Sunday, August 2, 2015

Moda Modern Building Blocks #7 & Rotary Cutting Tips

There's little to say except I'm pushing through the 6" blocks. If I have half an hour to myself I'll hustle to the studio to cut a couple out, and see how far I can get. 

I'm still sticking as close as possible to the color scheme given for each block.

Two or three more good sewing days, and I could have all the missing blocks made. I've run out of wall space, and some blocks are minimally pinned (hanging) in place.

Rotary Cutting Tricks

Rotary cutters hit the market in 1979. I was sewing garments by 1984, but hadn't heard of them. Sometime around 1988 when I picked up quilting, I bought my first rotary cutter and ruler. No one showed me how to use them, and for many years I wasn't cutting efficiently. Here's an old, but simple trick to help you out. I've watched other quilters preparing fabric, and think this very basic technique is worth sharing. This may likely be a method first documented by Marti Michell, but I've seen many other people use it. I've observed my husband use it while making wooden forms for concrete. We quilters can learn a lot from a basic carpentry book. You can find more/similar information on the Marti Michell website under Handy Information and Tips and Tricks if you'd like to read her method. 

Basic Strip Cutting without Moving Your Fabric

Why should you do it this way? Ease and precision. Everytime you move your fabric, you must stop to line it back up. It takes extra time, and causes errors in measurements. Your time is valuable, and this streamlines your cutting process for better accuracy. Faster+Better=Happy Quilters with Stunning Projects

*All instructions refer to the picture following.

Start by squaring up the right side of your fabric by laying your ruler to the left of the edge. You can either use the lines on your mat or those on the ruler for lining up the fold of your fabric. No need to use both, but I've seen it done. Trim the right edge cutting away from you, or from bottom to top.

I needed a 4 1/4" strip x WOF (width of fabric) below. Use a gridded ruler to measure precisely. You can also use any other template at this point to measure the width of the needed strip. Just replace the ruler with whatever template in the width you need.

Holding the first ruler in place, move your second ruler to the left of it. Butt firmly next to the first. If you don't have another ruler, any unmarked straightedge will work. 

Remove the first ruler.

Now cut. It's a basic carpentry skill applied to quilting, but pretty darn amazing if you never saw it done before. Squaring up, borders, and mitring are others to look up. Oh, and in my research on carpentry today I kept finding the advice to buy 20% more wood than the project actually calls for in case it's not perfect. Can we also apply this to fabric?

Other Moda Modern Building Blocks posts you may like:

Come on, Doxie girls.
Let's finish this one up today.


  1. Gosh you sure have powered along with the blocks, the bright colours just have your eyes dancing all over it, look forward to seeing it finished :) Great tip with the cutting but for me it always looks so weird, being a left hander (southpaw) watching right handers slice and dice seems so awkward to me hahahahaha

  2. A couple more rotary cutting tips - if you place the fold of the fabric nearest you, and the selvage edges away at the top, you will get a better cut - no more "v-ish" shaped pieces! I cut my multiple strips a little differently - I square up my ends on the right side, but then I flip the fabric so that the end I just squared is on my left, then use my ruler to measure from the left side. The fabric to the right of the cut remains in place and I can cut strips all the way across my cutting board without moving it again. Oh, and I've heard that you should always measure by the marks on your ruler, not the marks on your cutting mat, because with time, the marks on your cutting mat will be grooved out by your rotary cutter and will become less accurate.

    PS Your blocks are lovely - I can't wait to see this finished quilt!!

  3. Did you know that Marti Michell and Mary Ellen Hopkins pioneered strip cutting with a rotary cutter?? Marti had the cutter, Mary Ellen had the plexiglass strips -- they met, they talked, they had a revelation and the rest is history!!

  4. I've never seen this method of cutting. It's interesting. I like the 20% more rule.

  5. Well, first I'm amazed that the rotary cutter was available in '79. I'd not yet heard of it when I dropped out of quilting in the early 80s. I certainly was delighted to find it when I returned in the late 90s or early aughts. I'll have to give your method a try.

  6. Good post. I like your blog. Keep sharing such a informative post.

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