I really didn’t think Lone Star Quilt Block Construction would take two blogs…yet here we are…
There are no doubts that the Lone Star is a challenging block to construct. And if you stick with the traditional look of the block, there are Y-seams to navigate. Y-seams aren’t too difficult, but they do require precision. Traditional paper piecing can help with that. I think I would go the paper piecing route, too, if I wanted to make a Lone Star block smaller than 15-inches square. There’s just too many points and seam matching to contend with and paper piecing takes the guess work out of it.
To begin with, many Lone Star paper pieced patterns will look similar to this:
This star has larger diamonds than our pieced star and will finish at 24-inches square. The steps for paper piecing a Lone Star are no different from paper piecing anything else (Go here: https://sherriquiltsalot.com/2019/08/28/paper-piecing-what-you-need-and-how-to-do-it/) However since there are more pieces to this larger star version, I’d like to throw out a few helpful hints.
- Don’t skimp on the fabric. Be sure to give yourself lots of wiggle room. There is nothing more upsetting than thinking you’ve got enough fabric for all the seam allowances and then find out you don’t. Yes, paper piecing takes more fabric than traditional fabric, but your trading fabric for precision. And the Lone Star block requires precision.
- Take your time. Don’t rush the process. Your patience will be rewarded with a perfectly pieced star.
- I would label the paper pieces with which fabric goes on each square. This will help you avoid confusion.
- If you’re printing the pattern on your printer, be sure it’s sized correctly.
- DON’T FORGET TO MARK THE DOTS AT THE POINTS OF THE DIAMONDS AND TRIANGLES, ¼-INCH AWAY FROM THE EDGE OF THE FABRIC. Some paper piecing patterns will have the dots; some won’t. If your pattern doesn’t have them, be sure to make them.
Just as with the pieced Lone Star, make your diamonds first. Then sew two diamonds together so you end up with four sets of two diamonds each. Be sure to stop and start at the dots. Sew two sets together to get one half of the Lone Star and then sew the other two sets together for the other half of the Lone Star. Make the dots ¼-inch away from the fabric edge on the corner of your squares which insert on the top left and right side and the bottom left and right side. Repeat the same process for the tips of the triangles which will be inserted.
Follow the same instructions from the pieced Lone Star in last week’s blog to insert the squares and triangles for the paper pieced one. As a matter of fact, you may prefer to make these bigger (as we did in the traditionally pieced block) and then trim the block down once all the stitching is completed.
A couple of final ideas before we leave the construction phase of the Lone Star and move back into the history of the block. There are two variations I want to show you which I think are stunning and will eventually find their way into something I’ll make in the future. The first one is this:
This block is called the Lone Star Starburst. I love the simplicity of this block and the way the background drifts back into the star to break up the block.
This Lone Star:
Is completely appliqued (what an easy-peasy way to make this block!). A large Lone Star is pieced with solid fabric diamonds. Then the material which would have been the different colored diamonds in a traditional Lone Star are laid out and stitched down the middle so the “float” across the surface of the Star. They are then quilted around so the block gives off the traditional vibes of a Lone Star, but employs an easier, more fun (at least in my opinion) technique.
Okay, now let’s return to the checkered history of the Lone Star block. The Lone Star began its life as the Mathematical Star and along with the Irish Chain, Mariner’s Compass, Orange Peel, and Job’s Troubles is one of the oldest known quilt blocks. It is an immigrant to our country, with its birth obstetrically in England. It boarded a boat with early American settlers and found its way to the East Coast where it became very popular in Delaware, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. And by the late nineteenth century, it had found its way to the Northern Plains via missionaries and was introduced to Native Americans, primarily the Lakota or Sioux people.
Here’s where things get a bit sticky. I am not Native American, so I am not trying to speak for them. I am, however, reporting what history now tells us – the good and the bad. The missionary surge on the Northern Plains did more than spread the doctrine of the Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, and Catholics. The missionary movement also sought to “civilize” the Native Americans. Boarding schools, both on the reservations and off, sprung up and Native Americans were encouraged to send their children (if you want to read that as “forced” in some cases, that word would apply) to them. Over and over the skills and lifestyles of the East Coast missionaries were pushed on the Native Americans to the point many of Lakota customs and much of their culture were pushed underground.
One of the activities which was offered to the Native American women and girls was sewing. And depending on who you talk to about it, it had varying degrees of success. Many of the women who were young girls in the boarding schools have unfavorable views of the lessons and their teachers. The classes were strict and demanding. The older women, who learned through sewing bees and group classes tended to enjoy learning and the social exchange. As a matter of fact, these groups were so successful, the religious denominations had to “up their game” with their sewing circles so they could retain members – heaven forbid anyone in the Episcopal group be tempted to join the Catholic sewing circle because the Catholic sewing circle had more to offer.
Long story short, many of the sewing circle members of all faiths learned to quilt. And the pattern they embraced was the Lone Star, which they re-named The Morning Star. The Morning Star is the last and brightest star on the eastern horizon before dawn. It is believed the Morning Star represents the way the spirits come to Earth and serves as a link between the living and those who have passed. The affinity for this pattern probably falls back on traditional Native American artwork as seen in items such as this:
The star is clearly seen in these and was probably pretty natural for them to embrace a quilt block which so closely resembled artwork they were already very familiar with. Many of these early Lakota Morning Star Quilts were made from black, red, yellow, and white fabrics, representing the four directions. This was traditional. As time went on and more quilts were made, it became clear those early quilters preferred solid-colored fabrics. These quilts grew to be symbols of honor among the Lakota people. They were draped across the shoulders of warriors and hunters when they returned from battle or a successful hunt, or at the start of their Hanbleceya – Vision Quest. They were also presented at funerals to honor loved ones on their final journey.
Nowadays the Morning Star Quilts may have the center re-designed to incorporate additional cultural symbols such as an eagle, headdress, or buffalo skull. They may also be made of sateen or cotton-polyester fabric instead of quilting cotton. Yet they remain one of the most valued gifts of the Lakota people. They are still draped over the shoulders of recipients to symbolize protection on their journey through life. They are used in banners for graduations and school functions. They are used as altar cloths in churches or placed on top of sweat lodges. They are given to mark momentous life events such as weddings or births and offered as gestures of sympathy to a family honoring the passing of a loved one.
For more information on Morning Star Quilts and the Lakota (Sioux) peoples, I recommend The Star Quilt on the Northern Plains: A Symbol of American Indian Identity by Birgit Hans.
I hope this blog has served two purposes. First to give you a bit of history about the Lone Star Quilt – its names, its journey, and its new-found purpose with Native Americans. And secondly, to show you it’s not that difficult to make this block. It may look intimidating, but it’s not. You just have to take your time and up your precision game.
Until Next Week, Remember the Details Make the Difference!
Love and Stitches,