How to Square up your Fabric and Cut Perfect Patchwork Squares

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.

How to square your fabric for perfect patchwork squares.

(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.

How to square your fabric for perfect patchwork squares.

This tutorial is written with the assumption that you own most of the basic sewing or quilting supplies:
Rotary cutter
Cutting mat
Sewing ruler
(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!

How to square your fabric for perfect patchwork squares.

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.

How to square your fabric for perfect patchwork squares.

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.

How to square your fabric for perfect patchwork squares.

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.

How to square your fabric for perfect patchwork squares.

4. Using your rotary cutter, cut the fabric running along the side of the ruler to create a perfect straight edge.

How to square your fabric for perfect patchwork squares.

How to square your fabric for perfect patchwork squares.

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.

How to square your fabric for perfect patchwork squares.

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.

How to square your fabric for perfect patchwork squares.

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.

How to square your fabric for perfect patchwork squares.

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!

How to square your fabric for perfect patchwork squares.

How to square your fabric for perfect patchwork squares.

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.

How to square your fabric for perfect patchwork squares.

With a bit of time and reading a few tutorials, you can finish a pillow cover just like the one below. πŸ™‚ Here are some tutorials that may help you:

How to Sew an Envelope Pillow Cover
A Beginner Friendly Quilted Pillow Top
How to Sew a Pillow Cover for a 16 inch by 16 inch Pillow Form

How to square your fabric for perfect patchwork squares.

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!!

How to square your fabric for perfect patchwork squares.

(Please note that this post contains affiliate links.)

14 thoughts on “How to Square up your Fabric and Cut Perfect Patchwork Squares

  1. Thank you for the tutorial on how to cut a perfect square. I am getting ready to cut 128 squares and needed guidance. This was perfect.

  2. Thank you for showing in the easy way you have to help me do perfect squares. I need to make a quilt for my granddaughter for when she starts university next month so now I will hopefully get it done. Thank you.

    1. Hi Mavis! I’m glad these instructions could be of help to you. Good for you for making a quilt for your granddaughter! I’m sure she’ll treasure it for years. πŸ™‚

  3. Hi,

    I am embarking on my third quilt after a three year hiatus. I took a quilting class when I did my first two quilts, so I learned this squaring technique, but needed a refresher. After perusing several sites and videos that weren’t that helpful, your tutorial hit the mark perfectly. Thank you for taking the time to outline how to do this in clear, easy-to-follow steps.

    1. Hi Elaine,

      Thanks for the encouraging comment! I’m glad you are taking up quilting again after taking a few years off. Quilting and sewing have been a great blessing and creative outlet in my life, and I hope they are the same to you!

  4. I have books, magazine articles and websites on this subject that I just haven’t found helpful (I am a VERY slow learner!) but this tutorial is just perfect for me!

    I have now signed up for your newsletter and am looking forward to checking out all your projects and tutorials. Thank you SO much

    By the way your cushion looks stunning – I wish I could do something this good!!

    1. Alison,
      I’m so thankful to hear you say how helpful this tutorial was. Keep practicing and I’m sure you can make something just like this cushion! πŸ™‚

  5. Your tutorial to square up was something I desperately needed! I will refer back to this often because this is a basic knowledge I so needed to have. Thank you for taking the time to explain it so clearly. When I read your bio, I immediately thought of a saying I learned long ago and I can see you feel this way also – it goes like this – A thankful heart turns everything it touches into happiness. So very true. Blessings to you…

    1. Hi Deb, your comment made my day! I am so glad and thankful you found this tutorial so helpful. Thanks for the encouragement you offered, and I’m grateful you stopped by the blog today! πŸ™‚

  6. I didn’t spot a single imperfection and your pillow cover is beautiful. I just so happen to have some Meandering in Seafoam that’s been hanging around for a year or so. Perhaps, it’s time to put it to good use.

    1. Thanks, Kerry, for your encouragement! The meandering fabric is a pretty one! A perfect petite floral. πŸ™‚ Thanks for stopping by!

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