Week 1 of the 2020 American Patchwork & Quilting Quilt-Along starts on 2/17. The assignment is: Gather fabrics and cut 1-1/2" strips. Below you'll find some helpful tips for planning your quilt, choosing and preparing your fabrics, and tips for cutting strips. See more about the Quilt-Along here.
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2020 quilt-along

I want to plan my quilt's design, so I can picture what my fabrics will look like in this quilt.

Download our helpful coloring diagram here. You can color it in to help plan your colors/fabrics or get creative with the design.

I want to make my quilt a different size. Can you help with the math?

We've had some questions about adjusting the size of the quilt! For the purpose of this quilt-along, our schedule and all our tips/tricks will be following the pattern exactly as printed (that pattern has been technical edited and gone through a quilt tester, so we know everyone will have success making it). If you choose to alter the pattern for your own purposes, that's fine -- but we, unfortunately, can't help if things go awry! If you'd like to make it smaller, check out the color option on page 27 of the magazine, which is 33.5" square. Or use the Coloring Diagram to plan your quilt in a different layout. And remember, leaving off borders or adding more borders can help alter the size easily.

This quilt calls for precuts or yardage for the Nine-Patch units. Can I use my smaller scraps instead?

Yes! If you're using scraps, you'll cut them into 1.5" squares (you'll need 725 medium/dark squares and 580 cream squares). Instead of piecing strip sets, you'll assemble your Nine-Patch units as shown in Assemble Nine-Patch Units, Step 3.

I'm not a scrappy quilter. Can I make this quilt in my favorite color palette?

Absolutely! See the color option on page 27 of the magazine to see this quilt in a two-color version. And consider using the Coloring Diagram and a design wall to plan out and lay out all your pieces before sewing. We've also partnered with Electric Quilt to help you design your quilt using their software. If you have EQ8 software, download the project here.

Should I prewash my fabrics? Is it safe to prewash my smaller scraps?

Prewashing your fabrics is a personal choice. Prewashing is not required, and you can use a Color Catcher when you wash the finished quilt if you're concerned about colors running. If you're using colors that are prone to running, such as red, you can test the color fastness by soaking a 2" square of fabric in soapy water for 30 minutes, then checking to see if the water is clear. If it's clear, rub the wet fabric on a paper towel to see if dye comes off. If the water is colored or the paper towel is colored, you'll want to prewash your fabric until it doesn't bleed anymore. Prewash in cold water and dry on low heat. Smaller scraps and precuts can ravel when washed, so if necessary, hand wash your fabrics or wash on the delicate cycle in a mesh garment bag.

First things first. What should I do before I even start cutting?

Change your rotary cutter blade if you haven't done that recently. That will make the cutting process much easier. Clean off your cutting surface and have a bin handy for the trimmings. Make sure your ironing board and iron are clean. Iron cleaning products are available at your local quilt shop or chain store. If you need something right now, try this simple solution. Wipe off the iron with a damp cloth to remove dirt and dust. Remove as much as you can from the soleplate. Turn the iron on hot. Grab an old towel and rub the ironing surface over it until all the buildup is removed. When the iron cools off, wipe it again with a clean cloth. The soleplate will be as good as new!

How do I prep my fabric for cutting?

Iron your fabrics using the right heat setting for the type of fabrics you're using (consult your manual if you're not sure). You can use steam or no steam -- it's up to you! Iron your fabrics flat (mist with water if you have a stubborn crease), then lay flat to cool. You can also choose to use starch to keep fabrics crisp while cutting.

How do I protect my back and wrists while cutting this many strips?

Bending at the hip rather than at the waist when rotary-cutting is easier and puts less stress on your back and arms. To facilitate this, place your cutting mat on an appropriate-height table or countertop. Consider getting an ergonomic rotary cutter if you experience wrist pain. And remember, take frequent breaks to stretch and rest.

There are a lot of strips in this quilt -- what's an easier way to cut this many?

Reduce the time it takes to cut strips with the AccuQuilt GO! Fabric Cutter and 1.5"-wide strip die (55024). It can precisely cut up to six layers of fabric at a time. For more info, visit: AccuQuilt.com. If you're using a rotary cutter, you can cut up to four layers of fabric at a time (if you do this, make sure you have a new rotary cutter blade and are getting accurate cuts).

When I'm cutting, my ruler shifts making my strips slightly larger/smaller on one end. How do I improve my accuracy?

If your ruler is shifting (this can happen when you're cutting longer strips, usually at the top of your cut), there are a few things to try.

1. Slow down. Stop cutting half way, reposition your hand closer to the top of the ruler for a more secure grip, then finish cutting the strip.

2. Try using a ruler grip or non-slip adhesive on the back of your ruler.

3. If your fabric seems to be shifting, try starching it to keep it crisp and flat for easy cutting.

How do I keep track of all these strips?

When you're cutting, place them in piles of a certain number (5 strips, 10 strips, etc). Then you can see at a glance how many you have. If you're losing count, use a small post-in note or piece of paper to write down the number of strips, then pin it to the top of the pile. Keep your creams and mediums/darks separated, so you don't accidentally sew the wrong strips together in the next steps.