Basics Tutorial: Squaring Fabric

All the patterns say “Square Your Fabric” but what does it mean!? Often when it has been cut in a shop, it comes to you less than straight, and before you can easily use your rotary cutter you need to get a straight edge to work with!

This piece had some extra funky folds in it, looked like they had been on the bolt that way too – makes it a great example!
1. Press your fabric. I like to use lots of spray starch, any old spray starch I can find on sale.
2. Fold your fabric, selvage to selvage. In the picture above there is a bubble in the fold at the bottom.
3. Adjust your selvage edges until the fold lays flat. Use your fingers to scoot them one way or the other until it is happy.

4. Lay it down and get prepared to make a cut. Notice that the cut edges are NOT together.
5. I’m using home dec fabric that is 60″ wide so I need to fold a second time, usually not the case unless your cutting mat or ruler is smaller.
6. Line up your folded edge along a straight line on your cutting mat. Again, the cut edges are not lined up perfectly.

7. Check the depth, that you need to cut in order to have a continuous straight edge.
8. Bring on the ruler, and cut. Your fabric should be lined up straight on the bottom folded edge, and your ruler should be matched up with the grid lines.
9. You should have a nice edge to begin cutting your quilt pieces! If you are cutting more than a few strips, you will want to re-square your fabric often, especially if you feel your ruler slip. I typically re-square every 6-10″.
Because I’m sure someone will ask – Denyse Schmidt’s County Fair has been used in this tutorial, and I will be able to share this little project when it is completed!! No telling when that will be though :)

I hope that helps someone! Anyone have something to add?

Amy

Accurate cutting starts with squaring your fabric, before you cut your pieces. Learn how here! - AmysCreativeSide.com

By | 2017-02-06T09:19:01+00:00 November 24th, 2009|Tutorial|35 Comments

35 Comments

  1. Jacquie November 24, 2009 at 10:16 am - Reply

    I am a complete novice in sewing so this may be a silly question but in the second to last picture, the left side isn't even either so did you do the same thing to the other side and make that even as well? Or is there a reason that it doesn't matter?

    Love the fabric by the way! :)

  2. Amy - Park City Girl November 24, 2009 at 10:18 am - Reply

    Jacquie – If I'm cutting strips or squares I usually don't! There's no need to square the other side unless you are cutting a big square, just work with the one straight edge.

    Hope this helps!
    Amy

  3. Natalia November 24, 2009 at 10:21 am - Reply

    Great tutorial! Thanks for sharing!

  4. JacquieLH November 24, 2009 at 10:30 am - Reply

    Thanks so much for your quick response! That makes complete sense :)

    I am in the middle of my first ever sewing project and already have dozens more lined up that I want to try. Quick/useful tips like this are just what I'm looking for :)

    Thanks again for this great tutorial!

  5. Sue November 24, 2009 at 11:05 am - Reply

    Just read your tutorial,I was wondering,should you wash the fabric first?

    Many thanks

    Sue

  6. lpquilts November 24, 2009 at 11:09 am - Reply

    I've never done the double-fold technique, before, but I don't use the extra-wide widths.

    I single fold, selvage-to-selvage, and align a ruler line to the fold, then cut to square up. Always keep in mind that your fabric is only squared up for the distance that your ruler is. So, if you use a 6" ruler, you have to re-square every 6".

  7. Amy - Park City Girl November 24, 2009 at 11:42 am - Reply

    Sue – Pre-washing fabric is a matter of personal choice. I opt not to, but there are a few reasons to pre-wash, like shrinkage and sizing allergies. I believe shrinking varies with the quality of cottons, and to avoid allergic reactions, I wash my quilts as soon as they are finished! If I am sewing a garment – I always pre-wash.

  8. Vicki November 24, 2009 at 12:46 pm - Reply

    Looks great! It took me so long to figure out how to do that, and for some reason it kind of scared me too. What I like to do when I'm done is unfold it and lay my ruler along the cut where I'd had it folded to make sure it really, really is straight. :D

  9. Yuki November 24, 2009 at 12:49 pm - Reply

    Great Demo! I learned this in HomeEc back in 1960. I don't think they even teach this anymore. Good for you for taking the time to do this.

    ttfn :) Yuki Nakamoto

  10. Sue November 24, 2009 at 12:51 pm - Reply

    Thanks for replying so promptly.I am new to your blog and would like to say how much I am enjoying it.

    Sue

  11. Cheryl Arkison November 24, 2009 at 12:56 pm - Reply

    Ditto to the comments about continually resquaring.

    I posted a video of this in my quilt along tutorials.

  12. Cheryl Arkison November 24, 2009 at 12:56 pm - Reply

    Ditto to the comments about continually resquaring.

    I posted a video of this in my quilt along tutorials.

  13. Cheryl Arkison November 24, 2009 at 12:56 pm - Reply

    Ditto to the comments about continually resquaring.

    I posted a video of this in my quilt along tutorials.

  14. Tamera November 24, 2009 at 1:00 pm - Reply

    Great tutorial. It's so much easier when you have pictures!

  15. Trudi November 24, 2009 at 3:32 pm - Reply

    Great tutorial Amy, would only reiterate the comments to keep checking and re-squaring as you cut.

  16. Natys November 24, 2009 at 5:32 pm - Reply

    From a newbie quilter, thanks so much.
    Big help.

  17. amylouwho November 24, 2009 at 6:23 pm - Reply

    I sort of knew this – but it's good to see it laid out in pictures! Thanks for sharing!

  18. Wendy November 24, 2009 at 7:43 pm - Reply

    This is exactly how I do it, too. But it's so frustrating to see inches of beautiful, expensive fabric wasted. At my LQS (and even the local chain stores), if you ask for 1/2 yard, they cut 18" and not one mm more. Once it's squared up, I rarely have more than 16" of usable space. Very frustrating when a pattern calls for 18" strips or 3 – 6" blocks, etc. Any tips on how to handle this?? Do you just buy more?? A few more inches per fabric x 10+ fabrics per quilt really adds up quickly.

  19. Cindy November 24, 2009 at 7:55 pm - Reply

    Thanks for the great tip! I love your blog.

  20. jaybird November 24, 2009 at 8:10 pm - Reply

    thanks for doing this!! i get asked this all the time!

  21. Zarina November 24, 2009 at 9:23 pm - Reply

    That is what I usually do myself. Since I buy white cotton in bolts, I find that tearing it off instead of cutting give a more or less even edge.

  22. AnnieO November 24, 2009 at 9:24 pm - Reply

    I have that same fabric–in orange! It's beautiful quality fabric too. That is one thing that helps with the "offset" of the edges and waste. Thanks for spelling it out so well.

  23. Denny1600 November 25, 2009 at 7:38 am - Reply

    Wendy: I ALWAYS buy more fabric than the pattern calls for. I also wash my fabric before I cut. By buying more fabric, I don't have to worry about shrinkage after I've sewn my project. I also remove the sizing and other chemicals that make me sneeze. Buying extra removes the stress of not having enough, allows for cutting mistakes (which I'm sure NEVER happens to anyone but me), allows me to have more of that fabric if I fall in love with it while I'm working with it (which is always one week after the shop sold the last of that fabric), and builds up my stash of scraps for that scrap quilt that I'll be making soon! I even have a plan! Sure, extra fabric can add up, but stress should not be a part of our sewing or quilting projects.

  24. Wendy November 25, 2009 at 8:39 am - Reply

    Denny — That's a great perspective!! And you're right, sometimes it's cheaper to buy extra for the peace of mind :)

  25. Amy - Park City Girl November 25, 2009 at 11:09 am - Reply

    Thanks for stepping up Denny! Buying extra for the inevitable misguided cut is a great plan. Happy quilting!

  26. Casey November 27, 2009 at 8:06 am - Reply

    Thanks. That's a great tutorial.

  27. Heather G. May 25, 2010 at 4:07 pm - Reply

    Thank you for sharing this!! I have been needed to see this again! I just started quilting and am still learning everything!! Thanks again!

  28. Pamela Fox January 19, 2011 at 2:58 am - Reply

    Hi
    Basics Tutorial-Squaring Fabric.
    I Found this very informative for the beginners who want to try quilting.

  29. Deborah White February 25, 2011 at 8:18 pm - Reply

    Thanks for this awesome tutorial. My Grandmother brought me up quilting, but I rarely got to see the technical end of things, being a small child, and later a disinterested teen. This has been most helpful! Your quilts are wonderful, by the way :)

  30. […] for the other two edges. You will need to open your fabric and fold it in half the other way.  Here’s a tutorial on squaring fabric if my explanation isn’t […]

  31. Shelley July 29, 2011 at 6:10 am - Reply

    Thank you so much for this post. I’ve found that I need very explicit step by step photos to learn a new technique and your post gave me the information I need to be able to cut straight strips with my rotary cutter. Now to go try cutting straight strips without the dip!

  32. Kay March 9, 2014 at 12:18 pm - Reply

    Great tutorial and comments. Now how do you square up the pieced blocks? I am new to quilting and need pointers. Thanks.

  33. Kathy Lay April 7, 2014 at 9:33 am - Reply

    How do you square up a large piece of fleece that the selvages have been cut off?

    • Kathy Lay April 7, 2014 at 9:35 am - Reply

      How do you square up a large piece of fleece that the selvages have been cut off?

  34. PattyP August 8, 2016 at 10:32 am - Reply

    I’m sure there are many that will find this quite helpful are you are to be applauded for that. I was kind of surprised that the tutorial did not consider that the reason many fabrics are not squared to begin with is that the threads are warped off the “true” when the bolt is wound at the factory, meaning they are no longer at right angles to each other. The threads are supposed to be at right angles to each other on the warp (length of the fabric)and weft (runs back and forth from selvedge to slevedge). If a piece of yardage has been pulled on one corner during the winding of the bolt, (not wound straight) the grain is no long at right angles to itself. Squaring in the manner you give will give perfectly square looking pieces, but they may be off-kilter after washing and drying if they return to the “true” right angles inherent in the grain after they get wet.

    This is not at all meant to be critical, just informative. I am just old school, but very willing to learn new tricks too, or I would not be reading so many Pinterest links!

    To find the true grain, unravel threads at one cut end until you get a complete thread running across the cut end, not a number of threads unraveling at different spots. Trim the ends of the warp threads that are left sticking out.Take the fabric and place on any large grid (even a table will work) and see then if that cut edge and the selvedge are at right angles to each other. If not, then one takes the fabric in hand, opening it to the full 90″ width, then stretching it at a 45 degree angle across the grain to get it back at right angles. One works from one corner down the fabric, continually stretching across a 45 degree angle, working down about 2″ to 4 ” at a time. It’s easier to show than tell anyone and I don’t have a blog and don’t post videos on You Tube. Anyway, you keep working the fabric takes maybe 5 minutes at the most) and put back on the grid or table. Once the fabric has a true right angle and will match up on a cutting grid or edges of a table properly, you proceed with the method you posted.

    The whole point is that fabric sometimes gets twisted or pulled off grain at the factory. I learned this when sewing garments since fabric will not hang right if the fabric is not true to grain when cut. One of the clues that the grain may be off is that fact that there were folds in the original bolt and/or the cutting lines did not match when you first folded it. Many bolts are just fine, but ever so often, one must true the grain on a piece.

    I always wash my washable fabrics before even storing them, and that will solve a lot of grain issues in advance of use. Before I use fabric on a project, I always “pull” threads from the cut end to check the grain, then use your method if needed due to a poor job of cutting by store employees. I must say I always buy extra fabric!

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