Friday, February 21, 2014

Half-square-triangle short-cuts and easy square-up

I have been making a LOT of half-square-triangle quilt blocks recently. Half-square-triangles (or HST's) are one of the greatest basic building blocks of traditional quilting. I'm not a super-duper-precise piecer, but I am a firm believer in squaring-up blocks - especially half-square-triangle blocks. 
It just makes the piecing come together easier and look so much nicer in the end. 
But as we all know, the square-ing up process can get kind of tedious. Right? So I thought I'd share a trick I finally just discovered that has made the work SO much easier and faster. Oh my goodness, I don't know why this took me so long to figure out. Many of you are probably already doing this, but just in case you're like me, here's the scoop:
First of all, this is my favorite basic method for making HST's: Match two squares right-sides-together and draw a diagonal line down the back of one side. Sew a 1/4" seam on both sides of the drawn line. Cut on the drawn line. This will create two HST blocks. I generally like to make my blocks slightly larger than the final size so that I can have room to square them up. If you are making a bunch at once - especially if you are chain-piecing them - it's really easy for seams or matched-up squares to get slightly distorted. Here is the traditional way to square-up a half-square-triangle block.
This Quilt in a Day Square up Ruler makes the process SO MUCH faster. I've seen this ruler multiple times in shops, in my mom's sewing room, etc. and always wondered what it did, but never bothered to find out. Well I finally did and it's genius. The ruler is marked from one corner with traditional inchmarks divided into eigths. From the opposite corner it's marked in half-inch lines.
Before you even open the HST block, lay the corner of the ruler on top of the pieced block and match up the marking for the desired finished size of the block, right on the seam. (So for example, I want a 3" finished block, so I am laying the 3" line on my seam, NOT the 3" line on the bottom edge of the triangle.)
Trim two edges using a rotary cutter. By laying the mark on the seam you get a square block with the diagonal seam centered when you open up the block.
I then use my rotary cutter to trim off the ends so that I won't have the little triangle tags when I open up the block. 
And voila - a perfectly squared-up 3" HST block with no tags sticking out at the ends. Before you open up the block, press along the seam to "set the seam." Then press the block from the front, careful not to pull or distort the diagonal seam, using the tip of the iron right on the seam to make sure it is fully opened and flat. Makes the blocks so nice and crisp and the best part is that I can get through a stack of them so much more quickly. I suggest doing the whole stack one step at a time. (For example: sew all blocks, trim all blocks, and then press all blocks, to streamline the process.)

I traditionally press my seams to the side - usually the dark. Sometime though I'll press my seams open, especially if the blocks are small.
Here's a repeat of the process again, this time making my block a 2 3/4" block. Notice the arrow in the top left picture where I have lined up the 2 3/4" markings with the seam. Trim two sides, open and press. (Ruler in bottom right photo only to show finished dimensions.)
I know there are a lot of quilty-gadgets out there, and you don't need every one, but if you make a lot of HST's and dislike the squaring-up part, Quilt in a Day Square up Ruler  is worth it. (I know they are available also at JoAnn's and from the Quilt in a Day site.) I now use it ALL the time.
If you're looking for more half-square-triangle inspiration, here are a few other projects I've used them in: Half-Square-Triangle spectrum quilt,
this post contains affiliate links

76 comments:

Linda said...

SUCH A CUTE QUILT!
THANKS FOR SHARING!

cobaltt16@yahoo.com

MARIA CRISTINA said...

<3

Chris O'Dorisio said...

WOW!! Amy I am going to have to find one of those rulers!! Thanks for the tip! I wonder if Joanne's carries this ruler, they have lots of other Quilt In a Day supplies.

amy smart said...

Yep! I think I got mine at JoAnn's!

brownj6610 said...

I took a class from Eleanor and have been using this ruler ever since. I've convinced others to buy this ruler also.

Sharon said...

Nice tut! I love that spectrum quilt with the all over HST

Jan said...

It never entered my mind to square up hst before pressing! What a great tip; thank you. btw, I've been quilting 25 years, so that says a lot - always something new to learn.

M Yang said...

This is really neat, thanks for sharing. Now I have to look in my messy drawer for this ruler!!

Lucy @ Charm About You said...

Yes that is genius!!

Sharon said...

I just picked up this ruler a couple of weeks ago. At Joann's--it was on clearance even! It's really cool! I have a pile of tiny crooked HSTs that I am now able to face :)
Thanks for walking us through the process!

Anita C said...

Haha I have that ruler & never used it. I remember picking up couple of years ago on sale & saying "I'm sure this will work" .....totatly forgot Thanks

Lana said...

That is an amazing set of quilts...and you make it look soooo easy! Thank you for sharing the process...you KNOW how I love processes!!! Happy Friday!

Mary Jusinski said...

I just purchased the Quilt in a day ruler on clearance. Perfect timing on the tutorial on how to use it. Thanks so much!

Sarah Elliott said...

AWESOME! I love HSTs, but I get so bored having to square them up. I'm definitely getting this ruler in my next Amazon order! Thanks for posting this!

Books_Bound said...

I loathe squaring up HSTs! I must buy this. Thank you for showing me the light! :)

SeeMaryQuilt said...

This needs to be added to the bottom of all HST tutorials. Genius way of squaring up!

Regina said...

Another ruler on my wish list. Great blog and I agree with SeeMaryQuilt!

Paula @ Sewy Stuff said...

Definitely looks easy! "Gotta get me one!"

Elaine said...

Great tool, thanks for sharing. Your spectrum quilt is what led me to your super informational blog. It's eye candy! I guess we all want to share our happiness in finding HST perfection bliss!

Ruth said...

Brilliant idea. I've just ordered one.

B. J. Woodlee said...

Thanks for sharing. I've got to get three on order one for each of my two sisters and one for myself. Love your quilts.

Jenn @ A Quarter Inch from the Edge said...

Thanks for the tip on the ruler! I make a lot of HSTs and didn't know it existed! Happy Friday!

Rebecca Grace said...

Oh, those specialty rulers in my sewing room are multiplying like bunny rabbits, and now you've given me a new one for my shopping list! I absolutely adore your HST Spectrum quilt, by the way.

Karen said...

This is brilliant! Thank you!

Heather said...

Brilliant! Heading to a quilt show next week and will definitely seek this out!

M.W. said...

I am heading to Joanns tonight.... I hope they have one.
Thanks for sharing
Shawn

valentinegirl said...

Love the ruler tip--I had not seen that before and turning a block 4 times (even with a turning cutting mat) is a pain. Also love that you can spell voila!! I can't stand seeing WA LA!!

Terry@ a quilting blog said...

Your quilts are beautiful!!! I have that ruler and love it!

Irelle said...

An even better tool is the BlocLoc ruler. It has a groove in the back to hug your seam - it is fabulous!

Susan Strong (strongstitches.wordpress.com) said...

That's genius! I've never seen that ruler before but will be asking for it at my LQS. And I have a HST project in mind to try it out. Thanks for the tip.

pkrueger said...

Thanks for the great tip! Now I can look forward to doing some half-square triangles.

Stacy Olson said...

HSTs are one of my favorite blocks. I was using the traditional method for squaring up, but this is pretty genius. Thanks for sharing Amy!!

Ramona said...

It's funny... This week I also posted about how to make HST's using the Quilt in a Day ruler. It sure does make the process faster! Love your quilts.

Rebecca Greco said...

I have a stack of triangles that I've been afraid to touch. This will definitely be helpful in making it as painless as possible!

Petit Design Co. said...

I too have seen the ruler and never bothered to figure out how to use it. Good thing tomorrow is Saturday and I have some Joann's coupons! Thanks for sharing

GabiP said...

This is a GREAT tut and I even own one of those rulers (but didn't know how to use it)! Thx so much! Being a newbie, it's great to learn all these neat tips! The whole squaring up a block thing is kinda mystifying to me as it is!

barbara woods said...

thanks for the tips

Chrie said...

THANK YOU SO MUCH for this revelation! I'm in process of construction of a quilt using over 200 HSTs and this tip has come in time to save me a lot of frustration!!!!

Katy Cameron said...

I shall add this to my collection of HST tips, but really, one of these days I'm hoping the HST fairy will just show up here...

Anne said...

Glad to know about this ruler and method. I make a lot of HST too. Did you press to the side or open?

patsy said...

YOU ROCK
really!

thank you

id said...

I have this ruler and have always just used it as a square--duh...
This makes so much sense. I;m glad that you press to set the seam--so very few people do this and it is really critical.

DeborahGun said...

Thanks for sharing this. I need one of those rulers!!

Christine S said...

I did not know of this ruler, thanks for sharing!!

Mara said...

Have you ever tried or heard of HST on a roll? (the paper version of making HST's)

moosecraft said...

Thanks for the tip! HST's are so versatile... and making the process easier is always appreciated...

Staci said...

Wow! Okay, I need this! I've seen it before, but like you, never paid attention.

Nancy said...

Brilliant idea. I just love it.

wannabequilter.com said...

I'm just branching out into triangles - this is a smart tool!

Anita said...

Great post! Thank you for this information. I do dislike the squaring up (and that's putting it nicely). I must get this ruler! :)

Kirsten said...

Thank you so much! You saved my day with this post! I have been cutting squares for a quilt for my sister and need many HSTs which I hate squaring up! I am getting ready to sew now and I found your post. I thought to myself - WOW that is the ruler I have had laying in my drawer not knowing why I bought it or what to do with it... Now I know - and it will save me so much time and hassle! Yesss! Thank you again!

Linda Fleming said...

I must get one of these today before I start my next project using HST's. Thanks for the tip and tutorial!

Shannon said...

I would be one of those people that would do it the hard way forever so THANK YOU for sharing!
I will be getting one of these ASAP!

amy smart said...

Haha! (I know right?!) Thanks. I'm glad that taking 5 years of French has helped me in some small way. ;) Because to be honest, I don't use it (or remember) much else.

Melanie said...

Sold...I just ordered myself one of these rulers! I love HST! Thank you for sharing!

Michele said...

Sold too. It sounds like a great tool to have. Thanks so much for filling us in.

Twins Squared said...

Thank you so much for this tutorial! I need to get one of these rulers ASAP! :)

Karin H. said...

Awesome tip, thank you so much!!

Sandra Dagg said...

I went looking through my rulers and Yup I have an unused Quilt in a Day square up ruler. I am using it today and it is a much quicker way to square them up. We buy these rulers and then tuck them away. Thanks for the tutorial and for getting me to use it. .

mara oliveira said...

ah.. tão lindo, ver você fazendo parece tão fácil... quando pra mim não é...

AnneMarie said...

Great tips Amy! I saw Corey/LMS talking about this on Instagram within the past week. It's been brought to my attention twice. Now I've gotta try it!

Sherry Moore said...

Wow, I just bought that ruler on clearance at my local Joanns, it had been marked down to $7.95 then to $3.95 so I thought that even though I had never seen it used I had to get it for the price! Thanks for the explanation, it sure will make it faster to make those pesky triangle squares!

Antònies Bera said...

Thaks for share this tips. We are beginners and we need to know about this things. Congrats!!
http://lesantoniesblog.blogspot.com.es

amy smart said...

I've heard of them. I need to give them a try sometime. I know they help a lot with accuracy.

amy smart said...

Good question. I typically press to the side. (I'm just traditional that way.) But occasionally I'll press open, depending on how intricate the block is (i.e. how many seams there are) or how small the triangle is.

wannabequilter.com said...

I ordered the 9.5" version and it just arrived today. I'm doing the Wishes QAL and it has lots of triangles. I'm also doing the Vice Versa BOM and although I'm not certain, I think there are some more triangles in my future there in the months to come, too!

Janet Lynn said...

Thanks! I so needed this! I wondered how this worked! BTW, I first learned to quilt with your tutorial and made quilts for my great niece and nephew for Chirstmas! I have LOTS of HST's cut and sewn but, was really not liking this part. Now I'm looking forward to getting back to it!

TheSewingLoft said...

Loving this Amy! Thanks so much for the tips. I'll be pinning and sharing.
~Heather

cgd said...

Thank you so much for sharing these tips!!! I have to make a lot of 1/2 square triangle blocks tonight and will dig out my Quilt in a Day ruler and give it a try!!!

martha cook said...

So glad I came across your blog! Going to finish a project I started yrs ago with 2 inch squares. Needless to say I purchased the ruler. Unfortunately not at sale price. Oh well.

Sigi G said...

Thank you for this great way of trimming HST's. I love making them, but my back already aches when I think of the trimming process. Can't wait to try your method on my next ones.

Autumn said...

I've had one of these for several years and never used it. Occasionally I'd pick it up and say "hmmm" and put it back. Thanks for your "simple" tutorial. I needed it!

patsy said...

I follow your directions and I made a quilt . it came out so nice. I wasn't on point on all the squares but it sure came out nice. thanks for the tutorial.

amy smart said...

I'm so glad! Thank you so much for letting me know!

Christina Lane | The Sometimes Crafter said...

I need that ruler! :)

Johanna said...

Thanks for this post! How have I never seen this ruler before!?! I immediately ordered one.