Fabric Directionality

Although my paper piecing project was a total bust, it did give me an opportunity to think about fabric directionality.

If you’re using a fabric pattern that has a noticeable direction, you’ve got to be careful how you cut your pieces.   Well, you don’t HAVE to, but it can make a dramatic difference in the quality of your quilting project.

In my case, I was using this wonderful sailboat fabric from Aunt June’s Etsy store.

I had to be very careful when cutting out all of my pieces so that when the project was completed, all of the boats on my pillowcases would be facing the same way.  I couldn’t have some boats sailing sideways or upside-down, as that would be bad for crew morale.

Read on for a more detailed discussion of fabric directionality.

Lets say you wanted to make a log cabin type block using christmas tree fabric as a border.   You could use this large printed tree fabric and start cutting out strips:

But if you didn’t pay very close attention to the directionality of this fabric, you could end up with a block where some of the trees flipped sideways:

It looks a little hinky that way, right?

Let’s look at this flower fabric:

It’s super cute, but with the stems all pointing down, it definitely has a directionality.  Again, if you weren’t being really careful you could easily make a block where half of your flowers all of a sudden up-rooted and were thrown on their sides:

Maybe that’s not too noticeable, especially from far away, but it is the type of issue that gets a stink-eye from professional quilters.  In other words, you’re not going to win any four-H fairs by disregarding the directionality of your pattern.

It’s a bit of a problem in the modern quilting world, because everyone likes using bold patterned fabrics.    A good solution is to pick quilt patterns that don’t require the same fabric to be buttressed-up against itself.  Like THIS pattern, or THIS, or THIS.

If you want to use a pattern where pieces of the same fabric would have to be sewn together (like THIS or THIS), it would be better to use a smaller pattern, and one that didn’t have a noticeable direction to it.   These are often called “calico” fabrics.

To conclude with our example, here’s a Christmas Tree fabric that is NOT directional.  You could cut this fairly haphazardly and still get a nice product:

Or, of course, you could super duper fussy-cut your fabrics so that they all aligned and the pattern pieces matched.  This would be hard work, but it would have a definite pay-off and increase the value of your quilt.

Here are three tutorials on how to match your fabric repeats in order to create a seamless look.   ONE, TWO, THREE

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