How do I cut a large piece of fabric into an actual square?
June 21, 2010 9:36 PM   Subscribe

I need to know how to cut fabric into a approx. a yard square. With straight edges and square corners. Despite much effort I am still awful. Please help!

I want to make a flannel baby blanket or two. That's it. You know, the kind where you just sew two pieces of flannel together. I just have one problem: I can't seem to cut the pieces of flannel into the appropriately large rectangle/square. I want one big (say 3 by 3 ft.) square of fabric, not a bunch of itty bitty squares. I pre-wash AND iron the fabric. And still I cannot cut it correctly. Granted, I am cheap and do not own a fabric mat or rotary wheel. There must be a way to cut an actual rectangle with a pair of scissors, right? Please, quilters, share your secret!
posted by ticketmaster10 to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (16 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Are you free-handing it? I can see that causing problems. This (scroll down a bit) is a good tutorial for cutting very large pieces of fabric for curtains. I think it'll be useful for you.
posted by cooker girl at 9:40 PM on June 21, 2010

Response by poster: Umm, yes on the free-handing bit. Obviously, I know zilch about fabric and quilting. Although the fold up the bottom technique might work... Hmm...
posted by ticketmaster10 at 9:47 PM on June 21, 2010

Depending on the color of the fabric, you could use a light pencil or the good-old chalk to draw straight lines (or any other pattern that you have to cut). That's what my mother always did.
posted by vidur at 9:51 PM on June 21, 2010

It gets all complicated with warp and weft and selvage and all that. Your best bet is to go to your favorite fabric store and ask someone to help you figure stuff out. Just tell them you're starting out and need some help. If it's a good store, they'll be really happy to explain all this stuff to you. I found it was better to have someone show me what it all meant rather than read about it, but if you learn better by reading, just google the terms warp, weft, and selvage and have at it.
posted by cooker girl at 9:54 PM on June 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

I usually tear fabric when I want a straight edge. It sometimes curls up, but can be pressed back into place with an iron. You just snip through the selvedge edge about and inch and then tear. I'm not sure if it will work with flannel, but it definitely works with quilting-type cotton.

Otherwise, it definitely helps to use a ruler to draw a line with a pencil, and then cut along that line. You may want to invest in an L square. They have them in the quilting section of Joann's or other fabric stores, and they're not that expensive.
posted by apricot at 9:55 PM on June 21, 2010

Try searching for methods to true up fabric. That's as square as you're ever going to get. (And remember that even wovens will warp and stretch a little bit.)

Probably your best (easiest) bet is to cut both pieces of flannel pinned together in ready to sew position and stitch them together. Just spread them out on a table, mark cut lines with a yardstick and have at 'em. No one will notice if they're a little bit out of square (unless they're a perfectionist laundry folder like me, and I can attest to the fact that even commercially produced baby blankets aren't square).
posted by rebeccabeagle at 10:09 PM on June 21, 2010

A t-square and tailor's chalk.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 10:55 PM on June 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

It will be difficult to tear flannel. Your best bet is a t-square and a pencil.
And definitely cut them together.

Also, if you are going to machine quilt over any of the pictures, make sure that you do it first and bind the edges afterward.
posted by SLC Mom at 11:34 PM on June 21, 2010

Thirding chalk (and a big, flat, well-lit workspace). That's how the pros do it.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:01 AM on June 22, 2010

For quilting, most people use a rotary cutter and a cutting mat. It's difficult to cut large pieces without having a huge cutting mat, but it can be done.
posted by kaudio at 4:04 AM on June 22, 2010

nevermind... it's too early. I just read the OP again. =P

I made one of these blankets recently for my friend's baby shower.

Try chalking the outline of 3'x3' with a T-square and ruler on the back side of the fabric. Pin the two pieces of fabric together and cut out the square with a 3/4 seam allowance -- if your cut isn't perfect, at least your stitching can follow the line, and the blanket will be square when you turn it inside out.
posted by kaudio at 4:16 AM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

How to make a perfect square without a T-square using Origami.

You could also find a 3 foot square and trace it (card table, big box, scarf, etc). Or use a rectangle that has a 3 foot side (table, etc) and trace most of it, then measure 3 feet over for the last side.
posted by I'm Doing the Dishes at 5:15 AM on June 22, 2010

If you're still having problems, you can make a somewhat rigid pattern piece. Pick up some poster paper and masking tape. Lay it out on the floor with the T-square and ruler--or just make the edges line up, if you don't have a T-square--so that you end up with a 3' by 3' piece of square overlapping posterboard.

Lay your fabric down on a hopefully non-stretchy surface after it's been ironed; make sure it's equally taut across the whole surface you're going to be cutting. Put the 3' by 3' pattern on top, and then stick straight pins right through it and into whatever it's resting on (carpet, bed, etc) to hold it securely and keep it from stretching as you cut--like push pins on a bulletin board. Then cut, trying not to stretch, move, or shift the fabric.

I'm sure there are better ways, but this is how I go about making sure something large is cut out *exactly* the way I want it, without having a large cutting mat or rotary cutter.
posted by galadriel at 6:04 AM on June 22, 2010

My boyfriend came up with the idea of using his laser level when I had to trim the edges of a queen-size quilt I was making. We spread it out on the floor with weights on it to prevent it from moving, set the level up to shine along an edge, and I carefully cut down it.
posted by telophase at 10:05 AM on June 22, 2010

If you buy flannel in 1.25 yard increments, it will already be nearly square -- bigger than you're looking at, but my absolute favorite size for baby blankets. Then you can just trim the selvedges, sew the pieces together, turn, and topstitch. best baby blankets in the world; we had seven and my daughter didn't sleep without being wrapped in one for eight months.
posted by KathrynT at 11:14 AM on June 22, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone! Some of the ideas were quite useful and I may try them. Then again, contemplating removing the selveges, etc. made me think that investing in a mat and rotary cutter might be worth it to me...
posted by ticketmaster10 at 12:37 PM on July 5, 2010

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