A mug rug is a coaster. You can make your mug rug just big enough for a mug or glass (4-5” square), or make it a bit larger (6” square and larger) so it will also hold a cookie or bit of chocolate. <wink>

I use mug rugs to play with colors and fabric combinations before using them in an actual quilt. I simply select the fabric I think I want to use in a quilt, then make up a single block to see if I’m still in love. This way, I’m only out the small amount of fabric it takes to create a block, and I haven’t wasted time and money cutting up fabric for a quilt that I’m not going to finish because I found out too late that I don’t really like the colors and fabrics I chose for it. Believe me, this happens…at least to me. I have shelves filled with unfinished projects I’ve fallen out of love with to prove it. <grin>

1. Make a quilt block

Make the quilt block (or other design) you want to use for your mug rug. Currently, I’m creating miniature versions of the quilt blocks in my book, Idiots Guide: Quilting. It’s been fun to revisit the quilts and to work on my miniature piecing skills. This is a miniature version of the paper-pieced block in Princess Charlotte, a baby quilt from my book. I love how the light gray makes the bright colors pop.

Keep in mind that your mug rug doesn’t have to be square, although I tend to make mine square because I make them using quilt blocks whose color combinations I’m testing to see if I like them. A rectangular mug rug however, can be narrower while still providing not only room for a mug but also an essential spot for your quilting chocolate. <grin>

Play with ideas and have fun creating your mug rug top.

2. Cut the backing the same size as your block

Yes, you cut the backing the exact same size as the quilt block. You’ll be finishing your mug rug in what is known as a pillowcase finish. This kind of finish is often used to finish charity quilts because it does not require a binding and thus saves time and effort. Some art quilts use this kind of finish because it eliminates the binding which would frame the art and perhaps detract from it.

To use a pillowcase finish to finish a quilt (or in this case, a mug rug), you cut the backing the same size as the quilt top.

3. Place your block right side up, then place the backing right side down on top of it

When stacking the block and backing, make sure that the right sides of the fabrics are facing each other.

4. Top this with a square of batting cut slightly smaller than your block

By cutting the batting smaller than the block, you’ll be able to see the edge more clearly when you sew everything together. Pin the layers together so they won’t shift while sewing.

5. Sew the layers together all the way around, leaving an opening for turning

The opening should be about 2 inches. If your machine has the function, turn on the needle down feature to help you turn the corners.

6. Clip the corners and turn the mug rug right side out

If you clip the corners at a diagonal, they will turn more easily and result in sharper corners. Ta da!

After you turn the mug rug right side out, press the edges so they lie nice and flat and pretty.

7. Tuck in the seam allowances on the opening and sew it closed by topstitching the mug rug near the edge on all sides

Tuck in the seam allowances and press the opening to get them to stay. Then topstitch by sewing along the edge as close as you comfortably can. You’re mug rug is basically done, except for a bit of quilting.

8. Quilt the layers together

Now’s a good time to play with ideas on how to quilt this type of block so you can use your ideas later on the finished quilt. If you’re just trying to get the mug rug done however, you can quilt it in the ditch or with an all-over meander.

 

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Half-square triangles are my nemesis. I think I've tried just about every method for making them, and still, I sometimes get mixed results. The key I think is being careful and taking your time, something I don't always want to do when I'm trying to get a quilt done. The other key is choosing a method that'll work best with the quilt you're trying to make.

Here's a handy-dandy method that makes two matching HSTs. Use this method when making blocks that require pairs of lookalike HSTs or scrappy quilts that require a lot of HSTs, like Strawberry Preserves, a quilt from my book Idiot’s Guides: Quilting.


1. Figure out the size of the HSTs you need

For example, take a look at this block. It measures 8” finished (8.5” unfinished). The four HSTs in the corners are 2” finished (2.5” unfinished).





2. Cut two squares of fabric

To figure out the size of the squares to cut, add 1 inch to the finished size of the HSTs in your block. The HSTs in our block are 2” finished, so you need to cut two 3" squares, one pink and one brown.

3. Draw a diagonal line from corner to corner on the back of the lightest square

After drawing the diagonal line, draw two sewing lines on either side of this diagonal line, 1/4-inch away. Marking the sewing lines makes it easier to be precise, especially if you’re a beginner.

A quarter-inch seam marker like the blue one shown here is a must-have for this technique--it really makes the process of marking those lines easier! You can buy them in several sizes, so consider purchasing a set so you can use them regardless of how large the HSTs are in the quilt you’re making.


4. Place the squares right sides together, pin, and sew on the two sewing lines





5. Cut the squares apart on the diagonal line

You don’t have to cut exactly in the middle—just between the two sewing lines.

6. Press toward the dark triangle

7. Trim the HSTs to their unfinished size

The HSTs in our block are 2” finished, 2.5” unfinished. So you must trim your HSTs to 2.5 inches.

Place the 45-degree mark on your ruler on the diagonal seam, and trim the right side, then the top side. (If you’re left-handed, trim the left side, then the top.) Notice that I’m not trimming the HST to exactly 2.5” just yet; I’m leaving a bit of wiggle room for squaring it up when I trim the other two sides.

Be very careful when trimming the top so that you don’t wiggle the ruler or slip the rotary cutter. A turntable cutting mat is handy for this kind of trimming, although I find that mine wiggles a bit when I press down to cut.

If you’re new to this rotary cutter business, you might find it helpful to wear a rotary cutting glove on your non-rotary cutting hand to protect it. Even though I’m no longer new to rotary cutting, I sometimes use my glove whenever I’m cutting across or towards myself, just to be safe.



8. Rotate the HST, and then trim the other two sides

Place the 45-degree line on the seam of your HST again, and trim the remaining two sides. Now’s the time to trim the HST to exactly 2.5”.





9. Repeat the trimming process on the other HST

You now have two matching half-square triangles, ready for piecing into your block. Of course, our block requires four HSTs, so we’ll start over with two new squares and make the two additional HSTs we need.

It seems that just about every quilt I fall in love with includes half-square triangles or HSTs, so it’s no wonder that I constantly experiment with various ways of making them. I’ve learned quite a few different methods for making HSTs over the years, so I simply pull out the one that makes the most sense for the quilt I’m making at the time.

Let me stop for a moment and explain that you don’t have to use the method suggested by a particular quilt pattern when you make HSTs. A lot of patterns suggest that you make HSTs one at a time, by cutting a square diagonally and then sewing those two triangles together. I never use that method because it involves sewing along a bias edge and that makes the method tedious and slow. It is a good method to use though, if you only need one HST or you’re trying to create a quilt that uses HSTs that are each unique.

If you plan on using a different method than a pattern calls for however, you’ll most likely need to cut your fabric in a different size—the size appropriate for the method you do settle on. So decide on the method you want to use before you cut any fabric.

This particular method makes four matching HSTs. It’s an easy method, but it does come with its own unique problems. The main problem is that it's hard (okay, it's math-hard) to figure out how to use this method to make a set of particular-sized half-square triangles. Because of the mystery as to their finished size, I use this method when I'm making a quilt for which it simply doesn’t matter what size the HSTs turn out to be as long as they are all the same size, such as a chevron quilt or the quilt show here, which is basically a bunch of HSTs sewn together.

Before you choose this method, I should also warn you that the resulting HSTs will have bias edges. However, as long as you’re especially careful when pressing and you don’t handle the HSTs too much, everything should work out just fine.

1. Figure out the size of the HSTs you need

I made this quilt in answer to a challenge to use five fat quarters I was given in an exchange. I added a few fabrics of my own to round out the selection, then designed this simple pattern I call Origami Garden.

The quilt uses half-square triangles arranged in a classic barn raising setting (alternating lights and darks that radiate out from the center). The barn-raising setting is one of my favorite ways to set log cabin blocks, and I thought I’d use it in this quilt to set the half-square triangles and achieve a similar result. The HSTs can be any size in such a quilt, but in my quilt, they happen to finish at 4” (4.5” unfinished).

2. Cut two squares

Okay, this is the hard part. Take the unfinished size you need, and divide that by .64. I know, it’s a weird number, but with a calculator, it’s easily manageable. My quilt uses HSTs that are 4” finished and 4.5” unfinished, so I divided 4.5 by .64 and got 7.03, so I’ll cut two 7 1/8” squares.

3. Pin the two squares together right sides facing, and sew around the perimeter

Place the two squares together, right sides facing each other. Pin in the center of the squares so they don’t shift.

Sew along the edge of the squares, all the way around. Use a quarter-inch foot to help guide you. If your machine has the feature, set it for needle-down to help you turn the corners.

4. Cut the squares on the diagonal in both directions

Line up your ruler and cut the squares on the diagonal in one direction. Then, without picking the squares up, turn the cutting mat and cut the squares on the diagonal in the other direction.

5. Press the HSTs open

Before you press, lightly starch the HSTs to prevent stretching them. Remember, you’re dealing with bias edges here, so it helps to be cautious. Press the HSTs open. Use good pressing methods here (an up and down pressing motion, and not a back and forth one).

6. Trim the HSTs to size if needed

This method does not result in HSTs in the size you often need for common quilt blocks. That’s why most people  use this method for quilts in which the HSTs are all the same size, even if they are not a common size. In such cases, all you need to do at this point is to trim off the dog ears (the triangles of fabric that stick out at two corners).

If however, you are trying to create HSTs that finish in a particular size, you will need to trim the HSTs more precisely. The HSTs in our block are 4” finished, 4.5” unfinished. So we’ll must trim the HSTs to exactly 4.5 inches (the unfinished size).

Place the 45-degree mark on your ruler on the diagonal seam, and trim the right side, then the top side. (If you’re left-handed, trim the left side, then the top.) I don’t trim the HST to exactly 4.5” with these first cuts. Instead, I leave a bit of trimming for the remaining sides so I can square the HST up perfectly.

A turntable cutting mat is handy for this kind of trimming, although I find that mine wiggles a bit when I press down to cut so sometimes it makes me nervous.

Beginners might find it helpful to wear a rotary cutting glove on their non-rotary cutting hand to protect it. Even though I’m no longer new to rotary cutting, I sometimes use my glove whenever I’m cutting across or towards myself, just to be safe.

 

 

 

7. Rotate the HST, and then trim the other two sides

Place the 45-degree line on the seam of your HST again, and trim the remaining two sides. Now’s the time to trim the HST to exactly 4.5”.

8. Repeat the trimming process on the other HSTs

You now have four matching half-square triangles, ready for piecing together.

To help you create HSTs using this method, here are some common finished sizes along with the size squares to cut. Remember that we’re dividing by .64 and that this method is anything but precise. If you’re trying to get an exact finished size, you’ll most likely need to trim the resulting HSTs to that size.

Foundation paper piecing helps you to construct otherwise complicated blocks with pin-point accuracy.

With foundation paper piecing, you place the fabric on the (back) blank side of the foundation (the paper pattern) and sew on the (front) printed side of the pattern. The foundation is numbered; you will sew fabric pieces in number order until you’ve sewn all the pieces in the pattern, then you’ll trim the sewn foundation leaving an exact 1/4-inch on every side.

Some quilt blocks are pieced in sections; in that case, you foundation piece the first section and trim, then foundation piece the next section and trim, and so on. Once all sections are pieced, you sew them together.

1. Place the first fabric (A1) face down on the back (the unprinted side) of the foundation

Pin the fabric in place from the front (the printed side) of the foundation.

Hold the foundation up to the light and check that the fabric covers the A1 space, leaving a generous 1/4-inch seam allowance over the line between the A1 space and the A2 space. Check that the fabric also leaves a generous 1/4-inch seam allowance along the other sides of the A1 space.

2. Place a piece of cardstock on the line between the A1 and A2 spaces

Flip over to the front (printed) side of the foundation, and place a small piece of cardstock on the sewing line between the A1 space and the A2 space. Notice that the cardstock is covering the A1 space, its edge facing the A2 space.

3. Use an Add-A-Quarter™ ruler to trim the fabric

Fold the foundation backwards, over the cardstock. Butt an Add-A-Quarter™ ruler up to the cardstock edge, and trim the excess fabric to an exact 1/4-inch.

4. Align the next fabric with the cut edge of the first

Flip over to the back (unprinted side) of the foundation. Place the second fabric (the A2 fabric) on top of the first fabric, RST. Align the edge of the A2 fabric with the freshly trimmed edge of the A1 fabric. Pin.

5. Change to a Jeans 90/14 needle

A Jeans needle can pierce the paper more readily than other needles, so it’s recommended.

6. Sew on the line between the A1 and A2 spaces

Flip over to the front (printed side) of the foundation and sew on the line between the A1 and A2 spaces using a short stitch length. Start and end your stitching just before and after each end of the line. Stitching with a short stitch length helps you remove the foundation papers later when everything is sewn together.

7. Unpin the fabrics and press open using a dry iron

8. Place cardstock on the line between the A2 and A3 spaces

Flip over to the front (printed side) of the foundation. Place the cardstock on the line between the A2 space and the A3 space.

9. Fold the foundation over the cardstock, and use an Add-A-Quarter™ ruler to trim the excess fabric to an exact 1/4-inch

10. Place the next fabric on top of the first

Flip over to the back (unprinted side) of the foundation. Place the next fabric (the A3 fabric) on top of the newly-trimmed fabric, RST. Align the edge of the next fabric with the freshly trimmed edge of the other fabric. Repeat Steps 6-10 to add each fabric piece in order.

11. Trim the outer edge of the block or block section

After sewing all the fabric pieces to the foundation, trim the outer edge making sure to include an exact 1/4-inch seam allowance. The solid line on the foundation marks the block’s or section’s outer edge. Measure 1/4-inch from this solid line.

12. Do not remove all of the foundations just yet

You can remove the middles pieces of a foundation as you construct a block, but you should keep the foundation pieces in the seam areas until you’ve sewn those seams together. That way, you can remove foundation pieces you don’t need as you go along, and use the foundations left in the seams to help you align blocks and block sections properly for sewing.