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Friday, April 27, 2012

Sewing Basics: Paper Piecing Series: Cutting Your Fabric

This is a Sewing Basics Series on Paper Piecing. 
You can find all of the posts under the Sewing Basics Tab at the top of my blog. 
 Please let me know if you have any questions or something doesn't make sense!

**My instructions for this series specifically pertain to my pattern Two Stars Squared. The method will be the same for any pattern, though the details may vary.


RS = Right Side of fabric, with the print or design
WS = Wrong Side of fabric
SA = Seam Allowance - this is the amount of space you have between the edge of the fabric and your seam line, or where you sew. All SA in this pattern are 1/4", as in most, if not all, Paper Pieced Patterns.

fabric on the left: wrong side up (WS up)
fabric on the right: right side up (RS up)

Cutting Out Your Fabric

I find my blocks go together faster if I have all my fabric cut out before I start making my blocks. But you certainly don't have to do that. As I've often cut as I went too. Here are two different methods for cutting out your fabric pieces.

The Quick Way:

Place your fabric over the section of your pattern that it will be for.

can you see how my fabric extends past the lines on the pattern piece for the shape in that corner?

When using a fabric print with an obvious right and wrong side: If your pattern piece is facing UP (so the text is on top) TURN YOUR FABRIC OVER so the Right Side is facing down!! Especially if you have a weird shape you are cutting, it will turn out backwards if you don't do this, and will simply become an extra scrap piece. 

Then cut your fabric AT LEAST 3/8" wider than the shape you are cutting. If you are just starting out with paper piecing, the more generous you are with the size you cut, the easier it will be. As you get more practice, you can start trimming it smaller. But I ALWAYS cut it at least 3/8" wider to allow for seam allowance on all sides. You don't want your block falling apart!

this is way more than you need, but especially when starting out, it doesn't hurt to give yourself a lot of wiggle room.


Repeat with all of your pieces.
more examples:

cutting out a big piece with less extra space than my previous example. Try and line up your pattern with the shape of your fabric to help save from weird scrap cuts (i.e. match the corners).

IMG_4622  IMG_4624
It's hard to tell with this fabric, but the print side is facing down.

*Sometimes I do this step as I sew. Especially if I'm doing a scrappy block where I'm using lots of different fabrics. I just cut as I get to the next piece.

The More Efficient Way (with less left over scraps): 

I first saw this idea on Crazy Mom Quilts, so it's definitely not my original idea. I also haven't done it as nice as Amanda Jean, so go check out her post if you want to see her method. 

Print out one extra pattern piece. 

Carefully cut out each shape on the lines.


Lay each piece on the coordinating fabric piece


Just like before, if your fabric is facing right side UP, so you can see the print design. MAKE SURE that your pattern piece is turned over so the print side is facing down!! (MY PICTURE IS THE WRONG WAY). Each piece in this pattern has the number on it so don't worry about not knowing which piece is up or down. If you are using a pattern that isn't numbered or marked, then make a mark on the top of each section before you cut out the pieces.

left pattern piece is facing UP
right pattern piece is facing DOWN
(I like visuals) :)

Cut around each piece AT LEAST 3/8" wider than the pattern piece on ALL sides! You can give it more space if you prefer to have a little more wiggle room! You won't need more than 1/2" wider.

I usually eyeball my cuts and don't always use a ruler for a straight edge. I'm not too OCD about conserving as much fabric as I can, so I give myself more room than not. Though I am starting to cut it close the more I do this. Usually it's still enough though. :) phew.

If you are cutting a lot of the same piece out of the same fabric it is easier to fold your fabric and cut them all at the same time. BUT beware that your fabric will be backwards on every other fold. In this instance, rather than cutting exactly around your shape, cute a general rectangle or square shape around it, with plenty of SA either way the pattern is laying.

pattern on folded fabric

no matter how I flip my pattern piece around it will still fit with enough room to spare.

Save your pattern pieces in a little bag to keep them together, and then you can use them again and again! :)

Pretty basic and easy. But it does take a little time to get all your shapes cut out. HOPEFULLY this will save you some mistakes too - which I have made PLENTY of. My scrap pile has grown by leaps and bounds from all the times I cut out my fabric backwards.
Tomorrow we'll start sewing and finish your block! :)

p.s. Mike mentioned that he didn't have a light table. But he does have a glass coffee table that he could put a light underneath! That would be perfect!! I had once seen a tutorial on Homespun Threads on making a light table, but I couldn't find it. I think you could google how to make one yourself if you are interested. Even a clear or frosted piece of plastic on a wood frame over a light would work great! Hopefully that gives you some more ideas to help you use what you might have lying around. :) Thanks Mike!



  1. This is really helpful to know. I've never done an actual pattern using either method. Great tips =D

  2. This is great! cutting the fabric is the hardest part for me, for some reason trying to eyeball the piece through the pattern holding it up to a light and making sure I'm not backwards is WAY too much for my mind to wrap around sometimes, lol. I have never thought to cut out the pattern like that, I'll definitely be trying that next time. Thanks for the tips!

  3. I'm following, but not doing anything yet. Looking forward to the next installment :)


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