How I Make Half Square Triangles

Everyone had seen me making triangles as of late.  I’m been busy working on my Holy Toledo quilt and it is LOADED with half-square triangles.

If you are new to quilting, a half-square triangle is what you see in this quilt.  The square is made up of two triangles, typically one light and one dark, and when that happens in the quilting world, that unit is known as a half-square triangle.

Many new quilters don’t like them.  They are sewn on the diagonal, they are easy to get wrong especially for beginners.  There are many methods of making them.  The trick is to find the method that works best for you…and over the years, this is the method I have had much success with.

Recently Donna sent me a note and asked me what method I use.  I promised her that I would write about it…and today I am.  I also made a video that shows you how I did it.

First, I’ll talk you through it with pictures.  I use and easy angle ruler.  You can find one HERE on Amazon.  If you have an Essential Angle Ruler, that will work too.


I need triangles that finish at 2″ in the quilt so as a rule of thumb, I cut strips that are 1/2″ LARGER than the size of the FINISHED piece in the quilt.   I layer the pieces together with a dark light, dark light.  I am cutting two sets at once.  I do this a lot and typically on a normal day, I might cut as many as 8 layers at once.  This day I was only cutting four.  In the video, I give you a good description of exactly how to cut.

From there I take my pieces…To the machine.  I use a Seams so Easy Guide by Lori Holt.  Find them HERE on Amazon.  My glue dots have released over time and don’t stick so I use washi tape to stick it down.

I feed my piece in as shown making sure to line that outer edge up with the 1/4″ line on the guide.

These are all chain pieced into the machine making sure to follow that line on the guide.

From there off to the ironing board.  I chain iron much like I chain piece.  Please note that in the video.  I believe it saves me a lot of time.

So…it’s time for the test.  How did I do?  Perfect… Nope.  Just slightly off.  Look closely at the 2 1/2″ line at the bottom of the picture.  I’m slightly off.


Now this is what I am going to tell you.  In the quilting world, this is TOTALLY ACCEPTABLE.  You do not ever need to be more accurate than this.  If you beat yourself up over that tiny sliver that the square is over, I think you will find quilting hard and not super enjoyable.

There are so many places you can error:
-on cutting
-on sewing
-on ironing

Do your best at each of these steps and your triangles will be good enough for your quilt.

Look at the very first picture I showed you of my quilt….here it is again.


I promise you that at least half of the triangles in this quilt have that much of an error to them.  Most of that error is hidden in the seam allowance.  Do you see it?  Does it make a difference to the quilt?  Both of the answers are no.

So, what difference does it make….ZERO.  Yes, it’s important to try your best.  Yes, it’s important to strive for improvement.  Beating yourself up over this? NO!  Enjoy quilting.

I have said this a million times.  You can go to and listen to any professional quilter.  You can take their classes, you can attend their retreats.  You can buy every single piece of fancy equipment to strive to make the perfect half-square triangles.  The truth is, no matter what you do, every single one will never be exactly perfect.  Most of them, yes.  All of them never.

I would much rather tell you a method to get good and gets mostly accurate results then teach you to fudge the rest because, in reality, every piece you sew will not be perfect so it’s really fudging that is the most important lesson…not perfection.

So…I’m off my soap box.  I think it’s just so sad when people say, “Oh, I won’t make that quilt.  There are triangles in it.”  Come on…give it a try.  The world of quilting can open up to you if you master a method of half-square triangles that is good for you and let yourself be human and make tiny imperfections.  You saw mine aren’t perfect.  It’s okay if yours aren’t either.  Try your best and move on.  You can fudge it in the seam.  I promise.

So watch the video…I think I do a better job of explaining it all there.

Forgive my fumble with the camera near the end.  Kalissa was supposed to cut that, but I forgot to tell her to before it was published, now it’s too late and you already witnessed, I’m not perfect!!

Head on out and tackle half-square triangles.  You can do it!!

18 thoughts on “How I Make Half Square Triangles

  1. Christina

    OMG finally a method of making the easiest HSQ’t . The ironing and dog ears in one was a revelation to me. Can’t wait to give it a go. Thanks Jo. Am I right it’s right sides together to save time?
    Happy sewing

    Reply
  2. Kathy

    Thanks for the lesson. I’m one that has been avoiding HST. Your lesson is timely because next quilt I plan to do has them. Now I’m ready

    Reply
  3. Valerie

    If you don’t mind me piggybacking on your very valuable lesson–spray starching your strips will help control the bias edge, and make your triangle more accurate. I found it really helpful with smaller triangles.

    Reply
  4. Bridget

    The method I use for 1/2 square triangles depends on how scrappy I need/want them to be…I love the triangles on a roll if I want matching and I use my ruler if I want scrappier. Other methods just don’t click with me.

    Reply
  5. Donna

    Thanks so much Jo! I truly appreciate you taking the time to make a video of this. I decided to add that ruler to my cart – it looks like a much needed accessory! And easy to store. ;-)
    Love and prayers

    Reply
  6. Julie

    Thank you for this tutorial! I already bought the Bonnie Hunter book (after reading another of your blogs) and love it! I am torn between trying the recycled shirt route or using up lots of random fat quarters. I especially like your thoughts on not beating ourselves up over imperfections!

    Reply
  7. Cynthia White

    THANK YOU for extending grace! Sometimes, there is too much ‘have to’ in the descriptions of the process!

    Reply
  8. Kim J LeMere

    Thank you for the video, its a good addition to my how to’s. I don’t shy away from HST since they make the ruler that give you that blunt end, it makes it so much easier to feed them thru the machine. I’m with you about having to be perfect, fudging a little still gets it done and as along time garment sewer we hade to ease lots of seams. I love all the stripes in you quilt, it makes it sing.

    Reply
  9. Pamela Roberts

    Hi Jo
    I so agree with you about fudging a bit. I remember when I was first quilting I read that I should take the smallest patch and cut the others the same size. I was like the man who tried to shorten the legs of a dining table and ended up with a coffee table. I was trimming away and I think I ended up with patches that were the odd size of 6 3/4 inches. The quilt ended up fine but I still laugh when I look at it.
    Pam

    Reply
  10. Judith Fairchild

    I got my easy angle ruler so many years ago I have forgotten when. I do remember a Fons and Porter program that they showed how to use it. It’s beyond useful it is cutting guide plus every thing triangles it even works for diamonds if you don’t have a diamond tool.
    Jo on your binding quilt you didn’t show how you put the final connecton of the binding strip when you post put the binding on the quilt i have tried several methods and am not happy with any of them. Advice needed please.

    Reply
  11. Patti McConnell

    I have debated on buying the Seams So Easy and you just convinced me. I just bought it! Thank you for the imperfection lesson. I am okay with that as well!!

    Reply
  12. JustGail

    My only partially joking suggestion for getting over triangle fear – sew small curved seams, like a drunkards path with a 2″ quarter circle. HSTs will seem like a piece of cake after that. I’m still working up the courage for sewing more curved seam and y-seam patches on my 19th Amendment quilt. And a ruler that has clear markings and good tutorials like this one help immensely.

    Reply
  13. Susan V Indy

    I appreciate your perspective and I think I want to try Lori Holt’s tool. I’m not bad at these, but I’d like to improve my efficiency. I also appreciate a Rosie picture because I will smile at least once today because of her.

    Reply
  14. Janet Rice

    Once I learned to make half square triangles from strips, I was much more willing to make quilts with them. I’m still not very good at flying geese, though. Somehow, I frequently don’t end up with 1/4″ seam allowance above the point. I’m still looking for the method that works best for me.

    Thank you for the tutorials.

    Reply
  15. Andrea Fleiner

    I love the bloc-loc method and showed my beginner daughter now to make a quilt with a lot of triangles with that method. I don’t mind squaring the HST up after sewing. If someone has tried the above method and did not like it, maybe try the bloc loc rulers.

    Reply

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