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Squaring Up a Quilt Without Quilting Tools

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You’ll never guess one of my favorite places to get tools for quilting!

The hardware store.

Yeah, you heard me. Some of my favorite tools were designed for carpentry.

I’m a pretty thrifty person. Call me frugal. Or maybe more of a tightwad. Stingy. Penny-pincher. You pick the synonym, it’s probably pretty accurate. I have a really hard time parting with my money and am particularly adverse to spending money when I can get something elsewhere cheaper.

It is important to balance quality with cost though. My regular grocery shopping routine involves going to two separate stores because the fresh produce is so much better at the fancier store despite being slightly more expensive, while the quality of the boxed stuff is going to be consistent so I save my money on those at the budget grocery store. And no, my savings are not being eaten up by gas costs either because the two stores are just a few blocks from each other. (Yeah, I’m the type of nerd that figures out all the variables into the equation.)

Anyway, my point being that quilting stuff is expensive. I don’t own a ton of quilting tools for that reason. Sometimes it’s worth spending money on and other times maybe not so much, which is going to always be a personal decision. Is it worth it to you to splurge on a certain item or can you get the job done just as well with a different tool?  

As of right now my actual quilting supplies consist of one 12” quilting ruler and two pair of quilting scissors. (I only own two because one fell into a black hole for several months and only reappeared after I finally broke down and bought another pair because of course they waited until after I spent money to show back up…)

You may have noticed I didn’t list a rotary cutter or a cutting mat. That’s because I don’t own them. Yet. They’re on my wish list, but since so much of the stuff I make falls closer to the art quilt side of the spectrum than the traditional quilting block side I haven’t really felt the need to have one.

But back to the hardware store – I love hardware tools. They’re accurate, cheaper than quilting stuff, and generally made of pretty sturdy stuff.

That’s where I got my yardstick! My local fabric store sells yardsticks – they’re wooden, which wears down in time. And they’ll cost you $8. Then there’s the yardstick I got from the hardware store. They carry wooden ones too, but I splurged and got the metal one so it’ll last a long time. It’s a stylish bright yellow that helps me find it when I’ve misplaced it. And it cost me all of $3.

Squaring Up a Quilt

I use hardware tools for squaring up my quilts. My yardstick and a carpenter’s square to be exact. Bigger is better when it comes to the carpenter’s square – it’s easier to make accurately straight lines with a larger one.

Generally I square up after quilting but before binding. Sometimes the quilting process can shift and stretch the fabric. However this time I opted to square up before quilting because of the geometric lattice pattern.

Sometimes you have to balance between being visually square and mathematically square. I’ll let you in on a little secret about this quilt. It’s not perfectly mathematically square. It’s close, but not quite. I could have made it mathematically square but that would have cut off some of the edges and made it look crooked. I opted give more weight to making it look visually square.

Start by laying your quilt out somewhere flat. Sometimes I have to move furniture in the living room to make enough space. Make sure the quilt top is facing up. Run your hands from the center out to really make sure it’s laying flat.

Running hands along quilt to flatten

Place a carpenter’s square in one corner. Keep in mind the pattern on the quilt when squaring up. You don’t want to cut off some of it off. Spend a lot of time making sure this first corner is accurate because you’ll be basing all the rest of the lines off it.

Carpenter's square in corner of quilt

Draw a line along the carpenter’s square. I find using the outside is easier than the inside because I can see how much I’m cutting off and if I’m crooked and going to end up going off the quilt.

Drawing a line along the carpenter's square on the quilt

Line a yardstick along the line you drew and extend the line all the way to the edge of the quilt.

Extending the line on the quilt using a yardstick

In the next corner, line the carpenter’s square up with the line you drew.

Lining up carpenter's square on second corner

Repeat until all the sides have been marked. You’ll know you did a good job if the last corner matches up.

Now all that’s left is to cut along the line!

Cutting the quilt to square it up

And there you have it – a squared off quilt!

Lattice quilt
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