Cutting Fabric Using Cardboard Templates

This quilt pattern is of medium construction difficulty. What makes the cutting of the fabric challenging is there are angles that match nothing on any of my quilting rulers.  Thus, the pattern pieces cannot be cut easily using a ruler.  Paper piecing (not my fav thing) or templates is a must.

Because I do a lot of pattern creation I end up using a lot of cardboard templates.  If you’ve ever used a cardboard template you’ll undoubtedly have sliced off an edge or two in your attempts to cut the fabric accurately or ended up with a template with distorted edges from tracing around it.  Because I use my templates to cut, not trace, I’ve been whacking off slivers and re-cutting template pieces and it’s been driving me nuts.  I like to do perfect work.  The last thing I want to do is stop and remake a template because I sliced and diced it.  So, this whole “cut the fabric not the template” thing has been driving me nuts.  This week I finally hit on the answer.

In case it’s not obvious to you, this technique will not work with curved templates.  I just thought I’d get that out of the way right at the start.

I make my cardboard templates out of cereal box cardboard.

Cardboard template, courtesy of Cheerios . . . or Basic 4 or Lucerne Butt
Cardboard template, courtesy of Cheerios . . . or Basic 4 or Lucerne Butt

I prepare the templates by marking them with the name of the pattern piece and a double ended arrow to designate straight of grain. I also spray the back (fabric) side of the template with basting spray. Once the basting spray has dried or set (read the label) I set the template on the fabric stack matching the straight of grain line on the template piece to the grain of the fabric. The basting spray will give the template traction. Once you’ve used it for cutting a couple stacks of fabric, it will be less sticky, providing grip without quite so much stick.

This particular pattern piece is the parallelogram for the accent star shown in the above blocks. Normally I use a template to cut the first angle on a stack of strips precut to the correct width and then use a ruler to cut the parallelogram off the strips. In this case, I needed just two more wedges of this particular yellow, so cutting the parallelogram out of a scrap was the easy answer. This piece of fabric will be cross cut (see the marked line on the template) after it’s trimmed to size for the wedges for the accent star. I use a separate pattern piece for this cross cut.

The goal is to have the rule firmly against the template.
The goal is to have the rule firmly against the template.

Hold the template down firmly on the fabric and place the ruler snuggly against the side of the template. While holding the ruler down firmly, take your hand off the template, pick up the rotary cutter and run the rotary cutter against the ruler cutting the fabric. The cutter will pass cleanly between the template and the ruler without moving or damaging the template. Brilliant! Slide the ruler away without disturbing the fabric stack.

If you can, spin your mat rather than move your material stack.
If you can, spin your mat rather than move your material stack.

Rotate the fabric stack carefully to position for the next cut.  In this instance, using a small portable mat and rotating the mat is a good choice.

Holding the template firmly down on the fabric stack, set the ruler flat against the side of the template.

Holding the ruler down firmly, let go of the template. Pick up the rotary cutter and run it against the ruler, cutting the fabric.

Repeat for the remaining two sides.
Repeat for the remaining two sides.

Repeat until all sides of the template have been cut.

The cutting principle remains the same regardess whether you're doing a primary (edge) cut or a cross-cut.
The cutting principle remains the same regardess whether you’re doing a primary (edge) cut or a cross-cut.

If you need to cross-cut using a template, match the template to the edges of the fabric stack.

Hold the template down firmly on the fabric stack and set the ruler.

 In this case, the pieces are identical AND the template remains unmarred.
In this case, the pieces are identical AND the template remains unmarred.

Holding the ruler down firmly, rotary cut against the ruler.

Because you’re not trying to cut against the template, the template shape and size remains true.

One thought on “Cutting Fabric Using Cardboard Templates

  1. Thank you for this tutorial. I need to cut a million 60 degree diamond using a template. Although I use template plastic I still had trouble cutting into the template. I think you have the answer. BTW If you use template plastic(for me this is a flexible cutting mat), coating one side with rubber cement will make the template just a bit grabby.

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