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Lesson #1 - Squares

Do not begin these lessons until after you have  read all the information on the first page about rotary safety and you have mastered the 1/4-inch seam.

Once you have mastered the 12 lessons on this site, you will have the skill to make many interesting blocks and quilts.

Quilting is all about accuracy ....and avoiding puckers when piecing and pressing.  

To cut accurately, you must "bond" with your rulers.  Study them, and then begin cutting. 

The first thing you must learn is to cut even strips.  Practice cutting so that the ruler does not slip when you are cutting.  Place your left hand (assuming you are right handed) flat on the ruler, and do not let the ruler move.

After you cut the your strips, you will turn them around and then cut again to make squares.  (You will cut the strips for the squares the same measurement as you cut the strips).

Your fabric is not ready to be cut until it is ironed.  If you do not iron your fabric before you begin cutting, your squares will not measure correctly.  Do not skip this step.  If you have a large piece of fabric, rip it into smaller pieces to make it easier to iron.

If you have never cut with a rotary cutter before, start with a small piece of fabric like a Fat Quarter (a piece of fabric approximately 18x22 inches). 

Lift up the fabric and match the selvage edges (the finished edge that runs parallel to the length of the fabric).

Lay the fabric down on the cutting board.  If the fabric is smooth, it is ready to cut.  If it does not lay flat, you will have to adjust the selvages until it does. 

Some quilters prefer to remove all the selvage edges before they start cutting, in case they accidentally get a little of the selvage in their blocks.

To remove the selvage, just nip the edge, and tear it off.  Good quality fabric will tear straight.  It may wave, but you can press it straight again.

To begin, you need to make a "clean cut" on the edge of your fabric.  The easiest way to do this it to "overcut" the first strip.  Place your ruler as shown in the picture. 

In the picture below I am planning on cutting a 4-inch strip.  I have placed the ruler at the 4 1/2 inch mark.  After I cut my first strip I can turn the strip around, and cut again to make it exactly 4-inches.

Now that I have my straight edge. I can just keep moving the ruler and cutting.


If you don't overcut your first piece, you will will have to even up the of fabric on the other side, and then turn the whole piece  around to continue cutting.  It is easier to turn around a small piece than what can be a large piece of fabric.

If you are working with purchased squares, you can practice  cutting them in half.  Save the smaller squares, as you will be using them in other blocks.

After you have made a straight edge, you are ready to begin cutting.  Move the ruler over to the 2-inch mark, place your hand flat on the ruler, and cut from the bottom of the fabric to the top. 

Always cut away from you.  Continue moving the ruler to the right every two inches and repeat the cutting procedure.  Always close the blade on your rotary cutter when you set it down.

Examine your first strip.  It should be straight- not bowed in the middle.  If it is not straight, it means you did not fold the fabric correctly. 

Pick up the fabric and start again.  Once the first one is straight, you can keep cutting.

If you are cutting lots of strips, stop every 8 inches or so and fold out your strip to make sure it is still straight.  If not, redo your straight edge before continuing to make cuts.

Make sure you are not letting the ruler slip by measuring the width of the strip.  It should be consistent.

When making long strips, some quilters prefer to rip their strips.  Always test your fabric to make sure it will  rip straight.  The advantage to ripping your fabric is that it is quick, accurate, and you don't have to worry about bowed edges. The disadvantage is that you are going to have to deal with a lot of loose threads.

I usually rip my borders, which you should do at the beginning so as to have the longest piece of fabric available.

Once you have learned to cut your strips and squares, you are ready to go on to the next lesson.

See The Irish Chain Challenge Block to see what you can make out of just plain squares!

You may also wish to jump to the Fun with Squares Showcase Blocks if you are anxious to choose a design a start a quilt.

Also, see Watercolor Quilting

Here is a picture of small squares, set on the diagonal


On to Lesson #2 - Rectangles

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