Friday, October 18, 2013

A Pound of Stars

Quilting Gallery's theme for this weekend's show and tell is "scrappy stars". You can see all of the quilts here and vote for your three favourite quilts! The star is such a lovely block and there are so many varieties and variations from simple to extraordinarily complex. I would guess that almost every quilter out there has at one time made a star block. I've made many quilts with star blocks so choosing which quilt to show was a difficult decision. But I settled on A Pound of Stars. It measures 68" x 85" and has been very well used over the years!

A Pound of Stars, circa early 1980s
This is one of my earliest quilts and it was started in the late 1970s and finished in the early 1980s. The idea for this quilt came from a picture of an antique quilt in Ladies Patchwork magazine. I was living in a very small, remote, northern community when I began this quilt and I had no access to quilters or quilt shops. I could order muslin and a few cotton prints from the Sears catalogue but I needed a good selection of calicos. In the back of the magazine there was an advertisement for scraps by the pound from a company in the US so promptly ordered a pound of scraps. I used them to make my quilt. It's also the source of the name of my quilt...A Pound of Stars! To the pound of scraps I added leftovers from garments I had made and cut up shirts. This star was made from the pound of scraps and a shirt.
As a beginner I had no idea that some blocks are more challenging than others so when I decided that the eight point star would be a really nice quilt to make I was undaunted. Back in the day magazines didn't provide much in the way of instruction and as a real beginner I had no idea how quilters made eight point stars. I had already had a learning experience when I discovered that the preferred seam allowance width is 1/4" and that it has to be added all around the patch, not just to one or two sides! I was familiar with garment construction and routinely sewed a 5/8" seam allowance which just added to my woes! So piecing this star presented a huge challenge. I knew how to baste fabric to paper because my Grandma used to make hexagons in this way and then appliqué them to large sheets to make comforter covers. I figured it would be a good way to make this quilt block; as long as the patches were larger that the paper my seam allowance problems would be solved. So I basted the fabrics to diamond shaped papers which I drew and cut out one at a time and then I stitched the diamonds together to make larger diamonds and the diamonds were stitched into stars.  I later learned that the name for this technique is English paper piecing. The entire quilt was English paper pieced, including the large squares, triangles and ice cream cone border!
Ice cream cone border

Ice cream cone border at the corner
The stripes in the centre of the following star were left over from a vest that I made for myself! Most of the other fabric came from the pound of scraps. I knew that if I swapped out some of the fabrics for a second fabric the star would get more interesting. Instead of using the bright turquoise all around I threw in some yellow and a blue print that had a little yellow, green and turquoise. I really liked the effect! It is a lesson that I still use today and that is plan to run out of a fabric so you have to add another. It will add interest, depth, richness and complexity to your quilt!
I loved the turquoise polka dots in the following block. They too came from the pound of scraps! Believe it or not I still have a little bit of that fabric left. The blue geranium print at the points was from a yard of fabric I bought when a travelling fabric shop finally came to town. I bought it with money that my brother sent me as a birthday gift. It was one of the first pieces of quilting cotton I ever bought and I still have some of it in my stash!

When I made my quilt I had no one to tell me that there were quilt making "rules" and that was a very good thing. It forced me to find creative ways of working and to look for solutions to the problems I encountered. Figuring out how I could make the blocks was only the beginning. At the end I had to ask myself "how the heck to I bind this thing?"; I'll tell you about that in another post.

What I want to tell you is rules are helpful but don't feel constrained by them. If you think it might be easier or more fun to do something differently, give it a go! If it doesn't work (as was the case when I didn't add seam allowances all the way around) you can just keep it to yourself or have a good laugh with friends! However, if the experiment works, how satisfying would that be and how great would it be able to share what you've discovered with your quilting friends? At the end of the day there are no quilt police so don't worry about doing things right or according to the rules. Just let go and have fun - you might teach yourself a thing or two! I've told you many times that I learn something with every quilt I make and the lesson this quilt teaches me is this: don't worry about rules, just do what makes you happy and you did it right!

I found happiness in the making of this quilt and to this day that's exactly how I feel every time I look at it. Tomorrow I'll show you some more of the stars. I leave you with a picture of the fall crocuses which started blooming yesterday! Such a pretty little treat in mid-October!

And finally, same tree but different bird! Yesterday was the Cooper's hawk and today it is a crown.

Until I post again, I hope you've been inspired to go out and break a few rules!


  1. Wonderful story, Karen, and a great quilt too! I am very interested to hear more about the binding and that beautiful scalloped border.

  2. I think this is my favourite post ever. I loved hearing how you taught yourself, much as I did with my favourite (first attempt) EPP quilt. I loved it that it was all made of scraps, that you scrounged together (do you use that word in Canada?) and that not only do you have special memories about your brothers gift fabric, but that you have squirreled away the remaining scraps.
    I have scraps that my dear friend Silve gave me and I will feel a bit sad when they are all gone (she says the same!).
    I am very much looking forward to hearing how you quilted and bound it.

  3. I'm in agreement reuse where ever and as often as possible. Great story.