Friday, November 21, 2008

Cutting Strips

I showed you a blue and turquoise quilt recently that I made for my husband. Well it strikes me that I perhaps have gone a bit overboard buying those two colors. Sigh. Admittedly there is a wee bit of purple and green mixed in here, but I do have a lot.


And there’s more….


Yup, definitely went overboard. I can still here that voice in my head, I have to buy fabric for that blue quilt I want to make someday. Well, when I finally get to it, I’ll have lots of choices.

Right now I’m cutting 2”ish strips and strings to make a bed quilt someday. I know I need fabric in Florida and it’s easier to put strips in the suitcase.

IMG_2556 Julie recently posted this comment:

“I think a helpful thing for new quilters is cloth management during the quilt top process. When free/liberated piecing I think it helps to have a small to mid size piece to work with. It is really hard to sew with 1/2 yard pieces. Sometimes it is hard to cut up a pretty piece of cloth but I think small pieces are easier to handle. If you have a large piece and know you have to cut it up before you sew, but you don't know how you want the shape to look once sewn, what is your advice about cutting? I think this gets into the whole design thing. Even if you are liberated, there is some vision that guides the placement, non? Maybe you could talk about that a little bit. The comfort of cutting out a pattern and sewing it together is real. Getting out of the comfort zone and appearing to just wing it is scary.”

I’ll try to answer this question. First, I agree that it is much easier to use fabric in smaller pieces. I’ve found that if I don’t cut into a piece, it very well might not get used at all.

When I’m starting on a project, I will cut strips for it. My widths of choice are 1”, 1.5”, and 2.5” – there should be an ish on the end of those. I don’t worry about precision or getting the strips as straight as they possibly can be. And I do try to vary it every once in a while, throw in a 1.25” a 1.75” and/or a 2.25”.

If I know that I will be using LOTS of a particular fabric then I may just cut some other widths as well.

If it’s a fabric I have a lot of or am not emotionally attached to, then I’ll probably cut “whole” strips from one selvage to another (so they’ll be about 42” long).

But sometimes I’ll cut out a square and slice it up instead. Or I might cut a 6” strip – that’s the width of one of my favorite rulers so it’s easy to manage. Then I’ll cut that strip in half. One half  (approx 6” by 21”) will be set aside, the other cut in half again (in other words, quartered) and then I’ll start cutting it up into different widths. Some of them will be angled. Sorta like this:


The advantage to the 6” method is that you have some larger chunks (such as sky around houses) when you need them.

But I do like my letters and blocks smalls. Those widths might be too small for you. I know some people probably look at these and see a future in the waste basket. If that’s you, then I’d probably go 1.5”, 2.5” and 3” or something like that.

Just don’t think of it as wasting fabric. You WILL use it in a free-pieced or string or crumb project.

Usually when I start a project I have some kind of vision, yes. But it might not be very extensive. I’ll just know that I want to make houses. So I start making houses. If I’m enjoying it, then I decide does it need more? Does it need something else?

I might have a bit of a drawing to guide me. Not always. I might just have a phrase I want to use. My way of working is to just start something and play. I don’t always use the blocks for anything. They’ll get aside and maybe appear in an orphan quilt or I’ll find the perfect place for them someday.

Take a look at how I worked on my quilt Terms of Endearment. I did a fairly decent job of showing pics along the way and discussing my decision making. Go here, here, here, here, and here and all together here.

I cut out strips for that project just the way I described above.

Does that help???

You know you can take a quilt for a model and start there. My first experience with free-piecing was making houses from Gwen Marston’s Liberated Quiltmaking (sadly out of print but hey, at least the price of a used copy has gone down to “just” $50). I’d pick my favorite houses and try to make something similar.

Iluvmyairman asked the following:

“… my problem is binding a quilt by hand. I've always turned the backing to the front and made that my binding, but this time I am using double bias tape quilt binding. It is hard to stitch up by hand. Or maybe it's cause I don't know what I'm doing. ha ha Any thoughts or words of wisdom to help me out?”

The only way I’ve ever attached binding is by sewing it on with the machine and then hand tacking on the back. I’m out of my depth with the double bias tape. Can anyone out there offer some help?

On a complete change of topic, ohmy, I think the sun is out!!! It has been soooo gray and dreary here I’ve been losing my mind. The only brightness was a wonderful visit with Jen aka Hedgehog. Of course neither one of us thought to take photos because we were talking talking talking.

Time to run errands in the break between rainstorms. Ya’all take care!



Joyce said...

I used to worry about cutting into fabric that I wasn't sure I'd use because I felt I was wasting it if I didn't use it right then. Now I know that it always gets used eventually and that when I need it, it is already cut and ready to go. Now I don't think twice about cutting a strip off a new fabric, just to see how it will look on a project. I have a clothes horse full of strips.

Clare said...

Jen and I were talking about cutting up the stash into strips and we both agreed that we only cut if the fabric is needed, and then I cut in to 6" strips and cut again, horizontal or vertical, depending on what is required.

Oh oh oh - my favourite quilt in the whole wide world. Rereading those posts makes me realise just how much water has flowed under the bridge since then!

I'm useless at binding, but Bonnie's tutorial on the Quiltville site has helped a lot.

We had sun on Weds and Thurs - back to the grey and drizzle today (sigh).

Quilt Pixie said...

I figure I bought fabric to sew with, so cutting into it is seldom a problem... if anything its the keeping too small a scrap in the scrap bins (I eventually rummage through and throw when its less than about 1" square, but that part is hard for me....)

Stacey said...

FYI - just announced they are canceling PD along with another of my favorites DSM
here is the link
complete and total bummer

Quiltdivajulie said...

Uncut yardage has a way of paralyzing me... especially if it is over a yard.

Binding - I took a class at our LQS and have never been sorry! This online pdf is essentially what I do - tricky the first few times, now it's like breathing.

Jude said...

Ha, ha, you have more blue fabric than I have fabric!!!!!!!!!!!!

True Blue Nana said...

I really enjoy reading about how other people work. The strips is a great idea and I agree totally with the difficulty of having large pieces of fabric. I am so attached to some of my fabric it is hard to cut into it. I have not refined my technique enough to say how I start a project. Sometimes I have a vision and then sometimes I just start. Gwen says just start and it will come to you.

Idaho Quilter said...

I am not ready to start another project just now, so I am doing the same thing. Making fabric managable and ready to work with. My favorite quilts are scrappy, so I have no problem cutting them into various sizes, 2.5 and 4.5 are my favorite sizes I have a drawer of 2.5" strips I can grab to make a scrappy binding with. Just makes sense to me.

Lynda said...

Don't know what double fold bias tape is, but I never use bias for binding. I always use a strip cut 2 1/2 inches, folded in half and then sewn on, with corner manipulations to make the whole quilt bound in a continuous strip. Then I slip stitch it on the back. if I'm reall in a hurry with a utilitarian quilt, I sew the binding on the back of the quilt firts, then machine it down on the front. that way, you can see what you're doind, and any irregularities are on the back.

Jennifer said...

Everything here is so helpful-- your post---the comments. I'm learning sooooo much!

KathieB said...

I would never use purchased bias tape for binding. I always cut my own--I cut bias strips 2" wide, seam them and fold in half. I machine stitch the raw edge on the top side of the quilt, and hand-stitch the folded edge to the back. I always use bias--I love the way it looks and supposedly it wears better than straight-cut binding.

jovaliquilts said...

I'm finally getting to where I will cut into fabric. There's always more out there! But in the beginning, it was very hard. I don't cut more than I need, however, because I don't know what else I'll use it for and I make a variety of types of quilts. But I no longer hesitate to make a cut if I want to use some.

Anonymous said...

Blue, with peacock blue in particular, is my favorite color. Feel free to send all of that excess fabric my way! :D

Mercy's Maid said...

I took a leap of faith and started working on my very first quilt this weekend! I've got almost all of the top pieced together, but I'm having the hardest time cutting the edges straight. Is there some trick to that? I have a rotary cutter and a self healing mat and a clear ruler, but it's just not working.

Also, when you quilt the fans, do you just have knots on the back side of the quilt at the ends of the arches? How do I keep them from coming out when the quilt is washed?