We are used to trimming each block, unit, or row after sewing it together. That step usually makes us feel good as it helps the next step go more smoothly – thing fit nicely.
However, it is the last step in most quilt patterns, “Trim the quilt to…” that gives me the jitters. I just spent countless hours putting this all together and it is the last step that gives me trepidation. What if it isn’t square? What if my borders are off? What if I slip and cut it wrong? AGH!!! That is the stuff of my nightmares.
How to overcome that fear of trimming? The first step is to carefully measure and trim each of your borders as you add them. The most important ones are the solid fabric strips. If these stretch or are crooked, it will throw off the measurements for trimming.
Wait to trim until after quilting. Quilting can affect your quilt size and degree of “squareness.” You need to make sure your seams stay straight while quilting, especially at the edges of the quilt. This is where straightly sewn seams can get wonky. Also, expect shrinkage after quilting. The more heavily quilted it is, the more the perimeter will shrink.
Trimming after quilting now means you have more work into it, so it may have a bigger fear factor. Fear not! Start by trimming the fabric 1 inch from the edge of the top. If you quilt on your domestic machine, you may not have much to trim. If you quilted on a longarm, that may be several inches. Now, you are ready to fine tune the trimming.
Use the largest square ruler you possess and place it in the first corner (any corner you want to start with). Make a chalk or pencil mark around where you think you will cut. Then, use your longest ruler (I use a 48-inch hardware ruler) and mark a straight line along one side. I try to use a line on the quilt, such as a border line, to help me stay straight (of course, it helps if your guideline is straight. When you get to the next corner, use your large square again. Continue until you get to back to the first corner. Adjust and redraw as needed to make the quilt square. When the lines are finished, now you are ready to cut! Use the same rulers for cutting as you did for drawing.
This process takes a little longer, but ensures a clean and square quilt. There is a Facebook video this technique to trim large background piece in my Snowflake Whimsy.