Fussy-cutting is a great way to showcase favorite fabrics and unique motifs in a quilt. Here are some things to consider before you fussy-cut pieces for your next project.

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Whether you're making a kaleidoscope or "I Spy" quilt, or trying to achieve a specific effect from novelty prints, stripes, or other directional prints, when you want to cut an exact part of a print, pattern, or shape, follow these steps for easy fussy-cutting.

Five Tips:

  • Fussy cutting requires more fabric, so be sure to buy a little extra if you plan to fussy-cut multiple motifs from a print.
  • Fussy-cut motifs are often cut on the bias, making them prone to distortion. Before fussy cutting, spray the fabric with starch to keep the pieces from stretching.
  • Keep in mind that motifs on a preprinted panel may not be the exact same size or shape. If you're concerned, measure motifs that look especially large or small to make sure they'll fit in a consistent-size piece.
  • For a quicker alternative, use tracing paper to position the piece you want to cut. Trace or photocopy both the finished-size and seam lines on multiple sheets of tracing paper. Lay a marked sheet of tracing paper on the fabric, placing the desired area within the seam lines. Using a rotary cutter and acrylic ruler, cut through all layers at once.
  • You also can purchase acrylic rulers and templates made just for fussy-cutting common shapes. Or, for squares or rectangles, block off the portion you need with painters tape or vinyl-cling material.

Using a Viewing Window

Make a window template from transparent template plastic (available at quilt shops and crafts supply stores).

1. Trace finished-size shape on a piece of frosted template plastic that is at least 2" larger on all sides than desired shape.

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2. Using a crafts knife and ruler, cut away the interior of the shape to make a viewing window. Alternatively, cut cardstock to the finished-size shape, leaving the seam allowance frame, to create a window.

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3. Move the viewing window over the fabric to isolate the desired portion of the print. Mark position with pins or chalk.

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4. Remove viewing window and remark as needed. Add seam allowances and cut out the print portion with scissors or a rotary cutter and ruler.

Using an Acrylic Ruler

Use common ruler sizes to fussy-cut square or rectangle shapes:

1. If you can't quickly tell where the center of your ruler is, temporarily designate the spot with a piece of tape (clear or masking) marked with an X.

2. Center your fabric motif under the ruler, then use the outside of the ruler as a cutting guide.

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Fussy-Cutting Identical Motifs

Create symmetrical designs in your blocks by fussy-cutting identical motifs from one fabric.

1. Make a template of the desired pattern out of clear template plastic; do not add seam allowances.

2. On the right side of the fabric, place your template over various motifs until you find the one you like. Remove the template; place a pin through the desired motif.

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3. Turn the fabric wrong side up and locate the pinned motif. Remove the pin; place your template atop motif in desired position. Trace around the template using a pencil or fabric pen.

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4. Use a pencil to trace a few elements of the motif onto the template; these registration marks will help you line up the template for subsequent pieces.

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5. Still working on the wrong side of the fabric, move template to an identical motif; leave at least 3⁄4" between shapes. Align template registration marks with motif; trace around template. Repeat to trace the number of identical pieces needed. 

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