How to cut multiple small shapes quickly

If you can cut multiple small shapes quickly at the same time, you can really speed up the preparation time for making a quilt. As promised in the post about the new quilt pattern ‘Starstruck’ (here), I’m going to show you today how to cut multiple squares and oblongs for this – or any – quilt.

As always, begin by washing drying and ironing the fabric. (For more on pre-washing fabric, see here.) You need to know that the fibres will not shrink any further once they are in the quilt. This process also gives you a chance to check that all the fabrics are colour-fast and won’t bleed in the future when the quilt is washed. Here is the piece of pre-washed fabric (it’s my design ‘Micro-organisms’ available here).

The quilt needs ninety-six 2⅞” x 2⅞” squares of fabric. Here is how to cut them quickly. A fat quarter of fabric (approximately 21 x 18″) is a good size to use for this cutting method.

Given that there is a ragged edge on the side of this fat quarter of fabric, the first task is to use a long quilter’s ruler to trim off the edge. Cut the right-hand edge (if you are left-handed you will trim the left-hand edge). This ruler, by Omnigrid is 6″ wide by 24″ long – a very useful size. (For more information on choosing a quilter’s ruler, look at the ‘Quilting Rulers Guide’ here.)

Then turn the fabric round and begin to cut the fabric into strips, each 2⅞” x 2⅞” wide, moving the quilter’s ruler across by 2⅞”after each strip is cut.

Cutting a two and seven-eighths inch strip from 'Micro-organisms' fabric by Amanda Jane Textiles, using a quilter's ruler and rotary cutter

Next, trim off the ragged edge at the top of the strips, without moving any of the strips. Please note: I always recommend cutting away from you with the rotary cutter, but this is an exception. Take care!

Then rotate the cutting mat 90 degrees to the left (left-handers: rotate right), without changing the position of any of the strips. Cover all the rows of strips with the quilter’s ruler 2⅞” from the cut edge and cut. It is possible to cut six of these at a time if you are working with a fat quarter.

When the first column of squares has been cut, move them slightly to one side (as seen in the photo below) and set your ruler to 2⅞” from the new cut edge, without moving the position of any of the horizontal strips. Cut again. Continue like this across the fabric until you have enough squares.

The pattern also calls for 3½ x 2½” oblongs of the same fabric. These can be cut using exactly the same method. Here (in the photo below) the 3½” strips have already been cut. Then the mat was turned a quarter turn and the ruler is set at 3½” to cut on repeat across the strips.

This is such a useful way to cut multiple small shapes quickly. It is not wise to try to cut pieces of fabric several layers thick (on top of one another), as the cut is less likely to be accurate. By this method, you can see every shape you are cutting all the time.

Finally, make sure that you have sharp blade in your rotary cutter, so you never have to make more than one pass with the rotary cutter. This also speeds up the cutting.

If you missed the post about the pattern, here is ‘Starstruck’. You can buy it here.

The pattern cover for the new 'Starstruck' pattern from Amanda Jane Textiles

‘Summer Bouquets’ – how to layer up the quilt

The 'Summer Bouquets' quilt on a bed

This post is part of the 2021 Quiltalong. The plan is to complete a double-bed quilt by the end of the year. The fabrics used here are from ‘Summer Bouquets’ collection, available from Spoonflower (here).

The starter post with all the fabric requirements is here. Cutting instructions are here. The first block is here. The second block is here. Making the columns is here. Adding the sashing is here. Adding the internal borders is here. Adding the outer borders is here.

The quilt-top is complete. Now it is time to layer up the quilt.

Preparation of the backing and wadding

You may need to join fabric to get the required width for the backing. Make sure that you remove selvedge edges before joining lengths (they are woven more tightly than the rest of the fabric and will not ‘give’ in the same way as the rest). The backing fabric should be at least 4″ (10cm) bigger on each side than the quilt top.

Your wadding should be at least 3″ (7.5cm) bigger on each side than the quilt top. You may need to join the wadding, too. There is a useful post here to help you.

How to lay up the three quilt layers

1 The first task is to press the quilt top well, using a dry iron (not steam). Ensure that all your seams are lying correctly. Trim off threads to about half an inch (12mm). Do a careful check that there are no stray threads adhering to the back of the quilt top. This quilt using white fabric in some parts – any dark threads would show through!

2 Next press your backing fabric. Find the centre of each side (by gently folding it – without adding any new creases!) and insert a marker pin at right angles to the edge

3 Lay this on the floor, with the right side of the fabric facing downwards. If I am working on a hard floor, I tape each corner to the floor with masking tape and then hold the sides in place with short strips of masking tape. If I am working on a carpeted floor, I insert an extra-large pin (angled like a tent-peg!) into each corner to hold the fabric in place, with additional extra-large pins on the sides. The idea is to hold the backing flat but not to stretch it. This is important. If the backing is stretched, you will get wrinkles when the quilt is finished.

4 Now find the centre of each side of the wadding, by folding and inserting a marker pin as you did before.

5 Lay the wadding on top of the backing fabric so that the pins at top and bottom of the wadding line up with the pins at top and bottom of the backing. Then check that the marker pins on the sides of these two layers are aligned also.

6 Insert a marker pin at the centre of each side of the quilt top, as before, and then lay the quilt top, right side up, on top of the wadding layer. Move it gently until the marker pins on each side are aligned with the wadding and backing pins.

It is much easier to do this with someone else, if you possibly can, when you are dealing with a large quilt.

Joining the three layers

There is a useful post here which outlines the four choices for securing the three layers together so you can do the quilting. The choice is yours!

Next month on the blog (11 October 2021), you will find suggestions on how to quilt the ‘Summer Bouquets’ quilt.

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