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Thread: Cutting large pieces of fabric

  1. #1
    Super Member annesthreads's Avatar
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    Cutting large pieces of fabric

    I'm asking a series of quite basic questions at the moment, just to see what methods and ideas you brilliant quilters come up with. I already have several good new tips.

    So - now I'm faced with a 4 metre (over 4 yards) length of fabric, which I need to cut to use as a backing. I'm feeling wary because I recently had problems after finding that I hadn't had some fabric lined up absolutely straight before I cut into it. Sometimes it's difficult to find a straight line as a starting point to match up on the cutting board if the selvedges aren't straight and the fabric hasn't been cut straight when taken off the bolt. And, of course, it's just difficult to work with a long piece of fabric - folding, lining up, cutting.

    Any hints or tips?

  2. #2
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    ​The only time I rip fabric is when I need to do long borders. I will rip off the width I need down the whole length but with an inch to spare. After ripping I fold it up and trim the ripped edge off. If I need to cut lengths, I always use my large 15 inch square lined up on the fold to prevent V mistakes in the length.

  3. #3
    Senior Member luvstoquilt301's Avatar
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    I just tear larger pieces. BUT you must be sure you have some extra as you will sometimes lose yardage when doing this.
    I don't think I would be successful cutting it perfectly.

  4. #4
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    I think it is important to follow grainlines - because I think a quilt, blanket, sheet, towel, handkerchief - is easier to fold neatly when it is cut on-grain.

    First, I wash and dry the fabric to see what it wants to do "on its own."

    Then I look carefully to see what I have for grain lines on the ends.

    If I have "extra" - I will tear it to get an on-grain edge. Tearing does cause trauma to the ends. Sometimes the damage can extend several inches into the fabric.

    If I have to be careful with what I have available - I will pull a thread - which is tedious - but it does work.

    I do remove the selvages from backing material. Most selvages are more tightly woven than the rest of the fabric - and some of them shrink a lot more than the rest of the fabric. So they get cut off.

    If only a scant amount of fabric is available - then I suppose you will have to "make do" with what you have.

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    I too tear usually but always make sure I have a bit extra and usually the torn part is the extra inches on either side of the backing since I like my backings at least 3 inches larger on all sides.

  6. #6
    Power Poster sewbizgirl's Avatar
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    I always rip large pieces... for backs or for borders. It's fast and it's accurate.
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  7. #7
    Moderator QuiltnNan's Avatar
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    I've become a fan of ripping/tearing lately, too.
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  8. #8
    Super Member Doggramma's Avatar
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    I also rip to get it straight especially for a large piece of backing
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  9. #9
    Super Member Cari-in-Oly's Avatar
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    I don't like to rip fabric, call me weird. For piecing a backing, I just fold it in half and cut it with scissors on the fold line. Since it will be sewn on the selvedge edge, it doesn't matter if the cut is perfectly straight.

    Cari

  10. #10
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    If the fabric is printed, it may be printed off grain. So tearing wouldn't work with those unless it does not matter if the print is on grain too. I learned this the hard way. sigh.
    Penny

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cari-in-Oly View Post
    I don't like to rip fabric, call me weird. For piecing a backing, I just fold it in half and cut it with scissors on the fold line. Since it will be sewn on the selvedge edge, it doesn't matter if the cut is perfectly straight.

    Cari
    I do this also. I was taught to sew a large seam with selvedges attached, then cut off the selvedges.
    Sally

  12. #12
    Power Poster MadQuilter's Avatar
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    I also rip large pieces, then press the ripped edges and trim straight.
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  13. #13
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    I'm a ripper for large pieces as well. Particularly with backing - if you know how it needs to be cut/ripped (that's always my challenge). I've not found extended damage when ripping. I press the edges and then trim as another poster mentioned. I've never had an instance of the fabric being damaged beyond the initial tear which always works out after ironing/pressing.

    If ripping is not for you, I would suggest finding at least close to center of the length of your fabric and fold selvage to selvage. If you see a 'bubble' at the folded edge, wiggle the selvage edges until the bubble disappears. Pin to hold that position. I then lay that section on my cutting table and smooth out to the far edges from there. Eventually the selvage edges with 'wander' and you will have uneven edges but your fabric should be very close to on-grain at that point. Trim edges and go from there.

  14. #14
    Super Member rryder's Avatar
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    I rip my fabric for borders and backs. It's easier and faster than cutting large pieces.

    Since I buy some fabric in multi yard cuts, I also will rip from selvage to selvage (across the grain) when I need a piece and don't want to unfold the whole thing But want to make sure I get a nice straight piece.
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    Power Poster Jingle's Avatar
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    I fold large pieces down to a manageable size. I lay a square ruler on the fold, snuggle my 24" long ruler up to the square and cut. Hard to explain but, I learned this out of a Lynette Jensen quilt book. I am sure youtube will have how to square up fabric or google it.
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  16. #16
    Super Member Peckish's Avatar
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    I'm a folder also. As long as your ruler is perfectly perpendicular to your folds, your cuts will be straight and you won't have any V's.

  17. #17
    Super Member Jeanette Frantz's Avatar
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    Jingle, I much prefer your method. I've found that the threads in the fabric do not always run straight -- I've had some disastrously skewed "rips", so I just don't rely on ripping any more.

  18. #18
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    I've never had a problem with ripping but I have with cutting large pieces so I guess I'm a ripper. I do press the edges after ripping though.

  19. #19
    Super Member EmiliasNana's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cari-in-Oly View Post
    I don't like to rip fabric, call me weird. For piecing a backing, I just fold it in half and cut it with scissors on the fold line. Since it will be sewn on the selvedge edge, it doesn't matter if the cut is perfectly straight.

    Cari
    I do this too. I fold the length (in your case 4 yds) in half so it is now 2 yds. long, and cut on the fold you just created. Open up and sew the selvages together along one side.

  20. #20
    Super Member annesthreads's Avatar
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    Thanks for the replies to my question. I took a deep breath and ripped my fabric, giving myself two smaller, more manageable pieces. Worked well. I'll do that again.

  21. #21
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    I agree to rip, but you may want to wash first. I worked in a fabric store and this what we did with large yardage pieces.
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  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by MadQuilter View Post
    I also rip large pieces, then press the ripped edges and trim straight.
    I also do my large pieces this way, especially borders.

  23. #23
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    I love these questions that you are posing. I like reading the different methods that people use and have gotten many ideas how to do things that have given me difficulties.

  24. #24
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    I'll confess I am a "ripper" too. I like to take an extra wide seam when piecing long lengths of backing fabric (1/2 inch) so don't usually have to trim off the distorted edges. For borders I just make sure to allow an extra 1/4 to 1/2 inch or so in width of torn strips, then I get rid of the first 2 or 3 loose threads on the edges of the strips I've torn. I find good quality fabric is easy to tear and doesn't usually even need trimming.

  25. #25
    Super Member annesthreads's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JanieH View Post
    I love these questions that you are posing. I like reading the different methods that people use and have gotten many ideas how to do things that have given me difficulties.
    Thanks Janie. I've been quilting for years, but it does no harm to revisit all the basics and look for different ways of doing things from time to time! I've picked up some great tips from the replies.

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