Values: Half Square Triangle Tutorial

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Half square triangles are amazing — one of the most beautiful and versatile quilting blocks, they’re also among the easiest to make.  I especially love the look of a values quilt done in half square triangles.  The contrast between the colors of your triangles allows you to create visual interest and depth.  Here are some photos to show you what I mean.  The squares are in the same position in each of these photos, just rotated so that the light and dark sides make different patterns.

Dark and Light

Pinwheels

Dark Center

Light Center

Diamonds

You can see more variations of half square triangles in finished quilts in this Flickr gallery.  Ready to try it yourself?

You’ll want to start with simple squares.  I like to use charm packs, packs of precut five inch squares that usually include prints from an entire line of fabric.  (The fabrics used here are Fossil Fern by Benartex, a fabric line that’s been in print for an amazing 15 years!)

Sort your squares into three piles by color value: light, medium and dark.  Then pair up colors by taking one each from two different piles, placing the lighter on top with right sides facing.  Draw a diagonal line from one corner to another.  (This line won’t be seen, so feel free to use a regular pencil if you like.)

1

Use the line as a guide to sew a quarter inch seam along one side,

Half Square Triangle Tutorial: Sew a Quarter Inch Seam

then the other.

Half Square Triangle Tutorial: Turn and Sew

Cut along the pencil line and you’ve got two new squares.

Half Square Triangle Tutorial: Cut Along the Line

Press the seam open.  Don’t worry about those wonky little bits that stick out, they’re about to be trimmed off.

Half Square Triangle Tutorial: Iron the Seam Flat

I’ve started with a five inch square, but I’m going to trim it down to 4.5″.  This will allow me to even up the square nicely.  I like to use a square template for this because it’s got handy lines for me to follow, but you can also use the lines along your cutting mat.  For the first cuts, I line up the center seam with a diagonal line on the template and make sure the fabric under the template is still larger than 4.5″, then cut along the right and top edges.  Having that perfect center line will make piecing much easier later.

Trimming Half Square Triangle, First "Squaring Cut"

Flip the fabric around so the two uncut edges are at the right and top again.  Line up the center seam with that diagonal line and make sure the bottom and left edges are at the 4.5″ marks.  Careful cut the top and right sides.

Trimming Half Square Triangle, Second "Squaring Cut"

This will give you a half square triangle made of two perfect triangles.

Finished Half Square Triangle

You’re ready to set them out in different patterns and see how you like them best!  Here are a few of my own half square triangle quilts so that you can see how versatile they can be.  (You can find more details through my Quilts page.)

Half Square Triangle Quilts Collage

Cinnamon Ornaments

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This one is for my sister in law who wanted to learn to make cinnamon ornaments — it’s so easy and is a great project to do with kids!

First, you can find a lot of different recipes, but it’s pretty basic.  Mix equal parts of cinnamon and apple sauce, maybe a cup of each.  You can add in a tablespoon each of ground cloves and nutmeg and also a couple tablespoons of regular white school glue if you like.  (This is the recipe I used.)  Mix the ingredients together until they form a smooth dough.  If it’s too sticky, add a bit more cinnamon.  If it crumbles apart, blend in a little more applesauce.  After a little stirring and kneading, it should look like this:

Cinnamon Ornaments

Sprinkle a little cinnamon on a rolling pin and roll out the dough.  You’ll want to keep it at least a quarter inch thick so your ornaments won’t be too fragile after they dry.  Then use cookie cutters or freehand cut out shapes.  (I used a wine glass and a smaller glass to shape simple wreaths.)

Cinnamon Ornaments

Cinnamon Ornaments

Use a pencil/chopstick/dowel/straw/whatever to make a little hole in each ornament for hanging.  Knead the scraps back together and roll it back out again to use as much of it as possible.  Keep dusting cinnamon on your rolling pin as needed to avoid sticking.

IMG_0382

Transfer them to an ungreased cookie sheet.  You can either leave them out for a couple days until they dry, or bake them at very low heat (200F) for several hours.  When they’re completely dry, they’re ready to use.

Cinnamon Ornament Tie Ons

You’ll end up with wonderfully scented ornaments for your tree or package tie-ons!

Wine Cork Trivet

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Wine Cork Trivet

Make an easy trivet out of a handful of wine corks and a dryer vent hose clamp.  Use a screwdriver to “unwind” the clamp as far open as it will go, then stand up wine corks inside the circle.  It helps to use corks that are very close in height to create a flat surface.  I turned mine all in the same direction because I liked the variations in color, but you could switch it up so that each side of your trivet has some color.  Once the circle is full, lift the clamp so that it’s halfway up the corks, then use the screwdriver to tighten the clamp very firmly around the corks.  (Check to be sure you can’t wiggle any of the center corks.)  Ta-da!  Instant trivet, and you have an excuse to buy more wine.  You’re welcome!

Birdies and Birch Trees

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Birch Tree Paintings

I bought this little stack of canvases on sale intending to make something completely different for Christmas gifts (click here to see what) but then realized my Mom already had something very similar and just scrapped the idea.  So then I had a little stack of canvases just sitting around and had to come up with some way to use them.

I’m no artist though, so I had to think of something simple, some way I could paint without really having any talent.  This called for tracing and tape.

First, I painted a background color on the canvases, then taped a slightly curved outline of a tree and the larger branches with a low tack painter’s tape.  I ripped little pieces of tape and stuck them on to be the pattern of the birch bark, then painted over it with the lighter shade.

Painting Birch Trees

Carefully peel up the tape while the paint it still wet.

Birch Trees

To get a bird shape, I actually traced a photo I’d taken through my window of a little sparrow.  I copied one larger size, then flipped it and resized it slightly smaller to end up with a little birdie couple facing each other.  I faked carbon paper by coloring a thick line on the back side of my traced bird patterns with a regular pencil.

Birch Tree Birdie

I flipped it over and used painter’s tape to hold it down while I traced over the line again.

Birch Tree Birdie

Can you see the traced lines?

Birch Tree Birdies

Then just fill in with a darker color.

Birch Tree Birdies

All that’s left to do is free hand some smaller branches.  Mine are maybe too small for the scale of the trees, but I thought it gave a little folk art kind of look and left it.  Besides, usually the less I mess around trying to correct something, the better the end result.  If you want to personalize it a little more, “carve” initials in one of the trees with the background paint:

Birch Tree J+S

And ta-da!!  You’re done!

Birch Tree Birdies