Monday 11 August 2014

English Paper Piecing Basics: Week 4 // Fussy Cutting Tutorial

Hello EPP'ers! This week we're going to be looking at the simple but highly effective technique of 'fussy-cutting'. What is fussy cutting? It's to do with the selective cutting of a fabric based on a particular element or motif you want to highlight. I think this image below demonstrates that in it's simplest form. You can see I have highlighted that central rose within the fabric which will then be used for my English paper pieced shape. 

When it comes to fussy-cutting the most important part is selecting the right fabrics. Look for fabrics with repeating patterns; geometric prints, larger florals and stripes work particularly well. As most EPP rounds or blocks are made from 4, 6 or more shapes, you will need to take this into account when selecting your fabric for fussy-cutting. For example, if you are making a 6-pointed star (as used in our tutorial below) be sure to check you have enough fabric for the pattern to repeat 6 times. You don't want to run out! If you're shopping for fabric - look at the pattern, would it be better to buy it as a long quarter instead of a fat quarter? 

Now in all honesty I don't do a lot of fussy cutting, for the reason that I don't have a lot of larger repeat fabrics in my stash. If you are a regular reader of my blog you'll probably know I loooove small-scale prints, however the motifs are usually too small and repetitive so wouldn't be any good for fussy cutting. 

I have used these Lecien Old/New 30's fabrics on a couple of fussy-cutting occasions now, they feature a great scallop border design which is *perfect* for diamonds, those big rose heads make for great hexagons and the smaller rose buds are great to use for a more subtle look. 

Now this block below (not completely sewn together yet) although it has a very small motif for the centre blocks the repeat is spaced out enough to make a feature of one flower for each honeycomb shape. The blue honeycomb shapes are also fussy-cut which give the illusion of fanning feather's. 

Tip: It's good to mix up different elements of fussy-cutting such as larger mirrored images and smaller motifs in one block to give the eye somewhere to focus and create balance. 

Stripes are great for fussy cutting. They give such a dynamic look and can be fussy cut lengthwise through the stripe or across for a completely different look.

As I don't have many fabrics on hand that lend themselves well for what I like to call 'mirrored fussy-cutting', often I like to use motifs this way as shown below. You can see I just picked out the strawberry motifs for my outer hexagon ring using a metal window template. Note I've pieced the hexagons with the storks facing the outside on all shapes. You could easily make a window template like this at home yourself if you needed a DIY version - an empty cereal box would be ideal. Just cut out the desired shape size from the centre using a stanley knife, while keeping a wide enough seam allowance around the edge, about 1/4" - 3/8".

Right, now for a little fussy-cutting tutorial! We'll be using the 2" 6-point diamond shape for this tutorial. Stars are a great shape for fussy cutting, they work really well to create that mirrored, kaleidoscope effect. 

Materials wise, you will need the following;

Fabric scissors / or rotary cutter
Sewline glue pen / or thin double sided tape
Acrylic template / or metal window template
Water erasable marking pen (or pencil or any marker - I just have to use a water erasable one!)
Starch spray (optional)

Begin with your fabric pressed well, it's good practise to starch your fabrics before you start also. It gives the fabric a nice light paper feel, making it easier to handle and cut. 

Find a repeat motif within your fabric. You can see I'm using the acrylic template as a guide for the diamond shape while seeing-through the fabric. 

Tip: If you're a newbie fussy cutter, perhaps avoid an overly prominent focal point at the centre point (the point at which all your diamonds meet in the middle). It puts a lot of pressure on for perfect piecing and fussy-cutting alignment! 

Here I'm using the yellow flowers as my main repeat pattern. The bottom of the stem is my 'lining-up spot' for the bottom tip of the diamond, and I'm using the yellow flower on the right-hand side as my guide for the angle. Now I know I have to line up those two elements for each shape and they will be identical. 

Draw around the template.

Cut around your drawn shape, (apologies the line isn't very visible in this photo).

Dot a little glue in the middle of your shape (a spot of double sided tape could work here also). Hold it up against the light and centre it where you need.

Remember for my shape I'm aligning the stem of the flower at the bottom, and making sure I've got that yellow flower on the right just inside my diamond. Now carry on the fussy cutting design for your remaining shapes.

Baste your shapes, tutorial here.

Join your shapes together, tutorial for star here and hexagons; here. Fussy cut star complete! 

So I know not everyone is into fussy-cutting, one of the main reasons is the perception of fabric waste. This is my 'waste' from the diamonds, I can still get loads of use out of this fabric and if you cut directly into the shape you can eliminate part of this waste. Now can you spot a mistake here? When you're fussy-cutting a repeat pattern you will follow it in repeat fashion, at the same angle - clue's in the title eh!? I mistakenly cut another diamond which was not the fabric motif I needed. Be sure to cut carefully folks! ;-) 

Next week we are going further with our shapes! With a free pattern, yay! I hope you're enjoying our English Paper Piecing journey and picking up some new tips? Just drop me a comment if you have any questions and I'll reply on this post. Have a great week. xo


  1. I see so many people who do EPP use hexagons or diamonds but no one really does clamshells. I love the look but am rather intimidated not only by the shape but also by the lack of other bloggers sharing their progress, tips, tricks, etc. Any thoughts on tackling a clamshell project soon?

  2. So pretty the fuzzy cut star! I too have been wondering about more rounded shapes like the Hex Den petals from with the lovely hexie center and cute petals rounded on the outer side.

  3. Pretty fabrics! Thanks for sharing those precious tips!

  4. Lovely work!! Great photos!!!

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