Monday, August 2, 2010

Tricks for Half-square Triangles

If you’re like most of us, your quilting days began with straight seams. Remember how excited you were to complete your first block? Was it a four-patch? A nine-patch? Or perhaps you were an advanced student cutting your quilting teeth on appliqué? Wherever you began, your quilting journey eventually brought you to the land of triangles and the building block of quilting—the half-square triangle.

Unless you use templates and cut your triangles one-by-one, your half-square triangles (HSTs) will probably begin as squares. How do you take a square and turn it into a pair of triangles? The mystery is solved by using a little math, your ruler, and a quick swipe of the rotary cutter.

First the math:
To calculate the size square you will need to begin your process, just remember this rule of thumb: add 7/8” to the size of your finished HST.

3” finished HST (3 ½” w/seam allowance) = crosscut a 3 7/8” square
2 ½” finished HST (3” w/seam allowance) = crosscut a 3 1/8” square

Next the ruler and rotary cutter:
Once you have the measurements of your squares finalized, there are several ways to proceed in turning squares into triangles. When we create our quilts we prefer to use old-fashioned piecing methods. We crosscut each square on the diagonal, use a point trimmer to ensure accurate piecing, and then we stitch a scant ¼” from the bias edge being careful not to stretch the triangle out of shape.

Don’t want to crosscut until later? Prefer to stitch on a square rather than a triangle? Not a problem. Just mark the diagonal on each square. Some stitchers prefer to draw each diagonal, others choose to press and use the fold as their guide. Whichever marking method you choose, once the diagonal has been marked, stitch a scant ¼” on either side of the marking, and then crosscut on the marking.

Want an even faster method? Then you may want to choose one of the HST piecing products on the market today. There are several preprinted paper products to choose from, but what if your quilt takes a variety of sizes? Do you really want to buy a roll of foundation paper for each? No worries, we have just what you need!

Triangulations2.0 by Brenda Henning, allows you to print all of the sizes you need from your own computer. If your Mac or PC runs Adobe Acrobat Reader, then Triangulations 2.0 will soon have you printing foundations from ½” to 7 ½” on paper you already own. We sell Triangulations on our website here.

If you follow our designs, you know that many of our quilts are full of HSTs. Like you, we love the versatility and visual complexity of these simple units. Thanks to extensive piecing, our heirloom-quality projects such as Civil War Tribute and Civil War Chronicles require you to be persistent (and accurate!) in your piecing, and we believe the results are worth the challenges of the journey.

Ready for a new challenge? Excited about creating something generations after you will enjoy? Then brush up on your math, dust off your ruler, and put a new blade in your rotary cutter as you join us on the next installment of our Civil War series.

Civil War Chronicles features Judie Rothermel's outstanding fabrics and another heirloom-quality design. Pattern improvements include finished-unit sizes so you can easily select what size triangle to make if you want to use papers or Triangulations. And, we've included lots of quick piecing tricks too. You can sign up for this program that starts in January 2011 now.

We’re honored to have you join us in our travels to simpler times.

Sue & the gang at Homestead Hearth

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