There is something beautiful to me that comes with the imperfections of a handmade project. A little bit of coloring outside the lines is a good thing. Aesthetically, I am often drawn to something with a bit of whimsy character. Think of an old farmhouse with some cracks in the paint. Or, hand stitching on your grandmother’s quilt. Do you know what I mean?
There is something beautiful that comes with the imperfections.
(The fabric here is Meandering Petal by Sarah Jane and Kona Snow.)
I have been quilting and sewing now for seven years. I started in 2009. I still have my first two quilts, and I wouldn’t say their imperfections bring beauty. They are just not pretty, but I had to start somewhere, right?
While I don’t get too worked up over every corner meeting up just perfectly, I have learned that quilting comes with precision. I don’t mind if I have to gather little bits of fabric here and there to make a few corners line up a bit better, but I sometimes feel a bit defeated when my patchwork turns out a bit wonky…especially if I have tried to cut the fabric well.
I have learned one way to avoid the wonkiness is to work carefully at cutting perfect squares (or triangles or rectangles or hexagons…). The harder I work at cutting and trimming squares well, the more fun it will be when those squares match up perfectly.
This tutorial is written with the assumption that you own most of the basic sewing or quilting supplies:
(Here is a whole set very similar to what I use every day.)
Here is how I square my fabric and cut perfect squares:
1. First things first. Iron your fabric! Also, depending on how much time you spend sewing, a good iron can save you a LOT of time.
Having a self steaming iron is great! A higher quality iron will iron faster and press your seams better. This is the one I have. You can find nicer, but it works really well for me!
Starting with fabric that isn’t full of crinkles and creases is always much better!
2. In order to have perfect squares, you have to start with perfectly straight lines and right angles. The fabric store does not take the time to square your fabric and cut perfectly straight lines for you.
How do you create a perfectly straight line? You fold your fabric in half. The fold creates a straight line.
If I am working with a full yard of fabric, I usually fold the length of the fabric in half. In other words, I fold it so the selvages line up as best as I can get them. Lay the fabric on a flat surface and gently rub any creases out of the fabric.
If you are working with fabric that has a definite straight line in the pattern, I always square the fabric up with the pattern. You can see how I did that with this blanket.
3. Line your sewing ruler up with the straight / folded edge. Your ruler provides you with a guide to create a perfect 90 degree angle.
4. Using your rotary cutter, cut the fabric running along the side of the ruler to create a perfect straight edge.
5. Now that you have a perfectly straight edge with a perfect 90 degree angle, we are going to cut a 4 1/2 inch strip of fabric. We will then sub-cut this strip into 4 1/2 inch squares.
Flip your fabric over so the side you just cut on the right hand side is now on your left hand side (as pictured below.) And, I guess this will all be backwards for a left handed quilter.
Like you did above, use the lines on your ruler as a guide. Line it up with the folded edge at the bottom of the fabric. Then line up your straight edge (that you just cut) with the 4 1/2 inch mark in your ruler.
6. Cut a 4 1/2 inch strip of fabric.
Sometimes it’s easy for the fabric to shift or the ruler to shift as your a cutting. As you roll your rotary cutter, think to press down on the ruler and down on the rotary cutter.
You may also find that your fabric is longer than your cutting mat. If this is the case, cut as far as you can, then shift your fabric down on the cutting mat, re-align your ruler to ensure you are making an accurate cut, and keep going.
7. Now that we have a strip of 4 1/2 inch fabric, we need to square the ends.
You use the same concept as we did above. Using the lines on your ruler as a guide, you line up the straight line of the ruler with the straight edge of the fabric. Then cut the fabric to create yet another perfectly straight edge and 90 degree angles.
8. Flip your strip of fabric over so the squared edge is at your left hand side. Line up the ruler with the 4 1/2 inch mark. Cut along the ruler and you should have a perfect 4 1/2 inch square!
Remember kind of like I said above, if you find you are cutting squares and your fabric stops lining up well with your ruler, go through the extra effort to re-square your fabric. Every little bit of precision helps to make your quilt all the more beautiful (and much easier to piece!)
Here is a project you can make with 4 1/2 inch squares. Sixteen of them sewn together make a perfectly sized cover for a 16 by 16 inch pillow form.
With a bit of time and reading a few tutorials, you can finish a pillow cover just like the one below. 🙂 Here are some tutorials that may help you:
If you have a dream of sewing a quilt, this is a perfect place to start. Learning how to cut precise squares is a big step one to cross off the list!!
(Please note that this post contains affiliate links.)