Tag Archives: quilt block

Barn Stars Block of the Month Part 1
6.16.2021

We’ve made it! After all the prep and much anticipation, the first box of Barn Stars, this 9 month Block of the Month, is officially here and moving along. 

For me, Barn Stars is a great way to flex beyond my usual design aesthetics and work with some more classic color tones. While my creative eye is generally pulled toward big bold palettes, it is exciting to have such a distinctively unique design to work with. 

The Barn Stars Block of the Month pattern is exclusive to the select group who subscribed in Spring of this year. I’m delighted to have the opportunity to sew along with such an incredible and diverse group of sewists! Our subscribers total several hundred and include all levels of quilters. Personally, I’ve been sewing and quilting for most of my life, so I’m always excited when something new comes across my cutting table. 

Because of the exclusivity of this pattern, please consider this post as more of a broad, casual discussion, rather than a comprehensive sew-along tutorial. I’m a member of the subscribing group just as everyone else, so it is an opportunity to share the excitement.

For those sewing along with this Block of the Month, or any of our others, don’t forget to share and tag us on social media, including Facebook and Instagram! We love to see what everyone is making. #CTBOM, #BarnStarsBOM #ConnectingThreads, and #TogetherWeQuilt are great hashtags to use and follow to join in on the fun!

Top left: Barn Stars Part 1 fabric list sheet with width of fabric cuts lined up below it. Bottom Left: the bobbin housing with presser plate removed as a reminder to prep the machine before we begin. Right: all pieces cut and piled by color atop a cutting mat, with a rotary cutter and cutting ruler with white handle and leftover fabrics stacked near them.

To begin these stunning blue and green blocks, I first ironed each of my pieces. I’m generally a fan of prewashing, but refrain when working with precuts or anything less than a full yard. Fortunately, the Connecting Threads Luxe fabrics use such a beautiful tight weave and high quality fibers, so I know I can trust my bias edges not to distort and for shrinkage to be minimal. These fabrics are so crisp and luxurious! I’m always so excited when I get to work with a new collection. 

At the start of any project, this is also my time to go over my machine and make sure everything is set and ready for the hours of work ahead of it. I dutifully clean out my bobbin casing, pre-wind a few bobbins, change my needle, and affix my foot. I sew with a Janome M7 Continental, so I prefer to piece with my AcufFeed HP2 foot. It is a gentle walking foot with an incredibly accurate quarter inch guide. If I were using my Babylock Molly, I would just use my standard presser foot. 

Initially, I had planned to use a neutral shade of Essential Thread, but I had a spool of Caramel handy and thought it would work well with all the yellow undertones of these particular blocks. When it comes to piecing, I’m generally not overly precious about the thread colors I use. 

Once I had everything ironed smooth, I set to work cutting. Personally, I prefer to cut WOF (width of fabric) strips all at once, then circle back and begin subcutting. My “cutting station” is an old kitchen table I purchased during my first year of undergrad that I set up on bed risers so I don’t destroy my back. One of my favorite things about quilting, and sewing in general, is that there are no requirements that suggest specific tools or resources are needed. Every individual is able to design a workspace that works best for each need. It is really quite uniquely magical. 

Once I finished subcutting, I went to work on the flying geese units. It has been a while since I made flying geese one at a time, so it was a nice change of pace. 

Top Left: Marking diagonal stitch guides on tan fabric with a transparent pink ruler and marking pencil. Bottom Left: A half assembled flying geese block with unsewn fabric set atop, waiting to be stitched. Right: Flying geese block being sewn, with the pencil marking as a guide.

Because this pattern is so point specific, I spent extra time marking lines, pressing between steps, and ensuring each piece lined up as precisely as I was able. Once I finished each of the units, I used my Bloc Loc ruler to trim off any wonky bits and make sure my seam allowance was properly aligned so as not to lose the point in future assembly. 

Top Left: Stitched flying geese units in a pile, one side newly trimmed and waiting waiting to be pressed open. Bottom Left: Open flying geese units, pressure pressed by the hera marker end of a Point 2 Point turner. Upper Right: A mini iron pressing flying geese units atop a wool pressing mat. Lower Right: Pressed flying geese units being trimmed with the aid of a Bloc Loc ruler and a rotary cutter.

Connecting the flying geese units to the green corner and center pieces went smoothly. Through thoughtful pressing, I was able to perfectly nest my seams and make sure each of the components lined up as they should. Pressing between each step ensured crisp assembly. These little blocks were so darn cute, but also a bit of a tease when I realized they were just the centers of a much larger assembly process!

Left: Using a transparent pink ruler and Sewline fabric pencil, diagonal lines are drawn as sewing guides on tan fabric. Upper Right: Mid-sewing of the half square triangle blocks, using the marked pencil line as guide. Lower Right: Chain pieced square fabrics, stitched with parallel lines each 1/4 inch away from the marked pencil line.

To ensure precise sewing for my half square triangle blocks, I used my Sewline pencil and the 2.5”x8” ruler I keep at my sewing table as a guide. I marked my guide line from corner to corner, and stitched a quarter inch away from each. Back at my cutting table, I sliced the assembled squares in half, pressed the seam allowance toward the dark blue fabric, and cleaned them up with my 4.5”x4.5” Bloc Loc ruler

Top Left: Using a transparent ruler as a guide atop a grid-lined cutting mat, the parallel stitched squares are cut in half with the rotary cutter. Bottom Left: Newly cut half square triangles sit in a pile next to a rotary cutter. Right: Pressed open half square triangles are trimmed using a 4.5″ square Bloc Loc ruler and rotary cutter atop a cutting mat.

Then, the fun step! I’ve never used Tri-Recs rulers before and I was excited to figure out the nuances of these angular units. While Cora’s Quilts was kind enough to include a link to a tutorial within the pattern instructions, I opted for my usual style of just winging it. 

Left: Two template-cut triangle fabrics are sewn together. Top Right: Sewn triangle fabrics are pressed open using the hera marker side of a Point 2 Point Turner. Bottom Right: Sewn triangle units are pressed more firmly with a mini iron and crisped with a tailors clapper.

It took a few tries to get the placement correct and I ripped out a few seams from less than successful initial attempts, but once I figured out the nuances, it was smooth sailing. I was sure to press between assembling the left and right sides to help guide proper seam alignment and reduce wobble when overlapping fabrics at the tip.

To keep pressed seams extra crisp, I was sure to also utilize my handy tailor’s clapper. The clapper itself was made by my father several years ago and is my not-so-secret weapon for creating the smoothest seams.

Left: Marking stitch lines using a transparent ruler and fabric pencil for elongated flying geese units. Upper Right: Stitching across the marked lines of each elongated flying geese unit. Bottom Right: Blue fabric pencil lines drawn diagonally across green fabric to serve as sewing guides.

To save a bit of time from going back and forth between my sewing desk and my pressing/cutting table, I worked on both the template units and elongated flying geese units simultaneously. Through chain piecing, I continued right after the final template unit and swooped right into the first side of the elongated flying geese

Left: Pressed half-complete elongated flying geese and template triangle units. Upper Right: half-sewn elongated flying geese unit with marked stitch line clearly shown in blue. Bottom Right: Pressing half assembled flying geese units with a mini iron atop a wool pressing mat. Previously ironed units are stacked and pressed under a wooden tailor’s clapper and pressed template triangle units are stacked nearby.

To keep the elongated flying geese nice and tidy, I marked from each corner to 2.5” (the width of each piece) from the opposite edge. This gave me nice angular lines to follow along with my stitches. I pressed up and away from the point, to keep the bulk managed as best I could. 

Left: Mid-stitching of the 2nd half of the template triangle units. Upper Right: Pressing the completed template triangle units, while pressed units sit in a pile below a tailor’s clapper. Bottom Right: Pressed elongated flying geese units sit in a pile below pressed template triangle units stacked under a tailor’s clapper.

Once these were finished, I sewed the HST units to each side of the template triangle units, pressed away from the center, and attached them atop each elongated flying geese unit.

Upper Left: half square triangle units are sewn to template triangle units. Bottom Left: assembled half square tirangle/template triangle units are pressed and sitting in a pile. Right: a template triangle unit next to a half square triangle unit, waiting to be sewn.

When attaching these two pieces together, I made sure to pay close attention to the points where the two green triangles would meet. Should anything be sewn askew- this is one of the points where it would really be noticeable! 

Left: HST/Triangle/HST blocks being lined up above an elongated flying geese unit. Upper Right: Assembled HST/Triangle/Elongated flying geese block being ironed. Bottom Right: Assembled and pressed HST/Triangle/Elongated flying geese block.

Once these units were combined, I attached half to each side of the smaller star blocks that I’d previously assembled, and the other half were sandwiched between the large tan corner squares. Each of these I pressed carefully with close attention on each of the points to make sure they didn’t become buried in bulk. 

Left: sewing assembly of flying geese units onto a green square of fabric. Upper Right: sewing assembly of flying geese unit onto light green fabric, the top fabric is upturned to show placement. Bottom Right: chain piecing of flying geese units onto light green fabric squares.

Once pressed, I was on the home stretch! I took a bit extra time assembling these and made sure to nest my pressed seams and pinned them in place.

Upper Right: pinning assembly of previously stitched units. Lower right: up-close view of pinned nested seams Right: full view of block assembly with pins holding the fabrics in place.

Moving from the nested seams, I continued pinning along the length of the block to ensure nothing would shift during assembly and my corners would stay lined up where they needed to be. 

Right: stitch assembly of previously pinned block components. Upper Right: Pressing the fully assembled block with a mini iron and tailor’s clapper. Bottom right: the final stitch of the final block

After two long seams on each block, they were finished!! One final press and careful seam guiding later, they were ready for pictures. 

It was a nice day outside, so I took the blocks to my fenced garden for some quick photos before jumping back into the house to start on my next projects!

Left: chain piecing assembly of the final assembly steps Right: pressing the completed block with a mini iron and tailor’s clapper.

Even with the block measurements listed before I began, it was still a delight to see how enormous these first few blocks became! I always love that moment, after sitting so focused on each little step, to finally step back and see what each carefully placed cut and seam came together. 

Upper Left: a single completed block of blues, green, and cream, creating an intricate starburst pattern, pinned to a garden fence. Bottom Left: a small corgi peers between the boards of a garden fence, next to the finished quilt block. Upper Right: two finished quilt blocks are pinned side-by-side to a garden fence. Bottom Right: Final pressing of the completed quilt block with a mini iron.

The best thing about the Block-of-the-Month subscription is that all sewists are free to go at their own paces. Because of a slight shipping hiccup, I personally got my box several weeks after most subscribers got theirs. While this did set met back a bit, it wasn’t as though I were missing a hard-set deadline. The wonderful sense of accomplishment gained by stepping back and admiring a finished piece, knowing “I made this” is the joy in itself.

The pattern does include fabric and instructions for blocks 14 and 15, which will be added to slowly along the course of this project. I’ve decided to hold off until next month before adding these two blocks to my task list!

With the first block behind me a shipping hiccups resolved, I’m ready and ecstatic to tackle the next ones.

Now I have a crib size quilt top to cut and piece for a friend, a few pairs of Fernway Culottes to cut and assemble, and then onward to block number two!