A while back I stumbled upon something called “tube quilting”. I think it’s generally meant to be a technique to get blocks that look something like string blocks — with a lot less sewing — but the first thing that popped into my head was a potentially quick way to make half square triangles (HSTs).
Always wanting to try something new, I used this technique to make my first mug rug. And for posterity, or publicity, or maybe just cuz I love my camera, I took pictures of the process.
So the general idea is to create a “tube” of fabric from two strips sewn down each side as shown below. I probably should have taken a shot of both sides, but youse guys are smart and I’m sure can figure it out on your own.
The other tutorials I’ve seen want you to buy a special cutting ruler called the “strip tube” ruler. As if every quilter has unlimited funds lying around to drop another $20 on a ruler. What is with that anyway? A piece of plexiglass with some markings on it and the quilting companies think they can charge us an arm and a leg… Yeah, I always wait until they’re on sale at JoAnn… or I just use a weekly 40% off coupon for JoAnn. But anyway, I really only have two. The one shown and another one for something that I can’t remember. Once again, I digress.
So rather than buy the expensive “special” strip-tube ruler, I figured out what size I wanted my finished triangles, and used the pythagorean theorem (yes, math!) to figure out how wide to make my strips. Ok, not really… I just used two strips from a jelly roll and sewed them together…. but you could use the pythagorean theorem if you were so inclined….
After I sewed the strips together, I just plopped my square ruler down with the point on one seam, then I added a strip of tape to mark the straight edge where the other seam lies. This isn’t strictly necessary, but it made lining the ruler up super fast.
Now, take a deep breath and make the first cut. That piece you cut off is scrap.
Cut along the other edge of the ruler, and you have your first HST. (This second cut is just barely visible in the following picture.)
Flip the ruler upside down and match the tape marker up with the other seam, and one edge with the already cut edge and make another cut. Now you have another HST!
Keep going until you get to the end of your tube, or have as many HSTs as you need.
Now the pieces need to be squared up. Because they are essentially cut on the bias, these blocks have a tendency to get a little wonky. My ruler has an awesome bias line, so I matched that up to the diagonal on the HST block and straightened each edge while at the same time removing the “dog ears.”
Press the blocks and you are done!
Now, the real story. I’m not sure I would use this technique for HSTs again. I’m rather impatient, and flipping the ruler back and forth 80-jillion times got old fast. Not to mention I couldn’t really find a comfortable position to cut without also flipping the fabric back and forth. I also wasn’t wild about having my triangles cut on the bias. It makes sewing them together a bit more of a headache. There was also a good bit of waste, since both end pieces are an entire 1/2 block in themselves. I suppose you could minimize that waste by placing your blocks en pointe.
OTOH, if I was going to make a LOT of string type blocks, I could see how tube quilting could be useful.
All in all, it was a neat experiment. Maybe others will have better luck. If you try this out, let me know, I’d be interested in seeing your results!