Reasons for squaring quilt tops
When I began quilting it didn’t occur to me that there might be another step of squaring the quilt before adding the border. I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t even measure the edges of the quilt top accurately. I used to sew together a couple of strips of whatever quilt border I was using, sew it down the side of the quilt top and then snip it in line with the quilt edge at the bottom. Needless to say, I ended up with some rather uneven shaped quilts – not to mention wavy quilt borders.
Taking time now to square up your quilt will save you heartache later as you complete your quilt.
Press the quilt top first
First step is to press the quilt top. Try to use an up and down motion with your iron rather than pushing it. Sliding the iron can sometimes stretch the fabric a little. Press on the wrong side first so that you can get all the seam allowances lying flat.
When you are happy with the back of the quilt top, turn over and press the right side. Sometimes the seams haven’t quite been opened up and there’s a little tuck of fabric along the seam line. Pressing on the right side helps you to see where this has happened.
How to square the quilt top
Now that your quilt top is completely flat you can find out if it needs squaring. Measure each side of the quilt top and also measure the length down the middle of the quilt. If you’re lucky these three measurements will be within about 1/2″ of each other. If they are, you can consider your quilt square and use the average of these three measurements for the length of your border strips.
If they are not, it could be because your cutting and sewing may not have been completely accurate or because the fabric has stretched a little with all the handling it has had. You may be able to correct the discrepance by trimming a little off the top and the bottom on the side that is too long. If there is too much difference, you may have to think about re sewing some of your seams on the quilt blocks.
Repeat the process with the measurements in the opposite direction across the quilt top. Measure across the top and the bottom and across the middle of the quilt top. When you are happy that you have squared your quilt top, you are ready to put the quilt border on. Trust me, you will be glad that you took the time to square your quilt first!
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