Your project calls for a panel of fabric two or even three times wider than the fabric you bought at the store. No problem. You're going to sew multiple widths together to get the bigger width you need. But you can't just start cutting widths of your fabric. The pattern isn't going to match up and/or your beautiful design motif is going to end up in the wrong place on your project. Instead of wasting expensive fabric through trial and error, you need to figure out your cuts based on the fabric's design repeat.
Home décor expert, Donna Babylon does a great job explaining the concept of fabric design repeats in her book, Decorating Sewlutions: Learn to Sew as You Decorate Your Home. She has graciously let us share her tips here.
You might also want to take a look at Donna's tips for Joining Fabric Widths to Make an Extra Wide Panel.
Finding The Repeat
The first thing to do when planning to cut your fabric for repeating panels is to determine where your pattern starts repeating itself.
Lay out your fabric on a flat surface and examine the selvage to identify a 'repeat' - the distance from one motif to another that is identical. Find a distinguishing feature of the printed motif and scan along the selvage until you see the same feature.
The distance can vary from 1 to 36 inches or more. Many times, a plus sign, printed on the selvage, will identify the start and stop of a repeat.
If your fabric has a very prominent repeat design, determine where you want this design to be placed on the finished project. For example, if you are making multiple matching pillows or shams, the same motif should be in the same position on each pillow front.
Measure, Cut, Repeat
Once you've determined where your repeat begins and ends, use a ruler and fabric marker to draw a line across the width of your fabric. And make your cuts.
To cut additional widths, use the first length as a guide. Place it directly on top of the remaining fabric, right sides up, matching the motifs. Use a straight edge and fabric marker to mark the cutting lines.
Cutting Out Matching Panels
To cut matching pillow fronts, fussy cut the first one to size. Then place it directly on top of another area of the fabric and match the designs along all four cut edges to the designs on the uncut fabric. Pin the cut piece in place and cut around it.
For more information about making exact design cuts on your projects, see our tutorial, How To Fussy Cut.