Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Hand-Dyes & Lone Stars

Once again, I am playing hooky from Jane Austen.  In times past (when my gray cells actually worked properly), I could really focus on ONE thing exclusively and get it done.  Nowadays, I find myself getting distracted by all sorts of new ideas and I want to work on that new idea RIGHT NOW before I forget it.

I don't particularly care for working on many multiple projects at a time because it clutters up my brain but I've been thinking lately that if I don't do something to capture the idea, it's going to be as elusive as a puff of smoke.

Therefore, when a quilting buddy of mine commented on how much she liked the pack of 10 hand-dyed fat quarters, which were sitting on my cutting table, I decided that I really ought to do something with them RIGHT NOW before they got lost in the morass of my sewing room.

I had purchased this pack at a quilt show a couple of month ago.  I had them sitting out in the open so I could see them and try to figure out what to do with them that would properly show off the gorgeous colors.

I wanted a pattern that would take advantage of the 10 hand-dyes, use UP as much of the fat quarters as possible and not be another Forever Project.  I paged through my quilting books and pages of ideas.  I kinda/sorta narrowed it down to a French Braid or a Lone Star.

I liked the French Braid idea because right there in the book was a pattern that used TEN fabrics!  All I'd need to do is find a fabric for the border.  But I had just finished a French Braid not too long ago (well, the top is finished; it still needs to be quilted).  Making another French Braid, while seeming to be a perfect match with my criteria, didn't excite me too much.

The problem with the Lone Star was that I didn't have a pattern that specifically used fat quarters.  I wasn't sure how big of a Lone Star I could make with 10 fat quarters.  Electric Quilt said I could get a 30" Lone Star using 1-1/2" strips, but I had no way of knowing how much of the fat quarters would be left over.

So, I dug through my stash and emerged with 10 fat quarters of fabric that I wasn't emotionally attached to and that I would be willing to sacrifice to the experiment.  I didn't particularly care if the fabrics "went" with each other or not .. and they sure don't!

Cutting 1-1/2" strips, I indeed was able to make a 30" Lone Star.  I also had a LOT of the fat quarters left over.

I then thought a slightly bigger Lone Star could be made but needed another set of fat quarters ... diving back into my stash, I came up with a second set of 10 fat quarters that had absolutely nothing in common with each other (!!) except that I discovered that I could cut 2" strips for a Lone Star and only have a modest amount of the fat quarters left over.

I sewed just one point together, so that I would remember (in the future) what the sequence was supposed to be.

Both of the experimental fat quarter Lone Star results are quite ugly.  :-)   There is absolutely nothing to recommend them except that they served their purpose.

With courage in hand, I began to cut 2" strips from my hand-dyes.  The 2" strips were assembled into strip sets: 6 colors per strip set.  Six strip sets were needed per point, each one from a different sequence.  When I learned how to construct Lone Stars, I was taught to stagger (offset) the end of the strip set by the width of the strip.  This resulted in a stair step look on the ends ... BUT ... since you were going to cut the strip sets at a 45° angle anyway, why waste the fabric on the very ends??  In this manner, I was able to cut at least 6 crosscut strips from each strip set.  Since I needed 8 crosscut strips (one for each point), I had to construct a partial strip set to obtain the extra 2 strips. 

Eventually I made my hand-dye Lone Star and was pretty happy with it. 

Most Lone Stars simply have corner squares and setting triangles to fill in the star.   I wanted to do something a little different .. something that would also use up the remainder of the fat quarter strips.  Using Google image search, I found a number of different layouts for Lone Stars, but the one that caught my eye was one that used New York Beauty (or similar) blocks. 

So, I drafted a New York Beauty block consisting of rays and Flying Geese, which use up the remaining hand-dye fabric and have a black background to set everything off.  I only constructed 2 of the New York Beauty blocks (and still have to sew the rest of the background to them) before the Guilts attacked me. :-)

I really needed to return to Jane Austen and not fool around with other ideas!  The longer I work on Jane Austen, the sooner I would get done and the sooner I would be able to play around with all these other ideas without feeling guilty. :-)

Here is where the hand-dyed Lone Star sits right now.  It's pinned to a maroon sheet (so ignore that color!).  The curved part of the New York Beauty blocks have been sewn, but are just pinned to the sheet.  With my graphics program, I colored in the black background ... it gives you an approximation of what the final result should look like.

Don't mind the wiggly part of the Lone Star .. that's due to the sheet underneath.  :-)

Not too bad.


  1. That is absolutely beautiful. My mind boggles at all those points you have matched. And that New York Beauty for the surround. It is just perfect. Very dramatic. Congratulations.

  2. Hiya, Diamant! Thank you for the comment!

    Actually, matching the points isn't *all* that difficult: all the rows are strip sets (I'm certainly NOT dealing with individual diamonds!). On the wrong side of the fabric, I marked a 1/4" line on every seam allowance. Then it was simply a matter of sticking a pin through all the corresponding seam allowance marks to hold it in place.

    Oh, and I also spritzed every row with Magic Sizing (a sort of low concentration spray starch or a Mary Ellen's Best Press sort of thing) to give body to every strip set so it wouldn't have a tendency to stretch on me.

    I also handled the bias edges *very* carefully. :-)

    But, all in all, it really wasn't as horrid as it looks. :-)