Monday, 30 June 2014

Trusty HSTs - How Do You Make Them?

How many ways can you make a Half Square Rectangle?  For such a simple thing it would seem a heck of a lot!  

My original idea for this exploration of HST’s was to go through 5 ways and make 16 HST’s, and to challenge you to play with layout but as I was brainstorming all the ways you can make them, this post got quite a bit bigger.  

Half Square Triangles (HST) are a basic building block in quilt construction and are incredibly versatile.  In this exploration today,  here’s some info on all the ways I found to make them.  If  I’ve left any out please let me know and hopefully you’ll find your favourite method in the following:

  • Templates: You can use templates to make one at a time.  If you want to draw your own you can trace a template onto plastic and use this over and over again.  I can see this as being a good option if you wanted  to hand sew a project like the Farmers Wife or to use up scraps.  Personally I never do this, I have an aversion to templates unless they are for really odd shapes!  (I tried patchwork using templates at least 4 times when I was a teenager and gave up - it wasn’t until I saw charm squares and a rotary cutter nearly 3 years ago that I thought, I can do this!)

  • Pre-printed foundation paper:  You use a paper pattern to give you the HST shape and you lay this on your fabrics placed right sides together.  You sew along the marked lines through the paper and cut afterwards.  Some types of pattern paper you don’t even have to remove afterwards!  I found this iron on one at Fat Quarter Shop and this CD full of them called Triangulations that you print as needed. There is a you tube video hereThangles also have a video showing how to use their pre-printed papers.   This makes it very easy to get straight lines and accurate pieces for gazillions of identical HST.  I never knew these existed but when I started looking I found lots of them.  Different papers for different sizes.   Of course you could draw your own too! 

  • Inklingo have templates that you can print directly onto your fabric that give you lines to cut along.  Click on the link to see a video showing it in action.  No need for plastic templates or paper and again great for lots of identical HST’s.   Their pattern has the corners snipped and helps lining up the HST after cutting for sewing, plus the pattern is printed such that the sewing lines contain the bias so no bias edges are exposed.

  • Die cutters:  If you have an AccuQuilt cutter like the Go Baby, you can use the HST die to cut out accurate shapes.  I don’t have one but I think I’d like one!  You need separate dies for the separate sizes but you can buy them in a pack.

  • Cutting up squares:  My favourite way to make HST’s! 
    • Cut a square in half exposing bias:  I used this method recently when making a rainbow Swoon block.  I had to try and figure out what fabric to put where and matching them up to make a few at at time was slightly head wrecking!  Far easier to take a square and cut it in half and then move the pieces where I wanted them.  The trick with these is to cut a square Finished Size of your HST+7/8” so, If I wanted a 3” finished unit (3.5” unfinished) I’d cut a square at least 3 7/8” to start with, then cut it in half to create two identical HST’s.

    • Drawn line method to contain bias:  I hate bias, I really have to be careful not to stretch things out of shape so I use starch and use lots of pins.  This method keeps the bias in the seam and I don’t have to worry about it!

Take 2 squares, again finished size +7/8” and place them right sides together.  I find myself that I’m not perfect on all my seams so it’s better for me to start with finished size +1”.  It does mean I have to trim them all but it makes cutting and the maths easier!  Draw a line across the diagonal and sew 1/4” seam both sides of this line.  If you struggle with this or don’t have a 1/4” piecing foot mark the lines to sew on.  Once sewn cut in half along the centre diagonal line and you have 2 identical HST’s.
    • Make 4 at a time (QST really!) by sewing all around and cut along both diagonals, back to bias again!  I saw this method for the first time on the Missouri Star Quilt Company you tube page.  The maths on this one is a little different.  I put up cheat sheets on my blog for this and the drawn line methods if you are interested.

    • Make 8 at a time variation of drawn line (Finished size +1”) x2.  This is very like the paper patterns above but you draw two lines on the fabric to get you started.  Again sew 1/4” on either diagonal line, cut in half along the red line, both sides then again along the blue line to get 8 identical HST’s.

  • Strip methods:  Another one I didn’t know existed!  Very handy for using Jelly Rolls!
    • Drawn line, similar to squares above but using strips you can get a lot of identical HST’s in one sewing seam! You do need to mark the fabric on the diagonal to give yourself a line to sew 1/4" away both sides and on the vertical to cut into squares and then into HST's.

    • Tube method exposing bias edges found on I found this one a bit odd to work with.  You sew two strips right sides together along both edges with a 1/4" seam to make a tube.  Then align the ruler along the seam and the point just inside the seam on the opposite side.  I found it easiest to align the strip on the 45 degree on the cutting mat and measure across to keep square.


    • Strip method containing bias found on Quilts and Other Good Things.  This was another odd one, cutting strips on the bias to start with and then sewing them together  to cut squares for lots of identical HST's.   Anyone ever used this method before?
  • Specialty Rulers : Wow there are lots of these!  Does anyone use a specialty ruler for making HST’s? If so what do you recommend?  BlocLoc rulers are great for trimming afterwards but there are other rulers to help with cutting them in the first place.  Some of the ones I found are:

So after all that I now have a bunch of HST’s, what to do with them... I think out of all these above, I’m leaning towards the drawn line method using a square to make 8 at a time.  What’s your favourite way to make HST’s? 



  1. I use the easy angle specialty ruler, Bonnie Hunter got me started on that. They come out pretty good that way though I really prefer either triangulations or the strips of paper for perfection!

  2. I cut squear with 7/8 seam allowance and cut in half way person. 95% perfect, I think :P

  3. I have a pack of thangles ...never used them but have been told they are great.

  4. Thangles or Triangles on a Roll, either one works. I do the drawn line method, except I don't draw a line. I just press them in half diagonally. I press the lighter color, or the one with less distracting print. Doesn't matter whether right sides are together or wrong sides, it will work just fine either way. I do cut my squares 1" bigger and use that fold instead of a drawn line, which takes SO much time! I do have to trim, but I'm sorry, I like perfection in shapes. LOL