Strip piecing is a great technique for adding distinct design elements to a pattern, particularly when triangles are involved. Cutting triangles from strips sets or bands results in striated patches that can be rotated and arranged to create unique designs.
In general, strip piecing is a huge time-saver when it comes to having to make multiple identical units. Instead of cutting individual patches for something like a Nine Patch block, you piece long strips of fabric into strip sets or bands, cut them into segments, and then join the segments to make your block.
When you cut triangles from a band, though, you don’t necessarily end up with identical units, as you can see in this basic tutorial from Fons & Porter with step-by-step photos.
Unless your band is completely symmetrical in terms of fabric placement and strip width you’ll end up with two different units from each band. Look at this as a two-for-one deal: two units for the price of piecing only one band, presenting opportunities for many different layouts.
Let’s take a look at some tutorials and projects that are made with strip-pieced triangles.
Gigi Khalsa’s Star of Wonder quilted Christmas tree skirt is composed entirely of 60-degree equilateral triangles. It’s the creative color placement within the bands that creates the design. The pattern includes full diagrams that show how to cut the bands to create the units needed; it’s also included in the November/December 2017 issue of Quiltmaker.
This tree skirt is an adaptation of one Gigi designed for the 2014 issue of Quilters Newsletter’s Best Christmas Quilts 2014. In this episode of “Quilters Newsletter TV: The Quilters’ Community,” Gigi joined me to demonstrate her piecing tips, various ways to arrange the triangles, advice for sewing triangles together as well as other projects she made with the triangles.
This wasn’t the only time Gigi explored the different design possibilities presented by strip-pieced triangles. For one of her I Love This Quilt! remakes, she chose Nuts and Bolts by Sandy Klop and applied her signature approach to gradated color to her fabric choices.
“Since each bullseye is made with strip sets of 7 strips each, I thought it would be fun to mix it up, if just a little bit,” she wrote. “I did not want to make the strip sets asymmetrical, since the template is placed both upside down and downside up on the strip sets. But I could use 2 similar but different pastels for each strip set, as well as the 2 similar but different dark prints.” You can read all about her process and find the link for the free pattern download here.
If you’re looking for last-minute Halloween décor, the Spooky Placemats and coordinating Hexed Table Runner, both designed by Jean Nolte, showcase large strip-pieced hexagons in different ways: in the table runner they’re joined as blocks, while in the placemats they retain their hexagonal shape. The Hexed Table Runner and Spooky Placemats are each available as digital download patterns.
For a real two-for-the-price-of-one quilt pattern, take a look at Rosie Glow by Janet Jo Smith, which was featured on the cover of Best Weekend Quilts 2013. The main pattern gives instructions for trimming pieced rectangle patches to make the quarter-square triangle units needed for the blocks, but it also includes a bonus pattern that shows how to use bands to make the units needed both for Rosie Glow and a companion quilt that Janet named Peachy Keen.
You can also use specialty wedge rulers with pieced bands. Gigi demonstrated how to use the Bloomin’ Cogwheel Rulers to make a fun quilted fan-shaped bag on another episode of “Quilters Newsletter TV.” The preview video is below, and the full episode is on QNNtv.com.
For a more improvisational approach to strip-pieced triangles not to mention a fantastic stash buster, check out the free pattern for Pam Rocco’s The Big Zigzag. Pam’s inspiration for this quilt came from a friend who accepted imperfection as an inescapable fact of life. The pattern includes a full-size template for the triangles, or you can use a 45-degree triangle ruler for faster cutting. (Note that Nuts and Bolts is also made with 45-degree triangles.)
Speaking of rulers, for any projects that require equilateral triangles such as the tree skirt or Spooky Placemats, you can use a 60-degree acrylic ruler in place of using the markings on a basic rectangular acrylic ruler as Gigi demonstrated in the first video. If this is a technique that appeals to you, I recommend looking at getting a large triangular ruler that can be used to cut triangles up to 9″ tall. They are easier to handle than large rectangular rulers and speed up your time spent cutting.
These are just a few of the many ways cutting patches from strip-pieced bands can add pizzazz to just about any quilt pattern that calls for triangles or wedges. Just for fun, make a few bands from strips, cut triangles and see what designs you can come up with. You may surprise yourself with something fabulous.