New to Quilting?

If you are brand new to quilting and don't know where to begin, start with the posts in September 2011 (look in the blog archive). The first four posts cover basics such as choosing equipment, choosing colors, how to sew 1/4" seams, how to use a rotary cutter, and how to press (not iron) your block during construction.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Half-Square Triangle Paper (New Skill)

Today's New Skill: Another way to make half-square triangles.

The next block we are sewing has 16 half square triangles in it. That's alot of triangles!

I've shown two different ways to make half square triangles in this post.

This post will show how to make them with paper, which is my favorite way of making them. I love using paper because my triangles turn out very accurate. Accuracy is my number two goal when I'm quilting. (Number one is trying to get the colors right!)

Accurate units make accurate blocks, which means less trimming and fewer lost points on stars and other block shapes.


  1. Stack two pieces of fabrics right sides together, and (usually) dark fabric on the bottom.
  2. Place the half-square triangle paper on top of the fabrics.
  3. Set machine stitch length to a smaller setting (I use 1.5) and tighten the tension just a bit.
  4. Sew on the dashed (dotted) lines until all of the dashed (or dotted) lines have stitching.
  5. Cut along the solid lines.
  6. Press open.
  7. Tear paper off.
  8. Check your half square triangle for size and trim if necessary.

Photo Tutorial:
Cut two pieces of fabric 1/2" or more than your finished half-square triangle. Place them right sides together. I usually cut  about 3/4" bigger, but in the tutorial I've cut the rectangles much larger so you can see the process easier.

Pin the paper on the fabric in a spot where you won't catch it with your sewing machine needle. he solid lines or in the middle of triangles are both good places.

Set your machine's stitch to a smaller stitch. I usually set mine to 1.5. Smaller stitch length makes it easier to tear the paper off at the end of the process.
I've already sewn the first seam on the dashed lines along the pink arrows. After the first seam, leave your needle in the down position and rotate your fabric and paper. Sew the next seam.

You will eventually run out of dashed lines to follow. When that happens, turn your paper and start on the next set of dashed lines.
All the dashed lines are sewn, now it is time to trim the paper and extra fabric.

All the excess fabric and paper have been trimmed away, and the half-square triangles have been cut
Here's what I threw away. Usually there is less fabric to throw away, but I wanted all the seams and trimming to show up really well in these photos. 
Press open. The triangles on the left are right side up, the triangles on the right are paper side up. Woops! I put the dark fabric on top, which means when I press with the paper still on, my seam is pressed towards the light fabric.
If you leave the paper on while pressing, you can't stretch the bias seam that runs through the center of your half-square triangle. Accuracy! Yay!

Caution: If you are printing your triangle paper on a home printer it is a really good idea to put some sort of lining or scrap fabric on your ironing board. Often the ink from a home printer will bleed onto your ironing board cover. Pre-printed (purchased) triangle paper is printed with a different ink that stays on the paper and doesn't transfer.

Since I printed my own triangle paper, I need to crease the paper to make it easier to tear off. (Yes, I have farmer hands ... comes from milking the goats and gardening and cleaning stalls....)
Carefully tear the paper off, you can see the paper on the left.

I trim the 'ears' off my blocks because I think it makes them easier to sew in the next step. You don't have to do that, lots and lots of quilters leave the 'ears' on!
If you haven't found your favorite way of making half-square triangles yet, check out Connecting Threads. They have four tutorials on making half-square triangles using specialty rulers. They show how to use the The Fons and Porter Half and Quarter Rulers (by Omnigrid), The Wonder Cut Ruler, Triangulations CD (print half-square triangles on home printers), and June Tailor's Perfect Half Square and Quarter Square Triangles Ruler.

If you want to print your own half-square triangle paper here are a few links:

Block Central (1", 2", 3", and 4" half-square triangle paper)

Quilting and Whatnot (1/2" to 2 1/2" finished half-square triangles in 1/2" increments)

When printing your own triangle paper, make sure you check the 1" test box that prints out on each page to make sure your printer is printing your triangles to the correct size.

Purchased half-square triangle paper:

Quilt-Pro Systems (purchased program with every size of half-square triangles, print on your own printer)

Quiltime (half-square triangle paper in packages of 25 sheets)

Fat Quarter Shop (triangle paper on a roll--great for when you have a bazillion half-square triangles to make because you can cut as long a strip of paper as you need! This is my favorite half-square triangle paper.)

Thangles (all sizes of half-square triangles on a strip of paper)

Here is a video tutorial on using Thangles (a purchased triangle paper).

Don't want to rip out paper but still like the idea of using paper? Check out this video:

Trish Stewart has a great tutorial on how to make your own half-square triangle paper for you to print out and add to your quilting notebook or file. (You gotta be able to do a little bit of math, though. Just a little, I promise!)

And finally, here is the paper I used in the tutorial. If I don't have the size of half-square triangle paper I need (that I've purchased), I will often draw the size on my computer and print it out.

These trim out to 3" (and finish at 2 1/2") which is the size we need for our next block.

If I've left out a step or you need a better explanation, please comment below and I'll do my best to answer and/or fix my post.

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