Quiltmaker’s Scrap Squad is a select group of eight QM readers. They take one pattern from each regular issue and make scrappy versions to inspire you.
This is the Nov/Dec issue of Quiltmaker, where you’ll find Star Search.
It was designed and made by Carolyn McCormick, designer of the Add-A-Quarter ruler.
The last quilt of this series is by Becky Ball, who blogs at Becky’s Quilt Obsession. Becky is from Blue Springs, Missouri. You’ll hear from her in her own words below.
* * * * *
A new star! I always like it when a new star pattern that I haven’t made emerges. This Scrap Squad project was just that.
Note: Spray starch is your friend on this project!! Almost every edge is cut on bias, especially if you fussy cut like I did. Take time to prepare your fabric prior to cutting. If you wait until afterwards, the edges will distort. I tried a light pressing spray first, but had to move to sizing applied heavily to control the edges.
Fabric: During a recent trip to QuiltNebraska to meet our fearless Scrap Squad leader, Diane Harris, I returned home with this delightful array of Rowan stripes. (Editor’s note: You can read about the ties between Rowan, Westminster and FreeSpirit here.) I tried them out with some parasols fabric, and decided on the yellow one. It would have been nice if I had looked at how much I had of it (only one yard), so I didn’t have to wait for an order to arrive before I could put on my borders.
Bought when visiting QuiltNebraska with Diane Harris
I chose the upper (yellow background) parasol fabric
I’d been wanting to make a quilt with some of the Rowan fabrics I’d been collecting for several years, so why not this project? I pulled from this bin, then another, to find florals that went with the stripes. I revisited these several times during cutting and assembly. I was lucky to find some blue and black stripes in this mix, or I wouldn’t have had enough stripes for the project.
Kaffe / Rowan fabric bin, one of several
Some of the first fabrics picked to go with the stripes
For background I needed something that would make all the brights pop. I found a fat quarter bundle of graduated blacks of Andover Fabrics Dimples, but when I pulled it out of the drawer, underneath was yardage of deep black Dimples. I thought that would make it easier to make this pattern with all one background (since I already had it).
Templates: This pattern uses templates! For the template queen here, this was great, except for the fact they this pattern didn’t match any commercial templates available. Not to worry. Being married to an engineer with a full shop in the basement has its perks. This is how it works. I give him this (then plead and go downstairs with him):
Paper templates I made from sheet sent by Quiltmaker
He does this:
Measuring and making markings he understands prior to cutting anything
The paper ends up looking like this
He uses the table saw and miter gauge to cut 1/8″ acrylic sheeting into the proper sizes
The final shaping and removing burrs with a sander
I get these:
The final templates. Brown paper is left on so you can see them. The finished product is clear. Next time I’m going to buy neon green acrylic.
If you don’t have a resident engineer with a shop, try your local hardware store. Ours will cut them for you, for a minimal price, if you take in the pattern. We can also have this done at the place where we buy the acrylic, but they charge a great deal.
Note: These shapes aren’t actually diamonds, but rhombuses or rhombi, which is why commercial templates won’t work. I was really tempted to redraft this with diamonds, but that wasn’t our assignment.
I cut out enough pieces for a test “corner” and had a bit of a problem along the edge where the background templates were sewn together. I “fixed” this by cutting one more template out of paper that joined these two pieces into one larger triangle. If you do this, please note that the pattern only uses the piece in one direction, so don’t fold your fabric – it needs to be all stacked with the same side up. If you miss this, you can use those pieces to cut more background star points (don’t ask).
Uneven edge where 3 background pieces are joined. Eliminated by making new template triangle that included both star points.
- Corner / edge template replaces 2 background star points
At this point I needed to work on a personal project, so I spent a lot of time looking at these diamonds on the design wall and rearranging them. I moved them around a lot, then finally decided to arrange them like a colorwash, with the lights in the middle and darks on the outside. I stuck with this idea, although I did more rearranging as it progressed.
Trying for random color arrangement. I didn’t like this.
Colorwash arrangement – I want it to glow in the middle.
As I cut the stripes I pinned them to the diamond that they would surround, ignoring them as a design element, thinking the larger diamonds would carry the design throughout. This was not a good thought. After I started assembling them, the stripes “took over.” More on that later.
By the time I was ready to actually sew on this project, this machine came to live here.
This one button (the thread cutter) was a lifesaver.
The cut button – it also holds your threads so you don’t have to.
It was hard for me to keep the position of the star points correct unless I only worked on one diamond at a time. I was able to rearrange my room so I could reach the design wall from the machine, which really helped.
Design wall within arm’s length – at least until the rows got too long.
I took down one background rectangle and the associated diamonds one at a time, looked at the picture, arranged them on the machine, sewed them, then returned them to the design wall.
setting up each piece to match the diagram, sewing it and then replacing on wall
When I had a diagonal row finished, I sewed it together. Even with this system you can easily make mistakes. Here’s one. It shows you that the same color starpoints need to touch the floral diamonds and what a pain it is to correct after you have a row together.
Oops – both yellow ones should touch the pink daisies
I recommend ripping by cutting every 3rd stitch to NOT stretch the bias
It doesn’t work to just move the block around, the angle is wrong
- Switch the two end triangles
How you put it back together. I became more diligent in paying attention after this mess.
When I progressed this far on the quilt, I noticed that the stripes were taking over and I needed to rethink my arrangement. I ended up having to put all the star points on the design wall – a move I had been avoiding since they have a tendency to fall. I didn’t want to rip out any blocks already sewn, so I rearranged what was left. (Here you should imagine the song “I Fall to Pieces.”)
I added all the starpoints to the design wall (play music of I Fall to Pieces).
About this time Gina’s wonderful version of this quilt was posted.
Gina’s beautiful design emphasizing diamonds by arrangement of colors
I loved her secondary diamond arrangement, but couldn’t figure out how to do this with the stripes I had available. I didn’t have any more striped fabric, so I arranged what I had cut out to my satisfaction, and continued. If I were making it again, I would definitely try to emulate Gina’s design.
Assembling the rows is relatively easy if you watch how the edges line up. I try to sew starpoints about a stitch away from the V so there is no gap between them on the front. No Quilt Police are going to examine this, so I do it to please myself, no one else.
Matching up the edges at an angle
I like to see the point and don’t mind if some of the joining pieces show
When I joined the rows together, I used lots of pins. It helped keep the points in place. I still missed a few joins, but they are okay for my standards.
I used a setting pin (straight up one) to match the seams at 1/4″ in from the edge. They do not abut. Lots of pins control the bias edges.
The pattern didn’t call for borders, but I wanted to include the fabric that I used to pull most of the other colors. I ended up with 8″ borders as it seemed the best way to include the spirals of the parasol fabric.
Borders on, too big for the design wall
I debated a long time on the quilting. I knew I wanted to do spirals in the border. If I were a fantastic custom quilter, I would have stitched each star in the ditch, put ovals in the center rhombus and use a small fill in the black.
I don’t have the skill to do that, so I went back to using the Circle Lord. I really wanted to have a spiral coming out of each star, so I used the framework rather than my big boards. I learned a lot doing it this way – you should take pictures of the first border so you can match the last border to it!
Using Circle Lord spiral on frame so I could center each one in a star
closeup of spiral quilting
I’m happy with the results. DH (dear husband, the engineer) said it didn’t warm his heart like my more traditional quilts, but that this one is “okay.” He knows better than to say it is ugly. This one will stay here and be mine, at least until a granddaughter can’t live without it. I really had fun using all these fabrics.
Final picture: Star Struck
* * * * *
What can you say but WOW?! I can’t wait to see Becky’s quilt in person. I think it’s just gorgeous! When an artist causes a piece to “glow” as this one does, it’s called luminosity. Becky definitely pulled it off.
That wraps it up for the Star Search quilts. You can see all of the Scrap Squad quilts together in slide shows at quiltmaker.com/scrapsquad. We’ll start with the next (and final) project soon.