Saturday, August 23, 2014

Sparkling Star Quilt - Part One - Block Tutorial

This is part one of two tutorials for our Sparkling Star Quilt.  I will be showing you how to construct the block and giving you tips as we go along. 

First some specifics about the finished quilt:  

Fabric Requirements:

For the colored portion of the HST's you will need a total of 2 yards, you can mix this up anyway you want.  You can use scraps or Fat Quarters like I did.   For Fat Quarters you will need 8.

Background color (I used White Kona Cotton, but you can use whatever you wish, could even be a print!) you will need 5 3/4 yards.
* * *
Block Components -  You will need:

240 Half Square Triangles (HST)
From 4" strips cut 120 pieces to 4" x 7.5"  (You can usually get 6 pieces from a 4 x 44" strip.  Check the width of your fabric and remember to cut off the selvage, you don't want that in your quilt.)

* * *

The blocks are 14.5 inches square and finish to 14" in the quilt.
The finished quilt size will be 82" wide by 98" high, 5 blocks across and 6 blocks down.  
Sashing is 2.5" wide which finishes in the quilt at 2".
Corner Stones are 2.5" square and finish in the quilt at 2" square.
Borders are 2.5"  or your option.

Here is what your finished quilt will look like:

Colors are your choice, you can go scrappy or if you want to whip this quilt out quickly... you can select several fat quarters, as I have done and use the HST stencil from Sunday Best Quiltworks to make up your HST's fast, easy and accurately.

For this quilt, I used their 3.5" HST stencil and a selection of fat quarters from the Technicolor line designed by Emily Herrick for Michael Miller.  These were purchased at a "Flash Sale" at .  You have to check out their website, great fabric selection, good prices and their sales are amazing!  

To use the stencil, place your focus fabric and your background fabric right sides together like so: 

Place your stencil on top and mark as instructed on the stencil.  I used a Marks-a-Lot with blue on one side and purple on the other. Marking the cutting lines in blue and the stitching lines in purple.  

Stitch as instructed on the stencil, press and then cut apart.  You will cut on all the solid lines, trimming the outside edges first, then cutting the squares apart, then the diagonals...all without moving any of it.  Here is a quick video from Sunday Best Quiltworks to show you how easy it is.  Took me 14 minutes from start to finish to have 18 PERFECT HST units completed and pressed.  No re-trimming necessary.

The 3.5" stencil makes 18 HST's and you will need 240 to complete the top as shown.  8 HST's for each completed block.

Tips for pressing:  Stack your HST's on your ironing board with just enough offset to see the stitching, as shown below, and give them a quick press to set all the seams.

Then, starting with the one closest to you, lift up the fabric and press open.  This is the time to make sure you are pressing properly. If you cannot open the seam completely with your iron, finger press it open first and then press, don't scrub.  You will have more accurate piecing by opening your pieces completely and pressing them properly.  Once it is pressed open, move it to the side and repeat the process for the remaining HST's.

In no time at all you will have a nice stack of HST's to work from. DO NOT TRIM OFF YOUR "EARS".  We will use these to match things up and will trim them later.  

Now we are going to construct our block. For each block you will need: 

8 HST's 
4 strips of background fabric measuring 4" x 7.5"

Starting with your HST's, place them in a stack side by side as shown below, make sure your fabric stacks look exactly as shown below and then take the right one and flip it over the left, you are ready to stitch using a 1/4" seam allowance.  If you have them lined up right, you will have a "tip" pointing right at both the top and the bottom of your piece (look at the picture of them going into the machine and you will see how they should look):

Okay, here is where you can really bust a move if you want to crank this quilt out quickly.  Chain piece your sets, until you have all of your HST's pieced together.  You can layout colors later, right now, just get your HST's chained.  Chain piecing lets you construct the same component over and over again, without breaking thread, you just feed the next one in and continue. Once you get the hang of this, you will look for ways to do this in all of your quilting.  Efficiency = Time Savings = More Quilting Time!

This is what will be hanging out of the back of your machine, lovely piles of chained HST's!  Now take your rotary cutter and carefully just cut them apart from each other.  Stack them and you are ready for the next step.

Is that about yummy or what?  Lookie how fast those went together!

Okay, now we are going to trim off ONLY those two little tips that are hanging off the seam that you just stitched, leave the other tips alone, you will need them later.  Stack them up and crank them out, using your rotary cutter, you will be done in minutes.

Take your stack to the iron and press open the seam as shown.  Oh, I know, it's freaking you out not to press one direction or the other. Just press this seam open, it will help eliminate bulk in this block and will help you seam correctly for your points later.  

When you flip it over to the right side it should look just like this below.  Yes, you should have a natural little offset on each side, this will be in the seam later on.  You did good!

Okay, now, just like before, do the same thing to all of your sets, press them all open and you'll have a nice stack just like this!  See how fast this goes?

Now if you are smart you will have a stack of your 4" x 7.5" strips ready and we will set them up next to our machine with a stack of our completed HST components as shown below:

Flip the right piece over top of the left piece, right sides together so that it looks like the photo below and then stitch along the right edge using a 1/4" seam allowance.  You will chain piece these until you have all of your HST components stitched to a strip. Remember the offset part on the HST set?  Now you will see it disappear in the seam.  As you stitch close to it, make sure that you stitch 1 thread to the right of that intersection for a perfect outcome.  See below:

Get that chain piecing going again, you can replicate the same thing over and over until you have them all pieced.  Then go to the next step and do the same.  

Press your seams to set them and then press away from your HST component toward the strip.  You will need four of these components for each would be the time to put your colors together the way you want them to be in your final block:

Lay your components out next to your sewing machine as shown below.  If you want to chain piece all your blocks, just lay out the next one right on top of this one and so forth until you have them all stacked, then just work off your stack as instructed below, till you reach the bottom.

Make sure you like your color arrangement.  Then flip the right side over the left side and stitch each one using a 1/4" seam along the right edge.  

Now we will trim off ONLY that little tip that is sticking out on the right side, the side that we have stitched.  Leave the other two in place.

Press to set your stitches and then press open with seams in opposite directions.  Your remaining tips should look like this if you did it right:

This will let us "nest" our seams when we put the two halves together.  So flip the top of the block onto the bottom half and nest your seams.  Use a pin through the intersection where your seams meet and then put it through the other seam that is nested behind it.  Keep this pin perpendicular and carefully place a pin to the right and the left of that perpendicular pin before you remove it.  See Below:

Now remove the perpendicular pin only and stitch your seam from end to end using a 1/4 inch seam allowance, making sure that when you get to the pinned part, you stitch just a thread or two to the right of the intersection.  That will give you a perfect point in the center.    Now trim off the two remaining tips and press your seam to set your stitches.  I personally like to press this seam open from the back rather than pressing it to one side, to eliminate bulk.  

Our block is finished and should measure 14.5" square.

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial.  Part two will be sashing and assembling our quilt top.

If you found this tutorial valuable, please leave a comment below, I would love to hear from you!  

Friday, August 15, 2014

UPDATE: NEW Quilter's GIVEAWAY! $35.00 Gift Certificate!

Quilter's Giveaway!  You know you love them!  Fat Quarter Shop!
To win the $35.00 Gift Certificate all you have to do is "Like" our facebook page at , leave a comment on the post for the drawing and SHARE with your friends!  As soon as we reach 700 "Likes" we will hold the drawing for the gift certificate.  The more you SHARE the faster we get there!  Nothing to purchase ever!  Good Luck! 

Be sure to also enter our Monthly Quilter's Tool Drawing.  This month we are featuring the HST Stencil by Sunday Best Quiltworks. If you purchase a HST Stencil from them, be sure to type SISTER in the seller instruction section when you purchase through PayPal, you will received a FREE Quilt Pattern along with your purchase!

Enjoy this Video Tutorial by Sunday Best Quiltworks, showing how to use the stencil.

To enter that drawing, you must locate the post of the video tutorial on our Facebook page, it's always at the first of the month, so look through the postings, scroll waaaaay back and you will find it. Leave a COMMENT and SHARE the post with your friends. Nothing to purchase ever!  The Winner will get to select the stencil size they would like to receive.  I will be posting about this tool later in the weekend.  I've been playing with it this morning and having a ball!  QUICK and EASY with PERFECT result!

* Update:  Facebook has been having some challenges the past month or so, seems many of our posts have dropped off into never never land.  So, I have reposted the drawing for the stencil.  If you entered before, please re-comment, or leave a post here on my blog and I will count them in the drawing.  Thank you for your patience, I'm sure Facebook will get things straightened out eventually.

Each month, new drawings, new giveaways!  I hope you will join us.  I will be posting a tutorial for a easy HST block this coming weekend, check back for that!  Quick, easy and pretty...and made with the HST stencil! 

Burning Man and The Los Angeles Garment District

Taken from the parking lot (yes that's right) at Home Depot in LA

This past weekend I flew to Los Angeles to visit my son and help him out with some costuming for the upcoming Burning Man festivities which will be held in the Black Rock Desert the end of August.  He also wanted some help picking out a sewing machine that would accommodate a pretty broad range of fabrics and threads.

It was sunset in Sacramento when boarded my plane and started the short trek to LA after working all day in the office.  Got to Andrew's house and pretty much hit the sack right away so we would be ready to make it a productive weekend.  Lot's on the agenda!  Number one on the list was a drive to North Hills to pick out a sewing machine.   Traffic wasn't too bad driving out.  It was the coming back part that was slow.  

We tried out several machines and he landed on the Bernina 530.  What a delightful machine.  Everything you need and then some without getting crazy.  He could hardly wait to get it home and get cracking.  Yes, that is my son sewing!  Last Christmas I bought him a Singer to start out on.  Learn to sew, see if you like it, you can always upgrade.  He did, He did and He did.  

I don't want to be a bragging mother but he has tackled things that I would not have dreamed of as someone learning to sew.  He doesn't know any different so he's just going along, asking questions or reading a book or watching a youtube tutorial...and he's got the hang of it.  Sewing on fur, silks, velvets, metallic knits, stretch fabrics, slippery name it, he is going for it.  I'm impressed with his results.

After a day of shopping for machines and getting some trial runs in on it, we planned our next morning at the Los Angeles Garment District to find some unusual fabrics for his costumes and basically just look around and have fun. (you know I'm scouting quilt fabric)

We are on our way!  I can see the high rises of downtown LA
and we are not far from the garment district now!  It's early, we have time to find a good parking spot and start scouting.  My suggestion is to park in one of the lots for $8.00 all day, rather than feed a meter at $4.00/hour.

This place will start to come alive shortly.  The stalls will open their doors and start putting out their fabrics.  Everything from Silks, bejewelled brocades, satins, the finest dressmaking materials, to fake furs, home dec fabrics, drapery fabrics, battings, notions, leathers, vinyls, you name it, it's all here.  They even have basic cotton quilting fabrics.  

Prices vary, bring cash if you want to haggle price, many of the shops will do that.  Most will take debit or credit cards.  There is little or no air conditioning so wear cool clothing, bring a bottle of water and a snack in your bag and VERY comfortable shoes, you will be doing a lot of walking.  The garment district stretches out over several blocks in all directions.

If you are looking for a glamorous shopping experience, this is not for you.  More like shopping stalls in Mexico or Thailand or Hong Kong.  There are people of all ethnicities, it's a melting pot of humanity and textiles from all over the world.   If shopping at the bazaar and digging for bargains floats your boat, then this is a must for you. 

I did find a shop that had a large selection of current quilt shop grade fabrics.  Michael Levine's located at 920 Maple Avenue, just off East 9th Street.  

Nice Selection of Kaffe Fassett and Philip Jacobs at good prices

Amy Butler

Moda French General

Designer vinyls

Every major designer was represented, along with an extensive selection of batiks and notions.

I did not find their notions to be any cheaper than any of the major chain outlets.  But the fabric was about $2-5/ yard cheaper.  And they have several sales tables that are real bargains!

We took a walk a couple blocks over to Ace Sewing Machine to get our notions.  They are located 214 East 8th Street.  Grab a basket when you walk in, you're gonna get something!

Serger thread, specialty thread, zippers, rulers, markers, special reinforcing paper for embroidery, pins, needles, chalk, it's all here. Great prices!

So after a couple hours of traipsing around the garment district, it was off to sew!

Several fittings on the mannequin.

Some parts from the auto store and home depot...

There will be more spray paint, some dremel work, more fittings and elastic, a belt creation, some lighting and of course the shoulder pads.  This should be fun, can't wait to see the photos.

After a weekend of much back and forth on the freeways of Los Angeles, on Sunday we enjoyed our day and took a walk around the lake at Echo Park.  The water lilies were beautiful.

Sadly it was time for me to get back on the plane and head for home, work tomorrow.  It was enjoyable to see my son, fun to spend the weekend puzzling out the costume and great fun for me watching him sew on his new Bernina!

Who knew you could jam so many people into one area?  Nice to be heading back to the forest!