Squaring Your Blocks


Squaring your blocks is a must to make your quilt come out square as well. We discuss the two main methods and make a plea to quilt designers.

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Squaring Your Blocks

We are told as beginners not to use two different machines to make a quilt. The slight variation between machines will make the seams vary enough to leave the quilt off-square. In case you haven’t heard, don’t assume that pre-cuts are of the same measurement or are even square. This holds true even if from the same manufacturer. The same goes for your die cutter. Perfection simply isn’t possible, and all blocks need to be squared.

Squaring Your Blocks


It's a real temptation not to square up your blocks, but please remember that a quilt with clean lines is a prettier quilt. Squaring your block will give you straighter seams, nicer points, and cleaner corners.



As always, there are lots of videos online to guide you in learning to square up your blocks. There are even special videos for log cabin blocks. Here we will cover the two most popular methods for squaring up your blocks.


Step one: Press your block! ('Nuff said?) You can't see the true size of your block until it has been pressed.


If your block is too large, you can lay a ruler of the correct size on the block and trim with your rotary cutter as needed. The 45° line on your ruler will help you align the block corner to corner. (Of course, you will put the trimmings in an old t-shirt that you have sewn up so that you can collect scraps for a dog or cat bed. This is no-waste quilting.)



You may not have a ruler of the correct size. The block I was doing was 16" by 8" – not a size ruler commonly owned. The only ruler I had that was 24" square and too unwieldy to do the job.



So, I turned to method two, which uses freezer paper. The freezer paper method is most often used if the block is too small. Using freezer paper, make a copy of the ideal size of your block. Press the freezer paper onto the block and see if the block edges will fall into the seam allowance. If they do, leave the freezer paper on the block as a guide until after you have sewn the seams. Remove the freezer paper carefully after all seams are finished.



If you can't save the block with either of these methods, don't throw it away! Strange as it seems, there are block swaps online or at guilds where your orphan blocks will be used.


Recently, I have seen template kits that include both the ruler and a template for squaring up the block. It would be up to each quilter to decide if this is worth the cost.


My plea to designers is to always include the instructions for squaring up the block in the pattern. Please do not assume that the quilter knows what to do. Especially if the pattern is easy for beginners, they may not yet have learned how to square up a block. Please add a line to your pattern that clearly says, "Square your block to _ inches by _ inches." Long-armers everywhere will thank you for a quilt which is easy to put on the frame!


Remember, squaring your blocks saves time in the long run!


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The basic unit of a quilt top, usually square but can be rectangular or other shapes. Blocks can be pieced, appliqued or plain.
A quilt that is so badly damaged or worn that it's only purpose now is to be cut up for other craft projects.
Four strips of wood that supports the layers for quilting.
Log Cabin
A quilt pattern in which narrow fabric strips, or logs, surround a center square to form a block. These may be pieced from strips or sewn onto a foundation of paper or fabric.
Orphan Blocks
Quilt blocks that are left over from a project.
Method of using an iron to press seams and blocks. This means simply pressing downwards on the seam with the iron from above and not moving the iron back and forth which can distort the block or seam.
Rotary Cutter
A very sharp tool that looks like a pizza wheel which is capable of cutting through multiple layers of fabric.
A heavy plastic measuring guide that can come in a variety of shapes and sizes.
Seam Allowance
The width of fabric left to the right of a sewn seam. In quilting this is traditionally 1/4 inch. For sewing garments it is usually 5/8 inch.
An exchange among a group of quilters of either fabric or blocks with some set ground rules as to theme, color, design, etc. Popular in Quilting Guilds, and a very popular online activity on quilting forums and mailing lists.

Same As: Round Robin Swap
Pattern pieces made out of paper, cardboard, plastic or metal, giving you something to draw around so that you can accurately replicate any shape.
Debi Warner
Author and humorist, Debi Warner, retired after many years as a clinical librarian and information specialist. She has her Master’s in Library and Information Science and achieved a Distinguished level in the Medical Library Association’s Association of Health Information Professionals. She has worked on teaching physicians to use computers and electronic resources. She also worked on several grants teaching the public how to use the National Library of Medicine’s MedlinePlus public database and is co-author of several articles on health literacy. She took up quilting after retirement in 2012 and chaired the Rio Grande Valley Quilt Show in 2019. She currently teaches several quilting classes over Zoom and writes for QuiltingHub.
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