Some Updated Thoughts on Sloppy Stars

I’ve done a lot of different kinds of quilts, but there are some quilt patterns I am drawn back to doing, maybe doing in new ways, maybe refining. I always love quilts with motion, like Kaleidoscope (click on Kaleidoscope in Categories to see instructions and variations) and another is Sloppy Stars.

 

It’s the hot, humid steamy season in Pensacola. It’s like winter in Alaska, it’s a good time to stay inside with your sewing machine and fabric except for when you need groceries, or to meet up with friends, or go to church, or even exercise – those are the exceptions. When it is steamy, it’s a great time to quilt.

 

One reason I love Sloppy Stars is that it makes such economical use of fabrics. You cut fat quarters – actually I cut mine to something like 18 inches square now – and slice, and then seam – no excess, except at the end when you trim as little as you have to on the outside, to make the blocks a uniform size. My goal is 15″ finished squares and now I am pretty good at getting them. My favorite part is picking out the fabrics. I don’t know exactly how they will look in the end, but that is part of the fun – getting fabrics that will jive and thrive, with a little bit of drama ๐Ÿ™‚

The original instructions for Sloppy Stars are here; these are just refinements I have come up with after doing so many of them. My stars have gotten bigger and bigger; it’s a dramatic cut and I like the efficiency of using a 15″ block. I have two different patterns I use, one is fairly straight, and one is very slanted and wonky. I find I am more drawn to the wonky one, guess I am a wonky one, too. These are drafted on 16″ graph paper I find in books at JoAnne Fabrics.

 

Because I ran short on freezer paper, I only had enough for two identical copies instead of four. I should’ve gone to the store for freezer paper – cutting 25 layers of fabric was more than my cutter could handle. I got some truly jaggy edges. If you are going for the 50 blocks (25 light 25 dark), do two cuts for each set; 12/13 is enough of a challenge for your rotary cutter. I will never try to cut 25 layers again. Never.

00StarsSameDifferent

I never string piece this block. I have learned from BAD experiences! I keep all the pieces flat; and the two sets (I do one with dark background light stars and one with light background dark stars) are kept separate. I always do one block at a time; each block takes about 12 minutes, I take it slow. It goes together fast, so it pays to go slow so you don’t mix up pieces. Keep away from cats! If a cat jumps up and upsets your pieces, you are out of luck! (Or maybe you will have a highly original quilt ๐Ÿ™‚ ย )

 

Although the instructions tell you which pieces to put together, I have my own way of doing it (LOL, I no longer follow my own instructions!) and I tend to start with the bottom three pieces in the photo below – star point to the left piece, and then to the right. I then go to the two pieces in the upper right sector, sewing from the straight line to the outer edge.

00StarsAssembly

 

By taking your time and lining things up (it comes easier with practice) you get the interior lines to match up and end up with a fairly straight line. The fairly straight line makes joining the components easier when you sew the major three blocks together.00StarsFirstSection

 

Next, I do the central three blocks, and when I finish them, I line up the star point seams and sew the small sector to the larger central sector. With any luck at all, you’ll have a nice join and the appearance of a straight line. Then you sew the last three pieces (upper left sector) together, focusing on making the interior seam the straight seam.

 

Because of the way these stars are cut, you are only very rarely ever going to get the last piece to line up at both parts of the center star, so focus on lining up the seam so that you get one straight seam with the join giving you a straight line at the upper right.

00StarsAddLastSection

 

Things don’t always work out. Don’t worry. Wonky blocks are part of the charm of this technique. Two straight lines is great; three straight lines are awesome but all in all – are you having fun? No one is going to nit-pick this quilt, there are too many distractions! (Below is a wonky block I will truly use, but I wanted to show you that no matter how hard I try to be perfect, I am a miserable failure who sometimes doesn’t even manage two straight lines. I am a miserable failure who is having a lot of fun putting these stars together, though ๐Ÿ™‚

00Stars2Straight2WonkyLines

 

This star comes pretty close to the goal – Fourย pretty good straight lines, almost five. That fifth just isn’t ever going to happen.

00Star3StraightLines

 

But, even though they are all cut the same way, and I do my best to stitch them the same way, for no apparent reason, now and then one star goes wild. The truth is, no one but you will ever know, but this is why I save my leftover strips after I have trimmed the stars down before slicing.

00WonkyStarRepair

 

I even took this one apart and restitched it, but no matter what I did, it was dangerously out of whack. I added a one inch strip to the wackiest side, and was able to even everything up within reason, but this will never be a star that gives me satisfaction. It may, however, be one of those blocks that gives a quilt “character.” (When the blocks are sewn together, that addition will disappear . . . you just don’t see it in the wildness of all the diferent patterns and shapes.)

 

There are a lot of different ways to quilt these stars. In the African series, I used more angular quilting, and I liked it, it looked good with the African fabrics. In some of these quilts, I use a spiral out of the center block, and then elongated squiggles from the central star piece radiating out to the star tips. The background I stipple.

Umm Al Tawaman (Mother of Twins)

Even as I write, my niece is in labor, about to give birth to TWINS. We are all wild and dancing for joy! I reminded her she will now have to use the dual form in Arabic, and she groaned. Such are the jokes we tell one another in my family.

Baby girl’s quilt is called Desert Rose:

00TwinGirlQuilt

Baby boy’s is called Interconnected:

00TwinBoyQuilt

Each quilt is about 54″ square

A Quilt for Naomi

My sweet little grand-daughter has arrived! Her quilt is ready!

When my husband saw it, he said, with an undeniable note of dismay in his voice “But that doesn’t look like a baby quilt!”

It doesn’t, if you think baby quilts have to look babyish. If you think they have to be all pink, or blue, or pastel yellow or green, or have little animals on them.

Babies love black and white. They love the patterns; black and white can mesmerize a baby. I wanted the quilt to be big enough and sophisticated enough that she could crawl on it as a baby and take it with her to college. I am happy with this quilt!

00NaomisQuilt

Kuwait Map Quilt

00KuwaitQuilt

There is a new Kuwait baby quickly approaching his birth date, and a baby for which a very special quilt needed to be made. His parents were instrumental in our having had such a good time in Kuwait. We were introduced by one of my Qatari friends who had spent time in Kuwait, and she was right – we were meant to be friends.

The first night we met, we started talking and never stopped. We explored restaurants together, strolled through the souks, and heard all kinds of stories of old Kuwait. Our time with them was – and is – priceless.

I like for a baby quilt to have legs – useful as a crawl pad, useful as a cover to sleep under, washable, washable, washable and in the end, able to be hung on the wall of an otherwish anonymous college dorm room. This one will do the trick, plus having lots and lots of patterns to keep a baby fascinated as he learns how to focus his eyes ๐Ÿ™‚

I’d forgotten how much work a map quilt can be in the preparation stages. This relatively small quilt (60in x 60 inches until I washed it and it shrank about 2 inches in both directions; I’ve never had that happen before! It was noticeable!) has 900 pieces, and those 900 pieces had to include sea pieces, Kuwait pieces and Saudi and Iraq desert pieces (pale, pale, pale) Of course, there had to be a lot of variety.

00TrayKuwaitColors

00TrayOfSeaColors

Seeking, planning and cutting took longer than assembly. The land portions are quilted in the ditch, a grid, and the Arabian Gulf segments have waves quilted in thin silver strands, so they glint like the sunlight on the Arabian Sea.

There are many many blocks made from fabric finds from the Kuwait souks, also a few with Kuwait memories. In Arabic, there are “sun” words and “moon words” so I found a sun and a moon. A family nearby us had a private zoo where, from time to time, a large cat would escape and put my village in a panic until it was recovered . . . so there is a large cat. In the end, this was one of the most fun and rewarding quilts I have made.

00SpecialBlocks

Friendship Star

When we lived in Doha the first time, Desert Storm started, and a lot of Americans left, I didn’t know anyone, and I had a lot of quilting time. I decided I would make a lot of half-square triangles so I would always be able to whip up a baby quilt in a very short time, and I spent days cutting the fabrics, stitching the half-square triangles, ironing, sorting . . .

I made a couple baby blankets, but I still have a lot of half square triangles left. We moved to Kuwait, and I put a quilt together that I could hand quilt at our Tuesday Stitch Group, where I always liked to have hand work to do when I didn’t have a binding that needed stitching on or something.

For all those weeks . . . I didn’t get a lot done. Finally, I machine quilted in the white squares, and then I did some practicing for some new techniques in the star centers. It doesn’t make a lot of sense thematically, but the quilt is done, I’m giving it away and I don’t have to think about it any more.

Finished! Out! Out!

Razan’s Stars

My sweet friend was having a baby and would not tell me if it was a boy or a girl! I had some lushious saturated fuschias I was dying to use, but it’s a good thing I went with a neutral-gender palate – she had a healthy baby boy!

This is the baby quilt I made for Razan:

Razan's Stars

Star Quilt for Razan’s Baby

The squares are eight inch squares, the stars a little irregular, but stitched on tightly so that the quilt can be washed. ๐Ÿ™‚ Finished size 52 1/2″ square.

Rag Quilts

At my first meeting with my new group, the leader demonstrated Rag Quilts. I’ve always loved the look, and I’ve heard explanations of how to do them, but none of the explanations made it sound so easy as these ones.

I was excited. I went to the fabric shop and bought fabrics, as it turned out barely enough for a little 40″ x 40″ quilt. These rag quilts are easy, but fabric intensive.

I did not use batting, because this is Florida, and the quilts are flannel, but I think I may do a couple with batting for colder climates – it makes great use of leftover batting.

On these, I cut the squares 8.5 inches, used seams about 1″, and bought the special scissors our group leader recommended, Fons and Porter scissors specially designed for rag quilts. They are short blades, and very, very sharp. They make cutting the seams a breeze.

On the first quilt, the jungle quilt, I attached stars, again, very easy, as it also served as quilting, front, back and star. I echo quilted again once outside the star, and quilting is done, Wooo HOOOO!

Seams are to the front, and when all the pieces are together, you sew twice around the border, 1.25 inches in, so when you cut, you get a nice shaggy border. You clip all the inner seams, and then wash, which makes it go all fuzzy.

You don’t have to use flannel. I have seen this done with hopsack weave cloth, with equally satisfactory results.

On the second quilt, a blue and white flannel, instead of applying stars, I varied block pieces, 1 strip 5″ x 8.5″, two pieces 5″ x 5″. I pieced the two 5×5’x, then attached them to the 5″ x 8.5″, so that the final blocks were 8.5 inches. I rotated blocks so they would all be different, sewed the blocks together and cut the seams and edges. I don’t think it took half a day, start to finish, and I love the results.

These are SO easy! I’ve always loved the soft look the raggy edges give these quilts. I don’t imagine they last as long as quilts from more closely woven fabrics, but they have a great soft look.

Update: These quilts are so much fun I just did one more: