Don't worry, Elizabeth. This won't hurt a bit.

Fussy Cutting, Pattern Matching, and How to Look Like a Genius

If you’ve been following me on Instagram, you may be wondering HOW THE BLEEP I manage to get such precise fussy cuts and pattern matches in my quilt blocks for #100days100blocks2018. I’ve already spilled the beans in a few live videos (here’s one that I saved on my Facebook page), but here’s a quick photo tutorial, without the witty banter. Fabric is Elizabeth by Tula Pink.

The Geeky Bobbin Fussy Cutting, Pattern Matching Tutorial

Prepare your fabric

You can skip this for regular piecing, but we’re not doing regular piecing. We’re doing precision, genius level cutting and stitching. That means you need to heavily starch your fabric and press it before you cut. (I like to use Best Press. I’ll write a more detailed post about starching and pressing eventually. For now, just know that it makes your fabric nice and crisp.)

Fold over to check your pattern match

You know you’re going to need a 1/4″ seam allowance. Your brain knows this. Your eyes, however, might convince you that you’re ok even if you don’t have quite enough to spare on each side of your seam. Fold one piece of fabric along the stitch line, 1/4″ or more from the cut edge. (I say or more because you can always trim down your seam allowance, so why not give yourself some wiggle room? Better safe than sobbing in your miscut OOP fabric, amiright? Use a ruler to check.)

IMG_20180720_111008.jpgHold that fold over the other piece. Check if your other piece matches along the fold. Check if you have enough seam allowance on the other piece. Adjust the fold if you need to until you have a good match.

Glue baste

Then glue baste your seam allowance. I like a washable glue stick that goes on purple and dries clear (here’s a skinnier one for more precise application), but you can use washable white school glue. Just dab tiny bits of glue on that 1/4″ seam allowance. (I sometimes use the edge of a ruler to give me a bit of a lift, so that I don’t smear glue where I don’t want it.)IMG_20180720_111147.jpg

Now match it up again. Look for any tiny details in the print that you want to line up. Feel free to fold back the top piece to check if your seam allowances line up nicely, but remember: your objective is a perfect pattern match, not a perfect 1/4″ seam allowance!img_20180720_111224.jpgThe great thing about glue basting is that you can reposition and nudge the fabric very easily until you get everything positioned just right. The glue stays tacky but flexible until you press it to heat set. (Note: press, not iron. Just push your iron straight down, no side to side squishing!) Heat setting will make the glue firm enough to move over to your sewing machine, but it’s not strong enough to withstand too much abuse.img_20180720_111237.jpg

Stitch in the crease

Gently open up the fold, place it under your presser foot, and drop the needle directly into the crease. (If your needle is a bit off, lift it back up and adjust either your needle position or the fabric.)


Press seams open

If you press your seam allowance to the side, you might get a bit of a bump that could distort your perfect pattern match. Opening your seam gives you the flattest, most “seamless” look possible. (The flip side of this is that if you missed the mark by a smidge, you might be able to compensate by pressing to one side or the other, to cover a bit of excess. But that’s a bit of a varsity level move.)

Repeat for any other seams as needed.


Bonus Round: Slice-And-Insert

Once you’ve got your basic pattern matching down, you can level up with some very impressive looking matching that I call the Slice and Insert method. This is perfect if you’re adding a 1″ strip (finished 1/2″) in between 2 other pieces.

Quilty math: zero-sum piecing

We’re going to make a horizontal cut across Elizabeth’s top lip, then add a pattern matched strip in a different colourway to replace the area directly above and below this slice. If quilty math gives you a headache, just trust me that it works.

Fold over seam allowances

Just like our simple pattern match, we starch and press our fabric and fold over the seam allowances on our 1″ piece. We have a 1/2″ finished strip, which is exactly equal to two 1/4″ seam allowances. This means that our seam allowances will meet in the centre of the back of the strip. Press the seam allowances down.


Centre and slice

I double checked the strip above, and the centre of it is just below the top of Elizabeth’s lip. In the photo below, I’m pointing to the black slit in the Stripology Squared ruler that I lined up with this centre.


Do not disturb!

You can barely see a cut in the picture below. I carefully removed the ruler without disturbing the fabric. This ensures that the top and bottom pieces are already perfectly matched up.img_20180720_112827.jpg

Glue baste

Now glue both seam allowances on your strip, adjust and nudge, line up all the details, then push down very hard to secure the piece enough to move it to your ironing board.


Heat set the glue.IMG_20180720_113046.jpg

Ideally, your seam allowances line up perfectly, but in reality they’re probably off by a thread or two in places. Gently pry open the creases, carefully snipping any threads that might be glued across the gap.IMG_20180720_113126.jpg

Stitch in the creases




Give it a try and tag me in your posts! Let me know if it worked for you!

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you use these links to buy stuff, I get a few pennies for sending you there. All products that I recommend are ones that I LOVE and have gladly invested in.



2 thoughts on “Fussy Cutting, Pattern Matching, and How to Look Like a Genius

  1. That is flipping amazing and sooo d—- accurate!! Wow amazing! I’ll try it when I get home from my visit with my children. But I won’t start with such a tiny square as 6in. I’ll be crazy if I do!!LOL

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