This is a tutorial for and Hourglass quilt block – also known as Quarter Square triangles – and is perfect for using Charm Squares for a fun scrappy look. Although the same method can be used to create larger blocks by using larger squares such as Layer Cake 10″ x 10″ squares. This post was updated in 2019.
This project starts with squares. You can use any size square you want, depending on what size you want your hour-glass block to be. For this particular mini quilt I started with 5″ squares -a perfect project for Charm Packs – and ended up with a 3 ½″ (finished) block. So the finished hour-glass block will be about an inch and a half smaller than your original square.
This little table topper measures 24″ x 24″. I made it 7 blocks x 7 blocks. The number of pre-cut squares is the exact number of finished blocks you will have. That part is easy. I needed one charm-pack consisting of 40 different squares + 9 more 5″ squares. I actually added a 50th square, because I wanted an even number of lights and darks, but if you’re going super scrappy, even numbers don’t matter. Does that make sense? Are you still with me?
I promise that the block itself is super simple.
Okay, let’s start:
Pair-up the 5″ squares, right sides together, and draw a diagonal line on the backside of one square. I used half lights and half darks, so I drew on the back of the light block.
When assembling these blocks, I’ve found things go a lot faster if you do the same step on all the blocks at once. For instance, mark all your backs at once. Sew your seams all at once, etc. If you are doing 100’s of the same little block, you may want to break it up into groups of 50 or so, just so you feel like you’re seeing progress and not totally bored, but on the whole, mass-repetition of the same step at once saves a lot of time.
Now sew a ¼″ away from both sides of the drawn line. I used lovely dark brown thread so you could see both seams.
Using your rotary cutter and a ruler, cut on the drawn line.
Press open both blocks. Consistently press the seam toward the dark fabric. (This will be important later.)
Now comes the fun part! Using a ruler and your rotary cutter, cut another diagonal line perpendicular to your seam.
You will end up with two pieces like this. At this point I just throw all of these pieces into a pile to match-up after all the cutting is done.
Match-up different sets of triangles where lights and darks sit opposite of each other. Or where it just makes you happy.
Then place them right sides together and sew with a ¼″ seam.
This is the part where the previous pressing makes a difference.
This part is purely optional!! Now, if you want to get really technical, here is a pressing method where four seams intersect, to make it not so bulky where all that fabric overlaps each other in the middle. This is a help especially if you are quilting. Once again, this is purely optional. So if this sounds confusing, don’t stress about it.
Before you open up the block, pull the right side and left side of the folded blocks in opposite directions. This will loosen up the seam a little.
Now press the four intersecting seams in a rotating pattern. This will create a little mini four-patch on the back side of the block where all the seams meet. This just makes the block flatter and less bulky to quilt through later. Okay, we are done with that little trick.
Once you have pressed all your blocks from the front to make sure they lie flat, now is the time to square-up. I know some people think this is tedious and unnecessary. I used to be one of those people. But now I am a squaring-up convert. It makes the quilt come together so much easier and look SO much nicer in the long run.
I squared these blocks up to 4″ exactly. A ruler with a diagonal line really helps in this case. You can line-up the diagonal line on your diagonal seam. Then put the middle measurement of the size you want to square it to on your center point. So, for example since we are squaring this block to 4″ I centered the 2″ mark on the center of my block and trimmed the sides. Then I rotated the ruler and trimmed the other two sides. If I was squaring-up a 6″ block, I would place the 3″ mark at the center of my block, etc.
And that is how you make a quick Hour-Glass block with no pre-cut triangles. Pretty nifty, huh? From there you can assemble them or do with them anything you want! I’d love to see if you do something. Be sure and let me know! Also, PLEASE tell me if something needs clarification in this tutorial. I’m so happy to do it.