How to Fussy Cut Your Ice Cream Soda Quilt

Ice Cream Soda Quilt is one of those special quilts whose pattern surprises and intrigues, and whose design lends itself to a milieu of styles. (If you need a bit of inspiration be sure to check out this post.) And, one of those styles that Ice Cream Soda Quilt suits beautifully is fussy cutting! While we’ve shared a fussy cutting tutorial for a different quilt design here, we thought it could be useful to share a few Ice Cream Soda quilt specific tips and tricks for you in this post. Read on for helpful information about choosing fabrics and a tutorial for how to use a fussy cutting mirror for Ice Cream Soda!

By Lisa Sliva

fussy cut ice cream soda blocks

This fussy cutting tutorial features the large block version of Ice Cream Soda quilt, however, the small block suits fussy cutting every bit as well! In fact, you can see the difference in scale in the photo below by Jodi. She used the same prints in each of the corresponding rounds of each block, only in different color ways, to show how the size of the shapes can affect the final block. But, as you can see, each block is lovely in its own way. 

large and small ice cream soda quilt blocks

Repeats and Scale

Whatever fabric you decide to use, you’ll have to make sure that there are enough “repeats” on the piece of fabric to cut out enough shapes for the round you want to fussy cut. Each round of the Ice Cream Soda quilt block contains 6 shapes, so you’ll need 6 repeats on the fabric. A repeat is simply the number of times you can find the exact same part of the fabric pattern on the piece of fabric.

The fabric on the left below has numerous repeats of the same pattern within a small amount of fabric, but the fabric on the right only has a few repeats for the amount of fabric. This is called scale.

Scale is how big or small the pattern is, and also how spread out or tightly arranged the pattern is. The pattern on the left is a small to medium scale (compared to something like polka-dots), and tightly arranged. This makes it really easy to get 6 of the same flower in a piece smaller than a fat quarter - just keep an eye out for those sneaky flowers facing the opposite way!

The pattern on the right has lots of lovely, small elements, but the repeat is spread out. It does, however, have some mirrored elements at each end of the repeated pattern. If you worked on each side of the circles, you might get 6 similar pattern parts. Playing with mirrored repeats in the pattern is a great way to use a smaller piece of fabric. 

Using variations in scale throughout your quilt increases interest and contrast. Contrast is essential if you want to avoid your quilt looking messy or flat. It's like a piece of music. You have to have loud and quiet bits for it to be beautiful and interesting. Otherwise, it's just noise! Draw different scale prints from your stash, and different patterns - from floral to stripes to geometric - to give your quilt beautiful variation.

small scale repeat
large scale repeat

Scale also affects the 'kaleidoscope' effect created in the finished block. If you cut flowers and other design elements though the middle, the design focus becomes the new lines created. If you fit the whole motif inside the shape, the effect can sometimes be less striking, but still beautiful. 

The very popular Echinacea print, by Anna Maria Horner, creates an incredible kaleidoscope effect when featured in the kites in the block on the left, but you have to cut into the flowers do to so. By contrast, if you chose to feature these flowers in the crowns, you could showcase the flower in its entirety as shown by the acrylic template. Play with your fabrics in different shapes to see what they teach you about creating different kinds of secondary patterns.

Even if you’re not a huge fussy cutting aficionado, you may find that cutting your larger scale prints with intentionality will create more harmonious blocks.

Comparison of echinacea print in different shapes

Using Stripes

Stripes can be an overlooked and underutilized fabric in the English Paper Piecing world, but when used with intentionality, they can really steal the show! Just to give you a taste of the different ways you can enjoy stripes in the center star of an Ice Cream Soda quilt block, make a fussy cut window (read on to learn how!) and grab a fussy cutting mirror.

Simply move the fussy cut window over the stripes in various ways to see the different concentric rings, arrows, or lines that emerge! Check out the photos below to see a few different ways you could cut the same striped fabric differently to get different effects. So fun, right?

stripes 1
stripes 2
stripes block

Using Basics

When you start to see all of the possibilities that fussy cutting opens up, it can become a little addictive! That being said, don't underestimate the power of basic fabrics (solids, or small prints that read as solids) to really make your fussy cutting shine. While you can certainly fussy cut every round of your blocks like these beauties by Jackie and Emily, if you're not ready for that kind of commitment or you simply prefer to allow your blocks a bit of space to rest, that's ok, too. 

Fussy cutting is simply another tool in your EPP tool belt, not a prerequisite for making beautiful blocks. Tune into the way YOU like to make and play around to learn what you like!

How to Fussy Cut Your Ice Cream Soda Quilt


EPP supplies

Make a Fussy Cut Window

A fussy cut window allows you to choose a section of the fabric that you would like to feature in a particular paper piece shape in your block. Simply move the window around the fabric until you like what you see! Watch Jackie use hers here and watch her make one here.

1. Place the acrylic template on a piece of paper and grab a fine tip pen. (Light card stock is recommended but any scrap paper will work.)

make a fussy cut window 1

2. Use the fine tip pen to place a mark on the paper through each of the marking holes at each corner of the template. 

make a fussy cut window 2

3. Connect the dots using the acrylic template as a straight edge.

make a fussy cut window 3

4. Use a box cutter or paper scissors to cut along the traced lines to create a window.

make a fussy cut window 4
using a fussy cutting mirror

Using a Fussy Cutting Mirror

A fussy cutting mirror can help you "find" the fussy cut you'd like to feature before you actually cut anything out! Simply use the fussy cut window from the previous section and follow the steps below. Or, if you prefer to watch a video, check out Jackie's here.

1. Grab your fussy cut window from the previous section, and move the paper around over the fabric on a flat surface to choose a motif.

using a fussy cutting mirror 1

2. Once you find a motif you think you might like, align the edges of the fussy cutting mirror along the edges of the shape to reveal what the basted piece will look like if you repeat the same motif.

Note! If you have a design that, say, leans to the left, the mirror will show that mirror imaged around the block, but the finished blocks will have each pattern element facing the same way.

Move the window and mirror around together to get a feel for the different possibilities in your print!

using a fussy cutting mirror 2

Ways to Fussy Cut

fussy cut the center star

Method 1: Apply Glue to the Acrylic Template (Jackie's Method)

This method is for those of you who want to get EXACT placement of your fussy cut every time. It's very useful for creating those intricate kaleidoscopic designs in the center star of your Ice Cream Soda quilt blocks. 

I have to say that when I first saw Jackie's video on this, it kind of blew my mind! It's much easier than you might think once you get the hang of it. Read on for the step by step tutorial or check out Jackie's video here.

1. Find the repeat you want.

find the repeat you want

2. Put a dab of basting glue on the back of the acrylic template.

glue the acrylic template

3. Press in place on the fabric.

press in place

4. Use a rotary cutter to cut around the acrylic template. Note that when you lift up the acrylic template, the fabric will be  stuck to it. Do not remove the piece of fabric. 

cut out with a rotary cutter

5. Without removing the fabric, move the acrylic template to the next repeat.

line up with the next repeat

6. Line up the fabric that is stuck to your acrylic template with the fabric underneath it and cut out. Repeat for the number of shapes you need for the block. Baste with your preferred method.

Pro Tip:

To make sure that your papers line up in the same place on every piece of fabric for basting, flip the fabric over to the wrong side, place the acrylic template over the fabric so that it aligns with the edges, and use a fine tip pen to place a mark in each of the corner holes. Then, use the marks to position the paper on the back of the fabric for basting. 

mark the corners
line up the paper piece with the corners

Method 2: Use a Whiteboard or Permanent Marker (Jodi's Method)

This method is slightly less exact than Jackie's method but works very well for either the kite or crown rounds of your Ice Cream Soda quilt blocks. You can read a more in depth tutorial featuring this method here or watch Jodi's video here

Of note, if you use a whiteboard marker, you'll be able to easily remove the markings on the acrylic template with a tissue. If you use a permanent marker, however, you'll need to use nail polish remover to remove the markings.

1. Find the repeat you want, and position the acrylic template over the repeat.

find the repeat you want

2. Use a dry erase marker or permanent marker to outline part of the fabric motif directly on the acrylic template. 

outline part of the motif

3. At this stage you could cut out the fabric with a rotary cutter, or you can trace around the acrylic template with a pencil to cut out with scissors later.

use a pencil to trace around the template 1
use a pencil to trace around the template 2

4. Regardless of which step you prefer, lift up the acrylic template and reposition it over the next repeat using the marks on the acrylic template as a guide. Repeat step 3.

find the repeat you want again

5. Repeat steps 3-4 until you have cut the number of shapes you need for the block. Baste with your preferred method.

Note! This method is the best choice for novelty prints, when you just want to make sure you center your sweet little animal or fruit in the centre of your shape. In cases like this, if your strawberry is sitting in open space, the first method of lining up the pattern won't work. If you're not fussy about perfect placement, you can skip the marker, and just place the acrylic template over the shape to draw or cut around.

echinacea kites

Feeling inspired to fussy cut your Ice Cream Soda quilt?

The most important thing to learn with fussy cutting is that there's lots to learn! You'll learn by trying different prints, accidentally cutting the wrong part of the repeat, or miscounting the repeats available to you. Some things you try will fall flat and others will look stunning. Some prints you've never paid attention to before will suddenly be full of possibility. Keep making and learning and enjoying the process! You don't have to get it perfect every time for your quilt to look amazing.

We hope that this little tutorial has helped demystify fussy cutting for you! Be sure to grab any additional supplies you might need for your fussy cutting endeavours in the shop below, and happy fussy cutting!


  • Robina

    I’m starting my ice cream soda quilt late. It’s great to see all these tips and ideas about how to approach the cutting and sewing for this quilt. I’m a bit stuck at the moment on all the beautiful possibilities! Blue and white, rainbow, scrappy, neutrals with pops of fuschia and mustard, ALL the greens… too many ideas! I’m going to spend some quality time with my stash this weekend to decide on how I want to tackle it.

  • Nicole Gendy

    So many great tips here! I love the one about gluing the template to the fabric; that’s a new one for me to try.

Leave a comment

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.