I know–I’ve been holding you hostage for a month now, waiting for this information. After all I’ve put you through, you won’t believe how truly easy it is to square up a quilt block. I’ve given you all the shameful squaring stories I’ve heard and I’ve given you some tips. Now–here are the steps you take to perfectly square a quilt block! Ready?
First, I want to remind you of a few things:
1. Use a squaring ruler. It can either be square or a triangle, as long as it is larger than the block.
2. As you square, be sure to visually square the center of the block in addition to squaring the edges.
3. If a block is too small to square to the needed size, either do a new one, or add fabric to the edges of the block, and then square it.
4. Always square two edges at a time.
How to Square a Quilt Block:
Step 1: Lay the block on your cutting mat with the two sides you wish to square first on the bottom right. Lay the ruler over the block, with the correct blockmeasurement in the upper left corner of the block. For this example, we chose 8″. Adjust the ruler over the block until 1) the block is visually centered and 2) the edges of the block slightly exceed the upper left corner measurement.
Step 2: Using a rotary cutter, cut the right edge of the block first and then the bottom edge. This gives you a perfectly square corner.
Step 3: Flip the block so that the just-cut corner lines up exactly with the final block measurement on the ruler and the edges of the fabric are matched to the correct lines on the ruler. (In this case, 8″). Check again to be certain the center of the block is visually square. Cut the right side, and then the bottom.
If your block is put together correctly, and if you follow the above procedure, you should end up with a perfectly square block. But, what if something goes wrong?
Q: What if the edges of the block don’t exceed the block measurement?
A: Measure the block through the center, going both vertically and horizontally. If either measurement is less than the block size you put together, discard the block and do a new one. Tip: Use scant 1/4″ seam allowances when sewing to ensure your block comes out the correct size. Keep in mind that all blocks have 1/4″ seam allowance built in. If the measurement is just slightly below the desired size, you can square to the nearest 1/8″ and use a 1/8″ seam allowance. This can be risky, particularly if you forget that the block is too small by the time you sew it into the quilt, or if the block frays after you sew it.
Q: What if my block exactly equals the finished measurement, but it still not squared?
A: If the block is only slightly off, you can attempt to square it by taking off 1/16″. If you do this, I suggest marking the correct sewing lines on the edges of the block with a soluable marker and sew it as soon as possible to avoid forgetting that the block is slightly too small. You can also try pressing the block with starch or a starch alternative to ensure the seams are all lying flat. Then, re-measure.
Q: What if the block is hopelessly too small, but I don’t have any more fabric?
A: Make a smaller quilt. Just kidding! You can make a smaller block and adjust your measurements throughout the quilt but this can be really challenging. Keep in mind that you would have to consider all the rest of the blocks, any sashing, borders, and binding in your adjustments. If all of the blocks are too small, you can also square them to a smaller size and then add fabric strips to each side of the block. Then, re-square the block using the side strips to the correct measurement. This way, you can keep the block, add in a new fabric to the mix, and make it look like it was planned!
Hope this information is helpful to all of you guys, as it was to me when I discovered all of it. I’m not the most accurate of sewers, so figuring out how to do this was essential to my quilting success. Sorting through methods and practicing (Otherwise known as tossing blocks I squared incorrectly) has helped me eliminate the instructions that don’t work and get to the process that does. I’ve also learned to always buy a little more fabric than I need, just in case I need to make a new block.
Let me know how your squaring is coming!
Sew Now, Quilt Now!