The March challenge for the 2018 Island Batik Ambassadors was to try a new Technique. Most of us are longtime quilters, instructors and/or designers, so for many of us, the hardest part of the challenge was to come up with a tool or technique we haven’t already tried! Fortunately, I had a couple of tools designed by Phillips Fiber Art that I had not had time to play with yet – The Gems 5 & 10 and Gem Star tools.
I started thinking about what sort of project I could make with the pieced and appliqued 5-pointed stars these tools make. I was surfing the internet in search of inspiration when I came across Diane Harris’s posts about a class she was taking on improvisational quilting. My muse tapped me on the shoulder and reminded me that the President’s Challenge theme I had chosen for my quilt guild this year is Wing It. “We can answer two challenges with one project,” says he.
“Improvisation. Make it up as you go,” I replied. “How hard can it be?” That was in early March. It’s now mid-June and I have just put the binding on. So there’s your answer. Here’s the rest of the story:
We began with the fabric pull. I started with the collection of basics supplied by Island Batik. I chose a dark green for my big pieced star. I also decided that I had to use this yellow and magenta blend because…well, to be honest, since I had little confidence this project was going to turn out, I wouldn’t be too upset if, in the end, I felt like I had wasted it. Then I pulled out my bag of Island Batik scraps and came up with more greens and pinks, and decided to add a copper-brown print from the basics.
In the end, I didn’t use the three lightest greens or the light pink, but at this point I still didn’t know what I was making. Better to have too many colors than not enough.
First came the pieced base. I made one large dark green star with the Gem 10 tool. The instructions that come with the tool are well-illustrated. In a nutshell, you sew stripsets, then use the tool as a template to cut wedges. There are five wedges with the darker green, and five mirror-image wedges with the slightly lighter green. Two wedges make one star point wedge.
So, we start with a pieced 5-point star.
I have to say, the tool is terrific and easy to use. It makes a very large star, but there is also a Gem 10 Junior tool available if you want a smaller project. But I digress.
As it happens, the piece is a decagon shape. It works great for the several patterns Phillips Fiber Art has designed for the Gem 5 & 10 tools. However, my Muse and I had decided we wanted a square wallhanging.
At this point, Muse left the studio. I hate it when he does that.
After several hours of thinking, slicing, patching, piecing and trimming up, I had a square-ish base piece. I couldn’t say I was happy with it, and frankly, I was feeling more than a little stressed out because I didn’t even know which side was top, bottom, left or right. I had no clue where I was going with this project. Finally, I convinced myself that if I didn’t love it, at least I didn’t hate it, and it was time to move on.
Making the applique stars with the Gem Star tool was the most enjoyable part of this project. There’s a clever little trick for getting those points so pointy, and the only difficult part of the whole process is getting the center to match up. Most were oh-so-close, but this gold one is dead-on perfect.
When these stars are finished, the edges of the points are turned under already, so it’s a simply matter to applique them down, whether you you want to hand-sew or machine-sew them.
I didn’t have any idea how many stars I needed or where they were going to be placed, so I just started making them in several sizes. In the end, I made more than I needed. The extras may become Christmas ornaments.
Quilting is very simple on this piece. I stitched 1/4″ inside and outside the perimeter of the large pieced star, then echo-quilted straight lines in the gold background, and straight lines across the magenta corners.
Using my quilting guide bar, and my seams as a pivot point, it was easy to make straight, evenly-spaced quilting lines. I sewed a 1″ spaced line, then two 1/4″ lines, then 1″, two 1/4″, repeating until the space was filled.
Next decision: Where to put the applique stars. If I hadn’t been so far beyond deadline at this point, I would have enjoyed playing with the possibilities. Here are a few of the options I liked:
The more I played with the stars, the more I felt something just wasn’t right with the base piece yet. It was the gold areas. After stewing over it for a few days, Muse resurfaced and suggested I add a few lines of quilting that might actually be visible in the gold areas.
It’s amazing how just a little detail can make such a big difference.
Those two lines of magenta quilting were just what this piece needed to pull it all together.
Note to Muse: It would have been easier if you had suggested it before I appliqued the stars down. Just sayin’.
So, is it finished now? I don’t know. Hence, the title – Am I There Yet?
After all, if you don’t know where you’re going, how do you know when you’ve arrived?