Denim Chenille Quilt

Page 2 - Cutting the Calico


After you have prewashed, dried and pressed your calico fabric, you need to straighten an edge so that any strips you cut from the folded fabric will be straight when opened and not V- or W-shaped. There are a few methods listed on the general rotary cutting instructions article; the simplest is to fold the fabric the way it came off the bolt at the store, holding both selvedges in your hands and letting the fold hang down. If the fold hangs smoothly, you can lay it on your mat ready to trim straight. You may need to shift the seam allowances back and forth in your fingers to get the fold to hand straight. You're holding the fabric like you would if it were a bedsheet that you were folding.

In this set of photographs, I have left the fabric folded in half, instead of folding it in quarters as previously shown. Either way is fine. If you fold it in quarters, it is easier to cut across, but you run a greater risk of W-shaped strips. Practice and experiment to see what works best for you.

In the photos, a right-handed cutter is assumed. The cut would be made on the right side of the ruler. Left-handed people will set it up to cut with the ruler under their right hand and cut on the left edge of the ruler.

The fabric has been aligned on the mat and a straight cut has been made.

Position the fabric on the mat as directed in the general rotary cutting instructions post. Straighten the edge of the fabric at a 90 degree angles. Turn the fabric around to cut strips. You are cutting 6 1/2" strips. Remember that you need 120 squares, and you will probably get six squares from each full-width strip. Decide how many strips and squares you will need from each fabric you are using. Cut the strips.

This is a close view of how to measure the strip when the ruler is narrower than the strip you are cutting. Notice that the ruler is lined up with the lines on the mat and not the edge of the fabric.

The fabric and ruler are in the correct position to cut the first 6 1/2" strip.

Cut as many strips as you require. Note that to achieve a clear photo I have shifted the fabric to show where the cuts are - you should NOT shift the fabric but only move the ruler.

Stack up 2-4 strips and position them along horizontal lines on the mat. The selvedges should be to your right and the fold to your left (the other way around for lefties!) Trim off the selvedges or rough edges and then turn the fabric around to cut squares. Cut as many squares as you want to. In the photo on the right, I am cutting four squares at once.

........turn it around ........

Continue cutting squares. Since there are four layers of fabric in this stack, I have cut 12 squares here. Remember that I have moved the squares apart only to clarify the photographs and you should not do so.


If your scrap has part of the selvedge on it, you know that is the grainline and can line up your square accordingly. If there is no selvedge, examine the fabric (it's usually easier from the back) and find the threads to establish the grainline. Remember, we want our squares to be cut as close as possible to the grainline, or they donít fray up as well.

If you have a square ruler larger than 6 1/2", you can cut individual squares from scraps more easily. Find the "zero" corner on your ruler. Use this corner to be sure that you can cut a 6 1/2" square of the scrap. The "zero" corner is in the upper right hand corner of the ruler at this point. Notice where the bottom and left sides of this current square are at this point. Allow extra space beyond 6 1/2" on the first two cuts, so you can cut away selvedge or rough edges.

For the first cut, cut away from yourself and then across the top of the ruler, from right to left, as shown.

Turn the fabric around so that the corner you just cut is at the intersection of the 6 1/2" lines on your ruler. (The "zero" corner is still in the upper right hand position)

Cut the remaining two sides, away from yourself and then across the top of your ruler, from right to left.

If you don't have a larger square ruler, you can use your 5" or 6" long ruler to cut scraps into short strips and then into squares.

First measure to establish that your scrap is big enough for a 6 1/2" square. Position the fabric on the mat so that your strips (and squares) will be on the straight of the grain. Straighten the first edge.

Turn the fabric around, measure, and cut your 6 1/2" strip.

Turn the strip cross-wise and straighten one short edge.

Turn the fabric again, measure, and cut your square(s).

Stack the squares in groups of ten for easy counting.

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