Part 2: Squaring Up Fabric, Cutting Straight Fabric Squares and Designing Layout
Welcome back to Week 2 of the Quilt Along, I’m so glad you’re here!
In Week 1 of the Quilting for Beginner’s Quilt Along we discussed fabric – buying it, how much you need and prewashing.
Do you have your fabric prewashed (if desired) and ready to go? Awesome!
This week we will go through the steps to iron, square up and cut our fabric. By the end of this week you will have all the squares for your quilt cut and ready to assemble into a beautiful quilt top! Take your time and work through it step by step! You can do this!
I’ve included LOTS of pictures, but please don’t hesitate to ask with if anything is unclear! Starting out quilting can be slightly overwhelming. I’m here to make it as easy as possible!
So let’s jump right in!
For your convenience, this post may contain affiliate links. You can read my full disclosure statement here.
I cannot stress enough the importance of ironing your fabric before cutting. Ironing eliminates the misaligned folds or wrinkles that exist from being wrapped around a bolt.
Ironing quilting fabric is slightly different that ironing clothes.
Instead of sliding the iron, you want to use the iron to press the wrinkles & folds out.
Lightly spray your fabric with starch spray (my favorite is Best Press), and press the wrinkles out. You’ll want to press, pick up the iron, press, pick up the iron etc.
Ironing by pushing the iron on the fabric can cause stretching and pulling that we do not want. Ask me how I know…
So, say it with me…press, don’t push. 🙂
Squaring Up Your Fabric
Before you bring the rotary cutter or scissors out to cut, it is absolutely imperative that you square up your fabric.
Squaring up your fabric is simply cutting off the uneven edges to ensure every cut is perfect. The extent to which your individual fabric will need squared up will vary depending on the quality of the fabric, whether it’s precut or fabric by the yard and even if it’s been prewashed.
Squaring up fabric properly is such a crucial skill for quilting. Here’s a very detailed step-by-step guide to ensure you can square up fabric in your sleep. 🙂
To get started squaring up your fabric, you want to find the selvage. The selvage end of fabric is more tightly woven and helps prevent fraying or unraveling. Often one end of the selvage has writing on it.
Did you find the selvage on your fabric? Awesome! If not, here’s a more detailed guide that is sure to make squaring up fabric a breeze!
Now fold the fabric selvage to selvage.
Lay the fabric on your cutting mat. While keeping the selvage edges aligned, smooth out your fabric. This will leave you with an uneven edge.
Using your ruler, trim the uneven edge off.
I am using fat quarters for this project, so I️ only have one selvage edge.
I️ still prefer to fold the one selvage edge together (hot dog style 🙂 ).
This isn’t squaring it up in the traditional sense, but it allows me to get rid of any uneven edges that may exist. Luckily, the uneven edges on my fabric are minimal.
Cutting Strips of Fabric
Alright, we’ve successfully ironed and squared up our fabric. Way to go! 🙂
Let’s start cutting our fabric squares.
As a reminder, our squares will be 4 1/2″ by 4 1/2″. We will need 70 squares, which will yield roughly a 28″ x 40″ baby quilt.
To cut our squares, we will cut 4 1/2″ strips from our fabric. These strips will then be cut down into squares.
Line up your fabric with the edge of your cutting mat.
Place your ruler to measure 4 1/2″.
Use slight pressure to hold your ruler in place and use your rotary cutter (or scissors) to cut a strip of fabric.
Here is an absolute lifesaving hack to prevent your ruler from sliding! I wish I had this when I first started quilting. Trust me, try it – you’ll be so happy you did!
Depending on the size of your ruler, you will likely need to adjust it to cut the full length of your fabric. No problem, just gently slide it to its new position, line it up to measure 4 1/2″ and continue the cut for the remainder of the fabric.
The size of your fabric will dictate how many strips of fabric you will need.
If you are using fat quarters (18″ x 21″), you will need: 18 strips
If you are using fabric by the yard (typically 44″-45″ width), you will need: 7-8 strips
Avoid guessing how much fabric you will need. Download your own Guide to Quilting now! Complete with quilting sizes, fabric measurements, precut fabric descriptions and other great tidbits!
Cutting Strips of Fabric into Squares
Now that we have all of our strips of fabric cut, we are going to cut them into 4 1/2″ squares.
For the little squares I switch to a smaller ruler, similar to one in this set. Personally, I find it easier to work with, but any size ruler will work. You just have to find what works best for you.
Take a strip of fabric and line it up with the edge lines of your cutting mat.
This is a good time to mention not to rely on the measurement lines on your cutting mat. They are not always accurate. I have found them to be helpful for lining up fabric and using a ruler on top, but I never use them for measuring fabric to cut
Never use the gridlines on your cutting mat for measuring. Use an acrylic ruler.
Place ruler on fabric, lining it up to measure 4 1/2″.
When lining up your ruler, the top and side should both measure 4 1/2″.
Cut a square of fabric at the edge of the ruler. If you have issues keeping your ruler in place, use my hack to prevent your ruler from sliding.
You did it! You just officially cut the first piece for your baby quilt! Awesome job!!
Move the cut square out of the way and line up your ruler again. Line it up to measure 4 1/2″ each way and cut a square.
Continue this process through the entire strip of fabric. Depending on the length of your fabric, you will likely have a small piece of extra fabric at the end. Save it and add it to your fabric stash for a future project. 🙂
Continue through the remaining fabric strips, or until you have 70 squares.
Once your strips of fabric are cut into squares, stop and give yourself a little clap clap (we say this to Elli all the time 🙂 ).You have successfully cut all of the squares needed to complete a beautiful baby quilt! Great job!
Designing your Quilt Layout
Now comes the really fun part, designing the layout for your quilt.
As silly as it is, this often takes me the longest, as I try out several different looks and designs. With a simple square block quilt, you have complete freedom with fabric placement.
Now, get ready, I have another awesome tip that you aren’t going to want to miss!
Designing the quilt is incredibly fun, but laying the blocks on the ground and climbing over them to make adjustments? No thank you! (Although, I can still recall my 36 week pregnant self doing just that because I hadn’t learned this wonderful tip yet! Yuck!).
Save yourself, your knees and the headache that crawling on the ground entails and set up a simple design wall.
A design wall (or design board) is a flannel wall that holds your fabric and allows you to experiment with different quilting designs and layouts, all without pins!
You can purchase a design wall, but they were more expensive than I was comfortable with and they didn’t offer a lot of flexibility to put them away when not in use.
There had to be a better option….solution?
Are you ready for this….
A (super inexpensive) flannel backed tablecloth!
- Inexpensive (and I found mine at a garage sale for 50 cents – even better! 🙂 )
- Easily hang with tacks or command strips.
- Easy to fold up and put away when not in use
- Works like a dream holding fabric – I’ve even left fabric on it for months on end without any issues!
Don’t mind the wrinkles, I keep it folded when not in use. 🙂
Use a flannel-backed vinyl tablecloth for a design wall! It holds quilt squares without any pins and allows you to experiment with different layouts before sewing!
Do yourself a favor, get a flannel backed tablecloth for a design wall asap! It makes a huge difference! Plus, if you have little ones, it’s a great tool to play and explore with! Elli loves playing with and hanging different prints and textures on my design wall! 🙂
Design your Layout and Start Quilting!
Now that you know what to do, take your time squaring up your fabric cutting your squares and deciding on your layout. Meet me back here next week to get started quilting!
Join me next week to learn how to start sewing our squares together. By the end of next week, we will complete our entire quilt top! You don’t want to miss it!
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2 thoughts on “Step-by-Step Quilt Along for Beginner’s: Part 2”
This is so helpful! I have looked for ages for a step-by-step guide to making a simple block quilt. Thank you!
This post was very helpful as I am starting to gather supplies for my first double size quilt. I need help with figuring out how much fabric I need and laying it out. I am a beginner.