When I wrote about metal frame purses last week, a friend said she had to look up what “fussy cutting” means. That made the think it’s time for another post to help demystify sewing terms for the beginners out there. There are plenty of acronyms that are pretty confusing, and this is one of the terms that’s equally obscure.


“Fussy cutting” is the phrase used, generally by quilters, to describe cutting a detail or particular piece of a pattern from the fabric, as opposed to just cutting a strip from the fold to the selvedge. Fussy cutting is particularly common when it comes to novelty printed fabrics, for example, this Marvel comics print:

It is just slightly different from the print I found at Joann’s last wee, which caught my eye because one of my favorite 3-year olds is going to be Iron Man for Halloween. His mom suggested I make a pillow for his bedroom, which recently got a makeover due to a new baby brother coming along.

He likes Iron Man, and only Iron Man. So I did some fussy-cutting and pulled out just Iron Man (sorry, Hulk, Wolverine, et al) from the fabric:

I took some red fleece and created a border for Iron Man, added a zipper, and turned it into a pillow:

This is a fairly obvious example of fussy cutting and features just one character from a multi-character print. But fussy cutting is something you can do with any pattern. Joel Dewberry’s fabric lines are generally a great example:


If I were to make a purse from this beauty, I would fussy cut with the pattern over at least one probably two or three. Or, you could theoretically cut a square around each flower for a scrappy, all-floral quilt (that idea sounds so cozy, I think I might have to make one!).

In fact, when I saw Joel Dewberry’s new line at Sewing Summit, all I could think of was fussy cutting some of these flowers to applique on skirts or bags.

So, fussy cutting is a phrase that’s used pretty liberally when you cut pieces from patterned fabric. It’s a fun one, as far as “inside sewing lingo” goes — so go try it out yourself!