Quiltketeers, this is the part of the sew along we've all been waiting for! (Or, dreading. One or the other.) In Weeks 3 and 4 of the Shining Star sew along we get to release our inner toddler and make a huge mess on the cutting mat. This week we're sewing improv! Hooray!
And don't even think for a minute I'd release you into the wild without the safety of some boundaries, lots of support (did someone say video tutorial?), and even a few tricks to get you out of trouble should the need arise. Are you ready to get started?
Quilters, start your machines. Raise your rotary cutters... GO!
Shining Star Sew Along Schedule
- Week 1, July 8: Pick fabric and gather supplies
Sponsor: Sewing Arts Center
- Week 2, July 15: Cut fabric and make flying geese
Sponsor: Heather Alexander Longarm Quilting
- Weeks 3 and 4, July 22 and 29: Make improv log cabins
Sponsor: Week 3 DuckaDilly, and Week 4 Global Fiber Textiles & Notions
- Week 5, August 5: Assemble blocks
Sponsor: Traveling Dye Co. (fabrics being dyed for a shop update now!)
- Week 6, August 12: Assemble quilt top
Sponsor: Lamb & Loom and Trace Creek Quilting
Some Helpful Tools
Last week we did all of the initial cutting so I listed out a few helpful rulers. This week we're cutting, sewing, pressing, and hitting repeat many, many times. To avoid using your iron to press each seam, use a roller or a hera marker to crease back the seams instead.
The benefits of crease pressing rather than heat pressing when making these log cabin blocks are:
- You don't have to use electricity or get hot and sweaty by keeping an iron on for hours.
- It's easy to set up a trimming and pressing station next to your sewing machine if you would prefer not to stand up and sit down multiple times. This is helpful if you experience chronic pain or fatigue. For more info on sewing ergonomics, check out Creative Contributor, Jenni Grover's articles.
My wooden roller and hera marker were handmade by Chris Hanson of Modern American Vintage. So pretty! The small plastic hera marker does the job equally well, but is a lot less expensive. I'd suggest going that route if you are new to quilting and unsure about how much to invest.
I actually like having these two different sizes on hand for when I want to mark something small vs. large. Here's more info on hera markers - 5 Reasons Why A Hera Marker Is The Best Quilt Marking Tool.
Weeks 3 & 4 Assignment: Make Improv Log Cabins
Friends, I am SO excited for you! I'm literally bouncing in my chair thinking about you making these improv log cabins. They are so so cute and fun and, unlike many aspects of quilting, give you an instant jolt of gratification after just a couple seams.
You get to watch each of these tiny babies grow into something unique and beautiful! OK now I'm getting emotional? and that's just weird! MOVING ON!
Tip #1: Keep your fabric organized.
Remember this one from last week? Same drill, folks! If you are making the mulit-colored version, and don't want to mix and match all of your strips (which you could do and that would be very cool), pair up your Color 1 and Color 2 fabrics. Mine look like this...
If you are limited on space and need a place to keep your strips while they patiently await their turn to be butchered (sorry, in my improv excitement strange things are coming out), I suggest using a laundry drying rack. Hopefully it's something you already have at home. Of course, you will first have to throw all of that clean laundry in a pile to make space for the fabric, but I didn't need to tell you that.
Here is a photo of my drying rack from the Gather sew along.
Tip #2: Lower your stitch length.
Any time you are sewing short seams and especially if you are sewing short seams that will get trimmed, lower your stitch length to keep those stitches tight and secure. I usually piece quilts with a 2.5 stitch length, but when sewing these improv cabins, I take it down to 2.
If you don't know how to do that on your machine, check your manual or search Google like this, "Dear Google, how do I change stitch length on a _____ sewing machine. Sincerely, _____" Fill in your sewing machine make and model then your name.
Tip #3: Try making more than one at a time.
IF you have made an improv log cabin successfully already, try making more than one at a time. Don't try making multiples at the same time if you have never done this before. Your brain will melt and you'll get mad at me.
Once you understand the process, full steam ahead and make them however you feel the most comfortable. Since there are nine blocks in the throw quilt, I'm making my blocks in batches of four and then five.
Making multiples is easier the more you stick to the pattern and make them the same way. It gets confusing the more you deviate and make them different from each other (which is really fun and I do recommend that too).
The major benefit to making more than one at a time is you can do the same thing on each unit. So instead of sew, press, trim, sew, press, trim, etc... You can sew sew sew sew, press press press press, trim trim trim trim.
This also allows you to chain piece at your sewing machine.
Tip #4: Use a roller or hera marker to stay cool and save time.
"Stay cool" was my go-to yearbook sign off in Jr. High. Who knew a tween could give such great advice? And who knew you could press seams without an iron?
When making these improv log cabins you can finger press, crease press or iron press. What works well for me is using a roller or hera marker to flatten the seams in the beginning, but once my blocks get almost to the finished size (about 8" in diameter) I flip on my iron and start heat pressing.
There is a point when the fabric pieces are a little too large for crease pressing to remain accurate and fast.
Tip #5: Don't use too much heat.
When making my original Shining Star I used an iron, steam and a tailor's clapper to press every seam. Ummm... wowza. Talk about overkill! I'm usually an advocate for using a tailor's clapper, but you know what? Not this time!
There are so many seams in these improv log cabins that you don't need to be hyper vigilant about getting each one super dooper flat. Plus, I even got to the point where I applied too much heat over and over again to the same fabric (ie. the center square and strips) that I scorched my block! ACK!
Tip #6: Set up a cutting and pressing station by your machine.
Now that we've talked about the different ways to press, you can see that it would be pretty easy to set up a little cutting and pressing station next to your sewing machine to speed up the process. All you would need is a little cutting mat and a roller.
If you would prefer an iron, this adorable travel iron is perfect and it works great on a travel pressing surface. It looks like Omnigrid even has a travel cutting mat ironing surface combo thingy.
Below is a picture of my mini iron and wool pressing mat from the Grow sew along. FACT: If you use a wool mat directly on a non-heat resistant surface (ie. wood table, marble) for an extended amount of time it will ruin that surface. Been there. Done that.
You got a little wild trimming your strips while making one of your log cabins. Now your block is too small and you're freaking out! Ahhhhhhh!
You have two options:
- Cut more of the same fabric from your leftovers. You should have some extra from either Color 1 or Color 2. It doesn't really matter which one because you don't have to stick to the strip order laid out in the pattern.
- Use an extra strip from another block! This thought didn't occur to me until I ran into this problem and saw an extra pink and white strip laying about. Since my Color 1 and 2 fabric is so light it might be hard to tell, but in the gingham block I used one strip of pink and white fabric on the top. This is a sweet way to make all of the blocks coordinate. I just wish I'd thought of it earlier. Mixing and adding strips from other blocks is something I will definitely be doing more of in the future.
Tip #7: Make that final trim interesting!
You did it! You did it! You finished sewing your improv log cabin and now it's time for the grand finally. SO EXCITING! Wiggle wobble that ruler around as much as you want to make the final trim. Who says the center block has to stay in the center? Who says you can't chop off the bottom half of a strip?
The only thing for you to keep in mind is that however you trim your cabin, you will lose a 1/4" around its perimeter. So if you trim an outer strip smaller than a 1/4" it will completely disappear in the seam allowance once the block is assembled.
Week 3 Sponsor & Prize
Our favorite Liberty of London fabric store, DuckaDilly, is this week's sponsor, giving away a $100 gift certificate! If you are unfamiliar with Liberty fabric, check out this post on how to sew with lawn. I get a monthly Liberty Post subscription box and it's like Christmas morning 12 days a year!
Week 4 Sponsor & Prize
This week we are picking someone to win a full Glitter & Glow quilt kit, including backing and binding, from Global Fiber Textiles & Notions. Warm and cool kits seen in this blog post are available while supplies lasts.
How to Win
- Post a pic to Instagram. The photo prompt for Instagram this week is to post a picture of your Shining Star progress. Use #ShiningStarQuiltSA in the caption.
- You must have a public Instagram profile to participate.
- Each photo posted is an entry and you can enter as many times as you want in a single week. Once the week is over, those posts do not count in the next week's giveaway. Every week we start fresh.
- For an entry into the Week 3 prize your photo must be posted between Friday, July 22nd, and Friday, July 29th. The winner will be picked randomly from all qualifying posts and announced at approximately 4:00 p.m. CST on the 29th. Good luck!
- For an entry into the Week 4 prize your photo must be posted between Friday, July 29th, and Friday, August 5th. The winner will be picked randomly from all qualifying posts and announced at approximately 4:00 p.m. CST n the 5th. Good luck!
6 thoughts on “Shining Star Quilt Sew Along Weeks 3 & 4: Improv”
Hi Suzy I recently found you on instagram and am loving your inspiration and fun patterns. I do however have a couple of questions regarding the current sew along.
1. Can I start within the next week and still be able to have access to the tutorials for the quilt?
I believe I read that it is a confident beginner quilt and I’ve been quilting for quite along time and are def passed that but I’ve never done and improv blocks just not sure how it works? Any help on starting would be greatly appreciated.
Hi Beth and welcome! I’m so glad you found us 🙂 You can start sewing along with us any time. These sew along blog posts remain free and available here on the blog forever. You can access all past sew alongs here – https://suzyquilts.com/sew-along/ The fun thing about sewing along in real time with us is the sense of community and camaraderie found in the Suzy Quilts Patterns Facebook group and also through the hashtag on Instagram (#ShiningStarQuilt) As you may have noticed, we give away weekly prizes to winners picked from the IG hashtag.
Since you aren’t brand new to quilting, I think you will really enjoy making this quilt. Inside the PDF pattern is a link to a private video tutorial that shows each step in how to make the Shining Star block. Any questions you have about the process, ask here or in the FB group. Questions asked on IG can get missed, so if you don’t hear back there, try here in the comments.xo
I too now love my Hera marker because of your introduction. So much faster and easier than jumping to the overkill of an iron that leaves your fabric seam edge looking old and worn-out.
I long arm my quilts myself and the Hera marks quilting guide lines just as good for that too. Thank you Suzy!
That’s great to hear!
I just finished dying some material, but it is only 9″ wide. Somewhere I had seen a post that you made about making different sized flying geese using alternative fabric sizes (from the 11” block) to still get to the correct size for this project 5.5” x 10.5”. Where would that be?
Yes! You can find two different conversion charts here – https://suzyquilts.com/flying-geese-quilt-tutorial/