Monday, December 4, 2017

Stringing Along in December

This coming week I fly to Dallas and get to speak to the Dallas Quilt Guild and teach two workshops. The Saturday workshop is the Downhome String Star and remains one of my favorite patterns. Although I'm sure some Northern or Midwestern quilters made this pattern, it seems that Southerners embraced it and, as they say around here, "You can't throw a cat here in North Carolina and not hit a String Star quilt." They're everywhere and come in all different sizes and configurations. 

One of the first quilts I bought when I moved to NC was found in a junk shop in Vanceboro NC. The owner confided it had been made by a black quiltmaker with the last name of Reels and as we examined, it was also clear that someone had turned the quilt over and used it as a painting drop cloth. The white drops of paint on the dark backing were permanent. Because of its age, I have never tried to get the paint drops out. By now, I figure they're part of the quilt's history.

The other picture here is a detail from a String Star quilt top owned by Lynn and Will Gorges of New Bern NC. The top was hand-pieced by Will's mother Avis sometime in the 1940s or 50s and is still bright as the day it was made.

The brown and orange String Star quilt was bought in an online auction and hails from the state of Georgia and was likely made in the 1920s. This String Star is a large four-point star and a simpler version to make. The blocks are huge (18" square) and I admire the maker's bold choice of background colors. This is the one I'm teaching in Dallas.

We'll use tracing paper (I provide rolls of this in the class) and make four quarters by #1) folding four layers of the paper and #2) tracing the pattern for a quarter of the block on the top layer (and darkening it with a Sharpie). 

Then it's time to #3) head to the sewing machine. After removing the bobbin and thread, we use the sewing machine needle and "sew" (really perforate) all the paper patterns (keeping them in a stack) along the traced lines. 

See the perforations going through all four layers?

With the four quarters done, we #4) crazy-patch in a casual manner over the central star point. 

Then trim and head back to the sewing machine to add background triangles. Once all the quarters are done they #5) get sewn together in a big block. Mine is a Christmas combo of red stars over a white-and-green checkerboard background. 

Although there's a lot of Christmas-theme fabric out there, my stash includes a healthy supply of reds and greens so I didn't have to shop. And that's what this technique is about: sewing over paper enables you to use fabrics of different weights plus use up your scraps to create a graphic overall pattern. There's just enough order to satisfy my designing brain while I revel in the multitude of pattern and different shades. Kind of The Builder meets Ms. Attention Deficit Quilter. Very satisfying work for a cold December afternoon.

I have made a rather large quilt in this pattern--multi-color jewel-tone Stars on top of a black-and-white checkerboard. I am still hand quilting it. I will drag it to Dallas and demonstrate Big Stitch quilting at the class. Might as well get in a  few stitches!