Template Technique


(Contributed by Marje Rhine, pattern editor for American Quilter magazine)

Like many quilters,  I shied away from using templates for many years. When I did use them, I tried to cut around them with a rotary ruler firmly held over the edge of the template. But this didn’t work too well and I usually ended up taking slices out of the template before I was done. Heavier duty template plastic that you can rotary cut around is nice, but when cutting through many layers the cutter can still slip and it just didn’t feel safe. So I came up with a method for making straight-edge templates (this doesn’t work with curves) that can be used for rotary cutting. The resulting patches are very accurate and I can cut the entire quilt without ruining my plastic template, or my finger.

Following are instructions for my method. In addition to the template pattern and fabric you will need:
• Template plastic or cardboard – a cereal box is about the right weight
• Add-a-Quarter™ ruler – this comes in 2 sizes, 6” or 12”
• General purpose glue stick
• Optional: restickable or repositionable glue stick

Above is the pattern I printed using EQ7. Cut the template out leaving a margin all around the finished patch line; the margin doesn’t need to be 1/4”. Using the general purpose glue stick, glue the pattern onto template plastic then cut out on the finished patch line.

I use my paper-cutting rotary cutter because I am much more accurate cutting that way than with scissors. Note that there is no seam allowance around the outside of the template.

Glue the template onto a piece of paper, again using the general purpose glue stick. Make sure there is a wide margin of paper all round. Using the Add-a-Quarter ruler, cut out around the template, adding the 1/4” seam allowance to the paper around the plastic template. The lip of the ruler fits snuggly against the edge of the plastic to give an accurate 1/4”.

The photo above shows the template I just made and another template for the piece to which it will be sewn. (To make it easier to see I glued the plastic template to blue paper.) Next, trim the templates to help in aligning the patches together before sewing. Gail Valentine describes how to do this in her Timeless Templates article in the March 2011 issue of American Quilter Magazine.

Rub the back of the template with restickable or repositionable glue stick. This is a non-permanent adhesive that makes the back slightly tacky so the template won’t slip on the fabric. Double-sided tape or a loop of tape might work as well.


Use the template on the fabric to aid in cutting
the size of strips needed.
Place the template on the strip, and using an Add-a-Quarter ruler, cut out all around.

After cutting the first pieces I always do a sewing test before cutting out the whole quilt.

If the cutter or ruler does slip, the plastic template is not destroyed, and it is only necessary to remove and reapply the paper to the back of the plastic.

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Excellent tutorial! Thanks!

Big Rig John

What a great trick! Love it.


Good Idea and saves on the Plastic stuff. I have that add a quarter ruler…


Great idea! Way to go….

Barbara Campbell

Great idea – nice, clear instructions. Thanks!


Thanks so much — great idea! I have only used templates once and had so many problems that I have never wanted to use them again. This could change that!


Love this idea, thanks!


Unable to access hearetfelt pattern.

Dana, I have sent the PDF to your email address. Let me know if I can be of further assistance. Sylvia Thomas, AQS Office Administrator.

Joyce Mitchell

Wonderful idea – thanks for sharing.