Monthly Archives: July 2017


I've been working on my Tula City Sampler blocks. They have lots of precise cutting and piecing, some finished pieces as small as 1/2" x 1/2". This has led me to think about how I try to piece as precisely and accurately as possible. The first important step is to cut accurately and consistently. Here are some of my tips and tricks that help me with that step.

Give it a Good Press

I'm a pre-washer. I prefer to remove excess chemicals before I work with fabric, and I'd like to give the fabric a chance to do any shrinking, or bleeding, before I cut and sew with it. (Fabric that enters my house -- other than precuts -- gets prewashed before it goes into my stash.) Regardless of whether you pre-wash or not, for accurate cutting it's important that the fabric is nice and flat before cutting. Iron out wrinkles and fold lines. I prefer to use a hot iron with lots of steam. And I keep a small spritz bottle of water nearby for stubborn wrinkles.

Use the Best Tools

Some of choosing what tools work best for you involves trial and error. Here are my favorites:

  • Acrylic Rulers

I love Creative Grids rulers for a variety of reasons. With markings in white and black they are easy to read on light or dark fabric. The non-slip grips are helpful for keeping the ruler in place once pressure is applied. Also the solid lines can be used from one edge to measure 1" increments on the whole inch (1", 2", 3", etc.) and from the other edge to measure 1" increments on the half inch (1 1/2", 2 1/2", 3 1/2", etc.). {TIP: Use the same brand for all your rulers, to eliminate cutting discrepancies due to slight variances across brands.}

The 6 1/2" x 24 1/2" is a great, utility size to start with. I use the 6 1/2" x 6 1/2" and 2 1/2" x 12 1/2" often, for cutting small pieces of fabric or trimming HSTs. I also recommend a large square. The 12 1/2" x 12 1/2" ruler is great for general use and small enough to easily bring along to classes. It's also great for trimming 12" blocks. I bust out my largest square ruler for trimming up quilts before binding.

  • Rotary Cutter

I've tried a variety and my primary rotary cutter is the Olfa 45mm Ergonomic Rotary Cutter. I have small children in my house and like the locking mechanism for when the blade is closed. It has a comfortable squeeze trigger handle (for left- or right-handed use) and the blade retracts when not in use.  {TIP: Be sure to cut at a table or counter than is high enough that you don't have to lean over it and low-enough that you aren't hunching your shoulders while cutting.}

  • Cutting Mat

I suggest buying the largest mat you have a flat surface for. My cutting table is just a smidge larger than the Olfa 24" by 36" mat, so that's the size I have. It is a self-healing mat. This soft surface is preferable for extending the life of your rotary blade. Be sure to keep your mat in a flat, cool location to avoid warping. The Olfa mats are double sided, with grid lines on one side and solid green on the other. {TIP: If you notice fibers accumulating on the mat, especially from cutting batting or fleece, an art gum eraser can be used to remove the fibers.}

  • Ruler Handle

If you have difficulty applying even pressure to your ruler, especially for larger sized rulers, or if you just want to keep your fingers out of the way while cutting, consider a Gypsy Gripper attachable handle. The strong suction cups attach to most smooth rulers that are at least 4" wide. On larger rulers, you attach both ends, but the Gypsy Gripper can also be used on a smaller ruler (like the 6-1/2" square) by attaching just one suction.

Measure with Your Rulers

Whenever possible measure using the ruler, not using the lines on the mat. The reasoning is two-fold. You can use your mat lines to line up the edges of your fabric, but if you avoid always starting at the 0" line, you will not repeatedly cut on the same common measurement lines. For example, if you cut on the 4" line a lot then your mat will weaken at that point and reduce the life of your mat. I also find it more accurate to use ruler measurements. {TIP: When lining up your ruler for cutting, look down from above the ruler to ensure accuracy. If you are standing to the side it can be hard to tell if you are lined up at the proper measurement.}

Move Your Body, Not Your Fabric

This one is a little tricky, but if you can arrange your work space so that you can walk on three sides of your cutting table, you'll be able to walk around to cut from the other side when necessary. For example, after you cut off the right edge of yardage along the right side of your ruler to square up your fabric, leaving the fabric in place and walking around the table to cut your strips will result in more accurate cutting than lifting the fabric to turn it around. Another option would be to stay in place, but rotate your cutting mat on the table. I find this works better when you're using a smaller mat on a larger table.


I hope you find these tips helpful. Please comment below with your best tip or favorite tool for cutting fabric.

I'm linking up to Tips and Tutorials Tuesday.




We're halfway into the Kids Quilt Round Robin, which I'm hosting with Sarah of Berry Barn Designs. We sent off R's animal block to Z and G's sports block to Caitlyn on June 1st. And shortly thereafter R and G received the blocks that they would be adding to in round 2.

R received this adorable treehouse block from A & C (Sarah's kids, ages 8 and 6), sisters who are working together to make their little brother a quilt. The girls asked for blocks featuring tree houses, outdoor play, or trees.

Kids Quilt Round Robin KQRR treehouse block

In planning the block she would create, R initially drew a tree house identical to the one on the first block. It's a fine balance sewing with kids... giving them creative control, but also helping to guide them. Eventually she made some decisions to personalize her block through picking fabrics from her (and my) stash. She mentioned wanting to add a pond and I offered my fish fabric. From their notes she knew that A & C have cats, so R wanted to use some of her cat fabrics. (I did manage to dissuade her from using the 6" tall sushi cats.) R chose two cat prints and picked two playful kittens for the area near the base of the tree and a sleeping cat to put up in the tree. We worked on the "design floor" to layout the quilt block. The final addition was to add a rainbow. I think this was a great solution to the empty space in that section of the block.

Kids Quilt Round Robin KQRR

Kids Quilt Round Robin KQRR

R chose all her fabrics and helped me iron to prepare the fabric. We used Heat n' Bond Lite fusible. I ironed it on and trimmed the fabric per R's specifications and she peeled off the backing paper. Then we worked together to press the fabrics in place.

Kids Quilt Round Robin KQRR

Kids Quilt Round Robin KQRR sewing with mom

She chose all the thread colors. I especially like her choice of the Aurifil Marrakesh variegated thread for stitching on the rainbow. :-) R sat on my lap and "steered" while I worked the pedal of the sewing machine.

Kids Quilt Round Robin KQRR rainbow and cat in tree

Kids Quilt Round Robin KQRR applique detail

Kids Quilt Round Robin KQRR applique detail

I love the personality of her block. She is very proud of her work. And I heard that the girls are very excited about the kittens. :-)

Kids Quilt Round Robin KQRR quilting with kids

Kids Quilt Round Robin KQRR treehouse theme


G received a lovely rainbow block from Hannah (age 5). (Who doesn't love a rainbow!?) She chose a theme of rainbow stripes for her quilt and indicated that brown is her favorite color.

Kids Quilt Round Robin KQRR rainbow block

G quickly and easily pulled fabrics for his block. Since his "rainbow plus brown" included seven colors, and the sections he was making finish at 10" squares, I suggested he not try to have equal width stripes. He worked out the math and provided me a cutting list. I opted for cutting a little larger... I cut all the strips 11" long instead of 10 1/2" and cut the end strips (red and brown) 1/4" wider than they needed to be. This way we had some wiggle room to not end up short on the overall block. I trimmed down each unit before he put the last four sections together for the final block. He used the design wall to keep himself organized as he worked.

G did all his piecing independently, with a minimum of seam ripping. He's working on accurately pinning which really helped him keep the fabrics lined up. Just three pins on the 11" strips seemed to be right.

Kids Quilt Round Robin KQRR quilting with kids

I love the addition of the brown triangles on the corners as it gives the block a pinwheel vibe.

Kids Quilt Round Robin KQRR quilting with kids

Kids Quilt Round Robin KQRR rainbow stripes


You can check out everything going on with the eight quilts in our Kids Quilt Round Robin on Instagram.

Kids Quilt Round Robin KQRR




I'm excited to be back ahead of schedule and these striped blocks go together so quickly!

Here's week nine of the Tula Pink City Sampler quilt along, hosted on Instagram by Angie of Gnome Angel.

See all the blocks I've made on Instagram at #sgq100blocks and check out everyone's blocks at #100days100blocks2017.

Check out my week 10 blocks.