What to do with Left-over Triangles

"What can I do with the trimmed off triangles?" That was the question Ana Maria Perna asked in the comment section of my Wildwood Throw Quilt project. I thought Ana's question was such a good one it got me thinking that other quilters may be having the same question. If you are not sure what we are referring to here, it is the fabric triangles produced from trimmed off corners in a quick piecing triangle method. I have used this piecing method in several of my free projects, look for: Wildwood, Kaleidoscope, Trimming the Tree and Prairie Flower.

The large square will have two corners "clipped" into triangles with these smaller squares.

Mark a diagonal line onto wrong sides of the squares that will be made into corner triangles.

This block was used in the Wildwood project and has triangles on just two sides of the large square. This photo shows how to sew directly onto the marked diagonal line.

Trim off the excess fabric, 1/4" away from sewn line.

Save those left-over triangle pieces (if large enough) to make other quilt projects!

For those, big enough but don't know what to do with pieces you will want to square them up and use them to make new blocks for new quilt projects.

Sew a seam on that diagonal, bias edge, press and open up your new triangle set. For the following quilt block examples, all blocks are based on a 2 1/2" triangle set. This is a very nice and useful size and fits nicely into many, many standard block sizes. The pre-cut designer rolls also come in 2 1/2" widths so you can supplement your recycled triangle sets with other prints to have a completely new looking quilt from the original.

If your squared up triangle sets are bigger or smaller then the 2 1/2" example, adjust your block size accordingly by increasing or decreasing the measurements of ALL the pieces in the block. Graph paper is a great, low-tech tool to use in planning out blocks and quilt layouts and dimensions. You decide what size a graph square equals and go from there. Just remember to add the 1/4" seam allowances to the pieces before cutting out fabrics. Here, the 2 1/2" block we are using already includes our seam allowance, but you will still need to add the seam allowances to the other pieces in the block to make the finished block.

Here is an example - all other blocks for this tutorial give the FINISHED block size and are based on a 2" grid system. I don't give individual unit measurements for the blocks, just the finished size, just count by 2 inches to figure all other dimensions. (Add seam allowances.)

Crosses & Losses 8"

Example: The Crosses & Losses block will measure 8" when finished (8 1/2" before sewing all the blocks together.) Here you see (4) 2 1/2" triangle sets, (4) 2 1/2" squares and (2) 4 1/2" Half-Square Triangle sets (HST) needed to make up the block.

For this tutorial, I have chosen blocks that are less complicated and easy to figure up the dimensions for using this 2" grid unit size. I give the most common name for the block, but depending on what region or country you are in, you may know this block by another name or have seen it in a slight variation. There and probably hundreds of blocks that utilize this type of triangle set, but here are a few to get you started...

Storm at Sea 12"

Of course, the most obvious is a block made from only triangle sets. This would be a great scrap quilt to organize with a quilt group or friends. Determine what size the triangle set should be (so everyone gets the same size) and swap, that way you will all end up with new fabrics for a spectacular charm quilt.

Ship 8"

Ship 8"

Blocks like this Ship block can be set with other blocks.

Alt block arrangement

Alt block arrangement

Alternating the Ship block with a Flags block creates a whole new look and stretches the number of triangle sets needed. Don't forget to think about adding sashing, turning a block on-point, alternating with other blocks or just solid pieces of material or making a "strippy" quilt or simply doing a sampler quilt of many different blocks.

Alaska Homestead 10"
basket of triangles 10"
Bear's Paw 14"

Churn dash 6"

Double X , no.3 8"
Double X 8"

Flock 8"

Flower Basket 8"

Four X Star 10"

Friendship Star 6"

Handy Andy 10"
Hourglass 8"
Jackson's Star 8"
Old Tippecanoe 8"
Road to Oklahoma 8"
Star Puzzle 8"
Wedding Ring 10"

The geometry is all there, it is just a matter of turning your pieces this way or that, adding squares, rectangles, larger or smaller shapes and you have a new block. Play around, see what you come up with. I would love to see examples of the blocks or quilt projects you have done utilizing cast off triangle sets. I am sure the other readers would love to see them too! Send me photos and information like the finished block size, triangle set size, etc. so readers can get a better ideas of scale.

Thanks for the great question Ana, happy sewing on all your projects. I hope I have answered your question or at least gotten you jump started with a few ideas on what to do with those left-over triangles.

Keeping Organized

Keeping organized as your cutting out pieces for a quilt will help save you time and frustration later when your sewing. 

I am sewing up a queen size quilt that has plenty of pieces. I do all my rotary cutting on my dinning room table and then need to move all those pieces upstairs to my sewing room. To keep all my pieces neat and together, I use a tray to hold everything as I cut them out. That way, I can easily transfer the pieces to my sewing room, move them around my limited sewing space once there and not risk misplacing any pieces.

Here are my blocks I have pieced for my queen size quilt. I am making my Prairie Flower quilt. (download free project at Fabri-Quilt.com)

Since this quilt is made up of seven different block color combinations, the placement of the blocks needs to be carefully thought out. In this sort of quilt, I like to take a picture of the block placement before I start sewing the blocks together. I have a habit of turning things around and forgetting where things go when I carry the blocks from one room to the other to sew them together. Now, if I get mixed up, I can simply refer to my photograph of the projects block placements.

Here is another little snippet for keeping track of the block placement when sewing the blocks together in rows. Again, since I am moving blocks from one room to the next, I like to take the row with me to the sewing machine. I place the two blocks that need to be sewn together, right-sides together and place one pin along the edge to be sewn. That way I know which end is up and what goes to what. I can refer to my photograph then to get the pairs sewn together in the right order. I then replace this sewn row to the laid out quilt blocks to be pieced and sew another row, one row at a time.

Salvage the Selvedge

We all have it, those bags, boxes, bins of bits of scrap materials we just cannot think of throwing away. The "I will use it one of these days" mentalities all craft and sewing people seem to have. Well, what about all that wonderful, sturdy selvedge edges that are cut or torn off the materials we use? That is good stuff! You can't throw that away! Well, what do you do with it? Since I have grown a vegetable garden every year for the last 22 or so years, I have found a terrific use for all those yards of selvedge edges.

I always hope to have had a productive year sewing so I have lots of selvedge balls made up and on hand come gardening time. I also make sure that my Dad gets his share of selvedge balls as well because he keeps a large garden each year too. So, I need to do lots of sewing!

We (my Dad and I) use the selvedge to tie up our tomato plants. The material is strong and gentle so it does not to cut into the plants. Not to mention it is colorful and fun to remind yourself of this or that project as you unwind a ball of many selvedges. This year, I predict my Dad and I will have "The best tomatoes ever!"  since we will be using selvedge with my name on it! Well, let's hope anyway!

Today is a gorgeous, pristine day outside. It was the perfect day to inspect the garden and do a bit of tidying up.  I had some help while I worked. My dog Ruby (a Westie/Pomeranian mix) caught some nice breezes in the shade and overlooked my garden work. I was also accompanied by this little bird (a sparrow I think) who did not seem to mind sharing the garden with me.

I have used a bit of selvedge on the handle of my good sewing scissors to make sure no one touches and thinks they are regular scissors.

So there is another use for such nice strips of fabric. But other than those two applications,  I have not needed to come up with any other uses to full-fill the "I will use it someday" syndrome since all of mine get put to garden use. Well, what if you do not have a garden, what then? Maybe all you readers out there have other ways of using your beautiful selvedge and would like to share. Leave a comment and tell me some other uses on how you Salvage the Selvedge.

Happy sewing and happy gardening!