I admit it – I’m as guilty as the next person in gawking (and drooling – let’s face it – we all do it, right) over luscious quilts, rich with vibrant colors and complex piecing. I admire the quilter that is able to accomplish such a masterpiece, and envy their patience in tackling intricate projects.
One of the benefits of the Modern Quilt Movement is that it has refocused our attention on the basics, and on simple lines. And what is more basic than the humble half square triangle. It is one of the building blocks of the more complex blocks, and yet can stand on its own and shine.
And one of my favorite aspects of dealing with the humble HST is that there are a variety of approaches to making it. When I first started quilting (and I’m seriously dating myself here!), the big trend was to draw a grid on the wrong side of the fabric to make multiple HST blocks at one time – and we thought we were all so clever! It was so much faster than cutting the squares individually, marking, cutting and pressing.
Another technique I learned from a quilting book, early in my quilting experience, was cutting bias strips, piecing them together, and then cutting the HSTs from the sewn strip sets. Still quicker than doing them individually.
And then there’s the whole “paper” thing – Thangles and Triangles on a Roll (no affiliation – just a fan!). Those are SUPER because, like any paper piecing, you end up with very accurate piecing and sharp points. Unless you do some serious fussy cutting, you give up a bit of control over fabric view, but hey – everything is a trade off.
It’s funny how things come full circle. The grid approach from many years ago has now been updated with a template. There may be several out there, but my local quilt shop carries the Sunday Best Quiltworks stencils – and I bought one in every size (again no affiliation, just really like these!). I personally love this – I pin the grid on the wrong side of my fabric, draw with a chaco-line, sew on the lines, then cut and press. Love it.
But beyond all the fabulous flexibility with piecing options are the options for creating wonderful blocks. Four together make a Pinwheel, or Broken Dishes. Eight will make the star points on a Sawtooth Star. Multiples will make the handle or the basket portion on a Basket Block. A large group of HSTs together can form Ocean Waves. They play nicely with other blocks to make up Birds in the Air, Lady of the Lake, Churn Dash, Bear Paw, and so many others.
I love seeing – and trying – new blocks, but sometimes it is fun to go “back to basics” and play with some of the building blocks that are the foundation for quilt piecing. Next time you’re stuck on what to make – you know, for those times when you just want to play with fabric and sew – think about the humble half square triangle and go old school!
BTW - these wonderful (yes, I'm a BIT biased) images are all from my new Block of the Month Quilt, "Boho Bliss". 10 different 16" blocks, each with a combination of pieced and appliqued - relax, it's fused applique - pieces. The patterns will be released in time for Market, so stay tuned for special release posts in early May!!!