Friday, November 2, 2012

Sewing Confrontations, Post 1: Accurate Rotary Cutting

Six bloggers, six challenges, one month... dun dun dun...

Coming November 2...

Alright - today is the first day of the blog series! Every Friday of this month, 1 (and sometimes 2) bloggers will be sharing a post on their blogs about a sewing challenge (or confrontation, if you will) that they put themselves up to. It can be something they have been wanting to try, or something they want to improve. You can read a more detailed explanation here.

My Goal: To inspire YOU to try something new, tackle something you've been putting off, or improve a sewing or quilting related skill!

First up, we're here at Quilty Habit with my challenge: Accurate Rotary Cutting. The reason I started this series was because I realized I was lacking in my cutting technique. I've only been sewing and quilting for two years, and sometimes...

Confession: I am often more worried about getting a project DONE than executing my technique well. There, I said it.

Example A: I started to make a Luigi pillow from Cut to Pieces' Super Mario Brothers QAL. I'm SO excited to finish this project for Christmas (though I can't reveal anything final yet). Today, I have some in-process pictures to show you my challenge.

Cut To Pieces
The squares you need for these blocks are 1.5". Yikes. I'm not used to cutting so small. I seriously considered changing up the size just to make it easier on myself, but that would have made my pillows HUGE (I'm glad I didn't!) Luckily, I got over that momentary weakness and started cutting.
However, after cutting out all of my blue squares (you need 172 for the background!) and sewing some together, I started to notice they were coming out like this:
That's a whole 1/8 of an inch (ish) off or so (sorry for the blurring picture). Bad. That becomes a BIG problem when you sew a quarter inch seam and your seams don't line up (see bottom 2 rows in this picture:)
Also, some of them weren't even squares, I'm embarrassed to say (also, see above picture). So, I decided to cut out all new squares. This is how many I had to throw out because they were either cut sloppily or inaccurately:
And this is what I aimed for with every single one:
These are unpressed, but you can see they are the same size!
And as I cut and sewed the other squares, they built up and I could see a difference. I know these are also unpressed so it doesn't look that great, but I could tell. I will be posting a look at my final Luigi pillow at the end of the month for the link up- hopefully the seams match up! Now, with all of my projects, I'm making the extra effort to cut as well as possible. Every. Single. Time.

Tips for Accurate Rotary Cutting (or, how I addressed my inattention to technique)
1. Take your time and concentrate on what you are doing!!! I can't stress this enough. It's not something you should do while you're watching a show or movie (though I don't at all condone listening to music!). I stopped watching True Blood (guilty pleasure) and started paying attention. There are some parts of sewing you can accomplish mindlessly, but I realized that this is not one of them. If you rush the cutting, not only do you risk hurting yourself with your rotary cutter, but you will be inaccurate! You don't want to mess up the fabric you spent your hard-earned money on (and we all know fabric is not cheap!). Which leads me to my next point...

2. Use the right equipment. For my first 8 months of sewing or so, I was using my moms cutting board (yes, for food) to cut for quilts. Do yourself a favor and make sure you have a large self-healing mat (I got mine at Walmart for about $25) and a large ruler to cut alongside. If you're cutting little pieces like I was, use a smaller ruler and if you have it, a smaller mat. Make the investment; you'll be using it again, or you can pass it along to another sewist if you don't. Use a good rotary cutter and...

3. Use sharp blades. Those things can become dull if you cut a lot (duh!! But seriously, you might not really think about it!). I try to change mine with every big cutting project (like a quilt). For the pillow, I realized I didn't know how long it had been since I had changed mine (bad) so it was time. And when I changed it, I noticed the difference instantly. You get a sharper, more accurate cut - just watch your fingers! They can be expensive but I find them worth it - I get mine from Amazon, though I'm sure there are cheaper places out there (if you know of one, let me know in the comments!). You can also buy a rotary blade sharpener, though I have never used one, so I can't accurately describe how good they are (again, tell me in the comments!).

4. Use proper lighting. This goes along with number two. I often sew at night and I live in a tiny apartment, so I am in the process of setting up another light to use in my sewing space. If you can't see, you're going to make mistakes. I made sure, when cutting for my Luigi pillow, that I did it during the day time (and sewed at night).

5. Finally... don't cut fabric when you are tired! Seriously! Don't do it! Leave it for another time/day. Goes with #1.

I've redone the bottom two rows since this picture. The others actually LOOK the same size!

 How about you? What are you going to work on in November? The link up will be right here on Nov. 30, and you can post to win fabric... so start working on your project (it does not have to be finished!!

See you next week for Rebecca's post (which, incidentally, coincides quite well with mine)!

Kickoff: Friday, Nov. 2: Jess at Quilty Habit (right here!) - Accurate Rotary Cutting
Nov. 9: Rebecca at Sew Festive Handmade - The 1/4 Inch Seam
Nov. 16: Val at PinkPlease! - Ruffles
Nov. 23: Rachel at Let's Begin Sewing... - English Paper Piecing
Nov. 30: DOUBLE POST: Katie at Swim, Bike, Quilt - Sewing with Knits
Kristina at Ornamental Confectionary - Making Pants
*AND link up at Quilty Habit with your own Sewing Confrontation!

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  1. it is so true. don't cut when tired! my very first quilt was a group project. i volunteered to do all of the cutting because i was so nervous i'd mess up the sewing. And guess what? Cutting is the most important part sometimes! ha. joke was on me.

  2. Oh, I especially agree with number 5. My 10 month son has been up for an hour several nights lately, and I think, why don't I do some sewing? After the first night where everything I cut was incorrect I told myself I can only sew things that are easy to take apart.

  3. Great post, Jess - all important reminders!

  4. Great advise on not cutting when you are tired. I try to do it after dinner sometimes after a whole day of work and make so many mistakes. Now I reserve that for the weekend. Way more accurate.

  5. accurate cutting is definitely something I need to try to improve. I've never changed my rotary blade so I don't think I'm doing myself any favours there!


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