We all have those quilting techniques that we can’t stand right? For me it’s paper piecing, binding by hand, and trimming half square triangles.
I *cannot* stand making and trimming half square triangles, and I hate it so much because of all the trimming. And um, yeah, half square triangles are kind of a big deal in the quilt world. Right? So I’ve made my peace and learned a few ways to help myself make the process of making half square triangles a little bit easier. In this post, I’m going to share these methods with you.
Would you rather watch instead?
The “Quick” HST Method
Before going too in depth, let’s just make sure we’re on the same page by looking at the typical way to make HSTs. So typically in quilt patterns when you do half square triangles, the way they’re written is for the “Quick” method for making half square triangles.
You’ll start with two squares, one square from each fabric. Then you’ll put them right sides together lining them up nice and tidy. Next you’ll draw a diagonal line from one corner down to the other opposite corner, in water soluble marker or fabric marker. Then your next step is to stitch 1/4 inch away from that mark line on either side. Cut along that marked line, and then you would get two half square triangles.
That will quickly give you loads of HSTs, but that will leave you with a lot of trimming. because the next step, when you make those quick and easy half square triangles, is to go to your cutting station and trim all those Half Square triangles down to the same size.
Now, because of the way that you sew on the bias along that diagonal. Sometimes the the Half square triangles will come out really warped, and they’ll be different sizes and depending on how accurately you piece, I’m not the most accurate piecer. You’ll want to trim those down so that they’re the same size, and when you trim them down so that they’re the same size, it will be easier to piece them together into the quilt block and then the final quilt top.
You’ll want to trim those down so that they’re the same size, and when you trim them down so that they’re the same size, it will be easier to piece them together into the quilt block and then the final quilt top.
Trimming is Bad, let me count the ways
So, yeah… for me… when you have a crap ton (official quilting term), that amount of trimming is a no go. I don’t want to say hate, but I hate trimming half square triangles because that repetitive motion with my rotary cutter, that motion right there it hurts my wrist after awhile.
So the actual process of trimming half square triangles, it’ll actually slow me down and create a bottleneck in my creative process, and it turns out to be another chore, and then the project I’m working on that’s using all those pretty half square triangles. It’s more likely to end up in my work in progress pile, and that just adds to the amount of guilt I feel towards that ever growing pile!
The 3 Best ways to make Hsts
So today I’m gonna share with you three different ways that I think are the best ways to make half square triangles. And these go beyond the quick method for the quick half square triangle method. These three ways really short cut the process of trimming.
Bloc Loc Rulers
Bloc Loc (affiliate link) rulers are this really nifty tool that makes trimming easier and more streamlined. You still have to trim, but you can coast through and do it faster.
Each Bloc Loc has a groove along the center that you butt up to the seam in the HST unit. You don’t have to worry about the diagonal lining up with the ruler here because the ruler automatically does that for you. You don’t have to pause or line up every time, just lock it in place and go.
If you’re one that loves to just sit and veg out while you’re trimming. (Who doesn’t? Amiright?) You’ll love this tool!
Personally, this isn’t my favorite tool because you still have to do the trimming. But if I’m making just a handful of half square triangles, this will be the tool I use.
Pros: It streamlines and speeds up the HST trimming process.
Cons: You still have to trim!
Cost: From around $15-$90
The second way, using a die cutting system, is one of my favorite ways to make half square triangles. And I’ve used both AccuQuilt and Sizzix (affiliate link) systems and have been happy with both.
And I love using a die cutter because it basically pre trims the HSTs. But the downside of using a die cutter is that you do end up with quite a bit of fabric waste.
So here’s what a die cutter system might look like and what the triangles will look like once they are cut, sewn, and pressed. After going through the die cutter and the triangles are ready to go. You can see in the pic, that the triangles are pre-trimmed. Once the HST unit is pressed, you won’t have to do any trimming.
Pros: You wrists and time are saved!
Cons: Fabric Waste
Cost: Most expensive: Around $20 for each die and $100+ for the die cutting machine
The Perfect HSTs – Paper Templates
The third method I love for making HST is a template set purchased from Freshly Pieced, called The Perfect HSTs. Lee Heinrich, of Freshly Pieced, came up with this really ingenious way to paper piece HSTs. It’s a digital resource you can keep in your digital pattern library. It comes with a bunch of different sizes. Personally, I have it in my Dropbox library, and I can print as many copies of whichever size I need.
Here’s an example of what you might print. Lee’s got all the instructions on each sheet of paper you might print. But it’s super simple once you get the hang of it. But you layer your fabric right sides together and then pin the paper to the fabric. Then you stitch along all the stitching lines.
After you’ve stitched along all the stitching lines, you then cut along all the cutting lines, remove the papers and then press.
And you get… perfect HSTs! No trimming! Hooray! I should note here that I sewed my sample triangles incorrectly. You can see that I sewed a right side to a wrong side. *sad trombone*
So right now, you might be thinking “hey wait a minute Becca… don’t you hate paper piecing? Why are you paper piecing?!”
And so I’ve I thought about it and I’ve come to realize that my disdain for half square triangles and the trimming of half square triangles is greater than my disdain for paper piecing. What can I say? I’m a big bag of contradictions! Ha!
And yes, now I do use Freezer Paper Piecing when I piece the Perfect HSTs. Here’s what the templates look like on Freezer Paper. And for those of you in the Freezer Paper Piecing Masterclass, you’ll see that demo in Module Two.
Pros: No trimming! No fabric waste!
Cons: Paper Piecing unless you use my Freezer Paper Piecing technique.
Cost: Most affordable at around $10.
I would be remiss to miss my chance to mention my *favorite* way to make HSTs. If I’m being honest, my favorite is from my Modern Triangle Quilts book.
Here’s an example of a HST unit from one of my Modern Triangles BOM programs. I will lament the fact that I do have to trim these HST units. But maybe I could invest in a Bloc Loc? At any rate, sometimes it’s worth it to take the time and do the trimming. (See? I’m a big mix of contradictions!)
When to use each method?
I’ll use each of these techniques depending on the amount of half square triangles I’m making. If I’m making a ton, I will do a die cutter or the Perfect HSTs templates. I really love to use the die cutter, but sometimes I don’t want to waste fabric! If I’m making a small amount, maybe between 20-50 HSTs, I’ll use the Bloc Loc Ruler.
What are your thoughts on HSTs?
Whether you love half square triangles or whether you hate half square triangles, I think that we both can agree that half square triangles are a vital part of quilt designs.
But I’d love to hear from you! What do you think? Do you love HSTs? Do you enjoy trimming? Maybe you love trimming while watching TV and it’s no big deal. Or maybe you’re thinking “Oh, my gosh, *I* hate trimming HSTs too!”
Leave a comment and let me know how you feel!