Remember sitting through that geometry class and lamenting that you’d never use any of that information? Now, you are a quilter, working with some of the same shapes that vexed you in school. Somehow, now, it doesn’t seem so bad!
If you are new to quilting and if geometry still scares you, you will be happy to know that there are literally hundreds of beautiful quilt blocks you can make using only simple squares. Some that come to mind are Irish Chain and the nine patch.
If you are making your first quilt, there are a few tips that will help make cutting squares much easier.
First of all, work with square patches larger than four inches in your first few quilts. Four inch squares give the beginner room to practice and perfect seam allowance skills. Any square smaller than four inches could end up quite distorted with even the smallest variance in seam allowance.
There are two ways to cut squares. You can use a template or you can use a straight edge and rotary cutter.
If you choose a template, you will lay your square template (usually made from a lightweight, yet sturdy plastic) on the fabric’s grain. There are lots of complicated ways to explain this step. Since you are working with squares, the simple explanation is to lie your template so that it is lined up (on one side) with the threads in the fabric.
Using a marking pencil, trace around the template. Keep tracing until you have marked the desired number of squares. To save fabric and cutting time, bump your template right up to the edge of the previous square.
At this point, you are ready to cut. You can use scissors, but note that if you have a lot of cutting to do, your hands might get uncomfortable. You can use a mat and rotary cutter to zip right through the trace marks. If you don’t have a lot of experience with a rotary cutter, practice before starting to cut your squares.
The other method skips the template and relies on the rotary cutter and ruler or ruler mat. Simply line up the edge of your fabric with the markings on your mat. This should place the squares on the grain. Measure a strip four inches wide and cut it as long as possible. Now, from that long strip, use the ruler or mat to measure cuts at four inch intervals and cut. This completes your four inch square.
When working with a rotary cutter, always keep it against the straight edge that you use for guidance. Remember to keep your fingers out of the way while holding your straight edge cutting guide in place. Also, it is best to cut away from you.
How do you know which cutting method works best for you? Well, you just have to try them. If you are working with scraps, however, the template tracing method is probably the easiest. If working with a large piece of fabric, the rotary cutting method will save you a lot of time.
Don’t think that your first quilt must be full of elaborate designs. Simple squares can be gorgeous. Vary your colors and prints and you can get a very elaborate look without a lot of advanced quilting skill.
Take some time to examine quilt block patterns. Make note of those made solely from squares. You might be surprised at just how many you find. Pick one and start your new quilting project!
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