Values: Half Square Triangle Tutorial


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


Dark Center

Light Center


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.)


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

How to Make Pennants



Pennants are EVERYWHERE, and no wonder — they’re cute, colorful and a great way to say, “Today is special!”  They’re also really easy to make.

First, you need a template.  Make a square of whatever size you like.  (Mine was 6.5″ because that’s the width of my wider cutting guide, and I think that made a nice size pennant.)  Fold the square in half, then cut on a diagonal.

How to Make Pennants

Open the paper again to see your pennant shaped template. Use this as your pattern piece and cut out a little stack of triangles.

How to Make Pennants

Take two triangles of fabric, place them right sides together, and sew along the “V” sides. I used two different fabrics for each side of mine. It gives a little more variety and made good use of my scraps.

How to Make Pennants

Then carefully cut along the point to get rid of excess fabric without cutting through any stitches.

How to Make Pennants

Turn your pennant right side out and press.  You can leave it like this if you like, but I top stitched along the edges.  I just like the look.

How to Make Pennants

To string your pennants together, pin them into the fold of some 1/2″ double fold bias tape. My standard pack was three yards long.  I left about an inch between mine, but you can bump them up together or space them further out, however you like.  This string took 16 finished pennants.

How to Make Pennants

To make the ends look more finished, open the tape, fold a half inch or so up and then refold and pin. Start sewing over this point.

How to Make Pennants

Then just stitch down the bias tape, and you’re done!

How to Make Pennants

Hang and enjoy.


Let me know if you make some, I’d love to see them!

Birdies and Birch Trees


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

Sunglasses Case Tutorial


While making purses, I’ve decided they deserve soft little accessories to go along with them.  I was surprised how hard it was to find a simple sunglasses case tutorial and just decided to make my own.  So there.

You’ll need four pieces of fabric cut to 8″ by 4.5″, or larger if you favor big Jackie O shades.  I used plain black for my lining pieces, a Michael Miller print on the back and embroidered these for my fronts:

Embroidered Glasses Case Tops

I totally dig these, if I do say so myself.

Iron fusible fleece to the backs of the exterior pieces to pad and protect your glasses.  Then sew the two exterior pieces, right sides together, leaving one short side open.  Clip the corners and turn right side out.

Then sew the lining pieces, right sides together, leaving about a three inch opening along one long side and again leaving one short side open.  Leave the lining inside out and slip the exterior (right side out) inside the lining.  You may want to use a ruler to help push the exterior all the way into the lining.

Ready to Sew

Sew a seam all the way around the top opening of the case, remembering that you’re sewing an opening — sew around the top, don’t sew the two sides together.

Then reach in through that handy opening you left yourself in the lining and pull out the exterior.

Turning Right Side Out

While you have the lining right side out, but still outside of the case, stitch the side opening in the lining closed.  Slide the lining into the case and top stitch around the case opening.

45/365 Embroidered Glasses Case

Enjoy your lovely, handmade glasses case!