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Tips for Using Templates for Quilts

My recent quilt pattern, Dazzling Dream, is made entirely from equilateral triangles. And although you can cut equilateral triangles using only a ruler, I also included triangle templates with the pattern.

I’ve seen people “strongly encourage” that you cut your triangles using a ruler as if it’s the “best” way. As it turns out, I’m pretty terrible at precisely cutting long strips of fabric, which means my triangles aren’t accurate, which means my sewing is off… So at first I felt like I wasn’t good at triangles because I couldn’t cut them the “right” way, but you know what? It really doesn’t matter what method you use as long as it works for you!

Personally I’ve found I’m much more precise when I use templates because I am able to check every single piece for accuracy as I go. Accurate cutting makes for an accurate quilt. There’s nothing wrong with using the tools that help you.

Printing Templates

  • If you’ve downloaded a PDF pattern you’ll need to print your templates – and for the sake of your project, print them correctly! Make sure your printer is set to “Actual Size”.
  • Most printable patterns will have a test square (often 1 inch) that you can check with your ruler to make sure you printed properly.

Cutting Templates

  • Accuracy is key! Make sure you cut your template as precisely as possible. If it’s just a little bit off it can really add up over the whole quilt.
  • If you’re using the same template for a lot of pieces you can transfer the template to thicker paper or a vinyl sheet.

Cutting Fabric

  • Templates have a right and a wrong side, so unless your pattern tells you to flip it, keep it right-side up.
  • Cut with the grain of the fabric whenever possible (along the width and the length) to avoid stretchy bias edges.
  • Pay attention to the fabric print – you don’t want to end up with something upside down!

There are many different ways you can actually use the template to cut out the fabric – it’s all just a matter of what works best for the template and you!

  • Trace around the template before cutting
  • Use your rotary cutter around the template – but be careful not to cut the template!
  • If the template has straight edges, you can pair your template with a ruler – but watch out for shifting! I personally don’t like this method much because the combination of the ruler, template and fabric causes way too much shifting making it hard to get accurate cuts.
  • Another way to cut straight edges is to place the template on the fabric and lay your straight edge right up to the edge of the template. Keep the ruler firmly in place, but shift the template over so that when you cut you don’t cut the template too. Then just cut along your ruler.
  • Sometimes you can minimize the number of cuts you need to make by first cutting strips of fabric the same height of your template before cutting out the individual pieces, like in the photo above.
  • To prevent the template from shifting, you can tape the template directly to your quilting ruler! You can even print multiple copies and tape one to your ruler for each edge you need to cut.

Remember when I said I wasn’t terribly accurate at cutting strips? This is why I like the templates: when I have a piece that isn’t right I can easily fix it and I know it’s the right shape!

Templates are a handy tool to help you accurately cut your pieces (and I love them)! What about you – love them or hate them?

Check out this awesome pattern that uses templates!

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July 18, 2022 1:40 pm

File folders (cut so they will go through your computer) and then adhered to a piece of fusible interfacing offer an accurate, sturdy, and non slip way (fusible to template) to make your own templates.