Knowing different approaches to making triangle-squares (also called half-square triangle units) is one way to take you from being a beginning quilter to an intermediate one. Having a variety of techniques in your quilter’s toolbox allows you to look at a pattern and evaluate how to make what you need based on what works best for you and your fabric choices.
Example: I really like Candy Hargrove’s pattern for Homeland, which was featured on the cover of the McCall’s Quilting June/July 2017 issue, and I was the editor who adapted it to a mini quilt size for the free pattern download.
Candy’s full-size throw quilt is wonderfully scrappy and would be a great way to bust some stash making all of those 6” triangle-squares. Making triangle-squares one or two at a time is the technique you probably want to use if you want yours as scrappy as Candy’s.
When I decided to make a 16” pillow sham based on Homeland, I had a couple of things to consider. First of all, I knew the triangle-squares would finish at 1.5”, which is fairly small. I also wanted to use a bright red-white-and-blue palette that was still scrappy but more contained; at that size, I felt that too much variety in the prints I used would obscure the design.
Because of those two considerations, I decided to use the 8-at-a-time triangle-squares technique. Same outcome, just a different approach.
So with that in mind, here are some video tutorials that demonstrate different ways of making the ubiquitous triangle-square unit.
This “My First Quilt” tutorial featuring Sara Gallegos is a great place to start, especially if you want to make really scrappy triangle-squares by cutting and piecing triangles instead of using a fast piecing method. This gives Sara the opportunity to talk about how important the grainline of your fabric is and why it matters (more on that further down). She demonstrates the 2-at-at-time technique (which we include in the Quilt Basics or Basic Lessons sections of McCall’s Quilting and Quiltmaker) and what to look for when you’re joining your triangle-square units together.
Sara also gives you the quilt math you’ll need to figure out what size to start with if you want a particular finished size. Click here to learn more about the entire free video series “My First Quilt” on QNNtv.com.
This “Sew Easy” tutorial focuses on the Quick Triangle-Squares method that yields two identical units at a time; the only difference is that it employs the nifty Fons & Porter Quarter Inch Seam Marker.
In this “Quilty” video, Mary Fons demonstrates a method of cutting patches to make triangle-squares from strips using a triangular ruler and rotary cutter.
This “Sew Easy” tutorial demonstrates the technique I used to make my pillow sham and that I’ve learned to love, which is how to make triangle-squares 8 at a time. It’s really helpful when making multiple sets of triangle-squares, and requires the same amount of fabric as the standard method.
In this “Sew Easy” tutorial, Colleen Tauke demonstrates the Triangle-Square and Hourglass Unit templates, which include the directions printed right on the tools to make things extra easy. You can find the pattern for the Quick & Easy Baby Quilts she talks about here.
Many quilters make oversized triangle-squares and then trim them down to the size needed in order to get perfect corners. In this video Colleen demonstrates how the Fons & Porter Square-Up Ruler helps create perfect triangle-squares every time.
You may have seen tutorials online for making triangle-squares from strips or squares that were cut across the width of the fabric and that have been pieced together. That particular technique makes me furrow my editor’s brow in consternation because if you’re stitching on the straight-of-grain, you’re going to get bias edges all around the outside edges of the units. Just so you know, we quilt editors do everything in our power to avoid writing patterns that result in bias edges on the outside of units. I’ve never used the technique demonstrated here of cutting triangle-squares from bias strip sets but it makes perfect sense; you’re still stitching on the bias and cutting units the straight-of-grain. It’s just one more tool in a quilter’s toolbox!
Homeland is one of many, many fantastic patterns that are based on triangle-square units. Here are just a handful of patterns of differing complexity, but once you know the basics of making triangle-squares, none of them are beyond your skill level.
Out of the Blues by Nancy Mahoney
Tree of Life by 4th and 6th Design
Retro Romance by Jocelyn Ueng
Half-Square Shuffle by Kathryn Wagar Wright
Letters from Home by Terrie Peterson