Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Where Are My Lone Star/Star of Bethlehem Quilter Peeps??? Rebecca Needs a New Challenge Project!

 Alright, y'all -- from time to time I have to subject you to one of these posts where I get carried away by the wild, delirious possibilities of new projects that I may or may not be starting.  Today is one of those days, and I'm about to drag you around the inside of my brain like you're on Willy Wonka's wild ride through the chocolate factory!!

Having recently finished my Nanu Nanu! Retro '80s Building Blocks Sampler quilt that I started in 2016, and having finished my mammoth Pineapple Juice Nostalgia pineapple log cabin quilt last year that I'd been working on since 2014, I am feeling like I have earned the right to start a challenging new project.   Especially since I have another major long-term WIP quilt, my Jingle applique sampler that I started in 2013, scheduled to go back on the longarm the week of Thanksgiving so I can finish custom quilting it.  Nevermind that I am still not done with my Frankenwhiggish Rose needleturn applique blocks or that I have yet to start any of the three Sarah Fielke BOM projects that I signed up for this year.  We have a saying about that in the South: I'm FIXING to start them...  ;-). Seriously, though -- I've decided to wait on those until the end of the year, when the entirety of all three patterns is available to me, so I can confidently ignore all of the directions and do whatever I want with them, out of order, as I please.  And so, this reproduction pattern from Edyta Sitar of Laundry Basket Quilts came sauntering by, shaking its tail feathers at me, and I am feeling smitten:

Behold, Stars Upon Stars!

Stars Upon Stars 64 x 74 19th Century Reproduction, Pattern available here

Stars Upon Stars is a late 19th century quilt owned by the Grand Rapids Public Museum in Michigan, and Edyta Sitar obtained permission from the museum to draft her pattern.  You can read more about this quilt and zoom in on high resolution photos on the museum's web site here.   You can purchase the Laundry Basket Quilts pattern to make your own version of this quilt on Etsy here (and yes, this post contains affiliate links to help pay for the asylum to which I'll likely be committed if I actually start this quilt and it doesn't go well...  😅)

Why Stars Upon Stars Appeals to Me

I have always had a thing for star quilts.  In fact, I have a whole Pinterest board dedicated to star quilts, and yet I haven't really made any star quilts except for one baby quilt that had simple pieced stars on it and I gave that away so it doesn't count.  Pretty much any quilt with pieced stars is going to turn my head, but especially the Lone Star/Bethlehem Star/Morning star quilts featuring 8-pointed stars made up of concentric rings of multicolored diamond patches, just like the central star in each of the Stars Upon Stars quilt blocks.

128 x 125 Star of Bethlehem Quilt, American ca. 1830-1850, International Quilt Museum Collection

Would this be an exercise in discipline and restraint -- would I limit myself to 19th century reproduction fabrics, or at least to similar traditional prints and patterns, in an attempt to recreate the museum treasure as closely as possible?  Or would I play with the color palette, use what I have in my scrap bin, or otherwise alter the design to make it my own?  

I think this could be like my pineapple log cabin project -- something that I could pick up and work on just piecing one block at a time in between other projects, and eventually all of the blocks and the pieced sashing would be finished and ready to assemble.  I like the idea of using completely different fabrics for each block so that every star is unique.

And...  OH MY GOODNESS; I am drawn to this quilt because it looks like a CHALLENGE!

Why Stars Upon Stars Would Be Challenging

At 64" x 74 1/2", this is just a little lap quilt, right?  Why is it such a big deal?

  • 300 pieces in each of the full 12" blocks in the Laundry Basket Quilts pattern (the quilt in the museum has blocks that finish at 13 1/2")
  • Inset "Y-seam" construction (but I'm not afraid of those anymore anyway)
  • Bias edges on those stretchy diamond pieces
  • Huge potential for a disastrous mess if piecing is off by a hair, once you multiply the tiny error times all of the pieces in the quilt and suddenly you realize after hundreds of hours of work that nothing fits together after all...  

I have found two different blogs written by quilters who have made this quilt.  The first quilter, Kyle Redente of Timeless Reflections, decided to forgo the machine strip piecing techniques called for in the Laundry Basket instructions and instead hand pieced her Stars Upon Stars Quilt after using rubber stamp templates from this Etsy seller to cut out all of her fabric patches.  Kyle finished her Stars Upon Stars quilt top in April of 2021, and it is just spectacular and her piecing is phenomenal.  Check it out on Kyle's blog here.  I'm not sure whether she has quilted it yet.

The other quilter I found online who has successfully completed Stars Upon Stars is Sissy Malone of Appliquenut.  She finished her quilt top in June of this year and you can see and read about it on her blog here.  I only found a couple of blog posts from her prior to the finish and I'm not sure of her construction methods, but it seems like she followed the machine strip piecing instructions in the Laundry Basket pattern and may have been enrolled in a BOM program for the quilt as she mentioned that "fabrics for the next block would arrive" by the time she'd finished the previous block, and that she augmented those fabrics with others from her local quilt shop to "make it her own."  Regardless, like Kyle's quilt, Sissy's version of Stars Upon Stars is breathtaking!

So...  It's a challenging pattern, but it's not an impossible pattern...  I mean, lots of people die trying to climb Mount Everest, but some people live to brag about it in their annual Christmas letter, am I right???  😜

Decisions, Decisions...

Okay, so if I don't want to die or lose my marbles before I reach the summit, I ought to do some planning first, right?  Although Kyle's hand piecing is a sure fire way to ensure precision and accuracy, I don't think I want to start a new hand stitching project until after I finish my needle turn appliqué project.  Yet I totally relate to Kyle's reservations about machine piecing these incredibly complex blocks.  So the first decision, even before I think about fabrics and color palettes, has to be settling on which method(s) I'll use to piece my blocks.  And having never done one of these Lone Star/Star of Bethlehem/Morning Star blocks with all the crazy diamond patches, that is going to require a bit of research and maybe even some experimentation and -- GASP! -- dare I say practice!

There are a couple of lone star projects in Sally Collins' book, Mastering Precision Piecing, available on Amazon here.  Sally is like the Dalai Lama of accurate machine piecing, and one of the mini quilt projects in this books features a 7 1/4" finished Lone Star block with 16 small diamond patches in each of the 8 diamond sections that make up the star -- 128 diamonds total, made from 7/8" strips of fabric.  If I can piece that star (to my own personal standards) following Sally's instructions in the book, then I'll probably follow Sally's instructions to machine piece Stars Upon Stars.

104 x 103 Star of Bethlehem Quilt, American ca. 1845, Metropolitan Museum of Art Collection

I do have another book dedicated to Lone Star quilts in my library, Lone Star Quilts & Beyond by Jan Krentz, available on Amazon here.  Jan's book also has some tips for sewing diamond strip sets by machine, and some valuable information for calculating the overall size of a Lone Star/Star of Bethlehem block based on the size strips you cut for those diamond strip sets.  Finally, there's a Star of Bethlehem quilt in my Quilts! Quilts! Quilts! 2nd Ed. book by Diana McClun and Laura Nownes that would be a nice trial run at making a Lone Star from strip pieced diamonds, but at a larger scale (with presumably better odds for success).  

This is Where YOU Come In!

So...  Who of my quilty peeps out there reading this has pieced a Lone Star/Star of Bethlehem/Morning Star block or quilt?  Did you hand or machine piece, cutting the diamonds out individually or strip piecing them if you sewed your quilt by machine?  Did you press some or all of your seams open, and were there any tips, tricks or gadgets that helped you to maintain accuracy in your piecing?  Have any of you made Stars Upon Stars, or do you know any quilters who have made it?  How did it go -- any pitfalls you can warn me of?  

I haven't 100% made up my mind to start on this project next, but it's definitely tugging at my heartstrings!  Wouldn't it be fun to combine different colors in each block and have each block come together as its own unique surprise?  Or I could plan it all out in EQ8 software and know for certain that I was going to love the way the quilt turns out in the end.

Stars Upon Stars Wants to Be My WIP for the Next 10 20 Years

One more question, in addition to whether I make it, how I go about making it, and what colors/fabrics I'll use, is whether I make it the same size as the pattern or whether I mess with that, too.  A 64" x 74 1/2" quilt is not going to fit on any of our Queen or King beds, and I don't think I'd want to go to this much work for a throw quilt that's folded up at the end of the sofa and slobbered on by my dog (No offense, Samwise -- you know Mommy loves you!!  🐾🐾). .  So either I make this with a hanging sleeve for wall display as-is, or I increase the block sizes to get it to fit a modern bed, or I increase the size by adding more blocks.  I don't think I'd add borders to this one because I really, really like the original design without borders.  

And Now For an EQ8 Tangent...

By the way, all of the books, patterns and tutorials for the Lone Star/Star of Bethlehem spend pages and pages talking about how to plan which fabrics go where in your star for different effects.  They want you to cut up all these little fabric bits and tape two mirrors together with a hinge  and all kinds of other time-and-fabric-wasting nonsense to "preview" what your star would look like with different fabrics in different positions in the pieced diamond units.  Um, no thank you -- with EQ8 quilt design software, I can try out infinite combinations of colors and fabric prints in my Star of Bethlehem without cutting into or even purchasing any fabrics until I know I love how they are going to look together.  I can also play with sizing in EQ8, like so:

My EQ8 Mockup of 64 x 74.5 Star Upon Stars with 12 inch Blocks

It's necessary for me to completely redraft a quilt in EQ8 in order to use the software to resolve a design dilemma.  So you'll notice that in the rendering above, I left out the LeMoyne stars that surround the Star of Bethlehem in the main blocks, I copied and pasted the coloring for one Bethlehem Star block instead of coloring them all differently to make each one unique, and I chose a similar pieced sashing style from the EQ8 Block Library rather than taking the time to draft the sashing block just like the one in the original quilt.  However, the layout of the quilt, the size of the main quilt blocks, the number of diamonds in my Bethlehem stars, and the sashing width in my rendering are all the same measurements as in the Laundry Basket pattern so I know the scale is correct.

Although...  I do like the way my mockup looks, don't you?  Eliminating the LeMoyne stars would make the quilt less busy and would create some space where my quilting would be more visible, but at the expense of eliminating some of the challenge -- and making it look less like the historic quilt I fell in love with.

So -- if I wanted to make my Stars Upon Stars quilt big enough for my King size bed, what are my options?  Playing with the block and sashing dimensions in EQ8, I found that I could get a 108" x 108" finished quilt using the original block and sashing dimensions if I just added additional rows and columns, but not only would that be WAY TOO MANY of these insane blocks to be making, but the image on my screen just didn't have the same vintage quilt vibe with that many blocks in the layout.  So then I experimented with some other block sizes, careful to increase my sashing width by the same percentage as I was increasing the block size, and found that I could make a 106" x 106" King version of Stars Upon Stars that looks more like the original overall with 15" blocks and 3.75" wide sashing, adding only one extra column and one more row of blocks.  Considering that the original quilt in the Grand Rapids Public Museum collection has blocks that measure 13 1/2" finished, my 15" blocks are just as near to the original quilt as Edyta Sitar's 12" blocks are.  See below:

EQ8 Mockup of a 106 x 106 King Star Upon Stars with 15 inch Blocks

And I just now realized that the Laundry Basket pattern not only uses a slightly smaller block size than the original museum quilt -- Edyta also made the sashing width narrower in proportion to her blocks, finishing at 3" wide whereas the original quilt sashing is 4" wide finished.  I'm sure she did that to make for "ruler friendly numbers," but that bit of pattern drafting liberty inspired me to increase the size of my own sashing in EQ8 to more closely mirror the proportions in the original quilt versus trying to stick to the proportions of my reproduction pattern.  I also decided that the dark strips in my "substitute mockup sashing" were distracting, so I took a moment to recolor my sashing in EQ8 to look more like the quilt I'm trying to visualize.  

110 x 110 King Star Upon Stars, 15 Inch Blocks and 4.5 Inch Sashing

NOW we're getting somewhere!  Keep in mind that 110" x 110" would be the approximate size of the quilt top before I quilted it and before I washed the quilt for the first time.  I like to factor in about 10% for the shrinkage of quilting and laundering to ensure that a bed quilt doesn't end up looking skimpy on the bed, so these block and sashing dimensions would likely yield a quilt that finished closer to 100" x 100".  My 15" blocks should end up even closer to the 13.5" blocks in the original quilt after I get that 10%-ish shrinkage.

One more Fun Fact discovered in my EQ8 explorations: my Laundry Basket pattern instructs me to cut 1" wide strips for the Star of Bethlehem blocks, and to sew them together carefully with exact 1/4" seam allowances to yield 12 1/2" unfinished blocks.  But my mathemagical computer program is telling me that you actually would need to cut your strips .995" wide in order to get a perfect 12.5" unfinished block using perfect 1/4" seam allowances.  That is a teensy-tinsy bit of rounding that is going on in the pattern, totally normal and acceptable, but I do like knowing that it's happening.  It's way better to be rounding up rather than down, since the extra smidge of fabric can help to accommodate for turn of cloth bulk.  Anyway, for those who are interested, because there are so many pieces in these stars I would only need to cut my strips an eighth of an inch wider than the pattern instructions to get blocks that finish at 15" instead of 12"!

-- By the way, if any of you are reading this right now and thinking it might be time for you to take the plunge with EQ8, now is the perfect time.  Electric Quilt is running a site-wide 25% off sale from now through the end of November, and that applies to the EQ8 software, add-ons like Blockbase Plus, books, etc.  The program is available in either Windows or Mac versions and you can get it right here.   25% off is the best sale they ever run on the software.

Okay, enough of my blathering on about this!  I think I want to start on my Queen size Deco bed quilt for Lars's room before I start Stars Upon Stars at whatever size I decide to make, since I've bought and prewashed all of those fabrics and have even started some of the cutting.  I have just two more client's quilts for long arming before my Jingle quilt gets to go back on my frame so I can finally finish the custom quilting and wrap up that Everlasting UFO.  Woo-hoo!  

I am too late to link up with the November goal-setting linky party One Monthly Goal at Elm Street Quilts, but I'm setting some goals anyway!

Rebecca's Belated (& Possibly Unrealistic) November Goals

  • Machine embroider & attach label to Christmas Gumdrops quilt
  • Bind Christmas Gumdrops quilt
  • Complete custom quilting on Jingle quilt
  • Trim, label & begin binding Jingle quilt
  • Begin making blocks for my Deco quilt -- which, haha, turns out to have been my One Monthly Goal for November of last year!  😂

Notice that there's nothing on that list about starting Stars Upon Stars this month.  I need to clear out these other projects first, since I'm hoping to enjoy the two Christmas quilts during this holiday season.  Wish me luck!  Are YOU working on any holiday quilts right now, or planning to start a new project? I'd love to know what you're working on!  And if any of you have any wisdom to impart about Star of Bethlehem piecing, please share!  I'm linking up today's post with all the usual suspects, listed on the left sidebar of my blog.  Enjoy the rest of your week and happy quilting!


Chris said...

I will visit you in the asylum.

Karen - Quilts...etc. said...

I briefly looked at that quilt in the book by Edyta that it is in - briefly and then regained my sanity and put the book away - like Chris says I will visit you! said...

I found starching my fabrics helped with accuracy. . .I made a Lone Star quilt. I stitched strip sets together and pressed the seams in one direction. After I cut the strip sets, I sewed the strips together and pressed the seams open. It worked for me. I didn't have as may strip sets as are in Edyta's pattern though! It is a stunning pattern!

Preeti said...

I am designing (no, redesigning) my Lone Star Quilt in EQ8 for the IB December challenge. The first design didn't entice me. The second (the fifth iteration) was finalized. But then I realized how awful November is going to be with some unforeseeable (and the usual) events. So the third (hopefully final) design is supremely simplified Lone Star, finished yesterday. Why do we do this to ourselves? If we knew the answer we won't be going to the asylum, would we? Speaking of asylum, I am glad you can join - we have a wing dedicated to OCD Quilters. I will be in the Scrap Vortex wing, kitty corner from yours.

Pamela Arbour said...

If it makes you feel better, I started my Star of Bethlehem 41 years ago. I just couldn't get it to lay flat. I have it in my UFO bin. The pattern is from the May 5, 1981 issue of Lady's Circle Patchwork Quilts. I still plan to finish it one day. Good look on your star quilt endeavors.

piecefulwendy said...

Well, I think you should go for it, because I love a challenge. I think it revs up creativity and keeps things interesting. It is a stunning pattern! I have never made a lone star, although I have one my mother made. The only thing I could offer is if you decide to go with 19th century reproduction fabrics, I'd be happy to connect you with Margo here in town. She is a wealth of information on repro fabrics and she ships to wherever. I'm still trying to wrap my head around that 7-1/4" block!! Wowza.

Julie in GA said...

Wow, that pattern certainly would fulfill your wish for a challenge! I agree with Terry that starching fabrics is a good idea. Judy Martin recently published a book about Lone Star quilts called "Singular Stars."

Sandy said...

I have made three Lone Star quilts: one from Eleanor Burns' method, one from Jan Krentz's instructions, and one from Deb Karasik's paper-pieced method. All turned out well, but I'd use Jan's method, if I did a fourth one, much as I like paper piecing.

There's just something about a Lone Star, isn't there? I'll be anxious to see the progress on yours, once you get started. :)

Jennifer Fulton Inquiring Quilter said...

I've made only one Lone Star, a small wall hanging and I used the QuiltSmart method (you cut rectangles and fuse to a printed interfacing). I'm making a lap quilt now using that same method. It ensures accuracy and is easy and fairly fast. The QuiltSmart interfacing comes in various sizes, the smallest being 19" square. Here's my blog post about that quilt:

My thought is it would be easy to draft the borders in EQ around a 19" block if you decide to go with this method and use their printed interfacing. Did I mention that there are no Y-seams in the QuiltSmart method? And it looks like Edyta's blocks could be easily pieced to work with that method, avoiding y-seams all together. Something to think about for sure!

I look forward to seeing your progress once you start. In the meantime, please linkup your Christmas quilts when you get them finished. I'm a sucker for Christmas quilts! Thanks for sharing on my weekly show and tell linkup, Wednesday Wait Loss.

Anonymous said...

I made s Jinny Beyer wall hanging all handpieced and applique embellished. Precision, Precision, Precision.

Linda said...

Wow this looks like a true project, and I am laughing out loud over all the asylum comments! Hope you get some good input to help you with your decision. It will be so interesting to watch you progress. Good luck getting your gumdrop quilt bound - isn't that one for you? Thank you for sharing with To Do Tuesday! said...

Stars Upon Stars looks fabulous! Edyta did mention a possible sew along for it next year, she asked if there would be people that wanted one...that makes it a tad less intimidating. But that's a lot of pieces! I'll enjoy watching your progress on that AND your Deco quilt. That one's on my list to do "someday"!

Miaismine said...

Stars in indeed challenging, but oh so beautiful! Thank you for mentioning the rubber stamp templates. Those are new to me. Reading through your blog post made me realize how extensive a project this will be. Thank you for writing about your thinking process. I learned so much from your post!

Miaismine said...

I'm not sure my comment went through, so here it is again, just in case! :)
Stars in indeed challenging, but oh so beautiful! Thank you for mentioning the rubber stamp templates. Those are new to me. Reading through your blog post made me realize how extensive a project this will be. Thank you for writing about your thinking process. I learned so much from your post!

Peggy Stockwell said...

Hi Rebecca:
I love those legacy quilts. I have 2 in progress right now and they are both EPP quilts. If I was going to do this star quilt, I would probably go with EPP. The precision is amazing and easier than "Hand sewing" but that is me. After looking at all the different versions of the Star quilt, I like your last version the best. I feel like the original is too.... busy. You could consider a color wash or rainbow effect for your starts as well. I am thinking like a "red" star, yellow star, etc. I think it could be quite fun.
As for holiday quilts, I have ready to quilt a Halloween and Fall quilt. I am a new long armer and get intimidated by my machine and I am still trying to overcome the fear. But I am determined to finish up the 7 tops that are ready to go this minute. I love reading through your thought process!!!

Carole @ From My Carolina Home said...

Oh, mercy, but if you love it, do it. I was laughing this morning at Chris' comment, let us know which asylum you are choosing, LOL!! I do like your less busy version.

MissPat said...

I was wondering what had become of the 3 Sarah Fielke BOM who decided to join. As far as the Lone Star quilt, I wouldn't even attempt such a project for all the reasons you listed and probably more. But it seems like it's right up your alley. Oh and be sure to post the address of the asylum. I live too far away to come visit, but I'll definitely send you a card.

Alycia~Quiltygirl said...

Your brain is quite scary... haha!! I think it has more swirls and spins than other!!
I will be glad to watch your progress!!

Wendy @ Wendysquiltsandmore said...

I see you’ve done your homework here! But one thing you may have missed is that the hand piecing stamps you link to are slightly larger larger than the pieces in Aditya’s pattern. That would change how many blocks you need to take it up to king or queen sized. Email me for more info. I have the stamps.

dq said...

Oh boy, I think this quilt is in league with Dear Jane and Omigosh. I think I will stick with more simple for now, but your changed design in EQ is so nice and very eye appealing.

Anonymous said...

I have done several Lone Stars but never this intricate. I have Jan Krenz's book Lonestar and Beyond and use her system. I also took a class where you draw the size of your star point on muslin and when you iron you use that to check sizing and keep your strips straight. I would recommend that for this pattern. But then I would never do a hand pieced project. Just not my jam.

Anonymous said...

Amazing quilt pattern. I am offering no advice as I have not done any lone stars but I will enjoy your progress. Of all the blogs I follow, I think you can do it. Go for it with all its glory and headaches, and frustrations. It will be fabulous. You have the skills, I'm watching.

Marie said...

Welcome to my world! I, too, am smitten with Stars Upon Stars but have been hesitant to take the plunge. I have the pattern and I've also purchased rubber stamps of the pattern thinking that this might be a hand-sewing project, but I dither. A lovely pile of fabrics has been sitting in the corner of my sewing room ready to begin, I just can't decided which method has the best chance of actually getting finished in this lifetime!

Mary said...

Such great comments, especially Preeti’s which cracked me up. I also want to make a lone star quilt but at probably 10% of the complication of the one you are inspired by and are-designing. I love Free Bird Quilting Design’s Blossoming Lone Star and Jamie Swanson Luminary pattern featured on Alison Glass’s website.

Chopin - A Passionate Quilter said...

Dearest Rebecca - I have a padded room for you as you start working on the Star quilt! I used it when I was making my York Lodge quilt and my Radiant Star quilt! Free of charge. I have made 2 very large Lone Star quilts, but I used the half square method - cheating I know, but one got me a Blue Ribbon! (big deal - LOL). anyway, I admire you if you start and make this quilt!

Have fun and remember - rent free for the padded room as you absolutely drive yourself nuts! Hugs