Make It Square, Part 2: How to Square Up Quilt Blocks and Borders

You may already know the basics on how to square a quilt block, but did you know that squaring up a quilt block actually begins with squaring up the units that go into making the block? Let’s take a look inside…

Half Square Triangles

Photos via Karen Walker

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Genius Hacks Every Quilter Should Know

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Fundamental quilting practices are key, ensuring your quilt is “true and square” when finished. Each block must be carefully assembled from smaller pieced units that have been squared up before they find their way into the quilt.

Below is a nontraditional quilt block called the Cinderella Pumpkin block.  It is made up of half-square triangles, corner triangles, a square and various size rectangle pieces.

Cinderella Pumpkin Quilt

Photo via laugh yourself into Stitches

Using the Cinderella Pumpkins pattern as an example, the half-square triangle (HST) unit below, is being “squared up” into a 1″ square. The 45-degree angle on the acrylic ruler is lined up with the diagonal seam of the HST. Notice there is fabric extending beyond the edge of the ruler that will be trimmed away, as well as fabric underneath the 1″ mark. This will also be trimmed.

Squaring Up Half Square TrianglesThe half-square triangle is turned and the freshly trimmed edge from the photo above is now lined up under the 1″ marks with the 45* angle in place. The HST is trimmed into a 1″ square.

Trimming Half Square TrianglesThe next step in the Cinderella Pumpkin block (below) is sewing half-square triangle units together. These newly formed units need to be “squared up” before moving forward. Lining up the ruler marks with the edges, center and diagonal seams, will result in a unit measuring 1″ x 1-1/2″.  If the unit does not result in the desired size, stop and correct before moving on.

Note: The 45-degree angle maintains the integrity of the unit. It prevents points from being cut off and the quarter-inch seams from being lost when trimming. It’s used in squaring up completed blocks too.

Squaring Up Quilt Blocks

Pieced half square trianglesFinger pressing is another method for maintaining unity in a block.  Finger press to locate the center of both units that will be sewn together. 

Finger Pressing quilt blocksWhatever sections are being sewn together, place a pin at the center first and outer edges second. Add more pins to secure the two units and sew together.

find quilt unit centersAdd a pin on each side too. This helps stabilize the units and minimizes shifting.

pin pieced quilt unitsOnce quilt blocks are complete and sewn together into a quilt top, an inner and/or final border may be added. Measure the width of the quilt top in the center, the top and the bottom. Use the average of these three measurements and cut the side borders to this number. Finger press to locate the center of the border strips and align them with the middle of the quilt sides. Pin in place as recommended above. Once the side borders are sewn and pressed, repeat the process adding the top and bottom borders.

Half-square triangle units have be added to the inner and final border strips, creating pinwheels around the Cinderella Pumpkin wall hanging. Squaring up block units, finger pressing and matching centers allow these borders to come together nicely.

Cinderella PumpkinDid you find this “look inside” provided a new insight for keeping your blocks square?  

Don’t miss the first installment of our Make it Square! series, where we covered how to square up fabric yardage.

FREE Guide: Genius Hacks Every Quilter Should Know

Genius Hacks Every Quilter Should Know

Download this FREE PDF guide to discover insider quilting tricks for making every project easy & efficient!Get My FREE Guide »

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