How to Cut Fabric Straight
One of the things I hear most from my readers is that they struggle to cut their fabric straight. Cutting straight is an important skill to master when learning to sew. Most projects require an accurate fabric size to get a great finished project. Practice is the most important piece of cutting straight but there are definitely some good habits that can help in the process. Here are my tips and instructions for how to cut fabric straight and stay safe!
How to Cut Fabric Straight
I have created a video to show you good habits and how to cut fabric straight, scroll down to watch the video.
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To cut straight you need to:
- have the right supplies
- use a good technique
- practice, practice, practice
What do you use to cut fabric?
There are several options for cutting fabric. The tool you use will vary depending on what you are making and what you are doing with the fabric.
The rotary cutter is the tool I use most often to cut fabric. It works best for straight lines.
The rotary cutter is crucial in quilting because when you pair it with a ruler you get a very straight line and accurate measurement.
I know that many seamstresses are able to use a rotary cutter to cut out a pattern for clothing, but I am definitely not one of those people! I can’t cut a curve with my rotary cutter to save my life!
So if you are like me then you will probably want to use scissors to cut out clothing patterns and curves.
Scissors are not a great tool for cutting a straight line. You may be able to draw a straight line and cut it mostly straight with scissors but there is no comparison to a rotary cutter for cutting a straight line on fabric.
A cutting machine, like a Cricut or even a Sizzix, is a great tool for cutting intricate designs into your fabric.
This is a great tool for cutting pieces for applique. A cutting machine is also a great tool for cutting alternate fabrics like felt and faux leather as those can be difficult to cut with the first two techniques.
How do you measure and cut large pieces of fabric?
The video below will give you lots of tips for cutting a large piece of fabric.
A large cutting mat is an important tool that will make cutting easier. THIS is the mat that I recommend.
To cut a large piece of fabric you need to fold the fabric to make it more manageable. You can fold the fabric once and maybe twice (depending on the type of fabric) to make a short cut. Be sure your fabric is freshly pressed so that when you fold the fabric there are no wrinkles. Then you can unfold and fold the fabric the other way to make your second cut.
In other words you fold once and cut the lengthwise cut then fold the other way and cut the widthwise cut.
Do I need to cut off the selvage?
Yes, and also no.
There are sometimes when you absolutely need to cut off the selvage. When you are sewing with a tight seam allowance. like 1/4″ or 1/2″ you will most likely need to cut off the selvage. This is because the seam is smaller than the width of the selvage so the selvage will show in your finished project.
If you are using a larger seam you may be able to get by leaving the selvage on and including it in your measurements.
Also if you the selvage will be part of a lining or inside where you cannot see it you should absolutely use it and make the most out of all the fabric you have.
How to cut fabric straight with a rotary cutter:
- Wash and press your fabric.
- If you are cutting a large piece of fabric fold the fabric into a more manageable size. For a smaller piece of fabric start by lining up the straightest side you can find along the top or bottom line.
- Line up your clear ruler with the lines on your cutting mat.
- Use the tripod method or a handle to hold your straight ruler firmly in place.
- Cut the fabric with your rotary cutter using the ruler as a guide. You may have to cut more than once if you are cutting through many layers of fabric.
How do I protect my hands while cutting?
There are several things you can do to protect your hands while cutting. Safety is no small matter, seriously. Don’t google rotary cutter injuries, or do but don’t say I didn’t warn you. You can do some serious damage to your hands and fingers if you don’t use proper safety.
Watch the video to see the tripod method of cutting. This method keeps your fingers well clear of the rotary cutter which is the most important step in making sure you don’t get cut!
You can take safety to the next level by using a safety glove. THIS glove has non slip dots to give you a strong grip on the ruler. It is infused with steel to protect your fingers if you slip with the rotary cutter.
One more option is to get a grip for your ruler like THIS. This grip handle allows you to keep your hands up and away from the rotary cutter while also applying pressure to ensure a straight cut.