Friday, November 25, 2016

Making a Quilt at Half (Or Any Other) Scale

My version of Bonnie Hunter's pattern,
Allietare, features a reduced number
of blocks, all made at half scale,
to create a nicely sized wall hanging.
Have you ever loved a quilt pattern, but you just didn't want to tackle another big project? Fortunately, there are a few different ways to resize a quilt. We can...
  • Change the number of blocks
  • Change the size of the sashing &/or border(s)
  • Change the scale of the quilt
The first two methods are picked up by many quilters pretty easily, but people often hesitate when it comes to changing the scale of their blocks, especially if they feel math challenged. However, the calculation is pretty straight forward once you get the hang of it. Changing the scale of a quilt also offers some advantages, such as retaining the full effect of the pattern (something that can be lost when you reduce the number of blocks), and using half the yardage and being faster to make than the original pattern.

Since people most frequently seem interested in reducing the scale of their blocks to make a smaller quilt, rather than enlarging it, that’s what I’ll focus on here. When reducing, it’s often easiest to reduce the scale by half. You can reduce by other amounts, but you may need to take into account the underlying grid the block is made on (9-patch, 4x4, etc.) &/or be willing to work with 16ths of an inch (or smaller!) or odd sizes like 2.438”.

Here are the basic steps to change the scale of your quilt.

 1)  Determine your multiplier. Take the new size that you want your quilt to be and divide it by the size of the original quilt. Sometimes you don’t need to do any math for this. If you know you want the new quilt to be half scale, then your multiplier is 0.5 (this is the multiplier I’ll use in my examples). If you want the new quilt to be twice as large, then the multiplier would be 2.

2)  Determine the cut size of the patch in the original pattern.

3)  Subtract the seam allowance from the cut size to determine the finished size of the original patch.

4)  Multiply the original finished size from Step 3 with the multiplier from Step 1. This will be the finished size of your new patch.

5)  Add the appropriate seam allowance (1/2” for squares and rectangles, 7/8” for HSTs, or 1-1/4” for QSTs) to your new finished patch size to find the new size you need to cut.

Cutting squares at half scale
Original cut patch = 2-1/2” x 2-1/2”
Subtract the 1/2” seam allowance = 2” x 2” finished original patch
Use the multiplier: 2” x 0.5 = 1” x 1” new patch
Add 1/2” seam allowance = 1-1/2” x 1-1/2” new cut size

Cutting rectangles at half scale
Original cut patch = 2-1/2” x 4-1/2”
Subtract the 1/2” seam allowance = 2” x 4” finished original patch
Use the multiplier: 2” x 0.5 = 1” and 4” x 0.5 = 2” gives a 1” x 2” new patch
Add 1/2” seam allowance = 1-1/2” x 2-1/2” new cut size

Cutting HSTs at half scale (This assumes we’re cutting squares, and then cutting them once diagonally to make our HSTs.)
Original cut patch = 3-7/8” x 3-7/8”
Subtract the 7/8” seam allowance = 3” x 3” finished original patch
Use the multiplier: 3” x 0.5 = 1-1/2” x 1-1/2”
Add 7/8” seam allowance = 2-3/8” x 2-3/8” new cut size

If you’re using a specialty ruler, such as the Easy Angle or Fons & Porter Half and Quarter ruler, to cut HSTs from strips, then calculate the new strip width by subtracting and then adding a 1/2” seam allowance (as with the squares), rather than a 7/8” seam allowance.
(Example: Using a specialty ruler, you can use a strip 3-1/2" wide to cut HSTs that will finish at 3". At half scale, the HSTs will finish at 1-1/2" and will be cut from a strip 2" wide.)

Cutting QSTs at half scale (This assumes we’re cutting squares, and then cutting them twice diagonally to make our QSTs.)
Original cut patch = 5-1/4” x 5-1/4”
Subtract the 1-1/4” seam allowance = 4” x 4” finished original patch
Use the multiplier: 4” x 0.5 = 2” x 2”
Add 1-1/4” seam allowance = 3-1/4” x 3-1/4” new cut size

If you’re using a specialty ruler, such as the Companion Angle or Fons & Porter Half and Quarter ruler, to cut QSTs from strips, then calculate the new strip width by subtracting and then adding a 1/2” seam allowance (as with the squares), rather than a 1-1/4” seam allowance.
(Example: Using a specialty ruler, you can use a strip 4-1/2" wide to cut QSTs that will finish at 4". At half scale, the QSTs will finish at 2" and will be cut from a strip 2-1/2" wide.)

You can use this same calculation to determine unit sizes. For instance, if your pattern has a 4-patch unit with a trim size of 3-1/2” x 3-1/2”, then it will finish at 3” x 3”. The half scale 4-patch will have a finished size of 1-1/2” x 1-1/2”, and should be trimmed at 2”x 2”.

Here are some at-a-glance tables for making half scale units.
(All sizes in inches)

-Happy sewing!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Ohio Star Block and Hourglass Units

Some quilting friends of mine are doing an Ohio Star swap, and they asked if I could make a tutorial on how to make them. Sure! I love to teach, and it gives me a goad to get the blog going again. A two-fer!

Ohio Star is one of those great, traditional blocks that keeps popping up over and over again. It looks great in a wide range of fabrics, from Civil War to solids, and can also be used to showcase a focus fabric. It can look just as at home in traditional, contemporary, and modern quilts. And it’s pretty easy to make, too, even if those hourglass units, and their quarter-square triangles, might give some people pause.

Built on a 9-patch grid, Ohio Star is made from 5 plain squares and four hourglass units. I’ll be making blocks that finish at 6” in this tutorial, so my units will need to finish at 2”. For a 9” finished block, I’d need units finishing at 3”, for a 12” block I’d need 4” units, and so on.

But before I start cutting, however, I have to iron my fabric with a good dose of starch. Do you remember that old Devo song, Whip It? Well, replace “whip” with “starch” and just keep that song on repeat in your heat every time you start a new quilt. Starch can be a quilter’s best friend! (Well, maybe second best. I think all that pretty fabric comes first!) A good starching will go a long way towards taming any bias stretch that might creep up in our quarter-square triangle hourglass units, and it won’t hurt the plain squares either.

Once the fabric has been starched, cutting the plain squares is pretty easy. I just add 1/2" to my finished size and cut four squares from my light blue background fabric and one square from my dark blue star fabric. In this case, I’m cutting four, 2-1/2” light blue squares and one, 2-1/2” dark blue square.

The hourglass units can be made using two different techniques, and which technique you use will determine how to cut your fabric.

Hourglass Method I: Whole squares

With this method, two large squares are cut and used to make two hourglass units. The size of the cut squares is determined by adding 1-1/4” to the finished size of the hourglass unit. In my case, 2” + 1-1/4” = 3-1/4”. Since I’m making four hourglass units, I need to cut two, 3-1/4” squares of light blue and two, 3-1/4” squares of dark blue.

Next, layer one light square on one dark square, right sides together. On the back of the light square, draw two lines 1/2" apart using a Quick Quarter tool and a chalk pencil (or the marking tool of your choice). Then sew just inside* each line. (Instead, you could draw a single diagonal line, and then sew a scant* 1/4" on each side of the line.)
*It is very important that you sew inside the double lines or use a scant 1/4" seam from the single line! Your hourglass block will be too small if you sew on the double line or use a full 1/4" seam.

Once both lines are sewn, put the sewn squares on the ironing board dark fabric facing up. Set the seams with the iron, gently finger press each seam open, and then use the iron to press the seams all the way before finally cutting the two halves apart. From my four starting squares, I now have four half-square triangle (HST) units.
Next, take two HST units and layer them right-sides together, butting the seams. You can make sure that they’re in the correct orientation if you peel back the top HST and see that the facing sides make the hourglass.

Now mark my double, diagonal lines again and sew just inside the lines. (Or you can mark a single diagonal line and sew a scant inch on each side of the line.) I placed pins outside my lines to make sure that my seams stayed butted together as I sewed.

Then it’s back to the ironing board to set the seams, finger press them open, press with the iron, and then cut the two halves apart. And, voila! Hourglass units! Now all that’s left is to square them up, and I’ll be ready to put the block together!

This hourglass unit will finish at 2”, which means that it has to be squared up to 2-1/2”. To do that, lay the ruler over the unit with the diagonal line over one of the diagonal seams. Half of 2-1/2” is 1-1/4’, so make sure that the 1-1/4” vertical and horizontal ruler markings are bulls-eyed right over the intersection of the unit’s diagonal seams. Next, make sure that each diagonal seam ends at either the 0” or a 2-1/2” marking at each corner. Once those are all lined up, trim away any excess slivers and the dog ears.

Hourglass Method II: Quarter-Square Triangles

With this method, we start with four QSTs to make each hourglass unit. There are two ways you can make your starting QSTs:
  1. Cut squares the same as we did in Method I, but, rather than layering and sewing them, cut on both diagonals on each square. This will give you four QSTs from each square. With one light square and one dark square, you’ll have enough QSTs to make two hourglass units.
  2.  If you have the Companion Angle ruler or the Fons & Porter Half and Quarter ruler, you can cut your QSTs from strips. To determine the width of the strip you’ll need, you have to know the height of your finished QST. Since my hourglass units will finish at 2”, and my QSTs (measured from the long, triangle base to the top of the center point) are half the height of the finished hourglass units, my QSTs will need to finish at 1”. Add a 1/2" seam allowance to the finished size, and I end up with 1” + 1/2" = 1-1/2”. I need strips that are 1-1/2” wide. Follow the instructions that came with your ruler to cut the triangles from the strip. This is a great way to use up those last bits of fabric that aren’t large enough to make the squares needed in Method I.

Sew the left leg or the right leg,
but make sure you sew the same leg on each unit!
Layer one light triangle on one dark triangle, right sides together. Sew going down one of the short legs of the triangles. It doesn’t matter whether you sew the left leg or the right leg, just make sure that you sew the same leg on both triangle pairs! Feed the triangles through your sewing machine flat edge first, and sew the seam with a scant 1/4" seam allowance. Also, I find it very helpful to use the tip of my seam ripper, a skewer, or an awl to steer my tringle tips as the last 1" or so of my fabric goes under my needle.

Set the closed seams with an iron. Very carefully finger press the units towards the darker fabric, and then very carefully press with an iron. This is a bias seam, so be gentle!

Layer the sewn triangle squares together, nesting the seams. I like to add a fine pin to hold the seams together. Again, sew with a scant 1/4" seam, press, finger press, and press again.

Now take that hourglass unit and square it up in the same manner that was shown in Method I.

Sewing the Units Together

This last step looks easy-peasy, I mean, you’re just sewing units into rows, and then sewing rows together, right? But, if you want your unit to come out to the correct size without losing any of your points, this is where sewing with the correct seam allowance, that scant 1/4", becomes critical.

When you’re finished sewing your block, it should measure 6-1/2” square, and the star points should all end 1/4" inside the edge of the block (i.e. – the points end at the edge of the block’s seam allowance).

  • If your blocks is smaller than 6-1/2”, then your seams when you sewed together your units was too large. Take the block apart and re-sew the units with a narrower seam.
  • If your Block is larger than 6-1/2” and the star points extend into the 1/4" seam allowance, then your seams were too narrow when you sewed the units together. If you just trim down your block to 6-1/2” at this point, you won’t leave yourself enough of a seam allowance, and you’ll end up cutting off all your points when you sew this block into your quilt. Instead, I highly recommend that you take the time to take apart the block, then sew the units back together with a slightly wider seam. Remember: “slightly wider” usually means only 1 or 2 threads wider. No, it doesn’t sound like much, but it will make a big difference!

Spice It Up!

Sometimes it can be fun to jazz up your Ohio Star by adding an accent color. The accent color replaces one QST in each hourglass block, and the blocks are turned so the accent color is adjacent to the center square.

These hourglass units can be sewn by cutting one QST of background fabric, one QST of the accent color, and two QSTs of your main star color, then sewing the triangles together as in Hourglass Method II above. However, contrast hourglass units can also be sewn using squares, as in Method I, and here’s how to do that…

Here are all the patches needed for one 6-1/2” block:
  • Background fabric ─ four 2-1/2” squares, plus one 3-1/4” square
  • Star fabric ─ one 2-1/2” square, plus two 3-1/4” squares
  • Accent fabric ─ one 3-1/4” square

Using the 3-1/4” squares, layer the background square right sides together on one star square, and layer the accent square right sides together on the second star square. Draw your line(s) as above, and sew.

Press as described above, and then cut the HST units apart. Make sure that the seams are pressed in the same direction on all four HST units. (i.e. ─ all seams pressed towards the star fabric, OR all seams pressed away from the star fabric.)

Layer one background HST and one accent HST together with the seams nesting together. This should orient the background fabric in the one HST over the star fabric in the HST it’s been layered with. Draw your line(s) and sew two seams as described earlier.

Sewn together in this orientation, those yellow QSTs
will form a pinwheel. The resulting block is known by many
names, including Big Dipper, Bow Ties, Whirling Blade,
and Yankee Puzzle!
Once these units are pressed and cut apart, you will have four hourglass units. Square them up, then sew them into your block!

Now that you’ve learned how to make hourglass units and Ohio Star blocks, go check out all the great quilts you can make with them! Here are a couple of links to Pinterest to get you started:

Happy sewing!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

At Last! An Afghan!!

It's done!!!!
I'm breaking out my dancing shoes because it's time to do the Happy Dance! It's only taken seven years and two months, but I have finally and at last finished my daughter's afghan!! Woo-hooo!!!!

OK, there are still a few ends from whip-stitching things together to weave in on the back, but does that really count? At this point, I don't think so!

Lots of pieces whip-stitched together
PikaGirl gets home from school soon, and I can't wait to see her expression when she sees it. I also can't wait to share it with my Crafting Bee friends in a couple of days. Without their encouragement and persistent (but gentle!) inquiries, I doubt I would ever have gotten it finished. Thank you so much, ladies!!

Snuggly warm!
The pattern, if you're interested, was the September quilt from the Leisure Arts leaflet #2131, "A Year of Afghans, Book Two: Twelve Designs to Crochet," ©1991. It was crocheted using Caron's Simply Soft, 100% acrylic, worsted weight yarn. It is amazingly soft, delightfully warm, and weighs almost 5 lbs! The only downside is that the yarn is so soft and slippery, the ends of my yarn tails like to un-weave themselves and hang loose after I've woven them in. If anyone knows a solution for this, I'd love it if you could share!

Another bonus to finishing this afghan, is that I will now, finally! get to start the In Bloom knit, felted-wool bag that I've been eyeing in Debbie Stoller's book, "Stitch'n Bitch Superstar Knitting: Go Beyond the Basics." I bought the yarn, Cascade Yarn's Cascade 220, from my favorite yarn shop, The Knitting Nest in Weyauwega, Wisconsin, two and a half years ago. Really! I've got the receipt to prove it! I promised myself that I could only start it after I finished PG's afghan, and now that time has arrived at last!

The In Bloom bag is ready to go!
I've never knit intarsia before, and this will also be my first time felting wool, but diving into things that I've never done before is why my husband nick-named me Intrepid, right? And, besides, I know that if I need help I'll have Catherine, the Knitting Nest's Yarn Diva, and my friends at Crafting Bee to help out.

The crafting world would be a much smaller place without our good friends to enable -errr- encourage us in our new endeavors!

Getting started on Double Diamonds

This week also saw work continuing on my Baby Grand quilt when Part 2 of Bonnie Hunter's Grand Illusion mystery quilt came out last Friday. She has us making these Double Diamond units this week. Since I'm making my units at half size, these li'l cuties are going to finish at only 2 inches! I've got 14 made so far, but all the rest of my pieces are cut, and my lines have been marked on the backs of my squares, so I'm all ready to sew up the rest.

Dad was a bit of a diamond in the rough too!
The basket in which I'm storing the in-progress pieces and finished units for this step belonged to my dad. He was born in Michigan, so I guess it's pretty appropriate that that I'm using it as I make this quilt that was inspired by that state's historic Grand Hotel. Dear ol' Dad passed away eleven years ago, so it's nice to be able to think of him while I work. Maybe I'll dedicate this quilt to his memory. He loved the outdoors, and I know he'd love the colors and fabrics that I chose for this quilt.

Double Diamonds doing a dance
Double Diamonds and Broken Dishes dancing together

Of course, the finished units don't stay in the basket for too long before I have to take them out and start playing with them again. These Double Diamond blocks are very dynamic, and I can't wait to see how Bonnie has us using them in the finished quilt!

If you want to see want to see the progress that others are making on their Grand Illusion quilts, you can check out the link-up on Bonnie's Quiltville blog here

So, that's all for this week. I hope that you're finding some happy finishes too!

~Intrepid Meredith

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Birth of the Baby Grand

So it's that time of year again when scrap quilter extraordinaire, Bonnie Hunter, begins her annual mystery quilt! This year's quilt is called Grand Illusion, based on Bonnie's stay at the famed Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Michigan. And, just like last year's Celtic Solstice quilt, I'm changing things up again from Bonnie's instructions. This is the color set that Bonnie gave us:

Grass green
Light teal
Geranium pink
Butter yellow
plus black and white.

But my eye was drawn more to the scenery outside my window at the time. Ma Nature was putting on quite a show for us this Fall, and I suddenly realized that, with a little tweaking, I could use these colors for my Grand Illusion.
So here are my colors, all in batik fabrics:
Orange-Yellow of birch and aspen leaves
Yellow-Green of my yellowing lawn and the leaves mid-change on my maple tree
Blue of lake and sky
Red of oak and sumac leaves
Tan of frost-covered cattails and dried meadow grasses
And the deep, dark greens of pines at dusk

9-Patches for Shimmering Birches
So, not too different from Bonnie's colors. But then... 

Earlier this year I got bit by the miniatures bug. First, I started making Edyta Sitar's Shimmering Birches pattern, with it's adorable little 2-1/4" 9-patches:

Tiny T-Birds
Then, the local school was having an art contest: any medium, not bigger than 12" x 12", and with the theme 'Wing-A-Ding!' (that is, anything with wings). I was looking through Civil War Legacies: Quilt Patterns for Reproduction Fabrics by Carol Hopkins at the time, and saw her Darting Birds pattern in the book. Well, the team mascot is the Thunderbird, and the school's colors are orange and black, so I ended up with this:

And I started having fun with 1" hexies and made this 14" x 40" table runner. I used a technique described in Dr. Peggy G. Rhodes and Julia C. Wood's book Quick & Easy Hexie Quilts to make the hexies from folded circles. It's fast, easy, and fun!

Hexagon table runner

The Crafty Quilter's Nordic Mini Quilt Along
Aaaaand then Julie Cefalu, in her The Crafty Quilter blog, began a 4-part Nordic Mini Quilt Along. I've sewn only the Nordic Star blocks so far, but they are so adorable! They'll finish at only 4-1/4".

So can you guess what I'm doing with my Grand Illusion? That's right! I'm making it as a mini!

Yes, this is completely crazy, given that I don't know what the ultimate design is going to be or how small the pieces will end up being. However, nothing in Celtic Solstice finished smaller than 1-1/2", and Bonnie said this year's mystery should be easier than the last couple of mysteries. So I figure there shouldn't be any pieces for me that finish at smaller than 3/4", and that's do-able. (The Shimmering Birches 9-Patch squares finish at 3/4", and the HSTs in my Tiny T-Birds mini finished at 1/2", so I'm already there!)

I figure that, so long as I make the finished size of my units half the finished size of Bonnie's units, everything should still fit together just fine. So, if Bonnie's unit finishes at 4" (cut size 4-1/2"), then my unit will finish at 2" (cut size 2-1/2"). My finished quilt should come out at about 44" x 44". I figure I can either add an extra row of blocks to make a nice lap size, or, alternatively, I can use it as-is or drop a few blocks, and it will still be a nice wall hanging.

And I shall name it the Baby Grand. I love it!

A baby Broken Dish
So when clue #1 came out last week, I was all ready to go. I tweaked Bonnie's instructions and now I have some baby Broken Dishes blocks. Sew Sweet!!

Celtic Solstice, in progress

Oh, and as I'm sewing these together, I'm also getting last year's Celtic Solstice finished. I've got 4/7 of that quilt sewn together, with 14 of the remaining 21 blocks sewn. What's left? Only 26 of those dastardly chevron blocks! I'm using them as leaders and enders on my Baby Grand, and then I'll be able to get that top finished up too!

If you want to see what other people are doing with their Grand Illusion Mystery quilts, you can check out Bonnie's Monday Mystery Link-Up.

My next post, I hope, will be about these Broken Dishes blocks and all the different ways that they can be used in quilts. Once you start looking for them, they show up in a lot of patterns! And then there will be more posts on the Baby Grand as we progress through Bonnie's Grand Illusion Mystery. Won't you join me?

Friday, September 19, 2014

Making Half-Square Triangle (HST) Units

This tutorial shows how to make HST units using the stacked squares method. In this method, you cut one square from each of two fabrics to create two, identical HST units.

Determine the finished size of the HST unit that you want to make. To that measurement, add 7/8”. Using this sum, cut one square from each of your fabrics. In this example, I’m making a HST unit that finishes at 3”, so I’m cutting my two squares at 3-7/8”.

Since we’ll be dealing with a bias seam, I recommend spraying your fabrics with starch before cutting them.

Time saving tip: Layer your fabrics right-sides together when you’re cutting your squares. This way, both fabrics are cut to exactly the same size, and you don’t have to spend time matching edges before you sew.

Here, I’ve layered my fabrics, then cut them into strips that are 3-7/8” wide. Now I’m ready to sub cut my strips into squares.

NOTE: When I measure my fabric, I’m making sure that the edge of my fabric is hitting the outside edge of my measurement line.

Now we’re ready to sew!


Draw a line diagonally across your lighter fabric.

Sew a scant 1/4” away from this line. Note in the right-hand photo, that my drawn (pink) line is directly under the 4-3/4” ruler mark, but my needle is positioned just to the left if the 4-1/2” mark (blue dashed line). My seam is just a little less than 1/4" wide.

(Alternatively, I could have my drawn line just under the 4-1/4” ruler marking, and then sew with my needle just to the right of the 4-1/2” marking.)

You might be able to see this better after the stitching is done. My drawn line is under the 1/2” mark, and my stitching lines are just inside the 1/4” and 3/4” marks.
My seams are a scant 1/4” wide.

Now cut between your stitching lines to separate the two HST units.


After setting my seam, I open my fabrics part way, and then I very gently roll my fingertips over the seam to start pressing it open. After finger pressing one section, I’ll lift my fingers and move them down to gently finger press the rest of the seam. Only then do I press the seam with my iron.

Do not use steam when pressing this seam, and make sure that you are pressing the seam (using an up & down motion with the iron), not ironing it (rubbing back & forth)!

Squaring Up:

I know you want to get on with the rest of your sewing, but don’t skip this important step!

Square up (trim) your HST unit so that it measures your unit’s finished size + 1/2”. In this case, my finished size is 3”, so I’ll trim these at 3-1/2”

Use a ruler with a 45° marking on it. Place the 45° marking on top of the seam line. Make sure that your unit extends just past the desired measurement, and then trim the right and top sides of the unit.

Now turn the unit around 180°. Place the 45° line on the ruler back on top of your seam line. Make sure that the trimmed left and bottom edges come all the way to the outside edges of your ruler markings, and then trim the right and top edges.

You might not trim away much
when you square up your HST unit,
but that little bit can make a big difference!

Sewing with HSTs

One final note to remember: Whenever you sew an HST unit to another unit, the diagonal seam will enter the new seam 1/4" before the raw edge of the new unit. When you square up the new unit, be sure you don't trim off your seam allowance outside the triangle points!