Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Making of a Modern Lone Star, Part 1: design and setup

I've decided to try my hand at a lone star to enter into the Asheville Quilt Show this August.  It was a painful process of figuring out exactly what I wanted to do to make the quilt stand out and not be a typical traditional quilt.  After much anxiety and changing my mind a zillion times, I am making a "modern" lone star.  It's modern because 1) the color choices 2) the shape of the fabric that will surround the center lone star, and 3) the quilting design.

I dyed up a bunch of cotton sateen in fuchsia, turquoise, lime green, and orange/yellow.  The background is what I call "eggplant" color.  I have to thank Melody Johnson of Fibermania for helping me with the lime green.  I practically went bald pulling my hair out trying to get the color I wanted to no avail. I kept mixing the same colors (taking the same actions) thinking I'd get a different result.  That's the Albert Einstein definition of insanity, isn't it?    While the lime green I was getting was very pleasing, it wasn't as "crisp and clean" as I wanted.  I finally emailed Mel and she generously corrected the shades of yellow and blue dye powder I had been working with.   So after a little tweaking, whala!  Lime-a-licious, as Mel described it.

The colors, sitting on my eggplant background

I also got a copy of Jan Krentz' book, Lone Star Quilts and Beyond as well as the accompanying video.  She has a few easy tricks to help ensure the diamond points kiss each other just right.  It's all in the prep, which I will share with you as I go along on this project.

To start, Jan tricks up her ruler to help with consistent cutting of the strips.  She scores some blue painters tape with a box cutter or xacto knife, grabs several layers together, and sticks the tape against the line on the ruler equal to the strip width.  Since I need 2 1/4" strips, I placed my blue tape chunks against the 2 1/4" mark on several places along the ruler.  Because the tape lifts the ruler, you can butt your fabric up perfectly against the tape, which gives you consistent and straight strips every time!

  The tape is lined up across the width of the ruler at the 2 1/4" mark

I also took Jan's suggestion of 1) drawing out a grid layout and 2) using mirrors to mock up 1 complete diamond to audition different fabric placements.  Jay got me a box of  12" x 12" mirrors at Lowes uber cheap and taped them together.  To make your own magic mirror:

1) Lay the mirrors, face down on your work table, leaving about a 1/4" gap in between, with the top edges of the mirrors lined up.

2) Using a heavy duty tape, (Jay used black gorilla tape), connect the mirrors together with the tape at the top, bottom, and down the center seam between the tiles.

It's that simple!!

Mirrors taped together with black gorilla tape. Notice the small gap in between the mirror tiles.  The gap lets you hinge the mirrors.

My grid layout with all the info I need.
Each diamond requires 1 strip.  I needed 8 each of turquoise and orange/yellow, 13  lime green, and 20 pink.

 After you cut up tons of little individual diamonds in the fabrics of your choice, place them in the grid layout.   Then stand up your mirror and straddle the diamond mockup.  Whala!  You can see the entire star design with mirror magic.  You won't be using these little diamonds in your actual quilt, so be sure you have enough of the fabric to both make the mock up and cut all the strips you need.

Here is my mock up.  I'm showing you 2 pictures here.  Jay took 1 picture in focus and another one out of focus.  The out of focus picture lets me see the balance of color and value in my fabric choices. 

 Here is the "in focus" picture.  Notice how I can see about half a lone star by using the mirrors.  The star is very large, so Jay made the mirror trick with 4 mirror tiles.

I love how this "out of focus" picture lets me see the movement of the color and values.

Gotta go now and start sewing the strips together!


  1. Ohhhh... I'm loving this! WOW... okay, put my mind at ease - in the picture of the grid it appears that your diamonds are of varying sizes... from small out to larger. Is that true, or is it just the angle of the photo? Because I'm thinking I like the varying diamonds and might just have to get started on something like that...

  2. Yummy colors and great tutorial!

  3. Hey Karen,
    Great to know you are reading the blog.
    Sorry to disappoint you, but nope, not different sizes, just the angle of the photo. It does seem to flow though, with the orange/yellow running down the center of each diamond.

  4. Great post and can't wait to see the finished quilt.It looks beautiful!