Saturday, September 6, 2014

Mystery Quilt and Half Square Triangle Hacks

My new blog friend Cheryl at Meadow Mist Designs is hosting a mystery quilt along for her Foothills Mystery Quilt. I had never heard of a mystery quilt before I stumbled across Cheryl's blog. I love mysteries and love quilts so I thought this would be a great combination. So far I have learned that in a mystery quilt game the quilt design is broken down into steps to make various pieces of the final design. The final quilt is a surprise that comes together with the final steps of the game. The First step of the Foothills Mystery Quilt was selecting fabric. You can read about my choices here, and if you would like to join, there is still time, just check out Cheryl's blog. Participants cut all of the required pieces in the Second step. Now we are working on the Third Step: 144 half square triangle (HST) units. 

I created several HSTs for a recent quilt top design of my own and I used Cheryl's prescribed method, where you place two squares right side together and draw a line from point to point diagonally across the square and then sew 1/4" on each side of the drawn line. It's a fine method and worked very well for me, follow the link to see. 

Cardboard and tape make a great HST guide for my machine.
I expanded on an idea I borrowed from My Quilt Infatuation while constructing blocks for my WERQ Bee partner where you use tape to help guide squares so that you would not need to draw a line on each one. You place a piece of tape on your sewing machine so that the edge of the tape is 1/4" away from the needle. Then you just line up the points of the square with the tape and sew without having to draw the line!

This would have worked perfectly for me, except the surface of my machine was too small for the 4" square that we are sewing in the mystery quilt. Using some cardboard from a granola bar box and some masking tape I fashioned an extension to my machine. 

The extension attached to my machine base.
The points are all lined up.
If you line up the bottom and top points with the edge of the tape you can sew 1/4" from the center without having to make a mark. I added some triangle markers for the side corners, not that they were necessary, but because they helped speed up the process of lining up the squares just right. I'm sure this is not new, and there probably is a device available that does this same thing. I felt like MacGyver though, hacking into a better, faster, more efficient way of making all of these HSTs.

Chain stitching was a breeze, and guiding the fabric along the tape edge was a cinch.
Just guide them through.
The resulting pile of sewn HST!
Now that they were all sewn, I knew I would have to cut them and press them. I wasn't particularly looking forward to the cutting of them. I started cutting them though, one at a time as I have done before. Then MacGyver kicked in again. There was no reason to cut them only one at a time. 

Lined up on the 5" mark. 
I lined up the stitching line with one of the lines on my cutting board and overlapped the squares as shown. I was careful to make sure the lines all matched from top to bottom.

Use the blurry 1/4" mark on the ruler to line up with a stitching line and slice with the rotary cutter.

Again, I'm sure this is nothing new, but to me it was revolutionary and made cutting those HSTs in half much faster than I had ever imagined. I have to say I am loving this Mystery Game. I have gotten to try some new ideas, and I love that I am able to play with the blocks and imagine endless possibilities because I don't know what the end result will be. It's quite exhilarating! 


  1. Great idea with the 'HST extension table', and whew, 144 HST is quite the undertaking, you are a far better man than I!

  2. You've been working hard this week! I love the idea of a mystery quiltalong, but am rubbish at waiting for surprises. I can see why you would want to do one with Cheryl though; her quilts are lovely.

  3. Your "hack" for sewing without marking was exactly what I did as well! It works so well. I am glad we have all those HSTs out of the way for this project. Your colors look great, and it is going to be fun to see how different everyone's quilt turns out along the way!

  4. Both Yvonne and you are using black... and even Cheryl is using low volume (black print) in hers... I have none; I am beginning to question if I will have enough contrast. Ack! I've already cut into it! No turning back now!

    P.S. loving your mix of solids and prints


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