It was the perfect idea!! I could use them to make a Rag Quilt. But not just a plain old square rag quilt, a pieced rag quilt, with a cute little pattern. So let's make it!!
STEP 1 - MAKING HALF SQUARE TRIANGLES
So, In order to make a "Pieced" rag quilt you have to start first with making the pieces. Makes sense, right. HST's are a great piecing tool because they give you so many design options. So, here is how to make one :) I very much doubt there are many of you who haven't done this, but I wanted to be thorough :) Start with 2 squares that are the same size. I like one being solid and one print to help the design show up but it isn't necessary. These can be any size, charm squares work great for it!!!
Lay the 2 squares with right sides together and draw a line diagonally from corner to corner on the wrong side of the fabric on one of the squares.
Now sew a 1/4" seam on the left and the right hand side of that line. I always forget to trim my threads before taking pictures.
Now using your ruler and cutter, or your scissors for that matter, as long as you can cut semi straight, cut along the drawn line creating 2 separate pieces.
Press your seam. I like to press my seams to the print side. You can press them any way you prefer. I really need to buy a new iron, mine leaks water like a sieve.
Now, it's just trimming your block. You will be trimming it to a 1/2" smaller square than you started with. So, since this started as a 5" square, I will be trimming it to 4 1/2". To do this, align your ruler so that the 45 degree line is along the diagonal seam of your block and that the left side edge is on the 4 1/2" line of your ruler. Trim the excess on the right that is sticking out.
Rotate your block, this is where I wish I had one of those spinning mats, and align your ruler just like before. Trim away. Sometimes, there isn't a whole lot to trim away. Keep rotating your block until you have trimmed all 4 sides and have a perfect square :)
So Now you know how to make a HST!!! Now, just decide how many squares you want in your rag quilt and make up your HST's. It helps to do them assembly style, but you already knew that. I am doing a 7 x 7 layout so I need to make 49 HST's blocks or have 25 sets of charm squares. Oh, and if mine look smaller from here on out it is because they are. They are actually 4" blocks going forward.
STEP 2 - MAKING THE PIECED RAG SQUARES
Okay, so now your Pieced HST's are ready you need to get the rest of the parts of your rag quilt squares ready. Here is where there are like a million options. Basically here you are looking for a backing and a center. People use snuggle flannel, flannel, minky, cotton, the sky is the limit. It just depends what "feel" you want. I choose to do a cotton print backing, so that it matched the front, and a felt square center. If I had it to do over I would have used snuggle flannel instead of felt, it was stiff and hard to work with, but it was what I had on hand.
Now, You want to cut the same number of squares out of your backing and center as you have for your top. Now here is where there is another option. Some people cut the same size squares, and some people cut their center, the batting piece, a 1/2" smaller. I went for the same size as I wanted the red felt to really stand out in all those little cuts. Although, I have to admit, when dealing with the bulk, you tend to wish you choose different, but it was worth it in the end.
So, now you should have a stack of backing squares, a stack of center or batting squares, and a stack of pieced top squares. And you are ready to go. Oh, and one more mention, you can just do 2 layers, but goodness, as there weren't enough options already.
You are now ready to make what I like to call square sandwiches. It is just like making a quilt sandwich but you do it with each individual block. Take a backing square, a center square, and a pieced top square. Stack them up so that the backing square is wrong side face up, the center square you can face any way you like, and the pieced square is faced right side up. Then go ahead and pin along either side of your seam to make your square sandwich. Repeat this with all of your squares.
Now, here is where we have some more options. Seriously, I have to admit, I was a little overwhelmed when taking on this project with how many decisions I had to make to come out with pretty much the same product. You are going to sew your pieced sections together. You can sew a X through each square set, you can sew a border around the whole square set, or you can sew nothing at all and just keep the pins. This is not pictured, obviously. I choose to sew a single line down the seam line of my pieced square so that it enhances the design. You don't see it much on the front but it looks cute on the back.
Start by feeding your first squares set into your machine. Sometimes it is hard to start right on the edge because the layers want to bulk up so I recommend starting about 1/8" in from the edge. No worries, it will all get sewn into the row seams. Sew down the seam line. Just keep feeding in square after square until you have sewn them all. If you have a walking foot, put it on for this step and leave it on for the remainder of the project, It helps a ton!!! Trim the threads between your square sets so you have a stack of squares. Leave the pins in.
STEP 3 - CHOOSING A LAYOUT
So, now all of your square sets are nice and sewn together and you are ready to choose a layout. The possibilities are quite numerous. Here are a few ideas.
I tend to love pinwheels so that is what I decided to go with. Layout your blocks (in however many rows and columns you decided on) in your choose pattern. I like to take a little time here so that I get a nice mix of color that is pleasing to the eye.
STEP 4 - SEWING THE ROWS TOGETHER
Once you have the layout down you are ready to start sewing your rows together. This is a little different than sewing normally as you are going to be putting wrong sides together. Ya totally backwards, it took me a minute to wrap my head around that. Grab your first two pieces in your first row and place them wrong sides together. I didn't bother with pins, I rarely do for things under 5" that do have seams to worry about.
Now sew a 1/2" , Yes, a 1/2" not a 1/4", seam along the side of your square. If you have a heavy duty needle available I would highly recommend it. It took me 2 broken needles to figure that out.
Now you are ready to attach the next piece in the row. Once again, place your now sewn together squares 1 and 2 and place them wrong sides together with square 3. Sew your 1/2" seam. Continue this way down the entire row.
So this is what a row looks like. So now, move on to the next row. I found it helpful to stack mine up slightly so that I could take an entire row at a time to my machine. I can only get up and down so much in a short period of time :)
So, here are all your rows sewn together. I know, not much now but just give it time :) Go ahead and remove your pins now. I add a pin in each row on the number square of the row to help me keep my rows straight. Just fyi
STEP 5 - SEWING THE TOP TOGETHER
So now, onto taking those rows and sewing them together to make a top. This is done in the same way as making a row, just on a longer scale with seams to worry about. Grab row 1 and row 2 and place them wrong sides together.
This is where the pinning gets important. I found it easiest, and actually quite helpful when you get to the cutting stage, lucky break, to open your seams both front and back to pin them rather than to do a traditional "nested" seam. Align the seams and pin both sides of the seam down. Then pin the edges of the rows.
Hopefully this close-up helps a bit with the idea of opening the seams. Yes, that is a lot of bulk to sew through on those seams, once again, kicking myself for not going to the store to buy something other than felt. Now, Sew a 1/2" seam down the length of the pinned side of the row. Don't go over pins, take them out right before you get to them. Seriously, I busted a third needle when I got lazy.
So here is your first two rows sewn together. You an see that design starting to form. Just keep on with this process, adding one row after another until you have all of your rows sewn together. I have little helpers in my sewing room who like to stick their toes in photos :)
So here is your top now. Only one more sewing step to go. And then it is on to sore hands :)
Lastly, sew a seam 1/2" in from the edge of the quilt around the the entire quilt. I pinned all of my edges open so that the cutting would be the same. However, it really wasn't necessary to pin, it would have been just as easy to lay them flat as I went around.
STEP 6 - CUTTING
Okay, so onto the cutting. Basically, anything sticking up has to be cut. So go find your favorite Jane Austin flick and stick it in. You will be here for a bit.
I found the easiest way to cut is to fold the seam line I was working on in half so that I would cut through the whole width and still see the seam so as not to cut through it. But if you happen to do this, and yes I did, no worries, You can just resew the seam again.
So basically there are three types of seams to deal with when cutting, at least that is what I found. Straight seams, which are the easiest. Just cut a nice little fringe like so.
Well call these seam centers. Lots and lots of fabric. I was seriously debating going and buying a pair of spring loaded scissors at this part. You can cut these the same way as you do the straight seams. It is okay if you cut the vertical seam, just don't cross the horizontal seam.
And lastly, The open seams in opposite directions. Don't you just love these terms I am making up. I found it easiest to first snip right next to the horizontal seam on both sides of the square on top and bottom. This allows you to now fold your piece in half along the seam line and cut it just like all the other seams.
So now everything has cut little clips in it. Make sure you also clipped around the outside edge. And go massage your hand for a bit.
STEP 7 - WASH AND ENJOY
Now just throw the blanket in the washer and dryer. And Ta Da!!!! It comes out in a cute, adorable little blanket. Mine is small, the perfect size for a car seat snuggler and then to be drug around as a toddler when Mom doesn't want to cart around a huge blanket.
I hope you enjoy making up a Pieced Rag Quilt as much as I did!!! I think I will be making another one very soon. Although, I will be using larger squares and will not be using felt as the centers. Thanks for joining me and if you happen to whip one of these up, please feel free to add a picture to my flickr group here :) I would love to highlight it on my blog some time!!