Today I want to talk a bit about cutting accurately. If you want your quilts, and any other sewing projects for that matter, to finish to the correct size, you need to cut and sew accurately. I'm not cutting anything right now - I'll post more actual cutting photos when I'm back to the Hunter's Star.
My cutting mat:
This is a self healing mat I've had forever. It's taken a lot of abuse and will take a lot more. I recommend a self-healing one at least this size - 18x24 - if you have a large space for cutting where the mat can stay out all the time, I'd get a larger mat. This one works for almost everything I do. I need to be careful when cutting WOF to make sure I don't cut the table on either end - that's the instance where I'd like a slightly larger mat.
My rotary cutter:
The biggest thing to remember about rulers, in my opinion, is use the one you need for the job - for small pieces, use a small ruler; for big pieces, use a big ruler.
To cut WOF I use the 6x24 and I always use the Gypsy Gripper with this ruler.
I rarely use the 12.5x12.5, mostly because I don't square my blocks as I go (and I think I'll start that soon). This ruler is useful to square up larger squares.
The 6.5x6.5 ruler I bought to use when making my Dear Jane quilt. Those blocks are small and the pieces small and I find this ruler very helpful. I also have a special Dear Jane template ruler for the 5" blocks and the triangle pieces.
The 4x14 ruler I don't use often either; usually only when I have strips that fit within that size. I don't use the gripper with this ruler - I find it's small enough that I can hold it steady.
I picked up this handy little tool quite a few years ago. It sticks to your rulers by suction and helps you keep hold of larger rulers. It's always attached to the 6x24 ruler. What I like about it is that is helps me hold the ruler still while cutting and apply even pressure. And my hand isn't too close to the blade so I don't worry about cutting myself. Sometimes it loses suction and I have to re-attach it, which takes about 3 seconds so really there is nothing to complain about. You can buy these in smaller sizes for smaller rulers - I don't think I'd bother with that.
How to Cut:
If possible, you should have your cutting table at an adjustable height so that you don't get aches and pains in your back, legs, or arms. I like to lean heavily on my mat/fabric/ruler to prevent slipping so I like my table a little lower than I've seen recommended. Right now I'm using the dining room table and it's a great height for me. I have seen people add pieces of plastic tubing to their table legs to increase the height and it's more stable than you'd think.
You MUST keep your rotary cutter perpendicular to your ruler in order to get accurate cuts:
Keeping your ruler at this 90 degree angle will help you be more accurate.
Don't do this:
Your pieces will be too small and your quilt too small.
Your pieces will be too big.
I lean on the ruler/fabric/mat to prevent shifting, then run the ruler along the edge, with enough pressure to cut through my layers (but not through the mat and table). You'll develop a feel the more you cut. I also cut at a fairly quick pace - too slow and things shift, but too fast and you can be inaccurate. Practice will help you find your best pace that gives you accuracy.
When I actually cut more pieces for the Hunter's Star, I'll show more actual cutting photos.
Next week I'll talk about 1/4" seam allowances.