• How To Avoid The Dreaded "V" When Rotary Cutting Strips

    Many quilters struggle with cutting fabric strips across the entire width of 44" fabric. No matter how carefully strips are cut sometimes a crooked place or "V" forms at the part of the strip that is folded during the cut. This problem can also happen to an experienced quilter but is more prevalent with beginning quilters.

    Several factors can cause crooked or inaccurate cutting. Fabric itself is not always woven or printed straight and then it is machine wound on a bolt sometimes stretching one side of the fabric more than the other. When you purchase the fabric at the fabric store it is sometimes cut crooked using shears or torn by the sales associate. Some shops cut fabric with a rotary cutter, mat, and ruler. Even if new fabric is cut with a rotary cutter it does not guarantee that the fabric will be straight when you begin your project.

    When fabric is processed, sizing is added to make the fabric stiffer. Then it is rolled on the bolts and sometimes one side is slightly stretched. When the fabric is cut at the store it has not "relaxed" from the manufacturing process. After the fabric is washed, the sizing is removed and the fabric returns to the way it was after it was made. Because of this the cut edges may seem uneven. Even if the fabric is torn at the store, the crosswise grain may not be exactly straight or perpendicular to the lengthwise grain so you will still need to square the cut edge of new fabric.

    If you pre-wash your fabric, be sure to press it carefully before beginning to cut. Take the fabric out of the dryer before it is completely dry or press using a steam iron or spray mister with water. I recommend washing, drying, and pressing all 100% cotton quilting fabric. Washing fabric removes sizing and you will avoid shrinkage later. Washing fabric is also a good way to check for unstable dyes. If you have not washed your fabric please press out wrinkles that may have formed when transporting your fabric pieces from the store.

    No matter how fabric is cut at the store or whether you washed your fabric or did not wash your fabric, you will find a need to "square the edge" before you cut your strips. With careful folding and cutting the dreaded "V" can be eliminated.

    Fold your fabric in half, lengthwise with the selvage edges together. Line up the selvages having them even. The selvage is the tightly woven edges along the length of the fabric. Do not line up the cut edges. These may or may not be even from being cut the store or from washing.

    When the selvages are even, make another lengthwise fold so that your fabric is folded in fourths lengthwise. Your center fold is now even with the two selvages. The selvages and center fold should be away from you and the second fold will be toward you. Your fabric will now be approximately 11" wide as folded. Place your rotary ruler at the folded edge toward you. Line up one of the horizontal lines on the ruler on the folded edge. Check to see that another horizontal line matches the opposite fold away from you. When everything is lined up to your satisfaction, trim a small amount of fabric off the uneven cut edge to make everything even. This is called "squaring your fabric". Check the small piece that you cut off and make sure the cut is straight before discarding.

    Continue making cuts the width needed for your project. Every two or three strips be sure to recheck your cut. Is it straight? If necessary refold your fabric and cut another small amount off the cut edge. You might have a small amount of waste but you will have straight cuts that don't make "V's". If you do not continue to check your cuts and refold as necessary you will find as you work across your fabric piece your strips will not be straight and will be more likely to have that "dreaded V".

    The same method applies to cutting lengthwise grain cuts for longer borders. For cutting lengthwise grain borders that are 108" long (three yards) -- fold your fabric along the length until it is a manageable size for cutting. Keep the selvages even when folding. Pin if necessary using the flat flower pins. The flat pins will allow you to accurately use the rotary ruler. Just be sure to place the pins where you won't be cutting as a pin could damage your cutting blade.

    Line up two horizontal lines with your ruler and make your first cut -- cutting off the selvage and an additional half inch. Open out the waste strip and check the cut edge. If there is some unevenness in the cut, re-fold and cut another small amount of fabric and check your waste strip again. When you are satisfied that your first cut is accurate, measure your desired width and cut your first border. Check the border piece you just cut and re-fold main fabric if necessary. Continue this method until all four borders are cut. I can usually cut two border pieces before having to refold.

    Remember to always line up the selvage edges and trim the cut edge for a straight cut. Occasionally when I have only a quarter yard cut of fabric that is very skewed, I will line up the cut edges and ignore the selvages -- but this is very seldom as these strips would be cut off grain. Also if you simply line up the cut edges as they come from the store, your strips will be off grain.

    Take a large scrap of fabric and simply practice making cuts. After several cuts you will find you feel more comfortable with folding and squaring fabric. Rotary cutting improves with practice.

    Question:
    I am an amateur quilt block maker. I need to make a twin size Star Quilt. I have avoided triangles and stuck with squares, rectangles and log cabin blocks. I need tips on how to center points. I am nervous but committed.
    Easy And Quick Star Quilts

    There are several easy star blocks available in books or online. Two basic star blocks that are based on a 9-patch grid are Ohio Star and Milky Way. A nine patch grid simply means the block is based on an assembly grid of three squares across and three squares down -- for a total of nine units within the block. Both of these blocks would be available in a basic block book or online. They would be easy to piece for a beginner since they use simple squares and triangles.

    Try My Quickie Nine-Patch Star Block

    Make one practice block to test your cutting and stitching. If your quarter inch seam is accurate your block will be 10 1/2" after stitching (10" finished). Using a ten inch block makes doing the math for your final quilt very easy. With nice even numbers it is almost easy to figure quilt sizes without pencil and paper or a calculator.

    Cutting for one block are as follows

    From star fabric cut 8 squares -- 2 1/2" x 2 1/2" for star points -- with a pencil or fabric marker lightly draw a diagonal line from corner to corner on the wrong side of all eight squares. For star center cut 1 square -- 4 1/2" x 4 1/2"

    From background fabric 4 squares -- 3 1/2" x 3 1/2" and cut 4 rectangles 4 1/2" x 3 1/2"

    Make star point units -- Place two 2 1/2" x 2 1/2" star squares right sides together on two corners of the 4 1/2" side of a background rectangle. Stitch on the diagonal line. Press the star point toward the corner of the rectangle. Trim the underneath star point fabric and background behind the point. Leave a 1/4" seam allowance. Repeat stitching the star points to three remaining rectangles.

    Assemble block with three units across and three units down as follows:

    3 1/2" background square Star Unit (points up) 3 1/2" background square
    Star Unit (points left) 4 1/2" star center square Star Unit (points right)
    3 1/2" background square Star Unit (points down 3 1/2" background square

    These blocks finish at 10". (An unfinished block will measure 10 1/2") These blocks are unique in that the points "float". Floating of points mean the points are farther inside the quarter inch seam allowance and will make stitching the blocks together without cutting off the points.

    Making the quilt

    A standard twin bed is 39" wide and 75" long -- so if you made 35 blocks and set them five blocks wide and seven blocks long you would have a quilt top that is 50" x 70". Simply add a 6" border all the way around and your quilt would be 62" wide by 82"

    A queen bed is 60" x 80". If you made 63 blocks and set them seven blocks wide and nine blocks long you would have a quilt top that is 70" x 90". Simply add a 6" border all the way around and your quilt would be 82" x 102".

    As you can see this star block would make a very simple quilt.
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