I was getting ready to appliqué the round label onto the back of my Sea Star Sampler quilt today when Princess Cordelia (aka Coco) wandered into my sewing room. She promptly planted herself on my quilt, as she is wont to do:
As you can see, I caught her with her little pink tongue sticking out.
Here’s a look at the front of the finished quilt, measuring 60″ square:
. . . and a better look at the label on the back:
Here’s one more shot, taken minutes after the quilt was pulled from the dryer:
Who doesn’t love the crinkled look of a quilt washed for the very first time?! By the way, the finished size after laundering is 59″ square.
Two blocks from this quilt were part of an optional Block of the Month project designed by Kristin at Montavilla Sewing Center and offered over Zoom starting in May 2021. In-person classes were suspended in March 2020 due to Covid-19 so several of us jumped at the chance the following year to engage with the folks at Montavilla via Zoom. By the time in-person classes resumed last September, most of us were “Zoomed out” and the BOM sort of faded away. I had already veered off on my own path and wound up choosing nine other blocks to complete my sampler quilt.
The “Sea” part of the name developed when I realized many of my fabrics were evocative of the sea: starfish, schools of fish, sea anemones, seaweed, water, waves . . . you get the idea. And all but two of the blocks are stars so it was reasonable to call it a “Star Sampler.” You know how much I love alliteration; it wasn’t long before my Sea Sampler had morphed into my Sea Star Sampler.
Like many of my quilts, this one evolved over time. If you’re interested in the progression (admittedly slow) of this project, simply click on “sampler quilt” under the CATEGORIES list on the right side of my home page to see all of the posts in reverse chronological order.
It’s been a few days since I added borders to my Sea Star Sampler quilt top:
The outer border is the same fabric used in a couple of interior blocks, this whimsical design by Jessica Zhao for Cotton + Steel:
I made sure all four borders show my little fishies swimming upstream! To do that I had to cut the side borders on the lengthwise grain. I had enough fabric to make single cuts for the sides but had to piece the top and bottom borders because they were cut on the crosswise grain.
Today I made a simple pieced backing for the quilt using mainly this fabric, which has already made an appearance in three blocks (in fussy-cut form):
The plan is to deliver the top and backing to my longarm quilter later in the week. Since many of the fabrics in this quilt are related to the sea and/or are suggestive of water, I’m thinking of asking for a simple quilt design suggesting waves. But I am open to other ideas. Feel free to weigh in!
I can’t remember the last time I spent the entire afternoon in my sewing room. Despite the fact that it was really hot upstairs — the temperature in Portland reached 100 degrees at 6:00 pm today — I was in heaven. Fortunately, my ironing board is positioned right under the ceiling fan; the circulating air helped. I still got hot and sticky but it was totally worth it.
First I worked on Junior Billie Bag #11, the one I am making as a teaching tool for my students at Montavilla Sewing Center in Lake Oswego. I could have finished the bag today but I needed to leave the final steps undone so I can demonstrate them for my students at our third and final class on Friday. Look for the final reveal of this ultimate quilter’s tote next week!
Then I finally got the blocks sewn together on my Sea Star Sampler quilt. Because the blocks are of different sizes — finishing at 6, 12, and 18 inches — I knew I’d be sewing the top together in sections. You can see the four sections here:
The Chicago Star was the first block I made way back in May of last year, when Kristin at Montavilla Sewing introduced it in a Block of the Month program via Zoom. Once in-person classes resumed at the Lake Oswego store in the fall of 2021, the BOM project faded away but I carried on, not really knowing what I would end up with. By the time I finished making blocks, I had used only two of the ones in Kristin’s design — but I feel sure she would approve.
The Chicago Star block needed to be added to my top with partial seams . . . and here it is in its rightful place:
I did wind up making one last-minute swap of two blocks and am pleased with the decision. Right now the top measures 48½” square but there are two borders to come. Maybe tomorrow?!
Isn’t this a fabulous block? I call it Susan’s Star.
If you follow Susan Ache — her Instagram handle is yardgrl60 — you may have seen her rendition of this block on her post of Nov. 29 last year. Susan is fond of taking orphan blocks and creating fabulous sampler quilts. She made her version of this block in red, green, and white. I was instantly enchanted when I saw it, so much so that I kept coming back for repeat views.
I wondered if it was her own design or perhaps a traditional block, so I contacted her this week to find out. Susan told me she hasn’t done any research to see if it’s an existing traditional block; she was just playing around when she created it. I asked her if it would be all right if I posted my version and if I could also post a picture of her original version. She kindly said “yes” to both questions.
Here is Susan’s original version:
I think you can see why I was inspired!!
I thought the design might fit well with one of my Works-in-Progress (WIPs) dating back to May of 2021. To refresh your memory, that was when I started making blocks using this initial fabric pull:
The pull was for a very informal Block of the Month program via Zoom that Montavilla Sewing Center, where I teach, had created for me and some of my students while in-person classes were suspended due to Covid. When in-person classes resumed in September, the Zoom classes sort of petered out but I decided to forge ahead, making my favorite blocks from the BOM design but branching out to include others, with the idea of coming up with my own sampler quilt.
When I saw Susan’s block, I just knew I had to include it. The blocks I have made thus far measure 18″, 12″, and 6″ square. (That’s the finished size; the unfinished size is ½” larger.) I’m not sure what size Susan made her block but I made mine to finish at 18″ square.
Many of the fabrics I’m using suggest waves, tidepools, and starfish so I have come to think of this project as my “Sea Sampler.” Because I’ve worked on it off and on, this has morphed into my “Sometime Sea Sampler.” (Could that be the final name of the quilt? Perhaps!)
Oh, one more thing. I clipped quite a few seams on the back to achieve the flattest seams. I thought you might like to see what that looks like:
In the next few days I’ll post photos of the blocks I’ve made so far. Maybe that will help me decide how to move forward.
I’m much happier with this block in my Sea Sampler project after replacing the lower left corner of the block. If you read my previous post, you know that vertical seam was angling to the right. It’s straight now. Funny thing, though: it was sewn straight the first time. Turns out it was the seam directly to the right, the one connecting the bottom left and bottom center sections, that was off.
I made one more change to the block: the seam of the inset circle is now pressed toward the center of the circle:
It was originally pressed away from the circle, making the circle lie very flat within the square. When the seams of an inset circle are pressed toward the center, it raises the edges of the circle slightly, making it look appliquéd.
Monday of this week was Labor Day in the U.S., a federal holiday that celebrates the achievements and contributions of American workers. I was working on a little labor of love on Labor Day: a block in my ongoing Sea Sampler project. But I wasn’t happy with my fabric selections so today I remade the block with all different fabrics. This is the result:
The block’s a keeper. It doesn’t have a name that I know of. (If you recognize it, please let me know.) I think of it as my Nebraska Star block because it’s on this coffee mug that I brought home a couple of decades ago from a trip to Nebraska:
If you look above the capital N of Nebraska, you’ll see the block. It’s very striking as a two-color block but also lends itself to other color combinations.
I drew the block in EQ7, the quilt software program . . .
. . . and colored it with fabrics similar to the ones I actually used:
I cut the fabric a little on the bias so the fishies are swimming slightly upstream.
Because I wanted to lead your eye to the center of the block where those little fishies are, I opted not to include the blue triangles in the outer corners of the block, although they can be added later if need be.
I really hate to draw your attention to a problem but I’m going to remake the lower left section of the block. It wasn’t obvious until I saw my photo: that vertical line between the two small squares is not truly vertical; it’s definitely slanting to the right. How did that happen? No idea but it’s going to bother me no end until it’s fixed.
Labor Day 2021 also marked my return to the quilt classroom after 18 long months. All in-person classes at Montavilla Sewing Center in Lake Oswego came to a screeching halt in March of 2020 when the the coronavirus pandemic reached Oregon and we started to fully realize its impact. Monday evening was the first of four “Sew with Dawn” classes that will meet during fall term, September-December.
To say I was thrilled is an understatement. It was so good to see my friends and fellow quiltmakers in person again! We are all fully vaccinated — students, staff at Montavilla, and myself. Of course we were fully masked the entire time but even with masks on we could see everyone was smiling.
Here’s the latest block in what I have started to think of as my “Sea Sampler” quilt:
The block is basically an Ohio Star with half-square triangles (HSTs) in the corners. I’ve been finding fabrics in my stash with a watery vibe that go really well with my other fabrics in this Block of the Month project through Montavilla Sewing Center in Lake Oswego.
Take a look at this close-up of my block:
The white on white fabric reminds me of bubbles and that light periwinkle print looks like waves and whitecaps. And could those shapes swimming in the waves possibly be turtles? I like to think so.
Look again at the first picture. If you really use your imagination, the green swirls against the dark blue in the center of the block could be floating algae or seaweed. Ferns, maybe? Pondering this will lead me to a name for my quilt eventually.
I now have these four blocks that will finish at 12″ square:
They play together very nicely, don’t you think?
For the layout I am envisioning, I need to make four more 12″ blocks, three more 18″ blocks, and a few more of these 6″ atomic star blocks:
Thanks to my dear friend Vickie R., I don’t have to worry about using up the last of this precious aqua print from a line that came out over a decade ago. It’s so hard for me to use up fabrics I love. Vickie knows this about me and she also knows I was running low on this fabric because I had mentioned it in an earlier blog post. Miraculously, she found a yard of it for sale on Etsy and surprised me with it last week. (Thanks, Vickie!)
It’s time to start another block and I’ve already decided what it will be. I seem to be moving at a snail’s pace on this project (make that a sea snail) but I am enjoying the process so much.
“Something more.” That’s what one of my sampler blocks needed. Here’s the “before” shot:
I started with Cluck Cluck Sew’s No Point Star design (a free pattern!) and set it on point. I really like this block but as I pointed out in my last post, it wasn’t quite holding its own with the other sampler blocks made to date:
I decided to embellish the block with a flower fussy-cut from my focus fabric, seen here:
Now take a look at the block with the flower appliquéd in the center:
Better, yes? I’m especially liking that touch of green in the very middle of the blossom.
Here’s a shot of the embellished block with its companions:
I think it’s safe to say it’s holding its own now.
Here’s the latest addition to my current sampler project. It’s basically a glorified Sawtooth Star but I’m calling it Dawn’s Star because I’ve never seen this particular version anywhere before — except in one of my own quilts. I dreamed it up in 2014 to replace a basic Sawtooth Star block in the very first sampler quilt I ever made, Catch a Falling Star, based on Terri Krysan’s Reach for the Stars quilt. (I still get queries almost every month from quilters looking for her pattern; more on that below).
So why did I choose this block for my current project? Happenstance. You see, Catch a Falling Star is arranged on a quilt ladder in the Annex (the room across the hall from my sewing room) in such a way that Dawn’s Star is the only block you see in its entirety. My eye fell on it the other day and made me want to make it again.
This is my first version of the block, the one made for Catch a Falling Star:
It was designed to be set on point:
My current version looks good set on point, too:
Setting it on point is still an option as my current project features blocks that will finish at both 12″ and 18″ square. I could easily convert this 12″ block to an 18″ block by adding triangles at the corners. No need to decide yet. It’s still early days in the making of this quilt.
Here’s a glimpse of the blocks so far, arranged randomly on my design wall in the Annex:
The 18″ block in the upper left (Chicago Star) and the 6″ blocks I call Atomic Stars are part of an optional Block of the Month quilt project organized by the kind folks at Montavilla Sewing Center in Lake Oswego for my students and me as we participate in monthly Zoom calls till my in-person classes resume next month.
I’m adding other blocks of my own choosing along with the ones Kristin at Montavilla selected when she designed the quilt. Montavilla has a Zoom call scheduled for next week. My plan is to get one or two of Kristin’s other block choices completed before then. And now that I’ve revisited Catch a Falling Star, I’m thinking about making yet another block I swapped out for one in Terri Krysan’s original design.
Speaking of which, here’s a photo of Terri’s beautiful quilt . . .
. . . and here is my version:
Now on to the PSA for people asking about a pattern for Reach for the Stars. This is what I tell them:
“There is no stand-alone pattern for Reach for the Stars. Instructions for Terri Krysan’s quilt appeared in seven consecutive issues of Quilters Newsletter Magazine (QNM), beginning with Oct/Nov 2013 and ending with Oct/Nov 2014 (issues 436-442). QNM ceased publication a few years ago.
“Occasionally you can find single issues for sale on eBay or Etsy. You might also check with a local quilt guild to see if a member has copies of the magazine to sell or loan.
“Recently I learned that a website called Quilting Daily (quiltingdaily.com) sells digital copies of individual issues of Quilter’s Newsletter Magazine. If you go to quiltingdaily.com, click on the search icon (a magnifying glass) and search for those issues. Good luck! — Dawn”
Now, let’s take another look at my current blocks:
Hmmm. See that block on the upper right side? That’s a 12″ block that I set on point and turned into an 18″ block. I really like the block but it needs something more . . . and I think I know exactly what that “something more” is.
The name of this block is really Far West but I saw a version of it online recently and was struck by the notion that it looks like a greatly simplified Goose in the Pond block.
Take a look at this Goose in the Pond block I drew in the EQ7 software program and tell me what you think:
Better yet, take a look at the two blocks side by side:
See what I mean?
Far West is a variation of the traditional Shoo Fly block. It can be made as an equal nine-patch but I think it’s much more interesting the way I made it, as an “unequal nine-patch with a small center square,” a category in Barbara Brackman’s Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns.
My block — maybe I should call it Gosling in the Pond? — will finish at 12″ square and be added to the sampler quilt started a few months ago as an optional Block of the Month project offered by Montavilla Sewing Center in Lake Oswego. I’m departing from the original quilt design by substituting some blocks of my own choosing. I have no idea how the quilt will ultimately turn out — but that’s part of the fun of it, right?
Here’s my Gosling in the Pond block with the most recent companion blocks:
My plan is to make several more of those “Atomic Star” blocks you see in the middle. They finish at 6″ square and will fill in the spaces nicely when it’s time to start playing with the final arrangement of the 12″ and 18″ blocks. But I’m really getting ahead of myself here. Several more blocks need to be made before I get to that point.
I haven’t been motivated to spend much time in my sewing room lately. It’s just “Too Darn Hot,” as the Cole Porter song goes. Yesterday I managed to produce that one block while dressed in my shortie pajamas with a wet towel draped around my neck. Portland is in the midst of its second major heat wave of the summer, with temperatures hitting triple digits again.
Coco has decided the coolest spot in the house is on the tiles in the master bath shower:
She’s just chilling out here but that’s a typical sleeping pose for her.