Sunday, November 4, 2012

Paper Pieced Star Block Review

This Sunday, something a bit different, a block review!  Specifically a review of the Paper Pieced Star Block  from the book, Fat Quarterly Shape Workshop for Quilters.

OK.  A while back, I promised a review of this block.  I made several for a paper pieced hive in the 3 x 6 Bee group on Flickr.  This was the block I chose to make, and I had some difficulties with it.  

First, before making 6 blocks for other people, I like to make a tester block so I know what I am getting into.  My tester block came out alright.

It isn't perfect. As you can see, the block is a little tilted.  I probably had to cut it that way because the background fabric (the cream) didn't allow for trimming properly.  But, the center points actually look OK.  So I figured, I could easily make sure I trimmed a little more straightly and all would be well.

It wasn't that easy.  The next block I made, also couldn't be trimmed properly because the background fabric didn't reach all the way to one corner.  My points in the center also did not align properly, so I took the block completely apart and tried again.  Twice.

The block's construction seems straightforward.  You make the paper pieces, put them together, trim the block to size, then add the borders.  I am not sure what the deal was, but one of the pieces in the pattern gave me more trouble than others, piece #3, and because of it my trimming was limited.  At first I thought that maybe that pattern piece was increased differently when I printed the pattern out, but the other pieces on the same paper were the right size, so???   And, my points just weren't playing nicely.   Something about having five pieces coming together in a half, instead of the usual four, really threw things off.  So, I looked for tips from some of my favorite paper-piecers.

Thanks to some fabulous tips I read on Lily's Quilts, some I learned in a paper pieced class, and some of my own, I was able to finish the blocks and have them come out alright.  I want to share these tips with you.
The first tip is Lynne's from Lily's Quilts.  She suggests adding an additional amount of background fabric around your block by redrawing these lines on your foundation pieces:

As you can see, I added about 1/2 inch all the way around.  This STILL wasn't enough.  For this particular block, I think I would add at least 3/4 inch.

Once you get all the pieces of the star paper pieced and it is time to put them together, I found it very helpful to lay them face down, in numerical order before sewing the pieces together.  For some reason, even if I ordered them correctly, but had them face up, I would inevitably put two of the pieces together on the wrong sides.

Next a tip I picked up from Carol Doak, with an additional tip from Lynne.  When putting your seams from two pieces together, stick a pin vertically into the seam line on your foundation.

 If the pin, pierces the line on the underside piece, you know your seams will be in the right place.

Then place pins to hold your pieces together as you normally would.  If the pins you pierced the lines with, are still straight up and down, you know your pieces didn't shift, and your seams will be where they are supposed to be.

the one on the right is being pushed by the mat underneath, but look at how straight the center pin is!
Now the important part from Lynne - ***make sure you sew this seam from the center point OUT towards the sides of your block.***  No matter how well you pin, some shifting may still occur under the foot of your machine.  You want to make sure the center seams are sewn first to minimize the shifting in this area.  It is less important toward the edges of the block.

Another great tip from Lynne involves the last step - sewing the two halves of the block together - if you apply the same pinning method above, but make sure there is a vertical pin right in the center where your points are aligning.  Take your pinned pieces over to your machine and try to replace this vertical pin with the needle of your machine (putting the machine needle in the same hole you just removed your pin from) - sewing from the center of the block towards one side, then starting in the center again, sew to the opposite side.  I found it a little tricky to actually replace the pin, BUT I did think the results were much better trying this tip than if I just sewed the entire seam from one side of the block to the other.

There you have it.  A block much closer to the way it is supposed to look.

Do I recommend this block?

Well.......I did find it much more difficult than some of the other paper pieced stars I have tried in the past that had eight segments instead of the ten this one has.  This might not seem that important, but I think it added a degree of difficulty since the block wasn't in perfect proportions from the start.  Plus, look at all the adjustments I had to make to the pattern to get it to work nicely!  If it wasn't for Lynne's tips, these blocks would have been a disaster!

Thus, I don't think I would recommend it for any beginners.  I even think it will be quite a while before I try it again.

As for the book, Fat Quarterly Shape Workshop for Quilters, I'm not ready yet to write a full review of the book.  I've only tried two blocks and I doubt it would be a fair review if I stopped there.  So look for that book review later after I've had time to play some more.

I hope this was helpful!

Thanks for reading,



  1. I have this book but haven't tried anything from it yet, will be interested to read your review. You have much more patience than I do!

  2. Your blocks look great, Jen! Beautiful fabrics - I want to steal the top one... I only started foundation piecing about a year ago and haven't done too much but the more pieces that intersect in the same spot, the trickier for sure. I've had mostly successes but I did a HungerGames mocking jay that I found on a free pattern site and try as I might, I just couldn't get it perfect.

    Great review!


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