This tutorial will show you how to cut five simple shapes using three tools we sometimes take for granted as quilters – the rotary cutter, ruler and cutting mat. The shapes that we’ll make are: Square, Right Triangle (aka Half Square Triangle or HST), Equilateral Triangle, Diamond, and Hexagon.
For each of these shapes we are going to start out with the with a strip of fabric that is 4” in height. This dimension was chosen for demonstration purposes. You can vary the height of the strip to create different sized shapes. The strip can be any width – this one is cut across the width of the fabric.
Don’t be afraid of math here! Most every ruler and cutting mat designed for quilters has three angle measurements on it – 30° , 45° and 60°. If you can line up these pre-marked lines you can make each of the shapes featured here.
The square is the simplest shape, of course. You simply make a vertical cut the same width as the height of your fabric strip. For this example our fabric strip is 4” so we make a vertical cut 4”. Easy.
Right Triangle (better known as Half Square Triangles)
There are many quick cut methods out there for creating Right Triangles a shape which many quilters simply refer to as Half Square Triangles. But, sometimes you just need to cut a simple Right Triangle.
I’ll show you two methods to do this from a strip of fabric.
First Method: The first is to first make a square as shown above. Then simply cut a diagonal line from one corner to opposite corner.
This method will yield two right triangles.
Second Method: The second is helpful if you just need one Right Triangle or if you have a directional print. You will start with the 4” strip of fabric. Line the 45 degree line up with the bottom of your strip with the ruler touching the corner of fabric. Cut. Viola – triangle!
Hint: To cut out these Half Square Triangles to yield a finished square size of a certain dimension when they are sewn back together you must start out with a strip width that is 7/8″ larger than your finished size. Don’t be afraid, most ruler have 1/8” markings or 8 markings per inch to help make this easy.
A perfect triangle shape, the equilateral triangle is the same length on each side and it pretty easy to make. Lay the ruler on top of your 4” strip with the 60° line along the bottom of the strip.
Make your first cut.
Rotating the ruler so that the 60° angle is at the top make your second cut.
Presto! Perfect Equilateral Triangle!
You can continue rotating your ruler and making 60° cuts to make more Equilateral Triangles out of the same strip of fabric.
The Diamond shape is also pretty easy to make. Using that same 4″ strip we’re going to make a 60° cut. To demonstrate that you can use the marking on the ruler OR the cutting mat for any of these shapes, this time we’re going to use the markings on the cutting mat. Place the strip so that it on lays on top of the 60° line with the bottom of the fabric strip lining up with the horizontal markings on the mat. Lay your ruler along the 60° line on your cutting mat.
Next, using the 60° cut line as a starting point move the ruler over 4″ (or whatever the measurement for the height of the strip if you are using a different size strip). Cut.
Tada! You have your diamond now!
Diamond with a Directional Print
If you have a directional print and want your Diamond to be oriented properly you will have to cut your 4″ strip at an angle FIRST. To make your first cut lay your ruler on top of the fabric and line the 60° angle line up with the bottom of the fabric. Cut.
Next, using the 60° angle line that you just cut as a guide move the ruler over 4″ and cut again. You have your strip.
Rotate your “strip” so that the parallel lines line up with the horizontal lines on your mat. Now, we’re going to make another 60° cut across the height of the strip.
Then, move the ruler over 4″ and cut again.
You have your diamond!
Now, you have two perfect diamonds!
This method of creating hexagons will create a little bit of waste but, it is very straightforward and requires very few calculations so it is worth it! First you make a Diamond following one of the above examples. Then you lay the diamond on the cutting mat the short way (as shown in the picture below). Lay your ruler on top of the diamond lining the 2″ line up to go through the top and bottom points. (Note: If you are making this with a different height strip this measurement will be half of the height of your strip.)
Rotate and repeat on opposite side. You have a perfect hexagon!
This also works the same on the Diamond that is cut out of the directional print as well.
Now, you can cut five different shapes quickly and easily with just a rotary cutter, ruler and a mat!
I’m a big fan of the simpler the better, so these methods are my top go-tos! When I am making (or teaching how to make) 1/2 square triangles, I generally add a full inch, rather than 7/8″, to the desired finished measurement. It only takes a few seconds to square up the finished pieces, and often (especially with less-experienced folks or people with wonky 1/4″ seaming) there’s no excess at all. Particularly when sewing two 1/2-square triangles together to make a block with 1/4-square triangles, it’s faster and easier to add the extra inches rather than doing fractions. (Can you tell I’m sort of math challenged?)
Great post! I’m not a fan of lots and lots of tools (where do you stop buying them). I also tend to oversize HST’s and trim back the completed square unit when sewn, certainly easier for less experienced sewers than having to re-cut.
new to quilting – so these basic techniques together with the basic equipment I have so far is great.
Excellent tutorial, thanks. I’ll keep it because what you’ve served me so well explained much to me at all times.
What a clear, conside tutorial. Thank you so much.
Thank you very much for this tutorial! In the world of accessories you easily forget the most basic tools that almost every quilter has available and uses all the time 🙂
This is an amazing tutorial! I never knew how to cut those shapes. To be honest I was intimidated to use those lines. Thank you so much for making our look so easy. I’m excited to start a new quilt.
What an easy way to cut hexagons. And those little triangles can be used as well. Thank you for all the tips.
Great tips! Thanks
Thanks so much for posting this! I knew that there had to be a way to cut these without templates!
Thank you for posting this. I haven’t known how to use the degree lines on my ruler and mat, I usually draw the shapes on and cut out with a pair of scissors. This will make life so much easier. Thanks again.
Great tutorial. Thank you
Grazie per questo tutorial per principianti.
Great tutorial and pictures to go along with, thanks for the help on hexagons!
Terrific information – thanks
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