Sunday, July 31, 2016

Star Light, Star Dark QAL: Piecing the Large Stars

Welcome to the 4th post of the Star Light, Star Dark QAL! Today we're going to start piecing - the excitement is palpable in the Facebook group (which all Quilty Habit readers are invited to join!).

June 26 - October 4, 2016

All info here!

Share your fabric choices and progress!

 Instagram: #starlightstardarkqal

Sponsored by:



Today we are creating the Large Stars - also known as the Sawtooth or North Star. It's difficult to track down where first this quilt block originated. Deborah of Art Threads reveals that she's found one dated all the way back to 1800 (you can see the lovely quilt and others in her post here). One North Star quilt was for sale at an 1836 Anti-Slavery Fair to raise money for the cause. If you're interested in reading more about the Sawtooth/North Star block, please visit Barbara Brackman's blog, Civil War Quilts.


  • There are other ways to make the Sawtooth Star. One way involves creating flying geese as the points instead of using 2 half-square triangles (HSTs). I chose to write this tutorial using the HST version because I think it is easier for beginners. There are more seams, but they are easily manageable - I promise! Plus, I think it's useful to practice working with lots of HSTs because they are so common in quilt-making. If you haven't already cut your fabric and want to try it a different way, please feel free, but please note that I am only including the HST instructions here.

Please Note
  • Please read through all the instructions before you start! 
  • All seams are 1/4 inch, which is standard for piecing quilts.
  • The following are the instructions for 1 section's Large Star. You will be making 6 for a lap size quilt and 4 for a baby quilt. Don't worry, I'll remind you again at the bottom of the post! :)


Making Half-Square Triangles (HSTs)

You will need:
  • Fabric 1 - Large Star 
    • (1) - 9.5" square (Middle)  
    • (4) - 6" squares (Points)

  • Fabric 2 - Large Star Background 
    • (4) - 6" squares (Points)  
    • (4) - 5" squares
  • Pencil
  • Rotary cutter, ruler, cutting mat
  • Hot iron
  • General sewing notions and machine

1. Pair (1) - 6" square of Fabric 1 with (1) - 6" square of Fabric 2, right sides together (RST). Pin in two opposite corners.

2. Using a pencil and ruler, draw a diagonal line from one corner to another (where you have not pinned).

        *TIP: Draw the line on whichever fabric is the lightest. It's just easier to see!

3.  Sew 1/4 inch away from the line on both sides (see below, where I've emphasized the pencil line).

4. Cut directly on the pencil line with your rotary cutter. Now you have two HSTs!

5. Press open using a hot iron (no steam, as it can distort the fabric).

     *NOTE: Pressing preferences vary from quilter to quilter. I usually press my HSTs to the side to make certain colors stand out a bit more, but this quilt will have a lots of seams. To reduce bulk, I recommend pressing open for the whole quilt.

6. Trim HSTs to 5" square. 

     *TIP: Here's how I ensure that the diagonal line of my HST ends up directly in the corners, every time. This is my untrimmed HST from later in the project (starts at about 3.5" large, finished size will be 3" - you will start at about 5.5" instead):

Center the HST so that the sides are about 1/4" each over an inch line on your cutting mat. Cut .25 off each side (see below).

Flip the HST around and repeat. You should now have a perfectly pointy, accurate HST.

    *TIP: When a pattern calls for lots of HSTs, it saves time to make them all at once. You can chain piecing them (meaning, you can sew all the lines of all the squares at one time [Step 3], then flip the chain around and sew the other side). Cut and press all your HSTs for all the large stars simultaneously to save more time!

Piecing the Star

7. Lay out all of your pieces. Be sure that the points of your star are laying in the correct direction (as shown below). 

   *TIP: You may want to lay out ALL of your large stars at the same time, as shown below mid-process. It helps keep all your pieces in place and saves time in the next few steps (similar to chain piecing).

8. Sew the two sets of HSTs together on either side of the large center square (Fabric 1). Press seams open.

    *NOTE: If your 1/4 inch seam is accurate throughout and you trimmed the HSTs as described above, your points *should* match up at about a quarter inch away from the end of your 2 HST unit. Then, when they are sewn to the middle piece in the next step, they will meet. If they don't, that's totally okay. Perfection is overrated anyway, and only you will know! :)  

9. Sew these units to the sides of the center square. Press seams open.

10. Sew the four squares in the rows above and below the center. Press seams open.

11. Pin at seam intersections (where the seams will meet). Slowly sew the top and bottom rows to the center (lots of seams to manage, but you can do it!). Press seams open.

  NOTE: You might notice above that I pressed my original HSTs to the side instead of open. I realized afterward that open was better, which is why I recommend you go that route! :)

 12. Admire your new block! Unfinished size is 18.5" square (unfinished size = before it's sewn in to the whole quilt top). Repeat all directions to make 1 for each section of your quilt (6 Large Stars if you make a lap size, and 4 if you make a baby size).

Happy piecing! Please let me know if you have any questions in the comments or in the Facebook group. See you next week for the small star (Friendship Star) instructions!

Quilt-A-Long Schedule
August 1: Piecing the Large Stars << you are here!
August 8: Piecing the Small Stars 
August 15: Share Your Progress Linkup (open through September 1)
August 22: What Is Alternate Gridwork?
August 29: Piecing the Top Together
September 12: Quilting Suggestions
September 19 - October 3: Final Linky Party - Link up your Finished Quilt - Prizes Up for Grabs!
October 4: Winners announced

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Oblong Pillows

I just returned from a week+ long trip to Maine to visit family. We all had a great time, and it was relaxing to get away from the hustle and bustle of New Jersey (and yes, the quilt world - I spent a lot less time on blogs and social media). I couldn't wait to gift a couple of special birthday presents to two of my favorite kiddos in the world!

I've made them SO many things already (pillowcases, quilts, tote bags) and it's hard to come up with something special that I KNOW the kids will like (do you have more ideas for me??). I had a brain blast and finished these custom pillows the day before we drove up (actually, to be completely accurate, I finished the hand-stitching in the car!). I thought they would be unique and fun as an oblong shape.

The pillows were made with my nieces' favorite colors in mind. The lime green one is for my oldest niece (9), and she is 100% convinced that my husband is half cat (it's a long, funny story). It was kismet that I found the cute Cotton and Steel tigers in my stash. I used up several fabrics that I haven't been using, and she loves it, so big win there!

Also, I almost was brought to tears (I kid you not) when I walked into her room and saw her bed - all things I have made her, including one of my very first quilts, which she uses every night.

The pink pillow is for my slightly picky younger niece (5), and at first, she loved the back more than the front, haha! We all played up how cool the unicorn was, and she agreed. :)

She insisted on taking this picture. :) ^^

I quilted both pillows with wavy lines to add another element to the mix. Then, I stuffed them with Poly-fil. Boom.

They were super popular around the house, used by all including my sister-in-law and the cat. Plus, this was just step one of getting the girls excited about fabric (the master plan!). They helped me with some easy vacation sewing by pushing the sewing machine pedal. They accompanied me to Marden's, a salvage store, where I got some amazing deals on fabric (if you ever go to Maine, be sure to seek one out - you won't be sorry!). The 9-year-old and I designed and sewed up a stuffed cat (she did almost all of the work, but unfortunately I didn't get a picture this time). She wants to learn how to quilt, and she will hopefully visit my sewing room when she's in NJ.

 My Marden's haul -  24 yards of high-quality, some OOP (out of print) fabric for $87 (including a 10% discount for being a MQG member)!! Believe it!

These pillows went over so well that I know exactly what I'll be making for my other nieces and nephew this year... woot!

Linking up to Crazy Mom Quilts, Needle and Thread Thursday, Fabric Tuesday.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Illuminate: A Finished Star Light, Star Dark Quilt

I can finally share the details behind the original Star Light, Star Dark quilt, which is currently a free quilt-a-long right here through October 4! This quilt was designed and sewn especially for my oldest friend (of 15 years!). I named it "Illuminate" because the focus is the stars, and the intent was to brighten up my friend's room and life just a little bit more.

Ever since I started quilting 6 years ago, I've had a running list of people in my life that I want to make quilts for. Some have ideas written by them. Kara's name has been on the list since the beginning, and I've always known I wanted to make her a star quilt (she's loved stars as long as I can remember). But what kind of star?

Something symmetrical for sure (aka no wonky stars); she loves order and neatness. Something bright and unusual - she's a modern gal. If she was a quilter, she'd be all over modern fabrics and subtle alternate gridwork.

The moment came when she moved into a new apartment and had a birthday. I excitedly visited her apartment for the first time but quickly noticed she didn't have any blankets in her living room! That needed to be rectified quickly.

That night, I started sketching large star blocks (traditional Sawtooth Stars), surrounded by strips like a log cabin. I eventually decided to make it even easier by using just 2 large strips in each section instead of many little ones. Let the fabric and the color scheme be the star (no pun intended). To change the scale up, I added 1 or 2 small Friendship Stars to each block.

Kara loves green and cool colors, so that part came together easily. I dug into my stash and started sorting. I wanted lots of value contrast (lights and darks of the same color) so that the stars would show up within a color section. I delved deeper into contrast in this post. Another important focus: using small prints and solids with a minimal amount of white.

I quilted Illuminate with large spirals, which have become one of my signature quilting designs (at least in my mind - I love a good spiral). I felt like the quilt itself is very linear (all straight lines and angles, clear color blocking), so curves and echoes would really bring out the movement. So, I purposefully quilted one big spiral in each row. I used my free motion quilting foot for this particular quilt. It was not the easiest to quilt a 51" x 70" lap quilt in this manner, but I made it happen.

 I used Aurifil threads #2870 (Green), #5005 (Medium Turquoise), and #4225 (Eggplant) to quilt each section accordingly. It was fun to watch how the light or dark threads interacted with their respective colors (for example, light blue/turquoise shined on the light blue section and popped on dark blue). Have I mentioned how much I love color? Because I do, quite ardently.

I fell in love with the results, but I'll attempt a different quilting design for my second Star Light, Star Dark quilt (which I'm making using warm colors from my Fat Quarter Shop bundle). You can really see the spirals on the backing:

I chose all the backing fabrics specifically for Kara; they are all from Cotton and Steel. The cute cat fabric below was my favorite (and when she saw the quilt, she said she loved that one!). I used cats because she had a beloved cat during all time time I've known her and longer. While I was making the quilt, her cat sadly passed away. I had already bought the fabric and thought it would be even more fitting to include it.

I finally had the opportunity to present Kara with the quilt last week after a fun day out together. She was thrilled, and immediately commented that it would add so much color and comfort to her new space. Mission accomplished! I hope this quilt serves as a visual reminder of how much I care about her and value her friendship, even when we only meet every few months.

Linking up to Needle and Thread Thursday, TGIFF, Crazy Mom Quilts

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Fabric Choices - Snowflake Shimmer QAL

As soon as I saw Yvonne @quiltingjetgirl's new quilt and quilt-a-long, I quickly began thinking about which colors I would use to make it myself. It's queen size, but I'm going to figure out a baby quilt size based on her instructions.

I'm using the top left deep purple (Kona Regal) for the background (you know I love my saturated - and purple - backgrounds!). I'm going to make the diamonds scrappy in blues and purples - some that almost blend with the background. Mostly because I'm obsessed with cobalt blue right now, and the purples seem to work with it juuuust right. 

The stars will be light gray for a nice contrast. Or, I might end up switching the scrappy and the gray placement. I still have time to decide!

It will be a happy, scrappy, cool-colored baby quilt for some special baby out there (or wall - baby quilts can double as wall-hangings, yes?). :) I'm already contemplating the quilting - I'm thinking of some lovely echoes in those diamonds. I love how Yvonne quilted hers to life!

The Snowflake Shimmer QAL runs through September 23. I hope you'll join us! It's wintery without being WINTERY, you know? There's nothing wrong with wintery of course, but I just happen to be one of those quilters who rarely sews seasonal items. Plus, the quilt features a lovely modern layout. Yvonne is so kind, helpful, and thorough in her directions and patterns. I can't recommend her enough (I might be a little biased because she's my good friend, but hey, it's all true!). :)

Linking up to Snowflake Shimmer QAL Linkup #1.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Star Light, Star Dark QAL: Planning Your Layout and Cutting Instructions

Welcome to the 3rd post of the Star Light, Star Dark QAL! Today's the day you've been waiting for - fabric cutting instructions! Then, we'll take a break for a couple of weeks - the cutting for this quilt (at least the lap size) definitely takes some time. Then you'll be all ready to sew in August!

 June 26 - October 4, 2016

Share your fabric choices and progress!
 Instagram: #starlightstardarkqal

Sponsored by:


Planning Your Layout

Remember that your goal is to create contrast within each section. If you don't, your stars will disappear! It's okay if that's the look you want, of course, but just keep this in mind.

Before I started cutting, I laid out my fabrics for each section. For example, above to the left is my choice for a small dark orange star (the darker fabric will be the middle). To the right are the fabrics for the large dark orange star (the lighter fabric will be the middle).

By laying the fabrics out, even before they are cut, I could see the contrast between backgrounds and stars. I suggest you take a picture and refer back to it as you are cutting, in case you need to remember which fabric goes where. I found it easiest to go section (big color block) by section (the lap size quilt has 6 sections and the baby size has 4).

Important Reading about the Small Stars

Remember when I mentioned in the fabric requirements that you will need 6 OR 7 different fabrics for the scrappiest possible look? Well, that's in case you want to make either 1 or 2 small stars per section. Your cutting instructions will change depending on what you decide. You can make ALL the sections with the same number of little stars, or alternate by section like I did, to give it some interest. See below:

You need to decide how many small stars you will have before you cut, so that you can accurately cut the large pieces of fabric that lay above or below the small stars. Whatever you decide, your quilt will be lovely!

Cutting Instructions for Star Light, Star Dark Quilt

Fat-quarter friendly; you will have leftovers.
Small stars are scrap-friendly.
Fabric requirements and lesson in contrast are here!

1 section = 1 large color block. The photo below shows my dark red section that I'm making mainly with fabrics from the QAL bundle from Fat Quarter Shop.

Cutting for 1 section:

Fabric 1 - Large Star

(1) - 9.5" square (Middle)

(4) - 6" squares (Points)

Fabric 2 - Large Star Background

(4) - 6" squares (Points)

(4) - 5" squares

Fabric 3 - Underneath or Above Large Star

(1) - 5.5" x 18.5"

Fabric 4 and 5 - Small Star(s)

(1) - 3" square (Middle)*

(2) - 4" squares (Points)*

*For EACH small star - if making 2, like in my red section above, you can double these requirements from the same fabric, or cut one set of 2 different fabrics.

Fabric 6 - Small Star Background

(4) - 3" squares**

(2) - 4" squares**

**for EACH small star - if making 2, double these requirements.

Fabric 7 - Above or Below Small Star(s)

(1) - 8" x 16" (when using 1 star)

OR (1) - 8" x 8.5" (when using 2 stars)

Lap size has 6 sections; baby size has 4. Repeat cutting instructions according to the size you have chosen to make.


Woohoo! Cut up all your fabric and get ready to sew on August 1! Don't forget, you can still join in and link up your fabric choices here until that day. There are some great blog posts linked up over there and some gorgeous color palettes, too! Plus, there are even more on Instagram and the Facebook group - above are just a few. I'm so excited to see all of your quilts! Let's fill the internet (and the world) with beautiful modern star quilts! 

Quilt-A-Long Schedule

July 18: Planning Your Layout and Cutting Instructions <<<<<< You are here!
August 1: Piecing the Large Stars
August 8: Piecing the Small Stars 
August 15: Share Your Progress Linkup (open through September 1)
August 22: What Is Alternate Gridwork?
August 29: Piecing the Top Together
September 12: Quilting Suggestions
September 19 - October 3: Final Linky Party - Link up your Finished Quilt - Prizes Up for Grabs!
October 4: Winners announced


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