Learn To Make A Basic Square Quilt

Skill Level: Beginner

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Want to try quilting but don’t know where to start? In a short series of bi-monthly quilting blogs, I’ll be walking you through the steps of sewing a quilt using pre-cut squares. This is a great first project to learn all the basics of quilting!


  • Coats & Clark™ Cotton Machine Quilting Thread, 7450 Temple Gold
  • Coats & Clark™ Quilting and Piecing Thread, 450 Nugrey
  • 1 precut fabric pack containing (85) 5" (13cm) squares or 2 packs containing 42 squares*
  • ¼ yd (0.25m) Inner border fabric
  • ½ yd (0.5m) Outer border fabric
  • ½ yd (0.5m) Outer border fabric
  • ½ yd (0.5m) Binding fabric
  • 3½ yds (2.4m) Backing fabric (or enough to piece a 53" x 62" (135cm x 158cm) or larger quilt back)
  • 50" x 60" (127cm x 153cm) Batting
  • See-through Ruler
  • Rotary cutter and mat
  • Scissors
  • Pins
  • Wash-away marker
  • Sewing machine
  • Iron and ironing mat or board

*We used Dark Color Story, Kona® Cotton Solids, 85 squares.


Almost all quilts have three things in common: a top fabric, a filler and a backing fabric. To start, let’s take it from the top!

selecting your fabric

There are so many fabric options for your quilt top; the easiest and most common to work with are quilting cottons. These have a tighter weave and higher thread count than ordinary cottons, making them more durable and less prone to fraying. The standard width of quilting cotton is 44-45" (112-115cm). There are some quilting cottons that are 108" (274cm), made especially for backing fabrics.

For this quilt, we’ll be using precut fabric. Precuts are quilting cotton bundled in a variety of colors or prints that make up a collection of fabrics, already cut to size. There are several types of precut bundles available. For this project we will be using 5" precut squares, commonly referred to as "charm squares” available in a “charm pack.”

Select your fabric image

prepare your binding and bias fabric

The first step is to prewash the fabric yardage you’ll be using for borders and binding. This will preshrink it and remove excess dyes and chemicals. You should only prewash fabric yardage, not precuts as the shapes can be distorted.

Strips for quilt borders, sashing or binding are first cut into strips across the horizontal width of the fabric. If you are using scissors, mark off the strips then cut. The most accurate way to cut is with a 6"x 24" (15cm x 61cm) see-through quilting ruler, rotary cutter and mat.

Cut fabric for quilt borders, sashing and binding.

For the inner border fabric, cut:

4 strips, 1½" x width of fabric strips (WOF)" (4cm x width of fabric)

From the outer border fabric, cut:

5 strips, 3½" x WOF fabric strips (9cm x width of fabric)

From the binding fabric, cut:

6 strips, 2½" x WOF (6.5cm x width of fabric)

All seam allowances are ¼" (0.6cm).

lay out your squares

Here is where the fun begins! Lay out the squares on a cutting mat or other flat surface like a bed, table or the floor. Alternatively, you can make a design wall by taping flannel fabric to a wall with painter’s tape. This makes it easy to play around with getting the squares just the way you like them.

Try out a few different arrangements of your squares to see what you like best—make sure to take pictures of the layouts so you can revisit them.

Layout your squares image

piecing your quilt

Once you have settled on the arrangement of your squares, you can start sewing them together—this is called "piecing.”

To do this, you’ll need a strong durable thread. Coats & Clark™ Dual Duty XP Polyester thread or Coats & Clark™ Cotton All-purpose thread are both great, versatile options. Piecing should be done with a neutral color thread that will blend with the colors of your pieces. White, grey or natural are all safe options.

Piecing your quilt image

set up your machine

Thread the machine with Coats & Clark™ thread on the top and in the bobbin. It is a good idea to wind several bobbins so that you don’t have to stop to rewind when you’re piecing the quilt.

Set the stitch length to 2mm or 12 stitches per inch

The seam allowance for quilting is ¼". It is important that all seams are the same width, so the blocks fit together properly. Check the markings on your machine for a ¼" line.

bulb Tip logo


To make the seam allowance easier to follow, extend the line with a piece of masking or Painter’s tape.

Image 1, step up your machine
Image 2, step up your machine

sewing the quilt top together

There are 10 rows of 8 squares each.

1. Lay out the 5" (13 cm) squares and then have fun arranging and rearranging the colors.

Image 1, step up your machine

2. Number each row before moving the squares. Stack the squares by number. Hint: Mark each stack with the row number.

Layout your squares image
Layout your squares image

3. Beginning with Row 1, sew the squares together being sure to maintain an accurate ¼"(0.6cm) seam allowance. Press seam allowances together toward the right.

Image 1, step up your machine
Image 1, step up your machine
Image 1, step up your machine

4. Sew row 2 squares together. Press the seam allowances in the opposite direction, toward the left. (Right or left really doesn’t matter—you just want to press the opposite direction from the first row)

Image 1, step up your machine

5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 for the remaining rows.

6. Once the rows are complete, it’s time to sew them together. Place the first-row strip and the second-row strip with the right sides of the fabric together. Line up each seam, nesting it so they match exactly, then pin on the seamline.

Image 1, step up your machine
Image 1, step up your machine

Sew Row 1 and 2 together.
Working in pairs of rows, repeating rows 3 and 4, 5 and 6 and so on. Press the seams toward the bottom row of the pairs.

7. When complete, press the seams up. (each row’s seam allowance should be pressed in the opposite direction)
You have almost completed your quilt top! Now it is time to add the borders


Before joining the border strips, cut away the finished edges at each side edge, or the “selvage edges.” Quilting fabric is typically 44-45" wide. Once the selvage is removed there will be around 42" left, which for our quilt top is just a little shorter than needed for some of the borders. You can sew the strips end to end and cut the length needed from the longer piece—this is called sub cutting.

1. Join the 1½" strips end to end. Press seams open. Sub cut into two 47" (120cm) strips and two 40" (102cm) strips. The strips are slightly longer just in case. Sew the 47" (120cm) strips to the sides of the squares. Trim off any extra. Sew the 40" (102 cm) strips to the top and bottom of the squares. Trim away extra if necessary. Press the seam allowances toward the border.

Image 1, step up your machine

2. Join the 3½" strips end to end. Press seams open. Sub cut into two 48" (122cm) strips and two 45" (114cm) strips. Sew the 48" (122cm) strips to the sides of the quilt. Trim off any extra. Sew the 45" (114cm) strips to the top and bottom of the quilt. Trim off any extra. Press seam allowances toward the outer border.

Image 1, step up your machine

Your quilt top is finished and ready to quilt!

We’ll go over how to attach the batting and backing fabric, and how to quilt your quilt, in the next blog entry!

Author, Lynn Brown

Lynn Browne retired from Coats Clark after 34 years in the consumer and education department. She learned to sew in 4-H and always enjoyed sewing clothing and home decor items. After years of seeing so many beautiful quilts at Quilt Shows attended on the job, she has taken up quilting in retirement and loves it!