Hour Glass Block tutorial

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 1/2″ (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 1/4″ 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 1/4″ seam.

This is the part where the previous pressing makes a difference.

If you’ve pressed them all towards the darker fabrics, then the seams should butt right next to each other, making all those triangle points meet up.

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.

I mentioned that this technique also works with 10″ precut Layer Cake squares – here’s a gorgeous example!


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  • Reply
    July 24, 2009 at 6:24 am

    I love this. I need to make a new ottoman cover and I think I will use your tutorial.

  • Reply
    July 24, 2009 at 6:48 am

    Great tutorial, thank you!

  • Reply
    C. Jaeger
    July 24, 2009 at 7:08 am

    Okay…I'll square up! ๐Ÿ™‚ Great tutorial!

  • Reply
    Quilt Hollow
    July 24, 2009 at 7:15 am

    Love when quilter's help quilter's.

  • Reply
    Petit Debutant
    July 24, 2009 at 7:24 am

    LOL when I first saw your quilt I thought it was a pinwheel block set on point, I didn't even see the "hourglass" block in there

  • Reply
    July 24, 2009 at 8:24 am

    super super super. Now I can get to work! Thanks Amy… you really are smart, aren't you? ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Reply
    July 24, 2009 at 12:02 pm

    Thanks so much for the tutorial. I love your red,white and blue table topper. I have a long list of projects but I want to make something using these blocks someday.

  • Reply
    July 24, 2009 at 12:15 pm

    Thanks for being kind enough to share the tutorial. I'm a newbie to quilting, but have learned very quickly that quilters are so willing to share & help us beginners. Thanks so much!!

  • Reply
    July 24, 2009 at 12:45 pm

    My oh my….what are you trying to do to me…..I'm already doing the a zig zag and I have to finish FMQ two others and between you and several other quilt blogs I am going crazy with wanting to try so many of these great tricks!:) Thanks so much for the tutorial…I'm going to put it in my favorites!!! Have a great weekend….I'll attending a wedding and watching my daughter as a

  • Reply
    July 24, 2009 at 4:14 pm

    Great tutorial! Thank you for sharing!

  • Reply
    The Quilt Buddy
    July 24, 2009 at 9:35 pm

    Great tutorial! Seems quick and easy. <br /><br />BTW-I also think that it is important to &quot;Square Up&quot;!<br /><br />Enjoy your fun day.

  • Reply
    July 24, 2009 at 10:59 pm

    What a great tutorial… I will definately make this one! Thanks for sharing.

  • Reply
    July 25, 2009 at 6:34 am

    Wow! Thank you so much for going to all that touble -I can&#39;t wait to try this block. Would be a great way to use up Charm Packs! Keep the tutorials coming!! Love them!<br />Have a great day! Paulette

  • Reply
    July 25, 2009 at 2:49 pm

    Thank you so much for this tutorial! I just, just started quilting and this makes complete sense to me. I love that is a relatively simple block that really shows off the pattern of the fabric.

  • Reply
    Wendy K
    July 28, 2009 at 4:57 am

    Hello! I found you by accident but am soooo glad that I did, your tutorial for the hourglass block quilt is the best I&#39;ve ever seen ๐Ÿ˜‰ so easy to understand! I&#39;ve always wanted to try making one and now you&#39;ve given me the confidence to have a go…thankyou! Glad you enjoyed your Pioneer weekend, my neice in California did a mini pioneer trek/camp and was exhausted..lol! We don&#39;t

  • Reply
    Nanette Merrill and daughters
    July 30, 2009 at 9:46 am

    I made a quilt like this and gave it to my sister years ago. I think it was called broken dishes in that pattern. The fabrics make a simple pattern interesting.

  • Reply
    January 6, 2010 at 1:08 pm

    This is a great tutorial, thank you for sharing! I&#39;m going to link to it on my blog http://sewwhattoday.blogspot.com

  • Reply
    July 7, 2010 at 12:11 pm

    I realize this post is over a year old, but I just found your blog today! I really love and now follow it so I can keep up with what your doing! I love this tutorial!!! I have two different charm packs awaiting me, and now I know for sure what to di with one of them!!! Thanks so much for taking the time to share this tutorial with us all!

  • Reply
    September 16, 2010 at 6:04 pm

    oh WOW what a FABULOUS tutorial, i am so glad i stumbled across your blog!..i can&#39;t wait to get started! cheers, Marian x

  • Reply
    September 17, 2010 at 5:27 am

    Good Morning Amy.<br />Thank you so much for pointing me to your tutorial. This is extremely helpful. :o) And I too square everything up. It takes a little longer but the result is much nicer. :o)<br />Have a great day.<br />Sincerely ~ Tricia

  • Reply
    Bea Lippott
    September 25, 2010 at 7:08 am

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I am so glad I found this and your blog. Your saving me from the mundaness of my job, but at the same time I wish I was at home getting busy on my projects. This was so wonderful and I was so excited that my points matched and everything. I was doing the happy dance when my hubby came home from work cause it came out so well.

  • Reply
    Jacky and Steph
    November 2, 2010 at 10:02 am

    Such a great tutorial – many thanks – added to my favourites list – and yes I agree, I always square up now – don&#39;t ask me why !!

  • Reply
    November 28, 2010 at 11:04 am

    Grazie,<br /> trovo molto interessante questo tutorial,<br /> piรน tardi do un&#39;occhiata anche agli altri….<br />anzi metterรฒ questo blog tra i preferiti…<br />Ciao Domenica

  • Reply
    Melanie B
    December 20, 2010 at 5:19 am

    Thankyou so much just found your blog. I wanted to do a quilt (I am an absolute beginner) and hoping this will be my first.<br /><br />Thanks<br />Melanie xx

  • Reply
    February 11, 2011 at 5:45 am

    bit delayed but wanted to say thanks for this. I am working on a tutorial and they mentioned opening up the seams on the rear of the hourglass block and I looked at the picture looked at mine and then went what the? after reading yours and fidgeting a bit that last &#39;optional&#39; bit finally came together ๐Ÿ™‚ appreciate it!

  • Reply
    March 22, 2011 at 4:31 pm

    I know you posted this project like forever ago but I LOVE the fabric. Do you by chance remember what it was called, my husband is in the military and I have been searching for cute red white and blue fabrics that match and I just love all of the fabric you used for this quilt! I will be using it to make quilts for some of the soldiers that are deployed.

  • Reply
    amy smart
    March 23, 2011 at 3:10 pm

    Lacey: The fabric is from a Moda collection called Nantucket, I think. Some may still be floating around out there somewhere!<br /><br />What a great project you are working on! Now is a good time of year to find patriotic prints as all the pre-4th of july stuff is available. I hope that helps a little! Thanks so much for saying HI!

  • Reply
    October 22, 2011 at 6:26 pm

    THANK YOU so much. This looks like an easy way to make a really attractive quilt.

  • Reply
    Debi Weaver
    April 24, 2012 at 1:01 pm

    I just wanted to pop in and thank you for these specific directions on how to square your Hour Glass Blocks. I made a link to my blog – so others might hear about you (if they read my post). My sister learned well, looking at your photos and reading your directions. Thanks again.<br />Debi <br />Look here to find your link:<br />http://debi-peacebypiece.blogspot.com/

  • Reply
    December 30, 2012 at 5:23 pm

    Thank you so much for this tutorial. I am doing my first quilt!!

  • Reply
    January 9, 2013 at 7:40 pm

    thanks for this tutorial. i&#39;m working on squaring up my pieces now. I had no idea how to do this before! Can&#39;t wait until I&#39;m done!!

  • Reply
    Eva Mari
    April 19, 2013 at 10:10 am

    Thank you so so much for the how-to on squaring such! I&#39;m a newbie at quilting and this REALLY helped!! <br /><br />Best regards from Eva Mari in Norway ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply
    September 1, 2014 at 2:05 pm

    Thanks for the tutorial; it is all perfectly clear.

  • Reply
    Jo Ho
    September 20, 2014 at 2:18 pm

    Thank you very much. I finally know how to make no bulky ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply
    Margie West
    October 1, 2020 at 12:30 pm

    Thank you! I have been wanting to make this little quilt. I’ll send you a picture when I get it done! Margie/TN

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