zip. The back of my cushion would measure 16″ x 23″.
For patchwork, I also use this method of cutting as it is very efficient. It does require a little planning before cutting starts, however with practice, this becomes easier and faster.
When do I use the numbers on the board versus the numbers on my ruler?
I use the ruler to measure for cuts less than my ruler width. As I am right-handed, I flip my fabric to the other side of the ruler. If cutting a 3 ½” strip, the 3 ½” ruler-mark is lined up with the material’s edge.
With practice, this is a speedy way to cut smaller strips. It is useful to note that many good rulers have whole number facing one way and ½” numbers in the opposite. For the ruler below I would use the black numbers to cut my 3 ½” strip as my eye can see them easily. Had the strip been 3″ I would have used the white numbers.
What about dressmaking?
Dressmaking is the only fabric cutting I undertake with scissors. Unless it is a slippery fabric, I will lay the cloth, folded according to the pattern instructions =, pinon the pieces and cut with scissors. If I am using a slippery material, I will cut only one layer at a time.
As with everything – it is easy when your know-how. I hope this has made cutting with a rotary cutter a little easier for you.