Updated: Feb 16, 2022
Using paper templates to cut non-standard pieces is a great way to create non-traditional quilt blocks. However, it can be INCREDIBLY frustrating trying to cut accurately when the papers and fabric are constantly shifting. I've got an easy hack for you to avoid all that frustration when cutting straight edges using paper templates without having to invest in expensive acrylic templates or specialty rulers or having to cut templates out of cardstock or template plastic. It's the best of both worlds.
What you will need:
A copy of your paper template for each side you will need to cut - For instance, if I'm using a paper template to cut out an irregular rectangle shape, I would print out 4 copies of my template; one for each of the 4 sides.
Clear packing tape
Acrylic quilting rulers - you can put multiple templates on one ruler, but it's usually easier to have multiple.
How to do it
Attach a piece of packing tape to the backside of your first paper template. I find it is easiest to do this by placing the packing tape sticky-side up on your table, then placing the paper template right-side-up on top of it. It's best to leave the edge you want to cut free of any tape otherwise you may cut the tape as you cut your pieces, or get your rotary cutter stuck on the tape when cutting preventing a smooth cut.
Next, align the side you want to cut with the cutting edge of your ruler so that your paper template is on the bottom of your ruler. If your template has seam allowance marks on it, it is easiest and most accurate to align those with the 1/4" line of your ruler. Press the tape onto the ruler to set everything in place. This is why I like packing tape for this since it is fairly easy to remove and reposition the tape onto most acrylic rulers to make sure everything is well-aligned.
Repeat this process with the rest of your template sides. I can usually fit most of my templates onto one ruler because there's lots of straight edge real estate on a 6" x 24" quilting ruler, but you can use as many as you like/as many as you have to make life easier.
Now you're ready to cut. Just align the template onto your fabric like you normally would, ignoring all the markings on your ruler; we're just using the ruler for its straight edge. Repeat this process with the other side of the template until your pieces are cut out. Boom! No paper shifting, no frustration, no expense. When all your pieces are cut, just peel the tape off and move on!
If you like this technique, I'll be kicking off a blog series on perfect piecing for lazy quilters like me shortly. Make sure you're signed up for my newsletters to get notified when each segment is live.