If you are new to quilting or want to learn more about quilting you need to know about the Half Square Triangle, commonly referred to as the HST. An HST is one of the most basic quilting blocks and can be used to create very complex quilts. From this technique alone, a ton of designs can be created like Chevrons, Flying Geese, Herringbone, and ZigZag Path.
Because I’m somewhat new to quilting I decided to go with the half square triangle for the basis of a Star Wars quilt for one of my grandsons. I had a limited supply of Star Wars fat quarters from Massdrop and knew that I would have to use them wisely in order to have enough to make a quilt.
I have to be honest here, a year ago I didn’t know what a half square triangle (HST) was until I took this class at QuiltCon2015. Even though the class was about color value, I really grasped the concept of HSTs and how they are a quilt design staple.
Before you can begin designing a quilt with HSTs you need to know how to correctly cut them.
There are several different ways to cut and sew HSTs. I’m only going to show you one of the simplest methods. Once I get better at quilting I’ll introduce some of the other ways to create HSTs.
To create an HST you start with a light and a dark fabric. The greater the contrast the better the design will show up. For the sake of these instructions I am working with 6.5″ x 6.5″ squares (which is pretty standard for HSTs)
Diagram 1. Place a light and a dark fabric square right sides together.
Diagram 2. Use a pencil or water soluble marker, draw a diagonal line from one corner to the opposite corner. Personally, I prefer a pencil, but this will ultimately depend on the fabric you’re using.
Diagram 3. On both sides of the diagonal line, stitch a scant 1/4″ seam.
Diagram 4. Using a quilter’s ruler and rotary cutter, cut along the pencil line.
Diagram 5. & 6. Once separated and unfolded, you will have two HSTs that each have a light and dark value triangle.
When you open your two HSTs you will notice two little triangular pieces or dog ears in opposite corners that will need trimming. Using a rotary cutter and quilter’s ruler, cut these away.
Here is an example of the Star Wars HST that I cut out. There is definitely contrast with these two fabrics, but on a whole quilt the contrast will not be as great.
Laying out the design:
One thing to note, in the Star Wars fat quarter collection most of the fabrics are either dark value or medium value. That is almost always the case when you purchase fat quarter sets. If you want sharper contrasts you will need to purchase the fabrics individually or add in some lighter value fabrics. #rookiemistake
With all of my HSTs cut, I had my grandson come over and help me layout the design. I set up into four separate designs and had him choose which one he preferred.
He chose Diagram 6. and I will explain below why I think he liked this design. When two of the HSTs are sewn together it creates blocks with the pattern in Diagram 7. I sewed the two pieces in Diagram 7. together to create a larger square block. (see Diagram 8.)
Diagram 8. I then connected these larger blocks together to create a row across the quilt. Ultimately, the quilt had four of these blocks across and five blocks down. I believe that this is actually a design called Pinwheels. (affiliate) I really like it and would love to experiment more with fabrics that have a greater contrast.
At one point I mentioned to my grandson the idea of putting sashing between each of the blocks. He preferred it without the sashing so that’s how I made it.
Turning HSTs into a Quilt:
Like I said above, after cutting out all of my HSTs I created a design wall with four different layouts. (sorry, no photo) My grandson chose the layout in Diagram 8. It’s very interesting because I showed the same design wall to my husband and he chose the exact same one as my grandson.
I think they both liked that the block has a spinning-ish look which would work well with a Star Wars themed quilt. Personally, I think that it is similar to the Star Wars X-Wing fighters and that’s why my grandson and my husband liked it. You have to step back a bit, but you will see the X-Wing affect.
For the quilt backing, I used this gray fabric available on Craftsy. The triangular motif was perfect for the quilt. (affiliate)
Unfortunately, I didn’t get enough fabric so I had to patch it together using a piece of fabric I found in my stash.
I’d like to lay claim to the beautiful quilting; alas, I sent it out to my friend Stephanie Palmer who does amazing quilting. I wanted it soft and simple. You can see how lofty the quilt is – I used some of my wool batting from Massdrop. The wool batting is lightweight and makes the most beautiful quilts.
After cutting out all of my HSTs there was still enough fabric left for piecing together some colorful binding. I think I had about 6″ of extra binding left after attaching it. I was cutting it a little close, but I was determined to use up all as much of the fabric as possible.
When the quilt was completely finished, I still had enough leftover scraps to make two pieced-together pillowcases which my two grandsons thoroughly love. I basically used almost every scrap of fabric to make this quilt. As in ~ I couldn’t fill a letter-size envelope with the scraps.
All in all, I learned a lot about HSTs with this project. The biggest takeaway has to do with color value (will I ever get good at this????). Remember what I said above: Most fat quarter stacks contain fabrics with medium and darker values. In order to create the true light/dark affect with HSTs I should’ve added in some lighter value fabrics. I will remember this next time.
Isn’t it true with any art form we embrace; it’s never about making something perfect, but always about the process.
Here’s a fun bit of homework. Go to Pinterest and type “HST Designs” in the search box. You will be amazed at all of the the beautiful designs that can be created using half square triangles.