How to cut fabric straight
When you're sewing at home one of the most important things to get right is to cut fabric straight in the first place. Many a project has been ruined by hastily cut fabric, where seams don't match and what should be straight edges are actually wobbly. When you get the basics right, the rest will be so much simpler and you'll get a polished-looking finished result.
How do you do this? In this post we'll give you some easy-to-follow tips to make sure you know how to cut fabric straight, and get the most out of your sewing projects.
A step-by-step guide to cutting fabric straight
You've chosen your pattern and picked out your favourite fabric. Now it's time to get your project started. The key thing to remember is to take your time. Corners cut here (literally!) can make problems later on in the project. Slowly and carefully is your sewing mantra.
Most patterns will ask you to match up straight edges. This is especially important in patterned fabric or in clothing, where any misalignment will show up.
If you're quilting you may need a rotary cutter, but for sewing projects aside from quilts, here's what you need to cut a perfectly straight line.
If using linen make sure it's been prewashed to avoid any further shrinkage. Other woven fabrics may not need prewashing. These heavier fabrics are easy to cut in straight lines because they hold their shape and don't tend to wrinkle on cutting. Ironing will make the fabric even easier to cut, especially with woven fabrics.
If you're a beginner sewer, we recommend starting with a woven fabric for the best results. Once you're more experienced you can move onto other fabrics that require more skill.
This is not essential but is a great way of protecting your work surface.
Scissors or retractable blade knife:
A sharp pair of crafting or dressmaker scissors is essential for cutting clean, straight lines. Make sure you don't use your fabric scissors to cut other materials, like paper, as this can blunt the blade. A retractable knife is also useful as long as the blade is sharp. You could also use a rotary cutter if you're quilting.
Any flat, see-through ruler will do, but if you're measuring a long piece of fabric then a longer ruler might be better.
Hard, flat surface:
Always lay out your fabric and pattern on a flat, hard surface. This ensures your measurements will be accurate, and that your cuts will stay crisp and along the line.
How to cut a piece of fabric straight
Before you cut out your pattern pieces you need to make sure the piece of fabric is cut straight. Here's how.
- Lay out your fabric flat. Fold the selvages together and see if the fabric is flat in the middle. If it has a lump it may mean the fabric wasn't cut straight by the retailer.
- Find a straight edge to square off from. Selvages are the best way to do this - find this for an existing straight line. These are usually blank and have the designer's name or product numbers on. Cut away the plain selvage edge so you are left with a straight edge and no excess fabric.
- Create a 90 degree angle by lining up this straight edge either with a right angle ruler, or with the corner of your table.
- Cut along the length of your table, or draw a straight line with your ruler and cut down this.
Cutting your pattern
Once you've squared off your fabric and have a straight edge to work from, you can start pinning and marking your pattern pieces. Check that your straight edge runs with the grain of the fabric, particularly if using a patterned fabric.
Then you're good to sew!