Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Fabric... Welcome to the Patriotic Quilter where I like to share all things quilty as well as red, white, and blue! Please feel free to look around and enjoy yourself! I would love to hear from you.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Really Hard Blocks That Take a Long Time to Make

Hi Everyone,

I'm back with my final retreat project.  I finished the pinwheel quilt that I showed yesterday on Friday night of retreat--that left all day Saturday and until we packed and left on Sunday.  I pulled out the kit for the next project that I wanted to make.  This is the pattern, it is called Black Beauty and is a table runner pattern from Country Threads.

Do you see the block?  Recognize the pattern as a feathered star?  Maybe you even know the title of this post as the subscript in the name of Marsha McCloskey's book on feathered stars.  Yes, she perfectly described feathered stars as "really hard blocks that take a long time to make."

While assembling my "kit," I pulled the fabric that I wanted and opened the pattern to glance through it.  At the bottom I saw a few templates!  Yikes!  I was glad that I saw that, so I got out some template plastic and made both of them and put them back in the bag with the pattern.  At the retreat, I got out the pattern and started to read all the cutting directions.  It was going great until I read the words "freezer paper!"  I needed freezer paper and hadn't brought any!  No one else had any, either.  The location's coordinator even checked in the kitchen for me.  (I thought that was really thoughtful.)  I decided to press on and see if I could make do without.  I mean, people quilted long before they realized that they could use freezer paper to help them.  It turned out that they only wanted you to use the freezer paper to cut out the template pieces.  Since I had them made out of plastic, I could trace them, but I was actually able to rotary cut them--with a bit of help from the templates.  One was a diamond (those are really easy to rotary cut) and the other was a "kite" shape--and it wasn't too hard to cut, either.  Whew!

There were a lot of pieces, so I decided to just cut for one block to begin with.  I was at a retreat, and I had limited space, and I was already feeling a bit disorganized.  That proved to be a smart idea.  The only exceptions that I made was the center block.  I only needed one per block and I was going to use the same fabric for each block, so I went ahead and cut all three at once.  I also did that with the green diamonds as they were all from the same fabric, too.   Since there were so many pieces, I found myself making little tick marks after I cut each one!  I altered the cutting in one regard.  As I read through the pattern, I saw pieces cut square at a 7/8ths measurement and then cut in half diagonally.  I recognized that those would be sewn into HSTs.  When I do HSTs, I cut squares larger--rounding up to the next inch--and then draw the line, sew on both sides and then square them up to the perfect size.  So I cut them the little bit larger and did not cut them in half diagonally.

It turned out that making the HSTs was the first step.  There were 16 squares--yielding 32 HSTs, so that took a bit of time.  I really would appreciate the perfectly made HSTs, so spending the time doing that step was very beneficial.  I had never made a feathered star before, but the pattern has lots of photos and well-written directions, so things proceeded smoothly.  After the HSTs are made, they are combined with other bits into 4 different strip sets which were sewn onto the correct larger pieces.  When those steps are done, there are 9 pieces that go together to make the block (sort of like a nine patch, only the pieces aren't square).  I didn't take any pictures of the process--and I'm regretting that.  It is a complicated enough block that I didn't feel like cranking out another to take pictures of, either!  Sewing the last 9 pieces involves "Y" seams, too!  I got three of them sewn together (the "top row") and I was beginning the "bottom row" when I realized I made a mistake in the layout!  It was lunchtime, so we went for that and when I got back, I ripped it apart so I had the 9 pieces again.  I spent the afternoon getting it together correctly, and after about 5 total hours of work, I had my first block!

I then began the next one, hoping that it would go quicker since I "knew what I was doing."  Haha!  I preceeded along with the HSTs, the strip sets, and making the 9 pieces.  Once I had all 9 pieces, I realized something didn't look right.  Ugh!  The problem was one of the HST strip sets--I had the red triangles pointing wrong.  I had to rip four of the completed pieces all apart to get off the incorrect strip set, then I had to totally rip that apart and begin again.  I think at bed time on Saturday, I had it back to needing to sew the 9 pieces together.

Sunday morning, I managed to finish the second block!

There was still time, so I began the third block and it did go together smoothly, with no mistakes.

I completed it in time to pack up and come home.  A day or two later when I was rested up and had everything put away, I sewed the three blocks together and then did the border.

Now that I'm looking at this picture, I think I'm going to put another one of the "lighter" black squares into the border in the upper right area.  Those pieces really stand out!  This is a large table runner but should look great on my dining room table.  Did you notice?  It isn't red, white, and blue!!

I'm thinking that after all that work, it would be worthwhile to get it custom quilted, but I suppose I shall do it myself. 

Remember my "squirrel" project that I told you about yesterday?
I finished it last night!  I love this project!  It finished at 26.5"
Have a great day!


  1. A feathered star is on my bucket list - love that you pressed on with your project and it is just lovely. I hate doing all those odd cuts too.

  2. JoAnne, your feathered stars are beautiful! I would have given up as soon as I saw "Y" seam! Maybe someday I will try them. :) Love your little valentine quilt! This one is tempting me!

  3. Love the honesty in the title of this post. :-)
    What a beautiful table runner you ended up with! If it took 5 hours to make one block, it was a good thing that you were surrounded by supportive quilters who could encourage you to keep going.

  4. A feathered star quilt has been on my mental list for a long time. I even have Marsha McCloskey's book. But I keep procrastinating because of the "hard" and "long" parts. I'm now thinking one block for the center of a medallion quilt.

  5. Your blocks are gorgeous! Worth every minute! I need to gather together my courage and try making one too :0)

  6. Wow...those are gorgeous and totally worth the time and effort it took to make them, I'm sure! Good job. I've enjoyed reading about all your retreat projects!

  7. I'm pretty sure a Feathered Star quilt is on my list of "Never Make" quilts - bravo for you on your project. And I cannot believe you already finished your little heart quilt - so cute!

  8. Beautiful feathered stars ! I have always loved those blocks but doubt I will ever attempt them and your Hearts quilt is Adorable ! Where do you find the time to sew ??? I am very envious ;-)

  9. It's just beautiful!!!! Funny coincidence. Our guild here holds classes, and as members, we get really cut rate class fees as the guild picks up most of the cost. I am sure you have heard of Carolyn McCormick. If not, she's the genius who invented the Add-A-Quarter and Add-An-Eighth rulers for paper piecing. Turns out she lives right down the road from here! We're taking her paper piecing feathered star class from her book, A Flock Of Feathered Stars! Wish you were here to take it with us!!! Wish me luck. It's in March.

  10. Beautiful feathered stars.. .just gorgeous! Congratulations! Love this table runner... and I know you will enjoy it for a long, long time!

    Your little heart quilt is adorable... you've been busy sewing up a storm!

  11. Prettiest feathered star I've ever seen. Oh the patience you must possess!

    I love the Valentine quilt...I saw it on Instagram.

    Hope you have a great weekend JoAnne.

  12. Those feathered star blocks may be really hard to make but they are really dazzling. Blocks to be very, very satisfied with!

  13. Well if these blocks didn't test your patience I don't know what would! And yes... as your pictures were coming up I thought to myself, "it's not red, white, and blue!" It's beautiful!!!!

    The heart quilt is adorable... you have been sewing up a storm girl!!!

  14. Your feathered stars are absolutely gorgeous! FANTASTIC! And your heart quilt is wonderful...LOVE that squirrel!

  15. Five hours for one block! Wow! They look great though. What's the finished size? It's hard to tell from the pictures.