Radiant Star Part 4, Half Square Triangles

For the non-quilting readers, this is going to be more about quilting than you are probably willing to sit through, so you may be excused.  Or you can keep reading if you think it might be interesting.  Just don’t blame me if you are bored.

For the rest of you, I thought I’d do a post about how I’m doing the tiny half square triangle units (HSTs) for the Radiant Star quilt.  If you are a quilter, but don’t want to read the whole thing, you still ought to scroll to the bottom to learn about a giveaway…

There are how many?


There are 32 of the little blue and white HST units per block.  Times 20 blocks and you get:  wow.  640 of these suckers.

They are how small?

Not only are there a lot of these babies, but they are tiny:  they finish at 1 inch square.

Other ways to make them (besides the method I’m actually using)

If you ask 10 quilters, I bet you could come up with about 10 different ways to piece these units, here are 6 off the top of my head:

  1. cut triangles to size, sew the diagonal seam
  2. cut squares to size, draw diagonal line on back, sew on either side, cut apart
  3. cut triangles oversized, sew the diagonal seam, trim to size
  4. cut squares oversized, draw diagonal line on back, sew on either side, cut apart, trim to size
  5. Thangles, or other paper or foundation piecing methods
  6. Cut triangles from a strip using an Easy Angle ruler.

I’ve been quilting for long enough that I’ve tried them all, and for larger units, I actually go with option number THREE.  Well, it starts with a square, cut in half diagonally, sewn together, then trimmed to size.  No matter how hard I try, I can’t cut the triangles to size and sew them together and have the resulting piece turn out to be the correct size and be completely square.

Yes, it wastes fabric, yes, it takes longer, but the end result is worth the effort.  The great thing about quilting is that each of us can find our own best way of doing things, and while I’m not expecting to convert anyone to my way of thinking, I do think it’s fun to learn about other methods.  Only you can decide if my method is something you’d like to try.

How I’m making the really small ones

For really small pieces, though, I hate the thought of sticking that many tiny triangles under the needle and the iron, even if they are oversized, so I do something different:  I use Marsha McCloskey’s Bias Square method.

To start, you need squares of your two fabrics, in this case I went with 8 inch squares, as called for by her pattern in the book I’m following:


Layer the two squares, right sides together and then I’m going to use my strip cutting ruler to cut two inch strips along the bias:


(Sorry about the glare of the lights…).  I sliced along the diagonal (along the 6 inch mark), plus along the 2, 4, 8 and 10 inch marks:


(There were actually two sets of blue and white squares: I’m only comfortable cutting through about 4 layers accurately, any more and it gets too lumpy and makes the shape cut ruler too wobbly)

The next step is to carefully sew those strips into pairs, and the pairs into a unit that looks like the following picture.


I used sets of the long strips from several blue/white combinations, the short strips also get sewn together:


If you weren’t making 640 of these tiny things, you could sew long and short strips from just one square into funny looking combo, too, but I was trying to maximize the number of squares per combo, and minimize the waste.

I would point out that CAREFULLY is a fairly key word, because the seams you are sewing are on the bias — super-duper stretchy.  I starched all of my fabric before I started cutting, and that helps stabilize the fabric, too.

The seams were all pressed open, to reduce the bulk.  These are pretty tiny, and if I pressed towards the blue, it would make for some pretty big lumps later in the process.

More Cutting

Now, it’s time to dig out a nice small ruler and start cutting again!

My ruler of choice these days is from Creative Grids:


I have to admit that when I first encountered the Creative Grids rulers, I was a little..confused?  Sheesh, sometimes I still am, it takes some getting used to, to have a ruler that isn’t an even inch measurement, and when you turn it around, the major markings are the HALF inch increments, not the FULL inch increments.

Now that I’m used to it, though, I only have to flip them around a few times before I’m looking at the right measurements, and it does make it much easier to cut squares that end in half inches, when you are linging up with full lines, rather than hash marks.

The first step is to line up the diagonal line of my ruler along one of the seam lines of my bias strip combos:


I need the units I’m cutting to be 1.5 inches square, so I’ve made sure that I’m cutting a section that is BIGGER than that:  I’ll cut along both of the sides of the ruler at one time, and then I’ll move my ruler along to another point of the unit, and then keep going:


Until eventually, I’ll have cut the whole thing up into pieces.  I can get 25 out of the long strip combos.

Next, I need to square up the other two sides of the HST unit.


In this instance, I’m lining up the diagonal line of my ruler with the seam line, and the 1.5 in. lines of the ruler with the edges I cut in the previous step.  I can slice the excess off those last two sides and voila:


A nearly perfect, 1.5 inch HST unit!

Only 639 to go!

Oh, and 120 of the dark blue/cream HSTs, as well.  I’d better get going…

But before I do, I promised a giveaway:

I’m giving away a Creative Grids 4.5 by 4.5 ruler (as pictured above).  To enter, leave me a comment, and make sure I can contact you.   All you have to do is comment (I’m in!), but you could also take the time to tell me how you like to make half-square triangle units, or you could comment with a funny joke, or something completely random.  Up to you.  There might be a reward for the funniest comment, too.  (Funniest to be determined by the Earley Judging Committee.  Keep in mind that that committee consists of 2 almost-10-year-old boys.)

Comments will be open until Thursday at Noon, CDT.

Happy Quilting!




  1. Deb Levy says:

    pretty slick….I’ve always used thangles for the bitty ones. I never trusted my ability to cut something that small accurately.

  2. Tracie Hunt says:

    Wow. You are so very patient! I’ll admit that I’ve never done tiny squares. The smallest I’ve done is probably about 2″ squares and I believe I used the #3 method. The quilt will sure be beautiful when it’s done!

  3. Freda Henderson says:

    I use the number 4 method but I have never made HST that small. The quilt is going to be gorgeous.

  4. Sue Edberg says:

    Interesting way to do the tiny HST units. I have never made such tiny ones but I love my WonderCut Ruler for making HST units. I’ve used method #4 a lot but I really hate to trim. With the WCR, I don’t need to trim.

  5. Meg Marshall says:

    This was great – had not seen the method you showed – love it and I can see lots of perfect little squares!!

  6. Carolyn Collette says:

    I use #6 — The Eazy Angle Ruler method. I really like the way each l/2 is the correct size after sewing.

    Your way looks neat also!!

  7. Sue Bickham says:

    I had completely forgotten about this method of making HSTs! I made a quilt about 12 years ago (when I was a new quilter) that used it, but they were nowhere near that small. I also have the book you’re using and haven’t looked at it for years. Your project is making me want to dig it out and make something from it.

  8. LizA. says:

    Thank you so much for showing this method. I totally forgot about making triangles this way. I learned it in a class about 5 years ago but that darn CRS apparently wiped it out of my brain. I’m going to PRINT this out and put it in my notebook of good tips.

  9. Shelly says:

    I’d love in on the drawing. This is one way I haven’t tried yet. I’ll have to try it next time. So far, the best way for me is method 4.

  10. Karen S says:

    My favorite way to piece HST is a la Gwen Marston’s liberated thinking. That way I just go with whatever!

    And….my favorite pun this week….

    No matter how much you push the envelope, it’ll still be stationery!

  11. Ramona Quilter says:

    I like the precision of Thangles but can live without the press and tear paper part of the process.
    I might give this fence-post looking method a try. It looks easy and well, that is what I like.

  12. Ramona Quilter says:

    I like the precision of Thangles but can live without the press and tear paper part of the process.
    I might give this fence-post looking method a try. It looks easy and well, that is what I like.
    P.S. Updated email address.

  13. Caron Mosey says:

    Holy cruddlies, Suz! My brain hurt from thinking about all the work you went through to make your little HST’s. I cut the square bigger than double the size, draw the middle, sew on either size, and whack the tar out of the squares right down the middle. Then, I use my perfect little square template with a diagonal line down the center and hold it tight over the fabric and cut by hand. It’s an easy, peaceful way to spend your evening while watching TV. But you can send me your extra Creative Grids 4.5 by 4.5 ruler and I’ll give it a try. No guarantees, though!

  14. Tammie says:


    I’ve never been exposed to this way of doing them – it’s pretty slick! I usually use the triangle paper way. The real bummer, though, is having to peel all that paper away. I once did a Baby Bear Paw with over 1,000 one inch and one and a half inch finished triangles. It wasn’t a big quilt, either. I’ll never make that one again, but it’s probably still my favorite… I’m anxious to see yours all put together! THanks for the tutorial!

  15. Irene (reenie) says:

    I usually use #3 method. But I’ll confess, I don’t usually
    make triangles so small. I’ve never tried this method
    because I never knew how to cut the second, third, etc

  16. Jackie says:

    That is way to many HST for me. I think I have used all the ways you listed but I’m still am not a HST fan. This quilt is going to be beautiful.

  17. Kim s says:

    I’ve tried them all…. and I use a different method for different quilts. It really depends on how many and what size the finished half square triangles need to be. For the project you are working on I would use the same method that you are using. I think it’s the best for the size and when using multiple fabrics.

    Great tutorial… 🙂

  18. Tina says:

    I haven’t really seen this method before. I draw the center line then sew 1/4″ on both sides but they aren’t perfect. I’ll have to try this. Who’s keeping count for you?!?

    I don’t have a ruler like that. I think it would be great to have!

  19. Dara says:

    Wow! That is a lot of little bitty triangles!! That is going to be one gorgeous quilt when you are done tho…

    I use the WonderCut Ruler. Haven’t tried any as small as you are doing.

    Nice thing about your method, once you have the strips sewn together, you no longer have to worry about those bias edges. Hmmmm….

    I have the Creative Grids 7 1/2″ ruler. Love it! Would love to add a smaller one to my repertoire…

  20. Sherri G in Kentucky says:

    Wowser! This looks too complicated for the likes of me. But I have to admit, I can’t get a perfect HST unless I make it larger and trim it down, so that’s how I make mine. Can’t get it right even with my Wondercut Ruler.

  21. Sharon Weisenfluh says:

    I saw this method on Simply Quilts several years ago but forgot about it. Thanks for the refresher and it does look easier than the No. 4 method I just used on my quilt.

  22. Kathy E. says:

    I’m generally a method #4 person… I like cutting larger and trimming down. It is a pain, but they are exactly the right size when done, and I like that. I have used the fencepost method once on a project with lots of tiny HSTs and I liked it, but alas… that project is still in the UFO pile and probably won’t EVER get finished!! But yet, I would love to win your ruler. Does this make ANY SENSE at ALL????

  23. Lisa McGrath says:

    Great instructions (and pictures)! I think I have this book, but I have never tried this method. Good luck with the blocks. I’m enjoying your progress/process.
    Thanks for sharing.

  24. Vicki W says:

    That’s a lotta little squares! Don’t enter me in the drawing because I already hvae one but I’m still waiting for you to get the Tri-recs rulers in!

  25. Michelle says:

    Thanks for the tutorial – I’ve never seen this method at all. The way I make my HSTs varies per project, but generally, I cut ’em in half and sew them together. Not all are perfect, but enough turn out well enough that I’m generally satisfied.

    It looks like you’ll have a gorgeous quilt when this is all done. Lucky customer!

  26. Mary says:

    I typically used Thangles for my half square triangles too but never made any smaller than 2 inches…..now I have both 2 and 4 inch dies for the GO and they’re so easy to make that I’m going to order the 3 inch one too. One nice thing about EQ is that I can adapt the size of my quilts to work with the dies I have.

  27. Rita says:

    Dear Suzanne,
    I think you are “certifiable.” But, you are also very talented and I always enjoy your blog. The method you are using is very clever…good for you!

  28. Donna James says:


    I use Method 4 -cut squares oversized, draw diagonal line on back, sew on either side, cut apart, trim to size. I don’t mind the time spent trimming. I want those little suckers to be accurate. I’m enjoying following your progress on this quilt. Great tutorial, Suzanne.
    Count me IN.

  29. floribunda says:

    I’ve had a feathered star on my to-do list for ages, but I’m thinking just one — not 20! You are definitely a masochist… I do my HSTs the “draw a line down the middle of the square, sew 1/4″ on each side of the line” method — usually cut the a little bigger than needed and then trim each HST after it’s pressed.

  30. Diana Wilson says:

    The ONLY time I’ve ever made tiny HST I used Thangles. I don’t think I will be doing them again anytime soon. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t do it the way you are. I’ve seen that way but I can’t imagine it working that well for me. I would love the ruler however!

  31. Nancy Anne says:

    I’m no good at accuracy at that size. Heck, I’m no good at accuracy at any size! I don’t think I’ve ever used HSTs that small. It’s nice to see a method that might work for me. Thanks for the careful explanations and pictures – I’m a see-it-do-it kinda gal!

  32. Lynn Schwalje says:

    So many tiny HSTs! It’s going to be a totally gorgeous quilt!

    On the random side, tomorrow is the last day of school where I live here in Maryland. That means happy students and happy teachers!

  33. Adam says:

    Dear Suzanne, I’m gawking at all the comments you’ll get on this entry because you’re giving something away.

    GAWKING. I’m not in, but only because I have a little tiny ruler I never use, but I use what is essentially an easy angle ruled to make my HSTs

  34. Sharon York says:

    I understand your pain with all of these small pieces. I am working on a quilt that has too many HSTs too. I like your method. I think I will give it a try.

  35. Michele says:

    I like to cut strips 1/2″ wider than the finished unit, layer one strip from each fabric together, and then use my Easy Angle to cut pairs of triangles. For small units, heavily starched fabric works better.

  36. Jami says:

    I use # 4 to make 1/2 square triangles. I’ve never seen them done the way you are doing it…guess you CAN teach an old dog new tricks! Would love to try out that ruler. I’ve seen them in the stores, but never bought one before.
    You have to have the patience of a saint to make ALL those little bitty 1/2 squares. It’s is going to be a beautiful quilt!

  37. Jessie says:

    I start with a big square, draw an X corner to corner, sew 1/4″ away from each side of the drawn line, then cut apart. It yields 8 HST per square – all oversized so then I trim them up to the exact size. I saw Linda Ballard use this method on Simply Quilts back in the day.

  38. Helen-Mary says:

    IInstead of cutting the 1 1/2″ squares one by one (which is a lot of up-one-way and down-the-other-way cutting) you could lay the strip cutting ruler on the large set of stitched bias strips, and cut at 1 1/2″ widths. Carefully lift the ruler and recut at 1 1/2″ widths in the other direction. Voila, little 1 1/2″ squares. With 6 hundred and some, I’d be tempted to try it.

  39. Karen L says:

    Suzanne……..this is the method I use all the time for any HST under 2 inches. You don’t have to enter my name as I already have this ruler. I’m glad to see you pressed the seams open……..controlling that bulk is very necessary on feathered star.

    Karen L

  40. Carol Howlett aka indycatCarol says:

    And just how much would you charge to make these teany, tiny HST’s for someone that wants to make a Radiant Star but doesn’t want to go bonkers making all the HST’s???

  41. Sonya says:

    Thanks Suzanne,

    I don’t remember ever seeing that method before. I’ll have to give it a try when I need to make a bazillion half square triangles.

  42. Kath says:

    WOW Suzanne, you have more patience than I have.
    Looking forward to seeing your finished Radiant star

  43. Angela says:

    The jokes will be judged by 10 year old boys, you say? Sounds like a fart joke would be PERFECT!

    One evening, a very attractive young lady was sitting in a fine restaurant patiently awaiting her date. While waiting, she decided to make sure that she looked perfect for him. So the young lady bends down in her chair in order to get a mirror from her purse. Then just as the waiter walks up, she accidentally farts quite loudly. The lady immediately sat up straight, embarrassed and red faced, sure that everyone in the place had heard her. Quickly she turns to the waiter and demands, “Stop That!” The waiter looks at her dryly and says, “Sure lady. Which way was it headed?”


  44. Xina says:

    Ha! I read about this yesterday and it just bugged me for 24 hours….How can she cut those squares without going beyond the ruler….oh that bugged me…so I had to go back and RE-READ and LOOK at the photos to see how she did it….aaahhh…I see. Now I feel so much better. I’m so happy that I am not so bugged anymore. Now I’m anxious to try this method….AFTER I finish all my current projects which will happen in the year 2026.

  45. riley says:

    On the one-and-only feathered star I ever did, I used this same method to make the small HSTs. Once I got the hang of it, I kind of liked it.

    SPECIAL, for your boys:

    A noise annoys an oyster, but a noisy noise annoys an oyster more.

    Riley 😉

  46. Sheila says:

    I’m opting out of the drawing, but want to vote for the Easy Angle.

    Helen-Mary’s comment reminded me of a webshots pic from Houston Market (http://tinyurl.com/caffrey-triangles and the next pic) which made me think you could use the slotted ruler as well. You know… for the next time you make one of these.

    (and Riley’s line is hilarious!)

  47. Corinne says:

    A friend just shared your method with us – what GREAT directions. I love the rulers with the 1/2 side as well. I prefer the sew the diagonal on squares, cut apart to make more than one at a time.


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