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Cut surface quilting

This is a combination of Quilting and Stitch and Slash techniques, where the top layer of fabric and the wadding (batting) are cut close up to the stitching so the layers pop up. The Basic Method, described using a felt fabric, requires just minor changes when working with different materials as described in the variations.

Material and Design Notes

  • A wadding (batting) layer or layers is sandwiched in between a top and base layer to create a quilt sandwich.
  • The effects of using different waddings (battings) can be seen in the variations described.
  • Use a sturdy fabric for the base layer, such as medium-weight cotton or calico.
  • The design motif used needs to be a solid shape.

Basic method

1). Cut the wadding (batting), top fabric layer and backing fabric to the same size. Draw the design onto the top layer, if required, before layering the quilt sandwich. Place the backing fabric face up, the wadding (batting) in the middle and the felt on top, right side up.

Basic method Cut surface quilting A

2). Use an even-feed foot and small stitches (2mm) to sew the design, reducing the stitch length to 0.5mm at the start and end to fasten. Pull the threads to the back, knot and cut off.

3). Use sharp, fine-pointed scissors to make a tiny snip 2mm (3⁄₃₂in) from the inside of the stitched line, cutting along the inside edge of the stitching. Cut through the layers of wadding (batting) but do not cut the backing fabric.

Basic method Cut surface quilting B

Basic method Cut surface quilting C

Material variations


Work as Basic Method but first back the fabric with an iron-on interfacing of an appropriate weight, working on the reverse side, to stop the cut edge from fraying excessively.

Material variations Fabric


Choose a fine leather (or suede) material. Work as Basic Method but use a sharp craft knife to cut the fabric, applying gentle pressure so you don’t cut through the backing. Use fine-pointed scissors to cut the wadding (batting) if necessary. Note : The sample shown uses two layers of wool felt as an alternative wadding (batting).

Material variations Leather

Wadding (batting) variations

Types of wadding (batting)

Green wadding (batting) is made from recycled plastic bottles. Polyester wadding (batting) can also be dyed using commercial dyes designed for synthetic fabrics. Bamboo, wool, cotton and other natural waddings (battings) are also available but, as these tend to shed fibres, they may not produce the clean edge of the synthetic wadding (batting). Different effects can also be achieved by using several layers of your chosen wadding (batting).

Wadding (batting) variations A

Five layers of different fabric, both thick and thin, have been used here to create a dense, colourful multi-layered wadding (batting).

Wadding (batting) variations B

Two layers of fleece fabric have been used as a wadding (batting).

Wadding (batting) fold back

In this sample, the backing fabric chosen is in a contrasting colour to the top fabric; the top and wadding (batting) layers are folded back and stitched into position to reveal it.

Wadding (batting) fold back A

Wadding (batting) fold back B

Fabric Manipulation
150 CREATIVE Sewing Techniques

Ruth Singer