“Feathered Star” Block — Not for wimps!

STEP #4: The 121-piece Feathered Star completed and on the pressing block!

Here it is — my first attempt at a Feathered Star Block.    Stunning, eh?

According to Marsha McCloskey (a quilting superstar), the Feathered Star block should only to attempted by “experienced quiltmakers with good piecing skills.”   It also helps if the quiltmaker  knows how to “cut and sew accurately”, “[is] not afraid of tiny pieces”, and “[is] not in a hurry.”   All excellent qualifications for this block since it has 121 pieces  (some as small as  1-inch in size) in a 15-inch block.  For those of you unfamiliar with quilting — that’s pretty darn scary!

Still, I have never been bothered by qualifications.

I used Marsha’s book Feathered Star Quilt Blocks I as my guide.  I followed her advice and made the “Radiant Star” block (also known as the “Chestnut Burr” block).  Marsha promised that this was the easiest of the ten Feathered Star blocks she features in her book.    I found that it wasn’t a tough block to make as long as I followed her process.  As an ex-engineer, you know I love process!

Following are some pictures of “the process” for making this block.   Since my carpal tunnel hand needed to move in many positions during the block’s construction, I found making this block to be strangely therapeutic…

Post-Production: I must say, the most difficult part of making this block was selecting the colors.   I choose solid colors because if I am going to put a lot of time into a block, I want people to see my work (you can hide lots of mistakes in patterned fabric, just so you know).   Because I was eager to begin, I defaulted to my favorite palette of  green, orange, and blue.

Step #1: Cutting out the pieces (1-1/2 inch half triangle blocks) -- the "burrs" of the star.

STEP 1 — Cutting out all the pieces of fabric. This is the most challenging (and boring) part of the process.  Many quilters lose it here because it is a practice in discipline and accuracy.  However, Marsha offered an ingenuous way to cut the required 32 1-1/2-inch triangle “burrs” for this block.    Actually, I got 52 “burrs” out of this method so now I can use them in the border of the quilt!  I will not bore you with the gory details of cutting out of the diamonds, triangles, squares, and center of the block using plexiglas rulers and sharper-than-hell rotary cutters.  All instructions are in the book and laid out in charts that one would normally reserved for government documentation (I liked that too).

STEP #2: The major units of the Feathered Star block.

STEP 2 — Piecing of the major units of the block. As you can tell by the picture on the right, there are four middle-side units (with the orange “kite” shapes and “burrs”), one center unit (with the green corners) and four corner units (with “burrs” only).  I assembled each unit one by one.   It has been my experience that when you need to be actuate in your sewing (and the smaller the pieces, the more you need to worry about accuracy), it is better to piece, press (not iron) and measure all units from their smallest configuration to their largest.   This way, I can make adjustments and corrections at the earliest possible stage of the project — thus saving me lots of embarrassment at the end of the project.  The middle-side units have the added challenge in that they have incomplete seams (called “Y-seams”) that need to be fitted into other seams — notice the floppy green ears.   These “Y-seams” can cause quilters lots of anxiety!  But, I am not afraid…

STEP #3: Assembling the block.

STEP #3:  Assembling the block. Attach the corner units to the appropriate middle-side units (or center unit) to create one of three rows.  Assemble all three rows to create a large nine-patch block.  Matching points (in this case all the corners of the orange pieces to all the corners of the smaller green pieces in the center) can drive a quilter to M&Ms (not like I need an excuse anyway)!  However, since I had the forethought to piece and measure carefully in the beginning, it all came together without too many noticeable misalignment.

STEP #4:  Block the block (see photo above). “Blocking” is the process of squaring off the block by pinning it to a sturdy surface (in this case a large ironing pad) in order to encourage  all the pieces lay equally flat in a square shape.  Once pinned down, I hit the whole thing with a hot blast of steam from a hot iron — how’s that for encouragement!    Its brutal, but necessary.

I estimate that it took me about four hours to complete this one block.  But I tend to work in stages since life has a bad habit of interrupting anything of an artistic nature.   “Accept it and move on, Anna!”

Now that  I have proven my piecing chops, I have to decide what to do with this block!  I could simply add a boring slab-o-border to it.    Or, I could add a really fancy pieced border to it (I have extra burrs after all)!  Or I can make more Feathered Star blocks and do something really spectacular!

What will I do?


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Art by Anna

I just want to make beautiful things!

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