Monday, August 19, 2013

The Arrow Tail Quilt Tutorial - Cutting Instructions

Hi there!  Are you ready to get started cutting?  I think you will find that cutting the fabric for this quilt top is easy and quick!  But, if you have any problems or questions, ask away or pop over to the flickr group for some support.  Also, what are you sewing this quilt with?  I'd love to see pretty fabric stacks! 

First, some quick terminology.  While many quilt patterns refer to blocks, for this tutorial, I'll be referring to "pairs" (arrow tails) - each pair consists of two mirror image shapes cut from the same print, as shown below.

Some numbers that may be helpful as you plan to cut (or if you're up-sizing or down-sizing this tutorial):
  • Baby Size Quilt -- 50 pairs
  • No. pairs that can be cut from quarter yard (non-directional) -- 5
  • No. pairs that can be cut from third yard (directional) -- 4
  • No. pairs that can be cut from fat quarter -- 4
  • Twin Size Quilt -- 126 pairs
  • No. pairs that can be cut from half yard (non-directional) -- 10
  • No. pairs that can be cut from half yard (directional) -- 8
  • Each finished "column" of pairs -- approx 8" wide
  • Each row of finished pairs -- approx 6" tall

Ok, let's get started.  First, print your template (available HERE VIA DROPBOX). Be sure to Download first, then Print. {ETA (9/5/14): I was receiving frequent emails from people experiencing problems accessing and printing the template. I believe I have fixed this by putting the file on Dropbox. If you have a problem, please email me (link on sidebar or or leave a comment with your email address and I'll send you the pdf. I promise I'm quick to reply : )} When printing, be sure your printer scaling is set to "none", and check the 1" test square as well as the width of the template (4.5").  I prefer to either print the template on sturdy card stock or transfer the template to something like a cereal box.

If you are using fat quarters, please see instructions at the bottom.  Also if you are making the twin sized quilt, please see instructions at the bottom. 

:: Cutting your BABY SIZE Quilt Top using Selvage to Selvage Cuts ::

1A)  For all non-directional prints, cut two 4.5" strips from your width of fabric (selvage to selvage).  I like to use my template as a check, as shown.  I do this is because I think my template might be eveeeer so slightly wider than 4.5" - whatever you choose, just be consistent!

1B)  For any directional prints, cut one 10.5" strip from your width of fabric (selvage to selvage).  Again, use template as a guide, as shown.

2A)  For non-directional prints, take a set of strips (2 strips from same fabric) and align them wrong sides together.

Place your template on your strips as shown - A to the left, B to the right.  Make sure your template does not overlap the selvages.  

Now cut along the angled left and right side of the template.  

VOILA, you have cut an "arrow tail" pair! 

Slide your template down and continue cutting pairs.  You should be able to cut 5 pairs from a full width of fabric (44"). 

Repeat this for all non-directional prints.  Remember, it is most effective to cut 2 strips of fabric at a time - wrong sides together.  This is important as the two pieces that make up a pair need to be mirror images.     

2B)  For directional prints, fold your strip in half widthwise, wrong sides together, lining up the selvages.  Trim the selvages.  Cut four sets of rectangles at 4.5" wide x 10.5" tall.  Again, you may align your template as shown as a guide.

Take one set of rectangles and place your template on top as shown.  Again, make sure you have two rectangles, wrong sides together.  Cut along the left and right angle of the template.  You should now have a "directionally-proper" pair!

Repeat for the remainder of the rectangles.  

3A)  At this point, you should have at least 50 pairs.  Now, we will be "trimming" 10 of these to make the end pairs for the top and bottom rows.  Pick those 10 pairs and align them wrong sides together.  Set the directional pairs aside, if you're using them.

For the non-directional pairs, align your ruler with the right end of the top edge and trim off the triangle as shown.

Now, you will have an end pair like this.  Repeat for all non-directional pairs.  

3B) For directional pairs, you must decide whether you would like the prints to be along the top of the quilt or bottom.  This should be an easy decision if you just have a couple.  I chose to place one on each end.  Align your pairs, wrong sides together, as shown above.  To make a top row end pair, align your ruler with the left side of the bottom edge and trim off the left triangle (sorry, I did not take a picture of this).  For the bottom row end pair, trim as you did for the non-directional prints. 

Here are my top and bottom end pairs.

4)  One last step - lets trim your "points".  This step is not necessary, BUT it will make piecing your quilt top SO much easier.  I like to do it whenever I'm piecing shapes with angles.  I learned the hard way that lining up the points is not the proper way to piece such shapes, so I now take time to trim them in advance.

To do this, align a small stack of shapes and trim 1/4" off the "pointy ends" as shown.  You need to do all of your pointy ends on both the arrow tail pairs and the end pairs.  {insert giant uuuuggghhh here}

Now, your quilt top should be cut!  Scroll down to see info on selecting a quilt layout.

:: Cutting your BABY SIZE Quilt Top using Fat Quarters ::

From each fat quarter, cut 4 strips of fabric lengthwise 4.5" x 18".  Pick two strips of the same fabric and align them wrong sides together.  Cut pairs as described above on step 2A.  For this step you do not need to worry about directional prints, as your strips were already cut directionally.  You should be able to cut 2 pairs from each set of strips.  Repeat for all sets of strips - always cut 2 strips together, wrong sides facing.  When finished you should have 4 pairs per fat quarter yielding 52 pairs (2 more than you need for the quilt top!). 

Now, continue with steps 3 and 4 above, making your end pairs and trimming the "pointy ends".

:: Cutting your TWIN SIZE Quilt Top ::   

For non-directional prints, cut four 4.5" strips from your width of fabric (half yard, selvadge to selvadge).  Continue with steps 2A), 3A), and 4).

For directional prints, fold your fabric in half widthwise, wrong sides together, aligning selvages.  Trim selvages.  Cut four sets of 4.5" strips lengthwise (4.5" x 18") - refer to step 1B) above if this is confusing.  Cut your shapes using the template, as done for the directional fabrics.  You should be able to cut two pairs from each set of strips and 8 total pairs per half yard.  Continue with steps 3B) and 4).

:: Selecting a Quilt Layout ::
If possible, find somewhere you can lay out your pieces and decide on a layout.  I'm waiting anxiously on some sewing space for me (and a real design wall), but for now, I was just barely able to fit my quilt on my kitchen table. : )  I probably spent the most time on this step, tweaking my layout until it was just right.  For a quilt like this, I like to focus on distributing my pieces by value and color evenly around the quilt.
Once you find a layout you're happy with, take a picture so you have something to refer back to in the event that things get mixed up - just sayin!!  I suggest stacking and organizing your pieces - top to bottom by column.  Make sure to label or number your columns somehow - I used index cards numbering them from left to right.

 That's all, folks!  I'll be back in a few days to share piecing instructions! 


  1. Thank you for a beautiful quilt pattern. I am excited to start on a twin sized version of this for my son!

  2. thank you so much for taking the time to write up this tutorial! this quilt has been on my mind since i first saw this picture! thank you, thank you, thank you!

  3. I LOVE this quilt pattern. I am new to quilting... and I am planning on making two for my twin boys. I am unable to open the pattern though... any tips?

  4. Hi Paige. I don't know if you'll see this as I can't reply in blogger. If you can send me your email address or send me an email at , I will send you a pdf of the template. I'm not sure why it won't open, but I'll look into it. Hope that helps!

  5. I am SO excited to work on this quilt. Thank you for the tutorial. My nest friend and I are making them for ours kids! Wish me luck! I've never done a quilt before!

  6. Do you mind sending me the .pdf for the template please??
    Thank you!

  7. Hi Laurel,
    This is my first ever quilt to make and I am following your tutorial for the Arrow tail quilt. I absolutely love the look of it. I am making the twin size and I have cut all of my pieces. I wasn't sure how many pieces I need in each column and how many columns it will take to make this size quilt. I may be completely overlooking this information in this blog post but cannot find it. Any help and advice you have will be greatlyl appreciated!!! Here is my email:
    Thank you so much!!! Allison

  8. Could you send me the .pdf for the template

  9. Hi!
    Thank you so much for posting this tutorial! I too am looking to the same information as Allison. I am about to piece my quilt but want to make sure I have the correct columns and rows for my twin size quilt. If you wouldn't mind emailing me @ britnaesanelli(at)gmail(dot)com I would greatly appreciate it!


  10. Hi,
    I am making your quilt pattern for a Christmas gift, but I am unsure of the number of columns and the number of 'arrow tails' in each column for a twin sized quilt. I'do appreciate it if you would email me the numbers.

  11. Hi, My daughter wants to make this quilt for her son and I'm trying to print out the instructions for her. I'm not very tech savy and can't seem to do it. I've tried copy and paste to a document but the pictures don't come out. Any suggestions? The one thing I did manage to do was to print out the template. Thanks, Debbie

    1. Hi Debbie. Probably the easiest way would be to print directly from your internet browser instead of trying to copy and paste. Make sure you are looking at a single blog post (click on the blog post title that you want to print) and then select File, Print. Unfortunately, it will probably print some extra stuff that is on my blog sidebar (like my picture, etc), but I think that's the best way to do it. Hope that helps. Feel free to send me an email (link in my sidebar) if you have any problems! : )

  12. When you say "points," do you mean only trim the two top and bottom narrow points, or the obtuse angles as well? I've got all my pieces cut and stacked how I want them, trimming is my next step. I'm so excited to make this for our first baby :)

    1. Hi Jamie, You only need to trim the top and bottom points, NOT the obtuse angles. I hope you enjoy making it! It will be a wonderful first baby quilt - congratulations! : )

  13. Hi do you have a tutorial that you show how to cut this pattern out and piece it together!! Beautiful
    Thank you Donna

  14. Hi! I'm wanting to use this pattern to make a queen size quilt. Any idea how many half yards of fabric I would need or how to figure it out? Thank you!

  15. could I please get the cut out pdf sent to me? :) Every time I try and download it it's just way too small and I'm having trouble making it bigger!

    Thank you!

  16. could you please tell us the measurements of the temp plate I don't have a printer.....thanks!

  17. Hi, your link to dropbox is not working for me! help!

    1. Hi Christine, please send me an email at and I'd be happy to send you the file. You're a no-reply blogger, so I can't see your email.

  18. Okay I was trimming the points and I did something wrong it's not at all lining up. Could you explain it better

    1. If you'd like to send me an email and a picture showing what is not lining up, I can try to help you that way. My email address is The only way I can explain it better is to say...only trim the top and bottom points - these are marked as "A" and "B" on the template. So, if needed you can print another copy of the template, lay your fabric pieces on top until they are aligned and trim the points that are on top of the A and B.

  19. Okay I was trimming the points and I did something wrong it's not at all lining up. Could you explain it better

  20. Energy time I print the template it is 4.5" wide and 11" or 11.5" long using the drop box file. Will this the an issue?

  21. Molly, I measure the template at 11 5/16 of an inch long and 4.5 inches wide.

  22. I keep getting hung up on the way you cut non-directional fabrics. In the directions, it says you should be able to get 5 pairs from each WOF, but I am just not seeing how that is so. Should I be cutting 4.5" strips parallel to the selvages, like the directional fabrics, or the opposite way?
    I guess I'm just confused because the picture is showing the template reading, "align with grain", but the instructions seem contradictory. Please help!

  23. Hi could you send me the template at Much appreciated thank you!

  24. Can you send me the pdf for the arrows? I would love to make one of these!

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  26. How many rows/columns for the twin size quilt? Xx