Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Part 5 -- Dresden Star Tutorials

My blocks are finished!!  
Time to set them into the quilt top!
For the lap robe size, I'm setting the rows horizontal -- for the crib size in the pattern, I set the rows vertical.    Here, I cropped the photo of my current quilt and rotated it 90 degrees to illustrate that option.
NOTE:  There are some other setting options that might appeal to you for hexagon shaped star blocks from a sew-along I did here on the blog in 2014 -- you can review them HERE.

Anytime I'm making a "scrappy" quilt, I begin the setting process by putting my finished blocks onto the design wall in a random order -- I start at the top left corner and lay the blocks in position as they come off my pile of finished blocks.  
Then I step away for a couple hours.
When I come back, what ever "jumps" out at me is what I change.
The only block that jumped this time is the second from the right in the second of the bottom row.
It grabbed my attention immediately (not in a good way) so I started moving it around.

My goal was to minimize it's impact.  Positioning it in a corner and making sure the other corner blocks were also "strong" seems to do the trick for me.  I also organized the center horizontal row with the brightest blocks and that gives a focal point.  I could have also put the "difficult" block in the center of the quilt if I wanted to draw attention to it.
Once I was happy with the block positions, I added the setting triangles -- random placement to begin.
Looking through my camera is a good way to pick-up on "glaring" spots.  
At this point, the quilt felt chaotic and unbalanced so I began to move triangles around.
What worked for me was to organize the triangles with teal prints around the center Dresden Star -- it creates a subtle secondary star which I like but there could have been a dozen other arrangements.
It's all about what appeals to your design sense.
Trust your intuition -- if you are waffling, it means you don't like it!
Be sure the straight of grain on the setting triangles is laying horizontal to the quilt.  This controls stretching when sewing the rows together.
Can you find the four triangles that are pieced from half triangles?

After a day of rest (to be sure I liked the layout), I was ready to assemble the quilt top.
The beauty of this layout is that it doesn't require any more set-in seams -- all straight from this point!!
These are the basic units to make.
If you took the time to trim the corners of the triangles and half triangles as you were cutting, all that you need to do to position them is match the corners as shown here.
and here!  
Press the seams toward the triangles.
Once you have all the diamond shaped units and the end units,
 begin to assemble the rows.

There is one little trick you need to know to avoid mismatched intersections as you join the units to assemble the rows.  This can happen if you don't match properly.
This is what you want!
You can poke pins through the seam allowances and fiddle or if the seams allowances are a consistent accurate 1/4", do this.
I hope I got close enough with the photo
Looking down "into" the seam allowances, I've discovered if I align the corner of the seam allowances on the top unit with the end of the stitching line on the lower unit -- the seams will cross/intersect 1/4" from the raw edge.  It might take a few practices to do this but once you figure it out, it streamlines the matching.  It's hard to convey in a picture or words, but if you do it with your units and compare it to the picture, it will make sense.
 I had to fix a couple.  
Usually my bad ones happen because the unit seams weren't exactly 1/4".

It's a good idea to "label" the right end units with a pin or something.  I flipped a row 180 degrees and while looked okay at a quick glance, it messed up my setting triangle arrangement at the center of the quilt.  That will teach me not to be such a cocky bugger?!?
Since the seams within the rows are angled, you can press them to either side.
Here's the finished top ready for borders!  Right now it's about 36" wide and 52" long.  Once the borders are added, it should be 51" by 67".
If you want to make a larger quilt, every block added to the width of a horizontal setting increases the width of the quilt by about 12" and every row added increase the length by about 10".

I'll be back in a week to walk you through the borders and share some quilting ideas!
And happy dance, I found a hunk of fabric for a backing in my stash!!  With all the finishing I've been doing the past few years, those big pieces are becoming more rare in my stash?!?



Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Part 4 -- Dresden Star Tutorials

 How is piecing the Dresden Star blocks going for you? 
 It's very quiet out there so I'm assuming I'm doing such a great job on the tutorials that there is no need for questions or you are all just watching me do this??
Whichever it is, I'm having a good time and making steady progress.  I have 13 finished star blocks and 4 half-blocks in preparation for today's post.

Today, I'll cover making the half-blocks and cutting the setting triangles in preparation for 
Part 5 to discuss the setting of this quilt.

As you recall, I'm using a layer cake for my blocks.  I used a total of 26 squares from the layer cake for the stars.  To make the half-blocks, I'm using the leftover pieces of 8 layer cake squares which measure about 3" by 10".  
Both the crib version (in the pattern) and the laprobe size I'm making use 4 half-blocks.  Each half-block uses 3 pairs of blades, 4 kite points and 3 background diamonds.
Cutting these pieces from jelly roll (2 1/2" ) strips isn't a problem but I had to fiddle around a bit with the layer cake leftovers to get my 3 pair of blades. 
Thank goodness for my rotating rotary mat!!
 I actually found it easier to cut the blades out with the template I made for the last tutorial!?!
In the photo below, I've assembled two of the blade units with a kite point.  The remaining two blades are separated and positioned as shown.
This photo illustrates the order of assembly.
If you look back up at the first picture, you'll see this half-star on my design wall.

Now let's look at cutting the setting triangles.  Of course, as a retired Marti Michell educator, I'm using one of the 60 degree triangle rulers.  There are two and I have both, but if I were buying them today, I'd get the large one.  
If you don't have one of these rulers or a different brand, I'll go over cutting the triangles without one of them.

For the crib size setting, you need 16 full triangles and 4 half triangles.
For the lap robe size, I need 24 full triangles and 12 half triangles.

Before starting my blocks, I set aside all the light background prints from my layer cake to use for my setting triangles.    If you are working with a jelly roll, you'll need a 1/2 yard of a print with a light background that blends/coordinates with your fabric assortment for the setting triangles.

Layer two squares right sides together on the cutting mat and trim to a 9 3/4" square -- this is mostly to eliminate those pinked edges.  The reason for layering the squares right sides together is to get right and left half triangles without having to think about it.
No need to experiment with that idea -- just do it.
(I already messed it up by not doing it.)
Lay one edge of the small triangle or the 6" line of the large triangle along one edge of the squares and snugged up into a corner as below.  Cut the triangles making sure to trim the points as directed with the ruler.
To cut the half triangles, twist the ruler around 180 degrees and align the purple lines down the center of tool as shown.  ALL three lines need to be on the fabric because this creates the seam allowance needed on that edge of the piece.
Here's one of my squares after cutting -- two full triangles, two half triangles, and three scraps -- upper left corner, center piece, and lower right corner.  
With careful cutting, I was able to get 20 full triangles and 20 half triangles.
If you go back to the number of full triangles needed, you'll see that I'm 4 short for the laprobe.  But happily my brain realized that since I only need 12 of the half triangles, I can stitch the extra 8 half triangles together to make 4 more full triangles and I'm golden!!
In the next tutorial, I will explain how to make these blend right into the setting and everyone will think I planned it that way?!?

To use a different brand of ruler or a basic rotary ruler, start by cutting 6" strips across the width of the fabric -- two for the crib size, three for the lap robe size -- from the yardage of your setting fabric.  Layer two of the strips right sides together on your cutting mat (because you need left and right facing half-triangles) and square off the end.
Align the 60 degree line with the lower edge of the strip as below.  This first cut will make two of the half triangles but DON'T align it with the lower left corner as I have in the picture below.  My mistake meant I didn't have a seam allowance on that edge of the piece.
Instead, make a mark 1/4" in from the corner and align the ruler with that mark -- seam allowance.
(I made the mistake so you don't have to!?!)
This first cut will give you a pair of half triangles.
Then work your way across the strips rotating the ruler to line up along the 60 degree line on the lower edge of the strip.
You should get at least 10 triangles from each strip.
Before you take the triangles off the rotary mat, twist a 6" wide ruler so the 5  3/4" line matches each side of the triangle.  See that little corner peeking out at the upper right corner?  
Trim it off to mimic the trimmed corners of Marti's tool.  If you've not worked with trimmed corners, it's a game changer increasing my matching accuracy.
Do this for all three corners of the triangles.
As you near the opposite end of the strip, you can maximize fabric by cutting another set of half-triangles.  To do this, line up the 1/4" line of your straight ruler (adding seam allowance) and cut.
If you have Marti's 60 degree Triangle Ruler, align the tool with the edge of the strip, cut the diagonal and trim the 3 corners.
For other brands of 60 (equilateral) triangles, the horizontal lines may not match the fabric edge on a 6" strip, but this is the correct strip size -- so align the tool as straight as possible and don't worry about matching a line.  You will also need to use the trick for trimming the triangle corners that I shared above.

  One of the unique aspects of Marti's tool is that the sizes noted along the outer edges of the tool are the finished size of the triangles making it easier for you to determine what size is needed for your blocks.  In looking at other brands, their measurements seem to be based on the "height" of the tool and that is absolutely no help -- all it tells you is what size to cut the strip and not the size of the finished triangle. 

Here's a bonus idea I pondered when I realized I was running out of fabric for the triangles.  Cut four scrappy 3" sixty-degree triangles and stitch them together for a 6" triangle.
Just an idea to keep in your back pocket?
And it would be a good solution for a scrappy version!
I've reviewed this tutorial several times and hope I've anticipated everything you need to know about cutting the setting triangles, but if not -- ask away!!


1.  Finish piecing your blocks and make four half-blocks.

2.  Cut the setting triangles as described above.

3.  Clear off your design wall so you will be ready to play next week -- tutorial 5 will come out Wednesday, July 26.

4.  And of course, leave your questions in the comments.  I bet someone else has the same question and will be relieved they aren't the only one asking it!!

Just for fun, if you are on Instagram, remember to post your blocks as you finish them -- use the hashtag, #dresdenstarquilt and tag me @hueymary


P.S.  Did you notice I've added six blocks to the UFO?!? 

Wednesday, July 5, 2023

Part 3 -- Dresden Stars Tutorials

Are you ready to give this block a try?  Today's tutorial is long but full of pictures which I hope will make it easy to follow.  Read all the way through it first, then sew through it slowly.  If you don't "get it", just do it and it will make sense as you finish the first block.  If you didn't pull out a UFO for "leaders/enders" (I know you have at least one), do that before you start to sew.  Not only will it make the rhythm of the process smoother, it will be a win-win because you will finally make a bit of progress on that UFO!?!

Step 1 is to sew the six pairs of blades together -- start at the narrow end, 1/4" seams.

Stitch up to or just short of the dot -- it's okay to stop less than a stitch from the dot!
 I've learned "short of the dot" works as well as "on the dot" -- but don't stitch past the dot. 
 If your 1/4" seam is accurate, your needle will be aimed directly at the dot.
Now for the "trick" that makes it possible to chain-piece while stitching set-in seams!
With the needle down, lift the presser foot and pivot the fabric clockwise until the left edge of the presser foot aligns with the edge of the patchwork.
Next, stitch onto the second pair of blades and repeat the process until you have all six pairs stitched together.
I leave every blade attached to the chain as you see here.
Clip off the first five pairs and leave the last pair under your needle.   Don't press anything yet -- it's not helpful!!   Grab the six kite points.
Open up a blade pair and position the kite point as below.
Flip the kite point right side down onto the left blade being sure to match the corners of the pieces.
Stitch off the last blade pair that is still under the machine needle and onto the first kite.
Stop at or just before the dot and pivot clockwise as before.  Now you can clip off the last blade pair and continue to add kite points to all six blade pairs.
Once you have the kites attached to one side of all the blade pairs,
Cut off five of the blade units, align the second side of the kite to the other side of the blade unit and continue on -- chain-piecing all the way until all six blade units are finished.
This is where I grab something from my UFO "leaders/enders" stack -- once I've sewn onto this little strip set, I can clip off all the blade units and head to the ironing station!
Press the seams of the blade units with the long seam going towards the darker fabric and the end seams going towards the kites.  Do not press the seams open!!  Not only is this unnecessarily time consuming (in my opinion) but it weakens the patchwork.
Time for the second sewing round!  Make three pairs of blade units -- match the seams as shown below.
Since I'm going to applique a 1" hexagon at the center of the star when I'm finished with the piecing, I trim 1/2" off the tips before stitching them together to reduce bulk.
Here we go!  Sewing off the little strip set from my UFO onto the blade joining seam.
All the way to the dot (or just short of it -- less than a stitch), pivot clockwise.
Before pressing, let's add a background diamond to each unit.
More of the same -- align the background diamond right side down on the left side of the blade unit.
Stitch to the dot and pivot clockwise.
Keep chain-piecing!  There is a rhythm to this process and it may feel awkward for the first few blocks you piece.  Stay with it -- do one every day instead of trying to do all of the blocks in one long session.  Practice makes the process smoother and your brain will find the rhythm better with a daily session.
Once the background diamonds are attached to one side of the blades, flip it around and attach the second side.  Still chain-piecing!!
All three units are finished and it's time to sew onto another UFO unit.
Before I press the blade units, take a look at this close-up of where the seams "meet" -- in other set-in piecing techniques, the "gap" you see between the ends of the seams would be a problem because it would be weak and leave a hole.  But with the "set-in piecing simplified" technique, the "sew-off" stitches secure the end of each seam with no apparent hole on the right side.
Those "sew-off" stitches are the reason you can stop a bit short of the dot and there is no "back-stitching" which doesn't work well anyway.
Looks perfect!!
Press the seams between the blade units in the same direction as the first seams -- this way the seams will swirl around the finished star in one direction.  Press the outer edges of the blade units towards the background diamonds -- this makes for crisp points when we start to set the blocks together.
All that is left to do is set the three blade units together and add in the last three background diamonds.
I stitch the three blade units together first, starting at the center of the star so I can pivot at the dots.  I need nine "leader/ender" units at this point, so the short seams of these 3" 9-patch blocks were perfect.
Once the three blades units are assembled, start setting in the background diamonds -- one block seam, one UFO seam, one block seam, one UFO seam, and so on.
Ready to press and half the 9-patch blocks are done!!
Press the remaining seams to match what is already pressed.
The last step is to prepare an applique center -- I like using a 1" hexagon but the few pictures I've seen of vintage Dresden Stars use a circle.  Your choice!
For a circle, try a 1 1/2" finished diameter circle and see if you like that size -- you can always go smaller.
I prep the hexagon like English paper piecing, folding the seam allowances over a paper hexagon and pressing (or basting) them in place.  If you don't have a friend who can give you a few 1" EPP hexagon papers, "google" it -- there are quite a few free printable sources for them.
Take out the paper, position the hexagon -- look how beautifully it lines up with the seams of the blades.
Hand or machine stitch in place.
Here's the back side and the reason I trimmed off the tips -- no bulk and a nice flat center.
My finished sample block -- it's destined for the potholder pile.  I should have picked a stronger yellow as the points fade into the background more than I'd like.
Now onto the blocks for my new version of Dresden Stars.
If you are making the pattern size quilt, you'll need to piece seven star blocks.  I'm making a laprobe size and will need thirteen star blocks.  There are also some half-star blocks which I'll cover in Part 4 along with an introduction to the setting of this quilt.

My UFO project is waiting for my return to the machine!  In a couple weeks, I'll have all the Dresden Star blocks ready (one a day) and a few more blocks finished for the UFO.
I have nine finished of the thirty (or thirty-five) I need for this UFO, a lap size quilt top -- we'll see how many I finish.  Another nine would put me over the halfway mark!!

1. Sew, sew, sew!!

If you have questions, put them in the comments.  I'm checking everyday to see if answers are needed!
I'll post Part 4 in two weeks -- July 19 -- with the half blocks and cutting for the setting triangles.

Just for fun, if you are on Instagram, post your blocks as you finish them -- use the hashtag, #dresdenstarquilt and tag me @hueymary