Rotary Cutting: How to Square up Your Fabric and Cut Strips – Video

How to Use Rotary Cutting Tools - video tutorial

Welcome to the world of rotary cutting! It’s pretty awesome. In this video I show you how to square up your fabric and how to use basic rotary cutting tools to cut strips – on the straight grain and on the bias. You use straight grain strips to attach to straight edges – like the edges of a quilt. If you need your strips to curve (like around a curved hem, or to enclose the raw edges of armholes) then you use bias-cut strips.

Remember – that rotary cutter is razor sharp. Keep your fingers away from the blade at all times, and always remember to close the blade (or engage the safety) before you set it down. No blood on the fabric – that’s my motto. πŸ™‚

Want to put those new rotary cutting skills into action?

Buttonholes easy quilt pattern

This quilt is super easy to make.

I designed this quilt especially for beginners and it’s really easy to make. As in – I don’t care if you just took your first sewing machine out of the box and haven’t even threaded it yet – you can make this quilt. πŸ™‚ Get the Buttonholes quilt pattern here.

Happy sewing!

Best,
Wendi
applique wendi

30 COMMENTS

  1. Does it matter what direction you cut in (up and down or across) to get a straight grain cut?

  2. Usually you cut across – but I’ve been known to cut up and down – especially when using striped fabric if I want my stripes to run a certain way. But either way will give you a straight grain cut that has very little “bend” to it.

  3. Anonymous SAYS...

    great work good tutorial thanks

  4. Thanks! Glad it was helpful!

  5. Loretta S. SAYS...

    This makes sense for when you have a piece of fabric that you might get from the store that has selvedge edges. But what if you are using scrap fabric – like you are cutting up an old shirt or pair of pants to make bean bags? Do you need to make sure that your fabric is true?

  6. It’s really a judgement call. For beanbags – you definitely don’t need to true up. For clothing – always. ALWAYS! For quilts – it depends on how complex the design is and how important precision is to you (for me it’s usually not that important so I just worry about getting the most pieces out of a scrap). For softies – it’s usually not important.

    A good rule of thumb is if it’s going to hang (on a wall, on your body, in a window, etc.) then make very sure to get your edges as true as possible.

  7. Anonymous SAYS...

    Hi, I bought fabric for quilting and it is 51 inches selvage to selvage folded…..my question is how do I cut that? Neither my cutting mat or my ruler are long enough.

    • Just fold it in half one more time – so you’re cutting through 4 layers instead of two. Take your time folding and make sure you get everything lined up as straight as you possibly can.

  8. Anonymous SAYS...

    Just getting the hang of my new rotary cutter. Very helpful tutorial as the pattern I purchased did not specify HOW to cut binding…seeing the demo shows me it will be bias cut and how to make that happen! When sewing is new, every step is a project! Thanks for your wonderful tutorials. They are my favorite!
    Crystal

    • Thanks so much! I’m glad they’ve been helpful. πŸ™‚ And once you get the hang of rotary cutting you’ll love it. It’s faster and more accurate than scissors – and much less hard on your wrists. πŸ™‚

  9. Dianne SAYS...

    Thank you so much! Now I finally understand the ruler and how it works! Of all things to get confused on, not knowing how the ruler works can stop one in their tracks, so thank you for that and for a really great tutorial!

    • wendigratz SAYS...

      The rulers can be weirdly tricky until you get the hang of them. Then they’re the Best Tools Ever! πŸ™‚

  10. Thank you so much for this wonderful tutorial. You have a gift in teaching.

    • wendigratz SAYS...

      Thanks so much!

  11. Shawn J SAYS...

    So, if I am following your video correctly, when I am cutting for quilts or wall hangings I should always cut the straight way and not the bias way? Is that the norm for the whole quilt and binding or not? Thank you, love all your tutes.
    smjohns63 at yahoo dot com

    • wendigratz SAYS...

      Yes – it will help your finished quilt hang straight. The only time you’d want to cut binding tape on the bias is if you’re using it to go around a curved edge.

      • Shawn J SAYS...

        So, when cutting the fabric straight is the selvage on the right side of the fabric? Sorry if these seem like silly questions, it makes me seem stupid lol, thanks Wendi
        Shawn
        smjohns63 at yahoo dot com

        • wendigratz SAYS...

          Hmmm. . .people stand at their cutting tables in different ways so it’s hard to what side it will be on. Probably the clearest way to say it is that when you’re cutting on the straight grain you’re cutting perpendicular to the selvedge. So if you’re cutting a 2 inch wide strip you’ll have a little bit of selvedge at each 2 inch edge.

  12. deb SAYS...

    What if your fabric is more than a one yard cut? How do you get grain( selvages ) lined up on a large piece of fabric? It would be difficult to hang larger piece to line up?
    BTW Thank you for all your videos and tutorials. You have reintroduced me to the peace and serenity of embroidery.

    • wendigratz SAYS...

      Since you’re folding your fabric selvedge to selvedge, the total length of the piece shouldn’t matter. Just work on one end and let the rest hang out of your way. πŸ™‚

  13. Pejay Christensen SAYS...

    I downloaded the recieving blanket pattern,(adorable) then watched your Wonderful tutorial on cutting strips and now I only get a blank/black screen when I try to watch your other tutorials or repeat the ” strips” one ??? Help. Thanks so much.

    • wendigratz SAYS...

      I’ve checked that video and spot-checked a few others and they all seem to be working fine. My guess is that YouTube (where they all live) was having some issues when you tried.

  14. Anna SAYS...

    Hi Wendy,
    I have just started patchwork as my retirement hobby and I have chosen your videos to learn by since they are very clear and easy to understand. It will probably take me a while to produce anything since I have never done any before but by baby steps I’m sure I will learn with your help. I have downloaded your dogs quilt pattern and eventually want to make it. Thank you for sharing your gift.
    Regards, Anna

    • wendigratz SAYS...

      Have fun! And don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions along the way. πŸ™‚

  15. Sandi SAYS...

    Hi. Thank you for taking time to post these helpful videos. I do have a question… When you cute the larger piece of fabric, you lined up the salvaged ends, made the cut… And it looked straight. But the cut in the pattern veered off at the end (I hope I’m making sense).. So the cut wasn’t straight along the pattern. I make curtains and use this technique… However have run into issues when I go to fold my header and footer. Bc obviously when you hang a curtain, the patterns have to be straight. Can you help?

    • Hi Sandy! I know exactly what you’re talking about – and it can be really frustrating when you need things to be perfect. Sometimes (fairly often, actually) the print on the fabric isn’t exactly lined up with the grain. So if you cut it on the grain, the print may veer off. But if you cut it by the print, the grain is a bit off. This isn’t a big deal with the things that I sew, but with curtains both the grain and the pattern really need to be perfect. One thing that can help is to prewash your fabric before you cut. The sizing and fold already in it off the bolt can affect the way it hangs, which can make your cut a tiny bit off grain. If you buy fabric with the pattern woven in (the woven stripes from Kaffe Fassett are gorgeous) instead of printed on, the pattern and grain will always be perfect. If I’m hanging curtains and the pattern is going to be more obvious than the grain (stripes, regularly spaced polkadots, etc.) I’ll cut according to the pattern. If the pattern is more irregular, I’ll cut according to the grain. I hope that helps!

  16. Marie SAYS...

    Wendi, I am so enthusiastic with your Videos. I am a beginner with quilting and need all the help I can get. They are very helpful and informative. I did sew a lot of Quillows. (quilts that fold up into a pillow). Now my rotary cutter is very dull. Is there a way of sharpening the blade, or do I need to continue purchasing new blades?

    • I’ve heard of people who sharpen rotary blades, but the idea of sharpening a round blade – with no real safe way to hold it – gives me the heebie jeebies. I just buy new ones. I do keep a separate rotary cutter for paper – so my dull fabric blades get a second life as a paper blade. πŸ™‚

  17. Renee SAYS...

    That was a great, easy to understand tutorial. Thank you!

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