Saturday, January 11, 2014

What to do with those Nickel Cuts

My guild, Mississippi Valley Quilt Guild is home to Pat Speth author of “Nickel Quilt” books.  Our guild has been trading 5” squares for over a decade.  Pat created a whole genre around the 5” square and “coined” the phrase Nickel Quilts.  She published some of the first patterns specifically for 5” squares.  Last month the guild called and asked me to chair this committee for the next year.  As the chair, one gets to choose the timing, color, size and amounts of each trade.  Some suggestions were made and the first set of fabrics will be due in March.  We are starting with neutrals.

Here is the first suggestion of what to do with our 5” squares.  This only requires the “Recs Tool” from the Tri-Recs tool set.

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This unit is a one cut design and goes together sooo fast.  How does this go together so fast you ask….watch this.

Pick 2 contrasting fabrics, mine are a Tonga Batik 5” pack my DH brought back from a business trip.  My cutting comfort level ends at 6 layers.  Layer 6 fabrics all facing up alternating background (black) and print (batik). 

Lay the Tri-recs tool on the square, mine is with the corner of the ruler meeting in the corner of my square (the fabric really is a square-poor photography).  I varied how this ruler was lined up so that a whimsical feel was achieved.  This means not every unit is exactly alike.  You can be precise and have every unit the same by always lining the ruler up the same way.  The faster way…more whimsical…just go for it.

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It is important to keep each set (the 6 fabrics you just cut) separate.  Each stack must be sewn back together with the adjacent part of the same cut stack.  If you mix sets together, the size of the final unit will be different.

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Now shuffle the stack by taking the bottom fabric (black in my case) and moving it to the top.DSC02743 (1024x768)

I stand on the left side of this picture to cut and pair up my pieces.  So, now flip the top fabric on the right side of the stack onto the left side of the stack and when you do that the right sides of the fabric will be together.   Set this pair aside.  Continue until all fabrics are paired.  The stacks will alternate whether you are flipping a black piece onto a color or a color onto a black piece.  Did you get that….right onto left and because all the fabrics were right sides up….they will be right sides together.

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Line up the points so that they cross at 1/4” and sew.  Now anyone who has worked with this ruler knows there is a trick.  You can lay this ruler different ways.  Some designs call for all one unit and others need mirror image units.  I meant to make all 1 type of unit….made a mistake and flipped it.  Ooops.  The design possibilities from the mistake are better because of it.

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After I realized my mistake it was time to play with different layouts.  Most of these call for equal numbers of the different units.

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Below are other layouts that call for both leaning up and leaning down units.  Figure out how many you need for the layout you like and go for it.

You will get a unit for each square you start with….40 colored and 40 background = 80 total units.

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These point opposite directions.

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Pointing the same direction.

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These are the same squares above turned 90 degrees with some color organization and off set.  These are only some of the possibilities. 

Below is an example where most units lean the same direction.  To have to diagonal line go the same way…they need to lean the same way.  You can see that mine take a corner and go back the other way….I ran out of units leaning the same way.  Both sets of units are needed if you want your line to zig and zag.  Notice to get more background between the green and peach stripe a few black rectangles were used.


So what do you need to keep in mind:
  1. Pay attention to the ruler. Be consistent if the units need to lean the same way. i.e. Ruler right side up & cut from bottom left to top right every single time.
  2. These units are not square.  Mine measure 4 3/8” x 5”.  You can trim them if you want or just ensure that the short sides all fall the same direction.  The layouts shown utilize the rectangle unit so the short sides all line up.  To get it done fast why make it smaller and spend your time trimming.
  3. Figure out how many of each unit (leaning up or leaning down) you need to make your layout.  If you need equal number of units just keep alternating units while cutting until you get close to the end.

Now, quilter Vicki Welsh w/ Field Trips in Fiber is where I found my inspiration…this link will take you to quilts with similar units.  These units look square, where mine are not unless you cut them down.

Happy Quilting,

Just Another Quilter


  1. That is such a clever block! Hard to believe that you can achieve so many layouts. The batiks are a great choice too.

  2. Somany different looks. Thanks for posting this tutorial. I have to see if I have this ruler tucked away.

  3. That is a wonderful ruler; I have one, but seldom use it --- maybe in 2014 I'll use it more. Thanks for showing us so many possibilities! I'll be watching to see how you put your blocks all together. ---"Love"

  4. What fun! I love the zig-zag in the last photo! The trading is a fun idea. Maybe I'll have to think on that and propose something similar to my quilt guild... Please keep the ideas coming - I love to see what all you come up with from such a simple piece as a 5" square.