• Solving One of The Greatest Rotary Cutting Problems

    One of the greatest rotary cutting problems when cutting strips is having fabric strips bow or shaped like a "V". With careful folding and cutting these problems can be eliminated. This problem can also happen to a very experienced quilter.

    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.

    If you have not washed your fabric, press out wrinkles that may have formed when transporting your fabric pieces from the store.

    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. 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 cut edges may seem uneven. Even if the fabric is torn at the store, the crosswise grain may not be exactly straight and perpendicular to the lengthwise grain.

    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. Continue making cuts as needed for your project. Every two or three strips, recheck to see that your cut is straight and 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".

    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. Line up two horizontal lines with your ruler and make your first cut -- cutting off the selvage and another half- inch. Make your first border cut the width desired. Check your border piece 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. Sometimes I can cut all four without needing to re-fold.

    Remember to always line up the selvage edges and trim the cut edge for a straight cut. Occasionally when I have 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. I hope these pointers will help you cut straighter strips.

    Question: I purchased two 24 x 36 green cutting mats and the petroleum smell is quite strong. Any suggestions on how I can get this smell out of these mats. I know the mat is made of petroleum products but the smell is very offensive.
    To get the petroleum smell out of new cutting mats, try wiping them with a soft cloth moistened in a mild solution of hand dishwashing liquid and warm water or a solution of baking soda in warm water. Then rinse and dry. That might help take away some of the smell and at least leave the perfume of the dishwashing soap.

    The odor may diminish with time if the mats are left where they will receive some air. Don't store them in a closet or a closed container. Mats should be stored flat or hanging on a wall. An optional way to store a mat would be to hang it on a spring clip skirt hanger.

    DO NOT put your cutting mats in a hot car or in the sunlight or they will warp.

    If you have not used your new mats you might want to return them to the store where you purchased them for an exchange for another brand that might me made from different materials. Some brands may retain the plastic smell longer than others do.

    I received a suggestion from one subscriber, Evelyn, that I would like to add to this post:

    The cutting mat with the odor could be wrapped in newspaper and put in a large garbage bag and sealed/closed tight. Place it somewhere flat. Leave it over night or a couple of days. The newspaper will absorb the odor or part of it. I do that with plastic bowls to get food smells out of them. This is an old Tupperware tip. Hope this helps.

    • • •

    How To Store Your Finished Quilts

    The best way to store quilts is flat on a bed in a climate controlled room that doesn't have windows. Heat and humidity are not good for textiles. In reality most of us don't have an extra room for storing our quilts. We are lucky we have a quilting studio to work in. Only museums have the facilities to preserve textiles for posterity.

    Museums store their quilts in climate controlled rooms with a minimum of lighting. The quilts are stored flat or are rolled around a muslin covered cardboard tube and secured with a muslin "pillowcase". If the museum doesn't have a climate controlled room sometimes they have large tubular containers that several tubes of rolled quilts can be stored. The tubes are made to maintain the heat and humidity inside them.

    At home we don't have these facilities available. The best way to store quilts at home would be flat on your guest room bed away from sunlight or direct indoor light. A plain bed sheet could be placed over the top of the pile to protect quilts from light and dust. It would be a good idea to move the quilts occasionally and change the top ones to the bottom and the bottom ones to the top as the weight of the quilts could put pressure on the fabric and batting.

    Another alternative would be to fold each quilt and put it in a separate cotton muslin pillowcase. And store them on shelves. The problem with folding quilts is they need to be refolded every two or three months to keep the fabric from wearing the fibers in the area where there are creases. I don't re-fold my quilts that often and I haven't noticed any damage -- yet -- but I have seen several antique quilts that had been folded and stored for many years and they were tearing at the fold creases. It when the fibers of the fabric are in a "bent" position for a long time the fibers break down and the fabric tears.

    The worst thing you can do is store your quilt in a plastic bag. Quilts are like people, they need to breathe so a cotton muslin pillowcase is best. When buying fabric to make your quilt, plan enough backing fabric so a pillowcase could be made to match the back of quilt. Or you could piece leftover pieces from the quilt top to make a quilt pillowcase. Launder the special pillowcase every time you wash the quilt. That way the fabrics in the pillowcase will fade the same as the quilt top. If you need to mend the quilt top in future years, you will have fabric that will match rather than scrambling around looking for fabric that is no longer available. If you do have some of the same fabric in your stash it would not be used and the colors would be brighter than the fabrics that were in long term use in the quilt.

    Don't put quilts next to unfinished wood because there are acids in the wood that can damage fabric. Stained and finished or painted wood is probably OK but it would still be better to have your quilts in a cotton muslin pillowcase. The acid in the unfinished wood is the reason cedar chests are not recommended. If you do want to put your quilt in a cedar chest be sure to put it in a muslin bag to protect the quilt or line your cedar chest with acid free tissue paper -- or both. If you put your quilts on an open shelf be sure the wood is finished in some way. Remember to keep in mind the amount of sunlight and artificial light is directed at your quilts to reduce light fading.

    If you wish to wrap your quilt in tissue paper, be sure to use acid free paper. Acid free tissue paper is available at quality dry cleaners or from online sources. Cardboard boxes also contain acid and would not be good for your quilts. Also a closed cardboard box would not allow your quilt to breathe.

    Think about the reason you make your quilts. Do you enjoy the process of quilt making or do you make quilts only to enjoy the finished product. If you enjoy the finished quilts you should find a way to display your quilts in your home so they can be enjoyed. If the process of quilt making is what you enjoy the most, many of your quilts will be given away so a storage system is not as important. Quilts made with our modern materials will stand up to regular use and laundering. Fabrics today are colorfast and sturdily woven and will serve you for many years.
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