Friday, March 23, 2018

How to Piece a 6 Pointed Star from Scraps

Six Pointed Star Hexie

My last post 60 Degree Shapes talked about experimenting with these blocks, and many of you said this was something on your own bucket lists. It's opened the door to another world of quilts to make, and I thought you might want to join me.

This is a picture heavy post for those of you who need to know before continuing, but you'll know all my tricks from cutting to problem shooting by the end. Shall we do this?

*This tutorial assumes basic sewing techniques of a intermediate sewist.

14.5" Unfinished Block

First things first--the super simplified math.This is a 6 pointed star. We know a complete circle is 360 degrees. 360 divided by 6 points equals 60 degrees. 60 degrees is both the angle of the cut pieces AND the angle of the star points that will come together to form the center.

Do not confuse this with a Lone Star or Star of Bethlehem which has 8 points. 8-pointed stars use pieces cut at 45 degrees. Think of 45 degrees as in a common HST. 8 points each at 45 degrees equals 360. Ta-dah! It's simple to do the math, right?

This star is based on a 60 degree angle. 

A Tutorial Using Scraps

I had an assortment of batik scraps left from another project.  I stacked no more than 4 identical pieces at a time, and trimmed the straight side for an exact edge. I needed 1.25" strips.

Line up the ruler on the 1.25" line. Your cut should be exactly at the point of the marking on your ruler. Do not go an extra few threads over or under. Those few threads multiplied by all the pieces will affect the precision of the block. You will use this same point on the ruler to cut all the strips.

I could get one more partial strip from this odd shape. 

Explaining the Angle Lines on a Standard Ruler 

Look closely at the different angle lines on your ruler. There is a 45 degree line in both black and white. There is another with both a 60 and 30 degree indicated by a white bubble. The smallest angle from the white line at the lower right corner to the bottom of the ruler is 30. The angle that forms from the white 60 degree line to the left side of the ruler is 60. Remember that the 60 degree angle is larger than half of a 90. It all sounds so simple, but don't laugh. When you flip your ruler around to make a cut, it can all become confusing.

Cutting the 1.25" Strips

The first cut is to establish the 60 degree angle. You may have to turn your ruler to find the angle. To ensure a straight cut, I lined my fabric strip up with a straight line on my cutting mat, and lined up my ruler with the line. 

If you have any brand of 60 degree ruler available to use, you may find making this initial cut easier than using the markings on a straight edge ruler. Use your straight edge ruler to line up exactly with your fabric edge, and brace your 60 degree ruler on it edge to edge. Cut.

I chose a straight ruler for the tutorial as most quilters own one. Be accurate and consistent in cutting whichever method you choose.

Use a standard straight ruler to follow the angle, and cut the pieces. Cut each piece the same length as the width of the strips. These strips were 1.25" so the length was also. 

Lining up straight edge of my strip and the angled edge provides the best chance for accuracy.

I made 4 cuts from the longer strips.

With the odd shape of this piece, I got only 1.

I laid out pieces to mock up once whole star point. I had the choice to make it larger or smaller by adding or subtracting rows.

Note: This is a scrap project making a 4 x 4 unit block, but there are short cuts if you are using yardage. You may imagine it as a stretched 16 patch which is easy to piece quickly with strip sewing. Sew strips together with seams pressed in one direction. Establish a 60 degree angle at one end of the strip, and cut 1.25" strips at that angle. These strips can be turned in either direction depending on the color needed, and the seams will also nest. 

The Most Important Picture

This picture shows the size of the points (at the top)when I lay two pieces together to sew. The pieces are not mirror images so there is no exact match up, but you can train yourself to see those points. You can also test several pair until one lines up exactly after sewing, and use that piece for a model beside your machine. Just gauge each pair with your model as you get ready to sew. Soon you will automatically notice if it needs a small adjustment without the model.

Chain Piecing

I start with the top point of the diamond and the one below and slightly right to it, and sew the pair. Then the next top pair to its left, and so on. This is chain piecing, and maintains order. Roll these seams open. Repeat the same thing with the bottom pairs working from the farthest to nearest pairs.

Roll Instead of Pressing

In the book, Small Pieces, Spectacular Quilts, the authors M.E. Kinch and Biz Storms talk about using a small wooden roller. I have had some distortion using my iron in the past, and this sounded easier that jumping up, moving my pieces, maintaining order, etc. I gave it a try, and it's positively brilliant! Rolling the seam works better than heat for me, and no more burned fingers with little pieces!

Now chain piece the bottom pair to the top pair. Line up and look for the same points as the first round.

You may notice that I do not pin these tiny pieces. Pins seem to cause more distortion for me than they help at this stage. I pinch firmly with my fingers instead here.

Line Up Before Sewing

If you are starting the first piece, use a small piece of fabric to sew through first using the idea of a Leader/Ender. I line the notch of the pieces up with the needle. Then my eyes move to the front of the foot. I only want to see the fabric feeding through at the correct width at that point--not the needle. Stitch slowly and steadily, and use a stiletto, ripper, etc. to make sure the fabric feeds in straight to the very end without slipping to either side.

You are aiming for your seam to end in exactly the center of the next notch. Sew several stitches without fabric before starting the next pair to lock off your thread.

Clip the seams between the chain piecing. Roll seams. Check for even edges.

Oops! Can you see it?
This one is off enough to be a problem.

Can you see how the notch is out of alignment and the seam is off?

Better! Now we will use those inside points to match up the strips.

Right sides together, match points. The points will line up exactly, and check with the other edge as well. Now I pin as the strips have many seam intersections to match up. I use the thinnest pins I have available, and pin well. I remove the pins before I come to them as I sew to reduce distortion.

Roll seams.

Sew together. Roll seams. 
Press with an iron and starch to block.

Checking the points: Some are good, some are close, some are meh, but this is the first tiny block. Forgive yourself, I say. Keep going.

One beautiful thing about 60 degree diamonds is half a diamond is a 60 degree triangle. Folded back on itself you may check for exactness. This one is slightly off, but they will be checked again and trimmed before the final assembly.

The first diamond was done, and I was happy. I mocked up the rest of a design, and spent a few hours sewing.

2 diamonds done.
Keep things in order.

I thought adding little points at each star point made it look more like a feathered star, and I still needed background fabric to finish. Off to the studio!

Adding Star Tips

Can you guess what size the black strips were to border the star, and add the points? Yes! 1.25" just like the rest of the pieces. 

Sewing Order

Add the black border and star points to each star section. 

Double check the accuracy of each star point, and square/trim as necessary using either your straight edge markings or 60 degree triangle ruler. Do not skip this step, and do not be afraid to trim. 

Sew 3 star point sections together. Press without steam. Match halves, and pin. Start at the center point, and sew toward the outside edge stopping 1/4" from the edge. Leave threads long. Repeat for other side.

Inset Half Diamond Pieces

I dug through my ruler collection to see if I had an easy way to do the setting pieces for a hexagon, and my Creative Grids hexagon ruler fit exactly. I was tired, and easy was too hard to pass up. 

Note: I could also have used a folded piece of fabric, and cut on the 60 degree line using my straight ruler. This angle is 120 degrees or think of it as two 60's. 

There are Y-seams here, but don't have to be.

I chose to do Y-seams.
You don't have to.
You've worked hard!

Cut and add your 12 setting pieces to each outside angle of the star points before assembling the star. There will be a seam, but who's looking? It will be hidden in the black fabric.

Note: I continued to use a high contrast thread so you could see my seams. I leave all my threads long when making a block with so many intersections. If I have a small hole in the center or point where things don't line up so well, I can make minor adjustments with my long threads. A hole is easily closed by drawing up the opposing threads, and tying together.

Happy Making to you!

Come on, Doxie girls.
Let's go sew.

Linking up with~
Can I Get a Whoop Whoop?
Sew Can She
Quilt Fabrication
Freemotion By the River
Esther's WOW
Sew Fresh Quilts
Off the Wall Fridays
Silly Mama WIP
Finished or Not Friday
Crazy Mom Quilts


Frédérique - Quilting Patchwork Appliqué said...

Beautiful star block, thanks for the tutorial!

grammajudyb said...

WOW! Thanks for the very detailed tutorial. Well done, understandable. I may not have the intestinal fortitude to try it soon, but I am going to PIN it of a day in the future.

Susan said...

Wow! Fantastic block and tutorial - thank you for the scrap inspiration!

Kate said...

Gorgeous block! I'd never have the patience to stick it out and make a whole one.

audrey said...

Awesome tutorial. You make it look almost possible! lol I absolutely do not have time to attempt this in the next week or two, but I'm bookmarking it for a little later. This is something {not the larger block, but the smaller units} that I am just going to have to dive into and make a stab at. Thanks for all your work putting this together. I really needed this nudge.:)

Stitchin At Home said...

great block and tutorial Julie! I usually do y-seams myself too.

KaHolly said...

Wow! A very ambitious and extremely well done tutorial!

Angie in SoCal said...

Love these process posts. A very striking hexie. Would make a fabulous round pillow.

Glenda said...

Julie that is one very very good tutorial, on one beautiful block, my goodness you have patience. Thanks for showing every step of the way, photo's are so spot on so I was able to understand every step, this is one very temping block to make LOL I would have run a mile if some one had said lets make one? but now I think I would try it. Thanks again for sharing so much of your time. Cheers Glenda Down Under.

PaintedThread said...

Beautiful. I love this!

Anja @ Anja Quilts said...

I ♥ this. Thanks for the detailed tutorial. It's a beautiful star.

Mary Huey said...

Good tutorial -- but Marti Michell's Deluxe Trimmer tool would be a good add-on here to trim the points of the diamonds before stitching -- really streamlines the process and boosts the accuracy. Between being a versatile tool and affordable, no one should be without it!

Barb Neiwert said...

What a great tutorial - thanks!