How to Square Fabric – Quilt squares

Have you ever made a throw pillow and while you were sewing the front piece to the back, found that the last two corners didn’t match up perfectly?  When you hang drapes, do they ever hang with one side higher than the other even though you know the curtain rod is level?

When I first began to sew (a few decades back), I believed that all I had to do was measure and cut my fabric.  I never considered that I would have to “square” it.  It was a rude awakening when I had “leftover” fabric on a pillow case or crooked curtains hanging on my wall.   Argh!  That’s when I discovered the importance of preparing the fabric in advance to cutting it.

What is squaring, you might ask?  Squaring is when you form right angles with four even sides for a square (ie: a pillow) or two by two sides for a rectangle (ie: drapes).  When you purchase fabric, it looks straight, doesn’t it.  The selvages are straight.  The fabric cutter at the local shop, cut a straight line at the measurement you asked for.  It should be squared already!  No such luck, but with a little prep work, you can avoid a lot of frustration later in a sewing project.

First you must determine what size you need your fabric to be.  (Don’t forget to include the seam allowances.)  When you purchase the fabric always add a little extra to the cut length.  If you are working with a pattern; it might be a good idea to look for the repeat and add an extra one to the measurements.  (The extra repeat allows you to determine where your pattern begins and ends in the project you are working on).  In my example I am showing you how to cut a 10” quilting square.  The same instructions can be used in just about any other project that you need right angles and even sides.

I have a piece of scrap fabric that has previously been used on another project.

Scrap Fabric

Since three of the sides have previously been cut, squaring it is very important to get even equal sides across the width and length of the finished piece.

Iron Fabric

Any fabric that will be washed after it is finished should to be pre-washed prior to beginning your project.  Make sure to iron all wrinkles and creases out of the fabric before cutting.

Cut off excess

With this piece of scrap fabric, I cut off the curved side.  I needed to start with a straight edge.

Place just below bottom edge

Place the straight edge of the fabric just below the bottom line of your cutting mat (this edge will be straightened later).

Line Up ruler

Now lay your ruler on top of the fabric and line it up with the measurement you need on the cutting mat – in this case I am cutting a 10” square.

Cut Fabric

While pressing firmly on the ruler, place the blade of your rotary cutter next to the edge of the ruler, and cut the fabric.  This is your first straight edge.

Line up cut edge

Now turn the fabric and place the cut straight edge on the bottom line of your mat.  You will see that there is a little excess at the top where your measurement line is (10” mark on this project).

Cut at 10 inch

Repeat the cutting process for this excess.  Now my fabric is perfectly 10” in length for the entire width of the square.

Align the bottom edge of the fabric with the 1” mark so that you can see the width measurements underneath. (see the picture below).

Left Side

Since I am cutting my fabric 10” wide; I have lined it up between the 5” and 15” measurements.  I like to work in the middle of my mat so I don’t feel crowded.

Right Side

I have made sure that the square is hanging over the 5” and 15” markings and that the bottom edge is perfectly aligned with the markings on the mat.

Trim right side

With the ruler firmly held in place cut the fabric on the side (in this case I used the 15” mark) then move the ruler to the left side of the square.

Trim left side-1

Now cut the last edge.  Your fabric is now a perfect square with four right angles.

Squared fabric

Here is the fabric on the corner of the mat.

Corner Mat

You can see that each side matches up perfectly at the 10” measurements.

The possibilities for this little black square are endless.  I can make sooooo many different things with it. 

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