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How to Cut Large Fabric Panels in One Fell Swoop

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There are a lot of home décor projects that require cutting large panels of fabrics, such as curtains, throws, and tablecloths. When you're short on space, this can be a bit of a challenge. So here's a little folding-and-cutting trick to make it easier, faster, more compact ... and actually, more precise. Remember making paper snowflakes as a kid? You fold, fold, fold, and then cut, cut, cut. Same basic concept, but without the swiss cheese effect. Grab your rotary cutter and mat and let's slice!

For these instructions, we're going to pretend we need one finished panel 50" long x 40" wide. We've purchased 1½ yards of 45" wide fabric, which translates to 54" x 45".

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Fold the fabric in half widthwise, selvedges together. So the folded piece now measures 22½" x 54".

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Measure and cut 50" in length. You could either measure down 50" from the top or up 4" from the bottom. Place your ruler and cut through both layers with your rotary cutter.

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Pick up your folded and cut piece, and fold it in half again – this time lengthwise so it is now 22½" x 25".

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And, then in half one more time so it is 22½" x 12½". It's almost like you're folding a bed sheet to put it neatly away in your linen closet – in half and then in half again. Be precise about your folds.

Lay your neatly folded fabric piece back down on your cutting surface. As you remember from above, the finished width we originally needed was 40". However, because we already folded the fabric in half and that fold is still there, we actually need to measure half that amount, or 20".

Measure 20" over from the original folded edge, mark a straight vertical line, place your ruler and cut.

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Unfold it all, and you have a 50" x 40" panel.

Now ... to push your ability to imagine to the next level, let's say the desired finished result is TWO panels 50" x 15".

Follow all the steps above until you get to the final cut. At this point, slice off the fold first. Just slice off a small amount, like ½" to an 1". Then, measure from that cut line 15" over, and make a second slice. Voilá, two pieces 50" x 15"!

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Comments (16)

Cynthia Fedak said:
Cynthia Fedak's picture

Just perfect!  I have a cutting table, BUT that said, it isn't always long enough, or wide enough.  Or I have another project sitting there.  So much easier to do the folds and cut up smaller sections.  I have been working on a bunch of self binding baby blankets which require two squares.  Thanks for the tip!

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:

@Cynthia - You're welcome! It always helps to work with smaller sections in order to get the best cut. We're so glad to have helped you!

Pforgatch said:
Pforgatch's picture

Finally someone has an easy way to cut large pieces of fabric.   Now my blankets will go much smoother.   

Thanks

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:

@ Pforgatch - We're glad we could help you out! We hope you'll become a regular S4H visitor. 

Karen Boyd said:
Karen Boyd's picture

I was hoping for tips on cutting a really big panel like a quilt back from extra wide fabric.  For example I am planning to cut a piece 95" x 120 " soon. Folded in Quarters that is 42 1/2" by 60"

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:

@ Karen - you can do the math, substituting your figures for our sample figures. You need to start with the dimensions of the piece of fabric you've purchased and work from there.

Sheryll said:
Sheryll's picture

My only comment is when you are slicing a 1/2" to 1" to make your last cut. That of course, is to straighten the end. However, according to your cuts, shouldn't it already be straight?

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:

@ Sheryl - that was an extra tip for cutting TWO panels - it's not part of the main steps. You are slicing off the fold to yield two pieces.

Now ... to push your ability to imagine to the next level, let's say the desired finished result is TWO panels 50" x 15". Follow all the steps above until you get to the final cut. At this point, slice off the fold first. Just slice off a small amount, like ½" to an 1". Then, measure from that cut line 15" over, and make a second slice. Voilá, two pieces 50" x 15"!

Anne P said:
Anne P's picture

I don't like the final cut you make on the 50 x 40 fabric.  You are slicing off a strip of fabric from either side of the width, and cutting through 4 layers, and to me wasting fabric that could be better used if it was in a bigger width piece - you could for instance end up with one strip 4 ins wide (allowing for cutting off .5 inch for the selvedges) rather than two 2 in wide strips your way.

I would probably do the second cut the way you have done the first - that is open the fabric out and re-fold it as just 2 layers along your fold line - then you would only have 2 layers of fabric, instead of 4, and only need to to cut from one end - plus of course the selvedge off the other.

But I guess each to his own as they say!

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:

@ Anne - Yep - that's the great part. We can share our tips, but you only have to use the ones you want. 

SG1 said:
SG1's picture

While I get cutting yardage like this, it falls apart for me trying to get the ends straight.  Sure, I order 1.5 yards, but the ends are *rarely* cut straight.  What is your best method for squaring off the ends?  I know there's the rip method, but that almost always stretches out/distorts my fabric.  Also, the "pull a thread" method - so, i just take the hour or two to pick that single thread out?  What am I missing?

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:

@ SG1 - Below is a link to our article on fabric grain, which includes the methods you mention above ... but aren't crazy about using :-) . You can always line up the edges of the fabric on the grid of your cutting mat and trim the end(s) straight to align with the grid. If you don't have a gridded mat to use, you can work with the selvedge of the fabric, which is usually straight. Line up the end of the ruler so it is flush with the selvedge then cut along the ruler's edge. Once you have this initial straight horizontal cut, when you run out of ruler, just slide it along, keeping at least half of the ruler flush with your cut and move across the fabric. 

http://www.sew4home.com/tips-resources/sewing-tips-tricks/fabric-grain-w...

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:

@ Jane - totally remember that one! 

Sally M. said:
Sally M.'s picture

Great idea - trying to cut straight across on a very wide piece of fabric is hard sometimes.  

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:

@ Sally -- just have enough space is tough! Glad you liked the tip. 

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