Ask Jo: How I cut square so quickly

Hello, and welcome to another edition of “Ask Jo”.  I get many comments and questions from all sorts of places, the comment section here, Youtube, email, and from our Facebook group.  Sometimes I think others of you might want to know the answers as well so I answer them here on the blog.

In today’s feature I am answering only one question.   I figured it might be enough for one blog post.  The question comes from Nancy.

Nancy asked:
“Would you be kind enough to share how you cut your fabric squares? It is amazing how many squares you have  cut for your Halloween quilt already.”

Here is one of the blocks from my Halloween quilt.

The block is a little deceiving.  Looking at it you might think that I pieced everyone of those pieces individually together.  The truth is, I didn’t.  The center of the block was all done via strip piecing.

If you’re a seasoned quilter, you’ve done strip piecing.  If you’re newer to quilting, you might not recognize something that is strip pieced.  The center of this block was entirely strip pieced.

What does that mean??  Let me explain…I sewed strips of fabric together like this…

Then after pressing them, I cut them into segments like this…

I didn’t sew individual squares together.  I sewed STRIPS together and then cut them to make them look like I sewed them together indiviually.  This saves LOTS of time.

To get the checkerboard look, I sewed together another set in this patterned order.

Using strip piecing really makes this much faster.  So that is way #1 how I cut the square so quickly.

Here are a couple of other quilts that we made where we implemented the strip piecing method.

This is our Plus Fun quilt.  This quilt was ENTIRELY strip pieced.  I never cut an individual square when making it.  It sure looks like I would have though…

The quilt is made up of nine patches.  One set of nine patches make up the “pluses”.

The other set makes up the neutral white area between the plus blocks.

Then I made this I made strip set of three neutrals together then I sliced them.  To make the plus block, I sewed two strip sets.  One was three strips of the same color and the other was neutral, color, neutral.  After the strip sets were cut, I sewed them together to make the block.

You can find more info on the Plus Fun quilt HERE.

Another quilt we made using the strip method was this quilt, Square Dance.

Again, none of this was sewn block by block but strip sewing instead.  Read more about this quilt HERE.

Another trick to cutting squares quickly is to create and use a scrap users system.  This is my tote of 2 1/2″ strips.  If I am going to make a quilt that requires 2 1/2 squares or I need pieces to sew into strip sets, I always come to the tote first.  I can grab colors I need without having to pull fabric from the stacks, open it up, iron it, cut it, fold it back up and the put it away.  I can just grab a tote and dig.  It’s a HUGE time saver.
Remember so many of you sent 2 1/2″ strips to me for the Halloween quilt.  They were sorted and ready to use right away.  I sewed them into strip sets and was sewing away in no time.

I HIGHLY recommend the scrap users system.  Bonnie Hunter is the originator of the idea and I use it a lot.  You can find a link and more info about it HERE.  I remember being completely and totally in awe of this when I first learned about it.  I still am!!

If I actually do need to cut individual squares, I stack up to 10 strips in a stack and make one cut with my rotary cutter.  A sharp blade and that is a breeze…

I ended up making a video with all of this info in it.  I thought some of you are more visual people and it’s easier for you to watch than read…so here is the video.

I apologize…the lighting wasn’t the best.  I’m still learning about this whole video thing.  I appreciate you all being so patient with me.

I’m not a pro at videos and I’m not a pro at quilting.  I’ve just got enough gumption in me to give it a try.  I know the videos aren’t for everyone so no worries, I’ll always still give things to you in the blog format too.

So remember…if you want to construct blocks like this more quickly:
1-strip piece when possible
2-use precut strips like the scrap users system
3-cut several layers at once

I hope that gives you an idea of how I make quilts or blocks with many squares.

A blog reader asked if it is okay if they share my videos with other quilting friends…YES.  Please do.  If can help anyone make quilting a more enjoyable hobby, I really want to.  So share away!

17 thoughts on “Ask Jo: How I cut square so quickly”

  1. How much background and backing fabric is needed for your Halloween strip quilt? I ‘m on the lookout for something that would be appropriate

  2. I love all your blogs, on every topic! This one is especially helpful, both for the techniques you share, but also for your can-do, lets-have-fun-with-doing-this attitude. I look forward to your postings every day! Thank you very much.

  3. Thank you for this information do you have any special hints for those little HST’s that are used so often especially those smaller 2 1/2″ size.

  4. I appreciate your videos so much Jo especially that you simplify things & make assembly of blocks/quilts easier & quicker! I’ve learned so much from your wonderful videos & I thank you!

  5. I love the Square dance quilt…so cheerful! I’m finding myself amazed by your generosity, yet again, (although I should be used to it haha). Not only do you write us instructions, but you film them too! You’re a teacher for sure! Strangely, the link for Bonnie’s site wasn’t working. Not even from her website. I was going to check it out even though I don’t really have that many scraps.

  6. Thanks for the video :) would like to see more of your spiderweb block now that you are piecing them together :)

  7. Shannon M in Texas

    Thank you for the helpful hints, Jo. It makes it seem like magic when it all goes together. I love it when a quilt is made to look more difficult than it is. Your blog and encouragement are bright spots in my day.

  8. First, thanks for sharing posts and pics that help new quilters get started. Second: I wonder if you are related to Christen at I See Stars Quilting?
    Keep on with what you do . You never know how many lives you touch.

  9. Jo, I just have to say, I’m loving watching your videos, you make everything look so easy and straightforward – thank you!

  10. Katherine Gourley

    Jo — you are genius. I am so slow in the quilting I do. I worry about accuracy and I can see that methods 1 and 2 would help me so much. I have a severe tremor so I don’t stack many pieces to cut through.

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