Besides being really fun to say, the “stack and whack” is a great trick for cutting quilting fabric quickly.
What is stack and whack?
Instead of cutting one piece of fabric at a time, you just stack multiple layers of fabric in a pile and cut them together. Why on Earth does this warrant its own term? Well, there’s a bit more to it than that. To get a neat, accurate cut, you can’t go too crazy — just work with three to six layers of fabric at once. Once you make your cuts, you’ll end up with interchangeable pieces of fabric that can be mixed, matched and pieced back together to make blocks for quilting. How fun is that?
We have Bethany Reynolds to thank for the “Stack-n-Whack” term. If you haven’t seen her quilts, they feature mesmerizing kaleidoscope patterns that can only be achieved with — you guessed it — the stack and whack action you’ll soon be obsessing over. They’re crafty little optical illusions that are as fun to make as they are to look at. More vanilla quilters may refer to this process at the “stack and slice” or “stack, cut and shuffle,” but they clearly don’t understand how fun it is to rhyme. Regardless of your preferred term, they all mean the same thing: cutting multiple pieces of fabric at a time and then sewing ‘em all back together.
Fabric and tools
So there are some guardrails here to ensure your stacking and whacking turns out right. Start with pre-cuts like charm squares or 10″ square pre-cuts. Or, if you aren’t using pre-cut pieces, you’ll need to cut fabric into pieces of the same size before stacking and whacking.
You can do this technique with a regular old quilting ruler, but if you’re looking to pick up a useful tool of the trade, check out something like Vanessa Vargas Wilson’s 10″ Slicer, which will cut 10” squares all day with no problem. It’s handy to have something like this because then you can create designs without constantly measuring and cutting.
Before you start...
Keep it sharp
Ever try to cut a tomato with a dull knife? It’s awful. The same goes here. Make sure your rotary cutter blade is sharp or you’re in for a world of trouble (plus it takes way more effort to use a dull blade).
Turn the mat
Whatever you do, don’t pick up and turn the stacks of fabric when you’re changing cutting angles. You’ll end up with a hot mess of mis-aligned squares. Instead, move the mat you’re cutting on, or reposition your body.
The stack and whack in action
Here’s a simple project to showcase this nifty method.
Choose your fabric and stack it, making sure edges are aligned and the right sides are facing up (we used five 5” charm squares). Pin your stack together in a few places so they don’t shift.
Use a ruler or straight edge to map out where you’ll cut. We say the more off-center and weird, the better. We’ll just do one cut for this demo, but you can really make as many slices as you’d like.
“Whack” the block by slicing along your straight edge with a rotary cutter.
Here’s the magic: unpin your piles of fabric, then mix and match using one from each stack. Practice makes perfect, so experiment with colors and arrangement to find a pattern that sings a sweet song to you. Once you’re satisfied, sew each pair back together and press the seams open.
Once your pairs are together, you can square up your blocks, trimming as needed. Next up, sew your blocks together into one big block that’s ready for quilting.
Variations on a theme
Rail fence blocks
Super simple but also notable: just stack your fabrics and cut into narrow strips. Then sew the strips together into sets and square them up. Mix, match and turn your squares to create a dynamic design.
Simply crazy block
There are truly no rules here. Cut with reckless abandon, choose fun fabrics and piece back together for one-of-a-kind “simply crazy blocks” that’ll never be a bore.