Saturday, September 22, 2012

Part 1: The Perfect Half Square Triangle Tutorial

Today is the start of a new series of tutorials that I'm making to help teach you some of the best tips and tricks that I've learned over the years. My plan is to help you make the easiest and most accurate blocks you can!
First up is Half Square Triangles.
I've tried almost every way there is to make half square triangles and this technique is by far the easiest, quickest and most accurate that I have found!
About 18 months ago at the Sydney Trade Show I was very lucky to meet up with Bill and Leonie West of Westalee Designs, they are lovely people and I was immediately taken with their range of Rulers. After watching a quick demonstration I bought every single ruler they had :)
I was in my wheelchair at the time and Bill went out of his way to make sure I was able to see every detail of his awesome products. A very kind deed that I will never forget!
I've been doing a heap of demonstrations at local craft shows recently with the Westalee Rulers for My Patch Fabrics and after the 50th person said to me
"I buy these sorts of things at shows and then immediately forget how to use them" I decided to create a series of tutorials on how I use the Westalee Rulers.
I must tell you first up that there is a series of really great videos that Bill and Leonie made on their website and I will be adding links to their site in my tutorials, (with their permission)
The first in the series is a Dolly Quilt made mainly with the 18" Ruler and the half square triangle ruler. You can make this project with normal rulers, but it is a lot easier with these specialty rulers.
Here is the project we will be working on,
The block is called Slanted Diamond and I found it on the BlockFab app on Itunes.
Here is what you will need for the main part of the Dolly Quilt:
3 co-ordinating Fat Quarters (please note: FQ's must be European sizes, ie. 50cm x 56cm)
1 x 9.5" Square for the bottom corner
I also added the Dresden Flower and Butterfly using scraps from my stash. (This will be a separate tutorial)
You will also need the 18 or 24" Westalee ruler and the 6" Half Square Triangle ruler or a standard patchwork ruler.
 The beauty of the Westalee rulers is that the measurement on the ruler is the finished block size. 
The finished block size I wanted was 3", so I set the ruler on 3. The ruler increases in 1/4" increments, so you have a huge amount of options available to you with this ruler.
OK lets start cutting. First up we need a strip of fabric which is the same measurement as the distance from the black bar to the tip of the 1/2 square triangle ruler.
So flip your 1/2 square triangle ruler upside down and put your 18 or 24" ruler on top of the half square triangle ruler. Set your long ruler to this measurement. I will show you a video to help you with this step shortly.
See how the black bars are touching the clear plastic on each ruler. Make sure you check your measurements at each end of the ruler.

 After you press your fat quarters well place one on your cutting mat facing right side up, and lay a second Fat Quarter on top right side down.
 We are going to cut strips on the bias. This means you need to line up the 45 degree line on the selvedge.
  Make your first cut on the bias making sure the black bar is just covering the point.
Before you cut you must push down on the clear part of the ruler on the right side of the black bar. This rocks the ruler down and holds your fabric securely
 Flip that first strip around and push the black bar of the ruler up to the edge of the fabric (gently) when the black bar hits the edge you rock the ruler down again to hold the fabric securely and trim off the point.
 Move that first strip out of the way and continue cutting strips until you get to the halfway point of the fat quarters. (A total of 5 strips)
I put all these strips back down to show you how many strips I cut, but you will need to move them out of the way before each cut.
 We now need to take each strip to the machine and sew a 'scant' 1/4" inch seam down each side of the strips to form a tube.
 I like to use the Westalee guide instead of a 1/4" foot as you really need a 'scant 1/4" seam' and most 1/4" feet are a full not scant measurement.
 See how I've sewn down each side of the strip
 Now sew down both sides of the rest of the strips
 Take the strips to your iron and press each strip to set your seams.
 Now you need the half square triangle ruler and because you cut your strips to the exact measurement, see how the tip of the half square triangle lines up with the ruler, so you only need to cut off each side.
 your left with this
 You can use a normal ruler and line up the ruler so the bottom edge is on the 3 7/8" marks...
your original strip width needs to be 2 3/4". But you can see how the Westalee Ruler makes life much easier :)
 Ok, so after you've cut your triangle you just need to pull out the few stitches that are holding the point of the triangle together and....
 TaDah!! A perfect Half Square Triangle!
 Now you go back and cut out the rest of your half square triangles.
Don't they look so pretty :)
 I know it looks like lots of steps, but really it takes no time at all!
Heres the video by Leonie West:
I wanted to show you how perfect these half square triangles are. I placed my ruler on top of my block and see how it measures exactly 3 1/2", not only that but the 45 degree line is exactly lined up with my seam! The beauty of making half square triangles this way is that the bias is completely contained BEFORE you cut it out, so you won't get any stretching at all!! Perfect!
OK so to get the next 2 lots of blocks, take the remaining fat quarter and the 2 pieces left over from the first round of cutting and place them right sides together, like this...
 repeat the cutting and sewing with the rest of the fabric and you should get a total of 75 finished blocks from your 3 fat quarters. (you'll have 3 blocks left over that we won't use in our Dolly Quilt)

 We need to start sewing our half square triangles together now and because the bias is taken car of, we are basically just sewing a 9 patch. So we sew the rows into groups of 3, be sure to sew 3 of the same blocks together.
When we press, press the seam allowance to the middle on the top and bottom row and to the outside on the middle row. This allows you to nest your seams and really have the best opportunity for perfect points!
 When I sew my rows together I like to pin both sides of the nested seams. This keeps everything nice and secure. Because the 1/4" guide is on the right side of the needle, I pin from the other side and make sure my pins are just out of my scant 1/4" seam line, so I don't need to stop to remove them.
Look at that, so pretty! 
 Repeat with your 3rd row of half square triangles and you've completed your 1st block!
So all you need to do is repeat this another 7 time for a total of 8 blocks. Join your blocks into rows of 3 and put that extra 9.5" block in the bottom corner.
Now aren't they the easiest and most accurate half square triangles ever! No drawing diagonal lines, no stretched bias and best of all No Trimming back!
I made my Dolly Quilt top in an afternoon, it really is so easy!
Next time we will be making the Dresden Flower and Butterfly and then Binding our Dolly Quilt.
I hope you find the tutorial useful! I'd love to hear if you give it a go and please send me pictures, or better yet, share them with all of us on my Facebook page.
I was not compensated in any way for this tutorial.
If you are interested in buying the rulers, we have them at My Patch Fabrics, or why not ask your local Patchwork Shop to get them in for you.
Click here: for the Thumb Screws $9.50 - I suggest you only use these on the 18 or 24" rulers
Happy Stitching!
Hugs Paula


  1. Looks good Paula maybe I should give it a go with all my rulers.

  2. You have made this look so easy!! I would love to give this ago!! Maybe ill get there one day hehe!!

  3. Nice blog... thanks for sharing with us..

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