If you are participating in the Ribbon Star Swap with Joan Ford, either via the Hummingbird Highway shopping cart or through a participating local quilt shop, then you already know that using the ScrapTherapy Little Scrap Grid interfacing is part of the ‘deal.’ The Ribbon Star Block can be made without the interfacing; however, because we’re dealing with small 2″ half-square triangle units and 2″ squares, the Little Scrap Grid makes the sewing more efficient and potentially more accurate. Besides if you are participating in the block swap, the interfacing is required on all swapped blocks–and all the fabrics must be batiks.
Click here to download the pattern. Scroll through the step-by-step details below for a very thorough review of the steps to make 12 Ribbon Star Blocks. I’ll highlight the photos that I think are particularly important with BOLD RED TEXT so you can scroll through quickly to find them! These notes are meant to be used in conjunction with the pattern.
Every pattern starts with a little cutting. In this case, you’ve got some colorful fat quarters and a background. Each color fat quarter will yield enough fabric for the main star for one set of 12 blocks, plus ‘corners’ for three more block sets.
Add one strip from four more color fat quarters, then cut squares as directed in the pattern.
More cutting, then marking on the background fat quarter from your Ribbon Star Swap Kit following the pattern. (Are we having fun yet?)
Pair a 2-1/2″ background square with a 2-1/2″ color square and sew 1/4″ on both sides of the line. Chain piecing makes this go really fast.
Once the squares are all sewn with two seams, cut them apart to make a stack o’ blocks ready to press.
Do you like short cuts? Here’s one for the cutting step. Start with two sewn units and stack them on your cutting mat so the points slightly overlap and the drawn line follows a straight line–make sure the line is straight with a ruler–this is kinda critical as this sets you up for cutting, and cutting is one of those things in quilting that really can’t be undone.
Next, stack three or four more square units on top. Stagger them so you can see that a straight line is formed by the drawn lines. Then cut through all of the units at once with your rotary cutter and ruler. Try this with one or two blocks first, then graduate to a few more. A fresh rotary blade may be in order here. If you feel this short cut is too daring, no worries, cutting the units one at a time works just fine, too! And it’s safer. Remember cutting can’t be undone, so cut carefully!
Now put on the headphones with an audio book or some pressing music and press the units into half-square triangles. Lots of them. Press the seam in all cases toward the color fabric, DO NOT press seams open!
The pressing step may be tedious, but it’s important. Make sure your pressing is nice and crisp! Keep in mind, when you are participating in a swap, you are not only making your own quilt blocks, but you are also making quilt blocks for someone else. There’s sort of a golden rule thing going on in a swap. You wouldn’t want someone else to be careless with your blocks, so try to provide them the same courtesy.
The newly-pressed half-square triangle units should be slightly larger than 2″ square. Time to trim. Find a small square ruler with a prominent bias line (the 45˚ line that runs diagonally on a square ruler). Align the bias ruler line with the diagonal seam on the block and cut two sides. Righties will cut on the right and across the top. Lefties will switch up the ruler a bit and cut the left and top sides of the square. Before you cut, make sure there is fabric under the 2″ marking on the ruler, because you’ll be trimming all four sides of the unit, and you want something left to trim on the remaining two sides. Note that in the picture below, the ruler has been moved and the first two cuts have already been made.
Trimming all four sides of the unit removes any distortions created if your sewing line was off slightly or enthusiastic pressing created a bit of stretch in the fabric. For the interfacing, you’ll want a perfect 2″ square half-square triangle unit to make life easy in the following steps.
One of my favorite trimming tools is the Blocloc ruler. It comes in lots of sizes but I like to use the size that’s right for the job. In this case the 2-1/2″ size. But that’s my preference–it’s not required equipment for the swap. The ruler has a groove on the on the bottom that locks into the seam allowance, removing the wobble as you line up the unit to trim it.
You’ll have some pretty colorful trimmings left!
Retrieve the panel of Little Scrap Grid interfacing from your Swap Kit. Cut apart the two sections–each section represents enough grid to make six 9-patch blocks. Be sure to trim any extra interfacing around the outside edge to keep the fusible glue from interacting (and leaving messy goo) with your iron.
Place one panel section on your ironing board, fusible (rough) side up. Arrange the 2″ squares and half-square triangle units on the interfacing, right side up. Arrange the squares one 9-patch block at a time, until the panel section is full.
Once you arrange the squares, take a step back and really look at the arrangement of block parts. Are the stars ‘spinning’ in the right direction? Look at the half-square triangle that is circled in the picture below. Do you see that it’s backwards? It’s such an easy mistake to make, and so much easier to correct at this stage than later in the game. Also, when working with pieced units like half-square triangles, make an extra effort to center and ‘square up’ each unit within the grid dotted and dashed line markings.
Once you are confident that the square units are arranged properly, fuse them in place with a hot iron and a puff of steam. Use a press and lift motion until all squares are fused in place.
If you discover a problem, just place your iron on the errant unit to soften the fusible material and carefully peel the unit off the interfacing, rotate it into the correct position, and fuse again.
Notice that there is a tiny bit of interfacing showing between the units. That’s not a mistake! This will make the next steps easy. Even so, I don’t recommend using a heat-inert pressing sheet between the iron and the fabric as the fabric tends to shift under the pressing sheet.
I like to fuse both panel sections before I start sewing so I can chain piece.
Are you ready to sew your first seam with the interfacing? Follow the pattern instructions to fold the interfacing right sides together along the first dotted line. It’s important that the solid seam lines are aligned front-to-back before you sew, so stab a pin through at several spots along the solid sewing line.
Make sure the pin stabs through to the line on the back. If not, adjust the fold until the lines are matched up via the pin stabs.
Then sew on the line. Notice how I secured the fabrics at several spots along the seam.
It’s a grand idea to double check that the seam is on the line on both front and back of the panel section.
Repeat the fold-stab-sew process for five more seams on each grid section. Chain piece. . .
Notice that the seams with the DASHED lines between them are NOT sewn (red arrows). Only the seams with a dotted line are sewn.
Once all six short seams are sewn, it’s time to sew the ‘long seams.’ But first some snipping.
At this point, let me introduce you to two different markings on the interfacing where dotted and dashed lines intersect. Where dotted lines cross, there is a little cross-hair. It looks like a plus sign (+), that is before it’s folded. Now, after the seam is sewn, it looks like a folded plus sign (nyuk-nyuk!).
With a scissor, snip the interfacing at the cross hair THROUGH the stitching line. Repeat the snip for all cross hairs on both panel sections. Four snips per stitching line. Be very careful NOT to snip the solid lines. That will create an unfixable hole in your block.
May I also introduce you to the dot. Dots happen where dotted lines and dashed lines intersect. No need to snip at these markings!
This snipping action will allow you to nest and oppose your seams. Those who are familiar with other printed grid interfacing products may automatically power through this next step. Don’t make that mistake!
These next few steps are important to make sure your blocks are accepted into the swap!
Refer to the pattern for the additional instructions and diagrams.
Fold the long seam on the dotted line as before. The snipped seam intersection will allow for the seam allowances to be nested and opposed to reduce bulk.
To create the desired block pressing configuration for the swap, DO NOT press all seams in one direction on one side of the seam and all the seams in the opposite direction on the back side of the seam.
INSTEAD, press and secure seam allowances so the alternate in each 9-patch blocks. Seams in front are pressed outward, and seams in back are pressed inward.
Give a slight outward tug at each seam intersection to ‘lock’ the opposing seams into place as you would with any row seams without interfacing involved. Then secure with pins at each intersection.
Don’t forget to stab a pin through front to back along the solid line to make sure the solid lines match up. Secure the layers with pins where needed, particularly at the very start and very end of the seam where the seam has a tendency to get a mind of its own, and get off-kilter.
By the way, it’s okay if you start the first row with seams going outward in front (and inward in back) or inward in front (and outward in back).
The first row sets the stage for the the following rows. The next seams will nest and oppose in the opposite configuration.
Once again, only sew on the solid lines along the dotted lines, not the solid lines along the dashed lines. The result will be two panel sections, all sewn. Almost there!
Cut the blocks apart on the DASHED lines. You can either use scissors (my preference) or a rotary cutter. I prefer scissors because the unit can be a bit unruly, refusing to lie flat for the cut.
The pattern references this tutorial for the furling process. Furling (it’s also called many other things, like twisting, popping, twirling) the seams is a technique borrowed from hand piecing. It’s also commonly used for 4-patch blocks, to reduce bulk where the seams intersection. It’s especially nice for blocks with lots of extra seams that intersect at the center, like in a pinwheel block.
Anyway, you can also furl seams in 9-patch and larger blocks as long as the seams alternate and oppose (remember all that stuff about pressing seams towards and away above?)
First, remove the last few stitches between the edge of the block and the longer seam. In fact, you really don’t have to remove the stitches with a seam ripper like I’ve shown here, the seams will just pop open with a little insistent tug. Keep the seam ripper handy, though for that stubborn stitch or two.
Now, place the block, right side down on the ironing board. Work on one seam intersection at a time. Notice one set of seams (in this case the vertical seams) will oppose (the top seams toward the right, the bottom seam toward the left). That creates a circular, clockwise motion for all the seams at this intersection, helping you to determine the seam direction for the remaining two seams – downward for the horizontal seam at the right, and upward for the horizontal seam on the left.
At the same time that you are coaxing the horizontal seams (in the picture below) into position, the center of the seam pops open, creating a little bowl shape right in the middle.
Rather than smashing that seam down with the iron, with your fingertips, push in the sides of the bowl to form a miniature triangle (see the red triangle ouline?) . . .
. . . Now compress the seam intersection with your iron.
Beautiful! Now move on to the next seam. And repeat the process.
Notice that adjacent seams will rotate in opposite directions. The first seam was clockwise, the seam next to it will rotate counterclockwise. . .
. . . And so on . . . Also notice that the seams on two opposite sides are pressed toward each other, and they are pressed away from each other on the remaining two sides. This will allow the blocks to be set side by side, and a quick 90˚ rotation will assure that block seams will nest when sewn into rows to make a quilt.
Once all the seams have been pressed from the back, flip the block over and press from the front. You may need to give a little outward pull at the corners to make sure all the seams are well-pressed and the block is the proper shape and size–5″ square.
Repeat the furl process for each seam intersection on each block
Check to make sure each of your 12 blocks measures 5″ square.
Blocks that are significantly larger or smaller will be problematic for the swap, but if you’ve followed all the steps above carefully they should be great!
Keep one block for you, and send the remaining 11 blocks to be swapped according to the instructions in your swap kit.