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Cutting squares from strip sets

by Kelsea
(Chandler, AZ)

I have 10 strips made up of four 2-1/2" strips.

7 of them measure 8-3/8" tall and 3 measure 8-1/2" tall. I need to cut squares out of them but I'm not sure what size to cut them.

Do I cut them all the same width of 8 3/8 because it is the smallest? Or do I cut the ones that are 8-3/8" tall 8-3/8" wide and the 8-1/2" tall 8-1/2" wide?

Or do I cut them all the size they should have been 8-1/2?


I am assuming that the blocks are for a Rail Fence quilt, perhaps something like this...

Rail Fence quilt pattern

...but as you said with 4 strips (not the 5 in the picture above).

Figure out where the discrepancy is...

The first thing to do is go back and see if you'd accidentally ironed a tuck into the seam allowance of the narrower strip sets. That could account for the missing 1/8". It is really easy to do, especially if you are pressing and pressing and pressing. If you're like me, my attention wanders.

If that's not the cause, then check to see if your seam allowance is a bit bigger for those seven strips.

The reason for taking the time to determine what happened is so that you can adjust it for your next quilt.


If you wanted to take the time, you could resew the seams in the 8-1/2" strip sets with a little bit bigger seam allowance so that all your strip sets are 8-3/8" wide and then sub-cut everything at 8-3/8".

Another option is to trim (shave) one edge of the 8-1/2" strips by 1/8" to make all of them 8-3/8" and then, again, subcut into 8-3/8" patches. With 2" finished strips, I don't believe that you'll see the difference. If you think you might, you could shave a 1/16" inch off of each side to distribute the trim.

If it was my quilt...

If you are truly off just an 1/8", then what I would do is to subcut all the strip sets 8-1/2" wide.

Then use pins to hold the blocks for stitching, because you'll be 'easing' them together.

Fabric has stretch to it. More so on the crosswise grain than the lengthwise grain. Easing means making an 8-3/8" side fit a 8-1/2" side by stretching one to fit the other.

Sew with the larger side closest to the feed dogs and your machine will help you do the job. (The feed dogs pull in the bottom layer just a teeny-tiny bit faster.)

Press as you go to keep things neat and tidy.

Now if the strip-sets are off a 'generous' 1/8" or closer to a 1/4", then I would either resew the seams or shave off the excess. Easing works up to a certain point, and then the seams start to get a bit 'rumple-y'. But that shouldn't be a problem with just an eighth inch.

I think it's important for you to figure out where the difference is in the two resulting sets so that you can adjust for future piecing. But it is just as important to get the experience of finishing this quilt, especially if you are a beginning quilter.

Done is better than perfect...


In my humble opinion, finishing this project trumps everything else.

This won't be your last quilt. So learn what you can from making this one. Then you can move on to your next with more information, more experience and more confidence in your quilting skills. All good things!

What I do suggest for quilters before they start a new project is to take a 'sewing test'. You can learn how on our page Find Your Perfect Quarter Inch Seam Allowances. I do this, myself, for every new project I work on. Sometimes the thread you use is just big enough to throw off your seam allowance; sometimes the fabric is thicker or thinner than what you usually work with. It can save you a lot of time.

Thank you for your question.

Readers, what is your recommendation for Kelsea in this situation? Please share your thoughts using the link just below.


Julie Baird

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