1. Divided Nine-Patch - The divided nine-patch technique involves sewing nine charm squares into a grid, and then slicing midway down the outside rows (2 1/2" from the unfinished edges). Insert a 1 1/2" strip in the open seam and sew back together. Do sides first, then top & bottom.
This can also be done with a coordinating Honey Bun in the same fabric line as the charm squares for a scrappier look. For a tutorial, check out John Adams’ (aka QuiltDad) “Off the Grid" quilt at Moda Bake shop.
2. Disappearing Four-Patch. This technique technique requires two sets of charms, dark and light, sewn opposite each other. Then make four slices, each one inch on either side of each seam. Flip each RECTANGULAR piece 180°, leaving all five squares where they are. Sew back together. If you press consistently, nesting seams makes this a very easy block!
Here is a top I made of one each charm pack of Spring House and Bella Solid in Baby Yellow, but I cut two inches in from each seam rather than one for a slightly different look:
3. Templates. Templates are a great way of using a charm pack without having any real purpose to it. If you have an Accuquilt Go! Cutter you have a whole array of templates to fit your 5” charm squares. If not, you can make them from template plastic or order them - I like the metal ones from Ardco which include a nonslide surface so they grip the fabric. Hexagons, Drunkard’s Paths, Applecores, or appliqué shapes like hearts are all great to cut and sew from charm squares.
The cats are cut from patriotic charms backed with fusible web using the Accuquilt die. The quilt below is a Drunkard's Path variation using one charm pack of Pure and three coordinating fat quarters for the border.
4. Half-Square Triangles. It couldn’t be easier to make HSTs from charm squares - four at a pop! Simply sandwich together right sides of two charm squares and sew a quarter inch seam around the outside. Cut across the diagonals twice and press open.
When pressing, be aware that your HSTs are cut on the bias, so handle carefully - and trim for best results. Your unfinished squares will probably measure around 3 1/8” so trimming to 3” even will yield a 2 ½” finished HST unit.
Each of the four squares in this top was made from stash charms - five of blue, five of green and ten of white, with additional white triangles as setting squares.
5. Hourglass. This technique is courtesy of Monica Solorio-Snow at the Happy Zombie. Cut two charms in half diagonally. Measure approximately halfway from the hypotenuse to corner (it can be any length you like, but make it consistent) and cut parallel to the diagonal. From the trapezoid, cut off and discard 5/8” from one of the ends (even if you use different size squares than 5”, this number always stays the same!). Sew the triangle from one fabric onto the trapezoid of the other for a triangle unit.
These triangles can be arranged in a lot of different patterns including hourglass, square in a square, and others.
This top was made with one charm pack each of Sakura and Bella Solid in Porcelain.
6. Flying Geese with Bonus Half-Square Triangles! Flying geese with charm squares are a snap. First, cut each charm in half. Then cut off ½” from the short end of each rectangle so that your pieces measure 2½” by 4½”. The background is made from 2½” squares, which can be made quickly by quartering a charm square. Draw a line diagonally across the back of each square. Place on the corner of the rectangle and sew along that line.
However, you don’t want to waste your corners! Try using Bonnie Hunter’s bonus triangles technique to turn them into halfsquare triangle units! You’ll need a business card (they usually measure 2” x 3” and are of good firm cardstock) trimmed to 2” square and then halved diagonally. As shown top center, lay it on the corner, trace a line along the edge, and sew along the line. The distance between the seams will be approximately 3/8” so cut between them carefully, splitting the difference. Press the unit, and repeat on the other side. This method will yield two flying geese units and four 2” (unfinished) HST units per charm for a border or another project.
7. Cupcake mixes and paper piecing. Have you seen the new Cupcake Mixes by Miss Rosie for Moda? It involves sewing a piece of paper onto a pair of charms, sewing along dotted lines and cutting along solid lines. It is a great way to turn charms into miniature quilts. Similar papers are available from Spinning Star designs (Sew Mod has a great tutorial on using them here) or make your own following Quilting and Whatnot's ideas. I made the top below with the Spinning Star design paper for half square trianges and got eight out of a pair of charms.
They're tiny but my corners are spot on! This was made with one charm pack each of Soho Chic and Bella Solid in Leaf (and border in Leaf also).
8. Slash. This technique comes to us courtesy of Kim Walus at Bitty Bits and Pieces (although she calls it RaeAnn's Charm Pack Quilt, "Slash" fit on my short talking notes and made me remember what the technique was!). It involves slashing a charm in half diagonally and sewing it back together with a 10" long 1.5" strip between them. The link to her page above gives a great tutorial. I made this quilt top with a Metropolitan Fair charm pack and a yard of Bella Solid in Burgundy.
I'd love to play around with this some more, like using scrappy strips to "slash" with, sewing different halves of charms together, or even cutting the finished square in half a different way to rearrange even differently. So many of these methods can be mixed and matched for a variety of results!
9. Shadow. This is a great technique from Jayne at Twiggy and Opal, and works wonderfully for a modern quilt, like her tutorial shows, or when you just don't want to cut up those charms. It also makes a larger quilt, not only because there are fewer seams, but because you use two coordinating fabrics, one for the "shadow" and one for the background. My top below is made with Legacy, along with Bella Solids in Hometown Sky (shadow) and Ivory (background).
I took Jayne's tutorial to one more shortcut, and strip-cut the shadow bits by piecing WOF strips together and cutting down to 1.25" strips.
10. Keep your eyes open! Chances are you already have patterns for using 5" charm squares in magazines and books. Loyal readers of my blog know I love the Quiltmaker's 100 Blocks issues, and each time I get a new one, I go through and note which designs lend themselves well to charm squares, jelly rolls and honey buns. There are also great free resources online like Moda Bake Shop and Quilter's Cache - when I find a new pattern for Charm Squares, I save it in my favorites in a folder called "Precut pattern" and add the word "Charm" to the end of it so I can pull it up quickly later when looking for a project.
So there's some great resources for working with charm packs without books or patterns - although I do love books and patterns! Pat Speth's Nickel Quilts is one of my favorite resources (and she has a blog with free designs too!) and also Me & My Sister's Third Time's a Charm books. Below is a quilt top I made from one of those books using Olive Sandwich's "Sassy!" line:
If you're looking to build up your stash without breaking the bank, here are some of my favorite sources:
- Green Fairy Quilts - charm packs and other precuts at excellent prices - just ordered more today to take advantage of their Ninth Anniversary Sale!
- Fat Quarter Shop - just about every Moda line I love, along with coordinating yardage, and also the Cupcake Mixes!
- Thousands of Bolts - although they don't sell charm packs, they do have the best prices on Bella Solids yardage I've ever seen, and carry nearly every color in stock. They also sell the swatch chart if you love matching the charms to the solids like I do. I like to stock up on my coordinating solid and store it with the charm pack, noting on the label what goes with what.
Finally, if you have a friend (or six!) who wants to amass their stash as much as you do, start with fat quarters and cut them down into common precut sizes. This is a great guide for doing so!
This should give you enough ideas to dive into your stash and start sewing! Enjoy!