by Jan Krentz
Notes to Instructors and Shop Owners:
Lone Star Quilts and Beyond is designed as a teaching text. An extensive chapter covers basic Lone Star construction methods step-by-step, with additional design options for students who want to branch out and create an individual work of art. An exciting gallery features dozens of star quilts, ranging from traditional through contemporary art quilts, each clearly photographed.
The classes may be taught in several formats or number of class sessions. Follow the book's Table of Contents as the class outline, adding subtitles for specific teaching tips.
Required text: Lone Star Quilts and Beyond by Jan Krentz
Follow the supply list on page 50 in Lone Star Quilts and Beyond. Assign the basic design paste-up and strip cutting BEFORE class. State clearly that you will cover loads of information, and suggest that students arrive early to set up!
Additions to the Supply List
- 3-ring notebook
- Paper, glue stick, pen, pencil
- Quilter's Design Mirrors
- Felt or flannel for portable design wall
- Heavy-duty electrical extension cord (3-prong)
- Seat cushion
- Luggage wheels
- 1/4" presser foot
- Three 1-1/2" x 6" strips (for quarter-inch seam test)
Present the bulk of the information as actual design mock-ups or visual aids. This requires extensive advance preparation. If the items are attached to numbered poster boards, the presentation is simple, flows well, and you won't forget important tips.
Review the design paste-ups with the hinged mirrors. Invite all the students to wander the room and admire the quilt designs that will be made in their class. Switch any fabrics that need to be repositioned for better color flow or balance. Introduce the class information with an overview of the text, and the step-by-step process to construct a basic 8-pointed Lone Star. Emphasize the following skills:
1. Accuracy is critical in this design
- Cutting strips - measure from the FOLD, aligning ruler - straight cuts
- Laying out strip sets according to the student's paste-up design
- Sewing with a scant (less than) 1/4" seam allowance - recommend a quarter-inch foot for their machines
- Pressing seams open with spray starch sets the grainline before cutting on the bias
- Careful and accurate cutting of 45° diamond rows
- Handle bias pieces gently - DO NOT STRETCH!
- Pinning for alignment - use fine-shaft, glass-headed pins
- Baste intersections - minimal ripping required to correct any unsatisfactory seams
- Measuring diamond rows for blocking cloth
- Draw a blocking cloth on muslin - one for each student
I create an exact-size blocking cloth grid diagram on graph paper. I photocopy this grid several times (check for copier distortion!). Create 2-3 copies of the same grid at 98%, 99%, 101% and 102%. Students may trace these grids through muslin, using the grid that most closely matches their pieced work.
- Demonstrate blocking process by pinning a diamond unit on the ironing board
- Use fine, glass-headed pins (they don't melt)
- Insert pins at all seam lines and at each corner of the unit, angled to lie flat
- Moisten with spray starch and press seams open
- Allow to cool before removing unit
- ALL diamond units for the same quilt will be blocked on the SAME cloth
- Mark 1/4" seam at each of the 4 corners
- Measure the seam line - this will be the "X" measurement
- IMPORTANT! The entire quilt is calibrated by this "X" measurement.
- All setting pieces will have this measurement as the seam line
- Each student may have a slightly different "X" measurement, due to seam allowance, pressing and fabric weave variables. Anticipate it!
- The straight grain measurement is more accurate than the bias measurement. Take the AVERAGE of several measurements. They should be quite close in size.
- When the setting pieces are sized correctly to fit each student's diamond units, the stars fit together beautifully
2. Each student will have success in sewing this challenging design as they master the steps, one by one. Assure them that they will sew a beautiful quilt!
- Students frequently tell me that they were CONFIDENT their quilt would be beautiful, lovely, or exciting. The process eliminates the fear of tackling a challenging design. The glimpse in the design mirrors is such a reward!
3. You will not get to the final assembly process in class (at least I haven't yet!).
- Cover the Y-seam assembly technique step by step, using cloth pieces to demonstrate the sequence of seams
- Request that the students follow along in the book as you show the steps
- 2-day or 3-day classes: Provide a small-scale, 8-pointed star quilt block for the students to sew in class, thereby teaching the process for the student to repeat at home when their quilt top is ready to assemble
- Pre-cut the quilt blocks at home from scrap fabric
- Provide one block per student to take home in their notebook
- Discuss the final pressing - seams between larger units are pressed to one side, and the center seams behind the diamond center form a small pinwheel in the center, distributing bulk. All other seams are pressed toward the outer edge (or toward the setting piece, as the fabric weights will determine the path of least bulk).
- Objective: during class, each student should begin cutting, sewing and understanding EACH portion of the design. This includes ANY of the following as they apply to the class you are teaching:
- Center diamond units
- Secondary diamond units
- Setting squares, triangles, or trapezoids
- Outer corners
- Blocking cloth and blocking the diamond units
Quarter-inch seam allowances
Tip from Jan: "Conquering the accurate scant quarter-inch seam allowance is the greatest gift a machine quilter can give herself! Encourage students to focus on consistent seams even if they don't initially see any reason for the accuracy. Their work will fit together more smoothly with few problems of distortion."
Many methods to sew accurate scant quarter-inch seams
- Invest in a quarter-inch presser foot for the sewing machine - and check to make sure the seam is accurate!
- Request that all students sew a quarter-inch test when class begins. Seam three 1-1/2" strips of fabric together (side by side). Hold the freshly pieced unit under an acrylic rotary ruler and measure it. The entire unit should measure exactly 3-1/2" wide and the center strip should measure exactly 1" wide. Adjust the seam allowances until the quilter is able to consistently sew this seam allowance.
- Position an accurate ruler on the bed of the machine. Align the ruler with the quarter-inch falling at the edge of the presser foot. Lower the needle by hand, allowing the needle's point to fall just INSIDE the quarter-inch mark. This is where the fabric edges need to align.
- Mark the bed of the machine with a rigid piece of plastic (such as a credit card, 2-1/2" Omnigrid square ruler, etc.) to help align fabrics as they are fed into the presser foot and needle. This greatly increases accuracy!
- Moleskin or foam is NOT recommended, as it will eventually wear away, changing the accuracy of the seam guide.
- Offset the needle to achieve the accurate seam allowance.
Break the class into two sessions. Set goals for the students. If your goals are not challenging enough, the class will dawdle, wasting time.
1st class: Follow the suggestions above; the students will have more time in class, and will get farther. Most should get all of the diamond units sewn and blocked. This is an excellent homework assignment to complete before class 2.
2nd class: Draw setting squares, triangles and trapezoids for the student designs - complex patterns are better suited to multi-day classes. Repeat the Y-seam assembly lesson. Discuss quilting options.
In addition to the steps laid out for the one-day class: Design exploration is ideal for the longer class exposure. Challenge students to sew the Summer Salsa, Spiral, or Feathered Lone Stars in this length of class.
Continue setting time deadlines throughout the work session. With the longer class, students will continue to move forward; if the classes are weekly, they can finish each step as homework, and should successfully finish the quilt.
1st class: Introduction, strip piecing, 45° diagonal cutting, piecing diamond units. Homework: complete all diamond units, block all units.
2nd class: Measuring for "X" and creating pattern for setting pieces. Begin piecing setting squares, triangles, or corners in class.
Homework: complete all setting pieces.
3rd class: Construction of the quilt top - Y-seam assembly in class. Pressing the quilt top. Discuss quilting options.
Jan's Comments and Suggestions
The Lone Star is an intermediate-to-advanced quilt design. Traditionally working with the bias edges and controlling distortion was a real challenge. The blocking process presented in Lone Star Quilts and Beyond shapes each diamond unit so all are identical. Setting pieces are cut to FIT the individual work, and the quilt assembly is smooth and fairly trouble-free.
Suggest (or demonstrate) the blocking concept for other traditional designs! It WORKS! I have heard hundreds of quilters say that this step alone is worth the price of admission for the class!
Encourage advanced students to branch out and design their own patterns.
Host a "Lone Star Reunion" for classes to reunite and share their finished projects. This is a great way to get folks through the door for a fun afternoon or evening, and you know they will have to peruse the newest gadgets, fabrics, and quilt classes! Make it an event that just can't be missed!
Thank you for teaching the Lone Star design in your shop, guild or seminar. If you are interested in having me come to teach for your event, please contact me.
For more information, visit www.jankrentz.com or www.ctpub.com, or call C&T Publishing at 1-800-284-1114.