Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Colorbrick: Cutting! The Long & Short of Sashing

This post is part of a series {Colorbrick} a Beginner’s Quilt-Along. You can join in anytime, even if you’re not a beginner! Please see this page for links to all posts, and join us on Flickr to share your questions and work-in-progress!

I'm glad to hear that you all found cutting those bricks so easy (if time consuming)!  Let's push through this last session of cutting so we can get on to piecing our quilt top.  We're almost there! 

If you bought the solid fabric for your sashing and backing as one big piece (like I did) you have a big hunk of fabric to work with for this next step.  Cutting yardage is always more challenging for me than cutting small pieces.  If this is your first time cutting yardage, give yourself a break!  Do plan on cutting all your strips in one go as repositioning that big piece of fabric for a second session would be annoying.

Again, I will be demonstrating on a 18 x 12" cutting mat.  This smallish mat will force me to fold my fabric twice for cutting in order to make it all fit on the mat.  If you have a larger mat (or smaller fabric - mine is that extra wide linen I recommended) you may not have to fold your fabric twice.  I'll have some tips for you large mat people at the very end.

If you can, clear off a large table to use as your work surface.  If that's not possible, it's best to cut on the floor where you can spread out your fabric.

Step 1:  Match Selvedges

The selvedge is a tightly woven clean edge produced in the fabric factory.  Often designer fabrics are printed with the name of the fabric designer and collection along the selvedge.  My linen has a plain, pale cream selvedge, and Kona cottons have an unprinted selvedge with a slight uniform fray.  Any given cut of fabric will have 4 sides - 2 selvedges and 2 cut edges.  Before you get started, measure and note the width of your prewashed fabric from selvedge to selvedge for later use.

Sashing 1

Holding your fabric in the air, fold your fabric longways, matching the selvedges together.  If you are working with over 1.5 yards of fabric, you will need a partner to help you match up the selvedges all the way along the fabric, while still holding the fabric in the air.  Just do your best! 

Step 2:  Shift & Slide

Sashing 2

Wondering why your fabric must be in the air? This is the critical part.  Keeping the selvedges aligned, shift the fabric as necessary so that there are no pull lines and the fabric hangs flat.  This shifting is similar to how sliding doors move on a track.  Depending on how straight the fabric store cut your fabric, you may need to shift just a little or a lot.  Here's where having help is critical with a large length of fabric.

Step 3:  Lay Out

Sashing 3

Lay your flat, folded yardage on your work surface, careful to keep the selvedges together.  The right side of your yardage should lie over your cutting mat.

Step 4:  fold Again (if necessary)

Now, does your fabric fit on your mat?  If you're cutting on a small 18 x 12" mat, you'll need to fold your fabric again.

Sashing 4

Be very careful when you fold! Every fold introduces an opportunity for wavey edges.  Try to keep the fabric that remains on the table very still and match up the first fold to the selvedges carefully.

Sashing 5

How do you tell if the edges are really matched since the fold is not crisp? I press down with my hand as I run along the edge to see where the fabric will lie when I place the ruler flat over it.

Sashing 6

Step 5:  Align Bottom Fold

The last step before you're ready to cut is to align your bottom folded edge with a horizontal line on the cutting mat.

Sashing 7

Try to disturb the fabric as little as possible.  Depending on your situation it may work well to pull the fabric down towards a horizontal line or instead to move the cutting mat under your fabric to align.  As shown in the previous step, use your hand to press down on the crease to see where the fold will hit the cutting mat when the ruler is placed over your fabric.

Step 6:  Trim for a Straight Edge

Sashing 8

Place your ruler over the right edge of your fabric and trim off whatever is necessary to make an even edge.

Step 7:  Cut 1.5 Inch Strips 

Sashing 9

Whew!  Now you are positioned to cut those strips!  But before you do, dig up that measurement you made earlier of your fabric selvedge to selvedge.  You'll need it for a little figuring...

{Time out for a Little Math}

How many strips?  You need 12 strips that measure 1.5 x 53".  These are the long sashing strips that go above and below rows of bricks.  You also need 55 strips that measure 1.5 x 5.5".  These are the short sashing strips that will be pieced to one side of each brick.  Right now you want to cut enough 1.5" strips to eventually become the long and short sashing.  We'll work on getting the 1.5" strips to the right sizes later on.

Now, my prewashed linen measured 56" from selvedge to selvedge.  That means I need 12 strips to make all my long sashing - easy.  A little math shows that if I cut 10 additional strips, that will be enough length to make the 55 strips I need for my short sashing.  If your fabric measured 53" or wider from selvedge to selvedge, follow my plan to cut your strips.

But what about if your fabric measures less than 53" from selvedge to selvedge (as it will if you are using Kona cotton)?  In that case, you have a little more work.  SORRY!

  1. After trimming for a straight edge (Step 6), measure along the length of your fabric until you reach 55 inches.  (I'm giving you some wiggle room).  Make a straight cut at 55 inches wide.
  2. Unfold your fabric and refold this time matching cut edge to cut edge instead of selvedge to selvedge.  
  3. Follow the directions above (Steps 3-5) until you are ready to cut again.  Now that you are folding a wider section of fabric, it is more likely that you'll need to fold twice to fit it all on your cutting mat.  Technically, you should not have to trim for a straight edge, but you may find that after all that folding, your edge is not straight.  In that case, do trim for a straight edge.
  4. Now proceed to cut 12 strips (each at 1.5") for your long sashing and 10 more strips (each at 1.5") for your short sashing.

Sashing 10

Cutting through layers of fabric takes more pressure on the blade than you might expect. Remember to check for a clean cut before moving your ruler. If you need to, make another swipe to cut all those little fibers.

Step 8:  Position Strips 

The hard part is behind you.  Now you have only to cut your strips down to size.

Sashing 11

Turn your cutting mat so that you have the greatest possible horizontal length. Position one or more strips along a horizontal line of your cutting mat, as shown. I only set out one strip in this example. When you are feeling ready, try cutting two or three strips at once, either by stacking them on each other or setting them out parallel, each aligned with a horizontal line on your cutting mat.

Step 9: Trim for a Straight Edge

Sashing 12

Trim off the selvedge or trim for a straight edge and discard.

Step 10:  Cut Strips to Size

Sashing 13

Cut all 55 strips to measure 1.5 x 5.5 inches. Be sure to reserve 12 full-length strips for your long sashing strips. Trim these remaining 12 strips to measure 1.5 x 53 inches.

Sashing 14

When cutting your 5.5" strips, work across the mat. Rather than repositioning your fabric after each cut, work from right to left on your mat until you have cut all the fabric on the mat.

Tips for Cutting on a Large Mat

If you are blessed to be using a large mat, you may only have to fold your fabric once.  This will allow for greater ease and accuracy! 

In my case, my folded fabric was larger than my ruler.  The trouble here is that I cannot align the ruler with lines on the cutting mat both above and below the fabric, which effect cutting accuracy.  So, I change my approach when cutting on a wide expanse of fabric.

Sashing 15

I have moved around my table to approach my fabric from the opposite side, with the length of the fabric extending to my right. I place my ruler on top of the fabric with only 1.5" overlapping. This allows me to align the grid on the ruler with the exposed lines on my cutting mat along the side of the fabric.

Sashing 16

Notice that I am using the corner of my table. As I make the long cut, I move alongside the edge of the table to maintain control of my cut. I cut as far as my ruler allows, then slide the ruler along and match the grid on the cutting mat again so that I can complete my cut.

That's all folks. Next is piecing our Colorbrick Quilt!


  1. Although I'm not actually doing the quilt-along (just following it - I'm already working on a quilt at the moment) I love that you gave such detailed instructions. I've only ever made two quilts before, and wasn't sure how to go about cutting the large pieces of fabric. Now I know!

  2. I just finished cutting my strips, and can't wait for the next step...

    I am really enjoying the quilt-along. It's pacing me nicely. I like that I don't have all the instructions at once, otherwise I might try to stay up way too late to make more progress. And I like having little deadlines too so the project doesn't sit on my sewing table for months on end. The quilt-along makes a project that seems overwhelming for this first-timer manageable.


  3. Thanks, Amy! That's wonderful encouragement!

  4. oh no. i'm behind. my bricks are cut! I need to get on these strips! I don't have my linen yet...oh no!

  5. Thank you so much for doing this. A friend and I are following you. I have always wanted to try making a quilt! Sewing has always been this intuitive thing for me. I could show somebody how, but I could never write it out. You are wonderfully articulate. I also Love the pace. It allows for life to happen and actually get a project done.

  6. strips are done! I cannot wait to see how this comes together...thanks for doing this, I love being a part of it :-)

  7. I still need to order some backing. I found some 108" width on sale, I need to figure out how much I will need :-) love that you are doing this!I cant wait to start stitching

  8. finished cutting my strips this morning! I had some "wavy" parts in my strips (even though I thought I was being sooo careful!)and was feeling stressed, but had enough fabric to cut more and keep the best cut pieces. I'm convinced that I will never be a true quilter!!!

  9. I just finished cutting my sashing for the two quilts I am making. I did have a BIG blonder. I cut my long strips too short by 1 1/2 inches. So, I cut that much more to sew on to my strips and will just have to figure it out as I go along. I would say I should have measured it twice, but I did it 4 times before I cut. That's my dyslexia for you I thought one number and was really looking at something different. But I am not giving up. I thinking I can start the next step tonight.

  10. Aimee - you are a real quilter NOW, mama!

  11. Finally got the sashing cut... wasn't as bad as I thought it would be... I just hope I did it right!

  12. Super slick tutorial, Rachel. Thanks! I am f i n a l l y getting around to finishing the handstitched class quilt. better late than never!
    thanks again!

  13. ok, so I am 2 years late on this one, lol. I can't find hose much yardage you need for the sashing. About how much fabric do you need, not linen, for the sashing? Would 2 yards do it? I am going to work on this for a Christmas gift...for myself.

    1. I think the info you are searching for is in this post: http://www.stitchedincolor.com/2010/09/colorbrick-materials-list_18.html

      Hope that helps!


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