The Beginner’s Guide on How to Cut Fabric

Your newest quilt always looks beautiful in your imagination. The different patterns and colors and shapes and themes come together in a brilliant collage. Even any scraps of fabric left over from previous projects fit well with the whole, along with your new additions. Now, you just have to make the quilt.

The process of realizing your vision can be nerve-wracking for any quilting enthusiast. Naturally, it can feel even tougher for beginners, who may not even know how to cut fabric. We will teach that in this article, and hopefully, that is all you need to make the unreal real.

Must-Haves for Quilt Fabric Cutting

Before you break out any kitchen cutlery and household items, you should know that purpose-built tools can help with cutting quilt fabric. Everything you need is on the list below.

Rotary Cutter

With its swift slicing and easy handling, the rotary cutter is the blade of choice for fabric cutting. When using it, stay safe by cutting away from your body, not towards it. Make a habit of closing it any time you put it down between uses.

Cutting Mat

If you try to cut fabric on your dining room table, you may find unwanted marks and lines on the surface afterward. Cutting mats are designed to take the cuts instead, protecting the surface beneath them. We advise using self-healing mats, which absorb the blade strikes without even a scratch.


If you plan to cut straight, you will need a ruler. We do not mean a regular wooden twelve-incher like kids would use for school. It should be plenty long and made from a clear material, like acrylic. That way, you can see the fabric underneath.


The square is a special type of ruler that forms a 90-degree angle. It is popular for many different trades, from construction to woodwork, as well as for crafts like quilting. Using one of these in addition to a ruler can make the measurement, straightening, and cutting much easier.


A quilt without fabric is just a vision in your head. Make sure to look for high-grade fabrics made from excellent material, like Northcott Stonehenge fabric. Beginners may also want to practice slicing cheaper fabrics before taking their rotary cutter to the ones they want for their design. Layer cakes can help, especially because their square shape makes them easier to measure.

How to Cut Fabric for Quilts

You have all the tools you need. Now you just need to know how to use them together. Let us cut to the chase and show you how to cut fabric for quilts in five simple steps.

Prepare the Fabric

Cutting perfectly straight pieces of fabric is a difficult thing to just eyeball. We recommended using rulers and squares for a reason. Fortunately, most cutting mats can help with this as well. Their visual design includes grids, and quilters can use those lines and squares to set up their fabric.

As you align the material against the mat, the former may start hanging off the table. You can contain it without compromising the process with careful folding. We advise against double-folding. Rotary cutters have a tougher time slashing four layers of cloth, and they are more likely to move under your hands.

Trim the Selvage

Selvage is short for self-finished edge and refers to the bit that borders the fabric. It is there to take any friction damage in place of the rest of the fabric, which becomes safe from fraying while in storage. Now that you are using the fabric, you no longer need the selvage.

Place the ruler on the fabric so only the selvage remains exposed. Take your rotary cutter and slice it away from your body. Repeat the process with each side of the fabric that will see action in this session. We find that rotating the board is more convenient than moving the material around.

Cover the Piece

Fabric can shift from under you as you cut. It often does for beginners who have little experience in putting pressure on the cloth. This can be dangerous for your design: you do not want to accidentally carve into the part of the fabric you want for your quilt.

One excellent practice to prevent mistakes like this is to cover the desired area with the ruler. Unlike with the selvage, you leave the rest of the fabric exposed, rather than the piece you wish to cut. Any shifts will then lead to cuts on that section instead. It may not desirable, but it is at least preferable.

Measure Twice

Before you start cutting, you should know the most common piece of advice given to those learning how to cut fabric. You may have even already heard it by now: measure twice, cut once. This quote is cliché because it speaks to a great truth. You have every opportunity to make measurements, but cuts cannot be undone.

As you straighten the fabric and line up the ruler, take a good hard look at the numbers on the instrument. Once you have done so, take another good hard look to double-check your accuracy. As anyone with quilting experience will tell you, double-checking can save you some trouble.

Move the Ruler

Congratulations! You have now cut a piece of fabric. Now you just have to repeat the whole process for the next strip, and the one after that, and the one after that. With that said, cutting multiple pieces does not have to be a chore — not if you slide the ruler over the fabric’s length.

This practice allows you to cut multiple strips in quick succession. On top of being fast, it is also accurate. You can align the ruler with the previous piece, which should still be on the mat, instead of straightening it all over again. Fast and convenient, this is how to cut the fabric the right way.

High-Quality Fabrics at Hingeley Road Quilt Shop

Now that you know how to cut fabric, you should get some high-quality products to make your dream quilt. Hingeley Road Quilt Shop is home to a staggering selection of excellent fabrics. Whether your vision requires nautically-themed fish fabric or outdoorsy camping/beach fabric, we can help you bring it into reality.

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