• Piecing a Lone Star Quilt

    My favorite type of piecing is 45 degree diamonds. Many quilters believe that making quilts with diamonds is difficult. Piecing diamonds quilts is not more difficult, it is simply a matter of taking the little bit of extra time to make your diamond quilts a success. Several patterns available include 45 degree diamonds and the most popular is the Lone Star Quilt. This quilt is a very large Lemoyne star (or eight pointed star) and has multiple diamonds pieced together to make each large diamond in the total quilt.

    The quickest and easiest way to piece the larger diamonds with multiple small diamonds is to use the strip-piecing method. With strip piecing you sew several strip sets and cut the sewn sets into strips of diamonds. Then these diamond strip sets are stitched together to form a large diamond for one portion of the large Lone Star Quilt.

    Strip piecing sounds very easy and it is. You simply cut strips and sew them together. But there are tricks to have accurate strip sets and for Lone Star Quilts, the strips need to be very accurate. Because many strips are sewn and need to be cut into diamond strip sets, every little variation in cutting and sewing will be noticed in the final product.

    Accurate cutting and sewing is very important. When you are stitching the strips together, be sure that you aren't stretching any of them. Many times the pressure foot of the sewing machine will cause the strip on the top to stretch. When one strip stretches it can cause bowing or twisting of the multi-piece large diamond.

    Strip Piecing - When strip piecing, sew two strips together and press. First 'set the seam' by pressing the side of the strip set that you will be pressing the seam allowance toward - then open and press the strips on the right side. For example if you are stitching a blue strip to a green strip and you wish to press toward the blue, run your iron over the seam on the blue side of the strip set. Then open the strip and press the green strip as the iron pushes toward the blue strip.

    Take the third strip and sew it in the opposite direction of the first stitching. Press again as above. Continue adding strips by reversing the sewing direction as each strip is added. Press after each strip is added. This sewing and pressing method really helps in keeping the strip sets even so they don't curve or twist.

    When stitching a block with small diamonds such as a Lemoyne star it is helpful to pay attention to the bias and grain of the fabric. If the diamonds are rotary cut with one side of the diamond being on the grain and the opposite side being on the bias, arrange the diamonds so a bias seam is being stitched to a straight grain seam. You will find this keeps the block from distortion and helps to 'tame' those bias edges.

    To rotary cut diamonds

    For a 12" block - cut 3" strip. Use your rotary ruler and make first cut at a 45-degree angle. Continue using your ruler to cut 3" diamonds - you need 8 for each block. Cut 4 squares 4". For triangles - cut a 5 1/16" square and slice diagonally twice to make four triangles. If your block is a different size, simply measure the templates in your book or pattern and cut a strip that width. Cut as instructed above.

    In some patterns stitching a bias edge to a grain edge is not always possible. Some patterns call for the patches to be cut with the grain going down the center of the diamond. This makes all your edges to be on a bias. You need to be very careful when stitching these seams because bias cut edges stretch so easily. If you apply some spray starch or spray sizing to the fabric before cutting you will find the bias edges to be more stable and easier to work with.

    Stitching diamonds together

    Your eight diamonds need to be stitched together. Another part of piecing the Lone Star Quilt or Lemoyne Star block that many quilters perceive as difficult is 'setting in'. Setting in is when a square or a triangle is set between the diamond star points. These pieces complete the diamond and make the quilt square. Usually the squares are 'set in' the four corners and a triangle is 'set in' on each side.

    Marking the dots

    The most important part of piecing the diamond and 'setting in' is 'marking the dots'. You will need to mark the sides and points of your large diamonds or the sides and points of the diamonds in a simple block. These markings will aid in putting the quilt together quickly and efficiently. Don't skip this step.

    To make a universal tool to mark the dots, cut a diamond shape from template plastic - any size is OK just so it is the correct shape. Use a 45-degree diamond template in your pattern or book as a guide. Draw the quarter inch seam allowance on the template using a ruler and a permanent pen. Punch a very small hole where the seam allowances intersect or cross at the side edges of the diamond and the points. I use a 1/8" hole punch available in the craft department. Make a square template using the method above. Save these two templates for marking future 45-degree diamond projects. You will use them many times.

    To mark simply place the side edge of your small diamond template at the side edge of your large diamond. Mark a dot with a pencil or washable marker through the punched hole. Move the point edge of your small diamond template to the point of your large diamond and mark a dot as above. Continue until all four 'corners' of the diamond are marked. Mark the four corners of your squares using the square template and mark the three corners of your triangles using both the 'square' template and the 'diamond' template. You will use the square for marking one side of the triangle and the diamond point for marking the triangle points.

    Stitching diamonds together

    As you become more experienced at piecing Lone Star Quilts or Lemoyne Star blocks you will find you only need to mark the dots at each side of the diamonds, one corner of the squares, and the inside corner of the triangles. But for the first project, mark all the corners.

    Make sets of two - Machine stitch two star diamonds right sides together. Backstitch at dot, stitching to the center edge. Press open. Don't trim the 'dog ears' yet.

    Make sets of four - Take two sets of two. Match dots, seam end and 'dog ears'. Backstitch at dot, stitching to the center edge. Check where the seams cross at the center to see if they match. Adjust if necessary. Press open. Trim 'dog ears' that are inside, leave the ones sticking out over the edge.

    Stitch halves - Take two sets of four. Line up dots and seam 'X' and 'dog ears' pin at each side of the center seam. Backstitch at dot, stitching to the center edge. Check seam match. Adjust if necessary by removing only stitches about an inch on each side of the seam. Pin and stitch again. Trim 'dog ears'. Press open.

    Add side triangles first - Remember the triangles fill between alternate star points. With right sides together, match point of triangle to point of diamond. Match dot to star diamond. Stitch from outside toward the center dot, backstitch at dot. On the other side of triangle, stitch from outside toward the center dot. Backstitch at dot. Press toward triangle. Set in all four triangles first.

    Add squares last - With right sides together, match square to straight edge of triangle already set in. Stitch from outside toward the center dot, backstitch at dot. Stitch from outside toward the center dot on the opposite side of the square. Backstitch at dot. Press toward square. When all stitching is finished, trim 'dog ears'.

    Remember to always backstitch at a dot. At the outer edge or center of the block, simply begin at the edge of the fabric or stitch to the end of the fabric, backstitching is not necessary.

    Press all star seams open, all square and triangle seams toward the outside of block. You will find with these simple tips you will be able to successfully stitch many Lone Star Quilts or Lemoyne Star blocks.
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