Tag Archives: meticulous cutting

Constant Flux: Flimsy Finish & Pattern Release

It’s no secret that I love to design foundation paper pieced patterns. You’ve seen me create the likes of Lupine, Love Struck, Bean SproutLove is the Key, Fish Panels, Buoys, and more. Recently, though, I’ve been wanting to play more with geometric foundation paper pieced patterns, and I’m excited to share my very first one with you today!

constant flux pattern coverConstant Flux is an easy, very beginner-friendly, and diverse pattern. There are no tricky angles, odd shapes, or difficult joins, yet the design options are boundless. The mini quilt consists of four 12″ blocks, finishing at 24″, but it’s easy to make a quilt of any size by simply making more blocks or adding borders!

alison glass handcrafted patchwork fabric andoverAndover Fabrics asked me a while back if I would do a guest post on their blog. Of course I said yes, and decided to share a foundation paper piecing tutorial to try to spread the love of this oft-disparaged quilting style. This pattern is the result, and the tutorial will be posted on the Andover blog soon, so keep your eye out for it! The tutorial will take you step by step through how to foundation paper piece this pattern, which in turn can be applied to all other foundation paper pieced patterns! I’ll be sure to link to it as soon as it’s live. In the meantime, go ahead and buy the pattern and start choosing your fabrics!

fussy cutting for foundation paper piecingI created my version of Constant Flux inspired by Handcrafted Patchwork by Alison Glass from Andover Fabrics and just had to keep her gorgeous large motifs intact, so the pattern includes tools to help you plan meticulously cut elements if you so desire. I also include measurements for precutting fabric to make the process move more smoothly, so be sure to check out the tutorial early next week.

constant flux mini quiltConstant Flux is available in my Craftsy store (and Payhip for those of you in the EU) and will be on sale for only $5 for the first week, after which it will return to its normal price of $8.

The name of Constant Flux makes me happy because of the play on words. The visual aspect of the pattern strongly elicits movement, thus the “Flux” part. Yet aspects of the quilt can be meticulously cut as exact replicas, which is where the “Constant” part of the name comes in. Depending on the way you look at it, the constant can imply both that the movement is happening at all times, or that there are some things that are constant despite the movement! Constant Flux.

Constant Flux color optionsFor now, I haven’t quilted my first one and I already want to make Constant Flux in a different colorway. Look at all of the options I came up with in just a short moment of color arrangement play! The pattern comes with a full page coloring sheet so that you can explore your options before diving in. That bottom right version is calling to me–which one would you make first?!

I’d love to see what you create, so when you stitch up your Constant Flux quilt, please tag #constantfluxquilt and @nightquilter so that I can see your creation!

I’m linking up with Crazy Mom Quilts Finish it up Friday, Needle & Thread Thursday, and TGIFF. Happy stitching!

Lucy Boston Patchwork of the Crosses EPP {Sizzix Tutorial}

Today I’m excited to be blogging over on the Sizzix blog, sharing a tutorial on how to piece the iconic Lucy Boston Patchwork of the Crosses (PoTC) block. Lucy Boston blocks allow for endless meticulous cutting fun, the most kickassiduously planned pattern meet-ups, and of course lots of color play. (Translation: You can fussy cut your heart out and the blocks will look even more amazing the more meticulous you get).  Since Lucy Boston blocks are English Paper Pieced (EPP), they are also great on-the-go projects. If you’re looking for a new EPP project but are getting a bit tired of hexies, I definitely would recommend Lucy Boston.

lucy boston patchwork of the crosses epp tutorial sizzixAs you can see, I really stretched out of my color combination comfort zone with this project. With the Tula Pink Moonshine print as my focal fabric, I went wild with the blue, mustardy-yellow, and a pop of red palette. With my favorite Essex yarn dyed linen in charcoal as the background fabric, I’m really liking the way this is headed!

lucy boston patchwork of the crosses epp tutorial sizzixIn my tutorial over on the Sizzix blog, I show how to:

  • make a fussy cutting planning template with the Sizzix Honeycombs and Squares die (so you don’t need to buy the acrylic template, too)
  • Find pattern repeats in fabric
  • Fussy cut using a Sizzix die cutting machine
  • Assemble the Lucy Boston PoTC block
  • I share tips on matching pattern meet-ups after fussy cutting, and more!

lucy boston patchwork of the crosses epp tutorial sizzixMany of these tips would be helpful to anyone wanting to create a Lucy Boston block, with or without a die cutting machine.

sizzix lucy boston tutorialSo head on over to the Sizzix blog and have a look at what I’ve been working on over the past few months!

I’m planning to turn my Lucy Boston blocks into a vertical wall hanging with three blocks and red accent squares. Stay tuned…

For other color combination inspiration, you can see another Lucy Boston PoTC project I did here, or peruse the Instagram feed of Rhea at Alewives Fabrics (one of my fav Maine quilt shops)–she’s a Lucy Boston fanatic!

I’m linking up with Design Wall Monday and tomorrow I’ll link to Stephanie’s Tips and Tutorials Tuesday. Check ’em out!

Also, just a reminder that today is the last day to enter the giveaway sponsored by Fat Quarter Shop! Comment on THIS post to enter!

1930s Farmer’s Wife Sew Along: 2 Weeks In

We are now two weeks into the year-long 1930s Farmer’s Wife Sew Along hosted by Angie at Gnome Angel and sponsored by Fat Quarter Shop and Marti Michell. I’m a block behind already, but it’s okay. No, seriously, I planned for this. At this point in my life, I have learned to actually PLAN for being behind schedule. (Is that weird or just really resourceful? I haven’t decided yet).

Farmers Wife final layout warm coolThe final layout and block setting I chose/created includes background blocks between the farmer’s wife blocks, so my finished quilt only needs 72 blocks instead of the full 99. This gives me some much needed wiggle room and a whole lot less stress when I’m running “behind”. No worries. This is fun!

I’m having a great time so far experimenting with warm and cool color combinations as I put together the 6″ blocks. Here are the ones I have completed so far. For photos, I’m backing the warm colors with the black fabric in which they will be sashed, and the cool colors in a white/low volume print. I may swap a more grey-silver fabric in as sashing in the final quilt construction. Time will tell.

fw16bonniefarmers wife #8 aunt blockfarmers wife 14 betty block quiltAs you can see, I’ve been inspired by the gorgeous blocks being made by other quilters, especially the fun use of meticulous cutting. While I don’t have many “fussy cut”-able tone on tone fabrics, you can be sure you’ll be seeing more meticulous cutting in future blocks wherever I can make it work. It’s so much fun!

Reading the letters that correspond to each block has been my favorite part. The determined spirit of the farmer’s wives in the 1930s is inspiring and really puts things into perspective. While my block sewing has not been as reflective and relaxing as I imagined (shocker), I am enjoying this journey.

farmer's wife 1930s sampler quilt
The Farmer’s Wife 1930s Sampler Quilt: Inspiring Letters from Farm Women of the Great Depression and 99 Quilt Blocks That Honor Them by Laurie Aaron Hird for Fons & Porter/F+W; RRP $28.99 – Click here to purchase.

The only requirement for this sew-along is that you have the book by Laurie Aaron Hird, since the block measurements, directions, and templates are all included only in the book. There is also now an ebook available, which makes it super easy to jump right in.

I’m linking up with Angie’s Farmer’s Wife 1930 Sew Along Link up, week 2. I encourage you to hop over and see all of the gorgeously diverse blocks that have been made so far. It’s amazing how each person’s personal style and tastes can be put into the very same block! You can also visit the extremely active and growing Facebook group, which is now over 4,000 strong! I’m looking forward to making more of these blocks, and reading more inspiring reflections by the farmer’s wives of the 1930s.

A Quick Gift: EPP Rose Star Coasters {Sizzix Tutorial}

Today I’m sharing a tutorial for some quick and easy English Paper Pieced (EPP) coasters, made particularly quick and easy by use of a Sizzix fabi die cutting machine to cut all of the fabric and templates, glue basting the EPP pieces, and backing the coasters with felt (photos and instructions for all steps are included in this tutorial!). They are also a great way to showcase your hand-stitched EPP and meticulous (fussy) cutting if you so desire.

epp sizzix rose star hexi coastersWhile I was planning out and putting together the mug rug I’m making for my sister using the Sizzix Rose Star die (you can see my tutorial for getting started on the mug rug on the Sizzix blog HERE), I realized that the center of the Rose Star would make a perfect hexi coaster. Of course that idea stuck and I decided to play around with fabric arrangements and make a set of coordinating coasters to go along with my sister’s mug rug. Thus, this tutorial was born.

I’ve included affiliate links throughout this post so that if you decide that you want to give the Sizzix and Rose Star die a go and click through my link, I will receive a small compensation at no cost to you. Share the love, right?

Without further ado, here we go!

EPP Rose Star Coasters Tutorial

For this tutorial, I used the Sizzix fabi die cutting machine and the BigZ L Rose Star die, but many of the techniques can be applied to any EPP project.

sizzix fabi die cutting machineFirst, gather your fabric and get your die cutting machine ready. As I shared in my Sizzix mug rug tutorial, I like to pass a piece of regular printer paper through the machine, and label the pieces to help with planning. The Rose Star die is designed for EPP, so the single die can cut all of the templates and fabric needed (pretty awesome, huh?).

For this project, we will be using the A and B pieces. Begin by cutting the templates needed: 1 A and 6 B for each coaster. Since I made four (4) coasters, I cut 4 As and 24 Bs. I use cardstock for my templates, and hole punch the centers to facilitate easy removal after the stitching is complete. Use what works for you.

cuttingThe paper practice pieces can help you save time in cutting, too. For fabric shapes needed in duplicate, use the fabric piece to determine how wide of a fabric strip you will need, then use your rotary cutter and mat to cut a strip. As you can see, I gave myself some wiggle room, but if you’re a die cutting pro, you can really save fabric by lining up the shape flush with the edges of the cut strip.

fabi die cutting machineOnce you have your fabric strip, fold it accordion style and position it in your Sizzix sandwich: bottom cutting pad, die with the blades facing up, fabric over the fabric blades, and top cutting pad (not shown in this photo). Pass it right through the die cutting machine (or have your three year old crank it through for you), and you’ll have all of the pieces needed for a coaster. You can cut all the fabric needed for a coaster in one pass.

Now it’s time to baste our pieces.

glue basting epp with sewline fabric penFor this project, I decided to finally try glue basting instead of thread basting. I got a Sue Daley fabric glue pen, but any washable glue stick or pen will also work (Elmer’s, Sewline, etc.). I’ve heard so much about how glue basting saves a ton of time with EPP, so I figured if I paired it with the time saving cutting from the Sizzix fabi, I’d be golden with a fun, fast, fabulous gift idea. (Pst… I was right!)

sue daley glue basting eppGlue basting is similar to thread basting in that you are securing the fabric around the cardstock template. With glue basting, first put a dab of glue on the center of your template and stick it to the center of the wrong side of your fabric.

sew daley glue basting eppNow is the time to double check any fussy cutting you did to make sure it all lines up how you want it.

sew daley glue basting eppNext, apply a thin line of glue along one edge of your template. Be careful to keep the glue from getting all the way to the edge of the cardstock, since it will make it much more difficult to remove the templates once you are finished (ask me how I know).

sew daley glue basting eppHere’s one way glue basting differs from thread basting. Instead of working your way around the template, apply glue to opposite sides of the shape to help even out the pull of the fabric.

glue basting stepsBefore you know it, you’ll have your first piece.

glue basting stepsContinue glue basting all of the pieces needed for your coaster. With irregular shapes, start by gluing the longest side to help make the process smoother.

epp fussy cutting bunny rabbitHave fun with your meticulous cutting. This is a great project for using those adorable little bits of fabric you’ve been saving.

epp coasters tutorialOnce all of your pieces are basted, it’s time to start stitching them together! I made a set of four (4) coasters, but you can make as few or as many as you want.assembling epp coastersAll you need for this step is your basted pieces, sharp scissors, a sewing needle, and some thread in a coordinating color (I love using 50wt Aurifil thread). Sometimes, when the two pieces you’re sewing together are very different colors, there is no color that coordinates with both (like in my case). You can choose one of the colors to match, or just use a neutral color thread. I didn’t have black thread (Aurifil #2692, how have you evaded me!?), so I went with a contrasting light grey (Dove #2600) since I had already decided to quilt these with the contrasting colored thread. Once you have your supplies, this is a great project to take on the go, to stitch here and there.

assembling epp coastersTo get started sewing the pieces together, arrange your basted pieces the way you want the finished coaster to look. Flip the first piece over one edge of the center hexagon, right sides together.

assembling epp coastersWith a knotted thread, beginning at one corner, carefully stitch the two pieces together. The needle should only pass through the edges of the fabric, not the cardstock template, and only needs to catch a few threads of each fabric to hold. Many people use whip stitch to hold the pieces together (shown above). Sew the edge completely, then pick up the next basted piece, hold it right sides facing the next edge of the center hexagon, and continue sewing along that joining edge. There’s no need to knot your thread after each side; continue stitching the pieces together until you either run out of thread or you get to a point where no other piece can be directly joined.

ladder stitch to join eppladder stitch to join eppI recently saw the idea of using ladder stitch to join EPP pieces, so had to try it. I LOVED it! With ladder stitch, instead of entering the edge of the fabric from the same side every time as with whip stitch, you pass the needle from the side you’re on to the opposite side with each stitch. It may take a bit more time because of the back and forth of the needle, but I prefer it since it results in a nearly invisible join and I’m a slow and steady stitcher to begin with. Use whichever stitch works best for you and sew all seams. Don’t be afraid to fold your center template in order to get the outer seams lined up and sewn together.

Once your coaster EPP tops are all stitched together, it’s time to assemble the coasters.

tracing and cutting EPP coaster backingFirst, trace your EPP top onto a piece of 100% wool felt. I bought mine at my local quilt shop, Fiddlehead Artisan Supply, where there’s a huge wall of gorgeous wool felt from which to choose. Trace one hexagon backing for each of the coaster tops. I used a Sakura Micron pen since we are going to cut just inside the line and therefore it won’t be visible. Plus, Micron pens are the best.

EPP coaster assemblyCarefully cut *just* inside the line you traced.

EPP coaster assemblyThis next step is optional, but if you plan to use the coasters for hot beverages I would recommend it. Gather some batting scraps. This is a great way to use those batting trimmings you’ve cut off the edge of finished quilts. Again, trace your hexagon coaster top and cut out along the line.

EPP coaster assemblyTrim 1/4″ off each edge of the batting hexagon. This way, the batting won’t stick out from the edges of the assembled coaster. I used my rotary cutter and ruler, but be sure to count how many edges you trim since it’s easy to lose track. You should have six (6) trimmings after trimming each hexagon. Set your felt and batting hexagons aside.

EPP coaster assemblyNow, back to your coaster tops. It’s time to take out those template papers! You will need your EPP coaster tops, a toothpick, a chop stick (or crochet hook), and an iron. Trust me, and no, we’re not making dinner!

use toothpick to release glue bastingGently slide the toothpick under the glued edges of the fabric, separating the fabric from the cardstock template. Be particularly careful around the outer edges to separate the fabric from the cardstock without pulling it out of shape too much.

chopstick removal of epp templatesOnce the fabric edges are separated from the cardstock template, grab your chopstick and stick the end of it in the hole punched hole of the template.

chopstick removal of epp templatesGently pull the edge of the chopstick up and the cardstock template will pop right out. This chopstick removal method works much more smoothly with thread-basted EPP pieces, but as long as all of the glue spots have been unstuck, it should still smoothly remove the template. You can save the template and use it again!

EPP coaster tutorialOnce all of your templates have been removed, give your coaster top a good press with a hot, dry iron, ensuring that all of the outer corners are still folded in the way they should be.

EPP coaster tutorialWhile you’re pressing your coaster top, fold in the edges of your outer seams like you’re making a paper airplane and press well. This will keep them away from the edges when you sew your layers together, keeping the edges of your coaster neat and clean and free from peeking-out seams.

EPP coaster tutorialIt should leave a nice neat edge.

epp coaster assembly tutorialNow it’s time to assemble our coasters! You can probably just pin the layers together: felt on the bottom, then batting, then EPP coaster top, but I like to glue baste and use Clover Clips* to hold the layers together before sewing since it results in a nearly perfect alignment.

glue basting epp coaster tutorialUsing Elmer’s washable glue, make a tiny path of glue around the outside edge of the entire coaster. I use Fine Line Glue applicator tips provided by Pile O’ Fabric and they are fantastic. They are superfine applicators that screw onto a regular bottle of school glue, but they control the flow so that you don’t end up with gloppy globs of glue all over your project.

glue basting epp coaster tutorialAssemble your layers: wool felt on the bottom, then batting centered within that, then EPP coaster top carefully positioned on top. Give it a gentle press with a warm iron (note that wool is now involved) to set the glue. Clover clip the edges for extra stability and head over to your sewing machine!

glue basting epp coaster tutorialTop stitch about 1/8th inch from the edge of the entire periphery of the coaster.

glue basting epp coaster tutorialYou can also add additional quilting if desired and for added durability. I added a top stitched hexagon about 1/8th inch from the edge of the inner hexagon mirroring the outer edge stitches.

EPP coasters in useCarefully trim any wool felt that extends beyond the coaster top, and admire your EPP Rose Star coasters. Weren’t those quick and easy gifts? (You can give yourself gifts, too, you know!)

Sizzix Tutorial- EPP Rose Star CoastersBetween cutting the fabric and templates with the Sizzix die cutting machine, glue basting the EPP shapes, and backing the coasters with felt, these whip up as quickly as you can stitch the top together. It’s a great introductory project to EPP since it’s a quick finish, yet is still a handmade, hand stitched gift. I’m definitely planning on making more of these, and playing around with my fussy cutting, too.

*Disclaimer: Clover Clips are a favorite treasure for most toddlers. Use with discretion and awareness that there may be a pudgy hand lurking around any corner waiting to snatch your Clover Clips away.

clover clip toddler treasure

I’m linking up with Late Night Quilter’s Tips and Tutorials Tuesday. Enjoy your coaster-making foray! (You know you want to make some!)

Stash Building: Fussy Cutting Fabrics & Summer Nights Winner

Today I’m not only sharing some additions to my stash, I’m also announcing the winner of the Summer Nights bundle giveaway sponsored by Fiddlehead Artisan Supply. Let’s celebrate the winner first!

summer nights fabric bundle fiddlehead
Summer Nights bundle at Fiddlehead Artisan Supply.

Once again, your comments were my absolute favorite part about the giveaway. To enter the giveaway, I asked you to share what you think of when you hear “summer nights”. Many of you immediately thought of the song from Grease, which honestly had not even entered my mind. Here is just a tiny sampling of some of the other gorgeous images you shared. Honestly, you’re poets!:

  • starry skies and campfires, s’mores and songs – Jenn
  • a glass of wine in the garden in the evening looking at the moon, with my husband sitting beside me – Helen
  • A cold drink and good conversation on the patio with friends. Staying up late, talking late into the night. – Amanda
  • Star gazing and fireflies – Monique B.
  • I remember back when we used to arrive at the beach after dark and you could hear and smell the ocean, but not see the waves washing up on the shore. It held the promise of warm days on the sand and wading in the water to cool off. Happy times. – Amelia V,
  • Summer nights… trees, black silhouettes against deepening dark blues of the sky… Soft breezes bringing a cool freshening, chasing the day’s heat… A cacophony of frogs, joined by the insistent chirping of crickets… Mystical, magical periodic blinking of fireflies (“lightening bugs”)… The scent of summer blossoms and growing, ripening gardens all around, lulling and delighting with every breath taken… “Day’s end, and all is right”, now, in this moment of time… – Pat T.

and finally, my favorite, which really should be published somewhere awesome:

Summer nights of my long ago childhood includes the wonderful memories of visiting my cousins in rural South Eastern Oklahoma. We would be playing as dusk started settling in. Dinner would have been enjoyed by the crowd of extended family. Always enough, always super tasty, never fancy. Then the adults would settle into their metal lawn chairs as we children raced around the yard. I can remember the low buzzing of their conversation as we played. They were talking about times before us and so we went about creating our own memories, not really sharing theirs. The light would fade and fade until it was almost completely dark around us, the porch light left on, but it’s beam barely reaching into the darkness. Beyond its beam, hidden in the dusk the adults would still carry on with their reminiscing, the murmuring and occasional sound of laughter a constant backdrop to our continued play. And this is when the magic happened. The magic of fireflies. First just a few, then finally a full chorus of them in the dark. Somehow jars would magically appear in our hands. The game was on! Cousins and I dashed as we tried to catch the elusive insects, nothing like the brash ugly insects bashing themselves around the back light porch! These were silent and graceful, taking all your skill to try to catch one as its light flickered on and off and on and off, teasing us to catch it.
So, that’s what I think of when summer nights are mentioned. I hope there are children still out there chasing fireflies and letting them go, barely hearing the history of their people as it’s murmured from lawn chairs that still sit under the clump of trees. It has been years and years since I have seen a firefly. Are they still out there? – magistra13

You probably want to know who won, though, right? Mr. Random chose number 74, which was Linda.

Summer nights winner

Congratulations, Linda! Your bundle will be mailed out tomorrow. Enjoy stitching with watermelon juice running down your chin! For those of you who didn’t win this one, you can buy this bundle from Fiddlehead Artisan Supply’s online shop (or in person) until they sell out!

It’s a big stash building day, since not only am I bolstering Linda’s stash, but I am also sharing a few new fabric bits that I bought at Maine Quilts for my own English Paper Piecing (EPP) stash. I love tone on tones, but meticulous cutting (also known as fussy cutting) is best with busier prints with lots going on.

stash building fussy cutting bundleHere is my full haul, from windswept kids to flowers (what!? I bought floral prints!?) to awesome sloths.

Meticulous cutting fussy cutting fabric pullThese first three fabrics were purchased from Alewives Fabrics, and are intended to work together in a currently unplanned future EPP project. From top to bottom, I bought:

  • 1/2 yard of Zephyr by Rashida Coleman Hale for Cotton & Steel
  • 1/4 yard of Picnic by Melody Miller for Cotton & Steel
  • 1 yard of Moon Shine by Tula Pink for Free Spirit Fabrics

I typically don’t buy (or like, for that matter) floral prints, but that Moon Shine just drew me in and made me say uncle. I think the bold black background with the bright red, lime green, and turquoise combo just begs to be cut up and sewn back together in a fun geometric EPP way. I decided to add in a bit of the red Picnic and a generous splash of the limey green Zephyr, and there we have a solid beginning to a new project.

Flora Bazzar in Orchid by Joel Dewberry for FreeSpirit FabricsI also bought 1/2 yard of this Floral Bazzar in Orchid by Joel Dewberry for Free Spirit Fabrics. Again, it’s far more floral than I typically buy, but the diverse and detailed print just begs to be meticulously cut and pieced back together. I loved the color combination of the bright navy blue, coral, magenta, and grey and so bought this as a feature fabric for yet another not-yet-planned future EPP project. Just look at all of the variation in this one print!

Flora Bazzar in Orchid by Joel Dewberry for FreeSpirit Fabrics

Flora Bazzar in Orchid by Joel Dewberry for FreeSpirit FabricsSame fabric, different perspective, and an entirely new look, which means this will be FUN to chop!

Sloths from Honeymoon by Sarah Watts for Cotton & SteelFinally, these sloths!! Seriously, how could I NOT buy some of this fabric?! This is the epic sloth fabric, Sketches & Memories from Costa Rica from Honeymoon by Sarah Watts for Cotton & Steel. I bought 1/2 yard of this fabric from Fiddlehead Artisan Supply‘s booth at Maine Quilts. I don’t know what I’m going to make with it yet, but I just couldn’t resist. I surely will need to buy more, and might make a sloth bag just so that I can tote these guys around everywhere.

Did you know that I have a degree in Environmental science and saw sloths in Costa Rica while there for a Tropical Biology class? It wasn’t my honeymoon–maybe we should have gone to Costa Rica–but it sure is a memory, and I’m pretty sure I have a sketch (or at least a photograph) somewhere!

Does fabric ever talk to you, grab your wrist, and refuse to let you go without buying some? And then snuggle you the whole way home? Okay, good. I’m not weird.

I’m linking up with Molli Sparkles’ Sunday Stash, where he shows us the finer points of the not-so-floral Liberty prints.

Who Are You Calling “Fussy”?!

Sometimes there’s a saying that is so commonly used that you don’t even think twice about it. Last month, while on vacation with my family, my brother Steven commented on how cool my specifically planned cutting looked in my English paper piecing project. I told him how in the quilting world it’s called “fussy cutting”, and how much fun I was having with this, my first foray into it. He looked at me with an almost offended air, repeating with disdain, “fussy cutting”?!

english paper piecing at the ocean
Fussy cutting in practice for my Lucy Boston Patchwork of the Crosses center.

Steven is an artist who lives in San Francisco among many other artists of various trades. Perhaps this is why he was so taken aback by the terminology paired with quilters’ practice of selectively cutting a fabric based upon a particular element or design. He reasoned, “You wouldn’t call Michelangelo a “fussy” painter. You might call him meticulous, or careful, but never fussy.”  He has a point.

Dictionary.com offers this definition for the word fussy:

fussy

[fuhs-ee]

adjective, fussier, fussiest.

1. excessively busy with trifles; anxious or particular about petty details.
2. hard to satisfy or please:
a fussy eater.
3. (of clothes, decoration, etc.) elaborately made, trimmed, or decorated:
All the bric-a-brac gave the room a fussy, cluttered look.
4. full of details, especially in excess:
His writing is so fussy I lose the thread of the story.”

It’s true; the definition of the word fussy holds a decidedly negative air. “Petty details”?  “…a fussy, cluttered look.” Losing the thread of the story because of the fussy writing. None of these definitions or examples are very flattering. Personally, I think that fussy cutting in quilting is a skill and style that deserves a more complimentary, positive name. Then again, it’s just a word, right?
Choosing a design to selectively cut. From @nightquilter on Instagram
Choosing a design to selectively cut. From @nightquilter on Instagram

This conversation got me thinking: who coined the term “fussy cutting” and when did it start getting popular? I wonder if it was a saying created by the quilters, or by those seeing the completed work. A bit of googling uncovered the fact that the first evidence of selectively cutting motifs from fabric was the development of Broderie Perse in England in the 1700’s (from answers.com, so take it for what it is). The article goes on to explain that “…this technique was used by women of wealth, who had the leisure time to devote to this style of applique. Their goal was to make a “best” quilt that would be shown off to friends or used on special occasions.” In other words, it was women of wealth who could afford the time and fabric to select only very specific features to make a “best” quilt, leaving the fussy cut refuse to waste or other small, non-functional projects. Was the term “fussing cutting” created by those of lesser social status out of semi-contempt of those who could afford such fabric waste and leisure?

In searching more, in an interview with Eleanor Burns conducted in 1999, she casually mentions that she and her sister may have coined the term “fussy cutting”. Here’s an excerpt of the interview:

Brenda Horton (BH): Now you called your sister the fussy one but you “fussy cut” sometimes on your patterns, is that where you got the term?

Eleanor Burns (EB): Yes, she told me “fussy cut.” What’s really interesting, we may have coined the word “fussy-cut” but now it’s a standard in the industry. And that’s really fun to see something you started as just common terminology.

MF: Explain to us what “fussy-cut” is.

EB: Fussy-cut means you would have a large floral design with a lot of flowers. You might just specially cut out one flower and use that one flower repeat throughout your quilt, so it’s just specially cut out of the fabric to use in a certain piece. It puts together a really pretty design– fussy.

It doesn’t sound very disparaging, although between sisters, perhaps there is a bit of a teasing tone? What do you think?

Assiduous cutting with Amy Butler's Lark fabric.
Assiduous cutting with Amy Butler’s Lark fabric.

For me, I can no longer say “fussy cutting” without thinking of my conversation with my brother. Here’s my IG post from the night of the conversation:

fussing cutting IG postI wrote: Testing out my fussy cutting choices for my next #patchworkofthecrosses. Talking with my artist brother, we decided that “fussy cutting” is quite pejorative. So now, it will be punctilious, meticulous, assiduous, deliberate… but never “fussy”. Who’s with me!? #assiduouscutting not #fussycutting 🙂 Thanks, @vanfremdling and thanks to@goinghometoroost and @amybutlerdesign for the fantastic fabric for my @kickassiduouscutting !! #epp

I’m sure that “fussy cutting” will still be part of my quilting lingo, since when in Rome! However, I will also be using “assiduous cutting”, “meticulous cutting”, and “punctilious cutting” interchangeably. Personally, I lean toward “assiduous cutting” since then I can say I’m doing some “kick-ass-iduous cutting” tonight!

What do you think? Do you think “fussy cutting” has a derogatory inclination? If you are a quilt historian and have any more information regarding the origination of the term “fussy cutting”, I’d love to know!

Until then, have fun with your punctilious, meticulous, assiduous, deliberate, and okay… sometimes fussy… cutting. I know I will!