How to Use Fussy Cut Fabrics

How to Fussy Cut Fabric
Janet Wickell

A fussy cut is a piece of fabric that's been cut to target a specific area of a print, rather than cutting the yardage into random pieces.


  • I spy quilts can be made by cutting and sewing together all sorts of novelty and pictorial objects to showcase specific objects in a piece of printed fabric. Young children always have fun finding and naming the objects they see.
  • Attic windows quilts are another example of designs that work nicely with fussy cuts. Place a different motif in each window or repeat the print. If you repeat objects, try cutting each one a bit differently to sew a quilt with more visual appeal. 
  • Kaleidoscope quilts are made by repeating the same cut over and over. The kaleidoscope look emerges when patches are sewn together. 
  • Fussy cut fabrics can be used anytime you wish to display specific areas of fabric.

How to Fussy Cut a Fabric

To fussy cut, center a specific portion of a print within a patch, and be sure to add a 1/4" seam allowance around all sides of the image. The area of the print you are targeting does not usually fall within the finished portion of the area but can if you are repeating a print or if the area is a good fit for the look you are trying to create.

Some quilters like to construct a window template to help them visualize and target the cut. Two window templates are visible in the photo. Each template has an open inner area (the window) that is used to target the print. The outer area of each template is 1/4" from the inner window's shape and represents the seam allowance.

  1. Cut a template the unfinished size of the shape from card stock or another rigid material.
  2. Mark 1/4" inward from the outer line and cut out to reveal the window. A craft knife is helpful. 
  3. Position the template on the fabric. Once it's positioned correctly use a non-permanent pencil or marker to draw lines along the window's inside edges— the finished portion of the patch.
  4. Draw around the outer perimeter, too. Cut on the outer line. 

Cut a transparent or opaque plastic template of the finished size if you prefer to visualize the patch in that way. Remember to add a seam allowance when cutting out patches. It's fine to use a rotary ruler to cut, too, especially when your central motif needn't be exact.