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Cutting Narrow Strips, Accurately

By Addy Harkavy, Pinetree Quiltworks.

Traditionally, right-handed quilters square up fabric with the ruler to the left and slice off a small amount of fabric at the right. Then they turn the fabric so the squared-off edge is at the left and align their 6"rotary rulers from the left and cut along the right side of the ruler. Think about this in reverse if you are left handed.

This system works really well for relatively wide strips. For narrow strips, however, the part of the ruler that has no fabric under it tends to dip towards the cutting surface, making it more difficult to hold the ruler in place to cut accurately.

An alternative way to cut narrower strips (and some of us cut all strips this way, no matter how wide they need to be) is to square up the fabric at the right edge (ruler to the left) and not turn the fabric.

Instead, have your 6" wide ruler handy at the left and use an additional ruler that you will bring in from the right. Align the raw edge of the fabric (which is on your right) with the mark on the ruler that's the width of the strip (say 1.25") and hold it firmly in place. Now butt the 6" ruler to the left to the left edge of the ruler that measured the strip width. Remove the ruler (the one on the right) that measured the strip width and cut along the right edge of your 6"-wide ruler. This leaves you ample room to have your hand safely on the ruler, and it helps to eliminate fabric shifting that might occur when you turn the fabric so the raw edge is at left.

This system works well, too, if you are down to a thin strip that you need to cut even thinner. Just butt the same number of thicknesses of fabric to the left of the fabric you want to cut so your 6"-wide ruler will have a cushion under its entire width, and measure your strip as before from the right.

You may find that your accuracy improves if you can make shorter cuts, so fold the fabric selvage to selvage and then fold the resulting fold towards the selvage so you will be cutting through four layers of fabric. Square up, and get ready to cut!

Addy Harkavy 2003. Reprinted with permission by Addy Harkavy.

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