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Wednesday, 8 June 2022

HSTs - (half square triangles) the easiest way - Tube quilting method

Certainly a lot has changed since I made THIS HST quilt and wrote MY FIRST "quilt" TUTORIAL, but in this past decade (how that happened😱) I definitely learnt a lot and I am so proud of the whole learning curve and process that led me to being more confidential with quilts and quilting.

I can't stop laughing at fact that I did use my serger for complete piecing process of my first two quilts and that I didn't even know what dog ears were and why they should be trimmed, but these quilts are still "alive" and cherished and sincerely sometimes I am even challenged to use serger again for some piecing aspects 😆 (hopefully the quilt police isn't reading this).

One thing is sure-HSTs are still my favorite quilt unit. They are versatile, fun and easy to make and they give beautiful results. 

But, back to process and learning-I made so many quilts in these last 10 years, since I made the first one and I used so many different techniques when making HSTs. From traditional "2 at a time" to more modern "4 or 8 at a time" to triangles on a roll, I realized that tube quilting method is the best one for me:

1- because it saves time and fabric

2- it's precise

3- it's trimming free! (while in all other methods, you need to square and trim precisely the HST, which can be a long and exhausting process, here you get a perfect, ready to go unit...minus the dog ears)

The only tricky part of this technique can be edges that are cut on bias. That means that they tend to stretch a bit, if manipulated, but I tested that too (you can see it in the following video-the difference between HSTs done with fabrics cut on grain VS those cut on bias) and I came to a conclusion that I still prefer the traditional, on grain cutting, than cutting on bias, even because for me this "negative aspect" can immediately become a positive one, in case you need that bit of stretch for aligning your HSTs in rows, if you know what I mean ;)

What I also learnt is that some people cut fabrics on bias (45 degree) to avoid this "feature", but I personally prefer using a bit of starch and smaller stitch length which helps with eventual wonkiness. There are many other blocks and units that are cut on the diagonal (like diamonds used for Lone star quilts), but they get stabilized in the quilt assembly process and also in quilting.

Shown in the video are the 2 1/2" HST squares (used in my Kelim pattern) that were created with 2 1/4" strips, cut on grain and also 4" unfinished HSTs (used in my upcoming Kelimi pattern ) that were created with 3 1/2" strips  (tested when cut on grain and on bias).

Fabrics used in the video are from my Capri collection for Art Gallery fabrics.


I wouldn't recommend it when bigger HST units are in game (like over 6"), but I still didn't have a quilt asking for that large HSTs.

In my quilt patterns I like to include a diagram, measurements and directions for this method, but I realized that it would be much more convenient, to just gather all that info in one place, under this blog post and include a video too, which can be even more helpful to some quilters, especially beginners.

So, beside video, here are some pics prom the process along with the explanations.

Depending on the desired HST size, cut the fabric strips. You need 2 different fabrics and you can use the total width of the fabric (mostly 42-45" from selvedge to selvedge) or you can cut fabric on bias, if you prefer. Just place 2 strips, right sides together and sew on both sides with 1/4 seam allowance.

Large square ruler with a 45 degree line is needed to make accurate HSTs. There's also a special strip tube ruler available for this great technique and it basically gives you immediately the requirements for strips cutting.

Depending on the size of the unfinished HSTs and precision in cutting, the number of obtained HSTs will differ. I usually get 14-16 of 2 1/2" unfinished HSTs from 2 1/4" strips.

Cut along as you go, re-positioning your ruler from one side (one seam) to another (or flip the fabric set from one side to another, if easier). Trim the dog ears.
Carefully open the HSTs, finger press seams open and don't pull or push them with iron, just gently press (put the iron on the top for a few seconds) them with the iron.

In case you would need to print this, I am including an illustrated page from my patterns, showing the traditional (2 at a time) method and tube quilting method.

Using simple strip piecing (sewing available fabric strips lengthwise in rows) and using this method, you can obtain beautiful blocks and this is also my favorite way of using scraps. 

Happy sewing!

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