Tag Archives: On-point setting

Spinning Star

Some projects turn out roughly the way one expects, and others? Not so much. My Spinning Star is one of those.

Earlier this year I was invited to facilitate a three-day workshop at an art center. I was honored! And excited! And I started planning a quilt project that could convey many lessons of medallion quilts, while allowing the students to create designs unique to their own tastes.

When I teach my Medallion Improv! class, I offer a common blueprint so the students can focus on some design principles and elements, but not all of them. With given sizes for the center block and border widths, for example, they don’t need to worry much about proportion.

For the three-day workshop, I planned to use a 16″ center block. Each student would bring their own to the first class day, to set the foundation for their own design. The first order of business in class would be to demonstrate setting that block on point. The on-point setting expands the center block both physically and visually. The 16″ space, with exactly sized setting corners, suddenly becomes 22 5/8″. It’s an efficient and dramatic way to increase the size of the project. (To see how to set a block on point, check this out.)

In order to provide an example for promotional materials, I got to work and made a 16″ block of my own. The setting triangles are slightly oversized to take the new center to 23″. Using oversized corners helps with two aspects. One, it doesn’t require perfection in placing those corners, making it an easier task. Two, it allows the quilter to trim the center to a size that is simpler to use. Using 23″ finished means I can add 2.5″ (finished) borders on each side, taking the top to 28″. That is an easy size to use.

You can see more information about how I started this in my post Medallion Process — A New Center Block for Class.

And then … the invitation was rescinded because the art center decided they needed a bigger name. (Yes, I am a bit disappointed by how that all went, but you don’t need to worry or comment on that. There are challenges and opportunities in how we deal with disappointments, too.) Immediately it was apparent that this project would not go roughly as I imagined.

At about the same time, I was working on the slide show for my guild’s quilt festival. You can find the video of A Quilt Is More Than A Blanket in this post. Though I was deep in the midst of making my red and white quilts, I realized that to show the process of making a quilt, I needed to take pix of a quilt in process! For various reasons, I didn’t think the red and white ones were good candidates for that. So onward and upward! The spinning star became a priority again.

Spinning Star. 50″ x 50″. Finished June 2017. Photo by Jim Ruebush.

The center block is made with paper piecing. The first framing border (not setting triangles) is unpieced strips. The fabric of the border repeats the dark blue, red, and black that came earlier. It also adds some lighter chalky blue for value contrast and relief. The print is supposedly an Australian Aboriginal design. The border takes the center (everything in the center so far, including the border once added,) to 28″.

This really is an easy size to use, if one is making a pieced border of square blocks. You can divide 28″ a lot of different ways, including into 7 blocks at 4″, 8 blocks at 3.5″, 14 blocks at 2″, and so on.

My original plan for the workshop blueprint was to use 3.5″ half-square triangles. There are a lot of lessons to learn with HST, and there are fun ways to demonstrate them. (Here are a few ways to look at HST.) But once plans changed, and I wanted to increase the size more quickly in order to finish more quickly, I decided to use a wider border.

I looked for inspiration in a number of places and ultimately saw a round robin quilt in Instagram I liked. It had a middle border of light bars and darker bars, arranged in a staggered way. I think the proportions of the bars were different from mine, but the idea is the same. One advantage to this design is I could make it as wide as I wanted. (“Wide” means the dimension perpendicular to the edge of the center. The two lines in this symbol ⊥ are perpendicular to each other. “Length” is the dimension along the edge.) The width is 6″, taking the top to 40″.

Running the blue bars through the middle creates a stable line, and makes the V-pattern of the staggered darks a little more subtle.

I also knew I wanted the corner blocks to echo the center shapes. Using the same blue and red fabrics from the very center, as well as one of the orange fabrics, gives a direct repeat. And using the economy block gives a less direct repeat of the center with setting triangles. (For directions on making the economy block, see my most-viewed post ever.)

With the center then at 40″, I had another easy length to divide into square blocks. I chose a 5″ wide border, this time of the HST I didn’t use before. Well, sort of. My plan was to use HST, simply made from a solid orange and the same blue Aboriginal print from before. I made 8 of the 36 required blocks (8 on each side and 4 in the corners,) and they were awful. The orange was much too much, too orange, too much orange. (NOT articulate, huh? I wish I’d taken pictures to let you see exactly what I mean.)

I still liked the idea of using the HST to make Vs around the edge, but the orange wouldn’t work. I tried other ideas and other fabrics. I flipped the orange underneath to reveal less of it, and put that against another blue. Ah. Much better. However, the solid orange still didn’t work for me. Instead I cut strips of the squiggly orange stripe from the center setting triangles, and added pieces of the blue that looks like it has finger-painting smears on it. One benefit of this is I could still use all the blue Aboriginal print I’d already cut!

The completed top is 50″ square. I quilted it very simply with a large double meander in a marigold-colored thread. (The double meander is done with one very large stipple or meander across the surface of the quilt, followed by another pass back, winding and ribboning through the first pass. It’s simple and fast and looks great on a lot of quilts.)

The binding is made from the African fabric used for the red and black stripes of the setting triangles. Though the red and black were fussy cut from it, the design also includes dark blue, so it was suitable across its pattern.

This quilt did not go roughly how I expected. It didn’t go much as planned at all. But I was pleased to use it for the video, and I like how it turned out. I think it will have a special owner some day, but right now I don’t know who that will be.


How to Set a Block On Point

A few days ago I was asked how to calculate the size of setting triangles for an on-point setting. I thought a post focused on that would help others, too.

Center block set on point, and framed with a narrow border.

[For information to help decide whether to set your center block on point, see this post.]

Have you ever made a block-format quilt with a diagonal setting? The math for setting triangles is the same as that for the setting corners on that block quilt.

How large will your new block be?
finished center x 1.414 = finished size of on-point block
ex: 20″ x 1.414 = 28.28″.

To find out more, click here!

Design Process — Another Way to Go On-Point

I posted in August about choosing between straight or on-point settings for medallion quilt center blocks. There are good reasons for both, including the shape and orientation of the center block, as well as your personal preferences.

I demonstrated that blocks that are directional through the diagonal may look best set on point. Here is the straight set:

Square block, directional through the diagonal. Use on-point setting.

And set on point:

Directional square, set on point.

That one is an easy choice for setting.

Here is one that’s not as obvious. When I began one of the samples for the Medallion Sew-Along, I chose a churndash block. It’s based on a simple 9-patch format.

And then I set it on point.

As soon as I turned it on point, I knew I wasn’t happy with it. Though technically it was fine, my personal preferences led me, ultimately, to turn it back to a straight setting. (See more about this quilt and its design process here.)

I could have chosen a different way to simulate an on-point setting, while keeping a straight set. Here is another churndash block:

And here are two different settings, both assuming a 12″ center and 24″ finish, to keep the scale the same.

Which do you like better? It’s just a matter of your personal preference for appearance. I like the second one better, but I’m not sure I could explain why.

How can you get the effect of the second, using a straight setting? Any blocks with a diagonal pattern may be used. I’ve illustrated it with half-square triangles, but you could use log cabins, Perkiomen 9-patches, double-4-patches, jewel box blocks… The list goes on.

Note that there are an even number of setting blocks across (and vertically). In my illustration there are 12 blocks. (I could have achieved a similar look with as few as 4.) The even number allows the pattern to split in the middle, creating the point.

Also, I demonstrate it with an outer “border” of dark green, for simplicity and to make it more comparable to the on-point example. But you could use any blocks after creating the inside diagonal lines.

I hope this gives you an extra tool in your kit, and a way to resolve some setting problems for your medallion quilts.

Design Process — Design As You Go

I thought you might be interested in my process while I made a medallion top. The top is a sample I developed for the Medallion Sew-Along. A key aspect of the sew-along is that I invite you to design as you go. There is no pattern prescribing what border to use. I provide a lot of examples and ideas. You take it from there.

But design-as-you-go can seem mysterious to those who’ve never worked that way. So I’ll step through this example and talk about the decisions I made, and my assessment of success or failure on them. I’d love to hear your opinions, too, both positive and negative ones. This is how we learn.

I started by making a 15″ center block.

I love the medallion print in the middle patch, and I like the interplay of blue and browns. The cream background is one I’ve used in a number of “important” quilts. It’s almost gone and I’ll miss it. The churndash pattern is a favorite of mine. Overall the block works with good color and value contrast, and good balance.

To see more, click here!