Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Diamond Star Playtime Sew-Along -- Choosing fabric!

Sometimes I put too many oars out of the boat at the same time and you know how that works -- one can only handle one or two of them at a time, so the fabric yardage post for the Diamond Star Playtime Sew-Along had to wait until this morning.  Thanks for your patience!!

I'll be working with Marti Michell's 60 degree diamond templates during the Sew-Along.  There are several choices and if you missed the two posts about that, they are here and here.

Pulling fabric is my favorite part of making a quilt.  Hardly surprising after 26 years of running a quilt shop, is it?  I can make piles of fabric that go together all day long (no doubt that explains my seemingly endless collection of UFO's).  It's important to understand that when I took up buying fabric for my shop in the late 1970's there were no "collections" of coordinated fabrics.  If you are more comfortable using a collection that has been coordinated by a designer, the instructions that follow may seem unnecessary.  But if you want to break out of the mold and do your own thing, read on!

This Sew-Along will be a guided process to help you make your own version of a sampler featuring 6-pointed stars rather than copying a specific layout planned by me.  Obviously you will need a pile of fabric to begin and these are general yardage guidelines.  Don't worry about exact quantities -- it is likely that you will want to add fabrics as you get more involved in making the stars.  "Running out" of fabric is a spur to creativity, so don't worry about that either!

I began both of my samplers with a focus fabric which I used  to guide my color choices and print style.  Diamond Star Playtime was the first one and the border was the focus fabric.   I sorted through my stash (which is formidable) and pulled pieces that matched the colors in the border print without making judgments about their "suitability" -- just color at this point.  In this quilt, I used "contrast of color" more than "contrast of value".
Once I pulled as much as I had, I laid them out in a row overlapping so that about an
 inch of each is showing -- that way nothing dominates the scene.  Then I open out my "focus" fabric and refold it so that I can lay it across the row of possible fabrics as shown below.  Now I leave the room -- go fold a load of laundry, perhaps? 

When I come back a little while later -- I pull out any fabrics that jump out at me because that means they aren't blending together with the rest of the group.  In this case, I've pulled out the ones that are above the original row.  I may not put them away at this point, but will hold them in reserve just in case.  By the way, this is my pull for a new project . . . . . .
You can use a similar approach when you are shopping -- pull a bolt of something you just love and then walk it around the store and pull anything that matches the colors of the focus.  Line your pulls up and drape the focus across them.  Leave it for a few minutes and then come back and begin to eliminate the ones that jump out at you.  I find it is easier to eliminate possibilities than it is to get four or five that you love and then try to find more to go with them.  This approach also exposes your eye to unexpected possibilities which you miss when you are trying to "match" pieces one at a time.

The focus fabric for Pieceful Constellations was a large print that was chosen for it's potential for fussy cutting motifs to use in the stars.  While it guided my color and print selections, it only appears in the quilt as small pieces.  One of the good aspects of this particular print was the amount of background space between motifs. 
When choosing a fabric that you expect to fussy cut, be sure you have or buy enough to get 6 repeats of the print motifs.  Look at how repeats of a motif are available from side-to-side in the print as well as looking at the running repeat in the yardage.  This print had a 12" running repeat and each of those sections of the print averaged 5 identical motifs.  To be able to cut 6 motifs, I needed a minimum of two running repeats -- of course, I got more to give me flexibility -- four repeats (1 1/2 yards) gave me twenty of most motifs. 
If you think your focus print may become the borders of the quilt, it's easiest to have yardage that corresponds to the anticipated length of the quilt.  But if you don't, I've figured out several ways to work around that and I'll talk about those as we near the end of the Sew-Along.
In this quilt, I had a designated background fabric -- the ivory solid -- a half yard would have worked but I got a couple yards because in my mind, all the stars would use it and there were no tumbling blocks in the original "plan" (and it will never go to waste).   In this quilt, I used "contrast of value" rather than "contrast of color".  There was no designated background in Diamond Playtime.

I always work with dozens of prints in a piece so 1/4 yards of a print generally are sufficient.  If I really like it,  I'll get a 1/2 yard or if it's a stripe. In this close-up, notice the variety of textures and values I included.  There was more fabric left in my pile when I finished the quilt than I used to make the quilt!   Some pieces were only used once because I didn't like it as well in a finished star.  The brown and aqua plaid was a 1/2 yard cut and I liked the way it worked so much that I went back and bought another yard (so I wouldn't run out?).  In the end, I used it for the binding, too.
So to boil all this chatter down into simple guidelines, I suggest that you start with 1 1/2 yards of a focus print for a moderate size wall hanging (3 yards for a full-size bed quilt) and 1/4 to 1/2 yards of a dozen prints ("love it" or making a large quilt - 1/2 yard each; "just okay" or small size quilt - 1/4 yard each) and 1 to 2 yards background fabric.  Be sure to include an interesting print for fussy cutting or a stripe, and maybe a polka dot? 

 Once we begin to piece the stars, you'll gravitate to prints and combinations that please you the most -- new fabrics may appear and some may not get used at all.  Generally, it takes about 3 yards to make a quilt that is 45" by 60"; 7 yards for 72" by 90" (twin); and 11 yards total for 90" by 108".  Just relax and enjoy the process. 

If you need reassurance during the fabric selection process, send me a photo of your pull with questions you might have and I'll give you some feedback.  Send it to maryhueyquilts@hotmail.com

We'll begin with simple two fabric stars and a basic tumbling block.

Let the fun begin!!

Mary Huey

All material Copyrighted by Mary Huey Quilts!


  1. This is great information!! Your method makes A LOT of sense! Isn't it amazing how things look different after one walks away for a bit. . . and shame - laundry??? Meh, that can be done tomorrow . . . pull fabric for another quilt ;)

    1. My method evolved over 26 years of keeping shop and helping customers and students make choices. And I'll have to keep folding laundry since the kids are grown up and gone -- trying to train the cat to do it, but he's such a guy?!!

  2. Wonderful information Mary! I worked in a fabric store 25 years ago (where did the time go) and there is so much more to choose from today! Thanks for sharing.
    Freemotion by the River Linky Party Tuesday

  3. great tips Mary! I love pulling fabrics too. It's like shopping, even if it's from your own stash!

    Thanks so much for sharing at Needle and Thread Thursday!

    :) Kelly @ My Quilt Infatuation