Tips and Tools – Backwards is Better

Tips and Tools – Backwards is Better

Posted on October 31, 2017 by lookoutmountainquilter

Let’s face it, cutting fabric is a time consuming, tedious, and yet necessary job. Now, I know that there are numerous precuts on the market in various shapes and sizes, but, sometimes those just won’t work for the pattern I’ve chosen. I have to do the cutting myself. To save time and fabric, I cut backwards.

Yes, I said “backwards”. Let me explain.

Early on, we learn to do things in order. Here in America, we read from left to right. We work mathematical problems on a page from left to right, top to bottom.

I applied this same order for cutting fabrics for quilts. I’d line up the fabric with the fold closest to me and the selvedge edges farthest from me, and the bulk of the length to my right. Then, I’d line up my acrylic ruler on the left of the fabric, make a cut. Remove the cut strip. Line up the ruler for the next cut, and so on, and so forth. You get the idea.

As I would make my way across the fabric, I noticed that the fabric to the right of my ruler had sometimes shifted up with the cut of the rotary blade causing the left edge of the fabric to be at a slightly off angle. Then I’d need to line up the bottom fold with my mat, and trim the left edge straight again. Yes, it’s just a smidgeon of time and a smidgeon of fabric, but, over the course of the project, it can add up to amounts that I just don’t want to waste.

Sooooooo, I’ve learned to cut backwards. Now, by “backwards”, I mean cut in the opposite order that I normally would. The cut that I would normally make last, gets cut first.

For example: The project I’m working on calls for cutting 4 strips 4 1/2″ wide by Width Of Fabric (WOF). So, I aligned my fabric as usual with the fold closest to me, the selvedges away from me, and the bulk of the length to my right. I use the measurement marks on my mat for cutting multiple strips. The marks I will use are 4 1/2, 9, 13 1/2, and 18.

I begin by lining up the ruler on the 18″ mark. By doing that, the pressure of my hand on the ruler keeps the uncut fabric from shifting as my rotary blade moves along the ruler’s edge. I make my cut, and if the fabric to the right shifts slightly, it doesn’t matter. The fabric to the left under my ruler has stayed perfectly in place.

I, then, move my ruler to the left and line it up at the 13 1/2″ mark, make a cut, move the ruler to the 9″ mark, cut, move to the 4 1/2″ mark, cut, then trim the left edge at zero.


Through all of these cuts, my fabric has not shifted out of alignment.

I use the same procedure when sub-cutting these strips into 4 1/2″ squares.

I stack two strips, then align them with the folded ends on my right, the selvedges on my left (past zero) and the long cut edges horizontally. Again, I make cuts at 18, 13 1/2, 9, 4 1/2, and zero.

I can cut two strip stacks at a time and since they are held under the ruler, they don’t shift.

See how the two sections on the right of each strip stack has shifted slightly up? Yet the strips I am about to cut have stayed lined up on the horizontal lines of the mat assuring that when I cut them they will be square.

Again, notice the slight shift of the cut fabric while the section that I’m about to cut is straight.

If I had started cutting on the left, like I used to, each cut would shift the fabric strips slightly higher and higher, forcing me to stop and realign them before continuing. Cutting “backwards” has saved me a lot of time and fabric.

More time. More fabric.

It all adds up to more quilts! That’s always a good thing!

Give this way of cutting a try and see how much time it saves you!

Happy sewing!


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