Last week I covered all types of shortcuts in hand stitching and machine piecing. So how do piecing shortcuts apply to actual block and quilt making? I have chosen to talk about two of my favorite piecing shortcuts: multiple half-square triangle (HST) squares and strip sets. By using these shortcuts, I’ve been able to make blocks and quilts, that would otherwise take a lot of time, more quickly. So let’s get started!
Multiple HST Squares
First off if you don’t already know, HST is the acronym for half-square triangle. I like using that acronym because it’s a lot easier than typing out half-square triangles every time. LOL! The best thing about making multiple HSTs is getting a lot done in a few easy steps, which is great when you have a lot these units to make for a quilt. You can make four at a time or eight at a time depending on how many of the same color combinations you need.
Four HSTs at a Time: Determine the size of the HST you want (including seam allowance), divide that number by .64. Round up to the nearest 1/8″. Then cut 2 squares of different colors that size. For example, for 2 1/2″ HSTs:
2 1/2″ / .64 = 3.906, round up to 4″
Step 1: Lay the two squares right sides together matching up raw edges so they are completely one on top of the other. Pin in place.
Step 2: Sew 1/4″ around all 4 sides of the square unit.
Step 3: Cut the sewn square diagonally as shown and then press open each section for 4 HSTs.
Since the size of the squares used here are rounded up to make these HSTs, they may need trimming to measure the size needed for the pattern you are making. Be sure to lay the 45 degree line of the ruler you are using for trimming on the diagonal seam for accuracy.
Here’s a trimming shortcut I like: I have a ruler called the Quilt in a Day Triangle Square-up Ruler. This allows you to trim up the HSTs before pressing them open. So, you only need to trim 2 sides instead of 4 sides.
Eight HSTs at a Time: If the quilt pattern you are making has a large amount of HSTs made from the same color combinations, then the eight at a time method will be more efficient for you.
Step 1: Start with 2 squares that are each 2 times the size of the HST square you are making plus 1 3/4″. For an HST square that measures 1 1/2 x 1 1/2″ , here is the calculation:
1 1/2″ x 2″ = 3″
3″ + 1 3/4″ = 4 3/4″.
Draw two diagonal lines on the wrong side of one of the squares (photo on the right below).
Step 2: Place the squares right sides together with the square with the drawn lines on top so they are visible. Pin. Sew a scant 1/4″ on each side of each drawn lines.
Step 3: Cut the unit apart into 4 squares and then cut each square on the drawn diagonal line.
Once you press them all open, you have eight HSTs of the same color scheme.
Just like you did with the four at a time HSTs, these may need to be trimmed down to the size needed for your pattern.
Strip sets are a shortcut often used when making blocks like a four-patch, nine-patch or rail fence. You can also use these to make the units for a piano key border. Strip sets are made from joining two or more long strips on their lengthwise sides. You can use width of fabric strips (40-44″ long) if you need a lot of pieces cut for your project, but I prefer to cut those in half to 20-22″ long. It’s easier for your strip sets to distort if you are using longer strips.
I like to make strip sets with a scant 1/4″ seam that helps my strip sets to measure accurately. When using a scant 1/4″ for piecing these sets, each time a strip is added, press and trim up the set before adding the next strip. Below are photos showing the first steps of joining 3 strips into a strip set measuring 3 1/2″ wide when done. I’m beginning three 1 1/2″ wide strips (left photo).
Instead of lining up the edge of my strip unit for stitching with the edge of the 1/4″ foot, I move it a hair to the left (as shown in the last photo). Once those strips are stitched together, the strip set should measure 2 1/2″ wide. To achieve this I press the set, place the ruler evenly on the strip set to trim it to 2 1/2″. The 1 1/4″ line of the ruler should rest on the center seam to be centered for trimming.
Now I can add on the next strip with a scant 1/4″ seam, press and trim. Lay the 1 1/4″ line of the ruler on the new seam and trim. When finished, the strip set measures the 3 1/2″ width as required.
Some more tips when working with strip sets:
Tip #1: Always pin the strips you are joining so the remain aligned while stitching.
Tip #2: When stitching strips together, do not pull on them or push them through the machine. Just gently guide them along. Doing otherwise can distort your seam.
Tip #3: Make sure to press and not iron when pressing the strip set open. If you iron along the seam instead of pressing, you run the risk of stretching the fabric, the seam or both. This will result in a distorted strip set that is difficult to cut into segments.
Tip #4: Finally, if you are joining more than two strips together, alternate which end you start at when stitching. This also helps to limit distortion of the whole strip set. The diagram below shows what I am talking about:
So that all for this week. Leave a comment or ask a question below and be entered into a drawing for my pattern, Seaside Cottage:
This pattern will give you a lot of strip set practice for all those nine-patch blocks! The drawing will be on Tuesday, September 12th. Good luck! **We have a winner! Congrats, Mary Wise!**