Sunday, 30 March 2014

Out with the old, in with the new...

Do you ever have projects on your to-do list that you know won't take very long, but continually get ignored in favour of more exciting things? Yeah, me too. Case in point my ironing board cover.

It's been in need of replacing for at least six months, and last night I finally got sick of the disgusting (and well caramelised) cover I've been using.

The replacement cover took less than an hour from start to finish. It is a total slap-dash job (I made it up as I went along), but it works so it's all good. I traced around my ironing board onto the fabric, about 3" away from the edge and cut it out. I then sandwiched 1/4" elastic in some 1" premade bias binding, and closed the binding as I sewed it around the edge of the cover fabric. I actually ran out of the bias binding, so the bottom of the cover isn't pretty, but it fits quite well and it sits flat for the most part. For the padding, I used the old padding as a pattern and cut a double layer of bamboo batting. The fabric I used is actually uncoated curtain fabric from Terry's fabrics and was wide enough that I only needed about 1/2 yard. A bit of an improvement, me thinks.

So I guess this is a lesson to myself to not put off those boring but quick jobs. My sewing space will be a whole lot more attractive now :o)

xx Jess

Friday, 28 March 2014

March Check In - Fabriholics Anonymous

Somehow it is nearly the end of March, and time for another Fabriholics Anonymous check in. I managed to get through January and February without regretting my fabric diet too much - but I have to admit it has gotten a wee bit harder this month. When cutting up fabric to send to my Ausmod bee mates I completely ran out of black and white prints, and had to run into Spotlight to buy a couple of yards so I had enough to send to my bees. Although it was really nice to buy fabric for the first time in almost three months, it felt really wrong at the same time. Up until that point, I hadn't realised how much I'd changed my thinking toward buying fabric this year - I'm honestly surprised how dedicated I feel to my pledge not to buy fabric, and how guilty I felt having to buy some (even though it was a need purchase as opposed to a want).

I also cut into my stash of green fabrics really heavily for my bee mates, so I'm starting to see some big holes that will need to be filled at some stage. I still have a lot of greens left, so I'm not too worried about those, but I have eaten into my low volume stash in a big way in the last couple of months, and I'm going to need to order some in the next few weeks so I don't run out. Although this will be a bit of a fabric fast fail, I use low volume fabrics in place of solids most of the time so again it is a 'need' rather than 'want'.

I'm trying not to spend as much time online looking at fabric as I normally do - but I must admit there are a few collections that have come out recently that I'm trying pretty hard to ignore. Peg at Sew Fresh Fabrics has recently announced her Kokka/Echino Stash Club, which is becoming increasingly difficult to resist.

Not to mention Lotta Jansdotter's latest offerings. How awesome is this leaf print?

Being the massive Tula Pink fan that I am, I am a bit sad about missing Fox Field too. The greens and greys in particular...

And last of all, the amazing First of Infinity collection by Kumiko Fujita. Sigh. So much pretty.

So how are my fellow fabric fasters going? Are you still going strong, or have you fallen off the wagon so to speak? What collections are you lusting after right now? If you'd like to link up and let us know how you're going we would love to hear your thoughts!

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Decipher Your Quilt - the calculations behind 9 patch blocks

For today's Decipher Your Quilt post, Leanne of She Can Quilt and I will both be talking about 9 patch blocks - Leanne is showing you how to identify 9 patch blocks and quilts, and I will be discussing the maths behind them. I've managed to avoid the evil 'M' word up until now, but maths is a really important part of quilts and geometry so I can't really avoid it any longer. Hopefully I will present it all in an easy to understand way, but as always if you have any questions please just leave a comment and I'll answer as best I can.

If you're interested in making some of the blocks we are showing you during this series, Leanne and I are planning on using our blocks to make a sampler-style quilt at the end of the series. We will be making our blocks of various sizes but with a common factor; if you would like to join us, you could make your blocks so their sizes have a common factor too - for example multiples of 3 (3", 6", 9", 12") or multiples of 4 (4", 8", 12", 16"). We will show you some techniques for joining these blocks into a quilt at the end of the series. This was also the thinking behind the How Far Will You Go? QAL I co-hosted with Jess of Scrappy n Happy in 2012 - we used 5", 10" and 20" finished blocks to create a modern sampler quilt.

For today's post, Leanne will be going into a lot more depth about what a 9 patch block is, but to put it very simply a 9 patch block is any block that can be divided into a 3x3 grid of equal sized squares. If you've been quilting for any length of time, you've probably made lots of these blocks as 9 patches are very common blocks. As always, these are just my thoughts on how to approach 9 patch calculations :o). I've added a few examples of 9 patch blocks randomly in this post, just to add a bit of colour.

So, what size should my 9 patch be?

Quilters are pretty smart - we like to make things easier for ourselves by choosing a block size that means cutting fabric in whole or half-inch increments, rather than horrible fractions (like 3/8" for example). Not only is it easier to get your head around whole numbers and the maths involved, it seems to be more comfortable to accurately cut fabric - possibly because the whole and half-inch markings on rulers are generally easier to see.

Since a 9-patch block is three squares across by three squares down, it would make sense to choose a finished block size that is divisible by three (ie 3", 6", 9", 12", 15" etc). This will mean dealing with whole numbers, rather than fractions.

For example, if you chose to make a 9" finished 9 patch block, you could calculate the finished size of each of the squares by calculating 9/3 = 3, a nice round number. This is far easier than choosing a finished block size of, say, 8", where you would be dealing with difficult fractions when cutting fabric, which is far more likely to end up with wonky points and blocks that aren't quite the right size. Jess and I learnt this the hard way when we ran our QAL - one of the blocks we chose to include was the Weathervane block, which is a 9-patch. The problem was, it needed to be a 10" finished block, so we ended up needing to paper piece it in order for it to end up the correct size - rather than being a simple rotary cut block if it had been 12" or 9".

What about seam allowance?

Learning how to add seam allowance to your measurements is one of the big tricks in quilty maths - and it is critical to learn how to do it so you end up with blocks that are the right size. If you don't account for the extra fabric that will end up within the seam allowance, you will be cutting fabric the wrong size and end up with blocks that are not the size you want.

Quilters use a 1/4" seam allowance, so a 1/4" on each side of every piece of fabric will be 'lost' in the seam when you join them to another piece of fabric.

For example, if the desired finished size of a square is 3",

 you need to account for the 1/4" on all four sides that will be taken up in the seam allowance.

 So when cutting fabric for a 3" finished square, you will need to add the seam allowance to all sides ie (1/4" + 3" + 1/4") = 3.5".

So the rule of thumb is to add 0.5" to each finished measurement in the block.

Maple Leaf Block Example

I thought it might be useful to give an example of resizing a 9 patch block, so I will show you how I'm re-sizing the Maple Leaf block from 12" finished, to 15" finished for a quilt I'm making at the moment. A free tutorial for the 12" finished block is available here. 

The first step in re-sizing a block is identifying what the finished size of each of the patches will be within the block. The Maple Leaf block is three squares across, by three squares down, so if we want a 15" finished block, we can divide the length of one of the sides by the number of squares to find the size of each of the patches - ie 15/3 = 5" square.

There are three different components in the Maple Leaf block; squares, half square triangles, and the stem square.

We have already figured out what the finished size of each of the squares will be, so we can simply add 0.5" to account for seam allowance to each of the sides. Here, the calculation will be 5 + 0.5 = 5.5", so we must cut 5.5" squares for those units.

We know from calculating the size of the squares above that the half-square triangle units will need to be 5.5". Using the HSTs two at a time method, we can work out that by starting with 6" squares of background and print fabric, we will be able to make 5.5" HST units.

The stem unit is a little trickier to calculate, especially since in the original tutorial it is made much larger than required, and then trimmed down to size. The background fabric for this step in a 12" block is 4.5" square, cut on the diagonal. So for a 15" block, the background fabric would need to be 5.5" square cut on the diagonal. These values are both based on the size of the squares we figured out above.

To figure out the width of the stem piece, I used the ratio between unit or patch size and stem width. This is a really simple calculation to do. We know from the tutorial that for a 4" finished patch, the stem width is 2", and our desired finished patch is 5".

So as ratios, we have Stem width:5 = 2:4
We can convert these to fractions, so stem width/5 = 2/4 = 0.5.
By mulitplying both sides of the equation by 5, we can figure out stem width = 0.5 x 5 = 2.5'.

Leanne and I both have pretty crazy schedules next week, so we will be taking a week off from our Decipher Your Quilt posts. We will be back to talk about 16 patch blocks on the 7th of April. As always, if you make something using any of our tutorials in the series you can use the hashtag #decipheryourquilt on Instagram, or add it to the Flickr group.

xx Jess

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

The insanity begins

I know there were a few doubters out there when I mentioned I'd like to make two quilts for the two weddings I'll be going to in a few weeks time - and I have had a bit of a reality check since making that possibly-not-so-well-thought-out statement. I decided not to forgo sleep entirely, and to aim for one quilt, and a few cushions for the other gift instead ;o)

So, after finishing off a VERY overdue set of bee blocks on Tuesday, I started quilt number one. I pulled this bundle of fabrics a few weeks ago, in the requested colours of blue and red. Although I love blue and red together, I wanted to add a bit more variety, so I've pulled a bunch of red-oranges, reds, navies and greenish blues. There are quite a few prints from Tsuru in there which happen to coordinate beautifully with the Lush Uptown prints I've pulled, along with some Denyse Schmidt and others. I've already culled a few of these, and will more than likely add some different prints but you probably get an idea of the palette :o)

My initial thought was to make a Swoon quilt (still on my bucket list after abandoning my first Swoon efforts), but it didn't feel quite the right choice though for my brother and his fiance. After a bit of brainstorming I started making some Maple Leaf blocks, since the soon to be married pair actually met while they were working in Canada.

I'm almost done with the next three blocks as well, and I'm planning a 5x5 layout, so I'm almost a quarter of the way there (so I'm thinking I will retain some level of sanity by the end). I'm not sure how much more of this quilt I'll share before it's finished - I'm pretty sure the recipients don't ever read here, but I might have to make certain first.

I have actually re-sized these blocks to 15", and I will be sharing my process tomorrow for this week's Decipher Your Quilt post.

xx Jess

Sunday, 23 March 2014

The Wedding!

My little sister got married yesterday. It was a fantastic wedding, filled with love and laughter, family and friends and all those things that make a wedding a really special day. My sister looked absolutely amazingly beautiful, and I am so proud of her and her new husband. The location was stunning, and despite loads of rain the day before, the sun managed to appear just in time for the outdoor ceremony. It was kind of perfect.

We spent the morning at my parent's house having hair and makeup done, a very weird experience for someone like me who literally never wears makeup or does more than a simple ponytail. It was actually quite fun, but my 3 year old daughter didn't recognise me at first when we arrived at the ceremony, which freaked me out completely. She kept walking past and looking at me like I was a stranger, not an experience I'm eager to repeat. The photo above was after she had decided I was actually her mum :o)

Both the bridesmaid's dresses were handmade using this beautiful Art Gallery Fabric Floressence print - I made mine and my sister made the other bridesmaid her dress. Mine is the Crepe dress by Colette patterns. You might remember I made a test version last year - I made a size smaller for this one and it is a much better fit (the test version was quite baggy in the bodice, mostly because I am very narrow across my back I think). I really need to pull my finger out and try an FBA for the next dress I make - but because this one is a wrap dress, the bodice fits reasonably well without fiddling around with adjusting the pattern. Best of all, it is the kind of dress I'll actually wear again :o)

We actually have two more family weddings in the next month (my brother's and my cousin's), which is going to be heaps of fun. It also means I have a couple of quilts I'd like to design and make within the next three weeks (feel free to wish me luck with that!!)

xx Jess

Friday, 21 March 2014

My week in bags

Those of you who follow me on Instagram may have noticed I've taken a break from my usual quilt making shenanigans this week, and have been making a few bags and a dress instead. My little sister is getting married tomorrow, so I have been finishing up my bridesmaids dress for the wedding - I will try to share some photos from the wedding over the weekend :o)

Other than that, it has been bags all the way. First up is a little commissioned library bag, made using Children at Play fabric by Sarah Jane. I made it using Jeni's fabulous drawstring bag pattern, and appliqued the name on by machine. I really love the border print for the main part of the bag, and I'm a bit sad to have used my last piece.

Next is another version of the Necessary Clutch Wallet by Emmaline Bags. This one is the class sample for the class I'll be teaching in May. I've used an Amy Butler print for the exterior, a citrus solid for the lining and border, and an Anna Maria Horner print for the pockets and card slots. When I made my first version of this wallet last year, I used a cotton/linen blend for the exterior, whereas I used a lighter weight quilting cotton this time around. It was definitely much easier to sew through all the layers and attach the twist lock in this second version.

My final bag from this week is another knitting bag, made using Amanda's Knitting Bag pattern by The Sometimes Crafter, for a friend's birthday present. This is such a quick project, and considering most of my crafty friends knit or crochet rather than sew, I think there will be a few more made for birthday presents and so forth this year. For this one, I used a woven woollen fabric I had in my stash and lined it with a Timeless Treasures print - the recipient will definitely appreciate the 'go green' message on the fabric :o) It was a little tricky to interface the wool fabric, but it seems to have adhered pretty well, and it has given the bag a really nice structure.

My to-do list is looking much, much better as a result of this week's efforts - I just need to get back on top of my bee blocks and then I will be starting something new. I'm excited :o)

I hope everyone has a great end to the week!

xx Jess

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Decipher Your Quilt - Identifying 4 Patch Blocks and Quilts

One of the reasons I'm really excited about running the Decipher Your Quilt series with Leanne is that I really enjoy analysing the geometry of quilts and quilt blocks - so I have really enjoyed my 'research' for this week's post. Leanne and I will both be talking about 4 patch blocks this week; I am talking about how to identify 4 patch blocks and quilts, and Leanne is going to talk about some of the calculations that will help when drafting or re-sizing these blocks. These two topics go hand in hand - it is really important to understand what type of quilt block you are working with before you start re-sizing or drafting any block. So for the next few weeks, Leanne and I will be looking at a whole bunch of different block types, and give you some idea of how to manipulate them.

So, what I will be doing today is showing you a bunch of 4 patch blocks, and explaining why they are 4 patch blocks. I will also be showing you some mock ups of quilts made with these blocks, so you can practice looking for the blocks within the setting of a quilt top. While doing my research for this week's post, I've noticed that 16 patch and 4 patch blocks are often categorised together. For the purposes of this series, we will be covering 16 patch blocks seperately in a few weeks time, but it is worth noting they are very similar in structure.

 I guess the best place to start is by explaining what a 4 patch block is. As the name suggests, there are several 4 patch blocks that are literally 4 equal sized pieces of fabric (or patches) sewn together, such as the simple 4 patch,

the rail fence block,

and the quarter square triangle (or hourglass) block.

Generally speaking though, when we refer to a 4 patch block, it is any block that can be divided into a 2 x 2 grid, with four equal sized sections, such as the grid below.

The simple 4-patch quilt block above obviously falls into this 2x2 grid type, but each of the patches can be more complex than a single square of fabric. For example, the pinwheel block is four half-square triangles joined together in a 2 x 2 grid.

The traditional Broken Dishes block is made of the exact same components (4 half square triangles), arranged differently but still with the 2 x 2 grid layout.

If we look at quilts made from these two blocks, we need to look closely to see which of these blocks it is. This first quilt is made using the Broken Dishes block, arranged in a 6 x 6 layout. 

This second quilt is Pinwheel blocks, arranged in a 6x6 layout, and looks very similar to the quilt above. Having said that, once a variety of colours are used in place of the neutrals, the blocks would become more obvious.

Another 4 patch made with half square triangles is called Birds in Air. Drawn like this, with the horizontal and vertical seam lines marked, it is easy to see how this block is a 4 patch with the 2 x 2 grid visible. 

But if we remove those seam lines it becomes a little more difficult to see that it is a 4 patch - you need to visualise the horizontal and vertical seams through the bottom half of the block. The clue to it being a 4 patch is that on the top and left hand sides of the block, we can clearly see that the block can be divided into two equal sized pieces.

Birds in Air could be constructed using either of the above diagrams; as a 4 patch like the first diagram, or as a variation on a half square triangle like the second diagram. Regardless of how it is constructed it will still be a 4 patch block, since it is possible to superimpose a 2 x 2 grid on the block. When we look at Birds in Air laid out in a 6 x 6 block layout it is pretty easy to 'see' the blocks. 

But, if every alternate block is rotated, it becomes a little trickier to find the blocks among the secondary patterns it creates. If you are looking at a quilt and you're finding it difficult to see the blocks within it, it might be that some are rotated. 

Another group of 4 patch blocks are those constructed from rectangles, such as the blocks below (creatively named Two by Two, Three by Two (also called Roman Stripe Zig Zag) and Four by Two). 

These are all quite simple blocks, but can create some great secondary patterns across a quilt top. My favorite is the Roman Stripe Zig Zag, which creates a really interesting design.

There are several 4 patch blocks that are far more complex than the examples I've shown you so far. Each of these blocks has unusual angles, and would be best constructed using either templates to cut the pieces, or by paper piecing the blocks. Tippecanoe (one of my absolute favorite blocks) is made using four paper pieced units, and because of the angles in the block, it creates the illusion of curves when several of them are joined together. You can find the templates and full tutorial for a 5" finished block here. 

The St Louis Star block is another example of a complex 4 patch. Because of the unusual angles in this block, it is also a paper pieced block (full tutorial and templates available here)

If you'd like to practice making some 4 patch blocks, I'm going to finish up with a mini tutorial for a Pinwheel cushion (or pillow). This one has been lurking in my UFO pile for a couple of years (which is why there are those huge fold marks across it), and was actually made using off cut triangles from flying geese. It would be the perfect project to use up charm squares though, as it starts with 5" squares of fabric. If you'd like to practice re-sizing blocks, it would also be a good project for that. 

You will need:

* (8) 5" squares of print fabric (pinks and browns here)
* (8) 5" squares of background fabric
* 2.5" strips of background fabric for the border (two strips 16.5" x 2.5" and two strips 20.5" x 2.5")

Make the HST blocks:
1. Using the HST two at a time tutorial, make sixteen HST blocks and trim them to 4.5" square.   
2. Sew the HSTs into 4 patch Pinwheel blocks, measuring 8.5" unfinished. You will have four of these blocks. 
3. Sew the blocks together in pairs, and then sew the two rows together as shown above. This piece should measure 16.5" square 
4. Attach a 16.5" x 2.5" strip to both sides and press your seams. 
5. Attach a 20.5" x 2.5" strip to the top and bottom and press your seams. 

And you're done! You should end up with a 20.5" square cushion cover. 

I hope today's post has been helpful. As always if you have any questions, please send me an email or leave a comment on this post and I will answer as best I can. I would encourage you to head over to Leanne's blog for her post on the calculation side of 4 patch blocks to learn a bit more about these blocks :o)

xx Jess

Friday, 14 March 2014

Roundabout Quilt {Finished}

I am finally able to let the cat out of the bag for one of the secret projects I was working on in the middle of last year - my Roundabout quilt pattern appears in the latest Quilters Companion magazine, available now :o)

This quilt is 60" square, entirely paper pieced and caused me to question my sanity numerous times during it's construction. It is made using the gorgeous Schoenrock Cross block, which I fell in love with after making my cushion for the the tenth round of the pillow talk swap last year. And (hold onto your chairs) I simply quilted in the ditch for this one, no FMQ in sight! Having said that, I did free motion quilt in the ditch and there are a loooot of seams because of all the teeny piecing ;o)

I used a heap of favorite fabrics in this quilt - lots of Denyse Schmidt (mainly Chicopee and Shelburne Falls), Architextures and a few other coordinating prints from other collections. It is by far the most traditional and complex quilt I have made, and was gifted to my Mum last month for her 60th birthday. Happily, she loves it as much as I do.

I'm linking up with Crazy Mom Quilts since it is kind of a Friday finish, and with Kristy's paper piecing party ;o)

xx Jess

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Decipher Your Quilt: 2-Patch Blocks

It's that quilt deciphering time of the week again! I wanted to mention quickly that I have updated my post from last week in response to a few (no-reply blogger) questions left in the comments. Lots of you were interested in the non-slip stickers I use on my rulers, so I've added a photo of those, and gone into a bit more depth in some of the cutting information.

Today Leanne who blogs at She Can Quilt and I will both be talking about 2-patch blocks and some of the calculations you might encounter when working with these blocks. 2-patch quilt blocks are something you've probably made a thousand times - the humble half-square triangle (HST) block is a perfect example of a 2-patch. You will often find 2-patch units as part of more complex blocks, but they do stand alone as a block by themselves as well. The 2 patch blocks you will encounter most often are HSTs and square blocks made from two rectangles, so I will be talking specifically about the calculations pertaining to these blocks. There are a few other examples of 2 patch blocks, such as the Drunkards Path block, but Leanne will cover those in detail later in the series when we cover circles.

Although 2 patch blocks are simple to construct, they can both produce some pretty spectacular quilts. This first quilt was designed by Amanda Jean of Crazy Mom Quilts (free tutorial here), and it is completely constructed from rectangle-based blocks. This is a very clever way of creating a zig zag design without sewing any bias edges, and almost identical in design to one of the HST quilts in the mosaic below.

HSTs are found everywhere in quilting; there are some amazing quilts out there constructed entirely from these 2-patchs, but they are also a very important unit in countless other quilt blocks. When it comes to quilts made from HSTs, you only need search for HST quilts on Flickr to see the huge variety of quilts you can make from this block. The quilts in this mosaic are all HST quilts, and it hopefully gives you an idea of the type of quilts that are possible with HSTs.

1. HST quilt 3, 2. HST quilt layout, 3. HST Parisville Quilt - Le Mille, 4. Hullabaloo HST quilt, 5. Hst Quilt, 6. Daniel's quilt, 7. HST Warm Cool Quilt, 8. HST quilt top, 9. HST trip


Because you'll encounter them so often, it's useful to understand how to calculate what fabric you will need to make a given size HST. There are several methods for making HSTs, so I will talk through each of them and their calculations. First up though, there are a couple of points that relate to each of these methods
  •  I ALWAYS make my HSTs a bit bigger (about 1/8" or 1/4") than I need and then trim them down to size, so that my points are good. I do this regardless of the method I am using to make the HSTs, so all my calculations here will include this margin for error. I'm not sure if it's just me, but if I don't trim my HSTs my points end up pretty awful. 
  •  I press my seams open for HSTs, as I find it much easier to match my points and to end up with a flat block. 
  •  For each of these methods, I will be making 2" finished (2.5" unfinished) HSTs, but I will mention how to work out what sized squares to start with for other sized HSTs.

1. Traditional Method

This method involves cutting squares of fabric, then cutting the squares diagonally and sewing along the resulting bias edge. These squares should be 7/8" bigger than your required FINISHED size block - but I round this up to 1" bigger, since it gives a bit more wriggle room if you're not spot on with your seam. There is also something nice about cutting whole numbers, rather than teeny fractions :o)

For example, to make a 2" finished HST block, I would start with two 3" squares (one print, one background) and cut them diagonally...

... and then sew them together along the bias edge, and press the seam open ready to trim it to size. How you trim HSTs is critical - in the photo below you can see I have lined up the seam along the 45 degree line on my ruler. This needs to be lined up in order for your points to be accurate once the HST block is sewn together with other pieces. The other important thing to check here is that you have left sufficient fabric on the bottom and left hand sides to trim these sides as well. You can see here my 2.5" markings are sitting well over the fabric (in fact, I could move the ruler down and across to leave more fabric at the top of the block), so I will be able to do this. Trim the right hand side and top at this stage.

Next, turn your HST so that the squared edges are lying under your ruler, with the sides aligned with the markings on your ruler (in this case 2.5"), and that the 45 degree line is still lined up with the centre seam. You can now trim the remaining two sides as per step one.

I don't tend to use this method, as I avoid sewing raw bias edges whenever I can. It does give good results though, and the edges of the block follow the grain of the fabric, so when  multiple HSTs are sewn together you don't need to worry about bias edges.

2. HSTs 2 at a time 

This method involves cutting squares of fabric, marking the lighter fabric along the diagonal and sewing 1/4" away from the line on both sides. Again, the starting squares should be 7/8" bigger than your required FINISHED size block - but again, I round this up to 1" bigger.

For example, to make a 2" finished HST block, I would start with two 3" squares (one print, one background), and mark the diagonal on the wrong side of the lighter fabric. I just use a pencil or a normal ball point pen for marking these lines.

Sew along both sides of this line, using a scant 1/4" seam, and then cut along the marked line.

Press the seams open, and trim the HST as per the method above.

This method is normally my preferred method for a few reasons. I like that the edges of the block are on the grain, and that you produce two HSTs at a time. I realise some of the other methods yield more HSTs, but I tend to use a large variety of prints in my quilts, so two the same normally works better than four or eight. I also like that I can chain piece a bunch of these squares at a time.

3. HSTs 4 at a time

This method involves starting with 2 larger squares of fabric, sewing around the four edges and then cutting along both diagonals to produce four HSTs.

To figure out the size square you will need to start with for this method, you can use this little formula (which includes room to trim the HSTs down to size):

Starting Square Size = Unfinished HST Size / 0.6

So for this example, I want to make 2.5" unfinished HSTs.

Starting Square Size = 2.5/0.6 = 4.17

If you are left with a tricky number like this, ROUND UP to the nearest 1/4". So I would round 4.17 up to 4.25. I would be hesitant to round down, just in case it left you with too little fabric to trim them.

For example, to make a 2" finished HST block, I would start with two 4.25" squares (one print, one background).

To make HSTs using this method, place your two starting squares right sides together, and sew around all four edges. Cut the square along both diagonals, to produce four HST blocks, and trim down to size using the same method as before.

I must admit I really don't like this method. It is good in that you produce four HSTs at a time, but the edges of your block will all be bias edges (not something I like). I also find it quite difficult to sew around the edges of the squares accurately - I seem to get a lot of shifting as I sew and occasionally get puckers. But, a lot of people love this method, so if you've never tried it you might find you love it!

4. HSTs 8 at a Time

I first came across this method for HSTs after reading Lindsey's post on Sew Mama Sew. It is a great, fast way to produce a lot of HSTs. This method involves marking both diagonals, sewing 1/4" away from both lines and then cutting vertically, horizontally and along both diagonals. It is very similar to the HSTs 2 at a time method, but produces 8 HST blocks.

To figure out the size of your starting squares, you can use this formula:

Starting Square Size = (Finished HST size + 1) x 2

It is important to calculate the part inside the brackets first, and then multiply by 2. For example, I will be making 2.5" unfinished HSTs, so

Starting Square Size = (2 + 1) x 2 = 3 x 2 = 6"

So to produce eight 2" finished (2.5" unfinished) HSTs, I would start with two 6" squares of fabric (one print, one background), and mark both diagonals on the wrong side of the lighter fabric and then sew 1/4" away from both sides of both of these lines.

Once these are sewn, mark both the vertical and horizontal lines that run through the centre of the block, and cut along all four of these marked lines. Press your seams and trim as per the method shown above. 

There are also paper templates (thangles) and specialty rulers available that are designed to make HST block construction easier. Although I haven't personally used any tools like this, I have heard great things about thangles and bloc loc rulers in particular.


The maths involved in making rectangle based blocks is fairly straight forward. The critical point to remember is that when doing quilt block calculations, you need to remember that you will lose 1/4" on each side of each piece of fabric when they are sewn together. So if you're starting with a 5" square, you will lose 1/4" off all four sides and it will end up 4.5" square once it is sewn into a block. Whenever you are calculating fabric sizes for any block, you will need to add 1/2" to all finished measurements to account for your seam allowances.

So to make a 6" finished block (6.5" unfinished) composed of two equal rectangles:

The long side of each rectangle will be the finished measurement plus 1/2" - so in this case 6 + 1/2" = 6.5".

The short side of each rectangle will be the finished measurement divided by 2, plus 1/2". ie 6/2 + 1/2" = 3.5".

I will send you over to Leanne's excellent post on rectangle blocks, and some of the patterns you can create using these simple blocks.


I first tried to make these blocks back when Jess and I ran our sampler QAL, and they caused no end of headaches. In the end, the only way I could figure out how to make them so that my points were okay was to draw up paper templates and paper piece them.

For example, for a 6" x 3" finished half-rectangle triangle block, I would draw a 6" x 3" rectangle on paper, and mark the diagonal. This does NOT include seam allowance, so I would cut my template 1/4" away from each edge when trimming. I would love to hear if anyone has an easier way to make these and still get the points to line up :o)

If you would like to practice some of these HST methods and still make something lovely, Leanne has written a fabulous tutorial for a tote bag that uses HSTs. You could also choose one of the many HST based blocks Jess and I wrote tutorials for for our QAL - this would be a good opportunity to practice re-sizing HST blocks. If you do make anything using our tutorials this week, please add it to the Flickr group or use the #decipheryourquilt hashtag on Instagram.

xx Jess