Half Square Triangle Tricks – Pressing and Cutting

My neighbor Di is a dear friend, great walking partner, and talented website designer. She has her own business: Adunate Word and Design, and she designed both my website and my blog. A while back she mentioned that both of these items were a bit ancient and they might begin to malfunction if I didn’t do a bit of updating. My response: “may I hire you?”

Figuring out the nitty gritty of how things work on the internet gives me the heebie jeebies. Her response made me smile. She asked me if I remembered her talking about the quilt she started for her daughter’s wedding – 4 years ago. Well, the fabric was in a bag, and much of it was cut into little pieces. I now have the bag and she’s in the process of updating my web presence  😀 !

I was sure I had the better end of that deal until I looked at the pattern for the king sized quilt:

and realized she had already cut out all the light triangles and 2″ squares. There was no opportunity to strip piece the 4-patches or the half square triangles! Yikes! Did I say KING SIZE?!?

I decided it was still a good deal – and began cutting all the dark triangles. I’m not sure I’ve ever done a quilt with this many small pieces, but I’m up for the challenge. I chain pieced all 336 half square triangles for the center of the quilt. When making half square triangles, the amount added for seam allowance is 7/8″ (½” for the square and an additional 3/8″ for the diagonal seam). In a perfect world, cutting at this measurement, sewing a perfect ¼” seam allowance, and pressing accurately, should yield accurate blocks that don’t need to be squared up. But only God is perfect. In my case I prefer to cut everything a bit larger than needed and do that trimming thing. So I added 1″ for seam allowance and stitched with a scant ¼” seam allowance.

I have two great gizmos to help with this project: a Tailor’s Clapper I purchased at the Madison Quilt Expo this year, and a Ripper Perch (I made that name up because I don’t know what it’s really called  🙂 ):

I left the half square triangle blocks chained together to make laying them out easier, and placed the first 9 on my ironing board. I pressed them, with the dark triangles on top, to set the seam (this will give you a crisper press):

Next I finger pressed the first one open and set the iron on it:

I then finger pressed the next one, set the iron on it and laid the “Tailor’s Clapper” on the previous square. It holds in the heat to give a great press:

I moved down the line in this way until I had all the blocks on the board pressed.

Now to cut them apart. I was given a very useful tool by my friend Judy a few years ago.

It’s a seam ripper set in a spool that velcros™ to a heart shaped base:

You simply pick up a pair of squares and pop the threads between them onto the ripper:

Voila – the thread cuts quickly and cleanly, then you move down the line.

Once the pressed triangles were stacked I could repeat the process for the remaining 327 half square triangle blocks!

Next week I’ll share my favorite tip for squaring up blocks!


And one more thing…

Next Saturday I’ll be the featured speaker at the Festival of Quilts in Spring Grove, Minnesota!


If you’re in the area – I’d love to have you join me for my Gradation Play lecture.

5 Opinions

  • Cheryl Parker said:

    I just had hubby make me a seam ripper base yesterday, and used it last night. Mine isn’t as pretty.

  • Nancy Pederson said:

    Chris, Have you ever tried the Clearly Perfect Slotted Trimmers, designed by Kari Carr? They come in a set of 2. They are triangles with dashed lines that you can use to put against your seam. Then you can trim, before pressing them. There are also slots at the end of each measure that you can use to cut off all your tails. There are two to a set one cuts from 2 inch thru 6 inch. The other cuts from 1 1/2 inch to 5 1/2 inch. Jenny Doan uses them when she makes half square triangles. So, I got my set from Missouri Star. They aren’t cheap, costing $31.95 for the set of 2, but I think over time it will be much easier to make HSTs, and I will get my money’s worth.

    • Linda Wilson said:

      I just bought a set of those from MSQC also. I love the idea of trimming before pressing and getting those tails cut off right away. 😊 I think it’s money well spent.

    • clkquilt admin

      No, but I’ll look into it! Thanks!

  • Susan Schlobohm said:

    I LOVE that seam ripper trick! I will be making one for myself soon.


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