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:
- cut triangles to size, sew the diagonal seam
- cut squares to size, draw diagonal line on back, sew on either side, cut apart
- cut triangles oversized, sew the diagonal seam, trim to size
- cut squares oversized, draw diagonal line on back, sew on either side, cut apart, trim to size
- Thangles, or other paper or foundation piecing methods
- 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.
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.
THE DRAWING IS NOW CLOSED, BUT YOU ARE STILL WELCOME TO COMMENT!