The Humble Half Square Triangle unit is the basis for many great quilt blocks. Let me take you down memory lane, with some of pictures of my quilts, and tips on what I have learned so far. ( I am always learning, changing and trying out new things. )
The first method I learnt as a beginner quilter was the traditional method, sewing two triangles together to make a square unit.
I feel like I have gone a very long journey since then, trying out various methods to get the same result, with promises of a new method with quicker, more accurate results. Fancy rulers and papers to make the job easier. Some of these new methods I tried had me trimming off excess fabric to achieve the perfect size unit, taking a lot of extra time and not to say the RSI from all that extra cutting. After all of this fussing around and trying various methods and tools I then realized that for me.....it was really all about getting a few things right before starting to sew that made my half square triangle units quicker to sew and more accurate, without having to trim them to size or tear out paper or use a special ruler. The good old traditional method works the best for me.
Here is what I have learnt:
Before starting to sew make sure your 1/4 inch seam is actually a 1/4 inch seam. To do so cut three strips 1 1/2 inches x 5 inches and sew them together lengthwise. Measure the strip in the middle, it should measure 1 inch wide. If it does not measure 1 inch adjust your seam and repeat until it does. I also like to use a foot on my machine where I know the edge gives me the perfect 1/4 inch seam. Having said that if your machine foot is not a 1/4 inch then placing tape or a seam allowance magnet works too. Whatever it takes to get the 1/4 inch seam allowance.
Get to know your sewing machine!
Having the foot pressure so the foot on your machine is secure will help keep your machine foot holding the fabric firmly as you sew. You will need to play around with this to find where the foot pressure on your machine needs to be. Take a look in your sewing machine manual, it should tell you what is the best setting for cotton fabrics.
Using a good quality thread is really helpful. I use Aurifil 50 weight cotton thread, I love that it is fine enough to settle into the seam allowance without taking up space. Aurifil thread has a beautiful look and blends beautifully into the fabric. Try out different threads and brands to see what suits you best.
My needle of preference is a Schmetz number 70/10 sharp. I love these needles, they are a prefect match for Aurifil 50 weight cotton thread. Make sure you change your needles regularly, as a blunt needle can be the cause of many problems.
Always iron your fabric before you cut it !!! This makes such a lot of difference.
There are many rulers available but the ruler that I use 100% of the time is 6 1/2 inch x 12 1/2 inch creative grids ruler. These rulers have grips on the underside to hold your fabric in place while cutting and prevent it from slipping. ( I love that ) Get to know your ruler as the creative grids rulers have a 1/2 inch side and a side with whole inches, this means you need to be aware which side you are using. But helpful when you need to cut units that are 1 1/2 or 2 1/2 etc. Try different rulers to see what suits you best.
Be extra careful when cutting your fabric, line up the edges accurately with your ruler to ensure your cut pieces end up the correct size, near enough is not good enough. If you take the time to cut accurately then your patchwork has a chance of being accurate. Eliminating the need to trim later on.
When piecing make sure the fabric edges are aligned correctly. This is very important ! Place pins in key places to help hold the fabric where it needs to be. If you are not keen on pins make sure the fabrics are aligned as you are sewing. Sew slowly if there are a lot of intersections.
Press carefully, always press in the direction of the straight of grain. Never on the bias grain. When pressing only hold in place, not like ironing a shirt. Be gentle with your iron, let the weight of the iron do the job for you. Steam or no steam, that's a personal preference, I use steam with care. It does make the seams lie lovely and flat.
I am writing this just as much to remind my self, so I can be a more careful and better when piecing my quilts. I would love to hear what your favorite tools and tips are too.
I hope you have enjoyed my ramblings and pictures
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