Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Superstar Quilt from Practical Guide to Patchwork by Elizabeth Hartman

Remember when I wrote about this lovely little stack of fat quarters from the "October Skies" line by Verna Mosquera for Free Spirit and wouldn't tell you what I was making?

Well, now that it is November (how did THAT happen?), I've made a little progress on my "October Skies" quilt and wanted to share with you!

I was really inspired by the "Superstar" quilt on page 104 of Elizabeth Hartman's book, The Practical Guide to Patchwork, and when I saw that the quilt required 32 print fat quarters and 32 plain/solid fat quarters, I knew I had found a perfect match for the "October Skies" bundle.

(Full disclosure: there are only 30 fat quarters in the "October Skies" bundle, but I bought another half yard of this fabric and cut it into two fat quarters for the extra 2 fat quarters required)

(I'm using my cookbook stand to hold the book open in front of me while I sew. Why did I not think of this before? Duh!)

I love how this quilt is just the right balance of plain white background and busy, happy prints... just the right balance of traditional and modern: It's exactly what I was looking for for these fabrics.

The Queen-size version of this quilt has 64 blocks and over 1,600 pieces to cut.

That's right, over 1,600.

Now, before you run screaming you should probably know that most queen-size quilts have at least that many blocks and pieces in them, if not more, so really it's not too big a deal-i-o.

As you can see below I have 9 of my blocks done:

Having said that, it does help to keep yourself organized.

Elizabeth suggests using "organizer cards" to keep the fabrics together for your blocks once they are cut.

I must confess at this point that I had no idea what she meant by "organizer cards" but figured they must be like index cards.

I went looking for index cards and had a hard time finding any before it dawned on me that I could use (and re-use) some paper plates instead.

So, off to the dollar store I went: I bought one package of red plates for my "A" blocks and one package of yellow plates for my "B" blocks and went home feeling pretty satisfied with myself.

Now, you KNOW how much I hate to cut, so I do have to admit that the idea of cutting all these pieces out was a bit daunting to me.

Normally, I just "suffer" through the cutting part and get it all over and done with, but I am trying lots of new things with this quilt.

Instead of cutting all the pieces out at once, instead I cut for a while and I sew for a while.

I've found that this not only helps me to stay organized (have I mentioned there are 1,600 pieces to keep track of? MUCH easier when they are still in whole-fat-quarter-form!), but this keeps me from getting overwhelmed as well.

But: this quilt had a double-whammy.

And if there is ANYTHING I hate more than cutting, it is marking the backs of squares across the diagonal when I am sewing half-square triangles.

It. is. so. boring.

I am not a big "gadget" person but one gadget that I absolutely love and could not live without is the Angler 2.

The Angler 2 is this little piece of plastic that tapes right to your sewing machine with just regular scotch tape and eliminates the need for marking diagonal lines on the backs of your fabrics when you are sewing half-square triangles.

You keep the "diamond point" of each end of the square even with the line in the middle of the angler 2 and the diagonal lines on the side help you keep everything in line and even.

It takes a little getting-used-to, but once you get the hang of it it's sooooo easy and certainly saves you hours of time.

I've been using my Angler 2 for this project, but I've also used it on lots of others: any projects with flying geese, saw-tooth or eight-pointed stars, or half-square triangles.

has also got me pressing my seams open (something I never used to do) on this project.

So far, I quite like it!

It helps keep things super-neat and flat, but it does take a bit more time.

(Here we go: I have reached a whole new low in my blogging-narcissism and have actually photographed the BACK of one of my quilt blocks, but my GOD, I think those nice, neat seams are beautiful!)

I'll be working on this quilt here and there for the next few months, trying to get it done before and after work and on my days off.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: sewing can be so therapeutic!

It just feels good to work on this one.

I'd love to teach a class on it at the shop after the New Year so that will be a good motivator to keep chugging along, and now I'll have you all to report back to as well!

And speaking of things I've said before and will say again: Elizabeth's book is such a wonderful resource for knowledge and inspiration: I cannot praise it enough.

It's so well-written and thought-out (with barely, if any, errata to the instructions) and provides a lot of healthy sewing tips that I think will give people encouraging results and avoid the dreaded "bad sewing experience" that some people seem to have (remind me to re-write my "For the Beginner" post to include The Practical Guide to Patchwork as my go-to reference for beginning quilters!)

The Superstar quilt is in the intermediate section of the book: I suspect not because any one step is hard in and of itself, but because there are a lot of steps to making this block (which is why it looks so fabulous) and of course, there is the whole 1,600 pieces to cut and keep track of thing, and lots of seams to line up.

It goes without saying that you could always make this quilt in a size smaller than queen: the blocks are 12" square finished, which means that with a mere 25 blocks you could have yourself a good-sized throw of 60" square.

But, you know me...

I like big quilts and I cannot lie, so a queen-size this shall be.

If you'd like to make one, too, here's what you'll need:

1 October Skies fat quarter bundle (or 32 print fat quarters total)

1/2 yard of this fabric, cut into 2 fat quarters (only if supplementing the "October Skies" bundle, and of course you could always choose another print or even two if you liked those better...)

• 8 yards of 200 thread count BLEACHED muslin, cut into 32 fat quarters (it's what I am using for my solid white background, and can I just say this is a dream to work with!?! Don't let the word "muslin" fool ya! It's from Moda and they can't make anything that isn't fabulous, I swear! You can use any background fabric you like, though I suggest something with a bit of contrast to the prints...)

• A copy of The Practical Guide to Patchwork by Elizabeth Hartman (you'll find the instructions begin on page 104)

• 7/8 yard for binding (I'm going to wait until the quilt top is finished to see what I'd like to use for my binding)

• 9 yards total backing fabric, or if you have a 108" wide fabric in mind, you'd need 3 yards of that. Elizabeth does a really cool pieced backing in the book that I am going to have to try, don't ya know!

and lastly, I highly, highly, highly recommend:

The Angler 2 ( so you don't have to draw a jillion lines across the backs of your half-square triangles that eventually become the points of the stars)

I will post pictures periodically as I make more progress on this quilt.

In the meantime, wanted to share my findings and notes with you all, so thanks for reading!



Edited to add: Looks like Elizabeth has a new book coming out that I can look forward to as well: congratulations, lady!

1 comment:

Susan Barr said...

Truly beautiful, Rhea!!