When I was a little girl, occasionally my mother would refer to me as a “fussy budget”. This was not an endearing term, and usually meant I was not going to have my way in the matter at hand. Oftentimes, when reading quilt patterns, I feel the old, familiar whine begin to rise in my throat, especially when I see the words “fussy cut”. It just sounds wrong to be instructed to be fussy.
But a beautiful quilt sometimes requires a little fussiness. Fussy cutting can mean several things, actually. Simply put, to cut fabric in a fussy manner is to pay attention to the print, not just the measurement, before attacking it with scissors or rotary blade. It’s usually easy to tell from the picture on the front of the pattern if fussy cutting will be necessary. For example, if there are blocks that contain a large flower in the center, you have to cut carefully to center the flower in the square. Sometimes a border will use a striped fabric that must be centered in the strip. If a fabric is very patterned and you are making very small cuts, you may find the resulting pieces look very different from one another, unless you turn on the fussy. Some quilts are appliquéd after the basic top is complete. An appliqué can be an object, such as a flower or bug fussy cut from a printed fabric.
Keep in mind that fussy cutting increases the yardage necessary to make the quilt, as there is usually some waste. But don’t get fussy about that! Find a pattern that lists the yardage requirements as “a pile of scraps” and you’re all set.