TYSS: Turnstile fillers

The Turnstile block is a cross between a half square triangle (HST) and a quarter square triangle (QST). It’s very easy to make, with one little qualification: You can’t make just one block, and I don’t mean that in the sense of Lays potato chips (“You can’t eat just one”). You have to make two blocks at a time, and they will spin in opposite directions. (Okay, to be fair, you CAN make just one block, but the piecing will look better if you do two.) Here’s how!

There are six blocks in this quilt, two that finish at 8″ and four that finish at 4″. In the white and bright version, the 8″ blocks are blue, two 4″ blocks are blue, and two 4″ blocks are purple. NOTE: One of the 4″ blocks is not sewn completely! Watch for this in the instructions.


As I said, the Turnstile is a combination of a HST and a QST. The HST part is obvious in the construction, but the QST is important because of fabric measurements. When you create HSTs, you cut your squares at the finished size plus 7/8″ (or round up, like I do, to 1 1/4″). When you create QSTs, you cut your squares at the finished size plus 1 1/4″ (again, I round up to 1 1/2″). Because the small triangles of the Turnstile block are the same as a QST, you’ll use those measurements. Confused yet?

8″ Blocks

Two blocks in the same color
Cut (2) 5 1/2″ background squares
Cut (2) 5 1/2″ color squares
Cut (4) 5 1/4″ background squares

Draw diagonal lines 1/4″ to either side of center on the back of your background squares.

Place a background 5 1/2 square right sides together with a color square and sew on or just inside the drawn lines.

Cut between the sewn lines and press (I pressed to the dark; you may prefer to press the seams open).

Place one of the 5 1/4″ background squares right sides together on each of the HST units. Make sure the drawn lines are crossing the seam.

Sew on both diagonal lines. Since the seam is on the bottom as it goes through the machine, I prefer to sew with the seam pressed toward me so it doesn’t catch on the bed of the machine and flip back. It looks a little odd on one of the passes (see below), but because the line is there as a guide, it works fine.

Cut between the lines again and press.  You will have two identical sets of four “Y” units. This is why I prefer to two two blocks at a time – each original color square produces two of each Y unit.

Trim the units to 4 1/2″. Line up the diagonal line on your ruler with the seam line, and measure from the center point (red arrow) . Half of 4 1/2 is 2 1/4, so your center point should be where the 2 1/4″ lines intersect on your ruler.

Lay out four identical Y units, rotating each a quarter turn to create the Turnstile block. See how the corner triangles are on the outside corners? It’s more symmetrical and, to me, more attractive.

If you used two of each Y unit (which is what you’d have with just one color square), you can still create the Turnstile block but the large triangles aren’t all on the outside (red lines added for emphasis).

Here’s what it would look like if you used all four Y units from a single fabric and put the large corners on the outside.

When you’re using a solid fabric it isn’t such a big deal, but if this were a print it might be more obvious. This block also looks nice with a third fabric forming the outer triangles (it looks like a pinwheel in a diamond). In that case you absolutely much create two blocks at a time.

Sew your blocks together as you would a four patch, then press. Here are your two blocks!

4″ Blocks

Four blocks, two each in the same color
Cut (4) 3 1/2″ background squares
Cut (4) 3 1/2″ color squares, two in each color
Cut (8) 3 1/4″ background squares

Follow the instructions above, trimming your Y units to 2 1/2″ with the center point at 1 1/4″. When you assemble your final blocks, one block should be left partially unsewn. Do not sew the final seam, leaving it in two sections.

Any questions? I know I’ve been behind on providing instructions for the blocks on this Test Your Skills Sampler, but we’re on the downhill side! There’s just one more filler block (the Variable Star, one of the most versatile and easily personalized blocks available), then five more blocks!


One comment

  1. Just finished them and they were really quick and easy to do with your great instructions! Now, I just need to go back and redo Fifty Four Forty or Fight which I completely messed up!

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