Project: Accordion Sewn HSTs™ Dueling Mug Rugs | OLFA - Craft OLFA – Craft

Project: Accordion Sewn HSTs™ Dueling Mug Rugs

By Beth Helfter


This project is intended to introduce you to my innovative Accordion Sewn HSTs method and show how using it with one group of scrappy fabrics can create two little mug rugs with no fabrics alike in either of them. It’s pretty cool! And easy! And you just need your scrap bins! So let’s get started!


16 DIFFERENT 3” squares, all of a first color/style/value of fabric. DIFFERENT means no two of these squares should be alike.

16 DIFFERENT 3” squares, all of a second color/style/value of fabric. Again, DIFFERENT means no two of these squares should be alike.

OLFA rotary cutter, any size you like

OLFA Frosted Advantage square ruler for trimming

OLFA 5″ Precision Smooth Edge Scissors

OLFA Rotary Cutting Mat


Fabric selection notes: I chose to categorize by color, so my first color was grey, the second teal, and I found 16 scraps of each of those colors, and cut them each to 3”. You may choose to go with your first category as light and your second as dark, or your first category as polka dots and your second as solids, or whatever. I don’t care what you choose though I can’t wait to see them. I do care that all 16 fabrics in each category are different, and that your categories are distinct from each other in some way so you don’t get confused.


Accordion Sewing

If you’ve never used my method before, here are the basic directions. You also are welcome to check out my YouTube videos, which might help if you are having trouble. Part 1 starts here:

Lay a square of your first fabric category on top of one of your second fabric category, right sides together. Sew 1/4″ to the RIGHT of the diagonal. (Dotted line represents stitching.) If it helps you to place your 1/4″ seam in the correct place, draw a diagonal on the wrong sides of all of your squares first. But that is up to you and your level of comfort. 

Keeping the seam you just sewed still to the RIGHT of the diagonal, open the top fabric as if you were opening a backward book, flipping it open and to the RIGHT. To the LEFT you will see the fabric that was on the bottom when you sewed.   [Cardinal Ruler of Accordion Sewing: Never sew through more than TWO fabrics or cut through more than ONE fabric.]

This may be the most important step in the entire process of accordioning. Before you sew the next square, you need to ensure that there is only ONE LAYER of fabric on the RIGHT hand side, where you will be sewing your next square. Push all other fabric underneath to the LEFT. Don’t sew through the flaps. Disclaimer: You will do it at least once in your accordioning career. But you’ll never do it again. Let’s not make the first time that time.

Add the next square by lining up the points of it on top of the points of the RIGHT square. Sew 1/4″ from the diagonal again.

Repeat step three, opening the top fabric to the RIGHT and pushing everything underneath to the LEFT.

You’re doing it! At this point, just check to make sure it looks like the diagram shown, and that you’ve only sewn through two layers of fabric at a time, leaving the “flappy things” (which are actually your HSTs, cool huh?) underneath free to flap. If you have, you are golden. If you haven’t, you will need to unsew and free the flaps. Another thing to be sure of is that you have a nice 1/4″ seam on either side of the diagonals. Any tighter, and it’s going to make it harder for you to cut apart and the HSTs are going to have really small seam allowances. Wider, and your HSTs will be way too small. Optional: Before going further, stick a safety pin in the leftmost square. DO NOT ever sew to that end of the accordion – always go to the RIGHT end to keep adding squares.

Keep adding squares, alternating your fabric categories, until you have used up all of your 32 squares. You may either make one long accordion, or break it up into two shorter ones. Whatever is easier for you. As you can see I broke mine up.

One final step in the sewing – and this is where the magic happens! Bring the two ends of your accordion together, right sides together, and sew 1/4” away from the right of the diagonal one more time, creating a tube. Do you see what we did there? Now even your first and last squares in the accordion will not be wasted! Not the colors I used, but this is a fun photo showing the accordion all tubed up.


Cutting Apart and Separating HSTs Properly

Whether you have two accordions or one long one, these directions remain the same.

[IMPORTANT: When cutting apart, only cut through one layer of fabric. Put up a sign, tattoo a number ‘1’ to the back of your hand, whatever it takes to remind you that you should never, ever cut through more than one fabric.]

Using scissors, cut down the diagonal of any square; just be sure you are only cutting through one layer of fabric. Open up the strip again and lay it face down on the cutting mat, right sides of fabric to the mat, flaps up.

Make sure the LEFT most flap is open to the LEFT as shown in the photo below. Slice right down the diagonal between your two lines of stitching.

Double check to be sure you only cut off one single HST. If you only cut through one layer of fabric, you should have only one HST and you are golden!

Place that first HST on your cutting mat. While this sounds obvious, it’s about to be more obvious why I even wrote it.

Open the next flap as if you are opening a book, and slice down the middle of stitching lines again.

Place that second HST next to the first one. You now have started two columns for your HSTs, which you will alternate adding to as you cut each HST from the accordion. If it helps, label the accordions “odd” and “even”. In my case, as my HSTs came off the accordions, I placed them in the column corresponding to the color (teal or grey) that was facing up as I cut them off. Since the color/style of fabric, will be alternating as you open and slice each one down the diagonal, that way worked well. I promise it isn’t hard. Just alternate as you cut. If you do it correctly, each pile will have 16 HSTs, and absolutely no fabric will show up twice in either pile. 

Trim all of your HSTs to 2 1/2″. Work with one pile at a time so you don’t mess them up.


Laying Out and Sewing the Mug Rugs

Each pile of HSTs is going to become its own mug rug. So again, you want to lay out and sew one stack at a time.

Choose a layout that works for you. Because these are HSTs, the possibilities are so many more than the two I show. Feel free to play until you find layouts you love even more. This project is more about the coolness of having non-matching HSTs and how to get them than it is creating mug rugs that look exactly like mine.


The layouts I used are shown in the Layout Diagrams as two-color diagrams. Use them as a guide by assigning the red to one of your fabric categories and the blue to the other.

I sew them together in vertical rows via chain piecing, then sew all the rows together. These are 16 patch blocks, so however you sew a block together works for me! Also, I am an open presser. If you are not, press one row one way, and the other in the opposite, and repeat.

Trim, if needed, to 8 1/2″


Finishing Tips

Sandwich your mug rugs using the same pieces of batting and backing, with just the mug rugs on top of both. I butt mine almost up against each other so I can quilt them at the same time and with no need to cut thread in between!

Much of the fun of mug rugs, for me, is to be able to try out and practice some new machine quilting techniques. Another plus to mug rugs is how fast they are to finish. Whether you choose to try something new or just quickly throw some quilting on them and call them done, I know yours will be beautiful. I chose to quilt the stripey mug rug (left) with a wavy crosshatched type of stitching, and for the boxy mug rug (right), I went with pebbles in the teal fabrics and more of a curvy shape outline in the grey.

Once quilted, use your OLFA rotary cutter to trim the excess backing and batting and cut them apart from each other. While I love my OLFA 28mm rotary cutter for most applications, once I add batting and bulk to the project, the 45mm is really the only one that does the job well the first time.

Bind using 2 1/2″ strips, folded double. I decided to use some contrasting fabrics just to add a little pop to the whole project. I went to my jars of leftover excess bindings (another thing I love about mug rugs because I can use up some of those with a small project!) and found this red and this black and white polka dot. I think they popped them pretty well!

Enjoy your fun little mug rugs! I hope you’ll try the Accordion Sewn HSTs™ in other ways too!