Monday, September 21, 2015

Whirling Star Block

When Eileen of Eileen in Stitches put out a call for Star blocks in soothing blues and neutrals to help her make a quilt for her ill grandfather, I immediately said count me in for a 12" one.  Stars are, have been, and always will be, my favourite quilt block.

Yesterday afternoon I decided to make it.  I originally thought I'd make her one of my star blocks from Blue Ribbon Stars, as I had one strip-pieced centre left over.  I pulled out the little stack of leftovers, grabbed my Rubbermaid plastic box of blue scraps, and this fell onto my cutting table:

This little baggie contains triangle corners cut off and saved, because they are a decent size, from the second quilt I ever made, oh, back in 1996.  I admitted that I still had scraps from it last summer in this post where you can see that quilt.  I still love these blues, and the motifs on the fabric.

Here is the process of how I arrived at the block.  When I realized that my leftover centre was a little too big for a 12" block, I started doing the math to get 4 strips to make a 6" finished centre.  Easy.  1.5" each.  For whatever reason, when I looked at my strip centre, an 8.5" centre, I thought, too bad it couldn't just be cut up and rotated...wait...rail fence...what if I did four small 4-strip squares and rotated them like in a rail fence quilt?  (Was I in for a pleasant surprise once I started rotating them...)

More math.

6" finished centre, made up of 4 squares that each, in turn, are made up of 4 big do those strips have to be?  I used my fingers, lol, kind of, at first, then counted again in my head to be sure, then thought yep, just what I thought, but didn't trust my brain...

If 1.5" would give me the 6" finished square, half of that would give me the 3" finished square, so 3/4" finished strips.  Add 1/2" and you get 1 1/4" cut strips, 4 of which will make a 3.5" unfinished square!  Multiply a 3.5" unfinished square by 4 and you will need 14" long of a strip by 1.25" wide.  You follow?  I know, use the fingers, scrunch up your eyes and imagine it.  That is what helps me when my math brain does math at warp speed and the rest of my brain needs time to catch up and process the calculations.

Here's what you will need to do for one block!

1.  Cut 4 strips of fabric (I liked the gradation effect but you can do whatever you like) 1 1/4" wide by 14.5" long (nice to have that 1/2" wiggle room).

2.  Cut either 3 7/8" squares, four in the neutral background and four in blue, OR if you have leftover triangles, use them.  They need to be about 3 3/4 or 3 7/8 edges that make the right angle.

3.  Cut four 3 1/2" squares in neutral for the four corners.

1. Sew the four 14" long strips together to make the strata you see above.  I pressed all my seams to the darker fabric.  Cut the strata into four 3.5" squares.

2.  HST units - If you are working with 3 7/8" squares, draw a diagonal line either with your Hera marker as I did, love it, or a pencil or erasable marker.  Sew a scant 1/4" on either side of the line.  Cut apart, press to the dark and square to 3.5".  If you are using triangles, sew carefully along the diagonal, press and square to 3.5".  Make 8 neutral/blue HSTs.

I got so excited to see the whirling effect if I kept on rotating the centre blocks à la pinwheels instead of doing them in rail fence formation, that I forgot to take a picture of all 16 units, but I think you get the idea.  I sewed pairs together, working in columns for the pairs, chain piecing the entire block.  Then sew sets of pairs together to make the four quadrants you see above.  Press seams in opposing directions so the seams abut or nest together nicely to get those crisp inner corners.

Ta da! Whirling Star
I was über-happy to find I had a little bit of my New York City fabric left from my hobo bag I made with fabric bought from The City Quilter when I was in NYC for the NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English) conference in 2007.  Eileen lives in NYC.  I'm not sure about her grandpa, but the connection to her works regardless. :-)  Ah, whirling effect, NYC fabric, some days it's good to be Sandra! (and a bit of a scrap-a-holic/hoarder)

When I messaged a photo of the block to Julie of Pink Doxies, she wondered what it would look like on turn your head 45 degrees, and you will see!  I think it would be pretty cool!  I plan to make a quilt (shocker) with this block.

If you make one, send me a photo please!  Email address in the top right sidebar.

Oh!  Don't forget to go back one post to my anniversary giveaway for a pretty sweet giveaway! Two prizes!  Fabric moola and a pyramid pouch.  Here are the two side by side so you can see the subtle differences.  I must admit I prefer that red variegated thread. 

Linking up with Patchwork Times DWM, and a new one for me, and fairly new to QBL, Main Crush Monday at Cooking Up Quilts.  Love seeing what's on others' design walls.


  1. The block looks great, and what a generous and kind thing to make. Also very cook that it sparked you, so I look forward to seeing that quilt top come together! :)

  2. Great block Sandra. Love your fabric choices!

  3. I love that block and its whirly middle! Making blocks to help others is a great feeling. I'm glad you were able to help Eileen.

  4. Ahh quilty math how fun is that... and you only used your fingers. Lovely block!

  5. This is another great block. It could be great in patriotic colors. I love your baggie of precut triangles. I have that top print in green and red. I must not have seen it in blue. It looks like we have similar aged fabric stashes. I look forward to seeing your quilt.

  6. You're such a sweetie(which I already knew) to help Eileen. Great block :-)

  7. Love the rail fence/whirl in the center of the block. It does look pretty awesome on point.

  8. Thank you again Sandra - and this block turned out beautifully! A whole quilt of them on point would be very striking.

  9. Really like your use of architectural fabrics in your blue star block. Sandi

  10. Really like your use of architectural fabrics in your blue star block. Sandi

  11. Snore.... oh! Is the math lesson done? LOL. My sister, ever the teacher hehehe.

    This is a beautiful block (see? I'm learning your QBL language), and will be much appreciated by Eileen and her grandpa. That's a neat idea Eileen had, asking for help to make a quilt. Such brilliant talent all in one quilt.

    If I had a Pyramid Pouch, I'd use it for a lunch bag, in spite of it not having a handle (as you haven't intended it for this purpose!) The narrow base would hold my small water bottle straight for once, and not allow it to leak! The rest of the lunch could go on top :)

  12. What a perfect block to fit the brief, great use of the fabric and I'm sure it will be much appreciated.

  13. Lovely block Sandra and a great use of the leftover fabrics.

  14. I love the block and the fact that you made good use of your scraps.