I can’t really believe that I have created an original design for an English Paper Piece quilt top, but I haven’t been able to track down a design like it online… Of course this doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist or hasn’t been done before – it just means I wish I knew if it was original!
Having put together a bunch of 6 pointed diamond stars, I started to think about how I would join them up. I also needed to have a plan of how to take those blocks and make them into a quilt top (by this time, the idea for cushion covers as an outcome was out the window). I’d love to be able to draw out what was in my head, either with paper and pen or electronically, but after spending 10 minutes with the paper and pen and producing a lot of very ungeometric looking squiggles, and then half an hour trying to get my head around a few electronic design tools with zero success, I regressed to my usual default position: make up some pieces and lay them out on the floor to see what the options are.
As to the design of the layout, I looked at lots of images of diamond pieced quilts online and read a number of articles written by the people who made them. Before you even get to the joining up part, there are quite simply masses of ways to use diamond shapes, and masses more ways to use the star blocks you can make with them. Some people make their stars (whether 6 or 8 point) in one fabric, or one colour, or one colour and 2 or 3 fabrics, or totally scrappy with whatever is to hand or, like me, using 6 different fabrics with the same colour palette.
When it comes to joining up 6 point stars, I figured out that there were 3 main options:
Use diamonds laid in other orientations to join each star block to another – a very popular approach and seen here in this pretty quilt by Rita of Red Pepper Quilts (image from Pinterest). This approach creates large hexagon shapes made up of diamond pieces and really, hexagons are what I immediately see when I look at it. I’m keen to give the diamond shapes centre stage, so not really what I want.
The next alternative, and one I found quite a few examples of, was to use hexagons around the star blocks and join them together that way. It can look really effective if you choose your fabrics carefully, and even better if you use your quilting stitches to break up the larger hexagons, as in this lovely pillow by ‘the workroom’ on Pinterest:
Applique is another popular choice for dealing with 6 or 8 pointed stars. Here the star blocks are appliqued onto squared fabrics and then those square blocks are joined – that kind of feels a bit like cheating to me. I know it is a total pain to square up panels made up from angled shapes like this before you can get a border round them, which this approach would avoid, but that’s kind of the point of English paper piecing odd shapes isn’t it? A bit of masochism? Here’s an example of this method using 8 pointed stars from MessyJessy:
Coincidentally, if you look at one of her earlier layouts for these blocks from Pinterest, you can see a 4th layout opportunity for 8 pointed stars – filling the ‘holes’ between the stars with squares of different sizes:
None of the three main options I found felt like exactly what I wanted.
So, still unresolved on the question of layout, I went off and used my Kaffe Fassett shot cotton to make lots of 2 inch hexagons so that I could lay out the stars and see how they could join up. I wasn’t totally in to the idea of using just hexagons for the join up, and I’d already wondered if I could include some triangle shapes into the design to echo the tipi motif in some of the fabrics, so when I started moving things around and saw triangle shaped ‘holes’ appear in one particular configuration, I thought I’d cracked it.
I’m strip piecing the quilt top together now because it seems the most logical approach to my mind. I guess the great thing about not been so educated about the ‘right’ way to patchwork, is that my mind finds it’s own way! That can be liberating when you want to create something really original but, on the other hand, you can end up causing yourself an awful lot of unnecessary extra work because you didn’t know something that a knowledgeable quilter would…
Here are the bones of my piece – 4 strips of hexagon joined 6 pointed stars:
My next step will be to make small blocks of 2 hexies and 2 triangles to fit between the stars and at the top and bottom. I’ll then add diamonds made from the shot cotton to both edges of each of the star blocks, which will start to square up the centre panel.
I’m really enjoying the process of designing and making this quilt, whether it is original or not! I’ve also been unable to resist buying a couple more fabrics from the collection… I’ll use this one for the triangles, the border and probably the binding too:
And, without doubt, my absolute favourite from the whole collection for the backing:
Yum, yum, yum!!
My mind is now obsessing about how best to do the actual quilting stitches. Hmmm…