Finishing Up Those Eight-Point Star Blocks (or Y-seams, the Sequel)

As promised, this week we will finish the Lemoyne Star block.  Right now, I’m putting this out here:  This is the way I finish my blocks.  As with most processes in quilting, there’s more than one way to do all the steps.  This way works for me, but it may not work for you.  And you know what?  That’s okay.  That’s why there’s more than one way to do things.  This isn’t possible with all arts and crafts, but quilting is one area which gives you lots of options.  Find the best way which works for you and use that method. 

In the first step, we will inset one of the triangles.  We’ll take the triangles which I cut out last week and mark them in a similar manner as we did the diamonds.  Before marking, be sure to hit the triangles with a shot of spray starch and a hot iron to help stabilize the bias.  All of the points of the triangle will need to be marked ¼-inch in from the sides.  We can do this the same way we did the 45-degree diamonds – either by dots or by a line.  I am using my Jinny Beyer Perfect Piecer for this process. 

Take the triangle and match its dots or the X with the ¼-inch mark on the diamond.  I pin them together at those points.  Now gently, because even though we’ve stabilized the edges, we’re still handling bias, pin the triangle to the diamond at the other end, too.  Now slowly sew from the end down to the ¼-inch end point.  The same rules apply for this process as for joining the diamonds – tie (or knot) off or reverse stitch at the beginning and ends of the seams and slow down even more about a half an inch from the end point so you don’t over shoot your target.  When that side is completed, join the other side of the triangle to the adjacent diamond in the same manner.  This is where it can get a little awkward with your fabric.  Double check everything before you sew so that you don’t get the other side caught up under your needle and sew it.  You want to be as accurate as you can because even though we’ve stabilized the bias as much as possible with the spray starch, bias is bias.  It can still be stretched. We’re limiting how much we handle it (as little as we can) and we’re doing our very best to be accurate, so we don’t have to rip out any stitches. 

When the other side is completed, press the seams open to reduce bulk. 

This is what it should look like from the front.  At this point, it should like nice and flat with no ripples.

The next step involves the squares in the corners.  Like the triangles, they need to be marked at the ¼-inch reference points.  I still use my Perfect Piecer for this step, but unlike the triangles where I’m more inclined to make dots at the ¼-inch spots, I find it better to draw a line ¼-inch of the way in from the sides of my squares.  With a square, I don’t have to worry about stretching the bias and a line is easier to see.  I do hit the squares with a shot of starch and a hot iron before marking, though. 

Technically, joining the square to one side of the triangle and one side of the diamond is not called a Y-seam.  It’s a partial seam I imagine it’s called this because the seams are joined at 90-degree angles (right angles), instead of the 45-degree angles which make up the Y-seams.  No matter what it’s called, the method of joining the squares to the triangle and diamond is exactly like sewing the triangle to the diamonds.  Match the intersecting points, pin, and sew slowly from one point to the other, remembering to knot or reverse stitch at the beginning and end to lock your stitches.  When complete, press. 

The square’s seams can either be pressed open or out towards the triangles and diamonds.  This is a personal preference.  Some quilters think open is easier to deal with as you’re matching starting and stopping points and others think pressing them towards the sides is easier.  The more you work with eight-pointed star blocks, you’ll quickly see which way works best for you.  With me it depends on the size of the quilt square.  The Lemoyne Star block I’m using for this blog is 12 ½-inches unfinished and with larger blocks, I prefer to press the squares’ seams to one side.  With smaller blocks I tend to press the seams open to reduce all the bulk I can.  Smaller squares have a lot of seams coming together in a small space and this can make the quilting process difficult.  The more I can reduce the bulk so my needle doesn’t break during the quilting process, the better. 

Repeat this process for the other square on the diamond unit.  Then repeat the entire procedure again for the other half of the diamond unit, but don’t inset the large triangles on the left and right sides. 

Instead, once the diamond units are complete to this point, sew the two halves together and press the seam open (again to reduce bulk).  Then insert the two left and right triangles with the same method we used above.

There is another method for joining the two units and let me explain why I don’t use that method.  You complete the two halves so they look like this:

And then you join them with a stop-and-pivot seam.

You have to be dead-on to match points so your block doesn’t look wonky.  And if the eight-pointed star block is small, you’re manipulating a lot of bulk under your needle in a small space.  My method works best for me, but I encourage you to try both methods to see which works best for you

Okay….now…what if you’ve tried these methods and you’re finding Y-seams and partial seams just really aren’t your thing?  Does that mean you can never make a lovely eight-pointed star block, ever?

Nope.

If you remember, back in the first blog when we began discussing Y-seams, I threw out a disclaimer about myself – for years, I never made a Y-seam when a half-square triangle would work perfectly fine.  The fact is, if your piecing is really precise, you can convert some eight-pointed star designs into half-square triangle blocks pretty easily.  And since you know how to figure the yardage on HST blocks, you can quickly estimate the fabric requirements to fit your method of construction.  Take a look at these two star blocks:

If you look at the original grid design of both of these, it’s easy to spot the Y-seams and partial seams. 

However, if you look closer, you also begin to see these can be converted into 16-patch blocks, since the diamond shapes can be bisected evenly in the grid and the dividing line will fall evenly with the other patches on the row:

Thus, they can be converted into HST blocks which look the same even if you didn’t take the time for the Y-seams and partial seams.  And as long as your piecing is good, no one will know the difference unless their nose is right against your quilt. 

Please note that not all star blocks can be converted into HST blocks.  You have to grid the blocks out to see if it will work.  But if it can be done, it’s a wonderful thing. And even if it can’t, sometimes you can fudge it enough so that you can have a block that looks similar to the eight-pointed block you want.

In the next blog or two I want to do over how to cut pieces with odd angles.  So far, we’ve dealt with squares and squares that be converted into triangles.  However, there is a whole group of patches that aren’t square by any stretch of the imagination.  And while templates are a wonderful tool to have to cut that group of patches out, sometimes rotary cutting is just as accurate and certainly faster. 

Until next week, Level Up Your Quilting,

Love and Stitches,

Sherri and Sam

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