Tuesday, May 2, 2023

Star Upon Stars 4: 3 Tools that Rule

Third Block in Star Upon Stars

Let me say this block was a trial to see if I liked the two color stars. I did! I think it helped tie the red, white, and blue theme together well, and will definitely employ the technique again.

This quilt is not fast paced for me. I have a greenhouse full of seedlings and plants, and am quilting for customers several days a week. Forgive me my gaps in posts. I have a sewing space at home that affords me the convenience of popping in to work a few minutes here and there, and that time adds up to a new block every few weeks now. It will get better next month when the garden fills up, and I'm not so busy. Now let's talk tools.

Tools & Techniques

First and most importantly, Wash Your Fabric! Fabric becomes distorted during the manufacturing process, and as it's wound on the bolt. Most fabric stores cut their yardage 'straight' off the bolt so it's almost always a little off grain. You want your cut strips to be on grain as much as possible so they don't distort. When you wash and dry the fabric, you return it to the natural straight of grain. You also allow any shrinkage to happen at this point, and loose dye molecules to wash out now. Imagine spending this kind of time only to have the quilt bleed later! Oh, my gosh! I use Dawn Blue Dish Washing Detergent if I think the fabrics are at high risk of bleeding or an unscented laundry detergent.

I wash my fabric, and lightly dry it in the dryer. I remove and fold it without ironing, and it goes into my stash. Before I use it, I press and starch it. Spray the back of the fabric with starch, and turn to the front to press to reduce the possibility of scorching. 

 Starch or an Equivalent

My go-to is heavy duty starch. I prefer whatever brand I can get that is unscented. I am sensitive to scent so will stock up when I find what I like. It's worth mentioning that starch is a food, and is best used when you are going to wash your quilt after making. If stored without washing, you are at bigger risk from moths that love to eat it. Still, I love aerosol starch. 

Creative Grids Rulers: 3 Basics

Creative Grids Rulers are hard to beat. They make dozens of specialty rulers which make producing any number of difficult patterns possible, but their basic rulers are some of my favorite tools. 

I use the 6.5 x 24.5" ruler, (not shown) CGR24, for cutting all my starched strips individually. I can look up and down the ruler line making sure the whole edge is exact. You cannot do that when the fabric is folded. Keep your rotary cutter at 90 degree square edge against the side of the ruler, and not at an angle. If you measure exactly "on the line" then do that every time. If you measure just to the right or left of the ruler line, fine, just do that every time. You need to be consistent whatever your technique in using your tools. 

My second important basic ruler is this little gem. It's a powerhouse! Whodathunkit? I use this more than I ever imagined. Because it's so small, it's easy to keep beside the machine to quickly gauge my sewn strips, star strips, and seams. I use one constantly if I'm sewing for precision. It's easier to check as you sew than wait until the end and backtrack your mistake. 

The third basic ruler is the only ruler you truly ever need, and is the Creative Grids 12.5" square. You are making 12.5" unfinished blocks in Star Upon Stars, and checking your overall accuracy as well as squaring at the end are crucial. 


I collected my rulers over time as I needed them, and don't recommend anyone buy anything they don't need. You can always use a different brand or cut a piece of template plastic for a shape. Don't be tempted to lay out a lot of money for something you may use only for one quilt. These previous three rulers are very standard, in my opinion, and I've used them for many dozens of projects. They were worth the investment.

Next Time

Next time I will walk you through parts of making the small stars, and how I check for accuracy as I go. There is another fabulous ruler I've used, and I'll introduce that too. See you then!

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


Linda Swanekamp said...

I can only imagine if I tried to sew those stars, yikes. I try to be as accurate as possible in cutting and sewing, but somehow I am off bits that measure big when doing very fine fitting patchwork. I was able to get a few Quilters Select straight rulers and they don't slip at all even after years. I think my Stripology ruler is my all times used the most ruler. Wish I could have a big garden to raise vegetables!

Nancy said...

This is a great block! I love the colors, especially, and that striped fabric does a great job of creating movement. I cannot imagine how attentive you have to be with every step of cutting and sewing these stars, and there are so many pieces and seams, so many times it could all go wrong. Good for you to get it all right!
I'll keep an eye out for Creative Grids rulers and give one a try.