Miracle Grow Quilt-A-Long

Introducing our Miracle Grow Quilt-A-Long!

This easy half-square triangle quilt is accessible and fast, even if you have never quilted before! When pulling this together for Craft South and By Hand Serial, my goal was not to be ultimately creative or innovative, but to keep it simple. When first starting out, I found quilting pretty daunting and even the humble half-square triangle (or HSTs, as we’ll call them moving here on out) seemed difficult. I wanted to write up a tutorial that beginner quilters could easily tackle.

While many of our readers and customers at Craft South are very creative and accomplished patchwork artists, I hope that they’ll forgive me for writing such a simple pattern, designed for those of us just starting out. We’ll be quilting-a-long on this via Instagram using the #MiracleGrowQAL tag -- be sure to join us, even if you’re using your Floral Retrospective fabrics differently. Everyone can play along!

Materials

Before starting this quilt, you will need a few specific materials. Everything listed here is something that really every quilter needs, so if you’re just getting into quilting and worried about spending money, these are going to be things you use over and over again.

First and foremost, you’ll need a sewing machine. While you could, theoretically, construct all 64 half square triangles by hand, it would really slow you up, and this tutorial is written with a machine in mind. (Don’t have a machine? We’d love to recommend Anna’s custom Janome!)

You’ll also need a rotary cutter with a fresh blade, a quilter’s ruler, a cutting mat & cutting surface, and a fabric pencil (or fabric pen.) You’ll need an iron set up with lots of steam and an ironing surface. It’s also handy to have some snips so you can get rid of loose threads along the way.

While you don’t have to use pins, they can make the process a bit easier if you’re a newer quilter, so feel free to use them as you like. You will need some safety pins and scissors for the quilt layering portion of the process, and if you plan on tying your quilt top like I did, you'll want Pearl Cotton in the color of your choice, and a hand sewing needle to match.

Fabric

These cuts are written to give you some wiggle room. If you’re cutting from larger yardage at home and know what you’re doing, the amount you use is listed in parentheses.

You can either order these individually or as a kit here.

You need ⅔ of a yard in each of the prints:

  • Raindrops Poppies in Amber (from the Floral Retrospective collection)
  • Overachiever in Mystery (from the Floral Retrospective collection)
  • Echinacea in Berry (from the Floral Retrospective collection)
  • Social Climber in Lichen (from the Floral Retrospective collection)
  • Clippings in Passion (from the Loulouthi collection)

You will need 2 ¼ yards of your background fabric:

  • Illuminated Graph in Fog (from the Loominous collection)

Cutting

Cut these fabrics into the following pieces:

  • 7 - 9 x 9” squares of the Raindrops Poppies in Amber (you have enough fabric for 8)
  • 7 - 9 x 9” squares of the Clippings in Passion (you have enough fabric for 8)
  • 7 - 9 x 9” squares of the Echinacea in Berry (you have enough fabric for 8)
  • 6 - 9 x 9” squares of the Overachiever in Mystery (you have enough fabric for 8)
  • 6 - 9 x 9” squares of the Social Climber in Lichen (you have enough fabric for 8)
  • 32 - 9 x 9” squares of the Illuminated Graph in Fog

I’ve given you an extra square (or two) just in case you mess up! The easiest way to cut this fabric is on a big surface, make sure your selvage edges line up at the bottom, then cut the left-side edge of the fabric to be straight. After doing this, cut at the 9” line and the 18” line on your fabric to make two skinny 9” quarter yards. From here, you can turn the fabric 90 degrees and then cut again at the 9” and 18” line -- this should leave you with 4 perfect squares, plus a little extra fabric to use in a scrappy project later!

After you’ve cut ALL the squares, you’ll start prepping the backs of your prints for half-square triangles.

The coolest thing about half-square triangles is that for each one you sew, you get two finished squares, complete with quarter inch seam allowances. Here’s how you do it:

Step 1: Draw a line from corner to corner on the wrong side of your fabric.

Step 2: Align a printed square with a background square, right sides together and edges even.

Step 3: Use your center line as a guide, and sew a ¼ “ seam allowance on either side of the center as shown.

Step 4: Use your quilter’s ruler and rotary cutter and neatly slice down the center line.

Step 5: Iron the seam out flat on both sides.

 (Need more help? Here's a video tutorial on half square triangles.)

Do this for ALL of your printed fabrics until you have 64 squares, then go through and neatly trim each one to be 8.5” x 8.5” (they should mostly be this size already, but this is a good time just to double check you don’t have any wonky ones! That’s what your extras are for if you run into trouble.)

Sewing the Top

Can you believe you’re almost DONE already? I can’t either. This is a great quilt top because it can come together in one weekend - one day cutting, one day sewing, or all in one day, if you find yourself with an abundance of time and coffee and some good Netflix shows to binge.

Now, you need to start assembling these little blocks into bigger blocks, made up of four individual squares. You do this first by sewing two together:

Press your seams flat, press the front flat. (We’re still using ¼” seams throughout this quilt as before in our HSTs.) Then, assemble these into 4 x 4 square blocks:

Once you have all of the 4 x 4 square blocks sewn together (you should have 16 of these), you can begin sewing these 4 x 4 square together into rows (or, you can sew four 4 x 4 quadrants, if you’re worried about your sewing lines being straight. I personally feel comfortable sewing strips!)

Continue until your whole quilt is sewn up! Keep track as you go of where your fabric placement is to get the diagonals -- I usually lay out the whole quilt on the floor or against pinned up batting on the wall, and then just pull and replace the pieces as I need them to stay in order. Here’s the finished quilt graphic again:

Now your top is complete! The next step is finding the right backing for your quilt. I decided to make it easy on myself and go with a 108” wide fabric. Usually, for a backing, you need to sew together two or three pieces of fabric to get something wide enough, but a 108” wide fabric means that you typically have plenty of fabric to cover the back of most quilts. Luckily, we carry some at Craft South. I’m using Anna Maria’s Halos 108” wide quilt backing, in the colorway Coral. I loved how this pop of pink on the back is unexpected. Since the finished quilt top is 62" x 62", a 60" x 60" batting (throw size) is almost perfect. All you'll need to do is trim 1" off each side of the quilt (which will give you nice, even edges.) I did this by neatly folding my quilt into layers, lining up the rows, and running the rotary cutter 7.5" up from the top seam. Depending on how things line up as you add the batting, you may need to trim more or a little less.

Making a Quilt Sandwich

Next, you'll want to prep your quilt for the quilting and binding. This process of layering the top, batting, and backing is called making a quilt sandwich. I started by laying down the top, smoothing it out, then laying the batting on top of that. Sometimes the edges of batting are a little wonky, so just make sure you get it smooth and as close as possible to all the edges. I then carefully rolled the top up.

From here, you can unroll the top onto your laid out, smoothed back -- and begin the process of pinning. I use quilter's safety pins that have a slight bend in them (for some reason these are easier to get in and out of the fabric.) If all you have is straight safety pins, that will work too, just make sure they're sharp so you don't push batting through the layers -- sometimes it's a bit thick and you have to punch those pins through! Secure your sandwich and smooth as you go, rolling the quilt up until you reach the end, then trim off excess backing about 2 - 4" away from the bottom edge (this way if any of it rides up a bit during quilting, you've got some allowance.) You can find extra guidance on making your quilt sandwich here, and on making bias binding and binding your quilt here. For my quilt, I settled on a purple linen-print that wouldn't compete with my main fabrics.

Tying the Top & Binding

Now it's time to quilt! I used a method called tying for my top, which is fast, easy, and equals a quilt you can use a little faster (and that's what we all want, right?) If you want, you can finish your ties with buttons, or use standard machine quilting or big-stitch hand quilting - both would look great with this top!

For my tying, I used pearl cotton in a bright turquoise. I wanted to really capture the jewel tones of the quilt, and since my bias binding is also neutral, I was going for something bright and unexpected here. Basically, to tie the top, you just thread your needle with a 5" piece, slide both ends through to the front, and tie a double-knot! That easy! If you want, you can get fancy with a double surgeon's knot and then do a simple overhand knot for a clean but sturdy finish. (Have a blast watching this video on overhand knots, as this is a knot they use for fly fishing.) Clip the ends down to about 1". 

Creating your own bias binding and binding your quilt are the last steps. There are so many great tutorials (no need for me to re-invent the wheel here) - check out this one for guidance. 

I hope you'll join us for the #miraclegrowQAL and pick up a pre-order for the fabrics in the Craft South shop, which will ship out near the end of July!