Friday, March 27, 2020

Quilting On Point

On the Fence  in progress. Pattern coming next month!

While I was sewing up the sample for my next pattern, I realized I have used on point settings in a few patterns.  It occurred to me that some may find "on point" intimidating.  If you are one of those quilters, let me ease your fears.

Sewing  rows of blocks on point is just like sewing horizontal rows of blocks, with the addition of a triangle at each end of the row.  You don't have to sew at an angle. You're sewing straight lines.

Let's talk about those triangles.  Side setting triangles are the ones that will make up the sides of the quilt.  Corner setting triangles, as I'm sure you guessed, will be the corners of the quilt.

There is no way around having at least one stretchy bias edge on a cut triangle, but you definitely can avoid ending up with those stretchy edges on the sides of your quilt, where they might cause distortion. To avoid having bias edges on all sides of your quilt, you want any triangles sides that end up on the outside edge of the quilt to be on the straight of grain.

That requires the use of quarter-square triangles for the side setting triangles, and half-square triangles for the corner.  Don't confuse these with QST and HST square units.  

Quarter-square triangles are cut triangles obtained by cutting a square diagonally twice into four triangles.  Assuming that you cut your square on a straight grain, the straight grain will end up on the longest side of the triangle, which is where you need it to be for a side setting triangle.

Half-square triangles are cut triangles obtained by cutting a square  diagonally once into two triangles.  The bias ends up on the long side, leaving both short sides on the straight of grain so you have two stable sides for your quilt corners

What size to cut squares to make triangles

If you're using a pattern, the math should be done for you.  Just check to make sure the pattern uses quarter-square and half-square triangles in the right places.  If not, or if you are working without a pattern and making things up as you go along, I prepared a reference sheet for you. It has a chart of common sizes, and formulas you can use for less common block sizes.  Feel free to download and print it to have it handy when you need it.

Sewing tips

Of course, though they won't be on the edges of your quilt, the bias edges haven't gone away and you'll need to deal with them when you sew the triangles to the ends of the rows of blocks.  Don't panic and keep these tips in mind:
  • Starching or pressing the fabric with a starch alternative like Best Press before you cut can help stabilize the fabric while you sew.  
  • Press rather than iron the fabric: lift the iron to move it instead of sliding it across the fabric and potentially pulling the fabric out of shape.
  • Avoid pulling on the fabric.
  • Pin the seam before you sew.
  • When sewing two pieces together, keep the piece with the bias edge on top, away from the feed dogs so they can't pull that bias edge either. 

How to line up the triangles

You might also wonder about how to line up the triangles to fit with the blocks/rows.  I have actual photographs for this part!

Corner triangle

Remember to use a quarter-square triangle. As you can see below, the long side of the corner triangle is longer than the side of the block or row to which it needs to be sewn.

This is normal. Once all the relevant seam allowances are taken into account, everything will fit together properly. To help everything fall into place, mark the center of the long side of the triangle, and the center of the side of the block you will be sewing it to.  The easiest way to do this is to fold the pieces in half and finger press the fold.

Lay the triangle on top of the block, right side down, matching the fold marks, and pin.  Pinning will help reduce the risk of stretching the bias edge on the triangle.

Sew the seam with a 1/4" seam allowance.  Flip the triangle back and press.  I like to press towards the triangle, but do what works best for your project.

You can trim away the dog ears sticking out the sides.

Don't worry about the triangle having a blunt point where you trimmed.  That blunt point will be inside the seam allowance when you sew the rows together and add borders or binding, and your triangles will have nice pointy points.

Side triangle

Side triangles are even easier to match up.  Here you will be sewing a block/row to the short side of half-square triangle. The side of the triangle will be longer than the side of the block.

You will match the second short side of the triangle with the bottom edge of the block, and the tip of the triangle will extend beyond the top of the block.  Pin before you sew to help reduce the risk of stretching the triangle's bias edge.

Again, sew with the triangle on top so the feed dogs can't pull on the bias edge.  After sewing the seam, fold the triangle back and press the seam in a direction that works for your project.

Again, the messy dog ear tip sticking out can be trimmed off.  The tip, messy or trimmed to a blunt tip, will be in the seam allowance and your finished triangle, after all additional seams are sewn, will be nice and pointy.

That's it!  I hope you find this information useful.  Now you're all set to tackle these on-point Canuck Quilter designs:

Find these and more in my Etsy shop.


  1. That's exactly how I do it; somehow I never got the shakes over "on point" quilt; they are my favorite really. I'm helping a friend with her first on point quilt, and she is really nervous about it. I printed your 'freebie' for her and will have her read this blog next time she comes here. Thanks for showing it so clearly. ---"Love"

  2. You have given a wealth of good information here--some that I wish I had not had to learn the hard way!

  3. Thanks for the chart! Nice explanation. I've done setting triangles but hadn't thought about the bias edges avoided this way.

  4. Excellent tips here Joanne! I do that finger pressing to find the centre and matching it to the side of the block too. Love the grey and red!

  5. Thank you for this useful tutorial! It makes me want to check if the quilt l am working on would be more interesting to look at on point

  6. On point quilts are always so much more interesting. Thanks for all the tips, it is really not as hard as some people think.

  7. How do you cut your fabric? When a square of fabric is cut on the straight of grain, then turned on-point. You end up with something that has a weird stretchiness (on the vertical & horizontal axis); but, is stabile along the edges. Turning the straight of grain allows pull on the bias. How do you stabilize the individual on-point quilt blocks?

    Does the quilting to the long backing pieces (which are on the straight of grain) provide the stability needed for a on-point quilt to hang properly?

    1. I cut the fabric as for any other block. In my experience, all the seams in the patchwork block help stabilize things, then the quilting to the batting and backing further stabilizes everything. I've never had a problem with on-point blocks stretching. It is important to have straight of grain on the outside edges of the quilt so the edges don't get stretched when sewing on borders and when layering and quilting the quilt, which is why quarter-square triangles are used for the side setting pieces.

  8. Do you add any reinforcement to your on-point blocks to stabilize the bias?

    1. In my experience, no stabilizers are needed. The batting, quilt backing and quilting do the job quite well.

  9. Love this tutorial - most of my quilts wind up on point. Seems they "shine" brighter that way! The Party Crackers are such a delight! Thanks


Thank you for visiting. I truly appreciate your comments and will try to reply to comments by email if your commenting staus is not set to "no-reply".

If you have a question, emailing me directly at will ensure I have your address to respond. I promise I will not share your email address and I will not use it for any purpose other than replying to your message.