Wednesday, March 27, 2024

The Basics of Stitch-and-Flip

If you have used my patterns in the past, you may be aware that I use the stitch-and-flip method often in my designs.  This technique, also know as snowballed corners or lost corners, makes it easy to add a triangle to the corner of a unit without having to cut either a triangle or a non-rectangular/non-square shape to which to sew the triangle.  It also avoid sewing along a cut bias edge.

How It Works

1.  Start with a base shape, either a square or rectangle, to which you want to add a corner, and a smaller square of the fabric you want in the corner.  The sides of the square should be 1/2" larger than the short sides of the triangles need to be in the finished quilt. 

You'll be sewing across the square diagonally from corner to corner, so you may like to draw a line to guide your sewing.  I like to use a mechanical pencil because it makes a fine line, which shows me more precisely where to stitch.  (I have included links to alternatives to marking at the end of this post.)

2.  With right sides together, tuck the square into the corner of the base shape, matching the edges in the corner.

3.  Sew along the diagonal.

4.  Fold the fabric back over the stitched line.  

5.  The folded corner should match the original perfectly.  (If it doesn't, rip the seam and try again.) 

6.  At this point I like to finger press the seam by running my fingernail along the seam.  This helps me make sure the fold is right up against the seam, and I'm less likely to distort the shape of either layer of fabric this way than if I use an iron.  After I finger press, I hit it with a hot iron to set the fold.

7.  After pressing, open up the fold and cut away excess fabric from the corer, cutting 1/4" away from the seam.  (Yes, I cut after I press.  I have found that keeping the full base shape while pressing helps stabilize the shape and I'm less likely to distort the unit.)

8.  Now fold the corner back to fill the unit's corner and you're done.

Additional Tips and Thoughts 

1. When the square is the same width as the base shape

You can also stitch-and-flip a corner when the square is the same width as the base shape.  In this case I recommend starting to sew from the side (see white arrow below) rather than the corner.  Starting from the corner sometimes leads to the corner getting caught in the machine.

2. Pay attention to the corner orientation

No amount of rotating a unit with a corner at the top right will turn the unit into one with a corner at the top left.

3. Trim as you go

When adding a second corner and the seam intersects the first corner, make sure you have trimmed away the excess fabric under the first corner before you add the second corner.  That new seam will prevent you from pulling the first corner back all the way to trim away the layers beneath.


4. Why you should sew accurately rather than count on trimming

You may be tempted to sew a little off the diagonal so that when you fold back the corner it extends a little past the corner of the base shape, then trim everything even with the base shape.

This is fine if the the points of the triangle in the corner do not need to meet a particular part of whatever unit will be beside it.

If the points are meant to line up with some other element, you need to be accurate.  Consider the example below (this is a random example, not from any particular pattern).

I've shown the seam allowance in green below.  The point in the finished unit will be where the seam intersects the triangle.  

Here's what the two units together will look like, with the seam allowance taken up in the seam.  You see that the point meets the seam in the unit on the right.

Here's the same unit, but with the corner just a little larger, from using a larger square as "fudge room".

You can see below that once the seam allowance is taken up in the seam, that larger triangles results in a point that is lower than the seam it needs to meet in the other unit.

Similarly, a corner that is trimmed  too small because the seam was too far over towards the corner results in a point that is slightly above where it should be to meet the seam in the other unit.

5. Ways to sew on the diagonal without marking

I personally get better results sewing along a marked diagonal line on my squares, but there are other options.  I encourage you to try different methods if you wish and use the method that gives you the best results.

In particular, you might consider the Clearly Perfect Angles seam guide or Diagonal Seam Tape.  I don't endorse either of these products, but I've included the links so you can explore options.  You might also use the edge of a piece of masking tape in the same way you would use the Diagonal Seam Tape.


I've discussed everything I could think of regarding stitch-and-flip corners.  If there's anything else you'd like me to address, leave a comment or email me.  I'll see what I can do.

Until next time, happy quilting!


My thanks to Northcott Fabrics for the fabrics I used in this tutorial.

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Nesting Seams and Spinning Seams

In preparing for Week 4 of the Two Colour Mystery quilt-along (clue will be released March 21) I found that nesting seams when sewing, and spinning seams when pressing, helped units look better.  In case you're not familiar with one or either of these techniques, read on.

Sample seam intersection - NOT a unit from the mystery quilt!

Nesting Seams

Nesting seams helps match seam lines that need to meet in the final unit.  It's just tucking the seam on one part right up to the seam on the other part when sewing the parts together.  It helps line up seam intersections. It also helps reduce bulk in the seam allowance by distributing the fabric in the seam allowances of the two previous seams on two sides of the new seam.  This only works if those two seams are pressed in opposite directions.

I'll use a 4-patch to illustrate.  If you're here from the Mystery Quiltalong, please note this is not a unit from that quilt.

Here is the start of the 4-patch.  I've already sewn two squares together.

Here's a view of the wrong side to show you the seams pressed in opposite directions.

When I put these two units wrong sides together, I offset them a little then slide the top unit down until I can feel the bump of the top seam fall right next to the bump of the bottom seam.  

Here's what it look like from the side.  The white arrow points to where the seam ridges or bumps kiss.

When possible, I prefer to place the pieces under the needle in such a way that I stitch over the top seam allowance first.  I do this for two reason.  First, the seam allowance on the bottom unit will be folded away from the feed dogs and will be less likely to get caught on them and get flipped. Second, the feed dogs will pull the lower unit, keeping its seam nestled up close to the seam on the top unit..

Here's a diagram of the units seam from the side (I know the colors don't match the fabrics in my example.  I just chose colors that would show up clearly in the graphic.)

Once the units are sewn together, the seams should line up perfectly.

But wait!  To which side did I press the seam?  Both.  Read on to see how I spin the seams.

Spinning Seam Allowances (Spinning seams)

When several seams intersect, pressing to one side can lead to a very bulky spot.

Pressing seams open can alleviate that, but I'm not a fan of pressing open if I can help it.  Pressing open eliminates the possibility of stitching in the ditch later.

Spinning seam allowances is my preferred way to distribute bulk in seam allowances.  It's not always possible, but I always try that first.

As you can see below, I could press the two halves of the new seam of my 4-patch in two different directions.  Think of it as sweeping or spinning all the seam allowances in a circular direction.  In this case it's clockwise (as seen from the back), but if the seams in my original units had been pressed towards the light instead, I would simply spin things counterclockwise instead.

Placing my fingers on the seam allowance so that each half is flattened in the direction I want it to be, I slide my fingers to the intersection, tucking my fingers into the fabric folds, and push each half of the seam allowance until the stitches in the middle pop and let the seam allowance lay flat, in a different direction in each half of the seam. 

Sometimes those stiches may need the assistance of a seam ripper to let go, but they are inside the seam allowance, and the last seam I sewed secured the rest of the seams those popped stitches belonged to, so nothing is going to fall apart.

I press that pretty little patch at the intersection, and flip over the 4-patch to press with an iron.  You might like to finger press those folds to make sure they don't flip the into the wrong direction before you get the iron on them.

I made a short video.  Maybe this will make the process more clear.  (If you're reading this directly from your email inbox, you may need to click through to view this post in your browser to see the video.  I'm not 100% sure how all the technology pieces work together!)

I'm rather excited that I just filmed and edited my first video tutorial, so I hope you found it helpful!  Please let me know in the comments.

I'm also curious about pressing habits.  Do you press to one side or open, and why? Nest seams or not?  There's no right or wrong, just what works for each individual quiltmaker, so share what you do so we can all build our toolbox of techniques.

Happy quilting,

If you're curious about the fabrics I used in the tutorial:  light is Crackle - Snow and dark is Stonehenge Gradations - Peacock, both from Northcott Fabric. Thank you to Northcott Fabrics for sending me the fabric.

Thursday, March 14, 2024

Two-Colour Mystery Week 3 - template paper HST

If you're sewing along with me in the Two-Colour Mystery quilt-along, you should find the next clue in your email inbox around 9 am CDT today.  This week's task is to make half-square triangle squares (HST) in two different sizes.

The pattern offers two methods to choose from.  If you have access to a printer or copier, I strongly recommend the method that uses the templates I included.  This method makes many perfectly sized and perfectly square HST at a time.

If you've used Thangles or any sort of triangle papers, you know what to do.  For those of you who have not, here's a quick look at the process.  It's all described in the pattern, but photos can illustrate this in more detail.


I'm demonstrating with the template for HST1 in the pattern, which makes 16 HST at a time.

1. Print out the template as many times as needed to make the number of units you need.   Be sure to choose "no scaling" or "actual size" or "100%" in your printer settings. 

Paper template for HST, with rotary cutter ruler

2.  Measure the 1" box to make sure the template printed out the correct size.  The box should measure 1" on every side.

A rotary cutting ruler beside a printed 1" square to measure accuracy of scale of printed template

2. Trim the excess paper outside the grey area.  This can be a rough cut.  It doesn't need to be precise.

Rotary cutter and ruler and HST template paper showing cut away grey margins

3.  Layer your fabrics, right sides together, followed by the paper template, right side up.  To plan ahead for pressing to the dark side later, layer fabrics as shown, dark on the bottom, followed by the light, then the paper.  You can pin the layers in place if you wish.

dark fabric, light fabric and HST template paper layered together.
hand separating layers of fabric and paper to show proper orientation (bottom fabric face up, top fabric face down)

5.   Decrease your sewing machine's stitch length to make it easier to remove the paper later.  I set mine to 1.5 on my machine.  Sew through the three layers, sewing on every dashed line on the template.  It's OK to stitch in the grey margins to travel to the next dashed line.

HST paper template after stitching on dashed lines
Stiches over the dashed lines and in the grey margin of HST template papers

6.  Carefully trim away the grey margins, keeping the cuts on the solid lines.

Rotary cutting ruler and cutter beside stitched layers of fabric and paper template, showing grey margins trimmed off.

7.  Cut on all the solid lines.  Start with the vertical and horizontal lines, cutting precisely on the lines.  Cut on the diagonal lines last.  These cuts don't need to be as precise, as they're in the seam allowance.

HST template cut apart on vertical lines
HST template papers sandwich cut along horizontal lines
HST template sandwich cut along all solid lines

10.  Leaving the papers on to stabilize the fabric, press the seam to one side,  Once the unit is pressed,  tear away the paper.  Folding and creasing the paper along the seam makes it easier to tear away the paper.

3 HST fabric side up and  1 HST paper side up, before pressing.  2 HST pressed open.  Torn off papers from two HST.

11.  Trim away any dog ears.  You can use a rotary cutter or scissors.  I find scissors to be faster for this, but do what's easiest for you.
1 HST with dog ear, 2 HST with dog ears trimmed off,  small triangle dog ear trimmings and a pair of scissors to the right.

That's it.  I love that this makes many accurate units at once without having to trim down each unit individually.


If you prefer to make your HST without papers, you can find a quick tutorial on the two-at-a-time method here.

If you're sewing along, let me know how things are going with your mystery quilt.  I've been seeing  many wonderful and varied fabric combination.  It's going to be so much fun to see how different the finished quilts look, based solely on fabric choice.

If you haven't signed up for the free quilt-along, there's still time to register and catch up.  Weekly instructions are sent by email, so you need to register to get your email address on the mailing list.

Happy quilting,

NOTE: The templates I used are only available as part of the instructions in the mystery QAL third clue, which are available to those who have registered for the quilt-along.  If you registered but did not receive the clue, please email me (  Otherwise, you can google "triangle papers" to find similar products to purchase.

PS  You are welcome to join my Quilting with Canuck Quilter Facebook group to share your progress.  Please note that to be admitted you must answer the questions you will be asked when you ask to join. This helps me keep the bots and fake accounts out of the group.  Thanks for understanding.

My thanks to Northcott Fabrics for the fabrics I used in this tutorial.