half square triangle quilting blocks

Sewing skills project 12: My First Quilt

Chambray and linen quilt
My half-square triangle quilt, featuring chambray and linen-cotton blend fabrics

Technically, this was my second quilt, but the first one was fifteen years ago and I didn’t know what the heck I was doing at the time, so…this is my first proper quilt.


My First Quilt (lap size) from School of Sewing by Shea Henderson

Project features:

  • matching seams
  • pieced half-square triangles
  • machine quilting
  • hand-sewn binding

Process notes


  • Robert Kaufman Kona Cotton in Charcoal
  • Robert Kaufman Kona Cotton in White
  • Robert Kaufman Kona Cotton in Ash
  • Robert Kaufman Kona Cotton in Spice
  • Robert Kaufman Essex Yarn Dyed Linen Blend in Black
  • Robert Kaufman Chambray Union in Indigo
  • Robert Kaufman Essex Wide Linen Blend in Flax
  • Gütermann 50 Wt Natural Cotton thread, color 3260 for piecing
  • Gütermann 50 Wt Natural Cotton thread, color 6210 for binding
  • Coats Machine Quilting & Crafts 30 Wt Mercerized ELS Cotton thread, color 155 Dogwood for quilting

Equipment and settings:

  • for piecing, used foot pressure of 2, J foot, tension 4, 5.5/2.0 with stitch 21 (except for the linen-to-linen blocks used pressure 1)
  • for quilting, used walking foot, 3.5/3, aligned seam line with edge of foot

Day 1: cut block pieces (120 squares); piece together the back (cut the length of fabric in half, resulting in two pieces each 2 yd x WOF; stitched 5/8″ from selvedge edge, then trimmed edges to 1/2″ before pressing open)

120 fabric squares ready to sew into blocks
120 fabric squares, ready to sew into blocks

Day 2: join binding pieces and press in half; pin blocks and mark for triangles

Day 3: sew seams on blocks to form triangles (used 1 bobbin + one and a half 100-m spools of thread)

Day 4: set block seams; slice each block in half diagonally

Day 5: press seams open (120 blocks)

120 half square triangle quilting blocks
120 half square triangle quilting blocks, seams pressed open and ready to trim to size

Day 6: trim blocks to 6 1/2 x 6 1/2; arrange blocks; sew first 5 rows

quilt blocks arranged for construction
quilt blocks arranged for construction

Day 7: finish sewing rows; set seams for 8 of the rows

Day 8: set rest of seams; start sewing rows together

Day 9: finish sewing rows; press row seams flat

completed quilt top
completed quilt top, ready for pin basting

Day 10: pin basting the top to the batting and backing

pin-basted quilt top
pin-basted quilt top

Day 11: quilt first half of the lines

Day 12: quilt second half of lines; trim edges; apply binding by machine; prep for hand stitching

Day 13: begin hand stitching binding

Day 14: complete hand stitching of binding


Wow, this was a big project. Every time I started to feel close to being done, it turned out there was a lot more to do. And it wasn’t even a bed-sized quilt! It was such a great experience though, learning new things and bonding with my sewing machine.

My first challenge was cutting. Actually, my first challenge was choosing fabrics. My second challenge was cutting. It was hard for me to cut multiple layers of fabric and stay on grain. More accurately, I didn’t stay on grain. That’s something I’ll definitely need to watch more carefully, especially for garment sewing.

I’m so grateful the author instructed us to cut the blocks a bit larger and trim them down after the half-square triangles were pieced. They tended to be misshapen just enough that finishing without that trim would have likely put things askew.

When sewing the rows together I discovered that some Solvy stabilizer on the underside helps the fabric go over the feed dogs smoothly and prevents the trickier intersections from bunching up, getting sewn down wrong. This occurred to me only after 10 rows of ripping out a few corners on each row and re-sewing.

If I could change one thing about my project it would be the quilting stitches. I wouldn’t buy the 1200-yd spools of 30-wt thread for this machine again. There were just too many tension issues, and my quilting stitches aren’t as even as I’d like. The 50-wt worked much better. For me, sewing row after row during the quilting stage was rather tedious, with the size of the quilt unwieldy for my machine.

The hand stitching went very well and by the end I really felt like I had gotten into the rhythm of the stitch. Doing a quilt like this, with so much hand stitching, made me less likely to avoid it on future projects because now I know it’s not insurmountable.

I’m delighted with how my quilt turned out. I love the way the colors and fabrics work together — it looks crisp and polished, yet casual because of the chambray (which I’m addicted to) and dark grey backing. It has an appealing nautical feel to it. I’m not certain if there’s another quilt in my future, but I’m very glad to have made this one, and that my goal of sewing all of the projects in the book is completed.

Half square triangle quilt with chambray and linen blend fabrics