Make it Modern: Fussy Cutting with Flair

A sample layout of fussy cut hexies

I’m not usually fussy until, that is, it comes to fabric. I believe that every piece of fabric in my stash is there for a reason, and should be used to its full advantage. My collection of yardage is vast and deep, but it does have a few holes. And I take full responsibility.

Fabric with holes from fussy cutting

This winter I’ve embarked on making an English Paper Pieced (EPP) honeycomb quilt featuring fun modern fabrics with charming motifs. And I just can’t stop cutting into yardage, creating lots of fabric Swiss cheese in my studio.  I’ve become a fussy-cutting fanatic.

The term “fussy cutting” simply means to intentionally cut a piece of fabric that features a specific detail or image.  It is not the most economical way to cut fabric, but it is one of the best uses for specialty prints. And who can resist the charming small-scale prints available today like these ones from our friends at Dear Stella?

Stack of small scale print fabrics for fussy cutting

In quilting, we fussy cut all the time. Whether we cut striped fabric on the bias (one of my favorite tricks for binding a quilt) or strategically position templates to capture an image printed on the cloth, fussy cutting is an essential quilting technique.

After all, the prints that are being created today are tailor made for this technique. I love to find a surprising image of an animal or an arrangement of flowers that can be featured in a unique and interesting way.

Fussy cutting template over fabric

For this quilt, I plan on cutting multiple images from the same fabrics and have been experimenting with their arrangement. Each block will be different, but unified in design.

Fussy cut honeycomb shapes

While cutting the fabrics and piecing this quilt, I’ve collected my top 10 tips along the way to make the process easier. Some are tried-and-true, while others might be new to you.

1. Plan your cuts to maximize use of the fabric Fussy cutting does require more yardage, so plan your attack to make sure you have enough fabric for the project. I always purchase a bit extra to make sure I don’t run out.

2. Cut a viewing template from cardboard or buy one premade I have a hard time visualizing the chunk I am cutting. By masking the fabric I’m cutting away and framing the motif, cutting and planning are much easier. To make a frame, trace your template onto a piece of cardboard at least ½” larger than the template on all sides. In this case, my template was the EPP paper.

Fussy cut template along with the piece it will make

3. Create a cutting template If you are cutting out lots of identical pieces, consider making a cutting template from plastic. Make registration marks on the plastic to help position it exactly in place, then trace it with a sharp pencil and cut the fabric by hand.

4. Accuracy matters If you make a mistake get over it and move on. Cut another piece correctly: you’ll be happy you did.

5. Cut a few pieces, then play You might change your mind about your initial fussy cuts and want to change them slightly for a different effect. Or, like me, you might find you need more of your favorite cuts!

Fussy cut seagulls

6. Make your life easier Cut all of the identical shapes at once and organize them in plastic bags so you don’t lose them. Ask me how I know!

7. Choose more than one motif to cut from each fabric See these adorable hedgehogs?  They will make a cute addition to my quilt, but I can also cut into the garland in a number of directions for pieces with additional interest.

Fussy cut hedghog

8. Make surprising fabric choices The obvious choices for fussy cutting are cute motifs. But what about symmetrical paisleys? Low volume prints? Polka dots? These will all yield interesting results. I’m particularly drawn to these gemstone prints that will create interesting secondary designs when stitched together.

9. Mix and match Good designs are often serendipitous, so that means you have to have a lot of choices in your stash. Find a stand-out image and pair it with a solid or tiny print for a surprising composition. Use fabrics from a variety of designers in the same block. I love how each fabric in this block is fussy cut to stand on its own, but works so well with its neighbor.

Fussy cut block layout

10. Have fun! Fussy cutting is just one of the MANY techniques we quilters use nearly every day. But to do it, you need to build your stash, and we have a fun way to do just that.

We’ve partnered with Dear Stella to give one lucky reader a chance to win a bundle of 1 yard cuts on select fabrics from our Fussy Cut Favorites! Hop over to their blog to enter! (This contest runs until 3PM EST on January 29, 2018. Winner will be randomly picked and emailed shortly after the giveaway closes.) Good luck!

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