Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Tips & Tricks ~ March 2011

This was originally posted March 1st, but somehow it was deleted by Blogger on March 8th. I am reposting tonight – sorry for any inconvenience!

Yay – it’s March and we’re up to block #3 in our quilt along. How are you doing so far? This month we’ll chat about two basics in piecing – the 4-patch unit and the half-square triangle (HST) unit.

Our second block is Buckeye Beauty. Fun, scrappy simple block that looks spectacular in a quilt top. Pop over to Quilter’s Cache’s block and see the scrappy goodness they put together. NOTE: I modified these directions for the quilt along, so don’t try to follow those from Quilter’s Cache. They’re fine, but different than mine, ‘kay?

Please read thru the directions to the end first, and then start your block.

Pick out your fabrics (remember, I am pulling from my stash) – here is what I used:

  • Lights – from 4 lights cut 1 each 3 1/2” square (I used leftover charm squares) AND cut 2 each 7” squares
  • Darks – from 4 darks cut 1 each 3 1/2” square (I used leftover charm squares) AND from 2 darks cut 1 each 7” squares


Cut to size…


Last month we did speed strip piecing, this month we’re not. We’ll be constructing the 4-patch the traditional way. TIP #1: This one seems so obvious, but when you’re working with lots of fabric pieces, it comes in handy.  When you’re piecing squares together for four- or nine-patch blocks, always place the same fabric shade (light, medium, or dark) on top – I always put the dark fabric on top and then sew the seam. This helps keep me organized when doing large projects, and it seems there is always a dark fabric in just about everything I piece.

TIP #2: Chain piecing uses less thread and is very speedy! I may have already used this tip, but it’s a good reminder {wink}.


See? Dark fabric on top, and I’m chain piecing.


Press to the dark fabric. TIP #3: Yup, used this tip last month, but it’s a goodie…Measure across your unit now. Does it measure 6 ½” x 3 ½” ? If not, your ¼” seam just isn’t right. Try again. If you don’t get it right now, the whole block will be off. 


Now sew your units into 4-patches as I’ve shown above. Your seams should be opposing, making it super easy to match them.


Ta da! Two lovely 4-patches. These beauties should measure 6 ½” square and will be two of the four corners you need for your block.

Next, we’ll piece the half-square triangles. TIP #4: Everywhere you’ll see the abbreviation HST. That stands for Half-Square Triangle and is pretty commonplace nowadays in the quilting world. Many designers use it without explaining it – kinda like we all know that when you ask for a Kleenex you’ll be handed a facial tissue.

Now, confession time…I really use to struggle with these little babies. I didn’t realize it, because when it comes to worrying about bias edges and all that, I’m pretty relaxed. There is the traditional way to piece HSTs which involves cutting a square and then cutting that square into triangles, thus exposing the bias edge (the long stretchy edge). When you sew two bias edges together you run the BIG risk of stretching them and getting a wonky HST.

About a year ago, I was introduced to a wonderful ruler that simplified the process, and in using it I’ve been successful in all of my HSTs. They can be done without this ruler of course, but TIP #5 states “if you find something that works, use it!


Here is the ruler – it’s the June Taylor Perfect Half-Square & Quarter-Square Triangle Ruler (yup, it helps you do both!) Your local quilt store, Jo-Ann’s, and Wal-Mart may all carry it. I asked my quilt store to order it in for me, and they showed me how to use it, bonus!

I’ll show you how I make my HSTs with this tool, but also talk about how to make them without it. Sound okay?


First, place a 7” light square right side down on your cutting mat. Place the ruler over that lining up the marking from top corner to bottom corner. Using your pencil, follow the openings and mark 1/4” away from the center point. (Without this tool, use a 6”x12” cutting ruler. Mark a center line from top to bottom corner. Then mark lines on either side of that 1/4” away). TIP #6: Placing the fabric on your cutting mat helps prevent it from shifting under the pencil as you draw your lines.


These are your sewing lines (you’ll sew right on top of them).


Place this light fabric together with a dark 7” square right sides together and sew along your sewing lines. I have a 1/4” foot in which I can use the notch as a guide for a straight seam. Do this for both dark/light 7” squares. (Yes, I know this break my “sew with the dark on top” rule…only because we have to see the lines).


Now, place the right side of the ruler on top of the sewn sandwich. Line up the sewing lines with the dashed lines on the ruler. Use the cutting channel to cut the square in half. (Without this tool, place your 6”x12” cutting ruler from top to bottom corner and cut from point to point.)



  Press open to the dark fabric. You’ll end up with FOUR HSTs – set two aside. We’ll use them another time. You only need TWO HSTs for this block.


We cut these units a bit large, so we could then square them to size. Again, using the nifty tool, place it on top of one of your HSTs.


See all those grid-like cutting channels? They’ll help square up your unit. Line up the ruler along the 45 degree line matching it to your HST. Cut along the 6 1/2” cutting channels on both the right and left. Lift the ruler, rotate the block a quarter turn and repeat. You now have perfect 6 1/2” HST units – wow! (Without this tool, I honestly am not sure how to use my cutting ruler to square HSTs…I bet you’d just use the 45 degree line of that ruler in much the same way?)


Layout your block – notice that it’s a 4-patch, too?


Piece the block just like you would a traditional 4-patch block. I piece the rows first, pressing the seams opposite each other so they line up pretty and nice when I piece the rows together to form the block.

Here is my finished block – squared up to 12-1/2” unfinished.


Now, want tips on how I squared it up? Here you go…


TIP #7:Place your 12”x12” ruler on top of your block, on your cutting mat. Now, this is where you need to be precise….look at the photo below:


See that I have lined up the center seam of my block on the 6 1/4” line? Half of a 12 1/2” unfinished block is 6 1/4”, so that’s where my ruler should be. Do this vertically and horizontally. I cut the right and top edges, turn the block, realign and cut the remaining two edges. Done!

Woo hoo – block #3 is done!!!  Please post your blocks in the Tips & Tricks photo album (or my crickets studio blog flickr group) and show off your blocks! Also, watch for a bonus block mid-month….

‘til then,


©2011, Carrie Graziano, crickets studio

**Please note that I don’t receive compensation of any kind for recommending this ruler. I just really love it and wanted to share my find with all of you!

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