My oldest daughter has been begging me to teach her how to make quilts, and she’s quite emphatic that the quilts be more than just squares sewn together with a border stitched on at the end. With this in mind, I decided that we would work on a half-square triangle quilt over the next few months, creating a new block every week or two until we finished a whole quilt for her bed. It will still be squares sewn together, but the end result will be much more fancy than what she’d create just stitching her layer cake together into a quilt top.

To make the quilt, you’ll need 1 patterned layer cake with at least 41 squares and 1 solid white layer cake or at least 40 squares. We picked the Lil’ Red layer cake by Stacy Iest Hsu for Moda fabrics. Since we love listening to broadway music while we craft, we’re calling this the “Into the Woods” quilt. Each block will utilize two squares from each of the layer cakes, two contrasting patterned squares and two solid white squares.

Each new block pattern will start with the same basic piecing: You’ll make 8 half-square triangles from your four layer cake squares. With the HSTs complete, you’ll then arrange them into different patterns to make your finished blocks. Each block will measure 17” when it is completed.

Today we’ll work on making the first batch of half-square triangles. This method is my favorite way to churn out HST squares, since it makes 8 finished HSTs with only 4 long seams.

- Start with your white (or other solid) square. Using a washable fabric pen (my favorite are these water-soluble pens), draw a line diagonally from the top-left corner to the bottom-right corner. Repeat this with the other diagonal so that you have a big “X” marked on the back of your square.
- Now, align your marked square with the patterned square you’ll be using, keeping the right sides together. Align the side of a ¼” foot with one of the diagonal lines you drew in the previous step, and stitch along the line. Turn the square around, then stitch along the line, ¼” away from the other side of the line. You’ll now have two diagonal seams running ½” apart from one corner to the other corner. Repeat the stitching process for the other diagonal line, so that you now have four diagonal seams, making a large “X” on your fabric.
- It’s time to cut your fabric into 8 triangles! This is definitely easiest with a good rotating mat, ruler, and rotary cutter, but you can also draw additional lines on your fabric with a regular ruler and cut with your scissors to get your triangles made. Your first cut (or line) will be from the top center to the bottom center, 5” from the edge. Your second cut will be from the left center to the right center, again 5” from the edge. At this point you will have four squares. The final cut will be to cut along the diagonal line you drew to mark your stitches. Cut along this line on each of your four squares, and you will have 8 triangles. When you open of each of the triangles, you’ll have 8 squares ready to be turned into the blocks for your sampler quilt.

I confess (yet again) that I am a terrible presser. If I can avoid pressing when I’m piecing, I generally will. When working with half square triangles, however, it really does make a difference in making accurate blocks to start with pressed squares. You’ll want to be sure your seam allowances are pressed to the dark (patterned) side of each half square triangle. For speed in pressing, I’ve discovered that my Lois iron really does speed things up, but it’s a luxury that I did without for a long time!

When you have completed two sets of these HST blocks in contrasting colors, you’ll be ready to piece your sampler blocks. Each sampler block in our quilt uses 16 half-square triangle squares in two colors.

[…] 2 contrasting patterned layer cake squares and 2 background layer cake squares, made into half square triangles as described here. […]