Why and How to Fussy Cut

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Do you want a specific part of a print in your finished project? Then you need to learn how to fussy cut.

What is Fussy Cutting?

When you’re preparing fabric for a project, it usually involves pinning pattern pieces or cutting strips with rotary tools.

Fussy cutting is another way to prepare fabric for a project but it’s little more involved. It requires cutting around the part of the print you want to showcase.

An Example of Fussy Cutting

When my mother made my niece her quilt for her 5th birthday, she fussy cut the fairies for the fish blocks and the fairy godmothers for the cornerstones.

fussy cut fairies

If she had just folded and cut the fabric without paying attention to the print, more than likely bits and pieces of fairy body parts would have been scattered on the fish blocks and cornerstones. The finished quilt wouldn’t have the same effect it does with entire fairy bodies in the blocks.

Another Fussy Cutting Example

When I made the fabric drink coasters, I used scraps of fabric left over from some pajama bottoms I made my sister.

fabric drink coasters

My initial plan for the fabric coasters was to cut the fabric with my rotary cutting tools. After I cut one strip of fabric, I realized the birds were the perfect size to fit in a 4 x 4-inch square (the finished size of the coasters). I made the decision to fussy cut some of the remaining squares so the entire bird was in one piece.

Fussy cutting isn’t hard, it just takes a little more time than cutting strips.

How to Fussy Cut

Supplies

  • Rotary cutting tools (cutter, ruler, mat)
  • Painter’s tape
  • Fabric with the print you want to isolate. Prewash the fabric and press to remove wrinkles.

supplies for fussy cutting

Prepare the Ruler

Determine the size of the piece you need to cut. Remember to include the seam allowance.

(The finished size of the fabric drink coasters was 4 x 4-inches. I wanted a 1/2-inch seam allowance, so the squares I cut needed to be 5 x 5-inches which included a 1/2-inch on each side.)

Use a ruler that is bigger than the finished cut. I used a 6 x 12-inch ruler.

Carefully place painter’s tape on the ruler at the measurement lines to mark the size you want to cut. This will allow you to see the entire shape.

use tape to mark the edges

Tip: Keep the painter’s tape from hanging off the edge of the ruler. If it extends past the ruler’s edge, it gets in the way of seeing a clean edge of the shape you want to cut.

Place the Ruler on the Fabric

Lay out the fabric. If there is a selvage on the fabric, align it with one of the lines on the mat.  If there isn’t a selvage, you may need to square the fabric so you’re cutting on the straight-of-the-grain.

Place the ruler so the print you want to fussy cut is inside the tape lines and the edges of the ruler. Move the ruler around to get the print exactly where you want it.

center the image and align ruler with selvage

Tip: Don’t forget about the seam allowance. The fabric coasters have a 1/2-inch seam allowance. So when I placed the 5 x 5-inch square on the fabric, I made sure none of the bird went past the 4 1/2-inch line.

Cut the Fabric

Hold the ruler firmly in place, and use the rotary cutter to cut along the ruler’s edges. It’s okay to go a little past the edge of the ruler.

The first cut is a vertical cut. Push the rotary cutter away from your body.

The second cut is a horizontal cut across the ruler’s bottom edge. Be careful on this cut. Lift up your arm so there is a lot of space between it and the rotary blade.

Safety: Ideally, you always want to be pushing the rotary cutter away from your body. If you aren’t comfortable moving the rotary horizontally, just rotate the fabric and align the cut edge with one side of the square that is marked on the ruler.

cut vertically then horizontally

Rotate the fabric and ruler. Line up the cut edges with grid lines on the cutting mat. Then align the edges of the tape with the cut edges of the shape. Hold the ruler firmly in place and make two cuts. The first cut is vertical and the second one is horizontal.

rotate, align, and cut the next two edges

Voila! You’re done…that’s how to fussy cut!

a fussy cut square

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One Comment

  1. Beautiful & great tutorial. My boss loves to sew and she has me come to her sewing room to put together patterns and colors all the time. When she talks about fussy cutting, I wrinkle my nose, because it seems so, well, fussy. I love your ‘hack’ for it.

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