How to Quickly Square Up Fabric Before Cutting – Beginner Sewing Projects

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This is an easy tutorial on how to square up fabric before cutting. Follow the photos to prepare your fabric for any sewing project.

There are several reasons fabric needs to be squared before cutting into it. When fabric is printed and placed on a bolt, it can become stretched. The ends may fray during shipping and handling. Staff at the fabric store may not cut it perfectly straight when measuring yardage off the bolt.

How to Square Up Fabric Before Cutting

It is important to follow these steps to square your fabric before beginning any sewing project. This process will ensure your baby blanket, clothing item, or any fabric item you intend to make is set up for success from the beginning.

Materials to Square Up Fabric

How to Square Up Fabric Before Cutting

You will need the fabric of your choice, and a few basic sewing supplies: a rotary cutter, self healing cutting mat, and acrylic ruler.

If you don’t already have these supplies, go ahead and invest in them. You will use them in a myriad of ways for every future sewing project.

How to Square Up Fabric

First, wash, dry and press your fabric. This is important, as fabric can shrink and shift during the washing process. Pressing helps the fabric to lay flat so that your cut lines are precisely straight. Know what your fabric is going to do when laundered before using it in a project.

How to Square Up Fabric Before Cutting

 Then pick up your fabric by one selvage edge. (See photo for raw edge and selvage examples.) The selvages are woven ends of the fabric created by the manufacturer. These lines are already straight and provide a good guideline to square up the fabric. *Selvage can become warped during washing.

How to Square Up Fabric Before Cutting

The photo above shows the selvage edge. It typically has writing and information about the fabric on it.

Below shows the raw edge where fabric may fray.

How to Square Up Fabric Before Cutting

Next bring the other selvage end up to the first edge. You can do the next part while holding the fabric in your hands – it’s easier than laying it flat.

How to Square Up Fabric Before Cutting

Now slide the selvage ends along each other side to side until the rest of the fabric hanging below seems to be straight with no folds or bumps. You can lay the fabric flat to check this. You will end up with unevenly cut raw edges on the sides.

How to Square Up Fabric Before Cutting

Once the fabric seems flat, slide a cutting mat underneath. Line the selvage ends up with a straight line on the cutting mat. The folded edge and the selvage edges should line up to parallel straight lines on the cutting mat. *Line up the folded edge with the mat. This is the true line, rather than selvage edge.

How to Square Up Fabric Before Cutting
How to Square Up Fabric Before Cutting

For this part, I am right handed, so this makes more sense to me. Left handed folks will do the opposite! Take the left side raw edges and fold carefully on top of the fabric so that all the raw edges are on the right side. The fold and selvage ends should stay lined up.

How to Square Up Fabric Before Cutting

Now using a clear ruler, find the point in the fabric that is just past the raw edges to the left.

How to Square Up Fabric Before Cutting

The bottom and right edge should form a 90 degree angle at the bottom right corner.

How to Square Up Fabric Before Cutting

Cut a clean line using your rotary cutter and ruler.

How to Square Up Fabric Before Cutting

Keep your fingers at least half an inch away from the edge of the ruler. Hold the ruler and fabric steady with consistent pressure while cutting. Make sure the blade in your rotary cutter is sharp.

How to Square Up Fabric Before Cutting

Your fabric is now squared! Continue to complete the project of your choosing.

Don’t forget to pin this project for later, and scroll down for links to more awesome sewing tips and techniques.

How to Square Up Fabric

How to Square Up Fabric Before Cutting

How to Square Up Fabric Before Cutting

Fabric must be squared before cutting into it at the start of any sewing project. Here is an easy tutorial on how to do it.

Active Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Difficulty Easy
Estimated Cost $5.00



  1. Wash fabric.
  2. Dry fabric.
  3. Press fabric.
  4. Pick up fabric by selvage.
  5. Bring selvage edge to other selvage.
  6. Slide selvages along each other until fabric lays flat.
  7. Slide cutting mat under fabric.
  8. Line up folded edge with mat.
  9. Bring left raw edges to right edges.
  10. Find a point to the left of the raw edges where all layers will be cut.
  11. Cut a straight line using a ruler and rotary cutter.

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17 thoughts on “How to Quickly Square Up Fabric Before Cutting – Beginner Sewing Projects”

  1. Hi Brenda! The selvage edge and the edge that runs parallel to it do not need to be cut. They are already straight.

  2. So glad someone has finally posted how to straighten your fabric (the correct way) before cutting. This is the method I was taught 25 years ago, but have never seen anyone who has done it this way on the internet. I do disagree about cutting on the right side. I teach it takes 2 rulers to make that straightening cut on the right side. I teach that the right handed cut from the left, and lefties cut on the right. I could send pictures if you want.

  3. Interesting! I’ll give your method a try and update the post. Thanks for commenting, Charlcie!

  4. You have “squared” the ends with the sides, which is okay for most small, flat projects. But it would be good if you clarified this, and included a link for straightening the grain, as this is necessary when making garments or anything that hangs such as draperies, tablecloths, etc.

  5. To put fabric on the grain I was taught to pull a thread in the fabric until a line gets all the way across. Then cut across that line. This is on raw edge of fabric. Pick it up and if not even, take opposite ends an stretch until it is. This how I square fabric up.

  6. How do you square up fabric that has no salvage? I have inherited a wide variety of smaller pieces which have been cut before I received them. Also is it important to square up fabric if you are cutting pieces for a small quilt project?

  7. I have read your article and comments. I, too, was taught to pull a thread on
    The raw side of the fabric back in home economics. Do they even teach sewing in high school anymore? My mother also taught me to snip a small cut on the raw edge (after washing) then rip the fabric from one raw edge to the other. This will give you a true 90 degree angle where the raw and selvage edges meet. Please let me know your thoughts.

  8. Anonymous, squaring up any piece is easy! Pull on fabric if it stretches its not on straight of grain or where the selveledge is. If its tight or has no give this is the side to fold straight up where top and bottom of fabric meet up. lay on cutting mat with left side and bottom on straight lines and cut along right side to square it up. It will not be straight when you fold and lay on mat, but thats ok. it will be when you cut. Cut out pieces you want and then cut top to make straight. Do not be concerned with left side as you will cut down to that and it will be left over. Hope this makes sense!

  9. Thank you – I’m attempting my first quilt, and had no idea where to start. Your post is clear and easy to follow.

  10. I have looked for years for this simple explanation of squaring up the fabric. My sister demonstrated it to me once, it was like 2nd nature to her. I forgot how and she lives far away. THANK YOU SO MUCH.

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