Half Square Triangles 101

Alternate Title: For Rachel and Colin’s Wedding Quilt

Alternate Title: How to make a quilt block when you’ve never sewn a quilt block before

rachelquilt-header

IMPORTANT: Your quilt block must finish at exactly 9.5 inches. That’s a 9-inch block with 1/4 inch seam allowance all the way around. If it’s a touch bigger, that’s okay; it can be trimmed. If it’s too small, though, it cannot be easily incorporated into the quilt with the rest of the blocks.

**Tip: To achieve the above finished measurement, be sure to sew your block units together with a “scant 1/4 inch” seam allowance. That’s just a thread-width or two smaller than a 1/4 inch to account for the thread and pressing the block unit open

**Tip: You can make your quilt block with a sharp pair of sewing scissors and a needle and thread. Your kitchen shears or paper craft scissors or the scissors you’ve been using to trim your bangs will not be sharp enough to achieve a clean cut on fabric. For about $15, though, you can purchase a rotary cutter and a small rotary mat, which will make this much easier. (Something like this can be found at JoAnn Fabrics, Michael’s, or other craft stores. Bring a coupon to those big stores if the item is not on sale.)

Okay. Let’s get started.

Materials Needed:

Fabric: one light and one dark fabric was mailed to youcolor_pics
Sewing machine and thread OR sewing needle and thread
Sharp fabric scissors OR rotary cutter and mat
Ruler (see through ruler with a grid to square the block is best)
Iron and Ironing surface
Triangle template (optional. For method A only)

Part 1: Make the half square triangle units

If you’ve never made a quilt block before, a great easy place to start is with a half square triangle. This is just what it sounds like. It is a quilt block unit composed of two triangles of fabric, which, sewn together along the diagonal, make a square. These half square triangles (HSTs) can be arranged in a huge variety of layouts to create different quilt blocks.

For this 9-inch block (9.5 inches, unfinished, before it is sewn into the quilt), we will use a 4×4 grid of half square triangle units. Each of the 16 HSTs will be 2.75 inches, unfinished, and 2.25 inches when they are sewn into the block or quilt.

Did you notice the pattern of the seam allowance? We will always sew our seams together 1/4 inch (very slightly less) from the edge of the fabric. Thus, whatever the finished measurement of the block or block unit will be, you add a 1/2 inch to account for the seam allowance on all sides.

Method A: Triangle template

1. Using the triangle template (it should be 3-1/8 inches on a short side), cut out 16 triangles of light fabric and 16 triangles of dark fabric.

2. Place your triangles into pairs of light and dark. Stack each pair so the right side of the fabric is in the middle and the wrong side is facing out (note: with the type of fabric chosen for this quilt, there may not always be a difference between the right and wrong sides of the fabric. In that case, don’t worry about it. If there is a difference in the two sides, the brighter side goes in the middle).

3. Sew your HST together along the long side of the triangle, a scant 1/4 inch (remember: that’s just a thread width or two shy of 1/4 inch) from the longest edge.

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Method B: Start with Squares

This is the method I prefer for making half square triangles. It goes a little bit faster and doesn’t involve fiddling with templates. Use whichever makes sense to you.

1. Cut out 8 squares of light fabric, and 8 squares of dark fabric, each measuring 3.25 inches (note: you could cut them at 3-1/8 inches, like the template, but I prefer to cut the squares slightly large and then trim the HST when it is complete).

2. Place one light square and one dark square with the right sides of the fabric in the middle and the wrong sides of the fabric facing the outside. Draw a diagonal line on the top square going from corner to corner. You can just use a regular pencil or pen for this. It will be hidden in the finished quilt block.

3. Sew two diagonal lines parallel with the line you drew, one a scant 1/4 inch to the left of the drawn line, the other, a scant 1/4 inch to the right of the drawn line.

4. Cut the square into two along the diagonal line you drew.

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 Both Method A + Method B:

Tip: chain piecing

To speed the process of making your block units, try chain piecing. Cut out all your pieces and place your pairs together. Sew one pair. Rather than pulling that pair out of your machine and trimming the threads, leave it there and sew the next pair right behind. Trim when you have finished sewing all pairs.

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Finish the HST: 

Whether you have used template or started with squares that were cut apart, you should now have a stack of 16 triangle pairs that are sewn together along their longest edge.

With the dark side up, nudge your hot iron between the two triangles and press the block unit open. This will press the seam allowance toward the darker fabric.

Trim each HST to 2.75 inches.

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 Part 2: Construct the Quilt Block

Now that you have  your 16 finished HSTs, it’s time to decide on a pattern for your block. There were several included with your fabric. There are several more here. (Fun side story. The man who generated these 72 patterns is a Perl programmer who was dating a quilter. He developed the program to generate rotationally symmetric HST blocks.)

HST-layouts

But these are just the “rotationally symmetric” choices, you are welcome to explore beyond that. I really had a lot of fun playing with my HSTs before I finally settled on the pattern I wanted to use.

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Now you have 16 finished HSTs and you’ve decided on a pattern for your block, let’s finish up!

1. Beginning with the first row, place two adjacent HSTs together with the right sides in the middle, and their common edge aligned. Sew together using a scant 1/4 inch seam allowance. Sew the next pair of HSTs together the same way. Attach these two pairs using a scant 1/4 inch seam allowance to form your first row. Press your seams open.

2. Repeat for the remaining three rows of HSTs.

3. Flip the top row down onto the second row so the right sides are together in the middle. Align each of the seams between HSTs and pin in place. Sew the rows together using a scant 1/4 inch seam allowance.

4. Continue in this manner until you have sewn all four rows together. Press your seam open. Flip the block to the right side and press flat.

5. Trim to 9.5 inches square.

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All done!

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Mail your block off to be include in Rachel and Colin’s wedding quilt.

E-mail me if you have questions. Or call. Or we can Skype and I’ll help (this offer valid for Rachel and Colin quilt makers only)!

 

Planned Improv

Okay, so I know that “improv” stands for improvisational, and I do realize that “planned improv” is therefor an oxymoron, but there isn’t a better way to describe this block.

For the most recent round of the 4×5 Modern Quilt Bee, I wanted to do a scattered, “confetti style” quilt block. It has the look of being random, but I still wanted to plan out where the pieced went so they were scattered throughout the block.

planned improv quilt block

I did make the first one in a true improvisational style, but I found myself frustrated.

planned improv quilt block

Because the pieces still needed to fit within the confines of a 12-inch block, I found it necessary to stop and measure after each piece.

planned improv quilt block

So, with every little bit of “confetti”, I would cut, sew, trim, measure for the next piece, and so on …

planned improv quilt block

After that first one, I made a cutting diagram so that I could just cut out all the pieces at once and then put them together.

planned improv quilt block

The beauty of this method is that the sub-units are interchangeable. Thus, each block really is different, even though the pieces used to construct each one are the same size.

planned improv quilt block

It’s fantastic because it allows an improvisational look to be achieved even by more structured minds that get easily frustrated without a plan.

planned improv quilt block

I’m wondering if there might be any interest in me writing up my cutting list and piecing diagrams. I might do it anyway.

You can see, with the blocks all together, how there are no two alike. I placed the longest thin piece horizontally on the left side of each block so you could compare, but the blocks could be rotated for a different look.

planned improv quilt block

 

Apparently, I need to work on “letting go” sometimes with my quilting, but for now, I’m going with planned improv!

Miss Connections

This quilt has a story.

If you like that sort of thing, grab yourself a cup of tea and I’ll tell you all about it. If not, well, just scroll down through the pictures because this post is going to get a little wordy, but this quilt is definitely worth a look.

Let’s start almost two years ago when my little blog was just months old. Beth of Plum and June contacted me to ask if I’d like to part of the Let’s Get Acquainted New Blogger Blog Hop. I happily agreed and it was a great experience. I got to meet a lot of people who were just starting out on their online creative journey as I was, and I was introduced to a host of new blogs and the people behind them.

A year later, my blog was just over a year old, but since I was still fairly new, I jumped on the New Blogger Blog Hop Train again (I don’t think I can go for 3; I feel like once I’ve had this space for over 2 years, I can’t really call myself “new” anymore!). Another group of great, creative, inspiring people, and another set of new blogs to drool over.

This quilt is called Miss Connections, for Beth. She is Miss Connections because she put in the time and effort to organize and share all those new blogs. It’s like Miss Congeniality, only better, and a lot more work.

Now, we cut away for a moment, from the online side of things and talk about Virginia. Somewhere in our online correspondence, Beth and I discovered that we lived less than 2 hours from one another. A few friends occasionally met at Kim‘s place to sew and play and we loosely called ourselves the Midway Sewing Group since Kim lived midway between the D.C. area and me, in north central Virginia. We invited Beth to join us, but our schedules never lined up, so it never happened. And then I moved to Missouri. I feel like never meeting Beth in real life while we lived so close was a missed connection, and that is the secondary meaning of the name of this quilt.

Toward the end of the most recent edition of the Let’s Get Acquainted New Blogger Blog Hop, Jan at Sew and Sow Farm emailed everyone on the hop and proposed an idea. She thought it would be fun for each of us to make a block and put them together in a quilt as a Thank You to Beth for everything she did to make the blog hop run smoothly. Jan asked if someone take the lead to organize everyone, and volunteered. I felt like bringing us together on this project was a way I connect with Beth since I missed the in-person opportunity.

After considerable online discussion and a poll, we ultimately decided to go completely scrappy and make a “kitchen sink” quilt (from the saying “everything but the kitchen sink”). There’s a lot going on, but it works (the other options, in case you were wondering, were to unify by either color or block style). We felt that this plan would give each blogger the most autonomy and creative control over his/her contribution to the quilt. It really allows you to see the individuality within each block.

I made up a diagram for the quilt to determine how many blocks, and what sizes we needed, and then we each signed up for a block of either 6-, 9-, or 12-inches.

kitchen sink quilt design2.1

This quilt was a joy to put together. It was such an honor to take the creative work of so many individuals and turn it into one cohesive quilt. These blocks came to me from all over the world, and many hands have touched this project. Maybe the quilt, herself, is Miss Connection because she is the literal connection of all those blocks.

Miss Connections - Beth's Thank You Quilt

Here are some closer photos of the section of the quilt. Aren’t the blocks amazing? So much personality!

Miss Connections - Beth's Thank You Quilt

Some of the blocks are an obvious nod to their creator (like the mushroom block from Little Mushroom Cap, the banana from The Crooked Banana, and the diamond gemstone from {no} hats in the house which now available in the Craftsy pattern store) and others are a more subtle connection.

Miss Connections - Beth's Thank You Quilt

And speaking of missed connections, it seems I missed one of the block connections. See where New Zealand connects to the gray diamond dresden? Yeah, well, that whole unit was supposed to be flipped around, and now we have a finished quilt with an upside down New Zealand. I didn’t notice until I was quilting it, and well, by then I decided it was too late.

Miss Connections - Beth's Thank You Quilt Miss Connections - Beth's Thank You Quilt Miss Connections - Beth's Thank You Quilt

I pieced the name of the hop on the back and added the siggy squares everyone had included. (I didn’t realize that In the Boondocks had forgotten to include a signature block, but rest assured, I told Beth that you contributed!)

Miss Connections - Beth's Thank You Quilt

If you are looking for some new creative inspiration, there are some great spaces among these blogs!

Sew Fresh Quilts, Robot Mom Sews, So Sew Green, Kwilty Pleasures, Let’s Begin Sewing, The Sassy Quilter, NW Patchwork, The Rainbow Revolts, RobinSue Quilts, There’s a Thread, A Note to Follow Sew, Quarter Incher, {no} hats in the house, Lovelea Designs, Faffling, Wonderland by Alyce, Quilty Creations, Sew and Sow Farm, Caroline’s Craftiness, Simple Sewendipity, My Quilt Infatuation, Between Quilts, Little and Lots, Sassafras Lane, Hilltop House Creative Works, Chezzetcook Modern Quilts, Studiolo, Sew Sunshine, A Quilter’s Mission, The Crooked Banana, Sewing by Moonlight, Wasn’t Quilt in a Day, Ella and Nesta’s Little Room, Melia Mae Quilting, ayliN-Nilya, Factotem of Arts, Jolie Maxtin, Cloud Coucou Crafts, Kayak Quilting, Wombat Quilts, 13 Spools, Happy Fabric, Little Mushroom Cap, Molli Sparkles, Play Crafts, Owen’s Olivia, Making Happyness, Ella’s Cottage, Little Birdie Quilting, Bead Queene, On the Windy Side, In the Boondocks

Miss Connections - Beth's Thank You Quilt

If you’re wondering if Beth was surprised, you can read about it on her blog.

Miss Connections - Beth's Thank You Quilt

Collaborative work is awesome. If you haven’t worked with someone else on a project, I encourage you to do it. There are plenty of online quilting bees that you can join. Quilting is creative endeavor that is done mostly solo, and including the work of others with the same passion in a single quilt really strengthens your sense of community. I can now say I worked on a project with each of the talented people above, and I am so pleased I was able to help with this project to thank my friend Beth for all the hard work she did to bring us together.