Saturday, January 24, 2015

cutting edge

aren't all the itty bitty chained pieced bits of my "kitty in the corner" (my modernized name for "puss in the corner" block) just darling? it's like a mini bunting this way and may have inspired a project idea. but in the meantime i am once again full speed ahead on the gypsy wife quilt. i've been tackling lots of the intricate main blocks, one at a time, and doing so much cutting. which has inspired me to talk about my cutting tools, some of which are recent acquisitions.

most quilt teachers or books for beginners will tell you that you only need a few quilt rulers to get by. and this is very true. i did just fine with a 6"x24", 9.5"sq, and 12.5" sq ruler for my first several quilts. these are enough for squaring off fabric, cutting strips, trimming blocks. they're quite versatile. you can even successfully cut triangles with those rulers.

but over time i found myself thinking a few other sizes would be more manageable for different jobs. so whenever i had a coupon or rulers went on sale, i would pick up one that seemed handy. when discounted, they are only a few dollars each. given enough sales and enough time, i've amassed a good pile of rulers.

when it comes to square rulers, which are fantastic for trimming blocks precisely or fussy cutting certain sizes of fabric, i now have each graduated size, by the 1/2", from 2.5" to 6.5", minus the 3", which was out of stock at the last sale. (but two of the 4" because they both came with some sets i bought. i suppose i have a spare. one for upstairs and one for down?)

the 2.5"sq came with a mini cutting mat i bought for travel purposes. at the time i thought it was too ridiculously small to use but have since been proven wrong. even that tiny fella gets a turn at the mat periodically. like when i'm trimming up mini hsts.

my gypsy wife quilt, which features a great variety of block sizes, is the type of project that makes all these different rulers quite handy. i'm continually needing to either fussy cut or trim up blocks. so i find myself frequently reaching for those square rulers.

my rotary cutter is a gingher i got on sale from joann crafts. i love my gingher shears and snips, and i thought it looked really nice, so i picked this instead of an olfa when i started quilting. they routinely go on sale and so do the replacement blades. for my cutting surface i have a 36"x24" fiskars self-healing mat. i really like the soft green color (it's butter yellow on the other side). i find it to be very accurately marked and no longer use two rulers for squaring up or cutting strips. rather, i use the mat-and-ruler method.

my cutting area lies at the end of the table so i can work off the three edges easily, which is quite helpful when cutting as it allows me to move myself rather than the fabric or block at least half the time. however, the fabric inevitably has to be moved at some point. here enters the genius called "rotating cutting mat." i had heard of these wonders a time or two but didn't think they were for me. until i was elbow deep in gypsy's blocks and always having to shift everything. so i looked on amazon and found the olfa 17" rotating self-healing rotary cutting mat. there are smaller mats, too, but i had the space so i wanted as much rotating space as possible. i can see how it would be convenient to cut small blocks on a smaller mat, but i'm good with this one.

there is the black under-mat, which stays put, and the top green cutting surface rotates a full 360 degrees in either direction for cutting. its perfectly smooth and wonderfully flat.  just look at the following photos to see it move.

spinning to the right

and all the way back around again
i was a little skeptical of just how useful this might be but i can sing it's praises now that i've given it a go a few dozen times. i'm certain my trimming accuracy has increased and it definitely saves me time. i'm doing a ton of trimming for the gypsy wife as i am working on my accuracy with all the points involved.  each block is a mini project and i trim most every bit accordingly.

one nice thing i just discovered is that since the diagonal of this mat measure 24" across, i can still trim strips longer than 17" if i just put the fabric on the diagonal. very handy. otherwise i have to move the rotating mat off the big one. maybe someday i'll have a dedicated sewing room with both these mats in their own spaces.

as for my other rulers, i have two 6"x24", a 3.5"x24", and a 3"x18"rectangles. the two long ones are for squaring up fabric, making large cuts, and trimming quilts. the long skinny one is for when i am making skinny but long cuts and don't want to deal with the width of the wider one. like when i am cutting strips. and the short skinny one is for shorter strips or smaller cuts when i don't want all the length of the other two. this mostly goes by feel. if i find i have too much width or too much length for what i'm cutting i'll switch to another ruler. i store these on a recipe book stand.

the stand is also good for holding up quilting books or patterns i'm working from and it houses my quilting notebook, which is for keeping track of projects, working out maths, and sketching out ideas.

then there are the triangle rulers! you can definitely cut triangles without special rulers, but i've found it simpler to use them for cutting rather than trying to use the lines on the straight rulers. also, the fons and porter rulers have some of your math already worked out for you right on the ruler. i have been using the 60degree pyramid ruler for my indian blanket quilt and epp cutting. i liked it so much i picked up the flying geese ruler at the last sale. i've heard it highly recommended by others, too.

so that's the scoop on my cutting gear.
i used to despise cutting when i first began quilting. it was one of the most difficult parts for me. but over time, with practice, i've gotten better at it and actually enjoy it in doses now. having a variety of tools on hand to help makes it that much easier and more enjoyable for me.

happy cutting and sewing all!

***i should probably put some sort of disclaimer on here that no one asked or paid me to say any of this, that i purchased all these tools myself for my own use. i'm just sharing what i use and why i like it.


  1. I really enjoy the cutting process of sewing and quilting! I just started purchasing more sizes of rulers, myself, too. Definitely a good investment.

    Cookbook stand for rulers and pattern books...duh! I'm going to borrow that idea!

  2. Great idea to use a cookbook stand! I love my assortment of rulers too.

  3. thanks for the great tips.Happy sewing week!!

  4. what a great selection of rulers, and it's fun to see why they can be useful. Nice to see you working on your gypsy wife again too :-)


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