Welcome back! I hope everyone had a relaxing weekend–ours was more of the hit-the-floor-running-and-don’t-stop kind of weekend. Today, I have a tutorial for block #7–the Six-Pointed String Quilt–but first I wanted to highlight an historic quilt from the collections of the Charleston Museum (and not just because Charleston is one of my favorite cities). This quilt was hand-pieced using six-pointed star, diamond, and hexagon paper templates c. 1871. It was most likely made by Susan DeSaussure Kershaw from a pattern that originally ran in the Godey’s Lady’s Book in September 1864. The museum’s website includes the following information on the Godey’s Lady’s Book:
“Godey’s Lady’s Book was a magazine marketed specifically to women. Published by Louis A. Godey of Philadelphia from 1830 to 1878 (and after his death until 1898), the issues contained poetry, articles, engravings, sheet music, hand-tinted fashions and needlework crafts. Sarah Josepha Hale (author of Mary Had a Little Lamb) was its editor from 1837 until 1877. When she started, the magazine had a circulation of 10,000 subscribers; two years later it was 40,000 and by 1860 had 150,000 subscribers. Publication continued during the Civil War with little mention of war events or activities and it was extremely difficult to obtain copies in the South.”
(Image from Charleston Museum)
I love this pattern; a quick (or even extensive) search of flickr and google show that there are not a lot of six-pointed star quilts on the internet, let alone tutorials or suggestions for how to make the block. This block is usually made using either English paper piecing (by hand) or y-seams, neither of which I am very good at (I did a mock-up block or two that went in the trash) and certainly not qualified to write a tutorial for. So, my version of this block includes equilateral triangles similar to this quilt, and lots of them. Shall we begin?
(Note: If you know of an alternate way to piece this block, or try something and it works, feel free to post about it in the flickr group. There are bound to be great ideas there! Sarah suggested using diamonds for the star points, bordering then with equilateral triangles, and sewing the six large equilateral triangles together as you would smaller ones. Sounds like it would work well–let me know if you try it!)
SIX-POINTED STAR BLOCK TUTORIAL
Note: I made two versions of this block; obviously one is a string block and one isn’t, but the string block also has a differently pieced background. I actually like the look of the “test block” (on the bottom) better, and the background piecing of the string quilt better. Please read through (or at least skim) the tutorial before you start, and pick and choose between the two. This isn’t a quick block, and I felt that the string stars would look good in solids, but the shape is kind of lost in the busyness of the KJR prints. Most of the tutorial pictures are based on the test block (which is far from perfect) because I think the pictures are easier to follow than the somewhat frenetic string block.
Download the Triangle Template here, or draft your own template (equilateral triangle/60 degree angles, height is 3 inches without seam allowance, side length is 3.5 inches without seam allowance).
[Note: I am hopeless in photoshop/illustrator. Thanks, as always, to my sister-in-law Amber for making the template.]
Cut 12 triangles out of patterned fabric (instructions for constructing string blocks at the end) and 12 triangles out of background fabric. You can either cut strips that are 3.5 inches x width of fabric, align the bottom of the template to the bottom of your fabric, cut on either side of template (using ruler), flip triangle template, and repeat to get the results shown above, or simply rotary cut around template.
1. Lay out your triangles so they form a six-pointed triangle surrounded by a hexagon like the picture shown above.
2. Put the first two triangles right sides together, and sew a 1/4 inch seam on the right side. Press seams, and notice the dog ears that form (see picture).
3. Take your next triangle and place right sides together along the top or bottom edge of the last triangle. The top (or bottom) point of the triangle should hang over the edge, leaving a 1/4 inch dog ear. See pictures below:
4. Continue piecing (A to B, C to B, D to C, E to D, etc.) until you have all of the blocks in the first row sewn together. Repeat with rows 2-5. Note: If you sew a seam that you think you should un-pick and re-sew, do it now. Don’t wait until your blocks are in rows to start unpicking–I unpicked a whole row because I was too lazy to un-pick the first time.
5. Put rows 1 and 2 right sides together. Pin through each seam where the triangle points meet up–I stick a pin straight through the point at the top of the triangle through both layers of fabric, and then pin. This will help you to sew more precisely just above the top of the triangles. If all of your points aren’t perfect, go slowly and do the best you can.
Repeat, sewing together remaining rows. I usually sew row 1 to 2 and 2 to 3, then row 4 to 5, finally joining rows 1/2/3 to 4/5.
6. At this point, you should have a six-pointed star inside a hexagon. I based this next part on Lee’s tutorial called Hexing Along the Block. Cut a square, approximately 7×7 inches. Make a 60 degree cut through the square, these will be used to turn the hexagon into a square.
Place one of your cut pieces right sides together to one of the side rows of the hexagon, pin, sew a 1/4 inch seam, and press (very important, see the pucker in the bottom right hand corner?) Repeat for each of the other three edges. I find it helpful to sew with the back of the pieced star side up–it is harder to cut off triangle points that way!
7. Trim up your block; it should be 12.5 inches square. I made two blocks. One is a little smaller than 12.5 inches, one is a little bigger than 12.5 inches. Take your time–if your seams are off by even 1/16 of an inch, it makes a bit of a difference. I figure that once I quilt and wash this quilt, the mistakes that seem so glaring right now will fade away.
String Block Alternative
This is a great chance to use up some of your scraps; alternately, you can cut strips to use. I would recommend using three or less strips per triangle. Pay attention to direction when you sew and cut your strips.
To foundation piece strips (I use printer paper), first shorten your stitch length (I use ~1.5) Lay a strip of fabric face down on the paper, sew 1/4 inches from the edge of the strip. Press strip so that it is now right side up. Take another strip and align it face down on the edge of the first strip, sew a 1/4 inch seam along the edge, open fabric up so that the right side is facing up, and press. You can pin your strips to the paper as you sew them. Continue until you fill a sheet of printer paper. Clear as mud? If you need better instructions, Ashley at Film in the Fridge has a tutorial for string blocks–we are only using the strings, so don’t worry about templates and the like.
2. Cut the string blocks into 3.5 inch strips and cut equilateral triangles as discussed above. Tear paper off of the back of blocks.
3. Layout your block: there are two options for backgrounds. The first is to use 12 string-block triangles and 12 background triangles and piece according to the instructions above. The small string block triangles are a little fiddly to work with–spray starch or starch alternative is helpful.
The second is to cut 24 background triangles to go with your 12 string-block triangles. I like the finished look of this better, but it is more work. If you choose this method, layout the block as shown below, sew the triangles into rows, and then the rows together according to the instructions above.
3. Trim your block to 12.5 x 12.5. Step back, admire it, and go take a nap