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For Mel (and anyone else who is interested)

Alright, my friend Mel (who pretty much started this whole crazy quilting thing in the first place) asked me some questions about my paper-pieced star block. So, I thought I would answer her questions here, go into some detail on my whole process and show my progress- just in case anyone else was interested too. Feel free to not ready any farther or to just skim. This is going to go on for a while.

As with any bit of craftiness, there are many different ways to go about this. This just happens to be what works best for me. I am by no means an expert. This is only my third EPP (English Paper Piecing) project ever.

First, two years ago, I made a paper-pieced ball.
Paper Pieced Patchwork Ball
My original post about it is here. The two tutorials I linked to at the time are gone. Here is another.

Then about a year ago, I used some paper-pieced hexagons to decorate a turtle toy.
Turtle Toy
Original post here.
No tutorial really but here is a good basic paper-piecing one.

OK, so the whole point of this walk down memory lane is some advice. It's the same advice I give anyone starting a crafty venture and try to follow myself- start small. Try the technique out on something small first. You might discover that you hate EPP. That you would rather die a slow painful death than paper-piece. No problem. Better to discover that making a small toy than after you've spent days cutting out templates for a queen size quilt. I would recommend the paper-pieced ball. It's a small investment of time and materials and gives you a pretty good grasp of how the whole thing is supposed to work.

This time the whole adventure was sparked by a blog post- this blog post. Go ahead, go look at it- I'll wait. The final picture is the one I obsessed over. I'm sure the pattern has a real name. I have no idea what that might be. For now, I'm calling it stars and tumbling blocks. Ok, look at the page again. You'll notice on the top left is a link to a video. It's great. Watch it. It explains things better than I could with photographs and words. I'm mostly just going to tell you what I do differently. There's also a link to a quilt along Flickr group. There's a discussion and some inspiring photos.

OK, here I go. This is my little toolkit.
On the left is a Ziploc bag full of scraps I've gathered together to use for this quilt. On the right is my box. It's just a simple plastic pencil box I've had for years. The important thing is that Samuel can not open it- very important. Anna and Ellery can but are old enough to understand the repercussions if they do. Inside the box there is a stack of ready to go fabric pieces, a small pair of scissors, stripey paper-clips, a stack of cardstock templates, a pin cushion full of needles, thread, beeswax for coating the thread and a couple of bandaids. The bandaids are the only thing I can stand to use as a thimble. And I have to have been sewing for hours before I will break down and use one.

OK, my templates. In the video, she uses pre-cut plastic templates. Pretty snazzy idea. But, they are $20 dollars a set. She mentions she needs 3 sets for a queen size quilt. Yeah, not happening right now. The point of this whole project was to use what I had. But, I liked the idea of something a little sturdier than plain paper. I ended up finding this website which lets you custom print graph paper. I printed out several pages of 2 inch diamonds on some cardstock I had in the far reaches of the craft closet. I used my acrylic ruler and my rotary cutter with a blade that needed changing anyway to cut them out. Weird thing- it only printed like five diamonds on a page. I just used my ruler to extend the printed lines and got over 20 a page. Ta Da- a big stack of templates that I will be able to use multiple times.

So, since I am going to be reusing these templates, I am basting the fabric around them rather than running the stitches through the paper. Like so-
Template centered on fabric.
Folding over- pulling the fabric taut and finger-pressing- held in place with paperclip.
All edges folded over.
Hard to see, I know. But rather than running through the paper, there are just a couple of stitches through all the layers of fabric folded at the corners. So, I'm holding the fabric around the template rather than attaching it directly to it (if that makes any sense at all). Another plus side, I don't have to remove these basting stitches. The template pulls right out.
For my block, I need twelve diamonds- six in yellow, white, orange or any combo for the star and six blue for the blocks.

I'm sewing them together with the standard- right sides together, whipstitch through the fold of the fabric, trying not to catch the template.

Ok, try to bear with my attempt to use fancy graphics to show how I assemble the block.
I like to knot and break off the thread as little as possible. So, I sew the first two together, don't cut the thread, open them up and sew on the third. I think it's the same in the video. Do this for each half of the star.
Sew the two halves together. Don't cut the thread!
Now, starting in the middle of one, we're going to go all the way around the star attaching the blue block pieces. Sew half the first piece and the first half of the second piece. This is going to complete all four sides of one of the star pieces. Remove it's template to make sewing the second half of the second piece possible. Just keep going around until all six blue pieces are attached and you are back where you started.
Ta-Da again. One finished block. Hexagon shaped. Seven inches from side to side. Eight inches from point to point.
Ready to be attached to other blocks in the same manner (right sides together, whipstitch, flip open, remove any templates where all four sides are sewn, other right sides together, etc.)
And this is my progress so far. Six blocks in a week and a day. Not too shabby. My forward progress is about to stall, though. I need more yellow. So, while I am waiting for payday and a new month's crafty budget, I am going to work on ironing, cutting and maybe even basting blue scraps. Progress will be made but not the kind that you photograph and put up on the blog.

Mel, I hope this helps. And I hope I haven't bored everyone to death.


Melynna said…
Trina -- this helps tremendously. Somehow I didn't even see her little photo tutorial link. I love your sewing kit -- I just need some old pencil case equivalent. And your color selection made me doubt my color selection just a little bit. We'll see what happens.

And I have to know. How exactly did I start all this in the first place?
Jessica said…
awesome post! clear explanation, (i laughed about the bandaids), and beautiful start to a quilt. that is the same piecing sequence that I'm using with my current project. I like how you can piece all the outside diamonds in one pass, without starting and stopping too many times. thanks for the link to the printable templates, if you haven't already, can you add it to the notions thread on the QAL flickr page? someone else added a link to a shop that sells quilt patis templates (the plastic ones i use) online for only $16/pack. i think i'll order from there next time. I know it's expensive, but i've been using the same quilt patis for 4 years now, so they last. i'm glad you found something that works for you though.
good luck with your progress, if you ever want to swap fabric (i have yellow), lmk.
The Mommy said…
Found you thru a link FROM "LUQ" I am a hexie piecer... not ready to start the diamonds yet, but the little fabric balls as a side project might help when riding in the car. As an avid fabric stasher, and only using a little of each in my "almost charm quilt" that is my hexie project, I have some extra of EVERYTHING. If you are willing for a "fabric fairy" visit... please email me an address where fabric can arrive (PO box, work, whatever) to be included in your quilt.
Vanessa said…
Love your tutorial! I like the idea of having the diamond finished as a hexagon - - so much easier to sew on and then you have the added bonus of the baby block design as well.
I had paper pieces cut,but then purchased card stock - and cut out 80 diamonds - working so much better. Sharper points and more sturdier. Thanks! Plus saving myself 40-60 dollars over buying the patis is so worth it. Then I can put my money to purchasing more awesome fabrics!

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