Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Out On A String!

Out On A String!
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Precious little pieces find their way into string pieced diamonds! Asymetrical sashings give these save-all blocks a fun setting!

Block size: 10 1/4". Quilt size approx 52"

Do you love string piecing? Do you have a bin of random sized small scraps that you just can't bear to part with? These little pieced diamonds may be just the ticket for you! I foundation pieced these little gems onto diamond shapes cut from recycled phone book pages. I also used the old fashioned tried and true method of using inset Y seams to sew this block together. I know there are "easier" methods out there, but I just didn't want additional seams in my block corners or in the side triangles. Sometimes a bit of extra effort is worth it! These block instructions will teach YOU to sew those Y seams too! Again...I know there are loads of instructions out there, and every one has their own way of doing them. This is what works for me.

**NOTE**  The Easy 8 ruler shown below is no longer being manufactured.  You can print the PDF templates HERE.

First thing you will need are a few "specialty" rulers. I love these rulers so much that I can't imagine my ruler collection without them!

This is the Easy Eight ruler. I use this to cut the diamond shapes from the phone book pages, and then after piecing, use it again to true up the edges of the pieced diamonds.

These are the Easy Angle ruler, and the Companion Angle Ruler.

Instead of using BOTH of these rulers together, try my new Essential Triangle Tool by C&T Publishing.

You can find the EZ Angle, Companion Angle, AND the Essential Triangle Tool in the Quiltville Store.

The Easy Angle Ruler (Or Essential Triangle Tool) is used to cut the 4 corners of the star blocks since we are making them out of half square triangle squares. The Companion Angle ruler (Or Essential Triangle Tool) is used to cut the side triangles because we need to have that straight of grain on the outside edge of the block.

You will also need foundation piecing paper of whatever type you want. I mentioned that I use phone book pages. I also like deli paper, or the paper that lines the exam tables at the doctor's office!

On the Easy Eight ruler are markings depending on what size diamond you want to cut. I chose the 3" per side diamond which is the second dark line up from the bottom of the ruler. You can read the measurements there on the right side of the ruler..the unangled side. Cut some strips of paper this width using the top edge of the ruler as a guide.

Turn the ruler over so the point lies in the bottom right corner of your stack of papers. Make the first trim with your rotory along the edge of the ruler. Carefully turn the stack. Lie the ruler on top of the stack and trim diamonds following the 3" guide lines on the ruler. You need 8 paper foundations per star.

Place a scrap of fabric down the center of the paper diamond, and then with right sides together, place another scrap on top of the first, matching raw edges. Set your seam at a very small stitch (I like about 1.5 to 1.75 on my bernina) to help perferate the paper close enough to make paper removal easy. I find it also helps to sew with a larger needle...try a denim size....it makes bigger holes and helps the paper come off easy too! Sew the two pieces together through the paper diamond. You can even chain piece these as shown in the second pic above! I find it easy to just work on two diamonds at a time, using each one as a leader/ender for the other.
Press the piece open and continue to add scraps to the diamond foundation until it is full. Cover all 8 diamonds with scraps in this way!

Use the Easy 8 ruler again to trim up the diamonds true to "ruler size". You might find the paper has even shrunk a bit during the piecing/pressing process, so don't pay as much attention to the edge of the paper as the markings on the ruler, get it? This is important so that the center of your star doesn't poof up like a bra cup or a volcano! Remove the papers now. We don't want them to get in the way! I don't like papers in my seam allowances :c)

Now our easy angle comes into play! When using the easy angle to cut squares or triangles for the corners, take the finished size of the diamond (3") and add 1/2" for the seam allowance. This is how I came up with the 3.5" measurement for the strip needed above. Cut the 3.5" strip with your regular rotory ruler. And then with the easy angle ruler, cut 4 light and 4 red triangles using the 3.5" marking on the ruler (3.5" is the UNFINISHED 1/2 square triangle size, remember?) Pair up the light triangles to the darks and stitch with a 1/4" seam. Because one end of the triangle is notched, they will fit together beautifully. This makes it easy to chain feed them through too! Trim the remaining dog ear on each pair and press the seams towards the dark.

For the side triangles, you are going to go back to using the Easy Eight ruler. I took the remainder of the 3.5" strip that I used for the 1/2 square triangles that go in the block corners...and using the 3" line on the ruler, trimmed the strip down to size. Next, take the Companion Angle and align the blunt tip of the ruler at the top of the strip. The bottom edge of the strip will hang a bit below the line on the ruler. This is okay. A very odd sized strip is used this way, but it willbe exactly the right size to fit between the diamonds in the block. Cut 4 of these triangles per block.

The trick to Y seams is knowing when to start and end the stitching. You need the seam allowances free in some instances so that you can use the space to set the inset piece! You might find it helpful to use a pencil to mark the 1/4" seam lines just where the lines cross at the corners of the diamonds. It's hard to see on that yellow piece in the left picture, but there is a pencil dot where my stitching is to start and stop. And it is better to be one stitch too short, than a stitch too long :c) On these I do sew all the way to the point that forms the center of the star. I know some people don't, but I do. Sew 4 pairs of diamonds this way, being sure to leave the seam allowance free where the corners will be inset. When you end your stitching. Stitch a couple of back tack stitches to secure the seam. Do this each time you end within a seam allowance.

Finger press as shown, towards the far right diamond. On the 1/2 square triangle corner, you are going to want to mark 1/4" seam markings in all 4 corners. Run a pin through the 1/4" marking on the pieced diamond, right where the stitching ends. Have the same pin point also go through the corresponding 1/4" marking in the corner of the 1/2 square triangle corner square. The tip of the pieced diamond should extend 1/4" past the top edge of the square. This is okay...this is needed as your seam allowance there! Very carefully sew from the edge of the square....just to right before where the seams intersect. This is the second seam of your Y!

Turn the unit over and check to see that your stitching didn't extend into the seam allowance. Nope! It ended right where it should! Refold the unit so that you can put the remaining diamond right sides together with the corner square. Very carefully sew this seam so that you don't go past the bottom seam allowance. Remember it is better to stop a stitch short than have it go one too long....or you might get a pucker!

All four corners are set in just right! Lay them out in star format and place the four side triangles where they belong. Stitch a triangle to the right side of each unit. With this seam, you can sew edge to edge, you don't need to worry about not sewing into the seam.

The next step is "almost" a repeat of the first thing you did. You are going to match two sets together, joining string pieced diamonds right sides together. This time you will use the seam allowance you just sewed when adding the side triangles as a guide as when to start and stop your stitching when joining the diamonds. You want the stitching to stop at or just before you reach the side diamond seam. Finger press the seam allowance out of the way and also use that previous seam as a guide while stitching the remaining side triangle seam to join the units into a block half. Repeat the proceedure for the remaining pieces, so you now have two block halves!

At this point I like to stitch across the center of the star block, matching points in the center. I can go all the way across the middle of the star. Then it is just a matter of finishing the two remaining seams on the side triangles! There! YOU DID IT!! This quilt uses 9 blocks, but you can make as many as you want.

I know it is more work to do 8 pointed stars in this way, but the effect is well worth the time it takes to do it. Remember, practice makes perfect! (And it's a good thing these stars look great even wonky..it hides lots of mistakes!)

Each block is sashed on two sides with a cornerstone four patch in the corner!

Seam enough 2.5" wide lengths of two contrasting fabrics together to be able to cut 18 10 3/4" sashings from the strip sets! Depending on the length of your strips, you could get 3 or 4 from each strip set. You also need18 4 patch cornerstones sewn from 2.5" strips (the easy way) or individually pieced from 2.5" squares. These plaid cornerstones were actually the leftovers from my last star struck quilt!

Sew sashings on the right side and bottom edge of every block as shown, placing a 4 patch block in the corner!

I arranged the blocks as shown above, though you can arrange them differently if you wish! I added a 1.5" cut (1"
finished) red inner border sewn from random lengths of 1.5" strips! The pieced triangles were left over panels that my friend Stephanie had given to me at quilt camp! She had pieced extra string blocks, and I cut them into 4.5" strips..and then used the easy angle ruler to cut them into triangles using the 4.5" markings on the ruler. The background triangles were also cut from 4.5" strips with the easy angle ruler! (Can you tell I love this ruler?!) I had to figure out with math just what size to cut the remaining 4.5" wide pieces of blue border. I'll leave that up to you since all our measurements are going to be different depending on the finished size of your quilt center :c)

I quilted this quilt with all over consecutive baptist fans! I love stringy quilts that are pieced this way, and it seemed to be the perfect effect for this quilt!

Still got more little scraps? How about something like THIS!?

The premise of making this quilt is much the same as the one above! I pieced many many diamonds on top of paper foundations. Many diamonds sewn together make BIG diamonds! Big Diamonds make a BIG STAR!! I pieced this top while retreating in April 2007 in Florida with my friend Tonya. It's still not quilted....maybe it's too blinding to think of what to put in those orange background areas..but I just love it! The double flying geese border really seems to pull all those wonky scraps into order too!

Here is a pic of Tonya's Howler on top of the pieces as we were laying them out! :c)

You will find the full pattern for Santa Fe String Stars in my book String Fling, available in the Quiltville Store!


  1. Anonymous4:00 PM EDT

    Oh!! this is beautiful it reminds me of my mom's quilting--
    Makes me want to quilt some more-
    This pattern is so nice-
    Thanks Geri
    My email address is gg72@cableone.net

  2. What an impressive (and busy) quilt the large star with the orange background is! Has it made it to a finished quilted state?

  3. Anonymous9:20 PM EDT

    ANN DANKS Hi everyone, I've done string piecing only once in squares, but it looks so much more interesting in stars and stars are my favourite. I have to try this as it looks so good and the tute seems dead simple! Thanks again Bonnie.

  4. Hey Bonnie, have you ever used newsprint, or do you find the ink rubs off?

  5. Hey, I was wondering if you considered using newsprint or do you find the ink rubs off onto the fabric?


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