Thursday, April 7, 2016

SubCutting SpeedUp with Stagger Stacking

Wow, say that title 5 times fast, tee hee hee.   Yesterday I was getting ready to subcut all of my strip piecing for my Ruby Jubilee Braided Irish Chain and I realized that there is a little speedup trick there that I always like to share in my classes, and I thought it would be fun to share it here as well.  So I snapped some pictures along the way to make up this little SubCutting SpeedUp Tutorial ;)  So here it goes.

So the main thing about subcutting strip piecing that I think gets to everyone is just how long it takes.  I  always fold my strips in half when strip piecing, because I never like to move my fabric once I start cutting. (and we are all about saving time, right :)    I just make sure the edges are nice and aligned.  So I was always taught to place my strip piecing on my mat, all nice and spread out, because you really don't want to cut through more than one stacked seam at a time.  But this means you can only cut 3 strips at a time.

So yes,  I will admit, when I first stared, I did indeed try stacking my strip piecing on top of one another so as to speed things up.  And while I can get away with one stacked seam from the folded strip, several stacked seams always mean shifting and some not so fabulous cutting.  So ya, I highly recommend you stay away from this idea.

So here is where the SpeedUp trick comes in.  Instead of Stacking your strips on top of one another, I like to Stagger Stack my strips!!!  To do this, place your first strip ( that is folded and the edges are nicely aligned ) on your mat, aligning the top of the strip with a horizontal strip on your mat.  I like to align this as far down the mat as I can while still keeping it on the mat ;)

Then, place the second strip on the mat, Staggering it slightly above the seam in the previous strip, and Aligning the top edge with the next available horizontal line on your cutting mat.   The Staggering makes it so that your seams are not stacked directly on top of one another so they won't shift when subcutting.

Continue to Stagger Stack strips on your mat until you run out of space.  You can fit seven 4 1/2" strip sets on your mat at one time.  That is a lot of subcutting.   And the stacking actually helps your fabric from shifting, as there is another piece of fabric on top of it weighting it down.   Stagger Stacking is such a great way to really SpeedUp your Subcutting without having to lose accuracy!

So now with the Strips all Stagger Stacked you are ready to subcut.   And since we are already in tutorial mode, I thought I would contine to share how I subcut.  There are actually a few ways I like to do it so you use what you like best ;)

Start by trimming a straight edge to get rid of all the selvages.  I just align my ruler along a horizontal line on my mat and trim.   Then, measure in however far your subcut width is. For today I am using 2 1/2",   Measure in the desired width of your sub-unit (2 1/2") and then double-check that the 2 1/2" mark on the ruler lines up with the newly cut edge of my fabric.   Then cut along the edge of the ruler.

Now slide over, or stack up, your freshly cut subunits so they are out of the way and you once again have a nice straight edge.  Then you can again measure in 2 1/2", double-check that the 2 1/2" mark on your ruler is aligned with the new straight edge, and cut along the edge of the ruler.

But a while back, I decided that I didn't like the time it took to move the cut units out of the way.  So I started using the measurments on my cutting mat.  So from the straight edge, count in 2 1/2" on your mat.  Align your ruler at the top and bottom of your mat on the calculated measurement and cut along the edge of the ruler.  This works great when dealing with 1" or 1/2" and even sometimes 1/4" measurements and speeds things up a bit more, but if I am doing 1/8" I tend to move things out of the way for the double check.

Whether you are moving pieces out of the way and measuring on your ruler, or using your mat to measure . . . just continue to measure and cut all the way across your strip piecing.

Then stack up your subunits and scrap the selvages and folded edges.   I always try not to use the folded edges if I don't have to because that just means one more step in having to press them flat before subcutting them.

And one last little thing.   If you are confident in using your mat to measure, you can also cut from Right to Left. Just align your strips with the selvages on the right.    This is actually the way I cut normally, but I am a right handed person who was taught to cut from a left handed person so I might be the only person that cuts this way.    I never knew this was different from how most people do it until I was writting the basics section in my book and the technical writer asked me if I was left handed.  To funny!!!   Anyhow, this is still my favorite way to cut because of 2 things.  1 - The fabric that still needs to be cut is always under my ruler so it doesn't move at all when I cut and 2 - I never have to lift my ruler, I just slide it to the left after each cut, which also eases out any little "bubbles" in my fabric.  So just one more little option you can try if you want to join the ranks of Righties who cut like Lefties :)

Whichever way you decide to Subcut though, I hope you find that the Stagger Stacking saves you lots of time while still giving you wonderfully accurate units.   I have found it to be a great little trick and a wonderful time saver.   Hope you enjoy this little tutorial.  I am off to make these 2 Patches into 4 Patches ;)

Have a Happy Quilting Day!!!
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  1. ok, that partially explains how you get your quilts done so quickly!! Fantastic idea!! Thanks for sharing it! I'm going to use it, cause I can use all the help I can get!! ;-) Hugs, H

  2. Thanks for the great tutorial! Hadn't thought of that method. I am a righty that cuts like a lefty, and it's never made sense to me to cut from the left!

  3. That is a handy tip. Another thing I do if I'm cutting strip sets to make into 4 patches -- lay 2 strip sets RST just like you want to sew them, and with the seams pressed in opposite directions. I like to nest the seams and then press the 2 strips while they are stacked up. Then I cut pieces like you did and they are ready to just stitch right up. I hope I've explained it in a way that makes sense!

  4. Thank you for sharing your time-saving Stagger Stacking tip! I'm right-handed. I dislike moving my strip & having to realign everything for before sub-cutting. So, I too, have started cutting from right to left and ensure accuracy on the first cut by using a second ruler to verify the width of my cut. Using the mat grid for easy measuring sounds great! Thank you again.

  5. I cut from right to left using the mat grid and the other way using the ruler markings. By the way, I finished my Refracted quilt from your pattern, thanks again.

  6. Thanks for the tips.Don´t like move strips to subcut.

  7. Stagger stacking - wow that is one of those simply brilliant ideas that don't come along that often! Thanks for sharing your method Melissa! LOL, I too habitually cut from right to left and never knew it wasn't the way most people did it.

  8. Thanks so much for this wonderful tip. "Blog Land" is so fabulous for learning new techniques. Thanks to all of you for sharing so much knowledge with us! It's SO appreciated!!

  9. Thanks for this wonderful tip, truly a time saving one. This would have been a helpful one when I was making 2patchs for Fair Isle quilt by Freshly Pieced :))

  10. I cut that way round too, I'm right handed and until now I didn't know there was anything odd about doing it like that. I find it easier because my ruler rests on the uncut fabric and stays level, rather than going down onto the cutting mat - if feels more secure and less likely to slip.

  11. I've been quilting for more than 30 years, and during those years of classes we were told to never use our mats for measuring... just the ruler. It's difficult to change my ways, but I admire you for trying and making it work. I'm sure you've helped lots of new quilters.

  12. Great tip Melissa!! Thank You for sharing this! You know I cut the same way - from the right side - using the mat to measure! I am totally self-taught and this made the most logical sense to me. It wasn't till I found all these wonderful tutorials on-line, that I noticed I might do it a little differently :)!

  13. I cut the same way you do. But thank you for the stacking tip! That is a great idea. :-)

  14. Oh my gosh!! I'm a righty who was taught by a leftie and I do the EXACT same things!! When people started telling me I was doing it wrong, I thought they were crazy!! I hate having cut units under my ruler and don't want to clear them every time I do cut! The way we do it is much more efficient, in my opinion.... and like you said, we're pressing on the ruler with the fabric underneath, which stops it from funny. I guess we are just the lucky ones!!


Thank you so much for your sweet comments. I just love hearing from you!!
Have a Happy Quilting Day :)