Use a few basic quilting tools and this tutorial for the fastest way to square up a quilt. Quilting can warp a quilt but we're here to help! Read along as I square up my Ahoy Sailor Quilt, a free pattern here at Suzy Quilts!
Once upon a time, I never squared up my quilts. I would simply trim the excess batting and backing fabric by using my quilt top as a guide. After some experience with seam allowance, block imperfections, and some wonky corners, I learned that squaring up a quilt can greatly improve its overall quality and professional finish.
When you square up a quilt, you are ensuring that each corner is cut at a 90-degree (square) angle, with consistently straight edges in between. This process often can hide or eliminate imperfections that may have occurred while piecing, quilting, etc., resulting in a cleaner, more fold-friendly finish 😉
When Should You Square Up a Quilt?
First things first — when is the best time to square up a quilt? After you’ve quilted it, but before you attach the binding. Even if you’re a basting pro, quilt tops can shift and slightly distort during the quilting process, especially around the corners and edges of the quilt top.
For this reason, it’s best to hold off on trimming excess batting and backing until after the quilt has been quilted. This will ensure that your quilt remains squared up after you trim it.
Keep reading for more tips and tricks for the fastest way to square up a quilt!
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Supplies to Square Up a Quilt
Step 1: Iron Your Quilt
Whether your quilt is hot off the longarming machine or collecting dust bunnies in your WIP (work in progress) pile, it’s important to iron out the wrinkles so all waves and creases go away.
This will ensure that your quilt lays nice and flat while you square it up. I like to mist my quilt with water before ironing to help get stubborn creases out.
Step 2: Take it to the Floor!
While the thought of crawling around on the floor may sound unappealing, I promise you it’s worth it to achieve some nice, crisp squared corners.
Cutting quilts on tables or raised surfaces can be tricky and contribute to wonky quilt edges. If a surface isn’t large enough to spread out a quilt, the weight of the material hanging off the edge can cause pulling that distorts the edges as you cut. This usually results in bowed quilt edges.
The key to having straight edges when you square up a quilt is having the quilt spread out as flat as possible when you are squaring it up. This helps to ensure that the quilt edges aren’t being pulled one way or another, which will lend more accuracy when squaring up a quilt.
Clear a space on the floor so that your entire quilt can be spread out. Make sure that the quilt is flat and that it is not pulled or folded over in any direction. If you don’t have enough space to fully spread out the quilt, you can fold one side of the quilt over on itself — again, making sure it’s super flat!
Step 3: Square Up the Corners
Slide a cutting mat under a corner of the quilt. Make sure that your cutting mat is under where you are trimming at all times so you don’t accidentally slice your floor!
Align a 12 1/2" square ruler with the corner of the quilt top. There may be parts of the quilt top that extend outside or dip inside the edges of the ruler, but that’s ok! You can always adjust your binding seam allowance or overall width to accommodate any drastic deviations from the edge if needed. But most of the time, your binding can hide any wonkiness.
Trim around the outside corner of the 12 1/2" square ruler with a rotary cutter.
Move the cutting mat to the other three corners and repeat. If it’s easier, you can also keep your cutting mat in the same place and rotate your quilt for each corner. This may be helpful for quilters with limited mobility or knee issues. Just be sure to flatten out the quilt before aligning the square ruler on each corner.
Step 4: Trim Excess on the Sides
After each corner is squared up and trimmed, you’ll need to trim the sides of the quilt between the corners.
Making sure your quilt is flattened out on the floor, slide your cutting mat under one of the edges. Align a few inches of the 24" long ruler with the trimmed edge of the corner. The rest of the ruler should align with the untrimmed edge of the quilt top, but you may have spots where it extends outside or dips inside the edge of the ruler.
Tip: If you're worried about making sure your long ruler is straight, place your 12 1/2" square ruler back in the corner you cut and line up the long ruler with the edge of the square ruler.
If you have more than one 24" long ruler, you can line them up to extend along the edge of larger quilts. Trim along the outside edge of the 24" ruler with a rotary cutter.
Slide your cutting mat and ruler(s) to the next untrimmed edge, aligning a few inches of the ruler with the recently trimmed section and/or the next trimmed corner, then cut.
Repeat until you’ve done all four sides of the quilt.
Step 5: Finish That Quilt!
Now that your quilt is squared up and trimmed, it’s time to attach the binding and finish it!
For some tips on binding, check out these other helpful Suzy Quilts tutorials on how to sew binding on a quilt and how to machine bind a quilt!
Interested in taking it a step further and sewing rounded corners on a quilt? Now that you know how to square up a quilt, you’re all set to pick up on step 2 of this tutorial.
Keep in mind that perfection isn’t the aim of the game! Following the steps outlined above will help achieve corners that are more square and edges that are straighter, but you may need to adjust your rulers to angles that seem slightly “off” from perfection. These adjustments are minor and more than likely won’t even be noticeable once your quilt has been washed and snuggled!
Do you square up your quilts or do you wing those corners? Let us know in the comments below!