Thursday, March 17, 2011

Scrapbuster No. 19: Waste (cringe!) Triangles

A quilt top made from a friend's "waste" triangles.
“Waste triangles.” This is a quilting term and it’s one that I happen to dislike intensely. They don’t have to be wasted at all. As a matter of fact, most of my favorite pieced quilts have been made from these so called “waste triangles.”
"Waste triangles?"  I say they are pure gold!

My love affair with “waste triangles” started many years ago at quilt camp. A woman named Denise was making a pineapple quilt out of 1930s repro fabrics (which I love). As she would finish each side of her pineapple blocks, she would trim off triangles and throw them away. I would then go to the garbage and fish them out. Next thing you know, she’s dumping the triangles next to my machine, and I’ve made an adorable miniature out of her garbage!
My first waste triangle quilt made from Denise's garbage.
Detail of the quilt.  The half square triangles finished at 1 inch; the sashing is 1/2 inch.
In the years since then, Denise and I have become friends and she saves all her triangles for me, as do many other people. I’ve had several of these quilters tell me that they like my quilt made from their garbage better than they like the one they made!

So what is a waste triangle? Some methods of making half-square triangles, flying geese, snowball blocks, etc. require you to chop off the corner of the block resulting in “waste triangles.” Most people throw them away (cringe!). I encourage you not to do this. If you are making a bed-sized quilt that has half-square triangles, you can probably make 80% of a coordinating wall, baby or lap quilt just out of these pieces that most throw away (cringe!).
I used the triangles leftover from making the lily blocks, to make broken dishes blocks for the inner border on this quilt.
I like to use them as “stops and starts” or “threadsavers.” When you are chain piecing, keep a pile of your triangles nearby. When you are ready to end your chain of pieces, sew two of the triangles into a half-square triangle unit and don’t cut your thread; when you are ready to piece, just start. Not only do you end up with a half-square triangle block, but you don’t waste your thread by pulling it out and cutting it over and over, and you help keep your bobbin thread from forming a bird’s nest on the back of your piecing!
This one has been in the works for awhile.  Again, the triangles are from the VERY prolific quilter, Denise.
The “waste triangles” will not be uniform size. Consequently, I do not worry about maintaining a constant ¼ inch seam. Instead, I sew as small a seam as I can get away with. Once I have a bunch of half square triangles pieced together, I cut them down to a uniform size. When you do this, measure a few of the squares to determine what size you can consistently get out of your half-square triangle blocks. Take my advice, do not try to skimp out on a size that is a little too big for your blocks. You’ll only succeed in making yourself nuts.
Another quilt made from Denise's scraps.  Denise bought this quilt in an auction causing someone to say, "Boy, you sure paid a lot for your own scraps."

For more on “waste triangles” and other scrap quilting advice, check out this piece I wrote for my guild a few years back.
NT Presentation

I hope you will think twice in the future when you go to toss your “waste triangles” in the trash. If you are not going to use them, consider, at the very least, tossing them into a pillowcase to make a dog bed (see post here). Or, pack them up and send them to me!

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