Tutorial: How to square up fabric for cutting


I have been on a quilt pinning obsession.  I have so many quilts I want to make!  I also load up carts all over the internet with fabulous fabrics and then walk away from them.  The smart fabric shops keep your cart loaded for you for weeks on end…even when you try to forget about them, they are still there…waiting for you behind the scenes.  Every once in a while, I’ll just go look at my carts and add and remove stuff.  I guess it’s my version of window shopping! 

I did finally use one of those quilt tutorials from Pinterest and made a quilt!  I L.O.V.E. it,  but you’re gonna have to wait to see the whole thing…I shipped it off to be quilted by The Back Porch Quilters today and I CAN’T WAIT to get it back!!

Anyway, as I was cutting the fabric for said quilt and I thought about how easy it would be to cut a quilt without really realizing how important it is to square up fabric!  You really should be squaring up fabric for any project you do that requires a straight piece of fabric…especially if the fabric has a print.    It really is simple to do and worth the effort once you do it.
For those of you that want to cut straight fabric…here goes…

Here’s what your fabric looks like off the bolt and brought home.  Very uneven at the top.   The selvedges usually don’t match up.  Even if they do…keep reading.

Here is what the folded edge looks like.  Usually pretty flat so when it is on the bolt, it isn’t all twisted up, right?

Go ahead and iron out the crease that the fold has made.  That fold is in the wrong spot 99% of the time and we need to refold it correctly

After the fold is ironed out, take your selvedges and line them up right on top of each other so they are even

Now, once you do that, the once-folded end is gonna look like this…all wonky.

That’s ok….we’re gonna fix it.  Go back up to the selvedges and taking the bottom fabric and top fabric together, shift them in opposite directions, all the while watching the folded edge to become flat.  In other words, it is most important for the folded edge to be straight along with keeping the selvedge edges even with each other.

Once you are done, here is what the selvedge edge may look like….completely off on the sides, but we are going to take care of that too!

Fold the nice, crisp folded edge up to the selvedge edges so now they are together, making your fabric width an easier size to cut

Line up the top of your fabric along one of the lines of your cutting mat.  Making sure all four edges are beyond your straight-edge, line up the cutting mark to the fabric and cut off the edges with a rotary cutter

And now, you have a perfectly straight piece of fabric!  I’ll be using this squared up fabric for a tutorial I have coming up soon!

How about you…do you make sure your fabric is always squared up?  If there was anything unclear in this tutorial, please comment below! 

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  1. says

    Oh my! I must admit I have never actually squared up any fabric, not like this anyhow. I’ve always just tossed it in the laundry, dried it, then lined up the selvedges and snipped away the annoying straggly wonky bits! is this the same thing? I’m a total novice when it comes to doing things properly.

    Your not the only one who has carts full of fabric all over the place, I keep hoping hubby will stumble across them and pay for a few LOL!

  2. says

    After washing and ironing, I use scissors to start a tear along the cut edge and just rip the fabric apart – it really works and is always nice and even (after a quick iron to that ripped edge).

  3. says

    Great lesson Susan. I’ve always wondered the best way to do this. Since there’s usually fabric to cut off, does that mean a yard of fabric is actually less than a yard after lining it up? That seems a shame for planning reasons as well as cost reasons. Should I always plan an extra 1/4 yard for the loss?

  4. says

    I’m so glad I’m not the only one who does that!! I also go internet window shopping for fabric and right now I think I have 5 different baskets full of stuff I’ll probably never be able to afford to get!! A girl can dream :)

  5. says

    This is a great tutorial! I always get too scared when I order more than a fat quarter. It really freaks me off, especially because of you pointed out: the fabric edges don’t match anywhere. Thanks for this great tip!

  6. says

    Nice little tutorial! I do the same thing with window shopping! I have carts everywhere. The nice thing about Fabric.com is that if you leave contents in your cart when you’re signed in, they email you a coupon code, usually 15% off, to remind you to come back and buy it! :)

  7. says

    Boy did I need this … thank you so much for posting it! I have pinned it to my Pinterest sewing board so I can go back and reference it. :)

  8. says

    i always square up my fabrics by tearing an end. this ensures that you are working on the straight grain. i will unfold the material, and size up the edge. then i will snip the edge past the selvedge, take the two tiny pieces made by the snip and tear acrooss the length of the fabric. if your tear peters out along the edge go back and make another cut and try again. some fabric shops “cut” there fabric this way. i certainly wish they all did. when i am sewing i always start with a staight grain. you only need to do one end and work from there. at stores like joann’s or hancock’s i will usually buy as much as 1/4 yard more for getting the grain straight. it does make a difference on everything you make on starting with your fabric on the straight grain.

    • Sheila says

      I agree.. I have always been taught to make sure the fabric was washed, dried, and on the straight grain, before you made anything…

      I have been told that the “good” fabric now days doesn’t need that, and making quilts, you can’t wash the fat quarters, and smaller pieces, so you, you don’t wash any of it before… Scares me..

      I even purchased a dress from Nordstrom Rack, that once washed, totally loved it. Wore the dress one time, and washed it in cold water. The whole thing torqued, and couldn’t be fixed. Easier to make my own cloths, and know how they are made.

      Hopefully the quilts work, and look great for many many years to come!

  9. says

    I find this pretty helpful, thank you for sharing your method of squaring your fabrics!
    By reading the comments above I got a little confused, if your method would always be the best, but it seems to me it could be a great way to work with most of all times…!
    I have already tried “tearing on the straight grain”, but somehow it did not really work, and my fabric did not really become a square… Whatever I did wrong!
    Anyway: Like I said before:
    I find this very helpful, and will totally try it! Thank you! :)

    “I have been on a quilt pinning obsession.  I have so many quilts I want to make!  I also load up carts all over the internet with fabulous fabrics and then walk away from them.  The smart fabric shops keep your cart loaded for you for weeks on end…even when you try to forget about them, they are still there…waiting for you behind the scenes.  Every once in a while, I’ll just go look at my carts and add and remove stuff.  I guess it’s my version of window shopping!  “
    These could be my words. Word by word.

    • Sheila says

      Once you tear the ends, or pull the threads to make sure the weave is on the straight grain, (this is the safest) you will need to lay the fabric with the selvages together so the fabric is flat. See which end is short, take the two ends that are short, (have someone help you) these ends will be opposite each other, on the diagonal. Each of you give a little tug. Check it again, if they are still short, give another tug, until they come onto matching. This will usually on a good piece of fabric do the trick. (Hope this makes sense)..Good fabric is not supposed to need this anymore. Still a good idea in my mind to check it, with the cost of fabric, and so much time that goes into any project, I think it’s a wise move.

  10. says

    @Kirsten~ I don’t buy any extra and have never had a problem… unless for sure I know I am using every bit of the called for fabric. I will usually tell the person at the cut counter to make sure to give me a little extra becuase I’m squaring up. Usually the girls are generous and will give you a few extra inches :)

    @Mary~ I have squared my fabric up this way for years (as I was taught by my quilting instructor) and always come out with a straight grain. My fabric has never been out of square by following this method. What method do you use?

    @Teri Sue~ Thanks for the tips on the tearing method :) And, I do the same thing…just work from the cut side. I don’t square up on the other side until I get there :)

  11. says

    This is awesome! Thanks for the tutorial! I’m new to sewing and can never seem to get my fabric perfectly straight! I’ll have to try this out! :)

  12. says

    Thank you for sharing this! I love the simplicity. I have tried the tearing method and it never seems to work for me. This is fool proof, at least so it seems. :)

  13. says

    I am attempting this method lately, not sure I have it down pat but it seems to be an easier option!

    Also, I was wondering where you got that fabric? or the name?
    I really like it and have seen it lately!

  14. says

    Tearing can actually damage your fabric. I used the tearing method to straighten up for years, and then I bought some Hoffman fabrics where when torn I lost nearly 2 inches off the sides getting them straightened. I’ve used this same method ever since, because losing 2 inches is just not cool imho.. It’s one thing to lose 1/2 inch, but not two when Hoffman is so expensive in the first place.

  15. says

    I was over on another blog contemplating following her tutorial and sew floor pillows for the kids when she directed me here to see this mysterious thing called “squaring up fabric”. Hi! And wow. I had no idea. Bookmarking.

  16. says

    I haven’t done a lot of sewing recently, but I remember taking the fabric after washing and ironing and stretching it to straighten the grain. For example, if the weave of the fabric leans to the left, stretch to the right to straighten it.

  17. says

    I would also like to know which sites you ordered fabric from where your cart stayed available. I was trying to choose fabric for a quilt on fabric.com and I left my cart for a week while I was on vacation. I came home and signed in to make my final decision and the cart had disappeared. I had spent hours choosing that fabric! I emailed them and they said if you haven’t ordered within 30 days, they empty the cart.

  18. says

    THANK YOU! I could never figure out why my fabric was always so wonky when I tried to make the ends even, and even when I tried to square it, it would always end up uneven. I didn’t realize it came off the bolt this way. I’ll try this method the next time I need to square some fabric.

  19. Torre says

    Any idea on how to do this if you are repurposing a large item like a sheet? No salvages and even when I attempted to cut straight it came out a bit wonky? I’m a Novice so if this question is stupid, please do not laugh at me! LOL

  20. Linda says

    I recently bought some fabric that has only 1 selvage. I did not notice it until after I had washed it and was ironing it out. What do I do? I have sewn for years, but I have never run into this before. Any help would be appreciated.

    • Susan says

      I don’t square up the other side because I am only cutting from the side I have squared up. Hope that makes sense!

  21. Allison says

    Hi’ya. Great tutorial! Love the fabric! Would be perfect for my daughter. Anyway you remember which brand it is. Thanks!

  22. The Mamu says

    Thank you for the great info!
    This technique works great with wonky unlaundered fabrics too!I tend to be too impatient to launder my quilt fabrics before cutting. My first quilting teacher said, “Wash what!?” My life has been so much simpler since then! 36 quilts later…..they still look great and lay flat on the bed or sofa.
    The advantages are many…smooth, and with the sizing still in, your cuts are very precise…TIME, the big one (gotta get to the good part, piecing)…after quilting and binding, wash and damp-dry. The quilting keeps the fabrics flat, even after washing! THE BUT……..I choose to avoid fabrics from large commercial stores. The quality is different, even if it has a brand name. Quilt shop fabrics are typically more tightly woven and thread dyed. Many excellent fabric vendors on line, i.e., Fabrics.com. Being thrifty with words has never been my forte….obviously! Thank you again!

  23. Jeri says

    Do you have suggestions on how to handle long pieces of fabric? I’ve tried this and it works great on anything smaller than a yard but I always seem to have issues when dealing with more. Thanks for the info.

  24. says

    Always, always, always straighten fabric. I use the "pull a thread" method, only because that's the way my mom taught me to do it. I'll store this technique in my skills library for future reference.

  25. says

    Great tutorial. I have a question regarding a stash of fabric that I acquired when my mother passed away. How do I determine if it is 100% cotton or polyester and cotton. I have determined some by the feel but am not sure about some of the pieces. I know my came from the old school that just said use what you have but I like to stick to the 100% cotton. Thanks for your help.

  26. says

    I always have aproblem with this. When i open my strips, there is usually a curfe in center. is it possible that I am using too big a piece of material ?

  27. Molly says

    Thank you! You explained this better than the other stuff I had read on it, and I have clearly been doing it wrong :( But I’m glad I know now, I’ll try this next time!

  28. Yvonne Davis says

    This might be a little off point but does your straightening the fabric apply to stretch denim also or only to cottons? I’ll have to buy more stretch denim to see. Hope you can reply.Yvonne Davis


  1. […] is a good tut for squaring up fabric. Tutorial: How to square up fabric for cutting – Living with Punks I personally never rip it as I think it just distorts it way to much. When I worked in Rag hop we […]

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