Tips and Tricks for Working with Cuddle Fleece

Tips and Tricks for Working with Cuddle Fleece - from Shiny Happy World

I loooove using Cuddle Fleece for making softies!

I discovered it at Quilt Market last year and fell in love – and then couldn’t find it in any shops. It was even hard to find online! So I ordered a few bolts to carry in my shop and I’ve been using it for softies and quilt backs ever since.

Update – I’m not able to carry Cuddle Fleece in the shop anymore, but I found a good substitute! More details here.

It’s mostly very easy to work with – similar to polar fleece – but I do get some questions about it. Here are the answers to the most frequently asked questions. . .

It’s so shifty! How do you keep the layers from moving around?

The layers come in two times in the process – when you’re cutting and when you’re sewing. I prefer to cut mine one layer at a time instead of folding and cutting through two layers. That way I get the most accurate cut possible. Do be sure to flip the pattern pieces for the second cuts so you’re still getting one reversed!

When you’re sewing two layers together you have to deal with layers. There’s no way around it. That’s when I use Wonder Clips. You can use pins instead, but Wonder Clips handle the fat fabric really well and without distorting the layers at all. You can clip them really close together (every inch or so) and just sew slowly, unclipping each one as you get to it.

It’s so fat! Do I have to do anything special to sew through it?

Cuddle Fleece shares one of the same challenges as polar fleece.

It’s fat.

The thickness of the fabric can make the layers shift while you’re sewing – especially when you’re sewing through two layers plus the additional layers of an arm or leg in there. There’s a video showing how I deal with the fatness here. It’s specifically about polar fleece, but all those tips also apply to Cuddle Fleece.

Do I need a special needle?

I sew mine with a basic universal needle and have no problems. If you find your machine is skipping stitches I recommend switching to a stretch needle.

If you have a walking foot – use it!

If you don’t have a walking foot – pin like crazy.

Which is the right side of the fabric?

Cuddly Bailey Bear - fabric and pattern from Shiny Happy World

They’re both good – but they are different. You just have to choose what works best for you for a particular project. One side has a shorter, smoother pile. That’s the one I often choose as the “right” side. It’s what you see on the bunny up there.

The other side is a little shaggier looking. The pile is a bit longer, and a teeny bit more irregular. Use this as the right side when you want a rougher look.

You can also combine the two textures in one softie like I did with that green Bailey Bear. I used the shaggier side on his belly patch.

How do you mark on it?

Cuddle Fleece, like polar fleece, can also be difficult to mark on. With polar fleece the problem is that it’s basically made out of plastic, so markers tend to bead up on it, take a long time to dry, and smear easily when wet.

The problem with marking on Cuddle Fleece is that it has a bit of a nap to it.

Marking eyes is easy – I just punch holes in my pattern piece and then mark through the holes with a fabric marker.

Marking lines is a bit trickier. For them I turn to The Magical Embroidery Stuff (aka Sulky Sticky Fabri-Solvy).

Seriously – is there anything this stuff isn’t good for?

For the bunny you see at the top of the post I marked the eyes as mentioned above. I could have eyeballed the nose and mouth, but I wanted to make sure I got those whiskers balanced. That meant sticking to my pattern piece exactly as drawn. 🙂

I traced the entire face on a scrap of Sulky Sticky Fabri-Solvy and then stuck it down to the fabric, using those eye markings to guide my placement.

Yes – it sticks just fine to the Cuddle Fleece. It’s amazing stuff!

Sulky Sticky Fabri-Solvy is great for transferring a face to cuddle fleece.

I embroidered right through the stabilizer, then soaked it away in cold water and tossed it in the dryer for a quick dry and fluff.

Sulky Sticky Fabri-Solvy is great for transferring a face to cuddle fleece.

Perfect! And since I used a fabric marker to mark those eyes, the dots are still there after rinsing The Magical Embroidery Stuff away.

The fluff! Is there any way to keep the fluff under control?

That’s the most common question people have. Cuddle Fleece is fluffy and soft – and when you cut it that fluffiness can go everywhere!

When I cut pieces to make a softie, I walk them straight to the dryer and toss them inside. I tumble it all with no heat for about 10 minutes. When I pull them out – all the fluff is gone. The edges won’t fray after cutting, so once you get that initial cutting fluff off, you can continue work on the rest of the project with no more shedding.

Awesome!

If you have any other questions about this lovely fabric, just let me know in the comments. I’ll either update this post or (if there are enough additional questions) I’ll do a follow-up post.

Here’s one of those follow-up posts. 🙂 A video answering lots of reader questions about using cuddle fleece for quilt backs. Watch it here.

Happy sewing!

Choosing Fabrics for the Bird Quilt

Bird Quilt Pattern from Shiny Happy WorldChoosing fabric for a quilt is one of my very favorite parts. It’s so much fun to play with the colors – trying this and that until you get a combination that really sings.

But sometimes choosing colors can be hard – and a lot of people feel unsure about whether they’re doing it “right.” Every time I release a new quilt pattern I get a ton of emails asking me about the fabrics. . .

  • What did I use?
  • Is it still available?
  • Is it hard to find?
  • Can I send a list?

I’ve started including links to all the fabrics I used in each pattern, but I think it’s also useful for share why I chose the fabrics I did. So that’s what I’m doing here. 🙂

Bird Quilt Pattern from Shiny Happy WorldBackground Fabrics

First – let’s talk about the background fabrics.

The illustration style of my quilts is all very similar. I like big cartoony shapes with smooth curves that are easy to applique and don’t have too many tiny bits.

But I don’t want all my quilts to look exactly the same – so I like to mix things up with the fabrics I choose. For the Safari Quilt and the Peekaboo Bear Quilt I used a mix of prints for the background, with solids for all the faces. For the dog quilt and the cat quilt I did just the opposite – solid backgrounds with prints for the faces.

For the bird quilt I decided to use prints everywhere – but I still wanted a clear distinction between the background and the birds. I wanted all these wild and crazy colored birds to look like they were sitting in an almost-real tree or hedge – just a smear of varied greens in the background.

When I’m going for a dappled smear of color I always choose batiks. Timeless Treasures has a great line of batiks with all kinds of beautiful patterns – but I stuck to the Tonga Java Blenders – those delicious smears of color without any clearly defined pattern.

I looked at all the greens. (They have a lot – did you know that the human eye can distinguish more shades of green than any other color? That’s part of the reason why green is such a hard color to match.) I decided to stick with earthy, natural greens – nothing too bright or with too much yellow. I ended up choosing six colors – mostly medium shades – but with a couple of darker and one lighter one thrown in. I wanted most of the blocks to kind of blur together, with sharper lines between some of them.

Update – I now sell a bundle of green batiks perfect for backgrounds. I keep it updated with a nice mix and specific colors come and go. You can get it here.

The Bird Fabrics

Here’s where you can really play around! Birds in nature come in so many different colors – it’s hard to do anything that looks really wrong. To keep things from getting too crazy, for most of the birds I chose various shades of just one or two colors. They’re mostly brights – but I threw in a few neutrals too, just to give your eyes a rest every once in a while. 🙂

I wanted the texture of the birds to really contrast with the background so I didn’t choose anything dapply or irregular. I went with tone-on-tone prints from a few different collections. . .

Bird Quilt Pattern from Shiny Happy World

Sketch is a great collection of crosshatching. I think this is my favorite basics collection of them all – it has such a nice hand-drawn quality to it. Buzz here uses Sketch in purple for the body and tail.

Bird Quilt Pattern from Shiny Happy World

Ziggy is the texture of Sketch – but with zigzags. Love! Floozy here uses Ziggy in aqua for her body.

Bird Quilt Pattern from Shiny Happy World

Dream is a new collection with small-scale polkadots arrayed in gentle curves. I love that it has a little bit of direction to it, rather than a totally random polkadot. It’s subtle and terrific. Arizona here uses Dream in taupe for the body.

Bird Quilt Pattern from Shiny Happy World

Rain is a really dense tiny raindrop print. It gives a slightly different effect depending on which way you turn the fabric and I like that a lot.

Dixie here uses Rain in yellow for the body, Sketch in daffodil for the tail, and Dream in lemon for the belly.

Most of these collections are out of print now, but I keep fat quarter bundles up to date as collections come and go. The Rainbow Brights collection is all brights, and the Warm Neutrals collection is all browns, creams, greys, rusts, and golds.

That mixing and matching between collections is one of the things I really enjoy about working with fabrics from one company. I live in a remote rural area, which means I choose a lot of my fabric online. It’s almost impossible to get an accurate color on a computer screen. You can easily get an idea – but an accurate enough picture to match colors is hard. That’s why I sell fabrics in bundles – so you know everything in the bundle will work together.

But What About the Back?

Chirp - a bird quilt pattern from Shiny Happy World

For the back I went in a whole different direction.

My daughter Jo is crazy about this Cuddle Fleece. At her request I used it for the back of the Cat Quilt.

She loved it – and asked for it again for the back of these birds. I think this is going to live on our couch where I’ll wrap up in it more than she will – but I love the Cuddle Fleece too – so I said yes. The olive green was a perfect match for all of those batiks on the front.

I didn’t want any kind of border or frame effect, so I bound the quilt in leftover strips of all the green batiks.

So that’s it! How I chose all the fabrics for my newest quilt. 🙂 You can get the Bird Quilt pattern here. You can get one of the bird applique patterns for free here.

You can read about how I chose the fabric for the Cat Quilt here.

Happy quilting!

Best,
Wendi
That's me!

 

Putting Fusible Adhesive to the Test

Putting Fusible Adhesive to the Test

Let’s talk about fusible adhesive.

But first – I need to share something.

I don’t trust glue.

To me, glue is something that holds two things in place while you attach them more securely with something else – like screws or stitches.

I’ve just had too many glue fails in my lifetime. I have a big crate of all different kinds of glues and I really try to make sure I’m using the right glue for the right situation. But still – glue fails.

That’s one reason I’ve always been pretty hesitant about using fusible adhesive. Sure – it’s fast and easy and I’m happy to use it on something that doesn’t need to be held together forever. It’s great for Halloween costumes. It’s fabulous for banners and wall hangings. But I’ve never used it on a clothing or a bed quilt.

Besides the fail factor – there’s the stiffness. I don’t like it.

And the stitching that you usually add around the edge to secure it can look awfully clunky.

Plus – I hate tracing. (I know. I know. I’m a broken record on this. But I really hate tracing.)

When I went to Spring Quilt Market one of the things I was looking for was a fusible adhesive I could fall in love with.

I would love to be able to share a product with you that would allow you to make quilts like this. . .

Woodland Critters quilt pattern from Shiny Happy World

. . . super fast and with no burned fingers.

I tested two weights of Heat & Bond fusible adhesive.

Heat & Bond Featherlite is very, very soft. It doesn’t have any of that fusible adhesive stiffness.

Heat & Bond Lite is a little bit heavier – but still very soft.

I set up two identical applique blocks, following the instructions on the packaging exactly. I never use fabric softener or dryer sheets on fabric I’m going to sew with because it can interfere with any adhesives I might use. I used exactly the same fabric in the two blocks.

fusible adhesive test
This is before any washing (except for pre-washing the fabrics).

I sewed around the head with a basic straight stitch. I sewed both sides of the neck with a fairly open zigzag stitch. I didn’t do any extra stitching on the ears, the eye spot, the eyes, or the nose.

Then I threw them in the wash with a load of laundry, and ran them through the dryer too.

fusible adhesive test after 1 wash and dry
After one trip through the washer and dryer.

Featherlite is the one on the left. Everything not sewn on fell off – but that was to be expected. The instructions DID say to sew it after fusing so it was kind of an unfair test. I just wanted to see what would happen. 🙂

So you do have to sew this stuff in addition to fusing. On the plus side – it was so soft that you could easily hand stitch through it – and there was no gumming of the hand or machine needle. And after one washing the applique was crazy soft. So soft that I never would have guessed there was adhesive in there.

The Heat & Bond Lite is the one on the right. It’s also supposed to be sewn on, but it didn’t lose as many unsewn pieces. One eyeball came off, the eye spot came loose, and the top ear came loose. (Again – not a fair test because the package DOES say to sew it.) With this product too, there was no gumming of the needle when I did sew it. You can feel a little stiffness from the adhesive, but it’s not bad at all.

So I found out that both products needed stitching on top of the glue (as I suspected all along and as the package said). Now I wanted to find out how things held up after repeated washing and drying. This time we’ll look closer at the edges of the sewn applique pieces.

fusible adhesive test after 2 wash and dry
After two trips through the washer and dryer.

The Featherlite (on the left) is showing a little fraying on the edges – but I kind of like that so I don’t consider it a problem – just something worth noting because I know some people don’t like it. There’s more fraying on the head piece with the straight stitching than on the neck with the zigzag – even though it’s a pretty open zigzag.

The Heat & Bond Lite had no fraying at all.

I had more laundry, so. . .

fusible adhesive test after 2 wash and dry
After 3 trips through the washer and dryer.

No noticeable change. Looking good!

I had one more load of laundry. Towels. Towels are rough so this would really put those edges to the test.

fusible adhesive test after 4 wash and dry
After four trips through the washer and dryer – including in a big load of towels.

Hmmmm. . . maybe a tiny bit more fraying on the Featherlite? Maybe? All in all I was really impressed with how they held up.

Update – I’ve used the Featherlite on some other projects since then and it DOES continue to fray over time. The Heat & Bond Lite really doesn’t. What you see after a few washes is pretty much what you’re going to get.

The final verdict. . .

They both win!

No. It’s not a cop out. I’d just use them for different purposes!

If I were adding applique to clothing that would only be worn a few times I would use the Featherlite.

It’s super soft, making it especially awesome for things like baby onesies where it will only fit for a short period of time and so the number of trips through the wash is limited.

For toddler T-shirts I’d use the Lite weight for better durability – and it’s still awfully soft after that first washing.

For just about anything else I use the Heat & Bond Lite.

It held up really well in the wash – far better than I anticipated. I cannot believe that tiny eyeball hung on through that final load of towels – with no stitching! And there was almost NO fraying on the sewn pieces – even when sewn with a straight stitch (which I prefer over the zigzag).

It’s also pretty dang soft. Not as soft as the Featherlite, but not bad at all. In fact – I don’t think it’s really even noticeable in a finished quilt. When layered and quilted it’s really hard to tell that there’s any extra stiffness under the applique.

So there you have it! I can recommend both of these fusible adhesives. And I have them in my shop! Get them here.

One more thing – a lot of people ask how this holds up over a long period of time with just the straight stitching. I’ve got a post here that shows one of my daughter’s quilts after almost two years. You can see the results in this post.

What about Ultrahold?

Yes – there’s another fusible adhesive weight available. It’s called Ultrahold and it’s the strongest adhesive that heat & Bond makes.

You’re not supposed to stitch through it. I tried it and it gummed up my needle like crazy. I do not recommend trying it yourself. 🙁

It’s very stiff, so I only recommend it for small pieces like eyes and noses – pieces that are annoying to stitch around and small enough where you’ll never notice that extra stiffness.

This weight does hold very well – BUT ONLY IF YOU DRY IT AT LOW TEMPERATURES. The adhesive melts at high temperatures, right? That’s what gets it to stick. That’s also what gets it to unstick. If your dryer gets as hot as an iron on medium heat, no steam (mine does) that is hot enough to loosen the adhesive. So wash and dry on cold or cool!

You can get the Heat & Bond Ultrahold here. It’s not available in printable sheets – only larger sheets that you have to trace onto.

But wait! There’s more!

All of my patterns now are optimized for use with printable products. What does that mean? Each applique block in the pattern is formatted two ways. Once just like normal – for reference and for people who do needle-turn applique. Once reversed and exploded with extra space between the pieces for use with the printable fusible adhesive or this freezer paper method.

Yes! I found a fusible adhesive that I’m excited to use! Not just excited – giddy! I was awake most of the night thinking about my next project. 🙂

Happy stitching!


My Secret Weapon to Make Fabric Behave

starch - secret sewing weaponStarch.

Starch!

Simple. Cheap. Old-fashioned. Starch.

It has been crazy humid here this summer.

It’s beyond humid. It’s wet.

We had over 17 inches of rain in the first week of July – and we’ve continued to have heavy rains in the last few weeks. We usually get about five inches for the whole month.

My flour is clumpy. My cereal boxes are soggy. My salt is unsprinkleable. And my applique pieces won’t stay folded!

Aaaaargh!

Five minutes after I press them they look like this.

http://petapixel.com/2013/07/27/outdoor-nature-cam-captures-a-veritable-bear-hoedown/

It’s coming unfolded before I can even press all the pieces for one block!

The solution, my friends, is starch.

Look at the difference.

applique with starch

This is two days after I pressed it.

Starched folds stay folded.

I just use regular spray starch from the grocery store. Nothing fancy or expensive. And I think I’ve been working off this same can for over 10 years.

You can spray it on just before pressing, like I do in this video.

Or you can spray some into a small dish (like a little custard cup), wait for the foam to subside, then paint the liquid starch on with a paintbrush. If you do that you don’t have to paint the whole seam allowance – just make sure you get it right up against the freezer paper. That’s where the fold will be that you’re desperately trying to hold in place while you get the rest of the pieces for the block pressed.

I use both methods interchangeably. It depends on my mood, how many pieces I’m working on, my tolerance for mess that day, and how generally lazy I’m feeling.

If I’m only pressing a few pieces I just spray it on and ignore the mess from the overspray. The extra flakes of starch will brush right off my ironing board and wipe off my iron.

If I’m doing a whole bunch of pieces I’ll actually go downstairs and get a dish, then dig around for a paintbrush and use the paint-it-on method. I actually prefer that, but sometimes I’m too lazy to go to the extra trouble.

If you want to see the details of the machine applique technique I’m talking about here, click here to find all the tutorials about it in one handy dandy place.

But starch isn’t only useful for applique! That’s where I use it most often, but it’s great for holding any pressing. It’s especially useful for hemming – particularly if the fabric you’re trying to hem isn’t a crisp woven cotton. It can be really helpful in making slippery synthetic fabrics behave like a nice, obedient cotton. 🙂

Happy sewing!

Best,
Wendi
Applique Wendi (with fabulous hat)

 

My Favorite Quilt Batting

My Favorite Batting - a Shiny Happy World review of Warm & Natural battins

What’s the one quilting supply I can’t live without? Quilt batting.

Good quality batting.

You don’t want to mess around here.

You probably just spent a couple hundred dollars on fabric and a good bit of your time making a beautiful quilt top.

You’re about to put it all together and finish the quilt.

You need good batting.

I’ve gotten a lot of questions lately asking for batting recommendations. Luckily – that’s an easy question for me to answer.

Warm & Natural 100% cotton batting.

It is – hands down – the best batting I’ve ever used. Every once in a while the place I shop runs out and I need a batting right away so I buy another brand and it’s always terribly disappointing.

Here’s what’s so awesome about it. . .

It doesn’t beard. That’s when the fibers of the batting start to migrate out the front of your quilt. It looks awful and there’s no way to fix it once it starts. 🙁

It’s the perfect weight – not too heavy, not too light.

It’s beautiful for hand or machine quilting. That’s important to me because I like to do both.

You can quilt up to 10″ apart. This is really important to me for the style of quilts I design. Lots of battings have to be quilted 2-4″ apart. All of my quilts are designed based on a 10-inch block – so with this batting you can make one of my quilts without any quilting at all within the block – just stitch in the ditch. (I always quilt inside my blocks too – but it’s because I want to, not because I have to.)

The amount of shrinkage is perfect. See the crinkly Buttonholes quilt at the top? That’s exactly the amount of crinkle I like. Quilt your quilt without pre-shrinking the batting. Bind it and toss it in the washer and dryer. When it comes out it will be perfect.

It doesn’t shed cotton. I’m lazy and often leave the batting hanging out around the edges of my quilt while I do the quilting. Some battings will shed cotton fibers all over outside of the quilt while I work – which means I have to painstakingly remove them with masking tape when I’m all done. That doesn’t happen with Warm & Natural.

It holds up to lots of machine washing and drying. I’ve had some of my quilts for many years now – and I use them. That means they’ve been washed and dried many, many, many times. The ones with Warm & Natural look like new – no shifting or bunching at all.

So there you go! Lots of independent quilt shops carry Warm & Natural. As far as big box stores go, Joann’s seems to always have it and also carries it online. It comes on a roll so you can buy yardage, but I usually get the precut battings in bags – just because it’s easier for me to store.

Do you have batting scraps you don’t want to throw away? This post shows you a thrifty tip – how to piece those batting scraps together.

Happy quilting!

What are the different kinds of sewing needles?

What are the different kinds of sewing needles?

Want to learn the basics of hand embroidery with an easy online workshop – totally free?

Sign up for Embroidery 101 here. You’ll learn how to get started, the tools and supplies you’ll need, the four most basic stitches, how to transfer your pattern and how to display your work.

If you already know the basics – sign up for Embroidery 201. It’s also free! You’ll learn how to stitch on specialty fabrics like felt and stretchy T-shirts. Plus you’ll learn lots and lots and LOTS more stitches – all my favorites!

Liz recently asked me. . .

I have a question for you – what sort of sewing needles do you use? I am experimenting with different sorts but haven’t yet found the  perfect one. It looks like you are using six strands in your eyes video – which needle are using for that? And what would you recommend for three strands?

I’m going to use this as an opportunity to talk about sewing needles in general. See that photo up there? I loaded it up in a large file size so you can click on it to see it closer – and that’s a sewing bobbin in there for size reference. The three needles there are the ones I use most often (which is why they’re the hand sewing needles I sell in my shop).

Types of Hand Sewing Needles

Let’s start from the top. . .

The top needle is a size 5 embroidery needle. That’s the size I most often use for regular embroidery because I like to stitch with 4 strands of thread and it’s perfect for that. It doesn’t hurt to use fewer, and if I concentrate really hard (and remove my glasses) I can get six strands through that eye.

I often use a size 8 embroidery needle when I’m sewing or embroidering on felt. The needle hole can actually be visible in felt, and I’m usually only stitching with 2 strands of thread – so it’s better to switch to a smaller needle for that.

I also use a size 8 embroidery needle for Big Stitch quilting.

The middle needle is a size 4 sharp. That’s a basic sewing needle. (Basic sewing needles are called sharps – just to confuse you. All the needles in the photo are sharp, but the middle one is actually called a sharp.) If you click on the photo to see it larger I hope you can see that the eye is much smaller than the embroidery needle. In a pinch you could maybe fit 3 strands of embroidery thread through there, but it would be tough. That said, I have used a sharp to embroider with 1-2 strands of thread and lightning didn’t strike me for using the wrong needle. 🙂

The bottom needle is a size 8 between or quilting needle. I have no idea why quilting needles are called betweens. I think it’s just one more thing to scare away the people who opted out of Home Ec. Anyway – this is a good small size for traditional hand quilting, but I often recommend for beginners to start with something larger and work their way down. That’s why the quilting needles I sell in my shop come in a pack of assorted sizes.

This needle is also sharp, with a small eye like a sharp, but it’s shorter and thinner. I’ve been known to sew with a between, but I never quilt with a sharp.

And now one more thing to confuse you – as needle size numbers get bigger, the needles get smaller and vice versa. So a size 5 embroidery needle is smaller than a size 3. It’s like wire gauges.

So there you go – an intro to the basic types of sewing needles I use most often – along with many (many!) asides reminding you that you can use whatever kind of needle you like best. The needle police will not come and lock you up. 🙂

Got any other sewing or embroidery questions? Send them to me here.

Happy stitching!

Best,
Wendi
Applique Wendi (with fabulous hat)

 

Rotary Cutting – How to Square Up Your Fabric and Cut Strips

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. 🙂

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. 🙂 Get the Buttonholes quilt pattern here.

If you want to learn some more advanced rotary cutting skills, here are some posts that show you how to use additional rulers. . .

One more link. If you do much rotary cutting at all, you’ll notice your cutting mat gets pretty fuzzy over time – especially if you cut batting like I do! This post shows you an easy way to clean a fuzzy cutting mat.

Happy stitching!

Rotary Cutting Tools

rotary cutting tools

Nothing cuts strips of fabric better than rotary cutting. It’s so much easier on your hands, wrists and shoulders than using scissors! Plus, you get more accurate cuts.

In this post I’m going to take you through the basic tools, tell you what you’ll use them for and give you some recommendations on purchasing.

All of these tools are readily available at pretty much any fabric store. I also linked to Amazon for each product – those links are affiliate links.

My #1 favorite tool – and one I recommend for everyone, whether you’re going to rotary cut or mark and cut with scissors – is a clear acrylic ruler. Mine is 6″ x 24″ and that’s the size I recommend. It should have an all-over 1-inch grid, with markings down to 1/8 inch. Also look for diagonal lines that say 30, 45, and 60. Those seem mysterious at first, but they are terrific for cutting angled shapes.

I show you how to use this ruler in this post – Rotary Cutting: How to Square Up Your Fabric and Cut Strips.

I also have a 2″ x 18″ ruler, but I hardly ever use it now that I have the big one. Just buy a big one.

The only other tools you really need for rotary cutting are a rotary cutter and a cutting mat.

This my my rotary cutter and I love it. It takes a 45mm blade and it’s very easy to find replacement blades. Some people also have smaller cutters for going around curves, and larger cutters for going through more layers of fabric, but this is all I need. The blade is (and needs to remain) razor sharp – so keep it out of reach of kids until they are ready to use it safely – with instruction and supervision.

I have two different cutting mats. This is the one I use for most of my cutting. It’s big – 24″ x 36″ and I do recommend getting the biggest one you can afford and/or have room for. Most fabric is 44″ wide and it’s very nice to be able to fold it in half just once for cutting – so look for one that’s at least 24″ on one side.

I also have a 12″ x 18″ mat like this one that’s very handy for cutting quilt blocks when I want to spin them around to cut from more than one side. With this small mat I can spin the mat and not disturb the block. I’ve tried cutting mats with a lazy Susan-style base for spinning around, but for me that spins too easily. I’m happiest just using a smaller mat.

There are lots of other specialty rulers out there, with markings designed particularly for a certain kind of quilt block. Only get these if you make a lot of that kind of block. These are the only specialty rulers I have. . .

That’s it – the whole inventory of my rotary cutting tools.

Here’s a round-up of tutorials showing how I use these tools. . .

Happy sewing!