I am in the process of making a baby quilt for a new niece who will be arriving in a couple of months. The fabric has been selected, washed, and pressed, and I designed a block based on the Wedding Ring block .
This is not the same as the later (circa 1920) more famous Double Wedding Ring block, which features curved intertwining rings, but an much earlier simpler five-patch block pattern made from squares and half-square triangles (HST’s). A few years ago during a trip to Oregon I came across an antique quilt from the late 1800’s in this pattern. The quilt had been found in Kansas in windmill pumphouse, wrapped around a bowl. It appears to have been left there by someone from a wagon train going West towards Oregon. There wasn’t much space on those wagons, so often surplus items like quilts were left behind in hopes that someone else would come along and adopt them. This quilt is made using only two colours of fabric, white and peach, and is beautifully hand quilted with cotton wadding, and does not bear any clue as to the identity of the maker. I can only think that it must have broken the heart of that woman who had to leave it behind all those years ago.
Here is a picture of the quilt I am making to honour that woman on the wagon train, and to celebrate the original the Wedding Ring block pattern. I call it Nosegay:
The only difference between this Wedding Rose block and the antique Wedding Ring block is in the colourings and the small “stem” added to four of the HST units in the block.
I think those HST’s are an essential part of quilt patterns, and over the years I have developed my own way of making those pesky Half Square Triangle units.
First and foremost, I would like to point out that I have almost compulsory need to make them as perfect as I can (no cut off points for me, thank you!), but also as easy as I can. Also, you will find there are many excellent tools available on the market (like Thiangles !) to make the job easier. They are all excellent, but the method I am explaining here is my preferred and most used technique.
My starting point for HST’s are always rotary cut squares of fabric. To make it easy the STARTING SIZE OF THE ROTARY CUT SQUARES IS 1″ LARGER THAN THE DESIRED FINISHED SIZE HST UNIT (i.e. – so if I want a finished 2″ x 2″ HST I start by rotary cutting 3″ x 3″ squares).No awkward measurements like 3/8″ or 7/8″ to remember here, and I get to use tools like my June Tailor Shape Cut, which makes the cutting super quick and easy.
I use 2 squares of fabric ( one “light”, and one “dark” ) to make 2 HSTs:
1. Using a sharp pencil (I like the Sewline or Papermate mechanical pencils) and a small clear ruler or seam guide mark a line diagonally across the wrong side of all “light”squares.
2. Sandwich each of the marked “light “squares right sides together with a “dark” square.
3. Stitch on the “light” side of sandwiches 1/4” away from both sides of the marked line by machine with a straight stitch (I use a flat 1/4″ seam foot on my sewing machine).
4. Cut sandwiches apart on the original marked line.
5. Press seam allowances open. This will make it easier to be more accurate in matching up the triangle corners when stitching the blocks together. I like to use Best Press on the HSTs when I iron them to make them easier to trim.
6. Use a rotary cutter and small 6″ x 6″ square-up ruler to trim half-square triangle units to measure, lining up seam line with the diagonal line on the square-up ruler. At this point you will be trimming off the “dog ears” at the corners AND making bringing the HST to the exact measurement you need ( finished size, plus 1/4″ seam allowance all around).
This way I get perfect HSTs……perhaps you would like to try it too? I have a PDF to share of a quick lap quilt pattern called PLAYING WITH TRIANGLES you can make using store bought Nickel Packs (5″ x 5″ squares of fabrics) if you want to have a go. Click here for details.