Why You Should Take the Extra Time to Fussy Cut

It’s right there on the pattern requirements; extra fabric needed for fussy cutting. You chuckle, and toss the pattern to the side.

Extra fabric? At eleven dollars per yard? No thank you. You’re not entirely sure what fussy cutting means, but you’re pretty darn sure that you can finish your quilt just fine without it, thank you very much.

But then…when your quilt is finished, it just doesn’t “pop” like you’d hoped. The fabric is adorable, and the pattern is interesting, but in the end, there’s something missing. You look at the sample quilt again, but even though you used similar colors, their quilt shines in a way that yours doesn’t.  What’s missing?

The answer, my friend, is fussy cutting.

What is it?

At it’s most basic (and most complicated, actually) fussy cutting just means to cut your fabric in a way that includes a specific design. Panel quilts are an extreme example of fussy cutting; the edges are cut off, and you’re left with the design.  On a smaller scale, quilters and crafters find a certain design that they want to highlight in their project, and use that to cut from.

OK, but why would I ever use it?

fussy cut patchwork sampler

Sample from Tula Pink’s City Sampler book

Most fussy cutting is in small patchwork, or English Paper Piecing. In the block above, the flower is fussy cut to be more prominent. Would the block still work without it?  Of course. Does the block look even better with the flower emphasized? You betcha’.

Notice that not every single piece needs fussy cutting – the side pieces, for example, are a simple solid. Batiks behave the same way, and most small prints. Here’s a good rule of thumb: If a design doesn't have a strong repeat, you don't need to fussy cut. Click To Tweet  Likewise, not all patterns have space for fussy cutting. I wouldn’t bother to fussy cut a jelly roll race quilt, for example. But the spacer squares between the strips? That I might do.

To me, the magic happens when you arrange one motif (pattern, design) over and over to create a kaleidoscopic effect.

fussy cut English Paper Piecing

Example from Katja Marek’s New Hexagon.

Isn’t it gorgeous?! This is actually a center hexagon, with six more hexagons around the edges. But it’s not easy to tell, is it? Whoever made this sample – probably Katja – chose to cut around certain parts of the design, and it looks like she has created an entirely new print.

Do you ever use fussy cutting in your projects, or do you give it a hard pass? Would you use it all over, like in Katja’s New Hexagon, or would you use it just once and call it good?





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