Saturday, January 3, 2015

Tutorial: A Quick Valentine Table Topper

This little Valentine project is easy and quick. It uses just one charm pack, or a small bundle of scraps from your stash, and 1/2 yard of background fabric. I resolved to use as much fabric from my stash as possible this year, so I'm off on the right foot.

22" x 22"
My sewing room was a disaster after Christmas! Not only had it been used as gift wrapping central, but I still hadn't put away the leftover fabrics and other bits and pieces from my last sewing project. I was stuck with no choice but to clean up and organize things before moving on to making new messes.

Every now and then the organizing process reveals surprises. While sorting the fabrics in my drawer of reds and pinks, I rediscovered a Valentine charm square packet tucked away and forgotten. It had been one of those gifts of fabric that I would never have chosen for myself. I love red, but something about this fabric had just never appealed to me.

The pack of five inch squares had been taking up drawer space for seven or eight years, and it was well past time to do something with it. I decided to take a second look before tossing it in the give away pile.

It was much nicer than I had remembered. Maybe I could use it. After all, I had resolved to use more of my stash this year instead of buying new fabrics, and before we can blink Valentine's Day will be here.

Wheels in my head began to turn. If I were to make a pattern at all for this holiday it would have to be soon - like now. I needed something fast. A charm pack would be just the right size for a quick project. Everything else I needed just happened to be on hand, too. Perfect! With high temperatures hovering around 10 degrees and the prairie wind blowing and blustering, it was too darn cold to go out for new fabrics, anyway!

I found a photo of a traditional heart block that would stitch up into a quick little table topper. Creating the pattern and figuring out the fabric measurements didn't take long at all. The design is very simple and the size of the five inch squares limited what I could do. Each of the four blocks in my table topper uses fifteen 2" squares and two 2" x 5" cuts from the charm pack.

Fabrics Needed 
  • One 5" square charm pack or a selection of scraps of any color. There is no rule that hearts must be red or pink.
  • 1/2 yard of a neutral background fabric
  • 1/4 yard of fabric for the binding 
  • 2/3 yard of backing fabric.

From the neutral background fabric:
  • 4 squares, 3 1/2" x 3 1/2
  • 16 squares, 2" x 2"
  • 4 strips, 2" x 8" 
  • 2 strips, 2 1/2" x 17"  
  • 2 strips, 2 1/2" x 21"
Note: The measurements given are exact, but when I cut strips for sashings and borders I try to add a smidgen extra length. I'd rather trim a bit off than come out a bit short. 

From the charm squares:
  • 8 rectangles, 2" x 5"
  • 61 squares, 2" x 2"
  • 22 rectangles, 1 1/2" x 5"
From the backing fabric:
  • One square 24" x 24"
Putting it together
Note: All seams are sewn with a 1/4" seam allowance. 

1. Start with the two sections (lobes) at the wide upper portion of each heart.

Pull sixteen colored 2" x 2" squares and the sixteen neutral 2'x 2' squares. Arrange the pink and red fabrics into sets of four matching fabrics for each of the four hearts. 

2. Draw a diagonal line from corner to corner on the wrong side of each of the neutral hearts.

3. Place one neutral square on top of each red or pink square, right sides together. Sew directly on the line. 

I always hear expert quilters say, "Just eyeball the stitching." If that works for you, by all means skip the line drawing, but for me, skipping it is always a mistake. I've tried eyeballing multiple times, and every single time I've wound up giving my seam ripper a good workout and then drawing the lines anyway.

4. Trim about 1/4" from each seam and press the squares open. Press to the dark.

5. Chose two matching squares of red and pink for each heart. I tried to keep the color values similar to the fabrics just used in making the squares from the half square triangles. Sew the wide side of a triangle to each side of the square as shown below.


It should look like this!

Now, here's the truth. We've all seen numerous quilting videos and tutorials showing perfect results every time. Well, the truth is that even the experts make mistakes in quilting. They simply edit them out. Just thought you'd like to know that.

6. Choose two matching 2" x 5" rectangles for each of the heart blocks. Again, fairly close color values are best. The goal is to have two identical, fairly uniform "lobes" for each heart. Sew the rectangles to the sets you made in step 5 as shown below. There will be two for each of the four hearts.

7. The next step is to make the squares that form the base of the heart. These can be randomly placed. Sew the 2" x 2" red and pink squares right sides together in rows of three. Chain piecing can really speed this process along.

8. Next, sew three strips of three squares together to make a nine-patch set for each heart block. Each nine-patch will measure 5" x 5".

9.  Sew one "lobe" of the heart to one side of the nine-patch set. Sew a 3 1/2"x 3 1/2" square of the background fabric to one end of the other "lobe". Then sew the two sections together. These seams will complete the blocks. The finished blocks will measure 8" x 8".

Since the hearts in my blocks were had either mainly pink "lobes" or mainly "red" lobes,  I chose to have the red blocks positionsed diagonally across from each other. The blocks with pinker lobes will also lie diagonally across from each other.

10. Sew one 2" x 8" rectangle of background fabric between each pair made of a red block and a pink block.  

In this photo, the lower pair of blocks have been flipped.
 It was easier for me to keep the color order straight when all four blocks were right side up. 
11. Sew the single remaining 2" x 2" square cut from the charm pack between the other two 2" x 8" rectangles of background fabric. 

12. Sew the strip you just made between the two pairs of blocks. The set of blocks should now measure 17 1/2" x 17 1/2".

Almost finished!

13.  Sew the 2 1/2" x 17" strips of background fabric to two opposite sides of the square.

Beautiful sunshine is coming in my sewing room window!
14. Sew the 2 1/2" x 21" strips of background fabric to the remaining sides of the square.

And on to the the final border! This is where I used all but a few of the remaining 5" squares from the charm pack.

15. Sew the 1 1/2" x 5" strips of charm pack fabric end to end in four sets. Two of the sets need five strips, and the other two need six strips. These strip sets will make the last border.

16. Sew a set of five strips to each of two opposite sides of the quilt top. You will have excess fabric. I trimmed some from each end.

17. Sew the other two strips sets to the remaining sides of the quilt top. Again, trim off the excess fabric.

18. Layer the quilt top, batting, and backing fabrics together, and quilt. 

There are two humongous things I learned from Cindy Neeham's free motion quilting class on Craftsy. 
  1. Always, always stitch in the ditch on every stinking seam! I hadn't even considered that before taking her class. Going over all those seams may seem like a waste of precious time, but the difference it makes in the final product is amazing. 
  2. Never,  ever will I learn to quilt so precisely - no matter how hard I try or how much I practice! Sigh..
I love my walking foot! It makes that ditch stitching so easy! And, sometimes you really don't need to do any other quilting at all. Like now. It looks just fine, and this was quick.

19. Bind. This was always meant to be a quick project, so I didn't hand stitch my binding to the back of the quilt this time. 

When I had sewn my binding strips together, I sprayed them with a good coating of starch, folded them in half lengthwise and ironed them dry. The added stiffness from the starch really became helpful later.

After the binding was sewn to the front of the quilt, I folded it to the back and ironed it in place. Since the binding had been well starched it held it's position on the quilt beautifully, allowing me to stitch in the ditch to sew it on from the right side. 

Closeup views of the binding. 
This side looks great.

It isn't perfect , but I don't suppose anyone will spend much time examining the back. 
Done in only 2 1/2 days! 

I almost never work more than four or five hours on my sewing, so from start to finish I spent a total of about 12 hours on this project. That time includes everything from designing the project and working out the measurements to stitching the last bit of binding in place.   

Now I need to move on to something else - like putting Christmas away!


  1. Piecing this top together was so much fun, I just wish I had some prettier charms to use, neon pink/green mix, lordy not sure why I had them. As soon as I saw it this morning I just knew that I had to give it a whirl and I am really glad I did. Thanks!! Now I just have to quilt and bind, maybe tomorrow. <3

    1. Wow! That was fast, Tspoon! I'd love to see a photo when it's finished.

  2. Changed my profile to show it, couldn't figure out how to attach. It was just what I was looking for...quick, easy and happy. Thanks.

    1. It's wonderful, Tspoon! Your fabrics are great for this. I'm thrilled that it turned out so nicely - and so quickly - for you. I don't know how to make it possible to attach photos here. I've asked, but received no responses. You can always email photos to me at this address -

  3. Thank you for the compliment! Colors needed adjusting but for me just being able to FOCUS and complete a project has been an obstacle.

    Great start to a new week!!

    1. Fantastic! I hope whole whole week is great.

  4. I might not understand...if you sew right on the line and then trim, do you wind up with one finished triangle per piece instead of two? I'm more familiar with sewing a quarter inch away from the line, then trimming to wind up with two finished pieces. I'm kind of a beginner, so please excuse if this seems too basic.

    1. Your question is definitely not too basic, Lin. The answer is as you suspected. After trimming you do wind up with only one 1/2 square triangle patch. Sewing 1/4" away from the line and then cutting on the line can be a much more efficient use of fabric, but the 5" x 5" charm pack squares are too small for that technique. I hope that helps to explain what I've done in this quilt.

    2. I like you Lin, am a beginner and I was wondering the same thing...thanks for asking and getting it clarified :-)

    3. If you wanted to use a bigger scrap and end up with 2 half square triangles what size squares would you need?

    4. A standard rule of thumb is to cut the squares 7/8" larger than the finished half square triangle squares including seam allowance. You may have to do some trimming to make the squares exactly even. For the 2" half square triangle segments here, you would cut your squares 2 7/8". Personally, I cut them a full inch larger, then trim. Experiment with one pair first to make sure this is the size you need. I'd rather waste a little bit of fabric than to have squares that are too small after I square them up.

  5. Was this available in a download pdf.. ? it would be nice to have so I could print it out and have it near the sewing machine. My area doesn't afford the laptop near me when sewing

    1. I'm sorry, but I only wrote this pattern on my blog. I just tried copying it and pasting it to a Word document. I left off the beginning of the blog and started with the actual tutorial. It worked, but it runs 18 pages. That's the only solution to printing that I can think of right now. Making the photos smaller on the Word document would save on ink, but I don't know if it would affect the number of pages. I hope this helps, but I wish I knew of a better option for you.

  6. I made one! I linked back to your page. Check it out on my Facebook page

    1. Cute!! This really turned out well. I like the fabrics so much. Thank you for the referral. :)

  7. This is wonderful! Thank you so much! <3

  8. I love this. I was taught how to quilt by making 9x9 squares by hand. I don't own a machine, so it would be done by hand. I may just have to try this since it looks really easy. I love the starch idea too. I remember my mom and grandmother with the big quilting pins in the binding. I was thinking you could also do this in greens for Saint Patrick's Day to make a shamrock. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Sewing by hand is a wonderful skill, and I hope you do find the time to give this a try. I'm so glad you likeit.

  9. Hi Karen. We are snowed in here in Michigan this weekend and checking out Pinterest for ideas. When i saw your post i knew i had to make this heart table runner. What a great scrap buster. I srarted in the morning and finished hand sewing the binding last night. my measurements weren't the same as yours but it still came together beautifully. Thank you so much for the tutorial. It was very easy to follow. Wish i could figure out how to send a pic to you from my phone😕

    1. I'm so glad you enjoyed this project. It does go together quickly. If you do figure out how to upload a phone, I hope you will send one to me.

  10. Width of binding strips? Did I miss this? (PS I retired from teaching too, this past June. Loving extra time with my sewing machine).

  11. I love scraps and small projects. Just watched two videos where the very small triangle is saved and sewn together at later date. Good way to use scraps and build blocks to add to a quilt. Love this project.

  12. When you say stich in the ditch of every stinkin' seam, does that include the seams of the triangles, or the long seams of the squares?

  13. It includes both. You don't have to do all that stitching, of course. I find that it makes the quilt look so much neater and more professional, but we each have our own preferences.

  14. Just finished my project. So easy to make! I’m trying to post my picture but guess there is now way to post here.