The Bear's Paw quilt block is a classic!
It's also a great design for beginning quilters to practice piecing with half square triangles (HST).
With all kinds of pointy-goodness to add movement to the design.
In these instructions you'll learn how to make half square triangles (HSTs) in batches of 8.
Efficient with your time and extremely accurate, I'm sure you'll love this method—especially because it requires no specialty tools or rulers.
Grab two fabrics and let's begin.
All seam allowances (SA) in our Bear's Paw are 1/4". Press them toward the darker fabric unless otherwise noted.
When you are instructed to press, first press the pieced unit flat to set the seam. Then open the patch, pressing from the front.
I recommend starching your quilt fabric before cutting to increase your stitching accuracy.
You'll see these abbreviations in this tutorial:
Sample Size: 7" finished / 7½" unfinished
Attributed to: Ruth Finley
Design Type: Uneven 9-patch, small center
AKA: Cat's Paw, Chinese Block Pattern, Duck's Foot in the Mud (Nancy Cabot)
A single Bear's Paw quilt block requires 16 HSTs, so we'll use the very efficient 8-at-once method. This saves time, both marking and cutting, and provides perfect results!
Patches #3 and #4 (used for this technique) are cut oversized. The HST units are trimmed to size after stitching.
I suggest you try one pair of patches first and then make any adjustment you need to the cutting sizes.
Cutting Chart for a~ Traditional Piecing ~
|Patch||Fabric||Qty||Finished Block Size|
|1||A||1||1½" x 1½"||2” x 2"||2½" x 2½"|
|2||A||4||2½" x 2½"||3½" x 3½"||4½" x 4½"|
|3**||A||2||4¼" x 4¼"||5¼" x 5¼"||6¼" x 6¼"|
|4**||Backgrnd||2||4¼" x 4¼"||5¼" x 5¼"||6¼" x 6¼"|
|5||Backgrnd||4||1½" x 3½"||2” x 5”||2½" x 6½"|
|6||Backgrnd||4||1½" x 1½"||2” x 2"||2½" x 2½"|
|Unfinished Block Size||7½"||11”||14½"|
**These are the oversizes patches that will be trimmed to perfection AFTER stitching.
Start by constructing the HST units.
Make the back of each light #4 patch with a diagonal line between both pairs of corners. Layer a #4 with a #3 square, right sides together.
With your favorite quarter inch foot installed on your sewing machine, stitch a quarter inch away from both sides of each line.
Repeat for the other set and you've stitched a total of 16 HSTs. Pretty nifty, eh?!!
After sewing, the unmarked side looks like this.
Now it's time to cut this into the units.
The block in the photos finishes at 7".
Find the Midpoint/Center for the 7" finished block—it's 2-1/8".
|Trim HST to…|
|7"||2⅛"||1½" x 1½"|
|10½"||2⅝"||2" x 2"|
|14"||3⅛"||2½" x 2½"|
Place the sewn unit on your cutting mat, marked side up.
Align the 2-1/8" of your ruler (black arrow) with one of the edges and cut.That cut should go through (or at least pretty close to) the center of the drawn 'X'.
Rotate the mat a 1/4 turn and align the 2-1/8" ruler mark with the edge and cut again. You've now cut your patches into four 2-1/8" squares.
Now cut along each of the drawn diagonal lines and you'll have...
Press. For the 1" grid size (which is the size shown in these photos) I prefer to
finger press seam open before pressing them from the front. Starch makes this very effective.
Trim to the size listed in the chart above (for this example it's 1-1/2" sq)
One set of #3 and #4 patches yields 8. Notice the small amount of waste.
Quite an acceptable tradeoff from perfectly sized HSTs, don't you think?!
Repeat for the other set.
For more detail instructions on this HST-technique, click here. (This link opens in a new window so it's easier for you to return right here.)
To create the corner sections for our Bear's Paw, stitch four of each of the 2 different units shown below. The arrows indicate the direction to press the seam allowances.
It's easy to get things all discombobulated when you sew these units together. I like to sew one and then keep it at my machine as the others are made.
With RST, join a pair of HST to a #1 and press in the direction of the arrow for a total of 4.
Pressing the SA as suggested makes it easy to see where your stitch where your seam touches the point of the triangle.
To finish your corners, add the remaining subunit as shown below. Press your SA toward #1. Make 4 identical units. Now this is looking like a Bear's Paw!
Arrange the sewn corners and #5 and #6 patches into the Bear's Paw design.
Sew them together into rows. Press the SA in the direction of the arrows.
Join the rows together, pinning if you like. (I find I rip less when I pin.)
One final press and your Bear's Paw quilt block is complete.
For the perfect finish, check out our Best Technique for pressing. It's fast, simple and the results are fabulous!
If you're truly inspired by this design, I recommend "Bear's Paw: New Quilts from an Old Favorite" from the Museum of the American Quilters Society.
Click on the image of the book (left) to go to Amazon.com, and learn more.