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Topic: Help! --- I can't cut straight to save my life!!  (Read 5862 times)
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« Reply #10 on: February 13, 2008 07:08:17 AM »

You've said you have the self healing mat and a rotary cutter, but to get really straight, consistent cuts, you really also need one of those see through rulers they sell in the quilting section.  This will work better than that ruler technique as it lays really flat and you can see exactly where you will be cutting.


You don't necessarily need a big one because the pieces for wallets are smaller.  I started with a long 6x24.  I've never done a wallet, but I make quilts and pouches.  This will become an indespensible tool, I promise!

« Reply #11 on: February 17, 2008 01:23:45 PM »

Your not the first to have issues with cutting, it takes practice.
Here's what I offered another Craftster about scissor cutting:

Well, rotary cutters rock, but if you don't have one there are several things you can do to get nice straight line. Yes, practice does help.

1) Get good sharp scissors. Nothing ruins a cut more than a crummy blade. Like trying to cut a tomato with a butter knife, why should you expect a nice clean result from tape covered crappy craft scissors that you've used to cut cardboard? Have a dedicated fabric pair of sharpenable scissors (even if you aren't a nut like me who buys Heinkle's in multiples).

2) Work on the right kind of surface. It needs to be hard and it needs to be in a place where you aren't reaching excessively or bending too much, i.e. a table or countertop. Cutting on the floor begets trouble, cutting on a carpeted floor is worse.

3) Cut going away from you. Sounds obvious but if your piece is curved and you start bending your arm instead of moving around to still be cutting away you will cut wide, or turn your scissors at an angle & get shaggy edges. If you are working on a table you can just slide your piece around & save steps

4) Use tailors chalk and draw long straight lines for big cuts instead of relying on the straightness of wimpy tissue patterns.

5) Don't pick up big pieces to cut, just slide the scissors under your starting edge & keep the scissors in contact with the table top. Tiny corners or curves it's ok to pick up because you can hold the piece taut in one hand to get a clean cut.

Things like pillows show pretty boldly (get wonky) if you aren't perfectly in line with the grain, make sure your straight edges line up with the grain.
Hope this helps

Addenda for Rotary Cutting:
All those things about the right surface apply here as well, but multiplied. Rotary cutters are much more sensitive to the surface you are cutting on. So under your new self healing mat, you should have a sturdy table or counter Smiley

Self healing mats are one of the greatest inventions of the 20th century IMO Smiley As you cut more over time move it around so as to not wind up with gouges. Always store it flat. Always keep it out of the sun.

Make sure your rotary blade is sharp. I buy replacements in quanity.

Personally, I'm prone to klutziness, so I have a really big quilters ruler for cutting fabric, it's 5" x 18"- enough for me to put my whole hand on it & cut without risking slicing off a portion of my finger or thumb.

Once everything is lined up, ruler is laid where you want, place your hand carefully then press down hard, now cut. I just lean my body weight forward on the ruler, saves elbow exhaustion and keeps everything firmly in place for the cutting.

Lay out out your ruler and fabric so there's space before the fabric starts where you can put the blade up against the ruler, this ensures a clean cut all the way across.

The rulers with the tab-y bit on the end that hold the edge of the table are very nice, architect's T-squares work well too but lack the measurement markings on the ones that are wood or metal (and therefore solid enough to use with a rotary cutter). Plastic T-squares are not substantial enough to use with rotary cutters, they can even shatter. Sad

When cutting you are pushing your blade three directions: down, away from you, and up against your ruler. This is the hardest part and takes plenty of practice to do well.

I spent a lot on my ruler and cutting mat, $20 for the ruler & $35 for the mat BUT I've had them both for easily ten years, and they are still in great condition. (today the same size mat is about $50 bucks). Think of this not in terms of cash out of pocket but an investment in better quality and happiness. These things are tools, not toys Smiley They are not supplies that will get used up, they will last you a very long time if you take care of them.

Just keep practicing Smiley
« Reply #12 on: February 17, 2008 04:34:34 PM »

Penlowe-  You Rock!  Your cutting advice is spot on and totally thorough. Thanks!

« Reply #13 on: February 28, 2008 07:36:15 AM »

A tip for cutting stuff with scissors (in addition to all the tips Penlowe posted, you rock!).  This tip is for smallish pieces:

Cut (NOT with your fabric scissors) a template from tagboard (ie, cereal box cardboard, not corrigated) for the pieces you need to cut.  Place your template on your fabric and, holding the template securely in place, draw around it with a pencil or sharp piece of chalk (if the fabric is dark and pencil does not show).  Remove template and, using SHARP fabric scissors, carefully cut along your drawn line.  Carefully label and store your templates for use later.

If you have larger pattern pieces, you can use poster board for your pattern templates.

Don't worry about the pencil or chalk marks (I have actually used Sharpies in the past) as these marks are in the seam allowance and can be trimmed off after stitching your seams.

Good Luck,
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« Reply #14 on: February 28, 2008 02:33:41 PM »

i have to second the using rulers and chalk or fabric pencil/markers!  that's how i cut smaller things for wallets adn checkbook covers etc.

« Reply #15 on: March 04, 2008 03:57:27 AM »

Wow -Ive been learning a lot reading this through.
An old lady told me to take a deep breath and let it out before you start -cutting she said it helps to prevent those jagged edges and it seems to help me, a lot. I get pretty tensed up thinking about the cutting as you may have guessed Wink
« Reply #16 on: March 04, 2008 06:15:34 AM »

I think the hardest part about sewing is bringing myself to do the cutting.  It's so final.  Once that fabric is cut, it's tough to use it for other things.  Accurate cutting is key to successful sewing (particularly in quilting).

« Reply #17 on: March 04, 2008 06:24:53 AM »

True, the smaller your seam allowances the less room for error. I started out sewing clothes with those generous 5/8" seam allowances. By the time I was ready to start a quilt I was comfortable cutting all kinds of things, but I was still nervous the first time I did 1/4" in seam allowances!

Actually, the very first quilt I did, I did 1/2 inch seam allowances & then trimmed them, but I also didn't have a rotary cutter back then either.
« Reply #18 on: August 29, 2008 10:44:15 PM »

pen thanks so much for sending me to this thread. yeah i was trying to cut with no ruler. im sure that seems so kindergarden to you, but heck i didnt know any better. things are going much better (and faster) now.  Kiss

i have to make things for my house as all my money goes to feed two cats, a dog, a hedgehog, a tarantula, two frogs, a snake and two humans
« Reply #19 on: August 30, 2008 07:46:24 AM »

It's not kindergarden, there are plenty of people who prefer rotary cutters over scissors for all cutting, they are just very practiced. It's easiest to get used to rotary cutters for straight ruler cuts though.
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