100 Days – Week of Tools – Cutting Simple Shapes Tutorial

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.

Right Triangle, Equilateral Triangle, Diamond and Hexagons

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.

4" Strip by Width of 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.

30°, 45°, and 60° markings found on most quilting rulers and cutting mats


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.

Cutting a Square

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.

Diagonal Line for Right Triangle

This method will yield two right triangles.

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!

Cut on 45° Angle for one Right 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.

Equilateral Triangle

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.

Line up 60° marking with bottom of strip for first cut for Equilateral Triangle

Make your first cut.

Make your first cut!

Rotating the ruler so that the 60° angle is at the top make your second cut.

Rotate Ruler and line up 60° angle. Cut.

Presto! Perfect Equilateral Triangle!

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.

First 60° cut to make a Diamond

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!

Perfect Diamond Shape!

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.

Cut "strip" out on 60° angle first.

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.

Move ruler over 4" to cut out 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.

Rotate strip on cutting mat and then make 60° cut.

Then, move the ruler over 4″ and cut again.

Move ruler over 4" and cut again.

You have your diamond!

A Diamond!

Now, you have two perfect diamonds!

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.)

Line your two inch line on ruler through the top and bottom points.



Rotate and repeat on opposite side. You have a perfect hexagon!

Rotate and Repeat.

This also works the same on the Diamond that is cut out of the directional print as well.

Works the same with the Diamond made from the directional print.

Perfect Hexagons!

Two Perfect Hexagons!

Now, you can cut five different shapes quickly and easily with just a rotary cutter, ruler and a mat!

100 Days – Week of Tools – Featured Quilt 7

Today’s we are featuring two beautiful simple quilts both by Ann Stewart. Both feature bold splashes of favorite colors complemented perfectly by modern hand quilting. And, the only main “tool” that this quilter uses in this intricate hand quilting is a needle. Read on as Ann tells us a little more about these works of art and her approach to quilting.

Untitled by Ann Stewart - a quilt made for her sister

In Ann’s Own Words:
My main tool with hand quilting is my size 12 Prym quilting needle. I do not use a quilting frame but developed my own way of quilting. That also describes me as a quilter. I like to do things by experimenting. I get my inspiration from my heart. I look at my favorite magazines (not quilting magazines, but mainly modern furniture) and sometimes just see a quilt in it. Sometimes it’s just the colors that inspire me.

Untitled by Ann Stewart - a quilt made for her sister

All I really want to do is to make someone else happy with my quilts. I am happiest when someone wants to take my quilt home.

Untitled by Ann Stewart - a quilt made in her favorite colors

I did not name these quilts. Only a poem on the back to give encouragement to my sister and expression of the purpose of the quilt (her husband could continue to keep her warm through the use of his shirts).

Untitled by Ann Stewart - a quilt made in her favorite colors

Tools Used:

Prym Quilting Needles. Ann specifically uses Size 12.

Prym Quilting Needles

100 Days – Week of Tools – Tutorial Roundup

Here are a few fun tutorials that are related to the Week of Tools!

Ringed Double Circle Block Tutorial by My Three Sons

Ringed Double Circle Block Tutorial by My Three Sons

Appliqued Circles using Circle Cutter Tools

Easy Appliqued Circles Tutorial by Ellison Lane Quilts

Accuquilt GO! Baby Cutter by Katy at Fat Quarterly

Accuquilt GO! Baby Cutter Tutorial by Katy at Fat Quarterly

Designing Your Own Quilt Block with Freezer Paper by Make It Modern

Designing Your Own Quilt Block with Freezer Paper by Make It Modern

100 Days – Week of Tools – Featured Quilt 6

Have you ever wanted to sew a design that you had in your head but, couldn’t find the right tools to make it happen? Did you consider making your own tools? Today’s 60″x70″ quilt Herringbone by Elizabeth Ancell was created after Elizabeth was forced to make her own acrylic template in order to see her vision come to life.

Herringbone Quilt by Elizabeth Ancell

Tell us about your general use of tools in quilting.

My general use of quilting tools is a balance between having a passion for quilting but also being minimalistic and not wanting to own too many things. I use the standard quilting tools: sewing machine; rotary cutter; self healing mat; acrylic ruler; chalk pencil; pins; etc. I just don’t want to own more than what I realistically need to make a high quality quilt.

Herringbone Quilt by Elizabeth Ancell

What tools did you use to make this quilt and how did they make sewing the quilt easier?

The first thing I did to make the quilt was design it in Photoshop which was invaluable for the creative process and for figuring out measurements.

I realized early on to make the quilt the way I envisioned it, I would need to make my own acrylic ruler for it. I purchased 1/8” Plexiglass and a cutter from a home improvement store. After cutting the shape I needed, I simply used a fine tip permanent marker, and another acrylic ruler as a guide, and drew the measuring lines onto the ruler. The homemade ruler made the job easier, because with it I was able to make strip sets and easily cut them to the correct size which saved time. I also used sandpaper dots that helped hold the ruler in place when I would cut the fabric.

To quilt the lines I used an acrylic ruler and a chalk pencil to draw sewing lines on the quilt. I then used a walking foot on my machine to follow the lines. I’ve found when I do this type of quilting it turns out better if I sew every fourth line first, the middle line between those second, and then go back and sew the remaining lines. I sew the lines in the direction that is easier for the quilt to fit in my machine.

I rounded my corners after the quilting was done. I took a large serving bowl, covered the edge with plastic wrap to protect it, and used a permanent marker to trace the edge of the bowl onto the fabric and then cut inside the line.

Tell us more about yourself as a quilter.

I’ve been sewing since I was nine years old and made my first quilt when I was 17. (I’m turning 35 this year.) But it wasn’t until about four years ago that I really got into quilting and decided to have every single blanket in my home be one that I made myself.

I love to quilt but I don’t do it simply because I enjoy it. I am practical about the projects I choose. I only make a quilt when there is a need for a quilt. The need often dictates the style and colors I’ll choose. I originally envisioned this quilt with white, grey, and light turquoise, which would have been perfect colors for me. Because the quilt was made for my daughter, who loves the color pink, I changed the colors to white, pink, and orange.

Tools used:
Many “tools” were used to put this graphic quilt together with the most important being a template that Elizabeth created herself using these items mostly found at your local hardware store:

1/8″ Plexiglass or Acrylic Sheets

1/8" Plexiglass Sheets

Standard Plastic Cutting Tools:

Plastic Cutting Tool

Sandpaper dots:

Sandpaper Dots

Sharpie or other permanent marker:


What tools have you created or dreamed of creating so that you can make that perfect quilt?

100 Days – Week of Tools – Featured Quilt 5

Today’s featured quilt, the Raw Edge Pez Quilt by Megan Bohr of Canoe Ridge Creations uses an unlikely “tool” – freezer paper. Megan who created this tiny 36″ x 42″ beauty doesn’t currently belong to a local Modern Quilt Guild because her the nearest MQG is 3+ hours away but, she loves feeling connected to the MQG movement through the internet. Read on as Megan describes in her own words about quilting and her use of tools in quilting.

Raw Edge Pez Quilt by Megan Bohr

Tell us about your use of tools in quilting

I’m totally a “tools” girl when it comes to quilting. From seam rippers to spray starch, rulers and everything in between, I definitely have my favorite tools close by at all times. To be completely honest, I almost enjoy cutting out a new project with my rotary cutter+ruler more that the actual sewing itself! There are so many quality sewing & quilting notions in the industry that truly make a world of a difference — and most of them have been around for years and years!

How did tools make sewing this quilt easier?

Freezer paper! Not only is it great in the kitchen, but it works wonderful in the sewing studio as well! Freezer paper is a great way to trace and cut out applique — which is how I made all of those pez pieces for my quilt.

Raw Edge Pez Quilt by Megan Bohr

Tell us more about yourself as a quilter

I have been sewing and quilting since I was 12, and twelve years later I’m still at it! I still remember when my grandma and mother walked me through my first quilt — a hideous teal and black Stack-n-Wack quilt. Back then it was mostly traditional fabrics+designs, because that was the norm for rural Midwest quilters. At 14, I started working retail and teaching kids sewing and quilting classes at my LQS and worked there all through college. I really learned a lot of great quilting tips and tricks working at the quilt store — that “older” generation seriously has a wealth of quilting information, and more often that not they are more that willing to share! It wasn’t until I started my blog, Canoe Ridge Creations, about a year and a half ago that I really got into modern quilting and it feels so great knowing there are “people just like me” out there!

Raw Edge Pez Quilt by Megan Bohr

Tools used:

Freezer paper can be found in the grocery store right next to ziplock bags and aluminum foil usually under the brand name Reynolds Freezer Paper. On many of the Reynolds Freezer Paper boxes it actually says “Great for Crafts” right on the front of the box.

Reynolds Freezer Paper

Because of it’s many uses in crafting there are also brands like C&T’s Quilter’s Freezer Paper Sheets made specifically for quilters that can also be found in quilt and craft shops.

Quilter's Freezer Paper Sheets by C&T


In quilting freezer paper has many, many uses. Freezer paper is butcher paper that is covered on one side with a polyethylene plastic. This plastic side allows it to be ironed onto fabric temporarily holding it in place. This makes it great for applique, paper piecing, assisting in printing on fabric, stencils, and as shown in Megan’s quilt for templates.

How have you used freezer paper in your quilting?

100 Days – Week of Tools – Featured Quilt 4

Today’s featured quilt is a simple and playful design called Strawberry Disco Fields by Latifah Saafir from The Quilt Engineer. One of her very first quilts, this set the tone for her use of circles in quilt design but, the tools she used made first time circles less intimidating. She uses two “tools” in this quilt that makes piecing circles and squares just a little easier.

Strawberry Disco Fields by Latifah Saafir

Tell us about your use of tools in quilting.
Though some may argue this point I don’t consider myself a quilt tool junkie.  BUT, if they make the job easier and quicker I’m there! I do love rulers though. I don’t have a ton but, I have a half a dozen that I swear by, use all the time and that I’m constantly convincing other people to use! My philosophy is that if it makes quilting easier and quicker then I can make more quilts!

Strawberry Disco Fields by Latifah Saafir

How did tools make sewing this quilt easier?
This is one of my earliest quilts and was my very first time using the Dale Fleming Pinless Piecing method – the method most people refer to as ‘Six Minute Circle’ method. I found the Circle Cutter by Olfa and was sold! It made cutting the circle templates so easy, especially having to cut 48 of them. I do find sometimes that tools limit what you can do though. The Circle Cutter while pretty awesome limits you to a maximum circle size of 8 1/2″ diameter so I now only use it on quilt designs with small circles.

In addition to the Circle Cutter, I used June Tailor’s Shape Cut ruler to cut the squares and to square up my final blocks. I find that the Shape Cut is an all around ruler of awesomeness! I’ve used this ruler so much and for so long, I think I’m wearing it out. It is slotted every 1/2″ and makes cutting any kind of strips or straight cuts easy especially if you have to make multiple cuts.

Tell us more about yourself as a quilter.
I started quilting just around three years ago and have been addicted ever since. I tend to create bright, colorful and graphic quilt designs but, I don’t like to limit myself as a quilter. I have a not so secret love affair with the Modern Quilt Guild that I hope never ends. And I don’t know how I lived my life before it had quilts in it.

Tools Used:
The Circle Cutter Latifah refers to is the OLFA 18mm Rotary Circle Cutter. This is how OLFA describes it:

The ground-breaking patented ratchet mechanism of the rotary circle cutter easily and efficiently cuts clean, perfect circles from 1 7/8” to 8 ½” every time. Reduces wrist fatigue connected with “yo-yos”, Cathedral Windows, Drunkard’s Path, etc. Includes a built-in blade cover for safety, and a plastic guard to cover the pivot spike when not in use. Uses RB18 (standard) replacement blades.

Olfa Circle Cutter

The other tool that Latifah used was the June Tailor Shape Cut Ruler. This is how June Tailor describes it:

Cut multiple quilting shapes in perfect 1/2” increments quickly and accurately.

• Easy to use; simply place ruler on fabric and cut in desired slots.
• Cut multiple strips in 1/2” increments.
• Turn Shape Cut™ after strips are cut to complete squares, triangles, diamonds, hexagons, bias strips and fringe.
• Large, gridded 12” x 12” size.
• Detailed instructions included with ruler.

June Tailor Shape Cut Ruler

100 Days – Week of Tools – Featured Quilt 3

Can you imagine piecing 1″ Half Square Triangles and having the seams match up in your quilt? Can you imagine doing this easily? Today’s quilt features a fun “tool” or maybe it’s better referred to as a notion that can help you do this called Thangles. Kati Spencer who blogs at From The Blue Chair used Thangles to make this awesome little 24″ x 25″ mini quilt that she aptly calls “Thangles Mini”. Read on as Kati tells us more about this beauty and her love of quilting tools.

Thangles Mini by Kati Spencer

Tell us about your use of tools in quilting.
I admit I am a quilting tool junkie.  I love tools and rulers that will make my life easier and improve my ability to quilt.  I counted my rulers just because I was curious, and I have 20.  I have used all but one, and have plans in the works for a quilt with that final ruler.  I love trying new techniques and tools because you never know what you will love that will change the way you quilt.  I once read about a 20″ square ruler on someone’s blog and bought it for a wonky log cabin quilt I had in mind.  It made all the difference in my success with that quilt and has become one of my most used rulers.  Learning about the hera marker has changed the way I now straight-line quilt.  Finally, I can use my rotary cutter with either hand, but most cutters aren’t set up to be used in either hand.  I discovered a cutter from Olfa that can be used in either hand, and it made cutting so much easier.  Having good tools that are easy to use makes quilting much more fun for me.

"Thangles Mini" during construction. Notice how small the HST's are!

How did tools make sewing this quilt easier?
To make this quilt, I used Thangles for the first time.  While attending a class from Amanda (Hey Porkchop) at Sewing Summit, I won a package of Thangles.  Finally, months later, I pulled them out and used them.  I had nothing in particular in mind when I started other than using some of my favorite Art Gallery Solids and making something colorful and fun.  These HSTs are 1″ finished.  The Thangles made a huge difference in keeping consistent, straight seams while cutting and sewing these tiny triangles.  I had so much fun putting these together.  After finishing the Thangles section, I waited for almost two months until I decided to make it into a mini quilt that now hangs in my kitchen.  I doubt I would have had the patience to make so many tiny HSTs were it not for the Thangles.  It was a fun tool to try.  I will definitely use them again on projects with tiny HSTs.

Tell us more about yourself as a quilter.
I love to try new things and challenge myself with designs and techniques.  I don’t feel I have a specific style.  I’m as likely to be sewing a very traditional paper-pieced star block as I am to make a very wonky, improv-style quilt.  I enjoy the variety in my quilting.  It makes it fun and interesting for me.

Kati's Thangles sewn and cut up.

Tool Used:
Kati used Thangles to create this quilt. Thangles are essentially pre-printed paper strips that are used to make perfect half square triangle blocks without measuring or trimming. The Thangles company offers Thangles in many sizes as well as project packs and they can be used to create any half square triangle based quilt.

Thangles in Various Sizes

100 Days – Week of Tools – Featured Quilt 2

The tool that we’re featuring today is the specialty ruler, specifically the Quick Curve Ruler. There are many specialty rulers out there that are specifically designed to help you more easily piece a certain kind of quilt. The featured quilt today is the Curved Ruler Quilt by Alison Robins of Little Island Quilting in the Channel Islands. This quilt was actually designed by the ruler designer Jenny Pedigo but Alison’s version features bright modern fabrics and a personal spin on this pattern. Read on as Alison describes more.

Alison says:
I’m not a huge hoarder of tools for quilting (unlike fabric!). More a fly by the seat of your pants make it up as you go along kind of quilter. I don’t like following patterns hugely. Spend my ‘real’ life following rules and doing things the ‘right’ way so quilting has to be a ‘do it my way’ release from that.

However, when I saw the patterns Jenny was creating with the ruler I knew I was going to buy it. I’m particularly interested in her taking traditional blocks (such as the nine patch) and by using her ruler, changing it into something far more contemporary. When I have more spare moments in my day, I want to investigate more blocks like that.

I don’t belong to a Modern Quilt Guild. Live on a small island (pop. 60’000) where there is no ‘LQS’ and no quilt guild. There are very few people who I know of that quilt. 100% all of my inspiration and interaction with other quilters comes from online and I think has definitely shaped me as a quilter.

What do I think makes it modern? The design and the fabrics used. However one man’s meat is another man’s poison so that’s just my own thoughts on modern!

I have been quilting for over 15 years. I learnt (in Dutch) in the Netherlands. We hadn’t been living there long so I could talk about selvedges and straight of grain in Dutch but not order something in a shop!

As mentioned above, the ‘isolation’ of living on such a small island has definitely shaped me as a quilter and I have tried to reflect that on my blog by showing pictures of the little island in my blog header. However…it is rather a beautiful isolation so no complaints from me for living here!

Tool Used:
The Quick Curve Ruler is the specialty ruler that Alison used in this fun quilt. It was designed by Jenny Pedigo of Sew Kind of Wonderful. The great thing about specialty rulers is that there is unlimited room for creativity.

And the creator of the ruler, Jenny Pedigo is having a fun time herself exploring this ruler. You’ll find lots of patterns and ideas on her blog, Sew Kind of Wonderful.

Urban Beads by Jenny Pedigo

Recently, she’s been exploring how to use the ruler in block based quilts. Here are two great examples:

Urban Deco Block by Jenny Pedigo


Urban Nine Patch Block by Jenny Pedigo

The possibilities are endless. What is your favorite specialty ruler?

100 Days – Week of Tools – Featured Quilt 1

The first quilt in the Week of Tools is a fun whimsical quilt made by Lauren Hawley of Sew Modern simply named “The Pirate Quilt”. There are several “tools” that Lauren used that made this baby quilt easier to put together.

In Lauren’s own words:

This was really fun.  I started with some fabric from Riley Blake’s Pirates.  I used my Accuquilt GO Cutter to make the hexagons—so easy!  I fused them onto the quilt with Steam a Seam 2 and then hand stitched each one into place with embroidery thread.  Then I embroidered the pirate images and hand stitched the map line.

Pirate Quilt by Lauren Hawley

At that point I thought maybe it was a bit boring, but after I quilted it, I really liked it.  Stripey bindings are always a hit for me too.  It was just fun to make it all up and incorperate different elements into it than I usually do.  I NEVER thought I would be into hand stitching so much, but I’m really digging it.

Pirate Quilt by Lauren Hawley

Tools Used:

Two main “tools” were used on this quilt. The first was the cutter used to cut the hexagon shapes, the Accuquilt GO! Cutter.

From their website: The AccuQuilt GO! Fabric Cutter is a fast, precise, affordable fabric cutter that allows quilters and fabric crafters to cut fabric as much as 90% faster than scissors or rotary cutting. Perfect for the beginner and occasional quilter.

AccuQuilt Go Cutter

The second “tool” was Steam a Seam 2, a double sided fusible interfacing made by the Warm Company. From their website:

Steam-A-Seam 2 Double Stick has the pressure sensitive on both sides which allows for a temporary hold to both the appliqué material and the background material. You can hold your project vertically and the appliqué pieces stay in place and are still repositionable until fused with an iron.

Steam-a-Seam 2

100 Days – Week of Tools – Introduction

It’s pretty simple – if you make quilts today then you use tools. It may just be a rotary cutter, a mat and your sewing machine or it may be one of the many specialty rulers, cutting systems, or more fancy tools that exist. In addition to all the tools, there are also many notions and other sewing aids that help make quilting in this day and age a lot quicker and easier.

Jack in the Box Quilt by Latifah Saafir; trapezoid shapes cut using a standard 6" ruler

This week during the 100 Days of Modern Quilting we will explore quilts created using a unique tool or quilt notion and see how these tools help make quilting easier.

Perfect Puddles by Latifah Saafir; Circle shapes drawn using homemade compass

What are your favorite quilt tools? Check back every day this week as we explore common and not so common tools and their role in modern quilt making.