Starling Quilt Sew Along Week 1: Pick Fabric

Join the Starling quilt sew along to learn extra tips on sewing flying geese, square-in-square blocks and picking fabric!

Quiltketeers, here we are once again with another opportunity to sew together. It may not feel like we're actually sewing together because you live there and I live here, but I love that for a short period of time you and I are synchronizing our calendars, putting other projects on pause, and choosing to create something beautiful. What a lovely thing!

In this sew along we are making the Starling quilt pattern. It's a modern take on a block you know well — a star. Starling is essentially a sawtooth star with a floating square on point in each star center. The twist? You know there had to be one! The twist is that in each vertical row fanning out from the center, the stars lose a part of themselves, giving the appearance of sliding off the sides of the quilt.

This pattern is written for fat quarters, however because it's made from squares and rectangles, you really can use any size scrap you have laying about. With that said, can I be honest with you? I feel like I can because these sew alongs foster openness among friends. 🙂

Being a professional designer is weird. I've been designing quilt patterns for eight years now and during that time a lot has changed. Some patterns are popular and some aren't. I have always designed in a way that feels authentic to myself where I chase after what sparks my creativity; however, I can't ever get away from the fact that I am not the only one who needs to like the pattern. YOU have to like it too! 

So with that comes A LOT of vulnerability. Heck, just putting yourself out there in any creative capacity comes with vulnerability. You know this. It's not easy!

One thing I kept noticing over the last couple years was that people were requesting quilt patterns written for pre-cuts. At first I didn't like feeling confined to designing quilts for pre-cut fabric, but eventually I saw it as a challenge. Being a graphic designer at an ad agency prior to this quilty career taught me that parameters can help guide creativity. So, from this pre-cut challenge came Voyage, New Horizons, Adventureland, Shining Star, Garland, and now Starling.

I loved designing and making those patterns, but a couple weeks ago the thought finally occurred to me that maybe I should ask if pre-cut patterns are actually what you want! I mean, I've been working for two years under this assumption. It might be smart to find out if it's true!

So I did. Last week I sent out a poll and over 2,500 of you responded. And you know what I found out? Only 5% of quilters polled preferred pre-cut friendly quilt patterns! FIVE PERCENT!!!

I'm still wiping my exploded brain off the floor after discovering those findings. I mean, WOW! Anyway, if you have any thoughts on pre-cut friendly patterns, I'd love to hear them in the comments. I'll publish all of the poll data very soon here on the blog so you can see for yourself... but sheesh! Five percent...

OK, onto the sew along!

The Starling quilt pattern is Fat Quarter friendly and Layer Cake Friendly.

What's a Sew Along?

I'm so glad you asked! Here at Suzy Quilts we like to follow up a pattern release with a multi-week community sew along to give you an opportunity to make a quilt with the designer of the quilt — me, Suzy!

I'll go over extra examples, break down the steps even further, and give you a chance to ask questions that come up along the way. These sew alongs are supplementary to the pattern, so even though we cover a lot, we don't cover everything. You do still need the pattern.

I know that life can get busy and you can't follow along with every sew along we offer (which is four per year!) These sew alongs stay on the blog forever and are easy to find so you can follow along at your own pace. Just pop over to the Sew Along tab where you can surf past sew alongs.

Some Quick Points:

  • NO Sign-up: You do not need to sign up for Suzy Quilts sew alongs. You simply sew along with us! 
  • Sewing questions: You've got questions, we've got answers! The best place to ask your technical sewing questions Suzy Quilts Patterns Facebook group. The main purpose of sew alongs is to answer questions that pop up during the quilt-making process so don't ever worry about asking a "stupid" question. They don't exist!
  • Prizes: Aside from having a beautiful finished quilt top, you also can win weekly prizes by using #StarlingQuiltSA in the comments of your posts on Instagram. More details on that are at the bottom of this post.
  • Discounts: Get 25% off longarm quilting on your Starling quilt from Favorite Day Longarm Quilting,
    Trace Creek Quilting, and Thai Charm are also offering 25% off now through the end of June 2023. You must mention this deal when filling out their info forms.

Starling Quilt Sew Along Schedule

  • Week 1, March 31: Gather fabric
    Sponsor: Lamb & Loom - Starling Quilt Kit (Gemstone) + surprise backing
    IG LIVE - @suzyquilts: Monday, April 3 @ 2pm Central - We will discuss fabric selection + Q&A. If you have specific questions you want covered, post them in the blog comments below.
  • Week 2, April 7: Cut fabric
    Sponsor: Global Fiber - Flowering Trees by Oana Befort fabric bundle
  • Week 3, April 14: Sew square-in-square units
    Sponsor: Art Gallery Fabrics - LOTS of FQs 🙂
  • Week 4, April 21: Sew flying geese units
    Sponsor: Thai Charm - throw size quilting
  • Week 5, April 28: Assemble blocks
    Sponsor: Sewing Arts Center - $100 gift card
    IG LIVE - @suzyquilts: Tuesday, May 2 @ 2pm Central - We will discuss block assembly + a demo on 3 different ways to pin a block to get your seams to align. If you have specific questions you want covered, post them in the blog comments below.
  • Week 6, May 5: Finish quilt top
    Sponsor: Trace Creek Quilting - throw sized quilting

Starling Quilt Supplies

Starling Fabric Requirements

If You Are New to Quilting...

I'm so glad you're here! This is a fantastic pattern for you and a sew along is the perfect way to explore, learn and grow your quilting skills. I have more resources for you that are helpful and quick to read.

Week 1 Assignment: Pick Fabric

One of the great things about Starling is that it's just pretty easy to pull fabric for this pattern. To make the throw size you need 10 FQs and some background fabric. I'm lucky enough to have a fun little stash of fabric to pull from, so that's where I headed.

I don't typically have multiple yards of the same fabric in my stash, but what I do is an over abundance of FQs. Since the background of this pattern has no borders and is made up of just squares, I figured I could get that fabric from FQs too!

Join the Starling quilt sew along to learn extra tips on sewing flying geese, square-in-square blocks and picking fabric!
Beautiful quilting fabric

The key to creating a clear foreground and background from many different fabrics is to group them by like colors and values. Value is the lightness or darkness of a color. So if you pick a background that is light in value, to make the foreground pop, you need to pick dark fabric for the foreground.

I decided to keep it really simple and picked just two color families:

  1. Background: 11 FQs in various shades of cream. A lot of these fabrics are solid, but the ones that aren't are still very subtle. The purpose of background is to let the foreground shine. I wanted high contrast in this quilt to highlight the pattern design.
  2. Foreground: 10 FQs in various shades of dark navy. Generally I try to keep my fabric stash color coded (ish) so when I want to pull fabric in the same color family, it's a simple grab. A lot of these fabrics are yarn-dyed woven fabrics, which means they like to fray. I've got a few tips for you if you're also planning on mixing some loosely woven fabric into your quilt.
Join the Starling quilt sew along to learn extra tips on sewing flying geese, square-in-square blocks and picking fabric!

3 Yarn-Dyed Fabric Tips!

One of my biggest tips when working with this type of fabric is to prewash it. HOWEVER, since these are FQs, I can't prewash them otherwise I will lose too much to shrinkage and fraying. Like I mentioned before, these beauties like to fray. So here's what you can do...

Join the Starling quilt sew along to learn extra tips on sewing flying geese, square-in-square blocks and picking fabric!

Tip #1: Starch.

This week before we start cutting, iron and starch all of your yarn-dyed fabric. But don't stop there! It's a good practice that if you starch some of your fabric you should starch all of your fabric so everything plays well together. Even if you are only using a little bit of yarn-dyed fabric with your quilt-weight cotton, go ahead and starch that quilt-weight cotton too.

Tip #2: Do not pull fraying threads — snip them instead.

If you've ever had a sweater with a loose bit of yarn, I don't have to tell you what would happen if you tugged on it. So, with that in mind, don't go tugging on your yarn-dyed threads. Because of the looser weave, pulling loose threads could significantly damage the fabric. So instead, just roll with a little bit of fraying and if the threads get too long, snip them with scissors.

Tip #3: Reduce your stitch length.

This is something I'll remind you about when we get to sewing in Week 3, but keep in the back of your mind that it's a good idea to lower your stitch length a bit when sewing with fabric that has a looser weave. The smaller the stitch length the more secure the seam. The more secure the seam, the less likely it will fall apart over time due to fraying.

FQ Picking Tip!

I think one of the reasons quilters end up with a lot of FQs is because they're small and inexpensive. If you're new to quilting, and want to grow your fabric stash, collecting an assortment of printed and solid FQs is a good place to start.

When pulling fabric for my quilts I like to roughly stick to using at least 50% solid fabric. I think that helps the printed fabric stand out more without the quilt appearing overly busy. Here's an example of how I would typically pull 10 FQs from my stash.

  1. Start with one print that you want to use. From there, settle on the overall vibe of the quilt. My first fabric was the lavender floral on the top of the pile. It's from the LullaBee collection by Patty Basemi for Art Gallery Fabrics. That fabric was screaming to be part of a joyous spring rainbow quilt.
  2. After that I added a few more happy, bright florals.
  3. For each floral, I picked a coordinating solid. I could have picked all prints, but I had a special print in mind for the background fabric and I wanted to maintain my 50/50 solids ratio.
  4. After finding 9 fantastic fabrics I realized my stash was lacking in solid purples. Below were my three options... The last one was too bright. It would have stuck out and taken away from my lovely lavender floral. I think one of the top two purples would flow better. What do you think?
Picking Rainbow Fabric for a sew along

I'm thinking that sweet strawberry fabric for the background and the stripe for the binding. So cute, right? The strawberry fabric is from the Haven collection by Amy Sinibaldi for Art Gallery Fabrics and the stripe is from the LullaBee collection by Patty Basemi for Art Gallery Fabrics.

Picking Rainbow Fabric for a sew along |

Week 1 Sponsor & Prize

Kicking off our sew along is Lamb & Loom with a beautiful Starling Quilt Kit (Gemstone) and surprise backing! How fun! We love Lamb & Loom so much that we have included them on our special partnership Discounts page.

The Starling quilt pattern is fat quarter and layer cake friendly. It's a modern take on a classically traditional star quilt.

How to Win

  • Post a pic to Instagram. The photo prompt for Instagram this week is to post an introduction pic or a picture of your fabric. Use #StarlingQuiltSA 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.
  • Your photo must be posted between Friday, March 31 and Friday, April 7, (so freaky!). The winner will be picked randomly from all qualifying posts and announced at approximately 4:00 p.m. on the 7th. Good luck!
Suzy Quilts sew along will teach you important sewing skills while making a beautiful quilt.

9 thoughts on “Starling Quilt Sew Along Week 1: Pick Fabric

  1. SuzyShep says:

    Well, dear Suzy, I was pretty well settled on grabbing a layer cake from my stash, but now I’m thinking about this delightful bundle of FQ’s I have been saving for something special for a very long time…..decisions, decisions. Thanks for the great Week 1 fabric pulling tips!
    PS I’m surprised about that 5% statistic, too!

  2. Nancy Corliss says:

    I do love a FQ friendly pattern, because most of my stash is FQ! So, I’m using my stash for the Starlung SA! But, in general, quilt design far outweighs pre-cut friendly in my priorities for choosing a pattern. So, keep those innovative patterns coming! ❤️

  3. Elizabeth says:

    Very excited for this sew along! I’m using wovens from the new Warp & Weft collection, so I definitely need to starch, but I’ve never done this before. Any tips you could share would be appreciated!

  4. Karen says:

    Looks like another fun SA. Something I struggle with is trying to choose a backing to go along with whatever I’ve created for the front. My issue is that I don’t have much to choose from locally so how does one go about searching online for a coordinating backing fabric?

    • Suzy Williams says:

      That is a fantastic question, and to be honest, I think I struggle with that the most too! We spend so much thought and time making the front, but what about the back?! One easy way to make sure the two sides coordinate is to use a little bit of the backing fabric in the quilt top. So with Starling, if you have a fat quarter of a print you like, get yardage of that same print and use it for the backing.

      Another thing I like to do, because fabric is expensive, is use solid fabric as the backing. Solid fabric really shows off the quilting too. If you get a swatch card (like the Art Gallery Fabrics one we like) you can pretty easily match solid fabrics with your quilt top. I hope that helps!

  5. Ramona says:

    Hello, I love the fact that you are doing this, however, I am old and forgetful, and don’t drive anymore, plus I don’t have social media anymore, nor do I have an instagram account. I just wanted to wish you luck, and really hope everyone enjoys this. I’ve made quilts all my life, but now I find myself forgetting how they go together at times.

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