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How to Fussy Cut Fabric

fussy cutting prints

Fussy cutting. What does that even mean? My mother literally asked me that question after I posted a picture of one of my Moroccan Tiles quilt blocks on Instagram the other day. My sweet mother doesn’t sew (except for general mending). This was the picture I posted:

Fabrics are from Leslie Tucker Jenison’s Urban Garden and Tula Pink’s All Stars. Quilt pattern is Moroccan Tiles by me.

So- back to the question. What is fussy cutting? Well, “fussy” generally means pain in the rear, right? And cutting…well–that’s pretty self explanatory. So there you go mom! Fussy cutting = pain in the rear cutting!

Let’s say you have a yard of fabric with a lovely print on it. You’re making a quilt block and need to cut ten squares from that fabric (doesn’t matter the size right now–this is a hypothetical scenario). You lay your fabric out and cut those squares right next to each other so you don’t waste that gorgeous fabric. That is the OPPOSITE of fussy cutting. Now lets say that same fabric has a picture of a little girl with her dog spaced throughout the fabric. You unfold the fabric and cut each of those ten squares with the little girl and her dog centered within each square. THAT is fussy cutting.

Fussy cutting is the high maintenance sister of regular cutting. She’s more expensive, wants diamonds on everything, and drives the most expensive car there is. Okay…so enough with the metaphors.

Here’s what fussy cutting boils down to:

Basically, if you’re going to fussy cut for a project, here’s what you need to think about:

  • How many of these little pictures will I need to cut?
  • Is there enough space between each little picture I’m wanting to cut to allow for seam allowance?
  • How much extra fabric will I need since I’m fussy cutting?
  • Is this motif worth the extra fabric and time I’m going to use cutting this?
  • Do I have a clear template I can use to make this easier on me?

How do I do it?

Fantastic question! So cutting your fabric this way takes a little extra precision and practice. I made up a quick video tutorial to show you how to use this technique. This is a great video to show you how to cut prints–as pictured below.

I also made another video to show how to fussy cut stripes (specifically for the Moroccan Tiles Sew Along, but it can be applied to any quilt). If you like these videos, I’ve got more tutorials at my YouTube channel.

Now that you’ve got these videos to help you out, I think you’ll be addicted to fussy cutting. I really love to use it–especially with English Paper Piecing. Here’s a picture of my La Passacaglia quilt that I fussy cut almost every fabric for. You can see the difference it makes, and the kaleidoscope effect it has when sewn together.

My first EPP project was La Passacaglia by Millefiori quilts. I fussy cut about 80% of the fabrics for this.

To fussy cut, or not to fussy cut?

Now that you know all the ins and outs of this technique, you can make a fully informed decision on which quilting projects you should use it. One of the biggest mistakes I made when I first started fussy cutting was not accounting for enough fabric. I would start cutting and realize there weren’t enough of the specific pictures throughout the fabric that I needed. And that’s a BIG problem if you’re working with an out of print fabric.

fussy cutting

Just keep in mind that you’ll need extra time and fabric and you’ll be on your way to rocking this technique and WOW-ing everyone with your amazing quilts. Good luck!! I know you’ll do great 🙂