Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Star Blossoms Tutorial

Has it really been almost a month since my last star blossoms update?  I've made a lot of progress and was hoping to have my table runner completely finished before posting this much-requested tutorial.  But, well, there hasn't been as much TV watching lately, which translates to less hand-sewing than usual.  So, there you are...  Maybe over the holiday weekend I'll give myself a break and watch more TV with my honey!

joining Star Blossoms

My "Star Blossoms" are made with three different shapes:  hexagons (blossom centers), jewels (blossom petals) and diamonds (sashing for joining blossoms). The entire project is hand-sewn via the English Paper Piecing method.  "The what?" you say?  Yes, it's a mouthful.  This is the kind of thing that's easier to show than describe, so I have for you today.... a video!

Ok, now this is just little ole Rachel talking to nobody, so don't be surprised that I sound at times overly perky and strange.  I'll keep trying to find my video-making groove (wink).  I've published this video to Youtube, so that's the reason for a formal introduction (and it may take a bit of time to load).  Here goes...

Learn something?  Maybe just a little?  I know I moved a bit fast sometimes.  You can use the pause button to freeze the screen, if desired.  But, as you can see, English Paper Piecing is not difficult, just time-consuming.  Basting is easy and quick.  The resulting crisp shapes are oh-so-satisfying... so much so that you have to watch out that you don't make stacks of shapes and no finished projects! 

After basting when you begin joining your shapes to make a design, the stitching is much slower.  My friend Melanie at Texas Freckles has a nice video for how to sew the basted shapes together called Hexagon Piecing 101.  I don't do as many knots and such as she recommends, but you might like too.  Actually, I've sewn shapes together incorrectly before (like without right sides together - hey, I'm watching TV) and had a terrible time trying to un-sew them.  All those tiny, tight whipstitches have a crazy strong way of hanging on!

Diamond sashing

If you'd like to make Star Blossoms, I suggest you join your basted hexagons and jewels into blossoms as you go to avoid having a whole ton of piecing to do at the end.  Then, once you have a small stack of blossoms, start adding diamond shapes around a few to begin creating the finished fabric.

project jam #3

I found that once I was adding diamonds the work seemed to come together all of a sudden!  Since then I've been adding star blossoms to get just the right length and planning for the little pieces to create a straight edge.  My finished work is going to be 2 rows of blossoms wide and about 6 blossoms long, so as to fit the top of an entry table.  I'll be sure to take notes on the finishing steps so that I can add that tutorial later on.  If you're like me, I think you'll be best off planning for a small project like a pillow cover, table topper, or even stretched art rather than a whole quilt. 

paper piecing for on the plane


Paper Pieces:  These papers can be reused since they will be removed after you join the shapes and remove basting stitches.  I've worked both with shapes cut out from printer paper and from sturdy papers purchased from  To me, buying heavy, already-cut papers was worth it.  I used:
*1" Hexagons
*2" 6 Point Diamonds
*Large jewel shapes

Needle & Thread:  Really, any needle will do here.  Maybe don't use your best (like I am...) since it will be dulled from piercing paper regularly.   I recommend a hand-quilting thread, like this one, which is waxed to minimize tangling.  Since working with long lengths of threads is convenient on this project, tangling can really be an issue.  By the way, I did try a Sewline fabric glue pen for basting, and much preferred needle and thread.  The glue did not hold up to being handled and didn't really seem to save time.

cutting diamonds

Fabrics:  I suggest limiting yourself to quilting cottons for English Paper Piecing.  I've regretted using voile (slippery, dull points) and flannel (bulky).  Cut your fabrics in advance so that you can stitch away when the mood strikes:
*for Hexagons cut 2.5" squares
*for Diamonds cut 2.25"strips and lay the papers on top to establish your cutting angle
*for Jewels cut 2.5" x 3.25" pieces

Ok, I think that does it!  I can't wait to see what you make, and I'm looking forward to showing you the finished project soon.

p.s.  Any feedback/suggestions on the video are very welcome!


  1. Well, you definitely taught me something! Paper piecing is at the very top of my "learn list" for this new year and this really helped me wrap my head around it!

  2. Fantastic job on the video! It was very easy to listen to and flowed so nicely. And of course your technique was great as well. I too like to baste my pieces like this, but am always surprised at all the ways there are to do it!

  3. Great video - you actually make me want to do this! Can I admit it was strange to hear your voice- you sound much more Australian when I read your blog!

  4. I adore this pattern, and am itching to dive in... but must finish my hexies quilt first. It's been sadly neglected the past few months, but your post has reminded me to get back to it (partly for the satisfaction of finishing, and partly so I can start a new EPP project using these shapes!).

  5. Your video looks great, Rachel! I love how you combined shapes to make such a fun pattern, and you know I adore the color combo you chose. It's been fun seeing the progression of this, and I can't wait to see your final table runner!

  6. Great tutorial. I love the shape of the star. Kinda groovy!

    Thanks for taking the time to video. It is very easy to follow.

  7. Dang, now you know I'm not Australian ;)

    Thanks so much, you guys! It's scary to put video out there, but I'm going to keep wearing my big girl panties =)

    And, yes, Venus the lure of a new project is always, always strong!

  8. You're destined for video stardom! Very informative & to the point...I loved it! Now I have a new technique to try...yay! Honestly, you sounded great & there's something about hearing someone's voice that's very personal and lends to a deeper connection.

  9. Oh I love those stars they are so nice.

  10. Oh how cool! I think I may need to try this on a smaller project, like, say, the front pocket of a bag. My hand sewing patience is a wee bit down at the moment o.O

  11. it's so funny to finally hear your voice, rachel! it made me realize that i imagine a different voice for every blog i read, so it's weird to hear the actual one.

    and you are making me want to pick up the hexagons i long ago abandoned!

  12. Oh its so true about this person who thinks she will pick up abandon hexagons .Myself have stashed them away but seeing your tutorial and its so lovely stars favorites love them and your site thans Happy Holidays too you and your Family renee USA

  13. Rachel, it looks so nice!!! Next great tutorial! Yes, I´m watching TV too :-) You can look at my hexagon quilt (WIP) :-)
    Have a nice day, J.

  14. that is a brilliant tutorial, great video as well, very clear!

  15. I love English Paper Piecing. I should venture from hexies and try some of these!

  16. Looks great. I have made a paper pieced quilt. Took about three years to sew and was then left in the cupboard for about 12 years unfinished. I found it again after the daughters were born (eight years ago) and finally quilted it this year.

  17. your star blossoms are beautiful! i've only done hexies by EPP but i may branch out in 2012 :)

  18. I'm developing a serious love for English paper piecing but have only been brave enough to do hexagons. But I love love love how those stars look! I think it's time for me to branch out a bit. :)

  19. Where do you get the papers or do you draw them out yourself, is there a site on the net where you can print some off. P.S I love the stars and I know my daughter will to.

  20. I got my papers from! Have fun =)

  21. I'm excited to try English paper piecing! I got my shapes in the mail today and it was all inspired by you! I had a question though. Do I have to go back and trim all the shapes to a quarter inch seam? Thanks for the help!

  22. No, I don't. I only trim the jewel shape as I go as shown in the video. The rest of the shapes I just left as cut. The extra seam allowance doesn't seem to cause any trouble.

  23. Okay, so I don't know how I missed this post, because I remember LOVING the star blossoms and wanting to make some. Plus, I totally feel like a stalker. Especially because I'm about to tell you that I think I love you for making this tutorial. And also because I'm going to tell you that I really think you are my favorite "quilt blogger chick" out there. What can I say, tomorrow's Valentine's Day ;) Okay, really, I'm not a stalker, your posts just get emailed to me, but you really are one of my favs! Seriously though, not a stalker.... Yeah.

  24. thank you for this tutorial! I really appreciate it! And thank you for the list of paper pieces to order... my only question is exactly what size jewels to order? I am not sure I see the large on their site... just fractions of sizes... thanks so much for your help!

    1. Sure! Buy jewels that are to match the size of your hexagons. So, I used 1" hexagons and bought the jewels that they said match the 1" hexagons. I don't remember the "official" name of the jewels, but that info was in the description.


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