Monday, 30 June 2014

Trusty HSTs - How Do You Make Them?

How many ways can you make a Half Square Rectangle?  For such a simple thing it would seem a heck of a lot!  

My original idea for this exploration of HST’s was to go through 5 ways and make 16 HST’s, and to challenge you to play with layout but as I was brainstorming all the ways you can make them, this post got quite a bit bigger.  

Half Square Triangles (HST) are a basic building block in quilt construction and are incredibly versatile.  In this exploration today,  here’s some info on all the ways I found to make them.  If  I’ve left any out please let me know and hopefully you’ll find your favourite method in the following:

  • Templates: You can use templates to make one at a time.  If you want to draw your own you can trace a template onto plastic and use this over and over again.  I can see this as being a good option if you wanted  to hand sew a project like the Farmers Wife or to use up scraps.  Personally I never do this, I have an aversion to templates unless they are for really odd shapes!  (I tried patchwork using templates at least 4 times when I was a teenager and gave up - it wasn’t until I saw charm squares and a rotary cutter nearly 3 years ago that I thought, I can do this!)

  • Pre-printed foundation paper:  You use a paper pattern to give you the HST shape and you lay this on your fabrics placed right sides together.  You sew along the marked lines through the paper and cut afterwards.  Some types of pattern paper you don’t even have to remove afterwards!  I found this iron on one at Fat Quarter Shop and this CD full of them called Triangulations that you print as needed. There is a you tube video hereThangles also have a video showing how to use their pre-printed papers.   This makes it very easy to get straight lines and accurate pieces for gazillions of identical HST.  I never knew these existed but when I started looking I found lots of them.  Different papers for different sizes.   Of course you could draw your own too! 

  • Inklingo have templates that you can print directly onto your fabric that give you lines to cut along.  Click on the link to see a video showing it in action.  No need for plastic templates or paper and again great for lots of identical HST’s.   Their pattern has the corners snipped and helps lining up the HST after cutting for sewing, plus the pattern is printed such that the sewing lines contain the bias so no bias edges are exposed.

  • Die cutters:  If you have an AccuQuilt cutter like the Go Baby, you can use the HST die to cut out accurate shapes.  I don’t have one but I think I’d like one!  You need separate dies for the separate sizes but you can buy them in a pack.

  • Cutting up squares:  My favourite way to make HST’s! 
    • Cut a square in half exposing bias:  I used this method recently when making a rainbow Swoon block.  I had to try and figure out what fabric to put where and matching them up to make a few at at time was slightly head wrecking!  Far easier to take a square and cut it in half and then move the pieces where I wanted them.  The trick with these is to cut a square Finished Size of your HST+7/8” so, If I wanted a 3” finished unit (3.5” unfinished) I’d cut a square at least 3 7/8” to start with, then cut it in half to create two identical HST’s.

    • Drawn line method to contain bias:  I hate bias, I really have to be careful not to stretch things out of shape so I use starch and use lots of pins.  This method keeps the bias in the seam and I don’t have to worry about it!

Take 2 squares, again finished size +7/8” and place them right sides together.  I find myself that I’m not perfect on all my seams so it’s better for me to start with finished size +1”.  It does mean I have to trim them all but it makes cutting and the maths easier!  Draw a line across the diagonal and sew 1/4” seam both sides of this line.  If you struggle with this or don’t have a 1/4” piecing foot mark the lines to sew on.  Once sewn cut in half along the centre diagonal line and you have 2 identical HST’s.
    • Make 4 at a time (QST really!) by sewing all around and cut along both diagonals, back to bias again!  I saw this method for the first time on the Missouri Star Quilt Company you tube page.  The maths on this one is a little different.  I put up cheat sheets on my blog for this and the drawn line methods if you are interested.

    • Make 8 at a time variation of drawn line (Finished size +1”) x2.  This is very like the paper patterns above but you draw two lines on the fabric to get you started.  Again sew 1/4” on either diagonal line, cut in half along the red line, both sides then again along the blue line to get 8 identical HST’s.

  • Strip methods:  Another one I didn’t know existed!  Very handy for using Jelly Rolls!
    • Drawn line, similar to squares above but using strips you can get a lot of identical HST’s in one sewing seam! You do need to mark the fabric on the diagonal to give yourself a line to sew 1/4" away both sides and on the vertical to cut into squares and then into HST's.

    • Tube method exposing bias edges found on I found this one a bit odd to work with.  You sew two strips right sides together along both edges with a 1/4" seam to make a tube.  Then align the ruler along the seam and the point just inside the seam on the opposite side.  I found it easiest to align the strip on the 45 degree on the cutting mat and measure across to keep square.


    • Strip method containing bias found on Quilts and Other Good Things.  This was another odd one, cutting strips on the bias to start with and then sewing them together  to cut squares for lots of identical HST's.   Anyone ever used this method before?
  • Specialty Rulers : Wow there are lots of these!  Does anyone use a specialty ruler for making HST’s? If so what do you recommend?  BlocLoc rulers are great for trimming afterwards but there are other rulers to help with cutting them in the first place.  Some of the ones I found are:

    So after all that I now have a bunch of HST’s, what to do with them... I think out of all these above, I’m leaning towards the drawn line method using a square to make 8 at a time.  What’s your favourite way to make HST’s? 


    Monday, 23 June 2014

    Exploring Log Cabin Blocks

    One of the topics we thought we could look at for our blog is an exploration of traditional blocks and a modern use of them.  My very first pieced block (other than sewing charm squares together!) was a log cabin block.
    Forgive the wonky angle, taking photos of quilts in the wind is tricky!
    I made this as part of an online sampler course with Whipstitch.  It is still one of my favourites though at the time I didn't find it that easy.  This 15" block required long straight seams with a consistent 1/4" and getting the colours placed in the right order.  I have since learned that pesky 1/4"seam and discovered, when you want a straight line ram rod straight, foundation paper piecing is a good way to do this!

    It is a good block to start with from a quilting history perspective and makes you feel connected to a long tradition of patchwork piecing.  I learned the light and dark represents the ups and downs in life and the that the traditional log cabin has red or yellow at the centre to symbolise the hearth of the house and the warm welcome that awaits you there.

    This traditional block can look equally good breaking a few rules.  Here are some variations:
    • Coloured or fussy cut centre.

    With one side of the block usually made from light and the other dark, you get great contrast when multiple blocks are put together.  Using this colour placement gives rise to many settings.  Check out these links from Piecemeal quilts and Connecting threads to see some combinations and the wonderful names they've been given, like Fields and Furrows and Streak of Lightning!
    • Instead of light and dark though how about this spiral version using only 2 colours.

    I went a bit mad with this one and varied the thickness of the strips (I also ran out of the first purple and chanced my arm with a second!)

    • Varying the width of the strips surrounding the centre gives a really nice offset effect too.
    • And this one based on the courthouse steps version of the block, which is made building the blocks 2 sides at a time.

    Film in the Fridge has a great tutorial for a really modern looking block using the courthouse steps principal, called Converging Corners, that is worth a look.
    • Half log cabin though in my head this is more of a quarter.  Some people call it a Chevron block.  My first time making a log cabin I inadvertently ended up with one of these.

    I put all the lights on at the same time instead of going around.  Still it's a happy accident, make 3 more and you have a Bento box block!  Fine Diving has some really colourful Bento box examples here.

    • How about Wonky?  Anna our May Queen for the Modern Irish Bee chose a wonky log cabin style block for her month and the instructions and tutorials links to make this are here on our Blog page.

    • And lastly you could apply the same principle to a shape other than a square.  How about a triangle or even an octagon?  There's a link to a hexagon tutorial on our Facebook page if you want to try it out.

    Combining some of these concepts all together take a look at this wonderful quilt top Jody made for our Modern Medallion-A-Long.

    Used with permission from Jody
    If you have any log cabin variations to share please add them in the Flickr group or Facebook page.  If you are sharing on Instagram please tag with #modernirishquilters so we can find them.  We'd love to see your log cabin projects or any other variation of a traditional block!


    Monday, 16 June 2014

    Bee Blessed: June

    This month's Bee Blessed block is super duper easy to make and totally beautiful.  What a great way to use up your happy, favorite scraps for a great organization.  Judith has already made hers to set us stitching down the right path.

    Just pop over here for a straight forward tutorial and join in the fun!  Thanks, Sarah and Judith, once again for a fab choice in block!

    Thursday, 12 June 2014

    Getting to Know Tomomi of Slaney HandCraft

    In an effort to show off the amazing talent and resources we have available here in Ireland, we have decided to post a few interviews/spotlights.  With any luck, you can find a new teacher, find a bit of inspiration or even someone new to collaborate.

    To kick off the series, Fiona has interviewed the amazingly talented, award winning, Tomomi!  Take it away, ladies....

    Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

    Hi I am Tomomi originally from Japan and now living in Ireland over 15 years with my Irish hubby

    and our beautiful daughter. Loving the life in countryside. I am making patchwork quilt for last 12

    years and teaching locally for a few years. Now I have set up my own studio dedicated for quilt

    making and teaching of the same. You can find about me

    What inspired you to pick up patchwork/quilting?

    I am actually not sure. I liked sewing and did some all the time. I started quilt making about 12

    years ago when I had a bit more time and wanted to decorate the house. Hubby bought a hand

    turning Singer for one pound! and I thought better use it. Local book shop had some magazines in

    which colour and shapes of patchwork looked very interesting. Or maybe I just wanted to try

    something I haven’t done.

    Where did you learn to start quilting?

    I am totally self taught through books and magazines. When I started, I didn’t know where to buy

    fabric or tools in Ireland. I bought a craft rotary cutter and a mat from the office shop but no ruler

    and then proceeded with hand turning Singer (this was only 12 years ago, believe me)! One day

    quite accidentally I found Farmhouse Quilt in Carnew, Wicklow which is only 25 minutes away

    then I started buying proper cotton, proper tools, proper everything. Oh and Hubby gave me a

    electric sewing machine! That made sense for everything about quilt making on the magazines!

    Do you remember your first completed project, and what was it?

    Yes. I went a local curtain factory to get some remnants because I didn’t know any fabric shop as

    I said. And with them made a lemonstar quilt without batting inside. That is not a good finish as

    you can imagine but that was the start and I was so happy with it.

    Which quilters inspire you the most?

    I can’t point this to one or two quilter… I love the ones have secondary pattern, gradual change of

    colour and Japanese quilters with intricate applique work and hand sewing. Bless them.

    As for quilting, I love Angela Walters. She changes whole concept of fabric placement/patchwork

    pattern by quilting. That is so clever.

    What are your favourite styles of quilting?

    A lot of decorative motif by free motion quilting.

    What would you say is your no. 1 quilting tip?

    Just enjoy the process.

    Do you have any advice for beginner novice quilters?

    Have a partner in crime!

    Thank you so much, Tomomi!


    Saturday, 7 June 2014

    Medallion Suggestions, Anyone?

    Andee, a keen follower of our MQGI blog, has been stitching away on her medallion quilt but has come to a point where she could use our help.  Please read on and see if you can toss an idea or suggestion her way.  Take it away, Andee....


    I have been stalled on my modern medallion QAL quilt that the Modern Quilt Guild of Ireland has been doing...I finally just started playing around trying to figure out what to do next.  

    I had the idea to put red on two sides and squares on the other two sides...then wanted to repeat the four patch that I had done earlier so I put those up there...then felt it needed more so I made that weird thing that is the top center (I was planning to add peach to all sides of it and randomly put it in the red strip--right now it is a block on a peach square on the strip).

    Then I just wasn't sure I was nuts about it all, so I cut all the strips in half and sewed them together and tried putting red on two sides again...

    I have not attached any of it.  I really think I like the first one better (now that I would have to completely remake all the parts but the corners, lol).  I do not have a great quantity of any solid color that is in this quilt other than the red and I am using layer cakes of the Fandango fabric.

    Any suggestions?  Which is better or do you have a better idea?  I am a pattern follower and this entire quilt is out of my comfort zone!  I keep thinking I should call it done and put these odds and ends in the backing and be done with it!

    Thursday, 5 June 2014

    Don't Miss Out: Upcoming Events

    Hello Modern Irish Quilters! We've had suggestions and reminders of upcoming events in Ireland sent in that might be work a look.  Some of the things you might want to put in your diary are the following:
    • The Limerick Quilt Centre are running their 9th Annual River of Dreams exhibition in the Franciscan Church, Henry St. Limerick from the 10-15th June. 
    Image from Facebook
    •  Irish Patchwork Society National Exhibition is the first three weeks in August with the theme "explorations". The closing date for submissions is 6 June. Venue will be in Cork County Library, Carrigrohane Road
    • EQA Festival of Quilts has a closing date of 10th June with a size restriction of 30x30 cm without binding. The theme for Ireland is the Winter Garden.
    • RDS National Crafts Competition: deadline for online applications is closed but the competition is open to the public, free admission on July 30th and 31st and on August 1st.  Work will still be on display during the Dublin Horse Show 6th to 10th August but an admission fee will apply.
    • The Tinahely show has a Quilt Exhibit as part of the show on Monday August 4th. Typically over 100 quilt entries on display
    • Sew North Quilters Gathering organised by The Fennel Shed is on from the 11th to the 21st September with lots of workshops from hand quilting to curved piecing and folded patchwork.  It's way up at the tip top of the country too so could be worth a trip in and of itself!
    If there is anything we've missed out in your area please let us know.


    Monday, 2 June 2014

    Modern Irish {Scrappy} Bee: June Block

    And it's June already! If you knew how many times I've been changing my mind with my block design… But I must thank Cindy who gave me the little push I needed to stick to my original plan. This is how it happened: back in January I started to look around Google Images for inspiration on "modern quilts", I looked through all my quilting books and magazines, admired the most amazing scrappy blocks and quilts on other blogs… and then I saw one that caught my eye on Flickr, this "Confetti Quilt" had what I was aiming for. All those bits of scraps scattered randomly on a plain background.

    "Confetti quilt" by Threekitchenfairies

    The second round of inspiration came when I was flicking through a book about the Solar System and saw photos of Supernova Stars. Something more or less like this:

    photo from

    So that's when I started to sketch some blocks on graph paper until I came up with a block that had random patches like the confetti quilt and a become a Supernova star cluster when pieced together with three more blocks. I imagine my quilt like this:

    photo 1 copy 4

    Please don't panic! (that's why I changed my mind so many times, I was afraid it would be too complicated!). But I've managed to simplify the pattern. If you look closely, the block is divided into four squares, and each square can be divided in 3 columns…

    photo 2 copy 5

    photo 3 copy 3

    photo 4 copy 2

    Here's the two blocks I've made, which would be half a star…:


    It requires a bit of organisation when cutting, especially the white background, but once you have everything ready, the instructions are pretty straight forward. I'd say it takes about an hour to make one block, but I will ask you for 2 hours of your precious time to make two of them, please don't kill me…


    I would like you to use Kona white for the background and a range of red scraps (light, medium, dark), you can include a bit of pink and burgundy, but the main colour is red. One or two dark squares placed at the corner, where the centre of the star would be and the rest can spread out between medium and light. I don't mind if they have a hint of white or any other colour as long as it doesn't take over, since the squares are only 1".

    I have written the instructions in PDF format, there are 5 pages but that's because the diagrams (tables really) take up most of the space. I so wish I could use a proper software for writing quilt patterns! but I'm hopeless with computers…

    I hope you like it. There is no rush at all and I'll be happy to help if you have any questions. Thank you!