Welcome back to the Winter Star Quilt Along! It’s Week 2 of the Winter Star QAL and we’re focusing on fabric cutting!
Last week you made the big decision of going with either the fat quarter-friendly or 8-colourway option for your fabric pull. There’s no right or wrong here, just what feels right to you and gets you excited to start cutting! Which is this week’s assignment 😉
But before you can dive into cutting up your textiles, we need to consider the prep work!
This can be as entailed or as low-key as you’d like. What I always love to do is share some insight on the pros and cons of each approach so you can make the most informed quilty decisions possible.
So, what are your pre-preparation options? I’m glad you asked!
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To pre-wash or not to pre-wash your fabric
There’s no escaping this age-old debate of whether to pre-wash your fabric for a quilted project or not. I say it depends! Here are some questions you can ask yourself to see whether pre-washing is the direction to go in.
What cut of fabric are you working with?
I used to pre-wash all my fabric until I started working with pre-cuts. In case pre-cuts are new to you, it simply means fabric that has already been pre-cut to a predetermined size. Think fat quarters, fat eights, charm packs, jelly rolls, and layer cakes!
The reason I don’t pre-wash my pre-cuts is because they tend to unravel and fray like crazy in the wash. I could avoid some of that fraying by hand washing, but that would add quite a bit of time to my pre-preparation quilty game and I’m not really into that – ha! You could opt to add a stay stitch around the entire perimeter of your pre-cut fabric which would help limit the fray factor, but again, that requires time and thread.
What type of fabric substrate are you stitching with?
Wondering what I mean when I say, ‘fabric substrate’? That’s just a fancy way of saying the type of fabric: cotton, lawn, linen, polyester, rayon, canvas, denim, etc.
Why does this matter?
Well, some fibers shrink at different rates in the wash, if you’re combining different fabric substrates in one quilt then by pre-washing them, you’ll help prevent seams from popping open and uneven shrinkage in your quilt top.
Just keep in mind that if you love that quilty crinkle effect, then pre-washing will result in less crinkle action.
What colour fabrics are you working with?
Some colours tend to bleed more than others – I’m looking at you navy and red! But any colour can bleed depending on how it’s been treated during the manufacturing process. When in doubt, do a test! Super simple to do, dunk a scrap of your fabric in a basin of cold water and see what happens! If the water is no longer clear, then you know you’ve got some bleeding to tend to.
Pre-washing will help limit the bleeding factor. It’s a lot easier to combat colours running when you’re dealing with individual fabrics vs. after they’re all stitched together in your quilt. Having colours bleed in the wash is one thing, it’s another to take your quilt that you’ve spent hours piecing and quilting together out of the wash only to discover a purple has made its way onto your pristine white blocks – bleurgh. When in doubt, these sheets are your friend!
If you’re up for that extra work, then by all means go for it! You’ll have peace of mind knowing that your pre-laundered textiles will be pre-shrunk and colour fast.
How important is precision to you?
Depending on your level of tolerance for imperfections, you may want to consider starching your fabric.
I don’t starch my fabric.
The furthest I will go is to use a little of this natural non-starch alternative, which helps me deal with stubborn wrinkles and creases in my fabric – namely that hard central crease from the fabric being folded and wrapped around a bolt.
Spray starch will give your fabric body and structure and ‘crisp’ it up to make it easier to handle. It limits the amount of stretching and helps keep the integrity of your fibers. Since starched fabric tends to stretch less, your blocks are more likely to maintain their shape, helping you achieve precision piecing.
The thing with starching your fabric is that it requires a little planning as you need to plan for the drying time.
Just a word of caution, I’ve heard that starched fabric has a tendency of attracting bugs if it’s left in your projects for too long. It’s not usually a problem after starched fabric has been laundered, but if you think your quilt will stay as a work in progress for a little while, I recommend forgoing the starch.
The importance of pressing your fabric
Now that you know the ins and outs of your pre-washing options, let’s now turn to the fun of cutting!
Regardless of whether you decide to pre-wash and/or starch or not, you’ll still need to press your fabric before cutting them up. Read all about the difference between pressing and ironing here.
Cutting out your Winter Star quilt pieces
Once your fabric is nicely pressed, you can move on to the cutting!
What tools you’ll need to cut your fabric
Having a proper cutting set-up will make cutting your fabric so much more enjoyable. You don’t need anything super fancy, but a few key tools and notions will make this step easier and more accurate for you.
First up is having a self-healing cutting mat. The first one I ever bought fell apart on me pretty quickly after I got it. The self-healing was no longer self-healing in the spots that I tended to cut in often. The center of the cutting mat was super worn out and I developed huge grooves in my mat, which meant my rotary cutter could get stuck in this ‘dip’ and result in wonky cuts. I’ve since replaced it with this one and I’m happy to report it’s held up way better than the other. It’s now starting to show its age, but since it’s reversible I can extend the life of this purchase for another year or two – winning!
You can’t get much cutting done without a rotary cutter! This nifty tool gives you so much precision and makes cutting your fabric quick and easy. Just be mindful of closing your blade when you’re not using it as those suckers are sharp! Trust me, I’ve cut myself a few times and it’s amazing how just a little nick results in lots of bloodshed.
The other thing to keep in mind is a fresh sharp blade is safer than a dull one. Why? Because a sharp blade will cut seamlessly through the fibers without requiring much pressure from your hand. This means less fatigue and less tendency for the blade to skip fibers or go off track.
There’s a plethora of rotary cutters available on the market for you to choose from. I’ve used several of them and can say they all get the job done, it just comes down to which feels best in your hand.
For this project, I’ve used a combination of this rotary cutter with these blades.
Depending on whether you’re working with fat quarters or yardage, here’re the rulers you should have on hand:
12.5” x 12.5” square ruler – this is a must in my quilty toolbox and gets used on the regular. It’s perfect for cutting up your FQs, as well as any sub-cutting that’s required. You could get away with just using this one for the entire quilt.
8.5” x 24” rectangular ruler – this ruler was a game-changer for me when it comes to cutting up yardage. It takes the guesswork out of the equation and gives you nice long beautiful straight cuts. If you’re working with yardage, I highly recommend picking one up.
6” x 12” rectangular ruler – this is my go-to for sub-cutting my fabric. Once I’ve cut my width of fabric (WOF) strips, I then use this ruler to cut my blocks down to size. For anything that might be larger than 6”, I use my square ruler to tackle those.
You don’t need a bunch of different rulers; these 3 rulers see me through 98% of my cutting sessions.
TIP – Remember to take lots of breaks while cutting your fabric for the Winter Star Quilt. Your body will thank you!
To make the same version as shown in the Winter Star Quilt pattern (and the one I’ll be making) you can find the exact kit featuring the same AGF Pure Solids in this exclusive quilt kit from Sew Curated.
How to cut your fabric
You’ll notice that the first step in the Winter Star Quilt pattern is to cut up all your fabric. I like to set myself up where I have my iron and ironing board ready to go next to my cutting mat so that I can press my Colour 1 and then cut the freshly pressed fabric.
I always start by getting a nice clean edge. To do this, you want to fold your fabric in half with selvedge edges meeting. Line the fold along a line on your cutting mat. Then use that horizontal baseline and perpendicular line to cut a nice straight edge. This will help keep your blocks square.
Once you have a clean edge, you can start cutting WOF strips (or With of Fat Quarter (WOFQ) strips and then sub-cutting into the required block sizes. Always start by cutting your largest pieces first, followed by your smaller cuts. For the Winter Star quilt, this typically means cutting out your A, B, and C pieces followed by your D, E, G, H, and F pieces.
Refer to the fabric cutting diagrams to help you visualize the cutting plan and to help reduce cutting mistakes (we’ve all been there)! This will make it super efficient to cut everything up and will maximize your fabric too so you’re not cutting into it willy nilly 😉
Use the block labels to stay organized
Once your pieces are cut, use the block labels included in the Winter Star quilt pattern to help you keep track of which cuts are for which quilt pattern piece. Then add a checkmark in the ‘track your progress’ checkboxes in the pattern so you know which colours you’ve already cut.
Keep it together
Stack your cut and labeled pieces piled on a plate or tray to help keep all your Winter Star quilt pieces corralled together. This will make it easy for you to locate the specific pieces you’ll need at each step of the quilt-piecing journey.
Once you’ve got all your fabric pieces cut, stand back, and admire your work. There’s something super satisfying about seeing all your freshly cut quilt pieces nicely stacked and ready for piecing action!
Don’t forget to snap a picture and share it on Instagram by tagging it #WinterStarQAL to be entered into this week’s giveaway (see all the details on how to enter below).
There’s nothing quite like having a gift card to a fabric shop to get you motivated 😉 Which is why I’ve teamed up with The Monkland Quilt Studio, a local fabric store, to bring you the chance to win a $50 CAD gift card!
To enter the giveaway, you must:
- Be following @monklandquiltstudio and @shannonfraserdesigns on Instagram.
- Post a photo on Instagram of your Winter Star quilt pieces cut between October 10, 2022, and October 16, 20202, at 11:59 pm EDT.
- Instagram account must be public.
- Tag @monklandquiltstudio and @shannonfraserdesigns
- Include the hashtags #WinterStarQuilt #WinterStarQAL
Week 2 giveaway is open internationally.
Take your time, turn on some music and settle in for a relaxed pressing session before diving into the Week 2 Winter Star Quilt Along fabric cutting assignment.
Happy fabric pressing and cutting!
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