Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Star block tutorial and template - without dog's ears!

I enjoyed making the star block in the last post so much (using my super duper new Go! Baby) that I wanted to share it with you as a tutorial. There are lots of fantastic tutorials for quilting blocks all over the Internet, but the reason why I wanted to add my own tutorial to the collection is because I wrote to the kind people at Accuquilt and asked if I might reproduce the template pieces for you that I used that have the dog's ears* already cut away. And they said yes. Hurrah! So even if you don't have your own Go! Baby or this particular die for it to make the cutting out part speedy, you can still experience how jolly lovely it is to work with shapes that have the dog's ears cut off, as all the templates by Accuquilt do (one of their major selling points for me). I've re-drawn the templates and they're available here and at the end of this post to be downloaded as a PDF. Just make sure that you set your printer to 'no page scaling' and '100%' so that they print out at just the right size. You can check that your printer hasn't been misbehaving by measuring the sides of the square which should equal 2.5". Let's begin.

I've laid out all the pieces that you'll need here. The four outer corners are made from the small squares and the rest of the shapes are using the triangle shape rotated to different angles. It might show up better in this (not to scale) diagram here, as it's important to have each triangle positioned in just the right place.

You'll need (in your chosen colours):

4 squares
8 of the pink triangles
16 of the green triangles

You'll see that in theory, the eight triangles that make up the centre of the star could in fact be made from the four squares. However, I prefer to keep these as triangles because the seam lines created by sewing the triangles together make it appear more star-like...without them it just looks like you've plonked a square in the middle.

Once you've cut out your pieces, place them just like mine, as above. It's really important that you pay attention to which way the triangle is rotated. If one of them is the wrong way, even though they might fit together, your finished star won't look right.

The pieces you'll be working with are quite small and you may find that when you begin sewing, the little pieces are initially sucked down into the feed dogs of the machine. If this is a problem that keeps foxing you and piecing is something you do a lot of, then a footplate with a smaller hole is an excellent investment. On the right you can see the regular footplate: the space where the needle goes down through it is a horizontal oblong to allow you to do zigzag stitches and use different needle positions. The plate I've inserted on the left has just a pinhole for the needle to go through - this eliminates any possibility of your fabric being sucked into the machine, making it perfect for piecing. This isn't by any means essential - I just thought you might be interested in it. Anyway, on to some sewing.

Work in vertical rows and take one pair of triangles at a time. Place the first pair of triangles face-to-face and sew along the long edge using a 1/4" seam allowance. You'll find that you can sew point-to-point because of the corner of the triangle having been snipped off already for you, which makes things much easier.

I tend to turn out and press each piece with an iron as I go...or you can wait until you have a row of four and then press.

Continue to work in this way until you have pieced together all the half-square triangles. Once this is done you can work in vertical rows to sew the newly formed squares together. Refer back to the diagram above to make sure that each pair of triangles is correctly positioned.

The central diagonal lines seen here all point toward the centre - make sure yours do too.

Pay attention when pressing the seams. When it comes to sewing the strips together it will give a nicer finish if you don't have too much bulk in any one place, so I tend to flatten the two strip's seam allowances in opposite directions, so just the central seam line is aligned.

Hurrah! Once all four strips have been sewn together, your block is finished. You can then move on to changing the look of the block by introducing more prints and colours.

I've gone on to sew a 2" border around my block and have now incorporated it into something that I'm making today, but the blocks could be sewn together to make a larger quilt, or perhaps just a generously sized coaster (I have a tutorial for this here).

Once again, you can find my templates for this pattern to download as a PDF here. Thank you so much to Accuquilt for allowing me to re-create them. As in the previous post, if you want to look into purchasing one of their Go! Baby machines, then go here and if you'd like to download the 22 free quilt patterns that Accuquilt have currently made available for download then can visit here).

Florence x

* For those not familiar with the sewing term dog's ears, they're the little excess bits of fabric that need cutting off, as seen here.

Ps. A few people have written to me asking whether the Go! Baby is available in the UK - it certainly is and a quick Google search returns several places that stock both the machine and the dies to go with it. The machine, I think, retails at around £140 and the cutting mats and dies are extra on top of that. However, it's worth doing a price comparison as I'm wondering whether this may be one item that is actually cheaper to import from the US. Accuquilt themselves do offer international delivery as an option. I hope that helps and sorry not to reply individually.

Pps. I don't profess to be a quilting expert - piecing is still something that's relatively new to me. I tend to sew in a way that makes sense and seems logical to myself and while I feel confident that following this tutorial will produce good results, if you are a more proficient quilter then I'm completely happy for you to suggest better ways of doing things in the comments. It's always nice to learn an easier way and I won't be at all offended. x


  1. I do believe it might be cheaper to import - it runs about the same $140 USD, so I'm pretty sure that would make it much cheaper to import to the UK (140 pounds means about $250 to me - pretty significant!)

  2. (as opposed to .uk) has the machine at less than half price at the moment. I ran it through my cart and got the machine, the basic piecing die (the same one you used) and a cutting mat for £100, which includes shipping from the US and import duty etc. A snip at the price! Now I just need to persuade my husband that this will indeed be a worthwhile purchase!

  3. The star block looks great, I've done patchwork for years and sewing triangles back together can be tricky, love that the dog ears are used as your guide. I've always used a rotary cutter and rules for my fabric cutting, must check out this new gadget thanks


Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a message - it's always really lovely to hear from people.

I now tend to reply within the comments section, so please do check back if you've asked a question or wish to chat.

Florence x

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