Tutorial for Jen, Pt 1


Just a few days ago, I was (playfully) torturing Jen about not having a hobby. Besides the domestic chores she does for me (thank you, Jen) and work, she really doesn’t do much else. She got it in her head to start asking me questions about HSTs and perhaps making a quilt from them. I showed her a picture of the Carpenter’s Star quilt and she drew it out. I have previously taught her how to count, add and set up what she needs to make it but she’s forgotten. I started thinking and decided to write up a tutorial for her – now she doesn’t need me. She can read and reread this as much as she wants.


It all starts with a drawing of what you want on graph paper. By using graph paper, you can count squares, assign values to the squares and plan the entire quilt. I can assign those tiny squares on the graph paper to be 2″ apiece, 4″ apiece or even 8″ each. After you get a solid drawing, you can make it any size you want. The graph paper I use is 4 squares to the inch but that only matters when you are using it to recreate a quilt from a picture. I have bumped into quilts that needed 5 squares to the inch to design properly but, for the most part, 4 squares to the inch works for just about everything. The 4 square to an inch doesn’t matter unless you are using it to recreate a pattern. So, the tiny squares on my graph paper can be any size I want and the larger blocks I drew can be assigned any value, as well. The point is to create a symmetry. Something pleasing to the eye and able to be cut up into pieces that I will sew.

When making your drawing a lot of time and care is used to make it as beautiful as possible so you can visually see what your final product will be like. Scribbling or quickly coloring it won’t give you a beautiful picture in your mind.


The next thing we do is count the different blocks in the quilt that you need to create. For this one, I will need:

  • (16) Blue/White HSTs
  • (16) Purple/White HSTs
  • (16) Blue/Purple HSTs
  • (16) Solid White Pieces


When creating your HSTs, you will start with two pieces of fabric cut at the size you want the block when finished plus 7/8 of an inch. There are 8/8ths in an inch and 4/8ths is half an inch. I chose 5″ blocks when I did this, so mine were cut at 5 7/8″ to start. If I were not making HSTs, I would have cut the squares at 5 1/2″ or 5 4/8″. The 1/2″ extra will be used up in our seam allowance when assembling the quilt. The additional 3/8ths of an inch that makes it cut at 5 7/8″ will be used when sewing them into HSTs. The 3/8ths of an inch is just a titch smaller than a 1/4″ per seam (1/2″ total). That means, when we draw our line diagonally down the middle and sew on either side of it, we have to sew *just shy* of a 1/4″ seam on both sides. It helps to know your sewing machine and set it up with tape or other markings at the 1/4″ and then move the needle *just a titch* closer than that.


So, since we now understand that we have to add 3/8ths of an inch to what our block should be after creating the HST, let’s do some math. In the above picture, I did the math assuming I wanted my blocks to be 3″ each after completing the top. I wrote out the colors I needed per block I needed to create and, because every time I create an HST, I am actually creating two, I wrote down how many pieces of fabric I needed.

Example: For (16) Blue/White HSTs, I need (8) Blue and (8) white. I made sure to write this so I would know exactly what to cut. I even wrote the exact dimensions, on both sides, because I find it a great habit to make sure I write when things are not the same size on both sides. When finished writing it up, I needed the following…

For (16) Blue/White HSTs:

  • (8) Blue 3 7/8″ x 3 7/8″
  • (8) White 3 7/8″ x 3 7/8″

For (16) Purple/White HSTs:

  • (8) Purple 3 7/8″ x 3 7/8″
  • (8) White 3 7/8″ x 3 7/8″

For (16) Blue/Purple HSTs:

  • (8) Blue 3 7/8″ x 3 7/8″
  • (8) Purple 3 7/8″ x 3 7/8″

For (16) White Solids:

  • (16) White 3 1/2″ x 3 1/2″

That’s the fabric I need for the 3″ finished square quilt. Now, I counted how big the quilt top would be when finished before any borders I may or may not add. I have a quilt with eight squares across and eight squares down. Eight times Three inches is 24 inches per side. That means, when finished, my top will be 24″ x 24″. Very small. Too small for anyone to really use except a newborn and, even then, only for a few months.


I did the math again, this time with 4″ finished squares when top completed. Eight times four inches = thirty-two inches square. That means, the top will be 32″ x 32″ when finished and before any borders. Still too small. Again, I wrote out every size that I would need and then added up the quilt size when done. I don’t normally do this. I typically decide the size of the blocks before writing what I need per block. Jen mentioned using 3″ squares and I wanted to show the math and show how small the top would be when she was done.

I decided on 5″ finished squares in the quilt. Doing the math …

8 * 5″ = 40″

This would give me a quilt top that is 40″ x 40″ before any borders are added. That seems a reasonable size and I could add borders to make it a lap quilt of any size I desire. I tend towards larger lap quilts. Not because I am tall (I am perfectly average) but because I like them big enough to snuggle in, with or with babies. I hadn’t decided borders at this point, since I wasn’t sure how much of my focus fabric I would have left after creating the top.

How Much Fabric Do I Need?


This is the point I usually pull out my nifty calculator and figure out how much of each fabric I need. I have shown Jen how to use it but, unless you use it constantly, it’s easy to forget how. The above is the calculator I use. Forgive the cover missing. My boys thought it was amazing and accidentally broke the cover off. The Quilter’s FabricCalc is amazing in all the abilities it has. We’re going to just play with finding out how much fabric we need for our blocks right now.

One thing with this calculator (which I can turn off but choose not to) is that it adds a half inch to every value you enter. If you want to find out how much fabric you need for (40) 3 1/2″ x 3 1/2″ squares, you have to actually type in that you are creating 3″ x 3″ squares. Oh, and it assumes that all values you enter for square size are square – you can’t use this to figure out the fabric required for (40) 3 1/2″ x 6 1/2″ squares.

So, if I need to know the fabric required for the 5 7/8″ x 5 7/8″ squares that I am cutting out, I would have to do a little pre-math. We know it adds a half inch to every value entered, so if I enter 5 7/8″, it’ll actually change it to 6 3/8″. I don’t want that because I will end up purchasing too much fabric and have leftovers. So, to begin, I type in 5 7/8 (and yes you can use the symbol to type in fractions), hit the subtraction sign and then type 1/2. It will give me the answer to 5 7/8″ – 1/2″, which is 5.375″ or, by hitting the inch button twice, 5 3/8″. This is the value I will type into the calculator to find out how much fabric I need. If, as in my example above, I wanted (40) 5 7/8″ x 5 7/8″ squares, I would type in

Square size: 5.375

Squares: 40

and it would give me an answer of: 1 1/4 yards.

I actually don’t need that many so I will redo the math and type in

Square Size: 5.375

Squares: 8

and it would give me an answer of: 1/3 yard. Each of the pieces above would require (16) pieces, so this 1/3 yard can be added to each value. What I didn’t mention before is you type in the number and then press the corresponding button. Such as “Square Size” or “Squares.”

For (16) Blue/White HSTs:

  • (8) Blue 5 7/8″ x 5 7/8″ 1/3 yard
  • (8) White 5 7/8″ x 5 7/8″ 1/3 yard

For (16) Purple/White HSTs:

  • (8) Purple 5 7/8″ x 5 7/8″ 1/3 yard
  • (8) White 5 7/8″ x 5 7/8″ 1/3 yard

For (16) Blue/Purple HSTs:

  • (8) Blue 5 7/8″ x 5 7/8″ 1/3 yard
  • (8) Purple 5 7/8″ x 5 7/8″ 1/3 yard

For (16) White Solids:

  • (16) White 5 1/2″ x 5 1/2″

To figure out the fabric required for the white 5 1/2″ x 5 1/2″ squares, we type in

Square Size: 5″

Squares: 16

and receive an answer of: 1/2 yard. Another great thing about this calculator is that it can add fractions and, even though adding 1/3rds is pretty easy (the two values for blue and the two values for purple), we type in:

1/3 + 1 /3

and it will give us the answer of 2/3. Pressing the “yard” button twice will convert the decimal number seen to 2/3 yards.

Adding up our values, we find that we need:

  • 2/3rds yard Blue
  • 2/3rds yard Purple

and, to figure out the yardage for the white, we use the calculator and add

1/3 + 1/3 + 1/2

press the equals button and get an answer of: 1.166667. Or, after pressing the yard button twice, we find out we need 1 1/4 yards white. Pretty simple? Yes. It is! Now, go buy one of these calculators. It truly does make things very easy! Next post, assembly and figuring out borders.


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