How to Cut Quilt Squares and Quilting Strips

Step-by-step see how to cut quilt squares with a rotary cutter using two quilting rulers. First, cut the quilting strips accurately, then subcut into squares. Easy for beginners!

Picture of a simple squares with the phrase How to Cut Quilt Squares.how to cut quilt squares tutorial

You as a beginner quilter want to know how to cut quilt fabric accurately, or more accurately. Here's one way we quilters do it...

  • Use two quilting rulers to cut fabric yardage into strips. Then, subcut the strips into squares, rectangles, triangles and so on.
  • Use the measurement lines on the ruler, not the rotary cutting mat.

I first learned this technique by watching the video class Clever Cuts for Efficient Quilting with Debbie Caffrey.

Quilting ruler #1 is usually long enough to span of fabric when folded twice (you'll see this in the pictures below). In this tutorial, I used a 2 1/2 x 18 inch quilting ruler.

Quilting ruler #2 is usually wide enough to span the width of the fabric strip that you cut and the block size that you need. I used a 6 1/2 x 12 1/2 inch ruler.

How to Cut Quilt Squares Instructions

The more fabric yardage you have the more room you'll need and the more difficult the fabric is to handle and cut. Here, I'm working with about a 1/2 yard of fabric.

Lefties: lay or cut in the opposite direction given.

Step 1 Leave the fabric folded as it was cut from the bolt. Lay the fabric on your cutting mat with the fold edge towards to you and the selvage edges away from you. Align the selvage edges and repress the fold, by hand or iron, if necessary.

How to Cut Quilt Squares Step 1:
Spread out one of the fabrics on your cutting mat with the fold edge towards to you and the selvage edges away from you.

Step 2 Take the folded edge up to and align it with the selvage edges. Now you have four layers of fabric.

How to Cut Quilt Squares Step 2: Take the folded edge up to and align with the selvage edges. Now you have four layers of fabric.

Step 3 Insert a quilting ruler between the second and third layers against the fold. Hold the selvages and top fold with one hand while gently pulling the ruler against the bottom fold to remove any creases in or space between the folds of the fabric.

How to Cut Quilt Squares Step 3: Insert a quilting ruler between second and third layers against the fold. Pull the ruler against the fold to remove any creases or space in the folds.

Cutting Quilting Strips Using Two Quilting Rulers

Before cutting a strip fabric you need to get a straight edge along the left side of the fabric.

Step 4 Place a quilting ruler on the fabric, aligning a horizontal measurement line along the fold and the left edge of the ruler about 1/4 to 1/2 inch in from the raw edge of the fabric.

How to Cut Quilt Squares Step 4: Place a quilting ruler on fabric, aligning a measurement line along fold and left edge of the ruler about 1/4 to 1/2 inch in from the raw edge of the fabric.

Step 5 Here's a close-up shot of Step 4. Be sure that all four layers of the raw edges are to the left of the ruler's edge.

How to Cut Quilt Squares Step 5: Here's a close-up shot of Step 4. Be sure that all four layers of the raw edges are to the left of the ruler's edge.

Step 6 Abut a second quilting ruler against the left side of the first, aligning a horizontal measurement line along the fold.

How to Cut Quilt Squares Step 6: Abut a second quilting ruler against the left side of the first, aligning a horizontal measurement line along the fold.

Step 7a Remove the ruler on the right. Using a rotary cutter, cut the fabric by rolling it along the remaining ruler's edge.

How to Cut Quilt Squares Step 7: Remove the ruler on the right. Using a rotary cutter, cut the fabric by rolling it along the remaining ruler's edge.

A Note on How to Cut Quilt Squares

 When cutting strips or squares, cut the strip or square the size of the square you need plus 1/2 inch (for seam allowance).

For example, if you want a 3-inch finished size square cut a 3 1/2 inch square. The 1/2 inch is to allow for a 1/4 inch seam allowance on all sides.

In quilting, a 1/4 inch seam is used in almost every quilt block.

Step 7b Slide ruler along the fabric until the vertical measurement line for the size square that you are cutting is aligned with the left straight edge of the fabric. Keep the horizontal measurement line aligned with the fold. Make a cut as in Step 7a.

How to Cut Quilt Squares Step 8: Slide ruler along fabric to cut the size square you need. Keep measurement line aligned with the fold. Make a cut.

Step 7c To cut a second (and successive) strip, align the measurement line for the size square that you are cutting along the raw edge of the fabric to be cut. Ensure that the bottom and left measurement lines align straight along the fabric fold and the raw edges. Use the rotary cutter and cut the fabric.

How to Cut Quilt Squares Step 9: Cut a second (and successive) strips.

Cutting Quilting Squares With a Rotary Cutter

When you said you wanted to know how to cut quilt squares, did you know that you would need to cut strips first and then cut squares? :-) Now repeat the above cutting process for each strip to cut the quilt squares.

Step 8a Unfold the strips so that you are working with the original two layers of fabric. Lay strip lengthwise with selvage edge on left. Position the two quilting rulers as done in Steps 4 - 6. Instead of the raw edges the selvage edges are now under a ruler.

How to Cut Quilt Squares Step 8a: Unfold the strips so that you are working with the original two layers of fabric. Position the two quilting rulers as done in Steps 4 - 6.

Step 8b Remove the ruler on the right. Use the rotary cutter and cut off the selvage edge.

How to Cut Quilt Squares Step 8b Remove the ruler on the right. Use the rotary cutter and cut off the selvage edge.

How to Cut Quilt Squares Using a Quilting Ruler and Rotary Cutter

Step 8c Slide ruler along the fabric until the vertical measurement line for the size square that you are cutting is aligned with the left straight edge. Align a horizontal measurement line along the bottom straight edge. Make the cut by rolling the rotary cutter along the ruler's right edge to cut the fabric. You've cut a quilt square!

How to Cut Quilt Squares Step 8c: Slide ruler until the vertical measurement line  is aligned with the left straight edge. Make the cut along the ruler's right edge.

Step 8d To cut more squares, align the horizontal measurement line (for the size square that you want to cut) along the straight edge of the remaining piece of fabric strip. Use the rotary cutter as done in Step 8c to cut another square.

How to Cut Quilt Squares Step 8d: Use the rotary cutter as done in Step 8c to cut another square.

Step 8e Repeat Step 8d for the entire strip.

This cutting process works for whatever size squares you need to cut, large or small - 5 inch, 6 inch, 9 inch, 10 inch, 12 inch or whatever. Remember, simply cut a width of fabric, or shorter, strip the size of the square you need plus 1/2 inch (for seam allowance).

Hopefully, this lesson on How to Cut Quilt Squares showed you how easy it is to cut quilting strips, then squares. But it's just one way. Check out some others methods too!

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