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Square Down

Quilt Lesson

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Square Down Quilt Tutorial

Designer: Christina Sherrod

It is impossible to make a "perfect block" when several pieces of fabric are sewn together to create the block. For example, when making a quilt block that is made from two triangles, the finished block must be diagonally divided (seam runs through the block diagonally), perfectly straight on the sides, and exactly the right size. This would not be possible without "squaring down". Quilt block patterns and instructions allow for extra size so that the block can be "squared down". Blocks are made so that they are a bit larger than needed. They are then "squared down" to the correct size. A quilter's ruler is used to create straight cuts, and a quilter's square is used to "square down" the block. Excess fabric is trimmed away.

square down correct and incorrect You cannot merely trim off any side, however. To keep the pattern of the block correctly proportioned, the trimming must be done in a particular manner. If not cut correctly, a block made up of two triangles might have a diagonal seam that has shifted and is no longer centered. See the images.

imperfect square is cut to perfect squareWhen your block is initially made, it is larger than needed, and it might not be perfecly square. Squaring down removes "mistakes". So squaring down actually serves two purposes. It cuts the block down to the correct size, and it squares up the sides.

imperfect square is cut to perfect squareA "Quilter's Ruler" (also called "Quilter's Square") is used to square down a block. It is a square ruler, with inches and diagonal lines clearly marked. The diagonal line on the ruler is lined up precisely with a diagonal line on the quilt block. A rotary cutter is used to to cut away the excess area of the block. If scissors are used, a line can be drawn around the edge of the quilter's square to mark the cutting line. In the figure below, a perfect 5" square block has been created. The center diagonal seam is still centered correctly after the block has been trimmed. 

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