Help me cut down a giant piece of fabric!
March 2, 2017 9:45 PM   Subscribe

Let's say I have a piece of medium-weight linen yardage, 3 yards x 57”, and I want to cut it down to 90” x 30”, without selvages. I need the size more-or-less accurate and the edges need to be straight. How can I do this?

The fabric doesn't rip when I snip an edge and pull. I tried the pull-the-weft-thread trick for the crosswise cuts, and it won't work either -- the weft threads break easily and don't leave a clear line to cut on anyway.

I make quilts, so I cut narrow crosswise strips off shorter lengths of 45” cotton yardage all the time, but this piece of linen is overwhelming!

For tools, I have dressmaker’s shears, a medium-size rotary cutter, a 24” x 6” clear quilting ruler (plus a few other odd sizes of squares), and a 24” x 36” cutting mat. The rotary cutter can cut through four layers of the linen, max (although it's probably due for a new blade). The table the cutting mat is on is about twice the length of the mat, so there's plenty of room for the excess fabric to rest while I'm working.
posted by liet to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (4 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
When I do big fabric cutting and layout, I cut the approximate size I need plus a few inches (for 90x30", maybe 95x35", or maybe cut about 95" and leave the fabric at full width-- 95x57"). Then I tape that piece down to a flat surface (table, hardwood floor, etc) using masking tape, so that it stays flat and in place (don't pull it too tight, make sure the weave doesn't get wavy). I then establish a straight line all the way across the longest edge of the fabric using one of those blue water-soluble fabric marking pencils. On that line measure 90", use your quilting ruler to get a 90* angle at each of the markings on the line, measure up 30", and repeat til you have a full 90x30" rectangle. Once you have all your blue lines use your shears to cut on the lines.

If you need **exactly ** 90x30" you might consider washing the fabric before doing your cutting/layout since linen shrinks a bit.
posted by gregr at 10:01 PM on March 2 [2 favorites]

I would carefully fold the cloth length-wise, but not in half. Fold it so the one selvedge is sitting in the middle of the piece of fabric, 31 inches away from the other selvedge. You can do this in sections, aligning the pieces of fabric as you move them onto your cutting mat, and measuring from selvedge in the middle to the edge, as if you were trying to set a pattern piece on straight of grain. Align -- rotary cut along the selvedge, leaving yourself a 31inch piece of fabric, single layer on the mat -- move that fabric off the mat and new fabric off, repeat. You're using the straight of the selvedge as a straight-edge to follow along.

Then simply cut 1 inch off the other side all the way long the length of the piece, again doing it a cutting mat worth at a time. Use an actual ruler for this.

At this point, you have about 108 inches of fabric in the correct width. Fold it in half across the width so it fits on your table, measure 45 inches from the fold and cut off there.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:06 PM on March 2 [1 favorite]

Put a new blade into the rotary cutter. Fold the fabric into thirds along the longest edge so you have a 57 by 36 inch piece and use the rotary cutter to trim off the selvage at a 90 degree angle to the folds. I would pin the three layers together to prevent shifting and iron it if the folds were not crisp enough for me to feel confident about my 90 degree angle. To get a straight edge along the whole 36 inches, butt one of your 12 inch squares up against the short edge of your 6 x 24 ruler. The cutting mat is only 36 inches long, so you'll need to place the fabric at an angle so that you have a little mat on either side of the fabric. Cut with the rotary cutter, but if that is too hard, use a marker and cut along the line with the shears.

Then use the same ruler + square to cut the 30 inch width. If you have enough squares, you can put two 12 inch squares along one fold and then place the 6x24 over them, giving you 30 inches. If they are 12.5 inch squares, hang the extra inch off of the first cut edge. Cut again with the rotary or shears. Now you have piece that is 30 x 108. Unpin and unfold it. Refold it at 30 inches and 60 inches and use a cutter or shears to trim off the extra 18 inches. This will only be one layer, so the cutter will be easier than the previous 3 layer cuts. Shears may still be faster.
posted by soelo at 8:13 AM on March 3

I took gregr's advice and taped the fabric to the floor, used rulers and a pen to mark my rectangle, and cut it out with the shears. A little bit of sewing later, and I'm the happy owner of a new ring sling baby carrier.

jacquilynne and soelo: thank you for the well-thought-out answers. I'll try more rotary cutter-based solutions with my next big chunk of fabric.
posted by liet at 8:58 PM on March 3 [1 favorite]

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