How to Cut Charm Squares from Fabric

Tutorial: How to Cut Charm Squares

Charm squares are a great cut of fabric to use in quilts and other patchwork projects! One yard of cotton fabric (the normal 45″ width) will produce 56 charm squares (5″x5″).

To follow along with this tutorial, you’ll need a rotary cutter, self-healing cutting mat and large cutting ruler. I like this 6″ x 24″ one from OLFA (affiliate link). Buying cutting tools is not as much fun as buying fabric, but believe me when I say that having good-quality cutting mats, rotary blades and rulers is a worthwhile investment!

To get started, take your yard of fabric and make sure the selvage (the white strip with words or colored circles) is straight and ready to be trimmed. I am right-handed, so I made sure the selvage was on the right. Because I am cutting a yard of Spoonflower fabric, it’s a little different because there is white all around the border. I chose to fold the top of my fabric down, and here you can see how I lined up the selvage edges, to make the cutting process quicker.

Next, I lined up my ruler on the inside of the selvage. Using my rotary cutter in my right hand, I held down the ruler firmly with my left hand. Make sure your body is in a good position to hold the ruler so it doesn’t slip.

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Once your selvage is gone, you’ll want to flip your cutting mat so the fresh edge you just cut is on the opposite side (left for right-handers). Line up your ruler on top of your fabric and measure out a strip that is 5 inches wide. I have a 5-inch ruler, but many rulers are 6 inches wide. Cut along the side of the ruler for the entire length of the fabric. Continue cutting 5 inch strips in this same way until you can cut no more. (Notice that my fabric is still folded, so each strip will have a top and a bottom piece.)

Take two strips, and line them up on your mat as pictured. Use your ruler to measure out 5 inches again, this time the other way so you will make 5-inch squares. With each cut, you will make 4 squares (2 top, 2 bottom). Repeat this process to cut a total of 56 charm squares.

I originally shared this tutorial as part of Sewing Back-to-School series at Sew Sweetness. Check out the rest of the series here!

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  34 comments for “How to Cut Charm Squares from Fabric

  1. SLS
    August 20, 2011 at 9:27 am

    Thanks for this series! I love buying charm squares and this tutorial makes it look easy enough to make my own :)

  2. September 7, 2011 at 8:04 am

    Thanks as you made this look so easy. I am going to do this.

  3. KA
    September 7, 2011 at 12:31 pm

    I am new to this what are charm squares besides square pieces of fabric?

    • September 7, 2011 at 12:32 pm

      Charm squares are just that–5×5 inch squares of fabric. They are a common cut of fabric used to make quilts! You can purchase charm packs, or cut several yards and make your own.

  4. KA
    September 7, 2011 at 12:35 pm

    Lindsay thanks!!

  5. Fran
    September 17, 2011 at 6:22 am

    Thank you. I have been wanting to try to do a quilt and I am sure this is what I needed to start.

  6. Jennifer
    September 17, 2011 at 8:43 am

    Um, you’ve cut 56 5X5 squares, but there is no charm to it. Charm squares are one of a kind, each one different. For your tutorial to be “charming” you would need 55 friends to swap with. That’s a whole lotta swap partners! But it could be fun!

  7. September 17, 2011 at 9:58 am

    I’ve been cutting charm squares for years from scraps left over from other projects. Just make sure to keep the fabric on straight of grain or you will not be happy with your finished project.

    September 17, 2011 at 12:56 pm


  9. Ki'ihele
    September 17, 2011 at 1:12 pm

    First time I’ve heard of a charm swap, but what fun that would be! I generally cut charm squares whenever I have left over scraps. Then, when I have a good sized stack, I go through and match colors into my own charm packs, but swapping would be so much more exciting!

  10. September 17, 2011 at 8:41 pm

    I like the fabric you used for the Charm Squares. This is a wonderful to save money when you need or want Charm Squares. Seems as though purchasing them (pre-cut) is much too expensive. But when recycling garments, scraps, etc., what a wonderful way to save even more!!!

  11. December 20, 2011 at 9:45 am

    I am brand new at quilting and just made 3 charm quilts for my granddaughters. Knowing how to make my own pack is wonderful! Thank you!

  12. carol Tipton
    June 17, 2012 at 12:01 am

    Thanks for the info. Now i can make a special project quilt with charms I cut

  13. Susan Sharp
    June 17, 2012 at 12:14 pm

    I am brand new to quilting…. once you have all the charm squares how do you put them together? Is there a pattern or do you just sew one to another? thank you!

  14. Stacey Orange
    September 6, 2012 at 10:19 am

    Thank you! I am a sewer, and this would also work for POCKETS, too!… maybe a little smaller,- ha,ha-but it’ll still be helpful!

  15. October 15, 2012 at 6:38 am

    Great tutorial, thanks! I have a question…
    I’ve got strips of material that I want to turn into charm squares. Should I wash and iron first, or cut it as bought?

    many thanks!


    • October 20, 2012 at 12:07 pm

      Hi Maree! I would not wash and iron them first, unless it is fabric that is highly concentrated (like red or dark purple/blue) from a discount fabric store like Jo-Ann’s. It might bleed if that’s the case. I generally try to buy fabric from a quilt shop that is not likely to bleed. In this case, you can get away without prewashing. Hope this helps!

      • Wanda McNeal
        December 12, 2012 at 8:21 pm

        I was taught that all fabric had to be at least rinsed and dried to prevent shrinking of the end product when washed later?? Have I been wasting a ton of time?

        • December 12, 2012 at 10:25 pm

          Wanda, that’s a really good question, and there are different opinions in the quilting community. But, I can tell you that some people always pr-wash and some people never prewash. I almost never prewash quilting fabrics (only if I’m making a shirt or other clothing, and I don’t want it to shrink). I’ve never had a problem with a quilt shrinking on me, except for the natural shrinking that happens when you quilt through several layers of material. :) Also, a lot of quilters in my modern quild love the slightly crinkled look you get when you pull a quilt out of the wash for the first time, which can usually be ironed out just fine. I think it’s a matter of preference!

  16. Ladygray
    February 13, 2013 at 4:08 pm

    I would sure love to find a 5″x20″ or 5″x25″ ruler, but search as I might, I’ve never found one. Or even a 5″x5″ or 5″x10″. Do the companies that produce these rulers make them odd sizes so we can’t easily cut our own charm packs?!!

    • February 13, 2013 at 10:34 pm

      I don’t think I’ve seen it in stores, but Omnigrid makes a 5″x25″ ruler that’s available online at Sewing Machines Plus!

    • Charlotte
      February 25, 2013 at 7:03 pm

      LadyGray, try I just started using these and they are fabulous. And if you email them, the owner will cut you one whatever size you’d like. They will not slip like a ruler so it makes cutting things so easy plus you don’t have to apply super firm pressure to them like a ruler so much easier on your wrist. I hadn’t thought of it before but would be great to cut charms.

    • Denise Reiniche'
      May 15, 2014 at 5:45 pm

      Look at a Keepsake Quilting catalog, (their rulers have a substance on the back to keep it from sliding while cutting) or your local JoAnne’s!

  17. Debbie
    February 25, 2013 at 7:18 pm

    I like the idea. Only thing is using the rotary cutter. Go forward NOT toward you. I am cutting my charm squares now. thanks

  18. sara
    April 2, 2013 at 8:53 pm

    HI! I’ve been looking through your site enjoying your many tutorials… when I saw this I was AMAZED to see that the fabric you are cutting in the photos is the fabric I designed/painted!!! WHOA SO COOL!!! Thanks for liking it enough to buy it from Spoonflower!

  19. Wanda Smith
    April 29, 2013 at 8:07 pm

    Hi, I’m a new quilter, been sewing for years and took a class with a friend and fell in love with it,, now it’s hard for me to sew anything but quilts, I’v been looking at charm packs for ever but couldn’t see myself purchasing any due to the cost, now that you have open another avenue THANKS… tell me must i only use cotton? are there a such thing as silk charm packages?

    • April 29, 2013 at 8:15 pm

      Hi Wanda! I think quilting cotton is the easiest to work with for quilting. Yes, you can quilt with fabrics from silks to old T-shirts to upcycled sweaters, but each of them has its own challenges. If you do like the look of a silky fabric, maybe try something that has a stiff feel, so the fabric doesn’t slide around while you work with it.

  20. Jennifer Anidu
    June 4, 2013 at 1:25 pm

    Hi am new and just saw this tutorial and am amazed been having issues cutting a perfect square or rectangles so excited. Thank you so much can I find smaller rulers so I can cut out pieces for flowers? Thank for sharing. Am new

  21. Millie
    July 21, 2013 at 9:47 pm

    Love it. Thank you a lot.

  22. Christine
    September 27, 2013 at 11:18 am

    Hi Just reorganizing my sewing room and saw your tutorial. Have been making decorative pillows and have accumulated a couple bins of scraps. You have now given me the idea of cutting the squares and saving time in the long run. Love the idea of recycling of unused materials. Next week starting a cape that will be using multiple men’s jackets. Thanks so much.

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