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Machine Minute: Super Easy Hourglass Blocks

Hourglass blocks are a popular unit in quilting. They are super easy to make with this technique!

Tue, 3 Jun 2014|

Hi, I'm Jennifer, here with another Machine Minute brought to you by Baby Lock and the Crescendo machine. Hourglass blocks have long been a favorite for quilters. So named because the triangles come together to make an hourglass shape. But sometimes this block can be intimidating. You do have some bias edges to work with. I'm going to show you a super easy way to put them together, and you'll be making hourglass quilts in no time! Now sometimes they're done using two colors opposite one another as my sample block, but you can also use hourglass blocks to make a quilt like this one where the center is all hourglass blocks. Sometimes the colors comes together in this scrappy quilt to look like pinwheels, but it's just this one block turned back and forth with the lights and the darks going in different directions. When making hourglass blocks, you want to cut your squares 1.25" larger than your finished block size. So for example, my block finishes at 4.25" once it's sewn into the quilt, so I'm cutting my squares at 5.5". Then once I've cut my squares together, I like to later the two colors I'm going to halve, so I've got a purple and a gold layered with right sides together. I then rotary cut and use my ruler to cut an X diagonally through the block center, going from corner to corner. This will help make sure that the straight grain stays on the outside of my block an the bias edges are on the inside. Then when I'm ready to sew the pieces together, I've already got them layered together, so the purple is on one side and the gold is on the other. I don't have to pick them up and handle them any more than is necessary. Now let's take it to the machine and I'll share a tip with you there. When it comes time to sew these two together, you're going to take one of the short edges and sew along that edge. But a common mistake people make is trying to sew the point end going into the feed dogs. And sometimes it can get swallowed up as it goes through. Now I always like to sew with a leader cloth to make sure that I get a stitch right at the edge of my fabric, but if I turn so that the straight edge is the one going under the feed dogs, I'll actually get a cleaner start and have less likelihood that things will get swallowed up. So that's what I'm going to do. I start sewing on the leader, and I'm just sewing a quarter-inch from one straight, short edge of those triangles. Now this is a bias edge because it's from the center of that X, so the less I'm handling it (and I'm careful as I'm sewing through), the better. And you don't have to cut your thread every time, you can just get ready for the next piece, and chain-piece them together. Once you're finished sewing those pairs together, you'll press the seam allowance toward the darker of the two triangles. And then you're ready to join the pairs. Now this is where you can check that you're getting that hourglass look, having your darks and lights opposite one another, and your seams will nest together at the center because you've pressed them in opposite directions. So that's where you want to start lining up your block. You can see those seams meeting in the middle. And then you can sort of nudge those edges together. And here you don't have an option -- you have to sew with a point going into the machine. So this is where the leader cloth is especially important. And I like to just start sewing on that leader, get my edge ready to go, and sew right onto the triangle. When you get to your seam allowances, because they're pressed in opposite directions, you should be able to go right over that center joint with no problem. And your hourglass block is ready to have the center seam pressed in one direction, and it's ready to go. After the final press, I'll trim off the little dog ears so the edges of my block are square. And it's just that easy to make an hourglass block.