How to Size Half Square Triangles

The ubiquitous half square triangle block. (Often called in HST.) They’re just about unavoidable in quilting, but many do avoid them! There are so many methods for making them and I could easily write a post just on all those methods, but often the reason a quilter would avoid an HST is because you go to all the effort of making them, and then they easily end up wonky and points get lost. It’s really discouraging to do a lot of work for a result that doesn’t look like you wanted! So today I’m going to show you the most consistent way to get accurate, beautiful half square triangles: sizing.

All you need are some HSTs, a cutting board, a rotary cutter, and an acrylic ruler.

1 uncut hst

Unless a pattern already included instructions to “size” your HST, make your HST bigger than the dimensions given in the pattern. An eighth to a quarter of an inch should be plenty of extra. For instance, a lot of patterns make HST by marking the center diagonal across a square, sewing a quarter inch seam on both sides of the line and cutting that apart to make two HST. The measurements for these squares end in the size of the finished block plus 7/8″ which I always round up to make a whole inch. So for this 6″ finished block, I cut a 7″ square instead of a 6 7/8″ square.

2 lined up ready to cut

Place your ruler over the HST so that the diagonal line of the HST matches a 45° angle, and adjust until the whole block fits within the size of the unfinished block with some hanging out all sides as shown. I’m using an Olfa Frosted 12.5″ ruler, and it’s my go-to for sizing because of that diagonal line and great visibility with no slipping. (Not sponsored, I just love the Frosted line so much and am always surprised more people don’t use them.) If your ruler doesn’t have a 45° line to the corner like mine, notice that the inch intersections also line up, and align to that. Aligning the diagonal to the 45° line is what makes for perfect points later.

3 first cuts

Trim the first side, and the top if you feel confident in your cutting skills. If you’re only comfortable trimming one side at a time, turn the HST now to trim the side opposite your first cut, lining up the 45° angle once again.

4 line up

Line up the ruler to the trimmed sides of the HST. If you trimmed the side and top, your HST will look like my picture. If you trimmed the left and right sides, turn to now trim the top and line up the diagonal again. When you trim the bottom, your HST will resemble this picture.

5 last cut

The HST is all trimmed! A perfect 6.5″ square for my 6″ finished block.

The picture in the header of this post is a closeup of the stack of 68 HST I need to press and size. Far from the most I’ve done in one go, but still a little daunting when I look at it! More than anything though, I’m impatient to get through them, because they’re for a quilt I’m designing just for y’all!  Be sure to check out our Instagram for more sneak-peeks and and behind-the-scenes.

Happy creating!

Emily

Five Step Skill Building

All the kids in town go back to school next week. If I was still in college, I’d probably be leaving for resident assistant training this week. I love this time of year—mostly for stocking up on office supplies—and it always gets me in the mood to learn something new. In fact, I’ve been focused lately on improving my applique skills across the board. I learn the most basic of basics many years ago, enough to say I technically knew how to needle turn applique and had made one bag with a machine applique octopus. It’s one area of quilting I consistently skip over because I don’t do it well enough to enjoy it! Well, enough of that, I told myself, and went to work improving my skills. That’s when I realized a lot of what I was doing to set myself up for learning success can be applied to most any skill one wants to learn. So today I’m going to walk through the steps I take to learn a new skill.

Zero In On What You Want to Learn

The first thing that stops me from learning a new skill is vagueness. For example, I often say I want to get into wood working, but if pressed, I don’t have a clear goal of what I want to learn about wood working, I just like how it would sound to tell people I am great at wood working. Applique was different because I knew what I specifically wanted to learn. I wanted to become faster at machine applique, to learn the freezer paper method, and to learn needle turn applique well enough that I would no longer be intimidated by it. Decide what you want to learn and to what degree you wish to master that skill.

My Plan

Set a deadline

The difference between a wish and a goal is a deadline. When you decide you want to learn a new skill, set yourself a few deadlines. I like to set a deadline for acquiring a teacher, practice time, and my first test. Usually at this point, I write a little outline in my day planner laying out my specific goal(s), deadlines to meet, and leave room for notes about teachers, supplies, projects, or whatever else might come up on my quest for knowledge.

Find a Teacher

These days, teachers come in all shapes and sizes! I can learn to start a fire using the cabin method off of a WikiHow in a few minutes—that’s a teacher! I often start on the internet when looking to pick up a skill. I read a couple blog posts with pictures about how to do the freezer paper method, but it all came together for me only after watching a video of someone using the method. There are also phone apps for lots of different kinds of skills. Looking up knitting apps I found apps with video tutorials teaching you how to knit, resources with libraries of different stitches, and various helper apps like row counting apps. And of course, there are more conventional, local resources for learning skills in person. I like to see if there’s a shop that caters to a skill I’m learning because they’ll often have either classes or resources to connect me to for learning. Most crafts also have local groups who get together and those can be great places to learn. I love going to my local quilt guild because I always pick up some new trick or skill.

Practice Smarter, Not Harder

It’s impossible to achieve proficiency without practice. I studied cello intensively throughout high school, so I’ve had a lot of practice with practicing. The number one thing about practice is that there’s no way out but through. Schedule practice time. When I’m learning a new skill, I like to set aside about an hour a day. I spend the first quarter of that time either reviewing my learning materials or reviewing what I’ve done. I’m practicing in my head before ever acting. I then spend half the time in practice, going through the act, and I don’t critique myself during this time. For the final quarter, I take stock of what I’ve done, and this is when the critique comes in. I see what I can improve, and I finish by noting what I’ve done well so I finish feeling proud and accomplished. If you find yourself feeling frustrated, especially when first starting to learn a skill, shorter practice periods more frequently can really help. The goal is to have lots of little successes to build your confidence.

The First Test

The first test takes many forms depending on the skill. If you’re learning a language, the test might literally be a test, but let’s take applique for an example again. I had three goals: get faster at machine applique, learn the freezer paper method, and grow comfortable with needle turn. I now have three applique projects going! One is a baby quilt that I’d originally designed without applique, but added to it so I’d get some practice with machine applique. Nothing makes you learn to go faster like working on a quilt for an early baby. (What did I tell you about August babies!) I have another project that uses the freezer paper method, and finally a little project with needle turn that I’m saving for last because it’s the most challenging of the skills. For most craft skills, a project serves as a test. Identify what your first “test” will be and aim for it. Once you’ve gotten through your first test, you’ll be able to tell if you need more practice to meet your proficiency goals or if you’ll have mastered what you want to learn.

Orange Peel
Ta-da! Freezer paper method–fast!

There you have it, a run through of picking up new skills.  Let us know what skills you want to learn or any tips you have for learning new skills in the comments. I’m off to practice my speed at machine applique because this baby quilt isn’t gonna finish itself.

Happy creating!

Emily

October Afternoon in AQ Magazine

It’s time! It’s time! No more having to keep this exciting news all to myself!

AQsept-cover-page-001

2017-08-02

I designed a wallhanging called “October Afternoon” for American Quilter and it’s published in the September issue! I had so much fun making this wallhanging and am so grateful to the AQ staff for taking such great care of me and this project. You can get your copy here and enjoy all that American Quilter Society has to offer. Digital copies are available now and print copies are on their way. (My poor mailman has to see my face pushed to the window every morning.) There are kits available, too.

Let us know if you make the pattern by tagging us over on Instagram or on our Facebook page!

Happy creating!

Emily