Thursday, March 01, 2012

Oh My Stars quilt along: # 13, 14 & 15 (and all done!)

Wowsers .. it's been a long haul to get these Sawtooth Star blocks done!

#13 is the Plaid Star.  I didn't choose correctly for the intersections on the 12" block so it looks odd.  It looked OK when I was pulling fabrics but, in reality, not so much.    I did better on the smaller blocks.

I'm still having problems with correct final sizes on the smaller blocks ... I'm concluding that miniature sewing is not my fort√©!  And that's OK with me ... I don't feel the need to master everything. 

Yeah, it does annoy me that some of the star points are going to be clipped during the final construction ... BUT .. I am SERIOUSLY out of the focus fabrics!  Early on, I had decided to make these star blocks with some Christmas-themed fabrics that I had been given.  I've succeeded in that with about 95% of the fabrics used; I augmented a very small amount with some other fabrics.  Because I had 'promised' myself to use only the donated fabric, I really don't want to start putting other fabrics in the mix at this late date.

Where does that leave me?  Without the ability to remake the smaller blocks in an effort to retain the star points!  And .. that's OK.

Block #14 is the Shimmering Star.  Oh. My. Goodness Gracious.  Sheila is *killing* me with these variations in the smaller sizes!  This particular layout needed a bazillion half square triangles.  I departed from Sheila's directions for the half square triangles because, as most quilters know, there are a million different ways to make them. 

For the 12" block, I used the old stand-by of drawing a diagonal & sewing 1/4" to either side to make 2 half square triangles.  I use this technique all the time and am very comfortable with it.  However, for the half square triangles needed for the 8" and 4" blocks, this method is tedious.  I certainly did not want to work with such small squares and drawing lines on them.

Fortunately, a quilting buddy of mine, Dee Bradford of Texas, had recently shown us a very nifty method of sewing a bazillion identical half square triangles at a recent retreat.  This technique has you cut bias strips, seam the long edges together, press the seam allowances THEN cut the half square triangles from the resultant flat sheet of fabric.   The main attraction of this method is that the seam are *already pressed* and the half square triangles are cut and trimmed to size at the same time!   Additionally, the outer edges of the half square triangles are *on grain*.  Other mass-production methods (specifically using the tube construction) produce half square triangles with the outer edges on the bias ....  something I didn't want to mess with.

It was *amazing*.  I used this technique for the 8" and was very, very impressed at how easy it was to make all those SMALL half square triangles painlessly.    Even BETTER ... my stars came out .. for once .. absolutely, perfectly *accurate*! 

Then it came to making those 4" blocks.   Oy.  Even Sheila said she'd be amazed if anyone made this block in the 4" size.  Well, I'm not one to back away from a challenge and I've made at least one 4" block of every other layout in this quilt along, so I made my attempts.  Yes, *attempts*.  Several times.

For the 4" block, the finished half square triangle size is 1/2".  With squares that small, the back of the block would be *all* seam allowances!   I've tried a few different ways to do the 4" size:
1. standard piecing.  Oh gosh NO.  My sewing machine doesn't sew anything that tiny
2. freezer paper piecing.  I thought, for sure, this would be the solution.  Wrong. 
3. faux applique.  yes, I even tried to be sneaky with fusible applique (the base block is color 1 and teeny-tiny triangles backed with fusible webbing from color 2), with the intent of zig-zagging afterwards with mono-poly thread.  But even my cutting skills are apparently sub-standard.  *And* there just isn't a whole lot of color 2 triangles there to zig-zag!

Then I got even sneakier.  If piecing the block wasn't going to work, then *don't sew* it!  I would DRAW it and color it in with markers!  :-)   Well, even that got two tries because the first brand of markers I used (Marvy) bled the green into the red.  ::sigh:: But, my Fabrico brand markers worked wonderfully.  And *that* is how I have one .. exactly ONE ... 4" block for the Shimmering Star.  And that's ALL I'm gonna have. :-)

Which leads to our final block, #15 the Exploding Star.  It's actually a Courthouse Steps log cabin for the center and strip sets for the points.  Sheila's versions looks sooooo lovely.  Mine, not so much.

Remember I mentioned I was getting seriously low on my Christmas fabrics?  Well, finding 3 fabrics in the same color family that were ALSO graduated in values was darn near impossible.   I was able to construct the center Courthouse Steps portion, but only the 12" block got the strip set points.  I just couldn't eke out the necessary fabric to make the same points for all the smaller stars.  So, I made those points out of a single piece of fabric.   Not quite what Sheila had envisioned, but it worked with what I had.

And now ... I am DONE!  All the blocks have been constructed and are patiently waiting in a project box for the final layout directions. 

Sheila says the final size of this quilt will be about 68" x 92" ... a generous twin.  I may or may not want to enlarge it to be a double/full size.  Which means I would need to make more stars.  Which isn't exactly a problem ... whilst reading all the various blogs, I've come across some very intriguing Sawtooth Star variations that are not the same as any we have previously made.  A couple need to be resized to 12", but that's not a big deal.  I'll make the smaller stars in the basic layout, just so I don't make myself crazy.

The blocks I've found (and there are many others around) are:
*Martha Washington Star  which is from Carole Henell, as part of her Jewel Block of the Month project
* Shimmering Star (different than Sheila's), also from Carole Henell, also from the Jewel Block of the Month project
* Ribbon Star which is from Faith of Fresh Lemons blog.  It's in Barbara Brackman's book, "The Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns", page 160.  Check out Faith's "Soltice Stars Series" for other very attractive Sawtooth Star variations!
* Cathedral Star which is by April Mae Designs
* Milo's Star which is by Michele Foster.  Although there is an extra design element for this star which may not play nicely with all the other star blocks.  I'm still thinking about this one.

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