We are all familiar with the traditional quilt block setting where the blocks are assembled into straight rows and those rows are joined to make the quilt top. Sometimes there are sashing strips, with or without cornerstones, separating the blocks for added interest. But another type of block setting that I like to use is an on-point block setting. The fun in this is how it gives blocks a different look than if they are set in straight rows. So let’s talk about on-point block settings this week.
So here is what I was talking about above with straight row settings.
The quilt on the left has the blocks joined to each other in straight rows. The quilt on the right has sashing and cornerstones to create separation between the blocks. Choosing which you do is based solely on how you want your blocks to stand out. When the blocks are joined to each other, sometimes they make an interesting secondary design that a sashing would interrupt. However, sometimes a sashing is needed because the blocks joined together without space in between doesn’t give you the look you are after.
To make a block look different, set it on point. Here’s an example of how a block can look different depending on how it is set:
You can see the differences by how the blocks are set. On the left with a straight setting, the center black element of the block has a diamond look. But in the on-point setting on the right, the center black element now looks like a square. Try this with blocks you are making by placing them both ways on a design wall or a large floor space. You might see a completely different quilt based on the block layout.
On Point Setting How-to
Now that you have decided you want to do an on-point setting for your quilt top, how do you do it?
First up, we need to learn about setting triangles. Unlike quilts made from blocks that are set in straight rows, on point block quilts need what are called setting triangles. The two types of setting triangles used are side triangles and end triangles. These are both needed to achieve the on-point look and are cut from larger squares. The diagram below shows you these setting triangles:
So when you have your blocks arranged on your wall or floor in an on-point setting, how do you figure out what size squares you need to get the correct size setting triangle you need? It’s actually not very difficult. There is an easy formula for both types of triangles. Here they are:
Side Triangles – You take the finished size of your block x 1.414, then add 1 1/4″ to that number. For example, if your finished block is 6″, here is how the formula works:
6″ x 1.414 = 8.48″ (round this up to the nearest 1/8″ to 8.5″)
8.5″ + 1 1/4″ = 9 3/4″ square needed.
This square is then cut diagonally twice for 4 quarter-square triangles. For the above quilt, there are 12 side triangles, so you will need three 9 3/4″ squares:
End Triangles – You take the finished size of your block/(divided by) 1.414, then add 7/8″ to that number. Example:
6/1.414 = 4.243 (round this up to the nearest 1/8″ to 4.25)
4.25 + 7/8 = 5 1/8″ square needed.
This square is then cut diagonally once for 2 half-square triangles. You need 4 end triangles, so you will need two 5 1/8″ squares:
Layout and Joining On-Point Blocks
So, now that you have your setting triangles cut, what is the best way to stitch these blocks together? On-point set quilts are generally assembled in diagonal rows. Here is an example of how this is done using a table runner pattern I made.
The top part of my diagram above shows how the blocks are laid out and the bottom part shows how I will sew the rows together. As you can see, you will be joining the blocks and setting triangles into diagonal rows instead of straight rows. When doing this, you will need to pay attention to carefully lining up seams. The points of the setting triangles will have some overlap while piecing.
I always start from top left and work my way down until all the rows are assembled. The top left and bottom right will have a unique piecing method that I will show in the following photos. I call these the “end caps” since the block is on the end is surrounded by two side triangles and one end triangle.
Here are the steps:
Step 1: Line up the 90° angle of the left side setting triangle with the corner of the block and pin in place. there will be a small “tail” of the triangle overlapping the block.
Step 2: Stitch with a 1/4″ seam. Then repeat on the opposite side of the block with the other side setting triangle. Press these sides open:
Step 3: Line up the end triangle with the center of the unit assembled above. When you flip it on top to pin in place, you can use a ruler to make sure the point of the end triangle is right in the center of the block.
Pin in place, stitch and press open. Once again, there will be overlapping “tails” from the end triangle. Once you stitch that seam and press open the top, you can cut the tails off if you like.
Step 4: Now that the end caps are finished, it’s time to join all the blocks and triangles into the diagonal rows. The blocks will be joined just like in regular quilt tops then add the triangles to the ends of the rows. Notice all the “tails”.
Step 5: Now it’s time to join those rows into the quilt top. Once again, there will be overlapping “tails” from all the triangle points. It’s more important to line up the seams of the blocks when joining your rows than worrying about the tails. Just be careful when handling the setting triangles since the bias sides can stretch out of shape.
Lining up the seams is a very important step to make sure your quilt top is not “wonky” when you are done piecing it. Here is the finished top. All ready for borders and quilting:
So, those are the steps. Not too difficult, right? I recommend starting with a smaller project if you want to practice on-point settings. Don’t start out with a large quilt or an on-point set quilt that also adds in sashing. That’s definitely advanced! Once you have mastered the smaller project, then you can move up to the more difficult ones.
That’s all for this week. Share your comments or ask any questions you have below. I’ll draw a name from the commenters to win my pattern, Ice Cream Social, that has the above table runner as one of the projects.
The drawing will be on Monday, August 7th. Good luck! ***We have a winner..Congrats, Ann!***