The Hall of Squaring Shame!

by Lorie on July 17, 2009

Remember a few weeks ago when we talked about the Double-Windmill block and how hard it was to cut it properly given some problems with my tools? At that time, I promised you two things: 1) Instructions and measurements on how to make the Double Windmill, and 2) Information on how to square-up your blocks.

The Double Windmill is now posted to YCQT and you can find it here…

Now, can we talk frankly about squaring? I decided to split this article into two parts because there is so much information out there about squaring blocks that I wanted to be sure we cover it all–from the least effective (simply shameful!) methods to the most effective (and simple!) rules.

Let’s do the Hall of Squaring Shame first, shall we? I’d like to hear your opinions about this too-so post a response and tell me your squaring tips and horror stories, please! By the way–the “Queen of Shame” is otherwise known as Lorie, which is why I have so many wonderful examples to draw from!

Shameful Squaring 1: Squaring a block by making one straight edge and then cutting each subsequent edge is kind of like “evening up” a haircut that is crooked. You’ll go around and around with each pass until there’s nothing left of the block. Don’t try this!

Shameful Squaring 2: Making a square out of freezer paper, marking it along the diagonal, ironing it to the block, and then cutting to the edge of the freezer paper is sort of like Horror Story 1. To begin with, you would have to square the freezer paper up first, so using it as a measuring tool doesn’t make sense when you can just use a ruler. In addition, freezer paper is not transparent, so there isn’t any way to line up the diagonal line to the block. Forget this one!

Shameful Squaring 3: Using a freezer paper square ironed to your ironing board to determine if your squares are the right size is just plain silly. As above, how do you know your freezer paper square is square? Then, squaring and checking size are two different things. Leave this one in the dust!

Shameful Squaring 4: Trying to stretch a too-small block with steam and an iron will not result in a block you’d want to put into a quilt. It’s one thing to check the pressing to ensure you didn’t leave any creases along the seamlines. It’s quite another to start stretching the fabric to try to make it big enough. Stretching fabric results in puckers, crooked seamlines, and broken stitches. Make a new block instead!

Shameful Squaring 5: If you have a dozen blocks, you can measure them all and square them to the size of the smallest square; however, if the smaller square measures less than the amount called for in a pattern, then all of the other measurments (sashing, borders, bindings) will be off. Don’t use this method unless the sashing is plain, you have really good math skills, or you intend to sew the blocks directly together instead of using sashing.

Shameful Squaring 6: Using a ruler that’s smaller than the size of the block is risky. Sure, you can square each corner of the block, but what about the rest of the side? With all the neat rulers out there, you can find one that will suit just about any quilt block you can make. 

Shameful Squaring 7: Using just the edges of the fabric to determine how to square can cause the center of the square to be off. You have to view the entire block, all of the seams in the block, and know where the center should be, otherwise the block won’t be centered.  Can you imagine a compass block with the points cut off one side? Those poor little points you worked so hard on–please don’t cut them off! “Wonky” is by design–not by accident! 

So, next time we’ll talk about the solutions to the problems above and we’ll also try to answer any questions you ask about squaring up–so post away and give us the skinny! We’ll put all the tips into a document on our site that will be available to you as a download!

Sew Now! Quilt Now!


{ 1 comment }

1 Karen Rankin 08.01.09 at 7:57 am

My husband has in the past cut blocks of different sizes out of plexiglass which I have used to cut my blocks, that has worked well because you can see through it and it doesn’t stretch, shrink, etc. We scored the squares corner to corner so the middle is easy to find.

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