How to cut fabric perfectly straight
For every sewing project you will need to find at least one straight edge of the fabric so afterwards you can advance from that line on.
Fabric cut in the store is not always cut straight. Sometimes the bevel happens to be 5-10 cm or even more.
What will happen if you make for example curtains from a fabric without straightening its edges? If you hang such curtains all this unevenness will immediately be visible.
It is very important to straighten fabric edges for any sewing projects BEFORE cutting pattern pieces from it.
There are quite a few methods to make perfectly straight fabric cuts. But before measuring and cutting you will need to do some preparing.
1. Find out if your fabric is woven, knitted, or non-woven
Differences between the three types of fabric result from how the manufacturers produce them.
Woven fabric is made of many threads that run vertically and horizontally in crisscross pattern. Woven fabrics are usually not stretchy and keep their shape unless the threads themselves are stretch, for example some woven fabrics may have elastane threads, then they become a little stretchy.
Knitted fabric made of one continuous thread being looped back and forth. Manufacturers make knit fabric using a series of needles to loop and interlock fibers. Knits stretch vertically and horizontally, and the amount of stretch differs.
Non-woven fabrics (such as felt or fusible interfacing) are bonded together mechanically, thermally, or chemically. They are flat, porous sheets that are made directly from separate fibers or from molten plastic or plastic film.
All fabrics have selvages – self-finished edges of fabric that keep it from unraveling and fraying.
When you buy a piece of fabric from a store you will have a selvage along both sides of your fabric. And generally selvage edges are always straight.
It is important to find the grainline for your fabric. Grainline is the direction of threads running parallel to selvages. In different words, grainline is the lengthwise direction of the piece of the fabric.
2. If your fabric is woven iron it flat first
Usually fabric coming from fabric stores is folded in half lengthwise matching the selvages (exception is decorator fabric, which is not folded). Get rid of the folds and wrinkles. Generally you don’t need to iron knitted or non-woven fabric.
3. Prepare a flat hard big work surface
A big square table is the best (I bought mine in Ikea). Don’t cut fabric on a bed or a carpeted floor. If using a dining table extend the table to its maximum length. If all else fails, use the floor. Keep the table uncluttered. Put all the fabric edges on the table and make sure that nothing is hanging over the table and pulling the fabric down.
4. Prepare a pair of good sewing scissors
They have to be sharp and comfortable for your hand. Or you can use a special cutting tool — a rotary cutter.
1. This first method is my favorite and it can be used for many woven fabrics. It is very simple, very precise and requires only attention and patience.
Find the unfinished edge of a fabric (perpendicular to selvages).
Pick out a single thread on the frayed edge and carefully pull it. As you pull the fabric will gather a little. Straighten the fabric and pull the thread out completely.
You will notice that it left a visible gap line. Gently cut the fabric along this “path”.
As you pull the thread it can break before you reach the selvage. Not a problem. Cut along the path till you get to the place where your thread snapped. After choose another thread in the same line and repeat the process until you cut to the selvage.
Your cut will be perfectly straight.
Cut with one hand holding the fabric and the other hand holding the scissors. Don’t lift the fabric from the table.
2. The first method is not good for knitted fabric. So here is the second method you can use for knits. By the way, it is good also for some woven fabric (especially if you can’t easily pull the thread) and for non-woven.
So line up one selvage edge of the fabric with one of the edges of the table. Put some weights on the fabric or fix it with the painter’s tape so the fabric doesn’t move. And now look how the cut edge of the fabric aligns with the other edge of the table perpendicular to the first one. You will see that fabric goes slightly outward or inward of the table edge. Move the fabric so that nothing is going inward. Make marks on the fabric, draw a line and cut.
This is knit backed vinyl fabric.
To cut it straight is very easy. You can take a ruler with a 90-degree angle (if you have one). Lay the ruler on the fabric so that one its side lines up with the selvage edge and the other side crosses the fabric at a 90-degree angle. Hold the ruler firmly and draw a line with a marker. This line will be perpendicular to the selvage and perfectly straight.
Cutting knits straight may be very difficult because the edges of the knit fabric often roll. In one of the videos below, I am showing how to draw a straight line on curly knit fabric. Or you can flatten your knit fabric for cutting using a spray starch – I found this tip on this blog http://www.squigglytwigsdesigns.com.
3. The third method is good if you have some special cutting mat. Put fabric flat on the table. Measure the distance between selvages and divide it in half. Make a few marks on the fabric parallel to selvages and draw a line with a long ruler.
Put the folded fabric on the cutting board with grid lines on it, align the folded edge with a line on the board, make a straight line perpendicular to the folded edge and cut the fabric.
4. The fourth method is very precise also: is ripping the fabric.
But it does not work for all fabrics. Only some woven fabrics can be ripped. As for me, I rip many lightweight fabrics – silk, cotton, even thin wool. This method is applicable only to natural woven fabrics of good quality. Don’t rip woven fabric with elastane in it. Never rip fabric along grainlines. It’s only good for direction on crosslines going perpendicular to selvages. The ripped fabric edge can become noticeably more loose or wavy. But it will be perfectly straight cut though. So, if you don’t want this ripped edge which can look a little distressed – measure about 5 cm from that edge, draw a straight line parallel to the ripped edge and cut with scissors.
This method is especially good when you want to use fabric previously cut for some other project where you can’t even find selvage edges.
How to rip the fabric? Snip fabric with scissors about 3 cm from the edge, then pull the fabric apart.
Have in mind that ripping very close to the edge of the fabric may not be successful.
5. The fifth method is not really very useful because with it you can’t cut close to the cut edges of the fabric. So it is good only if you want to have a straight cut somewhere in the middle of the fabric piece.
Fold the fabric in half in width and carefully align selvages. Smooth the fabric with your hands, so there are no wrinkles anywhere. And the folded line will be straight.
8. When you need to cut squares or rectangles and already have 3 straight edges, if you are in a hurry and don’t want to mark cut lines with a ruler you can follow this technique: make a short cut perpendicular to the selvage (you can use a small triangle or something with 90-degree angle for this because it has to be precise). Now fold it up and keep edges even along the side that you already cut. Now cut along the folded over fabric. Repeat the process few more times.
This method is mostly good for a sturdy cotton fabric.
I use these methods to cut fabric perfectly straight. I hope this information was useful to you.
Do you have any questions? Do you know other methods to cut fabric straight?
If you have time please leave a comment below.