Beginner Quilt Series - How to Square Up a Quilt

This is another tutorial in our How to make a quilt series.  After the quilt is layered and the quilt sandwich is quilted together, it’s time to add a binding. 

Before a binding can be added, the extra batting & batting needs to be trimmed to line up with the quilt top.  This trimming of the quilt is called “squaring up a quilt”.  I will show you my method for how to square up a quilt.

Besides trimming the extra batting and backing, squaring up a quilt makes the quilt corners at 90-degree angles and all of the edges straight.  Squared quilts will lay flat and smooth.

A lot of quilts end up with slightly uneven edges, especially if there is no border around the outside.  This process will even up the edge so it’s straight.

Beginner Quilt Series - Squaring a quilt - fb

What is squaring up a quilt?

Squaring up a quilt is the process of preparing the quilt to add a binding. A quilt can also be squared up before adding borders to the quilt top.  Also, individual blocks can need to be squared up.

Squaring up a quilt does not mean making the entire quilt a square. It's referring to making the corners square and the sides straight.  The quilt will keep its current dimensions after it's been squared.

After the quilt top has been pieced, layered with the batting and backing and quilted, the quilt is ready for a binding to be added.  The quilt will have extra batting and backing extending past the quilt top on all sides.  Squaring up a quilt will remove the extra batting and batting so that the quilt has 90-degree corners and straight sides.

A squared-up quilt will lay flat and smooth on a bed once it's completed with a binding.

Let’s get started with squaring up our quilt top.  If you would like to see a video tutorial on how to square up a quilt, please click the link below.

COMPLETE VIDEO TUTORIAL AVAILABLE! The video below is a preview with no audio, to watch the whole video tutorial, click the link Beginner Quilt Series - How to Square Up a Quilt to watch in Youtube.

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WHAT YOU NEED to square a quilt

  • A quilt sandwich that is completely quilted.
  • Cutting Mat
  • Rotary Cutter
  • Large Square Ruler – preferably at least 12” square.
  • Long rectangular ruler – usually about 6” x 24”

Square up a Quilt Supplies

Why square a quilt?

Quilts are squared in order to prepare for binding or borders to be added.  A squared quilt will lay more flat on your bed.  

Squaring a quilt will remove the extra batting and backing extending past the quilt top.  It also prepares the quilt for the binding to be added.Square up a Quilt Showing Batting

Do you square a quilt before or after quilting?

A quilt is squared after quilting.  When preparing your quilt for quilting, it is recommended that the batting and backing extend at least several inches past the quilt top all around.  This aids in the quilting process and ensures you have enough batting and backing for the quilt as you quilt it.

After quilting, the batting and backing layers are trimmed to match the edge of the quilt top.  This is squaring up a quilt.Square up a Quilt Show Layers

How to Square up a Quilt

Step 1: Lay one corner of the quilt on the cutting mat

Lay the quilt on top of a cutting mat that is either on the floor or on a table.  If the quilt is on a table, ensure that it’s not hanging off the table and pulling on the quilt.  This may cause the quilt to be distorted or stretched and cause a bad cut.Square up a Quilt Support Quilt On Table

Here are several ideas to keep your quilt from pulling.

  • Fold or roll up the extra quilt so it can sit on the table. (see above photo)
  • Bring another table or ironing board over and rest the quilt on that.
  • Work on the Floor.

Squaring up a quilt starts in one corner.  So, have the first corner on your cutting mat.

Step 2: Use a large square ruler to make the corner 90 degrees

Start to square up your quilt by making the first corner square.

Place a large square ruler on the corner of the quilt.  Line it up with the edges of the quilt top as best as you can.  If you do not have a square ruler, you can use your long ruler for this whole process.Square up a Quilt Square Ruler On Corner

Try to line it up straight without trimming off too much of the blocks or border. 

Use a line on the ruler to decide how much to cut off by aligning the ruler line with a sewn seam between a border or a block.  Be sure to align with the same seam or depth on both sides of the corner.

If the block is not straight, or blocks were not connected together with matching corners, you may need to trim a little bit off the blocks to straighten them.  This is completely normal! 

Even if you need to cut a bit off your blocks and lose a point here or there, the quilt will still be beautiful!

Double-check before cutting to make sure you haven’t shifted off the mat. Then, use the rotary cutter to trim the corner along the ruler.Square up a Quilt Trim Corner 1

Trim the other side with your rotary cutter.Square up a Quilt Trim Corner 2

The first corner has been trimmed and is straight and square!Square up a Quilt Corner Trimmed

Step 3: Move to the 2nd corner and trim in the same way as in Step 2

The 2nd adjacent corner should be trimmed first before trimming the sides of the quilt. This will allow the ruler to connect up with the trimmed corner when trimming the sides of the quilt.

Turn the quilt so the next corner is on the mat and trim lining up with the same lines on the ruler used to trim the first corner.Square up a Quilt Trim Corner 3

Trim both sides of the corner.Square up a Quilt Trim Corner 4

The 2nd corner is trimmed and square.Square up a Quilt Corner Trimmed 2

Step 4: Trim Side between the First two corners

Turn your quilt so the long side between the two trimmed corners is across the mat.  Leave part of one of the trimmed corners on the mat so you can align your ruler.

Lay your long ruler along the side of the quilt at the edge of the blocks.  Lay it so that you will not trim the quilt blocks or very little of the blocks.

Use the same lines on this ruler when trimming the sides as when trimming the corner.Square up a Quilt Trim Side

You can have a bit of batting showing along the trimmed edge.  The binding is sewn on with a ¼” seam, so as long as it’s less than ¼” of batting showing, it will be hidden in the binding.

The ruler should overlap with the section trimmed previously to help keep it straight. Always overlap the ruler into the cut section at least 4” – 5” because you want to be sure your ruler is straight and if you only overlap a couple of inches, it could cause it to not go straight.

Use the rotary cutter to trim the side for the length of the ruler.  If your quilt is long, trim the section you can with the long ruler.  Then move the quilt to trim the next section.  Continue until the whole side is trimmed.

My quilt was a little longer than the ruler along the long side.  Check in the photo above.  After trimming that first long section, I moved the ruler to the remaining section and then was able to match up the ruler on the trimmed side and into the trimmed corner area.Square up a Quilt Side Trimmed

Using the rotary cutter, I finished trimming the side with a second cut.  The finished trimmed side is shown above.

Step 5: Continue Around Quilt

Trim the next corner and side of the quilt as described in the previous steps. The photo below shows trimming the third corner.Square up a Quilt Trim Corner 5

Then trim the side between the two corners.Square up a Quilt Trim Top Edge

Finish squaring up the quilt by trimming the fourth corner and side of the quilt.

Don’t worry too much about the quilt being “exactly” square.  Squaring up the quilt is mostly to trim the batting and backing even with the quilt top and to provide a straight edge to attach the binding. 

The quilt will look beautiful as long as it’s mostly square!Square up a Quilt Finished

Adding a Binding

After you have finished trimming your quilt, it's time to add a quilt binding.  We have several quilt binding tutorials including a couple of no hand sewing methods.

  • Flange Quilt Binding - This is my favorite quilt binding.  I do not like to hand sew and this is a new hand sewing quilt binding. 
  • Quick Quilt Binding - This is another no-hand sewing required quilt binding method.  It's a little bit quicker than the Flange binding because it uses only one fabric.
  • Traditional Quilt Binding - This is the familiar quilt binding method where the binding is sewn to the front of the quilt and then wrapped to the back and hand-stitched down.

Use our binding calculator to figure out the number of strips to cut for creating the binding for this quilt.

How to square a Large Quilt before binding or adding borders

Some extra tips on squaring a quilt top or quilt that is a larger size.  The example below is a full or queen-sized quilt top.  This quilt top is made up of many different-sized strips sewn together.

As you can see from the photos, the edge is very uneven after sewing all of the strips together.  Before adding the border to this quilt, I squared up the two uneven edges.

Squaring up a large quilt is done in the same way as this quilt top.  You would be squaring up all four sides as needed.Square up a Quilt Rulers for Wider Quilt

Using a similar method as described in this tutorial, the large square ruler was laid in the corner.  For this quilt, I also placed the long ruler across to figure out how much would need to be cut off to align all of the strips.Square up a Quilt Rulers for Wider Quilt 2

The corner and the side along the ruler were trimmed.  Continue by cutting the opposite corner and side as described earlier.

Then use the long ruler to continue cutting the side between the two trimmed corners until the ruler overlapped the cut sections on the opposite corner.Square up a Quilt Rulers for Wider Quilt 3

Don't forget to overlap your ruler with the previously cut edge by at least 4" - 5" on each cut.  Line up the cut edge with the side of the ruler and this will help keep the ruler going straight.

Should I square up my quilt before adding borders?

This will depend on your quilt and how uneven the sides of the quilt top are after sewing together the blocks.  

For the quilt shown above with the long strips, the top and bottom edges were very uneven.  I would not be able to sew the border onto this quilt without squaring up the edges.

If your blocks are almost even and less than 1/4" off along the edge where they are sewn together, you would not need to square up your quilt top before adding the borders.  But, it could make it easier to sew on the border.

When squaring up a quilt top full of pieced blocks before adding the borders, try to cut off as little of the edge as possible.  Follow the same steps described in this tutorial to square up the quilt top before adding borders.

We hope you enjoyed learning how to square up a quilt with this tutorial.  To find the other tutorials in this Learn to Quilt series, look below.


If you have any questions about this project, contact us through the YouTube Video comments or our Contact Us page. We respond to questions in e-mails and YouTube comments regularly.



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How to Square a Quilt Tutorial - pin

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