Tips for sewing the perfect square in a square quilt block

Yesterday, I shared with you the importance of easy sewing machine maintenance that should be done upon the completion of every project, which helps to maintain it in proper working order.

Today, I’ll work on a project to show you how the amazing features of the Opal 690Q make sewing a snap.

For those of us who’ve been in the industry for a few years, we know that having a good sewing machine can make or break a project. A good sewing machine can also dictate whether you’ll come back to sewing after you finish your first project. Having good tools will encourage you to sew more. I can’t say enough about how fun it is to sew with a great sewing machine like the Husqvarna Viking Opal 690Q.

Husqvarna Viking Opal 690Q

A starting tip

It’s happened to all of us. We start our first seam of the day and the needle comes unthreaded. ACK! That’s so frustrating and why does that happen?

As the sewing machine starts to take the first stitch, the top thread is being pulled into the bobbin area to form the stitch. If the tail end of the thread is too short, it’ll get pulled out of the needle as there’s nothing to secure the thread.

To prevent that from happening, I like to hold the top and bobbin threads until the sewing machine has taken a stitch to secure the ends. There are other ways to prevent the thread from slipping out of the needle, but this works for me.

Even though the Opal 690Q has a built-in needle threader, the more times you have to thread the needle, the less time you spend sewing.

Hold the top and bobbin thread as you start to sew your seam.

The Economy Block

I’m working on a small project made using the Economy Block, also known as the Square in a Square block. There are lots of different ways to make this block, but this is my favorite. I won’t list any measurements in today’s post because I have a very neat and new way to share those measurements with you and I’ll explain tomorrow.

To get started, I cut the center square and the triangles that make the first round.

To cut those triangles, I start with a square and cut it in half on the diagonal twice. By doing that, the bias edge is on the outside of that square. I’ll add another round to this block so I’m not worried about the exposed bias edge. But if the final block had only one set of triangles added to the center square, I would not want that bias edge on the outside. So I would cut two squares and cut both of them in half diagonally once. That way the straight edge would be on the outside.

Here’s a diagram to help show what I mean. Refer to the next photo as well to see the actual fabrics.

The bias edge when you cut a square diagonally once or twice

The center square and step one are laid out.

You’ll notice that the longer edge of those four triangles is longer than the sides of the square. They need to be longer to provide the excess for the seam allowances.

But how to line them up to sew them together? It’s easy – fold one side of the square in half and pinch press. Fold one of the triangles in half along the long edge and pinch press. Then line up the two pinch presses and sew the seam.

If you can’t easily see the pinch presses, use pins. That takes more time, but if you’re a pinner, you may want to do that. I don’t pin at all (except for adding borders). If you’re a pinner, try these seams without pins. You’ll be surprised at how much time you can save by not pinning.

Match up the pinch press on the center square with the pinch press on the triangle.

You can see in the photo below that one seam is sewn and the other is lined up and ready to sew. See how the points of the red triangle extend beyond the center square. Don’t panic – it’s supposed to be like that.

Notice that you start by sewing two triangles to opposite sides of the center square.

Two triangles have been sewn to the center square

Press the seams away from the center square. See those dog ears? We don’t need those during the next stage, so I use a ruler and my rotary cutter to trim them away.

I’ve trimmed them along one side of this block, but not on the other.

The dog ears have been trimmed from one side of the piece.

Since I was making more than one block, I wanted to enjoy the time-saving tip of chain piecing. Notice that the points on the red triangles make it a bit awkward to chain piece but you can do it. It saves time.

Chain piecing is still possible with the points on the red triangles

This is one of those times when having the straight stitch plate for the Opal 690Q comes in handy. The hole in the stitch plate where the needle goes into the bobbin area is small. There’s less danger of those points getting pulled into the bobbin case. If you only have the general-purpose stitch plate, chain piecing can help to prevent the points from getting pulled into the bobbin case area.

Husqvarna Viking Opal 690Q Straight stitch plate

Once the last two red triangles are sewn on the center square and pressed away from the center, it’s time to trim up the block.

Because of the angles involved, it’s very difficult to give precise measurements on this block that wouldn’t require trimming.

I need to trim this piece to 4¾”. I use a regular 6″ ruler and use the vertical and horizontal lines on the ruler as guidelines. I want to ensure there is a ¼” seam allowance at each of the four intersections indicated by the black arrows below. In this instance, that works out to 4¾”. If the four intersections are not perfect, I don’t worry. It will be hard to notice if something is off slightly. It’s more important to get all the blocks trimmed to the same size than have a precise ¼” seam allowance at those four intersections.

Leave ¼” (for seam allowance) beyond each of the four intersections

Notice how that clean cutting table allows me to layout my project and still have room to cut. This is a huge time saver!

There’s room to work on the cutting mat

If you’ve noticed, there are a lot of intersections on this block. In an ideal world, we want to have points at all of those intersections. But how do we make that happen?

In the photo below, you can see I’m using my stiletto to ensure the fabric doesn’t get pushed to the left as the sewing machine foot goes over the extra fabric at that intersection.

Here’s the thing – that’s the old way to do this. The Opal 690Q is equipped with the Exclusive Sensor System. What does this system do? It takes measurements along the way to verify the thickness of the fabric currently under the needle. The Exclusive Sensor System adjusts accordingly and ensures that the seam is consistent.

I find that if I’m flying along and I hit one of those intersections, the intersection will go wonky. But if you slow down and let the system do what it’s supposed to – you get a perfect intersection every time.

This is also where a consistent and accurate ¼” seam allowance saves tons of time. I use the Quilter’s ¼” Piecing Foot and I never pin and I sew fast (where I can) and I have nice accurate intersections almost all of the time.

Using a stiletto or quilter’s awl to keep the seam in position

Here’s my seam without using a stiletto or quilter’s awl to keep the seam from shifting. I did slow down slightly to allow the Exclusive Sensor System to work. I’m very happy about that.

A great looking seam that included sewing over some big lumps

Pressing matters

The other thing that’s crucial to a nicely finished piece is the pressing. I didn’t realize it until I was filming some sessions on pressing, that I tend to manipulate the seam/intersection with my fingers before I press it. Yes, I finger press the intersections, especially the bulky ones, before I touch the iron to it. Once the intersection is flat, then I use steam to hold the seam in place.

Try it – it does make a difference.

Finger press the bulky seams before you press them.

I’ll admit that not all of my intersections turned out this nice, but there were no pins involved in this seam. Just the consistent accurate seams from the Opal 690Q.

A nicely matched intersection

Remember I’ll be sharing the pattern and all the measurements tomorrow.

As I sew the blocks together, look at how much room I have to line up the block intersections. No pinning is required. PIns can shift and cause inaccuracies and they take time so if I have other ways to match seams up, I’ll use that first. If there are no seams to match, I pin.

Using the ample table space to match up seam allowances for great accuracy

Now that the blocks are completed, what are we going to do with them? I made 12 blocks. I could lay them out in  6 rows of 2 configurations for a nice table runner.

2 rows by 6 blocks configuration for a table runner

Or I could lay them out in  4 rows of 3 configurations for a wall hanging. I chose the wall hanging.

3 by 4 blocks configuration for a wall hanging

After the blocks were assembled, I added two borders. It’s ready for quilting!

The completed wall hanging made from the square in a square blocks

While it’s hard to see in the pictures, those seams are flat even the ones with the lumpy intersections. The Exclusive Sensor System on the Opal 690Q helped to maintain the accuracy and quality of the stitch as I assembled the piece. Don’t forget that you have to allow the system to work by slowing down in those tough places. It’s amazing and I love it.

Don’t forget to come back tomorrow, I’ll give you the pattern in a very clever way and I’ve got some fun stuff that I’m doing with the Husqvarna Viking Opal 690Q.

Have a great day!


This is part 3 of 5 in this series.
Go back to part 2: Easy sewing machine maintenance

Go to part 4: 10 tips to successful bobbin work

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Mary Stockman June 4, 2021 - 6:57 am
Is there a way you can email the pattern to me? I can find it. Thank you so much! Mary
Elaine Theriault June 4, 2021 - 9:14 am
Mary Here's the link to the blog post that has a link to where to get the pattern for that small wall hanging. There is NO paper copy of that pattern. I created it in a software program. So follow this link to the blog post. Then scroll to the bottom of that page and you'll find the link for the pattern. Good luck!!! Elaine
KatieQ October 29, 2019 - 2:59 pm
Thanks for sharing the great tutorial. I have had trouble making square in the square blocks in the past. Thanks to your clear pictures, I think I know where I went wrong and can correct it.
Susan August 2, 2019 - 1:40 am
Thanks for your tutorial with lots of pictures and your easy chatty way of relating the information. I like the Opal machines, and tried two different ones at the dealer. It's been a temptation to move into a newer Viking, but I so love my 500! We've sewn together all over this country (about 38 states, at least), and all my loved ones have used it, too. I know it with my eyes closed. It's hard to give that up, even for the wonderful new features. But tempting to add it to the family. =)
Elaine Theriault August 21, 2019 - 8:47 am
Susan - you're most welcome! I have also a 500, but I have to say that with the beautiful and convenient new features, I haven't sewn on it for a long time! Nice that your loved ones are sewing as well. Enjoy your sewing and who knows, someday you might be the owner of a new Opal. Elaine
Teri August 2, 2019 - 12:47 am
ThNk you for this very thorough tutorial! I love these blocks.
Elaine Theriault August 21, 2019 - 8:48 am
Teri -- You are most welcome. It's always fun to create something new to share with all of you! Elaine
Karen K July 28, 2019 - 10:34 am
Great tutorial - especially the info on bias edges. I'll look forward to the next one.
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