Cow Block

I’ve had several people ask me about the cow block, so I decided to share the pattern. This is a fairly complex paper pieced block, so if you’ve never tried paper piecing (foundation piecing) before, you might want to start with something a little more basic. Okay, a LOT more basic. Like this:

If you click on the image, you’ll open a PDF of the foundations (two to a page).

To try something just a little more interesting, try the heart blocks (also posted on my Patterns page). All Heart Blocks finish at 6″.

Basic Heart Braided Heart Crazy Heart Horizontal Heart Log Cabin Heart Rail Fence Heart Rays Heart Short Striped Heart Striped Heart

Or, if you’re ready to jump in with the cow block, click on the image below for the PDF. You will need to foundation piece several separate sections, then put those sections together to form the cow. Each section is numbered with the order to add pieces.

Use your favorite paper piecing method, or download my freezer paper piecing tutorial. Of course, foundation piecing is a topic we’ll cover in future Skill Builder posts.


Cow and Baskets

A blogging friend, Nancy Near Philadelphia, is collecting blocks for a COW quilt. I live in Wisconsin, the Dairy State, Cheesehead Central, so of course I had to participate. She asked what I wanted in return, and at first I was going to say nothing, but then I remembered that she’d participated in the Basket Block of the Month, and had even created an extra, thirteenth basket. What could be more perfect than a Nancy Basket block from Nancy herself? She sent this beautiful block made from French General fabrics. I love the subtlety of the small basket within the larger one.

Nancy's Basket Block

I knew right away that I wanted to foundation piece the block, so I looked for patterns. Unfortunately the only one I found wasn’t quite what I was looking for. Next step – find a photo to copy! I saved several photos and finally chose this one. I opened it in EQ7 as a tracing image and then started drawing straight lines to divide it up into paper-pieceable sections. While I love the way the cow looks, if I make it again I’ll try to refine the sections a bit so it isn’t as choppy. Here’s the finished block:

Blue Cow

Actually, that’s not quite what I sent to Nancy. See, I trimmed it after I took this photo and accidentally chopped too much off one side. In order to make it 12 1/2″ I had to sew a strip of white on three sides. Believe me, there was much forehead-smacking. I also forgot to sign it, which she clearly requested and I clearly knew, as evidenced by the post it note on my computer. More forehead-smacking.

I love this guy’s face! In fact, I’m planning on making four more in various colors (and slightly larger) and turning it into an Andy Warhol-inspired wall quilt. Something like this:

Cow Quilt

Thanks, Nancy, for the inspiration!

If anyone is interested in making this block, you can download it from my Patterns page.

Giveaway Winner

Congratulations to the giveaway winner – Beth @ Wandering Minstrel!

I had a lot of wonderful entries and I’m so glad this decision was made by the Random Number Generator. If I’d had to chose based on stories told, I’d still be deciding. As it is, I was surprised to learn that I’ve actually met the winner! Funny how my last giveaways went to Canada and France, and this one is going 20 miles away. Beth, I’ll contact you to make arrangements for receiving your new UFO!

Baby Thistle Quilt

PM/GC Quilts Skill Builder Series: Part 8A – Flying Geese

Welcome back! This time around, Jeanne and I will show you several different methods for constructing Flying Geese. Be sure to check out Jeanne’s post. The method she will demonstrate is my favorite method for making Flying Geese, and it’s pretty slick!

Between the two of us we’ll show your four different methods. You need to make a total of eight Flying Geese units that you will assemble into a block called the Flying Dutchman. The final block will finish at 12″ (12 1/2″ unfinished) so each Flying Geese unit will finish at 6″ x 3″ (6 1/2″ x 3 1/2″ unfinished). Use whichever technique(s) you’d like to make the units.

Please review the Quarter Inch Seam post for details about cutting and sewing accurately.

I’m going to show you the traditional method, which involves cutting triangles then sewing them back together. I have a lot of experience with this method – my first “on my own” quilt (that is, the first one outside of the sampler I made in my quilting class) consisted of columns of Flying Geese alternating with long strips. It was inspired by an illustration in the children’s book The Quiltmaker’s Gift written by Jeff Brumbeau and illustrated by Gail de Marcken. This is a fantastic book – the illustrations are incredible, and there are two pattern books – Quilts from the Quiltmaker’s Gift and More Quilts from the Quiltmaker’s Gift, both by Joanne Larsen Line – that are some of the best I’ve seen. They’re very accessible for beginners – in fact, several of the quilts were made by children.

Anyway, back on track! Here’s my original Flying Geese quilt, titled Wild Goose Chase:

11 I made It - Wild Goose Chase

Technically, a Wild Goose Chase quilt has a different layout, but there’s a family story behind it so I used the name anyway. As this was my first quilt, I did a terrible job with the quilting (just a few straight lines). It looks pretty good despite that, and you’d never guess the agony I went through when I made the thing. My columns looked like the geese were trying to make a U turn! I made it work and the strips between helped straighten them out. It was partly the sewing method and partly my own inexperience, but I muddled through anyway, and I’m glad I did. I still love this quilt, warts and all.

Method 1 – Traditional

Flying Geese are made of three right triangles. For those who have forgotten Geometry class, right triangles have one “right” or 90 degree angle (shaped like an L) and two smaller angles. If you start with a square, the two smaller angles are 45 degrees. Although all three triangles are the same shape, they are not cut the same. The “sky” triangles are made by cutting a square in half diagonally. The “goose” triangle is made by cutting a larger square in quarters diagonally.

So why are those triangles cut differently? Let’s review a bit about bias edges. When you cut a square, all four edges are on the straight of grain, and are fairly stable. They don’t stretch too much or too easily. If you cut a square in half diagonally, the diagonal edge is on the bias which stretches a lot and very easily. When you’re making blocks you want the exposed, unsewn fabric at the edges of the block to be on the straight of grain. Blocks are often assembled over a period of time and collected until you have enough to sew into a quilt. You want them to be as sturdy as possible so they aren’t distorted when you handle them.

Back to the triangles – the sky pieces are a square cut diagonally once, so they have one stretchy edge and two stable edges. The goose piece is a square cut diagonally twice, in quarters, so each triangle has TWO stretchy edges and one stable edge. When you put the pieces together to form the Flying Geese unit, you’ll sew the stretchy edges together, stabilizing the bias with the seam. All four outside edges of the unit are on the straight of grain and are less prone to stretching.

The magic numbers for figuring out what size to cut your squares is 7/8″ for the sky and
1 1/4″ for the goose. For the sky pieces, start with the smaller measurement of the finished unit and add 7/8″. For the goose, start with the larger measurement of the finished unit and add 1 1/4″. If you’ve been reading my Skill Builder posts, however, you know I prefer to cut a little larger then trim to size, so I cut my sky 1″ larger and my geese 1 1/2″ larger.

In order to create one 6″ x 3″ finished Flying Geese unit, you’ll need one sky square cut at 4″ (or two, if you want to use different fabrics on either side of the goose) and one goose square cut at 7 1/2″. (Full disclosure – for this sample I accidentally cut my large square at 7 1/4″, so trimming was a little tight.) Cut the sky square(s) in half diagonally, and cut the goose square in quarters diagonally. Lay out the pieces so you can see how they will go together.

Flip one sky piece over onto the goose piece, aligning the bottom corners. The top sky corner will extend well past the goose edge – that’s okay, you’ll trim the excess here.

Place the fabric under the presser foot, sliding the fabric forward enough that the tip of the triangle is well over the feed dogs.

Remember, this is a bias edge so sew carefully, just guiding the fabric and letting the feed dogs do the work. Don’t hold the fabric down because the feed dogs will pull and stretch it. Once it’s sewn the seam will stabilize the bias, but you should still be careful when pressing because the other bias edge is still exposed.

Lift and press with the iron, don’t push it over the fabric. Press your seams open if you prefer, but I nearly always press my Flying Geese to the side. You hear about pressing to the darker fabric, and if there is no benefit to pressing one way or the other, that’s what I do. However, with Flying Geese you can create a magic spot with the seam intersections that helps keep your points intact. (I’ll show you the magic spot later in the post.) If you press to the side, always press to the sky.

Place the second sky piece on the goose, again aligning the bottom corners and letting the top corner extend past the edge.

When you place this under the presser foot, put the seam side up so you have a smooth surface going across the feed dogs. Slide the fabric forward so it rests over the feed dogs. See how the two sky pieces make a Y shaped notch? That’s where your needle should go.

Sew, again gently guiding the fabric and not pulling or pushing it to avoid stretching the bias, and press toward the sky if you are pressing to the side.

If you cut the pieces a little larger, now you need to trim it to size. Look at the piece – there’s only one seam intersection that you need to worry about (the point at the top). If you trim that edge so it is exactly 1/4″ past the point, you should have no problem with floating or cut off points when you sew it into a block. That needs to be the center point, so be sure to measure from the center out when you trim your sides. The piece should be 6 1/2″ x 3 1/2″, so I placed the ruler with the intersection of the 1/4″ and 3 1/4″ lines right on the point. The 3 1/2″ mark at the bottom lines up with the long edge. (Since I cut my goose fabric at 7 1/4″ instead of at 7 1/2″, I don’t have any room to trim at the bottom, wide part of the goose. If I’d cut it large, I could also trim here.)

Trim the excess fabric on all four sides. Both fabrics should extend to the bottom corners. Mine doesn’t one one side, but I can live with the amount that it’s off. If I’d cut it larger I could have fixed this during trimming.

Here’s your finished Flying Geese unit:

If you flip it over, you can see that “magic spot” I talked about. When you sew this to another piece of fabric, you’ll sew just a hair above the place where the threads cross.

Method 2 – Squares

The second method for Flying Geese is easier because it does not require you to deal with exposed bias edges. Instead of cutting the triangles, you sew two squares to a rectangle and then cut off the excess. Depending on the size of the pieces, you may want to sew a second line on each corner, creating half square triangles out of the excess fabric. This may not be feasible for very small pieces, and so the method can result in some wasted fabric.

In this case, figuring out the size of your pieces is very easy – if you Flying Geese unit finishes at 6″ x 3″ (unfinished at 6 1/2″ x 3 1/2″), you cut a rectangle of goose fabric at 6 1/2″ x 3 1/2″ and two squares of the sky fabric at 3 1/2″. If you want to cut these larger and trim later you may, but I don’t usually find it necessary.

Draw a diagonal line on the back of each square. If you are going to sew a second line and save the half square triangles, draw a second line 1/2″ to the outside of the center line. (Note: When you sew half square triangles, you draw a center line and then another line 1/4″ on either side of center. The two outside lines are for sewing and the center is for cutting. For the Flying Geese units, you will sew the line that runs corner to corner.)

Sew on the lines.

If you have a seam guide you may choose not to draw the sewing lines (this is easier with smaller pieces). Put the point under the needle and line up the opposite point with the sewing line on your seam guide. Sew, watching the point nearest you – keep it on the sewing line.

If your seam guide has markings for 1/2″ on either side of the sewing line you can do the same thing with the second seam, lining up the point with the 1/2″ marking on your seam guide.

Cut off the corners, setting aside the half square triangles for another project.

Press to the sky fabric using the same instructions as in the first method. Sew the second sky square in the same manner. Because you need to put the fabric with the drawn line on top, be aware of the seam allowance on the back, making sure it doesn’t fold down when you sew it.

You’ll notice I had some trouble with the corners getting chewed by the sewing machine.

Melinda of quirky granola girl pointed out that she sometimes uses a little piece of tear away foundation paper as a leader/ender when she has to feed a point into the machine. I tried doing the same with a small sticky note and it worked well. When you’re sewing the second sky piece, you can turn the piece around and the fabric extending from the top will protect the point.

Trim the corner just like the first side and press to the sky fabric.

Your Flying Geese unit is finished!

Just like Method 1, the intersecting seam lines show where to sew the component to another piece so you don’t cut off the points.

Method 3 – One Seam (Dimensional)

The last method is… unusual. It’s one part gimmick, one part ridiculously easy, one part wasteful and one part designer-friendly. I saw it demonstrated in the sample video over at The Quilt Show (with Alex Anderson and Ricky Tims) and was amazed at how quick and easy it was to make a Flying Geese unit. This creates a dimensional unit, with little pockets on each side of the goose.

For each Flying Geese unit, cut two squares (sky) and one rectangle (goose). The squares should be 1/2” larger than the finished height of your Flying Geese unit, so for a 6″ x 3″ finished Flying Geese unit, the squares should be cut at 3 1/2″. Cut the rectangle the same width (3 1/2″) and 1/2” shorter than the total of the two squares. In this case, the rectangle will be 6 1/2″ (3 1/2 + 3 1/2 = 7, and 7 – 1/2 = 6 1/2). (Yes, these are the same measurements we used in Method 2.)

Fold the rectangle in half, WRONG sides together, and place on a sky piece, RIGHT sides together. The fold should be toward you, and the top two corners should line up. There should be a 1/4″ space between the fold and the edge of the sky square.

Place the second sky square on top, RIGHT sides together, lining up the four corners.

Sew the right edge of the sandwich using a scant 1/4″ seam.

If you flip the top sky square back it should look like this:

Turn the unit over and press the seam open, creating a little arrow at the top. Pressing the back first makes the next step easier. (By the way, that arrow points to where you would sew when you put the units together into a project.)

Flip it back over and open the center piece, spreading it…

…and pulling the center fold line down to meet the seam line.

Press, making sure the points align at the corners. That quickly you have a Flying Geese unit!

You can use them as you would any other Flying Geese. Here they are in a quilt I called “Flying by the Seat of My Pants” (a swap quilt that introduced me to Karrie Lynne of Freckled Whimsy):

Modify Tradition Swap

You could even take this a step further and turn back the dimensional edge to form a curve. Here are two Flying Geese, the top with the edges curved back and stitched, the bottom just a regular dimensional goose.

One Seam Dimensional Flying Geese with a Twist

Whew! That’s a lot of poultry, and there’s still one more – the best one – to come over on Jeanne’s blog, Grey Cat Quilts!

Flying Dutchman Block

The Flying Dutchman block consists of eight Flying Geese assembled into four sets of two. You can play with color placement to create secondary patterns, as I did in my sample, or you can use just two different fabrics, one for sky and one for geese. If you are creating a secondary pattern, lay out the Flying Geese so you can watch your fabric placement.

Sew the Flying Geese together into four sets of two. As you cross the seams, use the seam line intersection point as a guide for where to sew (just at the tip of the point).

Pressing gets interesting here. If you’ve chosen to press open, continue of course. But if you’ve been pressing to the side, you need to decide which way to press from this point forward. If you press the way that the fabric wants to go, the goose points will lay flatter but you will not be able to see the point where the seams intersect when you sew the rest of the pieces together.

The unit on the left is pressed so it will lay flatter, and the unit on the right is pressed so you can see the seam intersection points. There isn’t a right or wrong answer here – you need to decide what’s best for you. Personally, I like my points to be as precise as I can get them so I decided to press like the unit on the right.

Move your units to your sewing machine…

…and flip the top right unit over the top left unit.

Normally I’d tell you to keep it facing the same direction when you sew, but because I went to the effort of pressing so I can see the seam intersections, I need to flip it over so they’re visible.

Sew, watching your seam intersections.

Continue pressing based on the decision you made above. I’m still pressing to the points so I can see the seam intersections.

Sew, again watching the seam intersection points. You won’t be able to see the first one since it’s on the bottom, but the center point and the third intersection are both visible.

Press your final block, opening the center point like we did on the Half Square Triangle Pinwheel block.

Trim to 12 1/2″, if necessary, and you’re done!

I want to point out one thing on the finished block. Notice how I used directional fabric for the geese. When I used Method 1, cutting the square in quarters, I ended up with geese that had the fabric running different directions (the red background). Method 2, starting with rectangles, keeps the fabric running the same direction (the white background). Keep that in mind if you’re using directional fabrics.

Sew, Mama, Sew! Giveaway Day

Today is Sew, Mama, Sew’s Giveaway Day, so be sure to stop by their blog and see the list of bloggers hosting giveaways.

My giveaway is a little unusual and there’s a story behind it. I’m giving away a UFO and coordinating fabric for a baby quilt. The fabric is Oh Baby! by Sandy Gervais for Moda, and there are two yards plus another 12″ width of fabric of the green print, 32″ of the cream print, and one yard of the purple print. There are 25 half square triangles that need to be pressed and trimmed. The rest of the quilt is almost finished – a center “thistle” block, four corner blocks, and four pieced flying geese side sections. You just need to add a strip of fabric on each side (I planned on using the cream print) and you’d have a small square baby quilt. I was also going to add a row of half square triangles at the top and bottom, but you’d need to make a few more HSTs if you want to do that. This is not from a pattern – I think I found the center block somewhere, then designed the rest of the quilt around it. I’ll send the EQ illustration with it so you have a “map” of the finished quilt.

Baby Thistle Quilt

Now for the story…

I started this quilt several years ago. Actually, this is the first of two similar quilts I was making for my boss and his wife. They were expecting twins, she was Scottish, and I thought a thistle theme was appropriate. I was late finishing it, as usual, and he fired me before I gave them the quilts. Yeah. Wasn’t really gonna give them the gift after that, you know?

Baby Thistle Quilt Fabrics

I set the project aside for a while, then got the news that my cousin was pregnant with twins. How fortuitous! I pulled out the project and worked on it a little more, nearly finishing the first quilt. Sadly, my cousin delivered the twins extremely early, and the boys only lived a couple of days. Again, the project was packed away. (For those who are wondering, my cousin and her husband just celebrated the baptism of a new baby girl!)

Baby Thistle Quilt

The project has such negative memories for me that I don’t anticipate ever completing it, and even if I did, I wouldn’t want to give it to anyone. Not everyone has the same history with it that I do, though, and I hope that someone would like to finish it and give it a happy memory.

Thistle Baby Quilt

If you’d like to win this giveaway please leave a comment on this post telling me a happy baby story. I’ll chose the winner through random drawing, so if you don’t have a story, tell me what you’d do with it if you won, or just say “I’d love to give this quilt a happy memory.” The giveaway ends on May 25 and is open to international readers. I won’t ask you to jump through any hoops – just one entry per person. I’ll ship to the winner by May 30.

Comments are closed – congratulations to Beth @ Wandering Minstrel!

PM/GC Quilts Skill Builder Series: Part 7 – Quarter Square Triangles

Welcome back for the next entry in the Piecemeal Quilts/Grey Cat Quilts Skill Builder Series! I hope you’ve enjoyed reading the series so far as much as Jeanne and I have enjoyed writing it. This time around I’m talking about Quarter Square Triangles, or QSTs.

Before I get started, I’d like to show you why sometimes it takes me a little longer to accomplish things than I’d like.

Buttercup Helping 5

Buttercup likes to “help” me. I put her on the floor after each of these pictures. In one case she was back on the table before I stood up.

Buttercup Helping 4

Buttercup Helping 3

Buttercup Helping 2

Buttercup Helping 1

Finally, she moved to the quilting frame. I don’t usually like to let the cats do this, but today I was happy that she left me alone.

Buttercup Helping 8

Besides, how ‘dorable is this?

Buttercup Helping 7

Okay, back on track…

Method 1 – Traditional

The traditional method for piecing QSTs involves cutting two (or more) square in quarters diagonally, then sewing the individual pieces back together. The formula for cutting the squares is your finished size (the size the square finishes at once it’s been sewn into a block or quilt) plus 1 1/4″.

Although this method wastes little fabric in theory, it is also require greater accuracy in cutting and sewing. If you decide to use this method, I recommend wasting a little fabric and cutting your squares at finished size plus 1 1/2″, then trimming your finished unit to size.

I started with four different 5″ squares, stacked on top of each other (I actually cut the squares with the fabrics stacked so they are exactly the same, and they’re already lined up perfectly).

Cut the squares diagonally. Notice how the 45 degree line on the ruler lines up with the bottom edge of the squares and the edge of the ruler goes from corner to corner? You don’t have to use the 45 degree line, but it is a nice way to make sure that you cut squares instead of rectangles. If you’ve every accidentally cut a 5″ x 5 1/4″ “square” you’ll understand what I’m talking about.

Do not pull the triangles apart – turn the ruler and cut the other diagonal.

Now you can separate your triangles. The diagonals you cut exposed the bias edges of the fabric (for more on bias, check out Jeanne’s Fabric Fundamentals post). Bias is stretchy, much more so than the straight of grain, so whenever you have an exposed bias edge you need to handle it carefully. Don’t pull on your fabric and don’t push your iron across it.

Lay out your four triangles to form the QST. Value is usually important here, so try to alternate lighter and darker fabrics. You can also use contrasting colors or prints and solids to emphasize the different pieces.

Turn the two right triangles over and place them on the two left triangles. Be aware of which edges you need to sew!

Although it would make sense to put the pointy end of the top triangle through the machine first…

…I like to flip the piece over (still making sure which edge you need to sew) and start on the square edge. Sometimes the machine gets hungry and pulls that point into the feed dogs, causing a thread snarl. Because one of those edges is a bias, you can easily distort the fabric when this happens.

Repeat with the second set of triangles, then press. (In this case I pressed to the darker fabrics, but you should press the top half one direction and the bottom half the other direction, unless you choose to press the seams open, which I’ll get into in the next section.)

Place the two halves right sides together, aligning the long edge and pinching the seams between your fingers to make sure they’re nested tightly together.

(I probably should have pinned here, but the results aren’t too bad.)

The long edge that you’re going to sew is also a bias edge, so try not to stretch it. This time you’ll have to put the pointy end through, so to minimize the chance of the feed dogs eating your point, lift the presser foot and slip the fabric under it…

…then put the presser foot down on top of the fabric. The point is past the leading edge of the feed dogs and the edge of the fabric is just in front of the needle.

Sew, press, and you have a nearly finished QST! I say nearly finished because you still have to trim it, but I explained that in detail in the next section so I won’t repeat it here. By the way, if you look closely, you can see that my seam intersections aren’t quite as nice as I’d like – they’re certainly good enough, but I can do better. That’s caused by a combination of my neglecting to pin the two pieces, and sewing across the seam with the seam allowance pressed toward me (again, I explain this in greater detail below).

Of course I now have a lot of extra triangles with exposed bias edges that I really should use soon. I don’t like having triangles in my scrap bin because the bias edges distort so easily.

This method isn’t really all that difficult, although I struggled with it initially. The most important thing I can emphasize is cut bigger, then trim to size. Yes, it wastes fabric, and yes, it is an extra step, but I’ve found that it reduces frustration and time overall because it is more accurate.

Method 2

There is, however, an easier way. In fact, the only time I would use Method 1 is if I needed to make only one QST unit that had four different fabrics, and I didn’t care if I had a bunch of extra bias-edge-exposed triangles left over. In other words, almost never.

The trick is to start with half square triangles using your favorite method from our first Skill Builder posts. You’ll need to make these a little larger than you would for just HSTs, so add 1/2″ to the finished size of the HSTs. For example, if you want to make 4″ finished QSTs, follow the instructions to make 4 1/2″ finished HSTs.

Using this method, you’ll need at least two HSTS, which will make two QSTs. Fortunately, most blocks that have quarter square triangle units use them in multiples of two, so it works out well.

I’ll demonstrate using the HST method that starts with two squares. In this case, I want to make a 5″ finished QST (that is, it will measure 5″ when it is sewn into a quilt, and 5 1/2″ when it is a separate QST) so I cut two 6 1/2″ squares. (And yes, Buttercup was still helping at this point.)

Draw a diagonal line on the back of one square, then draw another line 1/4″ to each side of that line. Once you’re comfortable with this method, you can eliminate the center diagonal line and just place the 1/4″ line of the ruler on that center diagonal, as I did in these photos.

(Here’s where a ceramic pencil comes in handy – the white line is thin, easy to see and doesn’t require a lot of pressure.)

Place the two squares right sides together and sew just a hair to the center of each line.

Cut on the center line (or where the center line would be if you didn’t draw one). By the way – you just exposed a bias edge, but it doesn’t really matter because you’ve already sewn the pieces together, and the seam keeps the bias from stretching. Another reason to like this method!

Draw a diagonal line on the back of HALF of your HST units, crossing the seam. Measure 1/4″ to each side of the drawn line and draw two more lines. As you can see in the photo, the white line didn’t show up very well on the print fabric, so I used a regular pencil for half of the lines.

Place two HSTs right sides together (one with the lines, one without), with the seams running the same direction. If you are using a background fabric or light/dark values, you want the background (or light) to match up with the print (or dark) on the opposite HST. (I took this photo before I drew the lines – whoops!)

If you pressed your seam allowances to the side, make sure they nest together tightly at the center point. Press on the fabric to feel if there are any lumps or gaps.

Pressing to the side creates a little bulk in the center, but I find that my seam intersections are more accurate with that nesting effect on certain components – QSTs especially. If you prefer to press your seam allowances open, make sure your seams match along the entire length but especially at the very center. It wouldn’t hurt to pin on either side of the center point.

Sew just to the center of each outside line. You’ll be able to trim these to size later, but it is a good idea to stay in the habit of creating “scant” quarter inch seams. With seams pressed to the side, try to sew across them so the seam pressed away from you is on top.

There are two benefits to this – first, if the seam pressed away from you is on the bottom it increases the likelihood that it will catch on the plate of your machine before going under the needle, potentially flipping one or both layers back. Second, the presser foot pushes the nested seam tighter together. If you sewed it in the opposite direction, the presser foot would push the top layer away from the seam intersection rather than toward it, potentially creating a little gap at the points.

Cut along the center line and press the two units. See how the center intersections are all nice and tight? That’s thanks to the tightly nested seams.

Here’s an example with seams pressed open. I pinned the intersection, but I found this more difficult and time consuming than nesting the seams. Sometimes open is great, sometimes I definitely prefer pressing to the side.

I made every effort to sew this accurately, so the slight gaps are not deliberate. You CAN make a neat, accurate QST with seams pressed open, just expect to take a little extra time lining things up.

Here’s an example where the seams weren’t nested tightly because I put them through the machine backward.

Of course, they look worse than they really are because the finished square are very small!

After you’ve sewn the units, you need to trim them to size. It’s an extra step created by cutting the squares slightly larger than necessary, but you’d have to trim the dog ears anyway, so it doesn’t take that much longer. In this photo you can see that the QST unit is 5 3/4″, when we need it to be 5 1/2″.

When you trim your QST units, you MUST measure them from the center point out, NOT from one edge to the other edge.
This requires a little math, but it’s pretty simply. Just divide the unfinished size of the QST (in this case, 5 1/2″) by 2. For this unit that equals 2 3/4″. Find that measurement on your ruler in both directions and put that over the center point of your block. Make sure the 45 degree line on your ruler lines up with the diagonal seam on your QST.

Trim the excess fabric on the first two sides, then turn the QST around, measure 5 1/2″ from the trimmed corner, again making sure your 45 degree line on your ruler lines up with the seam and the 2 3/4″ point is on the center intersecting point, then trim the last two sides. Your QST is finished!

Using QSTs in Blocks

QSTs look fantastic all by themselves, laid out with a 1/4 rotation on alternating blocks.

With a light/dark contrast or background/print fabrics, this is often referred to as an hourglass block. Here I used it to create a couple of baby quilts. (I sent the first quilt off without getting a photo of it quilted. Whoops!)


Hourglass for Allison

You can see a secondary pinwheel on point pattern where the blocks come together.

Another very common traditional block that uses QST units is the Ohio Star. Here’s one example, using Method 2. It went together like a dream!

Everything Old is New Again

And another that splits the blocks diagonally into light and dark halves. This was made using Method 1 back before I knew better.

Ohio Shadows

So, are you ready to tackle a quarter square triangle now? Or have you been making them for ages? Let me know if you have any tips or tricks to add!