Monday, June 7, 2010

BOW #1: Bear Paw

A Bear Paw quilt was the first I ever made, and it still is my favorite block. (Well, if I'm perfectly honest I never finished the quilt entirely. I finished the scrapy top--this was before rotary cutters--and started to hand-quilt it, but didn't get it finished. Mom eventually took it apart, saving the part I had quilted and finishing it as a small quilt. I don't know what happened to the rest of the blocks, now that I think about it. Hmm....)

Recently I taught a class on "6 Ways to Do Half-Square Triangles," using a bear paw quilt I designed, "Bears En Pointe." The scrap quilt also uses an alternate chain block (which will appear in a future BOW) in a a diagonal set with a large focus fabric for the setting triangles.

The app uses the traditional method--the one I still most often use--for making the half-square triangle units:

1. Cut light and dark squares
2. Draw a diagonal line on the wrong side of the light square
3. Layer it with a dark square, right sides together
4. Sew a scant quarter inch on either side of the diagonal line
5. Cut on the drawn line
6. Open the fold and press the seam toward the dark triangle

The magic number for HSTs made with this method is 7/8"--cut the squares 7/8" larger than the desired finished size of the HST unit. For example, the bear claws in Bears En Pointe finish at 2" so you would cut the squares 2-7/8"

To be honest I either cut mine a little larger, or sew a bit smaller seam and then square up the units after pressing. I'm very particular about the units being exactly the right size and I'm not an absolutely perfect, preciser sewer and like to have that bit of "wiggle room" to square it up to perfect size.

There are any number of products on the market that are designed to help you create HSTs. I'm not necessarily recommending any of the following; each has advantages and disadvantages, and different people like different methods, and most are readily available at your local quilt shop.

Ta-Da Triangles
Easy Angle ruler (tutorial for using Sharon Hultgren's ruler, made by EZQuilting)
Bias Square Triangle ruler

Here are some links about the history of the block:

Is it Duck's Foot in the Mud or Bear's Paw Quilt?
More Code Blocks (Underground Railroad Code Myth, from Hart Cottage Quilts)

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