In any quilting project, there will be wasted fabric. Accuquilt die cutting machines help quilters easily cut accurate and detailed quilt pieces fast. But one of the main questions I come across is if these cutting machines create more waste than a rotary cutter and scissors.
Most Accuquilt dies produce similar amounts of waste to standard cutting methods when proper technique is used. Using methods such as Rough Cut, Fan Fold, Cut and Flip, and Cut and Shift can drastically reduce the amount of wasted fabric. However, some dies do create more waste than if cut by hand.
Knowing which method to use with which die will greater reduce the amount of scrap fabric produced. Many times scraps from your die cuts can be reused to make other quilts and projects.
How much Fabric Does AccuQuilt Waste
Most quilters agree the amount of time saved and the increased accuracy of using an AccuQuilt cutting machine outways the possible fabric overages. As you get more comfortable and confident using your cutting machine your fabric waste will be drastically reduced.
One quilter did calculate how much fabric she wasted when she was cutting out fabric for 25 king sized quilts. That’s a lot of quilts! She kept all her scraps but set aside any that could be reused on another project.
After weighing all the scraps that could not be reused (she also excluded the selvages since those will never be useable) she converted it back to yards and it worked out to about 7% fabric waste.
In general, if you assume there will be 10% waste (I rounded up for easy numbers) and you have a project that needs 10 yards of fabric then you will waste 1 yard of fabric. But all quilters I have spoken to agree that 1 yard of fabric is well worth the sacrifice for a quilt that is quick to cut and extremely accurate.
If you are still on the fence about buying an AccuQuilt Cutter, check out my article Is AccuQuilt Worth It? 10 Quilters Weigh-in. You can also read my full review of the AccuQuilt GO! AccuQuilt’s most popular cutting machine.
Cutting Methods to Use with Accuquilt Cutters
There are four main methods that quilters use with their Accuquilt cutting machine. The Rough Cut Method, Fan Fold Method, Cut and Flip Method, and Cut and Shift Method.
For all these methods you will want to pay attention to which direction you need the grain of fabric going for that die. Each die will specify whether you need a Width of Fabric (WOF) or Length of Fabric (LOF) cut.
Rough Cut Method
This is one of the most commonly used methods and also the easiest. All you do is cut a square or strip 0.5 inches larger than the die cut itself. It is a method that works well paired with one of the other three methods if you plan on cutting more than one layer at a time.
Measure the cut size of the shape on the die, not the die board itself. Then add ½ inch to your measurements, 1/4 inch per side. If you are only cutting one layer of the die then you will need to add ½ on to both the length and width measurement.
Using your rotary cutter or a pair of scissors cut your rough shape out of your material making sure to keep it on grain. Most of the time you will want to cut the width of fabric (WOF) strips. Lay your cut piece of fabric over the die so only the cut shape is covered.
Accuquilt makes this very easy to see since they have two tone dies. One color for the final cut shape and one for the excess foam.
Many quilts mark directly on their dies using a permanent marker, a line ¼ inch outside the cut edge of the die. This makes it much easier and faster to line your fabric up with your die.
Another trick quilters use, is to write the finished die cut size as well as the rough cut measurement directly on the die. If you do this then you only have to make your calculation once.
Fan Fold Method
The Fan Fold Method (also known as Accordion Fold) is a way to cut multiple layers at a time from one strip of fabric.
To start, you will rough cut a strip of fabric (usually WOF). This means you will cut a fabric strip about ½ inch wider than the size of your cut shape.
Fold your strip in half and line it up one of your dies with the selvage edge (length of fabric LOF) along the long side of the die. You want to line the edge of your fabric with the edge of the die and have a slight overlap. Then fold your fabric across the die. The folded edge will just overlap the cutting edge of the die. Repeat this process until you have 6 layers of fabric (assuming you are using standard quilting cotton).
Place your cutting mat on top of your fabric and die and run your die cutting sandwich through the cutter. Slide the cutting mat off the fabric and you have 6 perfectly cut shapes.
This method works best with square or rectangular shapes. Oblong, triangular and nonsymmetric shapes will have less waste if the Cut and Flip or Cut and Shift Methods are used.
Cut and Flip Method
The Cut and Flip Method works great for cutting shapes with angles like the tumbler die. Again you will rough cut a strip of fabric, usually WOF, that is ½ inches wider than the die. If you are going to be making many of the same shapes cut several strips since you can cut up to 6 layers of cotton at a time.
If you are cutting multiple layers stack your fabric so it is even. Lay your fabric on top of your die so the cutting edge is just covered. Place a cutting mat on top of the fabric and run your die through your machine. Once cut rub the top of the cutting plate a little then slide off the plate. Remove your cut fabric and set it aside.
Flip the fabric over, the opposite side of the will be facing up. Adjust the fabric strips so the shape is just covered, place the cutting plate on top and run through the machine again.
Repeat this process until you have finished your fabric strip or have cut enough shapes. Feel free to snip off the excess fabric as you go if you find it gets in the way.
Note: this method will not work well if your design or die is sensitive to cutting on the opposite side of the fabric i.e. right side vs the wrong side.
Cut and Shift Method
The Cut and Shift Method is similar to the Cut and Flip method only there is no flipping. It works well for directional shapes that you need cut all the same way.
Cut a fabric strip that is ½ inch wider than your die. Depending on the type of die you are using will depend on whether you cut on the WOF or LOF. The video below shows using a LOF strip for the parallelogram die but other dies like the trapezoid die, used in this article by Accuquilt, require a WOF cut strip.
Just like with the Cut and Flip Method you can cut multiple strips and layer up to 6 layers of cotton fabric at a time. Once all your strips are cut stack them up and lay them on the die so the cutting edge is just covered. If you marked out a ¼ inch around the die use these as a guide.
Run your die through your Accuquilt cutting machine. Once cut, give the cutting plate a rub and slide it off the die.
Remove your cut fabric piece. Gently slide all layers of fabric over the die until the die shape is completely covered. Place the cutting plate on top of the die and run it through your machine again.
Repeat this process until you have cut as many shapes as you need or you finish cutting your strip.
Tips to Reduce Fabric Waste with Accuquilt Cutters
- Don’t overhang too much fabric on the die, only ¼ inch per side
- Don’t cover the entire die board with fabric.
- Strip dies waste very little fabric. More fabric is wasted with mistake using a rotary cutter
- Repurpose scraps with other dies
- Some dies such as the Starry Path waste more fabric than using a rotary cutter or paper piecing
- Mark a ¼ inch outline around die blades to make laying out your fabric easier and create less waste.
- Make a note on the die itself what the rough cut fabric size should be
The time saved by using an AccuQuilt die cutting machine to cut out a quilt and make highly accurate shapes far outweighs the possible excess waste fabric produced when compared to using a rotary cutter.
Practice the different methods explained above using scrap or cheap fabric to see which method works best for each of the dies in your stash. As you use your cutter more and become more comfortable with your die cutting machine you will find your fabric waste drastically reduces.