As I mentioned in previous posts, I'm getting more and more efficient in my quilt making. Have a full-time job and a one-year-old doesn't make for a lot of time, so I've had to figure out a way to get things done quickly without wasted time and materials.
I've started putting more planning time into my quilts before I even cut the fabric. This has saved time and materials on the backend. The planning time does involve some sketching, some notes, and some math.
Some of you are scared of the math. Don't be. It all makes sense once you figure it out. It's basic fourth grade math. But in a way, it's not. In fourth grade you had to do all those workbook pages that had no meaning whatsoever. And those word problems that tried to attach meaning to the math failed horribly since there was no purpose behind them. Quilting, however, gives you a purpose to understand the math. The purpose and desire actually makes the math easier to understand and figure out.
So, here's an example. I'm starting a quilt for a little baby I know who will be turning one in May. I'm using Dr. Seuss fabric and I've decided to do wonky stars, using this tutorial. Here's where the planning comes in. (1) I figure out the size of a finished block, 12.5" square, which will make a 12" block. Based on that, (2) I figure out how big I wanted the quilt to be. The sides have to be a multiple of 12, so 12, 24, 48, 60, etc. I decided on a 48" x 48" quilt. Perfect for a baby quilt. (3) I figure out how many finished blocks I will need to make the 48" x 48" quilt. In this instance, it's 16 blocks (4 blocks x 4 blocks).
Using the tutorial, I see that each block has 9 squares and each square is 4.5". Each block has 8 white, 4 pattern, and one center (focus) fabric. (4) Then, I figure out how many of each 4.5" square I will need for the entire project. I need 16 focus fabric squares for the center, 128 white squares and 64 pattern squares. How did I figure it out? Elementary my dear Watson. There is one focus fabric center on each block, so I need 16 of those. Each block needs 8 white x 16 blocks = 128 white squares. Each block needs 4 pattern x 16 blocks = 64 pattern squares (these get cut in half on a diagonal).
Here comes the cutting. (5) I divide my fabric into two piles, pattern and focus fabric. (6) I fussy cut 16 center squares from my focus fabric. Fussy cutting does waste a bit of fabric.
(7) I cut 128 white squares. Now, to do this efficiently, you need to do a bit of math, again. The width of fabric (WOF) is generally about 44-45 inches. I can get 9-4.5" squares out of one WOF (44/4.5). I need 128, so I divide 128 by 9 to get 14. I need 14-4.5" x WOF cuts. I generally fold my fabric in half again, so I'm making two WOF cuts at once (again, more efficient). So, I only need 7 WOF cuts. I cut my white WOF cuts, turn it and cut the 4.5" squares out of each WOF cut. I now have 126 squares, so I cut two more to make 128.
(8) I use the same principal to cut the pattern fabric, but I don't need as much. I'm also wanting to make my star points a bit more wonky, so I'm cutting 5" square pieces. I have 8 pattern fabrics and can again get about 9 pieces from each WOF. For now, I'm just cutting one WOF from each pattern piece and making 5" squares and cutting then again to make the triangles. I have a few scraps from fussy cutting that I'm also making into squares, so I can use every last bit!
I'm tend to cut almost all the pieces I need without going over. I'd rather cut a little less and have to go back and cut more than cut too much and not be able to use it later on. I'll assemble the blocks and when I run out of some element, go back and cut just the pieces I need.
I hope that helps in your quilt planning and makes your cutting and quilting time more efficient. I know it sure has for me.