Friday, July 1, 2011

Block 3 - Churn Dash, We Can Do It! Sampler

Hello again.  This week we are going to jump into triangles!  There are so many amazing quilts that are made out of triangles.  This week we will make a Churn Dash block.  I will show you two different methods of making half square triangles (a triangle that made from half of a square - I will call it a HST from here on out).   I would like you to use one method to make two of the HSTs and the other method to make the other two HSTs.  That way you can see what method you like best.

Again some lovely churn dash inspiration....

1. Red and White Churn Dash, 2. Churn Dash and Rail Fence, a portion of the queen size quilt, 3. Bohemian Churn Dash, 4. Churn Dash Baby Quilt 2, 5. Cheesehead churn dash, 6. Quiltathlon wip, 7. ChurnDash, 8. Barnyard baby quilt, 9. churn dash star

How to make half square triangles (HST)

In this block anything goes.  Just make sure there is enough contrast between your background (white) and the block design (orange/yellow).  You could even use a print for the center square!


4 light 2.5 x 4.5 inch strips
4 dark 2.5 x 4.5 inch strips
1 light 4.5x4.5 inch square

(you could also strip piece this step - cut 1 light and 1 dark 2.5 x 19 inch strip, sew the two strips together and then cut into four 4.5 inch lengths)

1 light 5x5 inch square
1 dark 5x5 inch square
1 light 4 7/8 x 4 7/8 inch square
1 dark 4 7/8 x 4 7/8 inch square


Start by chain piecing the four light and dark strips together along the long side.

Press towards the dark fabric.  When I was pressing, I found that if I finger pressed (pressing a seam open with your fingers) before pressing with the iron, my seams were completely open and there was little to no distortion.  Sweet!!

The four segments should measure 4.5 by 4.5.

Next, sewing the HSTs...  There are different methods of sewing HSTs.  The most common are what I like to call exact and trim-it-down.  

I was going to go into some quilting math here, but I will save that for a different post.  Suffice it to say, that the 4 7/8 piece is cut exactly to size and the 5 inch piece is cut a little larger, so you will be able to trim it down into the perfect size.

The first way I learned how to piece HST involved cutting the squares in half along the diagonal and then sewing them back together.  But there is an easier way.

On the wrong side of the lighter print, draw a line from point to point with a pen or pencil (it does not have to be washable as it will be in the seam).  Use your ruler as a guide.

Place the light and dark fabric right sides together and sew along both sides of the line.  Make sure that the edge of the foot just barely covers the center line.  Repeat for both blocks.

Cut the blocks in half on the drawn line.  Press open towards the darker fabric.

The little triangles that stick out are called dog ears.  Trim them off to reduce bulk.

Measure the two blocks.  The HSTs made from the 4 7/8 inch squares should measure 4.5 inches.  How did you do?  For this method to work you have to cut and sew perfectly and alas, no one is perfect.  But with practice you can still get good HSTs.  I used this method up until a year ago.

I had heard of the cut-slightly-larger-squares-and-then-trim-them-down-to-the-correct-size method, but the idea of trimming a million HSTs made me cringe - it still does, to be honest.  But with this method you get precise perfect HSTs that are a joy to work with.  So how do you trim down your blocks?

Find the 45 degree mark on your ruler - those lines going through the 45 are at a 45 degree angle.  

Line up one 45 degree line with the seam of the block.  Make sure that the right hand side of the block measures at least 4.5 inches and square up the left hand side.

Flip the ruler, line up the diagonal and make sure the left hand side measures exactly 4.5 inches.  Trim the right hand side.

Flip the block and repeat for the other two sides.
The block should now measure a perfect 4.5 inches square.

So, which method did you like better?  For making tiny HSTs I think I will still go with the trim method, but for larger HSTs I think I am going to go back to exact piecing.  I will just have to slow down and be careful.

We now have all of the units pieced.  Lay them out and sew the columns (or rows) together.  Press away from the HSTs on the end pieces and towards the dark strips in the middle section.  Match and pin the center seams.  Sew the three sections together.

You did it!

For more detailed HST tutorials check out these posts from The Skill Builder Series.  They go over the methods we used today and more methods you might want to use if you are making a lot of HSTs.  Here is another fun method.

Next Friday, I will not post a tutorial, but will talk about quilt "math."  Use the week to catch up on your blocks because I will also have a giveaway for everyone who has completed all three blocks by July 14th.

Have a great weekend!


  1. WHAAAAAAAAAAAT?? I can't make that!! Oh dear, there will be cursing from my sewing room this week...

  2. Your three blocks look great together. So fab.

    I have a question about this block. Is it ok to use the same fabric for the background of this block that we will be using for the border of our finished quilt? It looks like it is since that's what it seems like you did but I want to ask to be sure.

    Thanks. I'm *really* enjoying the quilt-along. You have been providing clear tutorials and I love the inspiration you're giving for each block. Every tip and trick you give is appreciated by the newbies.


  3. Love it! I have been seeing lots of churn dash blocks popping up on blogs for the farmers wife QAL and loved them. Now I get to make one too :-)

  4. Question on the second set of cutting measurements. Should that read 1 light 4 7/8 x 4 7/8 and 1 DARK 4 7/8 x 4 7/8? It looks like a light/dark and light/dark in the picture so I wanted to make sure.

  5. I am loving this QAL! Your instructions are spot-on, and it's really stretching my brain to do the fabric-play and precision sewing. Thank you! (I just did a handbag sew-along on my blog and I know how much time I spent on THAT, so many thanks for doing this :)

  6. Ooooh, I love Churn Dash! It's probably my favorite traditional block! Might have to make more than one...

  7. Yes, it is ok if your background is the same color as your sashing/border. Some people might want to do a different color so their sashing really stands out, but I want my sashing to blend and be more of a spacer in this quilt. It is all personal preference.

    Yes, it is suppose to be 1 light and 1 dark. I am glad you caught that. It is now fixed.

  8. I have a question about the video link. The method she used (using the charm pack and sewing around all four sides) just looked too easy to be true. How does her method work for larger triangle blocks, though, cause it looks like her final four triangle squares she used to make her pinwheel were awfully small.

    Why did I pick a hobby that requires math? :)

  9. I was so excited for today's block instructions that I started checking your blog at 7:30 am. :-)
    Thanks for doing this quilt along. I really like how my first 2 blocks turned out and now I just need to figure out how to upload photos to flicker...

  10. Cool! I am loving this QAL too! I feel like I am learning so much, and can't wait to learn more!! Thanks!

  11. I guess what I'm really asking is - in the fabric requirements it says "If you choose to have a set background color I would buy 3-4 yards of it and the additional 5 yards of fabric in a variety of colors". So does that 3-4 yards of background cover the sashing as well as being the background in these kind of blocks.

    I like the idea of the design on the block standing out (so letting the background and sashing be the same color on some blocks) but I just want to make sure that I was Following the direction properly so that I wouldn't run out of fabric. :)

    Thanks again.


  12. Hey Leila,

    Is this one of the blocks that we can use our big-patterned fabric for? Or will there be better ones later?

    Thank you!!! LOVING learning to quilt with you all!!

  13. Thanks for lovely instructions, Churn Dash is a favourite of mine.

  14. I love this block! I would like someday to make a whole quilt just of churn dashes. As for the half square triangle methods, my favorite is to sew the two squares together, with the quarter inch seam allowance all around the outside edge, the cut an X across the square. You have to remember to use squares that are two inches larger than your finished squares;i.e., if you want 2.5 inch finished triangle squares, you start out with two 4.5 inch squares. Thanks for the great instructions and pictures!

  15. This would be a great block to use your large patterned fabric on.

  16. Hi Leila, Churn Dash was the first block I learned to make when I did a patchwork course with a small class near my home. The tutor got us to make templates and cut the fabric from those. It was very laborious, and I struggled with the precision joining up instructions. Your tute has made it look so easy! And the video link looked like fun just to try.
    I might make another block just to try your technique, but if I don't get around to it, would it be okay if I posted a pic of my first Churn Dash block on your Flickr group?

  17. Thanks! Your tutorials are always easy to follow and so fun! I'd say I like making bigger blocks and then trimming them down, only because I have a hard time making my seams perfect.

  18. I didn't quite understand what you meant by two methods of doing the HSTs until I had actually sewn my squares together, cut them in half and measured them on the cutting mat. Ah ha...I would much rather make them a bit bigger, and cut to size - thank you for that tip!


    This is a great link for helping with the video link.

    I am in the process of making the block via this method will let you know how it goes.

  20. Hi Leila! I follow Love, Lizzie and I saw that she was doing this sampler series. It was the first I heard of it, so I ran over to check it out! Wow! It looked like so much fun, that I made the first 3 blocks. All in the same night!!
    I will upload pics to Flickr tomorrow and get started on #4 and #5!

  21. I've joined onto this project really late, but just designed a quilt with a lot of churn dash blocks. . Using the large square and sew around the outside then cross-cutting on the diagonal to make four HST squares and then trimming worked really great.

  22. I know this is old, but this is a really good post on making HST and the churn dash block! thanks!

  23. How big are these blocks......