Remember last week when I said it was the best week of the Starling sew along? Well I totally lied. THIS is hands down the best week. Why? Because Starling is the chef's kiss perfect quilt pattern to use when chain piecing a quilt together for speed, efficiency, and an all around good time!
We've done a lot of chain piecing in this sew along, but this is the first time we are taking those skills and applying them on a large scale. The reason Starling is perfect for this technique is because the blocks are pretty large, so your chained threads shouldn't get tangled and the rows will sew together zippity quick.
I even tried something new and pretty *ahum* daring, if I do say so myself. I'll tell you about it later. First let's recap all that we've done so far. Don't forget that you can find all of these sew along posts in the Sew Along tab forever and always. Even if you can't make this quilt during the scheduled time listed below, that's OK! Follow along at your own pace whenever it works for you.
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 discussed fabric selection + Q&A
- 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 - two winners getting two FQ bundles 🙂
- 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
- Week 6, May 5: Finish quilt top
Sponsor: Trace Creek Quilting - throw sized quilting
Week 6 Assignment: Finish the Quilt Top
Tip #1: Lay out all the blocks.
You can do this on the floor, on a large table, or on a design wall. Whatever floats your bloat and allows you to see the entire quilt at once. One thing I like to do at this stage is take a picture on my phone of the blocks laid out. For some reason when I look at them on a small screen I can spot the places that don't look right, so I know which blocks to rotate or move around.
Tip #2: Chain piece your blocks!
You can do any variation of this that you find helpful. If chaining together the entire top starts to get tangled or feel overwhelming, just take it a couple rows at a time.
Even though I love chaining together quilt blocks, I had always gotten to the point after chaining together my rows that I thought the chain piecing fun was over. I would snip all of the threads, press the rows, carefully pin them together one at a time, and then sew my quit top together.
This time around I wanted to know if I could get away with skipping the middle steps and just sew the rows together without snipping the threads and also NOT PRESSING (or pinning! Ack! Who am I???) OMG, ya'll that is so weird for me to even type because I am the self-appointed queen of pressing every. single. seam.
But you know what? It was a liberating, fun experience, and the quilt turned out great in the end! So hey! Maybe sometimes throw the rule book out the window and just do what feels right! And I really wanted to show you this next picture because my hair was looking FRESH! hahaha!
Here is my original chain piecing video if you need a bit more explanation. This was filmed exactly 55 years ago so I look like a blonde BABY. lol.
Tip #3: Give the entire top a final press.
Since I waited until the very end to press anything, my seams needed some TLC. I flipped it right side down on my ironing board and slowly pressed my seams open. Once I got all of the seams open, I flipped it again so the right side of the quilt top was facing up.
I sprayed every part with my spray water bottle and gently ironing the entire top — setting all the seams so it was nice and flat. Jenn B Quilts, my longarmer for this quilt, will appreciate that. Speaking of longarming, how about some backing and quilting bonus tips!
BONUS Backing Tips
Backing Tip #1: Pick the right substrate for your quilting.
Choosing the right quilt backing can feel like a challenge, but before you think about colors and prints, first consider the kind of fabric you want to use. There are a lot more options than you may realize. Ask yourself who will be quilting it?
- You will quilt it: If you are quilting this quilt on your machine, and you are new to machine quilting, I suggest you choose a soft quilting cotton. I'm biased toward Art Gallery Fabrics because they have the highest thread count quilting cotton, thus making their fabric the softest.
If you are comfortable machine quilting, why not explore a cuddly fabric like flannel, double gauze, or even minky!
If you are hand quilting or tying the quilt, opt for a 100% natural fiber like quilting cotton, flannel, or double gauze.
- A longarm quilter will quilt it:
Many longarm quilters can use the trickier substrates with greater ease than those of us wielding a domestic sewing machine. Because of that, reach out to your longarm quilter if you want to use something like a microfiber blanket or cuddle fabric. Longarm quilting resources:
- Hiring a Longarm Quilter: An In-Depth Guide
- The Ultimate Guide to Longarm Quilters in the USA and Canada
Backing Tip #2: Let your quilt top fabric be your guide.
Once you have a quilting game plan, next you can start the hunt for the perfect backing fabric. My best tip to simplify this is to let your quilt top fabric be your guide. Pick one of your fabrics from the top and use it for the backing.
Backing Tip #3: Think of your top and backing as companions rather than competitors.
For example, if my quilt top has a lot going on with many prints (like my Starling sew along quilt), I will opt for something subtle for the backing.
My backing pick for this Starling sew along quilt is solid Deep Ocean blue Art Gallery Fabrics flannel from Global Fiber (with The Cutting Table 20% off discount!). Oh gosh I looooove their flannel. It's double brushed and incredibly soft. Since it's a solid fabric, it will show off the quilting in a way the quilt top side won't. I plan on giving this quilt away to my 11 year old nephew and I want it to be extra cuddly for him.
But, if I use all solid fabric in the quilt top — GAME ON. Let's find a splashy print to make the backing pop! My original Starling is an example of that. Plaid is quite splashy for me. haha! 😉
Here's another example of blender fabric in the quilt top, and a louder print as the backing. The juxtaposition looks so nice!
Backing Tip #4: Continue the vibe of the top through the back.
The quilt below was made using a Layer Cake, giving it an extra scrappy look. Even though the quilt top is quite busy with prints, using a solid backing on this quilt would have been...well, I think a missed opportunity!
The vibe of this quilt is quirky, scrappy, and HAPPY. Maybe a solid yellow or pink would have looked nice, but these cute little strawberries are the perfect companion.
I hope those backing tips helped! If you have any questions or want an extra opinion on fabric or quilting, ask away in the comments! You can also upload pics and ask questions in the Suzy Quilts Patterns Facebook group.
Quilt Backing & Quilting Resources
Week 6 Sponsor & Prize
Our Week 6 sponsor is Trace Creek Quilting, giving away free longarm quilting on any throw quilt! Don't forget that you get 25% off longarm quilting on your Starling quilt from Favorite Day Longarm Quilting,
Trace Creek Quilting, and Thai Charm through the end of June 2023. You must mention this deal when filling out their info forms.
How to Win
- Post a pic to Instagram. The photo prompt for Instagram this week is to post a pic of your finished Starling quilt. 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, May 5 and Friday, May 12. The winner will be picked randomly from all qualifying posts and announced at approximately 4:00 p.m. Central on the 12th.