Saturday, June 21, 2014

Summer "A Quilt Block a Day" Tutorial: Shoo-Fly

Actually, I think this block should be called shoo-miller moth! We've had a heavy infestation of the annoying (but non-biting) miller moths in Colorado this summer.

Because it's summer in the northern hemisphere, I chose a super-easy block to make each day. The Shoo-Fly block is made up of half-square triangles and plain squares, set in a 9-patch design. Can't get much easier than that!

Again, because I know quilters do things besides quilt in the summer (like mow the lawn, maybe?), don't worry if you don't get a block made every day. Maybe you will make a smaller quilt, a table runner, a wall hanging -- or even just a mug rug!

I've included dimensions for several sizes of Shoo-Fly block. Also, an idea of what size quilt you'll have if you make each size block.

Here is a tutorial for the basic block that will finish at 12."

Supplies and Cutting

For each block, cut:

  • (2) 5.5" squares of colored fabric
  • (2) 5.5" squares of background fabric
  • (4) 4.5" squares of background fabric
  • (1) 4.5" square of colored fabric

Make Four HSTs

  1. Draw a diagonal line across the wrong side of each 5.5" background square.
  2. Place one 5.5" background square right sides together with one 5.5" colored fabric square.
  3. Stitch a scant 1/4" on either side of the drawn line.
  4. Cut on the drawn line.
  5. Press toward the darker fabric.
  6. Square up the HST to measure 4.5"

Assemble Block

Lay out the pieces to look like this:

I sew the block together in columns; that is, flip the center piece on top of the left-hand piece of the top row and sew. Without cutting the thread, flip the center piece of the center row on top of the center piece of the left-hand row and sew. Again, without cutting the thread, flip the center piece of the bottom row on top of the left-hand piece of the bottom row and sew.

Now cut the thread and repeat to add the right-hand column pieces. 

Press the seam on the top and bottom row toward the center square. Press the seams on the center row toward the outside background squares.

Sew the horizontal seams, being sure to nestle the seams against each other to ensure a nice sharp point. Press the center horizontal seams toward the outside. The important thing in pressing is to have two seams toward the center and two toward the outside, so when you sew all your blocks together they "nestle" easily.

Size Variations

To make a 6" finished block, I used a 2.5" strip of dark and a 2.5" strip of light fabric, place right sides together and cut the HSTs using the Easy Angle ruler. 

The great thing about the Easy Angle ruler is that you use strips of the same size you want your HST. 

Use a very scant  1/4"  seam to stitch along the diagonal cut and your HST will come out close to perfect!

I still like to square mine up just a bit to be sure they will be exactly the right size. Use either a regular ruler or the Bloc_Loc square up ruler.

This is all the trimmings I had from four 2.5" HSTs!

Shoo-Fly is one of the easiest blocks to re-size. As long as your HSTs square up to the same exact size as your plain squares, you can make them any size you like.

From left to right, these blocks are 12"; 9"; and 6" finished size.

Remember, you are the boss of your quilt! You decide if you want the darker fabrics to be all the same:

Or the center square to be different:

Or all the HSTs the same and the backgrounds different:

Or all the HSTs and all the backgrounds different (this is very useful if you have a boatload of leftover 3.5" low-volume squares from your Spring BaD):

My inspiration for the Shoo-Fly block came from a mama said sew pattern, "Give Me Liberty," designed by Tara Rebman of tinkerfrog. I bought my pattern in a kit from mama said sew in Ft. Collins, but Tara's pattern is available on Craftsy as a PDF here. I re-sized the blocks to make more efficient use of the Liberty of London Lifestyle fat quarters, so my blocks will finish at 15." Consider making a few of your blocks as negatives:

How Many Blocks Do I Need for a Quilt?

 Setting                Number of Blocks                      6”                            9”                          12”

9X10                                    90                       54 X 60                  81 X 90                108 X 120

5 X 6                                    30                          15”                      75 X 90

8 X 8                                    64                           10"                      80 X 80

I used the All-in-One Quilters Reference Tool to determine the quilt sizes for various sized blocks.

may the long time sun, 
shine upon you,
all love surround you,
and the pure light within you,
guide your way on.

From the desk of your auntmartisignature


  1. It's amazing how different the block looks by changing the fabrics. Great tutorial!

  2. Is it ok to make a variation of shoo-fly for this BaD? I like the one that looks like a doughnut or "O" - or is that one known by another name?

  3. I did laugh when I read
    Remember, you are the boss of your quilt
    I often feel like it is the boss of me, or rather, the sewing machine is the boss of me.I am trying to make broken dishes blocks and struggling to get that scant 1/4"
    The only time I am the boss of anything is when I hand sew!

  4. I love the orange centred block and would never have thought to make them like this; what a great idea.

  5. Lots of helpful tips & measurements Marti - thanks

  6. I know the measurements would be "off" but this would be a great idea for using up charm square packs!

  7. Woohoo! I'm ready to get started. I like this block, and I'm glad you took busy summer schedules into account. Thank you sooooo much. Tute is great, and I'm looking forward to it.

  8. Let's see if I make at least one block. mmmm I'm a slacker. ;o)


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