Thursday, June 9, 2011

Elf Hats block tutorial

I’ve had a few requests for a how-to on how I created the blocks for my Elf Hats quilt so I thought I would just do a quick tutorial. 

For these blocks I created my own paper piecing pattern.  If you’d like a pdf of mine, send me an email (abrightcorner (at) gmail (dot) com )  and I’ll email it to you.  If you would like to just create your own, here are the measurements: 

The outer rectangle measures 7.5” x 9.5”
The inner rectangle measures 7” x 9”
Then I found the center on the top line and drew the lines for the triangle from that point down to the bottom corner of the INNER rectangle. 

For the numbers it doesn’t matter where #2 and #3 go, but #1 does need to be in the triangle. 

Any questions?  Really – just email me and I’ll send you a pdf.  No problem.  Edited to add:  I uploaded the pdf file to here.  From this link you can download and print it.  Or you can still email me :)

elf hats 1

Now make as many copies of this pattern as the number of hat blocks you’ll need.  For my quilt I needed 80 blocks. 

elf hats 2

For each block you’ll need a piece of fabric that is roughly the size of the triangle (piece #1) PLUS at least 1/4 inch.  To make sure it’s big enough, put the fabric over the triangle and then hold it up to the light.  You’ll immediately be able to tell if it’s big enough.
Flip the paper pattern over so that the printed side is facing down.  You’ll still be able to see the lines faintly through the back – they just don’t show up in the photos.  Now take a glue stick, put a couple of stripes of glue in spot #1 on the paper and place your fabric over it.  Press gently with your hand to get it to stick a bit.  Hold it up to the light one more time to make sure it covers the lines plus about 1/4”. 

elf hats 3

Ok now you need a piece of white fabric.  See the piece I’m using in this photo?  It’s too big.  That’s okay!  We’ll trim it later.  Place it on your fabric triangle RIGHT SIDES TOGETHER.

  elf hats 4

Your sewing line for this piece is the line that is between #1 and #3 on the pattern.  Before sewing however, we need to check a couple of things. 

First of all, we need to make sure that we have enough seam allowance.  Holding the white fabric in place, carefully hold the pattern up to the light.  See how you can see where the white fabric is placed in the photo below?  You want the white fabric to overlap that stitching line by about 1/4”.  It can overlap more than that, but not less. 

elf hats 5

Now we also need to check to make sure the white fabric is big enough to cover spot #3 on the paper.  Hold the white fabric in place (or you can pin it) along the stitching line and fold it back along that stitching line.  Make sure it will cover the area all the way out to the OUTSIDE rectangle.

Now you’re ready to sew.  Carefully move your pattern to the sewing machine and place it fabric-side-down and printed-side-up under your presser foot.  Make your stitch length tiny – about 12-18 stitches per inch.  That will help when it’s time to tear the paper off. 

You will start stitching a little bit outside of the corner of the INSIDE rectangle.  I know it’s tough to see in this photo. 

 elf hats 6

When you reach the end of this stitching line, you will want to stitch a little past it – even to that outer rectangle if you want.  Backstitch just a little at the beginning and end of each seam

elf hats 7

Good job!  Now before you press it, we need to trim that seam allowance.  As you make more of these blocks you’ll get better at naturally keeping your seam allowances about 1/4”.  You could leave the seam allowance longer, but it will create bulk later on so I like to trim them up. 

Carefully fold back the paper pattern and make sure the fabric piece you just added is also folded back out of the way.  Place your ruler about 1/4” away from the stitching line and trim.

elf hats 9
elf hats 10

Here is another reason to trim your seam allowances-  In the photo below can you see how my striped fabric shows through my white fabric?  That’s before I trimmed it. 

elf hats 11

In this next photo I’ve trimmed it and it no longer shows through.  Much nicer.  Press it open and admire your work.

elf hats 12

Now you’re going to repeat all of that for the other side:

Take your second piece of white fabric, hold it in place (right sides together) and check to see if you have enough seam allowance and enough fabric to cover the area.  Stitch it in place.  Trim seam allowance. 

elf hats 13

Press it open. 

elf hats 14

Now you’re ready to trim.  Flip the pattern over so you can see the printed lines.

elf hats 15

Using your ruler, trim blocks (trim paper and fabric) along the OUTER rectangle. 

elf hats 16

Flip your block over and gently tear away paper.  Because your stitch length was tiny, the paper should be quite perforated and should tear away easily.  Once you get your blocks all pieced they are ready to stich together into rows.  You can see in the photo below that there is a 1/4” seam allowance at the top and bottom corners of the block.  As you stitch the blocks together just be aware of the top points of each hat.

elf hats 17

This really was a hastily-written tutorial so if you have questions or need something clarified just ask.  It was a fun quilt to make and I really enjoyed putting some creativity into the hat variations I did.  (see the original post to see the variations.)

If you would like to try paper piecing with a different pattern, try this one.


  1. What a cute idea!!! Great tutorial. I really struggle with paper piecing, but I'd love the pattern . . . I bet I could figure it out with regular piecing.

  2. I have stumbled on to Paper piecing and fell in love with the process. Now I can't get my hand on any great pattern books. Can you recommend some?

  3. Hi Sharon
    I wish I could... I have no experience with paper piecing pattern books. Any paper piecing that I've done has been found on the internet or was something I made up (like these elf hats.) Here are two sites that I have used before to find blocks:

  4. You could also check with your local library to see if they have any quilting books.

  5. CAROL DOAKS is the queen of paper piecing. Get her books but better yet get her DVD she talks you through the process. I use my DVD every time I start a paper piecing project.

    JoAnn Fabrics usually has her dvds and you can use a coupon... check on line too.



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