Thursday, March 3, 2011

Half Square Triangles

The half square triangle is a basic building block in many many quilts. Once a quilter learns this block, you will see it everywhere. It's like buying a new car. You never ever noticed Taurises on the road until you own one; then, they are everywhere. So is the half triangle.

It's one of my favorite blocks because it's easy to handle, easy to sew, and I can churn out lots and lots of them in a very short time. Here's my method:

I start with 2 squares. Size doesn't alter the sewing method. I like to end up with a square that's just a bit bigger than I need so that I can trim it to a perfect square before I move on to the next step in my quilt. In my example photos, I started with 4 inch squares and ended up with 3 5/8 inch half squares. That would work perfectly for me if I wanted 3  1/2 inch squares for my project.

Stack 2 squares right sides together.
Stich 1/4 inch from both sides of the fold.

Iron the squares in half diagonally. One square should be ironed right sights together and the other square back sides together.  Now I can easily stack my squares right sides together by fitting the creases into each other. I use my 1/4 inch presser foot to guide my stitching 1/4 inch from the fold. At this point I like to chain stitch several squares in a row. It's a quick sewing method and you needn't worry about backstitching at the ends of your stitching.  When I have a long chain of half triangle squares stitched on one side of the fold, I simply turn it around and stitch down the other side of the fold.

Chain stitching makes fast work of many blocks.
Cut apart on the fold.

Cut the blocks apart, and cut down each center fold. Iron open the square and there I have it - a half triangle square.  I always iron both seam edges toward the darker color; I'm not sure why, but it works out well most of the time.

The reason this block is so popular is that it can be arranged into hundreds of designs. Just by turning these 4 half square triangles I end up with very different designs. And if I added in squares or any other basic quilt shapes... well... the possibilities really are endless.

Here are 3 quilts in which the half square triangle block is used exclusively. They each turned out very different even though the exact same block is used in each one.

There is a little story behind these quilts. As I've already mentioned, my mom is an expert quilter. She lives in the Rio Grande valley of Texas in an over-55 community. One of the community groups she belongs to recycles fabric into quilts for hospitals and charity groups. Because they make so many, and they are group projects, the quilters work with basic 6 inch squares only. They throw away all fabric not large enough for a 6 inch square.  Now, my mother couldn't bear to see some of the nice fabrics thrown away just because they were a bit small, so...  I received a large bag of scraps. My fabric stash did not need increasing, and since these were such small scraps I didn't want to add them to my stash (which by the way, I keep sorted by color). I did think about chucking them (sorry, Mom), but instead took them out, and started slicing and dicing them into 5 inch squares. I then grouped them by color groups. Next came a marathon of sewing half square triangles. It wasn't until all my half square triangles were sewn that I started arranging and re-arranging on my design wall. Finally, I came up with designs that pleased me. These are truly scrap quilts - made from the scraps of the recyclers!

The half triangle square - an amazing block!

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