Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Smokey Mountain Stars!

Smokey Mountain Stars!
A scattering of rustic stars from thrift shop shirts!
(click here for printer-friendly version)

(Quilt size approx 64"X72")

I have an addiction to second hand stores....not for anything for ME really, not in the sense that a lot of people shop thrift shops! I haunt the men's shirts aisles and look for mark downs, bargain of the week, 100% cotton shirts in plaids and stripes!

The Good Will that is near me has a 'sale tag color' of the week sale, so any shirt with the color tag of the
week is 1/2 price. At this price most shirts run me about $1.99. There is quite a bit of fabric for $1.99 if
it is a long sleeved size XXX men's shirt!

It got so bad, this shirt collecting, that I've got about 3 bins full of shirts that I've taken apart. I've made a couple of quilts with them...and I love how soft the fabric is, and the look of all the plaids mixed together. I have really had to BAN myself from going to Good Will, because I know if I go I'll come home with yet another bag of plaid and striped shirts!

These are just two of the bins of shirts that I've taken apart...you can also see a UFO in progess...Jacob's Ladder blocks that I've started, I've already named that quilt "Jacob's Shirts!" (Or is it the Shirt Off Jacob's Back???) I'll get around to getting back to those another time! On with the stars! These plaids were just calling out to me to be used in this star quilt!

This is probably the easiest star quilt you can ever make. The pieced block units themselves are traditionally known as "indian hatchet" blocks! These blocks can be set all kinds of ways, and with other units like 4 patches or 9 patches to make a variety of quilt designs. I have done stretched star quilts before, but usually the stars are always touching each other. I wanted the stars to be separate, not touching, but lined up as in blocks. So this is where EQ 5 came in really handy! I drew and colored the block units I thought I'd need
and came up with this layout. This drawing is not plaids, I just used whatever fabric colors were already in my EQ 5 palette:

This quilt is built out of 4.5" cut squares! All the blocks finish at 4" and there are four variations of the basic block that make up this quilt.

The first pic shows you the building blocks...the second pic shows you the units you will have!

(And the little 1/2 square triangle squares are a bonus if you choose to double sew the seam while sewing the corner triangle squares on the blocks) In the real plaid quilt, I used two different light prints, this gave some variety to the background. You can use as many light prints as you want, or make all the light squares from the same light fabric if you choose. I will be listing the cutting as using 2 fabrics for the lights.

So let's start cutting!

(42) 4.5" dark plaid squares
(97) 4.5" light squares (light #1)
(56) 4.5" light squares (light #2)
(304) 2.5" dark squares

First thing, set aside 30 of the 56 light squares from light fabric #2. These are your "plain" spacer blocks! You already have 30 blocks done! How's that for quick? ;c)

I stitched these in sets so I wouldn't drive myself crazy trying to remember how many of this, or how many of that. I started with the remaining 26 light squares from light #2. These only get one corner triangle sewn to them, and they are all used in the outside edge of the quilt to complete the spaced sawtooth border at the edge of the quilt. The piecing for all the units is the SAME, only you will have some with dark centers, some with light centers, and these little fill ins that we are doing now from light #2, with ony one triangle square in the corner.

Place a dark 2.5" square with right sides together on top of the base square. Starting in one corner, stitch diagonally down the square from corner to corner. I just "aim and shoot" when sewing these because I have done them for so long. If you don't feel you can be accurate, draw a pencil line down the 2.5" square from corner to corner to give you a guideline to sew by. When you get to the corner, don't remove the unit from the machine! Leave it under the machine needle, and feed the next pair through....sew them all through this way until you have them all in one big chain as in the second pic!

This is another nifty trick I love to do. Waste-not Want-not and save every bit! I like to "double sew" these seams so I can cut between them and give myself bonus 1/2 square triangle squares to play with later. Believe me, this quilt gave me hand fulls of already pieced triangles ready for a scrappy project! You want to know how many? As many as there were squares to cut for this quilt....304 little 1/2 square triangle squares! Now..these are small. And because they are small, I use a bit smaller seam allowance between them. I move the needle one notch over to the right on my bernina. Usually you would use a 1/2" seam between something so that when you cut between the two, there is a 1/4" seam allowance for each side. Moving my needle to the right gives me just a bit less than 1/2"...more like 3/8"...so the seam allowance when I cut between is 1/16" smaller than 1/4". I do this because I need as much of the bonus triangle as possible to be a useable size to square it up to. If I do the 3/8" seam, I can square them up to 2"....and they will finish at 1.5"! Perfect for mini piecing. If I did 1/2" seam? Well..they square up to something like 1 7/8" and that just isn't as useable to me. The quilt police might come after me for using less than 1/4" seam allowance, but I learned that on minis that the seam needs to be trimmed down after sewing anyway..I just do it before.

After you are done double stitching and trimming off the bonus triangles (or not! It's your choice!), take the "one corner triangle" blocks to the ironing board and press the seam towards that triangle in the corner. Set these aside, and onto the next batch!

After I pieced the ones with one triangle in the corner, I went to the next set...which were the units with the dark plaid base (all 42 of them) and the two plaid corner triangles on opposite corners. Chain these through the machine, double stitch if desired, trim the corners on both sides that you sewed the triangle squares to, and press them with the seams going towards the triangles in the corner.

This is what's left! And you need to do 97 of these. They are pieced the same, there are just more of these than anything else and it might seem like it takes a LONG time to stitch (and double stitch) and trim and press them all...but once they are done, you are ready for lay out!

I laid this out on the floor to get the layout that I wanted, I tried to have a good mix of colors and different scale in my plaids and stripes. Use this picture or the EQ5 drawing above to help you lay out your blocks. You can also make the quilt bigger by adding more rows in length, and also adding to the width. Before you begin sewing, you might want to check out how I keep things in order while assembling the blocks continously. I call this Webbing The Top! This will help you chain stitch the blocks into rows that are all connected together so nothing gets turned around, and then you can easily stitch the rows into the quilt top.

I framed the quilt with an inner border from a taupe/black stripe, cut 2", and a plaid outer border, cut 5". Both borders have scrappy cornerstones from various plaids,and I really like the look. The pic above shows the quilting in progress with pine boughs and berries in the outer border, curling tendrils in the inner border, and swirling wind in the quilt center.

More shots of the quilting detail!

I love the pine bough and berries quilting in the border. I know it's hard to see it in that plaid, but it was so fun to quilt and it is so textural!

Another variation! This one I actually made years ago. It uses 4.5" squares, 2.5" squares, and 4.5" X 6.5" rectangles! The layout makes it look like a strippy set quilt!

I bet you can figure out how to do this one just by looking at it now!


  1. Anonymous4:32 PM EST

    I changed the background to an all-over blue on blue print, the main body of the figure to a dark green print, triangles to orange or mottled greenish print and voila, I had sea turtles. I embroidered eyes and they can see.


    1. That sounds really cool, do you have a pic somewhere? pintrest?

  2. Anonymous8:43 PM EST

    Nice meeting you in Ft. Myers... I also grew up in the Bay Area of Calif and married at 19 when my honey was just 21 !! Thanks for the inspiration!! I bought a used men's shirt for $1 at a Senior Center thrift store today... off white with a white stripe...should be great for 9 patch !!

  3. I'm lucky, our Goodwill has a tag every week that is only .99! That's when I buy my clothes, now I need to look for quilt fabric too!

  4. Thanks for explaining so well how you made this! I am inspired. And I love how the swirly quilting pattern softens the "hard" edges and points in the patchwork - it just works.

  5. Thanks for this easy-to-follow tutorial! I am inspired. And I love how the swirly quilting pattern softens the hard edges and points of the patchwork - unexpected and stylish!

  6. I love how these stars go together! Please link this in to this week’s theme of Star Quilts!

  7. Thank you SO MUCH for not going with "quilt as desired" !! It's refreshing to actually see and read how and why a particular quilting pattern is used. I absolutely love your pine and berries. And I understand the Swirling wind now. Beautiful ! I will save this pattern for when I have the skill to quilt it. Your commentary is very refreshing as well, and I also must add that you have taken the mystery out of free style. It's not so "hard and fast" as I had been thinking. Thanks again, I will follow you if I can.

  8. I used an assortment of William Morris prints for my quilt top and I love it! Like you, I hate waste and I followed your suggestion to do a double seam when sewing the corner triangles and now have a box full of tiny half-triangle squares.

  9. Wonderful quilts. Love your choice of fabric and the layout. One more reason to browse the local thrift shop.
    Kind regards from Switzerland Ursula

  10. I just realized (while looking through the free patterns) that this quilt was one of my inspirations for a quilt I did. I did the star centers with autographs and pictures from family (it was rather busy). If I were to do it again, I would skip the pictures (art and photos).

  11. This is beautiful. I've used up all my dad's shirts in a quilt for my mom and pillows for my brothers. I'll have to go haunt a thrift store or start cutting up my husband's Hawaiian shirts. -- Beatiful.

  12. Thank you for the nice star quilt pattern. It will make a nice Quilt of Honor!

  13. Thank you I have been looking for this pattern for the longest under Floating Star. One of my first baby quilt was Floating Star I got the pattern of the net ,but they were also diferent sizes stars Wish I could find that pattern again. Rosita


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