Saturday, April 29, 2023

How to sew 45 degree shapes side by side

In my last post, I wrote about how to cut shapes with 45 degree angles.  Continuing the 45 degree theme, let's look at how to join these shapes side by side. 

Bonus for me:  In working out the best way to explain I've found better ways to do things.  Yay!

What not to do

The first time I tried to join two parallelograms side by side was a complete failure.  It turns out you can't just match the corners to the points and sew.  Take a look at how that turns out.

Lay out shapes

Match points to corners, sew 1/4" seam

End up with offset pieces

What to do instead

What actually needs to line up are the spots on the sides of the shape where the seam allowance crosses the side.  You'll end up with something that looks like this, with the pieces offset a little and the points sticking out past the sides.  

The tricky part is figuring out exactly how much to offset the pieces.  You can do this by marking or by trimming points.

Method 1:  Mark the seam allowance.

Mark a 1/4" seam allowance on the wrong side of the top piece, then shift the top piece until the seam allowance meets the sides of the bottom piece.

This works well, but personally I am not fond of marking if I can help it, so I prefer to trim points with an acrylic template (method 2 below) or a paper trimming template paired with a standard rotary cutting ruler (method 3 below).  I don't think one method saves time compared to another, so it comes do  wn to personal preference.  If you think your marking skills might not be consistent,  I suggest choosing point trimming.

Method 2: Trim the points with an acrylic corner trimming template

I use this corner trimming tool to trim the points on each piece to match the angles they need to meet on the other piece.  Mine came as an insert in a magazine many years ago, but they are are not exclusive anymore.  I know my local quilt shop, Quilting Connection sells them.  Your favourite quilt shop might also, or may be able to order one for you.

To use it, you simply place the tool over the point, matching the edges of the tool with the sides of the fabric, them use your rotary cutter to trim away the point, using the template as a guide.

I did my best with the photos below, but it still looks like the acrylic template has rounded tips. It doesn't. It actually has two straight edges, and that's what you'll cut on your fabric as well.

Line up template edges with sides of fabric

First cut along one edge of the template tip

Second cut along the second edge of the template tip

Laying the pieces together, you can see how the angle on the right of the trimmed tip on my grey piece copies the wide angle on the purple piece so they match perfectly.

Match fabric edges 

If you trim 45 degree point on the purple piece as well, it will match the wide angle on the grey piece  in the same way.  

Purple trimmed tip matching grey wide angle

Here's a full front view of the two pieces lined up with corners and points matched.

As long as just one point is trimmed and matched, the pieces should be lined up properly.  However, there might be some stretching in the bias edge during sewing, pulling things out of place by the end of the seam.  My preference is to trim points on both pieces to be sure everything is lined up properly at both ends of the seams, pin things in place, then sew with a 1/4" seam.

Pieces joined into a unit with straight, smooth sides

Method 3:  Trim points with paper trimming template and a regular rotary cutting ruler

In my pattern Rush I included a paper template you can copy and cut out. It has a flat tip instead of the beveled tip of the acrylic template but it does the job.  The pattern has specific instructions and diagrams for positioning the template to trim the tips properly for this particular design, but here are more general instructions to repurpose the template for any 45 degree shapes.  If using it for other projects, you can ignore the markings on the template. 

Paper point trimming template

Tape the template to the underside of a square or rectangle rotary cutting ruler, in a corner as shown.

Position the template over the piece to trim as shown, rotating as needed so that one of the blunt tips of the template is perpendicular to the side of the fabric that will not be sewn.  Trim the point with a rotary cutter.  Trim points on both pieces you plan to join.

When laying the pieces right sides together to sew with a 1/4" seam, the angle on each trimmed point should match the wide angle on the other piece.

Troubleshooting tip

If you trim a point with the wrong tip on the template, the point won't match the wide angle. DON'T PANIC.  You haven't ruined the piece.  Just trim the point again with the other tip on the template, and you'll end up with a beveled edge as though you used the acrylic template in method 2.  You'll be good to go!

That's it!  I hope you found this photo tutorial useful and that you'll be inspired to branch out into sewing shapes beyond squares, rectangles and right angle triangles.

Happy quilting,

Rush is available as a PDF download in my Etsy shop or you can ask for a print copy at your favourite quilt shop.  Shops, for wholesale orders please visit distributors Checker, Brewer or EE Schenck or see my wholesale page.

Cutting 45 degree diamonds and parallelograms

How do you feel about diamonds and parallelograms?  

Most of us have used squares, rectangles and triangles in our quilts, but other shapes seem to show up less frequently.  Because they aren't used as often, we're less familiar with them and they can be intimidating.  

Parallelograms with 45 degree points

All you need to cut these shapes is a rotary cutter and a ruler with angle markings.  Most rulers have a 45 degree marking.  Some also have 60 degree markings.  For this tutorial, I'm using the 45 degree markings to cut shapes with 45 angles, but the method would be the same to cut 60 degree shapes.

Tools and materials

Start with a fabric strip or a strip set.  Your pattern should specify what width to use.  

To make the first cut, line up the 45 degree marking from the ruler with one edge of the strip then cut across the strip along the edge of the ruler.

Cut the strip at an angle along the ruler

To avoid cutting towards me I rotate the strip 180 degrees for the next cut.  

To cut a diamond, measure from the cut edge, using the width of the strip as the measurement.  Line up the measurement marking along the full cut edge.

I like to also line up the 45 degree marking with one side of the strip to make sure the angle is still accurate. This is especially important when cutting additional diamonds, as small shifts of the ruler or a slight curvature in the strip, can add up to alter the angle over several cuts.  If I can't place the width measurement along the cut edge and the angle marking along the side of the strip at the same time, the angle is off.  If that's the case, I need to trim the end to the correct angle again before cutting the shape.

Repeat the previous step as needed to cut as many diamonds as you need.

In the case of diamonds, it doesn't matter which direction the 45 degree cut lies, leaning left or right, because the diamond has four-fold symmetry.  You can just rotate the cut shape 135 degrees to orient it as needed (unless you're using a directional print and care about the print direction, in which case you'll need to keep reading and pay attention to cut direction).

If you're cutting a parallelogram with two longer sides, simple rotation won't work. You can't just rotate a left-leaning parallelogram to make a mirror image leaning right instead.

You'll need to pay attention to which way your parallelogram needs to lean before you start cutting.

The pictures below show how to cut parallelograms that lean to the right as well as those that lean to the left.

Setting the cut direction to lean left

Setting the cut direction to lean right

As for the diamonds, rotate the strip 180 degrees after making the first cut shown above.

Your pattern should specify the measurement to use for the second cut.  As when cutting a diamond, measure from the cut end, lining the measurement line up with the full cut edge.

Cutting a left-leaning parallelogram

Cutting a right-leaning parallelogram

Top: left-leaning
Bottom:  right-leaning

That's it for cutting.  Next up, click here for a tutorial on how to line up these units when piecing them side by side.  I shared a little bit about that in this post, but the tutorial is more comprehensive.

You can cut these shapes from strip sets as well.  My patterns Echo Point, Leading Edge and Rush all use 45 degree shapes cut from strip sets to reduce the number of angled shapes to cut and sew individually.

Happy quilting,

Friday, April 14, 2023

A quilt finish and a pattern

There's nothing like a deadline to make me finish a quilt.  To be clear, I enjoy finishing quilts.  It's just that I can sit and stare at a quilt top for a very long time before committing to how to quilt it, so the finish is often delayed.

Rosie telling me a quilted quilt would be more comfortable than a mere quilt top

My new pattern, Rush, needed a cover quilt to be ready for sale when a certain fabric company's catalog goes live. I had to stop waffling and quilt it already! I listened to Rosie and got to work. Here it is, quilted and bound :)

Rush by Canuck Quilter Designs

When I first started playing with a chevron shape in EQ8, I built it with flying geese units.  That would have worked fine, but would have a lot of points that could be potentially cut off, and I wasn't feeling like taking on that challenge just then, so I let the design sit.

When I was working on the last set of Echo Point placemats, I had an flash of inspiration. Echo point is essentially a chevron.  Why couldn't I build the chevrons in the quilt the same way?  I had to work out some math to figure out sizes and make sure I wouldn't end up having to cut non-standard measurements but everything fell into place.

Construction went very quickly after that, except for the pause for a sulk when I sewed the sashing to the wrong side of a couple of rows.

Sashing in the wrong places

Once I got over my sulk, ripped some seams and sewed it all back together properly, Rosie supervised border measuring.

Rosie in supervisor mode as I measure a border strip

I like to lay the border strip directly on the quilt and just mark the length right on the strip.  I lay it across the middle, then the top and again at the bottom to make sure there isn't any huge variation, but usually the measurements are close enough (less than 1/4" variation) that I can just use that middle measurement.  I then layer the strip over a second border strip, matching one end, and cut both strips at once to the marked length so that I know the borders will be exactly the same length.  

Completed Rush quit top

This was my design wall for a while.  The quilt looked pretty up there for at least a month while I worked on smaller things that didn't need the design wall and I pondered whether I was going to quilt this myself or send it out for quilting.

It would have been faster to send it out, but I was really stuck on thread colour.  I didn't want a lighter colour thread showing up across the black background, but I didn't want black thread over the colours either.  A medium colour would have been a compromise, not perfect on any of the fabrics.  I wasn't up for paying for custom quilting to switch thread in the different areas.  OK then, home quilting was the way to go.

Quilting on my domestic sewing machine

I quilted straight lines 1" apart in the black background, using my walking foot for the long lines between columns of chevrons and switching to ruler quilting for the short lines between the chevrons.  I planned freemotion and ruler quilting for the chevrons, a different design in each color.  That didn't happen, as my machine decided it didn't want to sew in a particular direction, interfering with my ability to sew these designs.  There may have been some heavy grumbling in the sewing room at this point.

I could work around this machine issue if I reverted to straight lines. Here's the first bit I quilted.

I rather liked the squares, but I was running out of time so I simplified things in the rest of the colours.

This worked just as well, I think.  It's less fancy but equally effective at creating texture and highlighting the chevron's shape.

I was limited in my thread colour options, as I didn't have access to the quilt shop (we're a one car family and I didn't have time to taxi husband and daughter to work to keep the car myself).  I was surprised I actually had just the right thread colours for most of the chevrons, but red was trickier.

At first glance, I though the one on the right would be the best bet.  Just to be sure,  I pulled some thread off the spools to audition them that way.

Huh. Look at that.  I'm partial to thread that blends with the fabric, so I see texture rather than a line of colour where the quilting is.  In that respect, the thread on the left, which absolutely did not look like a good match on the spool, looked like a better choice.

As I stitched I wasn't sure, but now that it's all done, I'm happy enough with my thread choice.

Finish everything off with a bright red binding, mount it on the wall, take a picture,  call on my very limited photoshop skills to straighten the picture a bit, and voila, a pattern cover!

Rush is a throw size quilt, though you could easily add more chevrons to enlarge it.

How do you feel about sewing with 45 degree shapes like the ones I used in Rush?  I'm working on a tutorial about cutting and sewing these shapes. They are not particularly difficult to work with, but I know some quilters shy away from them.  I'd love to know if there are any particular questions I should address, or tips I could share.

If you don't want to miss the tutorial when I post it, watch this blog, sign up for my newsletter or follow me on Instagram or Facebook.

Happy quilting,


The Rush pattern is available as a PDF download in my shop. You can ask for a print version at your favourite quilt shop.  Shops, please visit my website for wholesale info or order from Checker Distributor.