How to Square a Nine Patch Block

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This tutorial on squaring up a nine patch block is one of five tutorials that are part of a larger sewing project, How to Sew a Tic-Tac-Toe Board.

The following five tutorials make up most of the steps involved in sewing a Tic-Tac-Toe board:

What Does Squaring Up a Block Mean?

Once you make a quilt block, whether it’s a nine patch or another design, it needs to be perfectly square before you connect it to other blocks. Or in the case of the Tic-Tac-Toe board, attach it to the backing and add the binding.

When you square up a quilt block, it means you are making sure the finished block has sides that are all straight and of equal length. The end result is a perfectly square square.

Important Notes

First, the technique explained in this tutorial is appropriate for the Tic-Tac-Toe board because it’s only one block.

Second, if you’re creating a quilt with multiple blocks, there are other factors that need to be considered when squaring up blocks. Those considerations are NOT explained in this tutorial.

How to Square a Nine Patch Block

Chances are the edges of the nine patch block are not perfectly straight. Therefore, you will need to square it up.  To do this, you will need to use rotary cutting tools. For this tutorial, I used an 18 x 24-inch mat and a 6 x 24-inch ruler.

  1. Lay the nine patch on the rotary cutting mat. Line up the bottom edge of the block with one of the horizontal lines on the mat. The edge of the block may not be straight but line it up the best that you can.
  2. Now, adjust the block so the right edge of the nine patch block is just over one of the vertical lines. The bottom edge of the block should still be aligned with the horizontal line on the mat.
  3. Place the rotary cutting ruler along the vertical line that is closest to the right edge of the fabric. You’ll use the rotary cutter to trim just enough off so the edge is straight.

    Align block to square it
    The bottom edge of the block is lined up as close as I could get it on the mat’s 21 1/2 inch horizontal line. The right edge of the block is just over a vertical line on the rotary cutting mat. The rotary cutting ruler is aligned with that vertical line.
  4. Rotate the nine patch block. Line up the straight edge you just cut with a horizontal line on the mat. Adjust the block placement so the right edge of the nine patch is just over one of the vertical lines. Make sure the straight edge of the block is still aligned with the horizontal line.
  5. Line up the ruler as described in direction #3 and trim the edge so it is straight,

Rotate the block and repeat until the other 2 edges are trimmed and the nine patch block is perfectly square with straight edges. You don’t take very much off each edge. Just enough to make sure all the edges are straight.

A block that has been squared
All edges of the nine patch block are now straight. The total amount of fabric trimmed off this block is laying on the square in the upper right-hand corner of the block.

That’s It. You’re Done!

You have successfully squared up a nine patch block. If you’re making the Tic-Tac-Toe board, the next steps will be to add the back then stitch them together.

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