Let me tell you about the quilt I’m working on. Remember the subtitle of my Feathered Star Quilt Blocks I book: Really Hard Blocks That Take a Long Time to Make? Well I’m at it again, only with a California Star Medallion quilt that will take a “really long time to make.” The center block is not so hard and I made it a while back, but the first border has 40 three-inch Ohio Stars. I seem to be making 4 blocks a day. The next border is a double-sawtooth and has 200 two-triangle squares. That’s a lot of bias-strips. Then I plan a sampler border of fourteen 12” blocks that all involve two triangle squares: some are new Feathered Star designs, some are traditional blocks that just have lots of triangles. The design involves lattices with about another 250 two-triangles squares


I’m apparently not over the red and white craze inspired by the red and white quilt exhibit in New York a few years ago — and I do love my red stash. I realize some of the prints I’m pulling for this very scrappy quilt are from the 1980s: is that good or bad? The other reds are from my fabric lines Staples V, Raspberry & Cream, and Chocolate & Cherry.Red:whiteFQP

On my website, I put all the red prints I have for sale together on a page called RED ALLOVER. If you go there, along with yardage, you will also see a RED AND WHITE Fat Quarter Pack that I’ve put together to help you build and maintain your stash of red and white prints. I can’t explain it, but as I use up my old red and white prints, I get a little sad that I won’t “have” them anymore — thus the push to find more.

Here are some other red and white quilts for your enjoyment.

Radiant Star with Tulip Applique

Radiant Star


English Ivy

Feathered Star Sampler. jp copy

Feathered Star Sampler


Star of Chamblie Sampler




Raspberry & Cream Fabric Line

rcsbomcoverI just heard from Clothworks that my new fabric line, Raspberry & Cream, is now being shipped to stores!! I’ll be getting my bolts at Feathered Star Productions next week! You can see the prints at:…/fabric…/raspberry-and-cream.html

I designed a Block of the Month Pattern for shops to go with the Raspberry & Cream fabrics. The 9″ sampler blocks are from my book, Marsha McCloskey’s Block Party. Shops interested in participating can order the pattern binder on my website. There’s still time!!!




It happens regularly: a quilter sees one of my patterns and wants to make the quilt in a different size. She writes to me asking that I figure the yardage for her to make a quilt that measures  x” by  x”. This is what I generally send as a reply.

#1. Most quilt fabric is 42″ to 44″ wide. For figuring purposes, you can count on 40″ usable width after shrinkage and cutting off selvages.

#2. Take each shape of each color in your quilt design and determine how many patches are needed.

Example: Each block needs four 2-1/2″ red squares.

There are 20 blocks. 4 x 20 = 80.

Divide the width of the fabric, 40″, by the cut size of the square, 2.5″,  to get the number of squares that can be cut from one strip 2.5″ wide.

40″/2.5 = 16 squares per row.

Divide the total number of squares needed by the number that can be cut from one strip 2.5″ wide, to get the number of rows of squares needed.

80/16 = 5 rows.

Multiply the number of rows by the size of the square to get the number of inches of fabric needed.

5 x 2.5″ = 12.5″

( If you need other shapes from the same fabric, go through the same process and add the inches together.)

To allow for shrinkage, multiply the number of running inches needed by 106%.

12.5″ x 106% = 13.25″

This is almost 3/8 yard (3/8 yard = 13.5″). So 3/8 yard should be enough fabric for eighty 2-1/2″ squares. If you don’t mind having a little extra, buy ½ yard.

#3. Repeat the above for each shape and fabric in your quilt plan. I know it’s a pain, but if you feel the need to buy just the right amount, then all that figuring is what is needed.

This is also why I do not figure yardage for individuals’ quilts — it just takes a long time and there are a lot of variables … and you’re better off knowing how to do it yourself.

(OR you can make scrap quilts and just collect a whole bunch of reds and when you run out of one print, start cutting from another.)

It is, however useful to get a ball park amount of yardage for a quilt. One method I use is to take the amount of yardage needed for the backing of the quilt and multiply it by 1-1/2 to get an approximate amount for the quilt top. So if you need 6 yards for the backing, you’d need somewhere in the neighborhood of 9 yards (plus) for the top. This is good information in case you go through all the calculating and come up with a total of, say, 25 yards. 25 yards is nowhere near the 9 yard ballpark figure, so you treat that as a clue that something went wrong with your figuring. If your calculations gave you a total needed of 10-1/2 yards, I would consider that in the “ball park” and have confidence to buy that amount.

And then there’s the old saying: “If a fabric is worth buying, it’s worth having.” So buy a little more that you need to build up your stash.


Inches to Yards Chart

This will help you convert your calculations to yardage amounts.


4-1/2” = 1/8 yard

9” = ¼ yard

13-1/2” = 3/8 yard

18” = ½ yard

22-1/2” = 5/8 yard

27” = ¾ yard

31-1/2” = 7/8 yard

36” = 1 yard

40-1/2” = 1-1/8” yards

45” = 1-1/4 yards

49-1/2” = 1-3/8 yards

54” = 1-1/2 yards

58-1/2” = 1-5/8 yards

63” = 1-3/4 yards

67-1/2” = 1-7/8 yards

72” = 2 yards

California Star



I finished my new California Feathered Star block!  This is the one that I made the scrappy bias-strip set ups for. It is sized for a 9″ finished center. I’m working on a block book of 3″ finished blocks and this will be one of the projects. The 3″ Ohio Star is the same one used in the Winter Star block. I gave detailed instructions for its construction in the Winter Star Tutorial last year.  There is another California Star block that has a 7-1/2″ center (2-1/2″ Ohio Stars)  in my book Feathered Star Quilt Blocks II on page 34. The quilt shown here was one of the patterns in my book On to Square Two (out of print*).


I also have an old quilt, probably from the 1930s or 1940s, that features one huge California Star. The Ohio Stars in this one finish at 9″so the center is 27″ across. I still haven’t figured out why a California Star has Ohio Stars in it…. maybe Variable Stars would be a better name here. Oh well.



See Me on The Quilt Show

As you may already know, I appeared as the featured artist with Alex Anderson and Ricky Tims on The Quilt Show in episode #1203 and talked about my Winter Star pattern. If you didn’t have the opportunity to see this show the first time around, now you’ll have the chance to see it—and so many other terrific shows—at no cost in honor of International Quilting Weekend March 18-20. To find my show go to:
There is also a contest with over $11,000 in prizes featuring a Grand Prize of a BERNINA 570QE. It’s a fun weekend and quilters look forward to it every year.

Making Scrappy Feather Squares

Today I’m BETA testing my new Bias Square-Plus ruler. What better way to put a ruler through its paces than to cut the pieces for a new Feathered Star block! I’m making a large Feathered Star in red and white. I wanted it to have scrappy feather squares. To get maximum variety of prints and still use the Bias-Strip Piecing technique, I cut 8-1/2″ (the size of the new ruler– how easy is that?) beginning squares from 7 different light reds and 7 different dark reds.

BSP squares

I cut them all into 2″-wide bias strips. Choosing one strip pair from each combination, I stitched the strips together (these are just the longest strip pairs -there are a LOT more strips). Every seam line gives a different fabric combination. Fun.

For further information on Bias-Strip Piecing, see the step-by-step directions in the Winter Star Tutorial.

Scrappy Bias Strips

My block has 2 different sizes of feather squares: 1-5/8″ and 1-9/16″. One is only 1/16″ larger than the other. To keep the sizes separate, I cut all the larger squares first and put them in a marked plastic bag for safe keeping.

Scrappy Bias Squares

Next are the 1-9/16″ squares, which also have a plastic bag.

BSP-red and white

The new Bias Square-Plus ruler is 1/2″ larger than the old 8″ Bias Square from Martingale, has dashed lines for the 1/8″ dimensions, and markings at the edges and down the bias line for 1/16ths. The original Bias Square rulers were designed in the 1980s by Nancy J. Martin for That Patchwork Place, but went out of print last year. Nancy and I developed the bias-strip piecing technique together, and I LOVED the 8″ Bias Square. It was (and is) one of my favorite rulers for cutting squares. I couldn’t stand the thought of not having it available anymore. To get rights to the design and the Bias Square name, Nancy obtained permission from Martingale (formerly That Patchwork Place) and granted it to me. One has to be careful of copyrights. It will be the fifth ruler produced by my small company, Feathered Star Productions, and will be available later this Spring (2016). The changes made to the design make it even more useful.


Drafting Baby Blocks


My friend, Loretta, is teaching a sampler class. The subject of this week’s lesson is Stars and Baby Blocks made with 60 degree diamonds. For years, my go-to person for 60 degree diamonds and triangle designs has been Sara Nephew. If you google her, you’ll see all sorts of rulers, books and quilt designs using hexagons and related shapes.

A great aid for designing with these shapes is Isometric Graph Paper. Again, a quick Google search will show you sites where this triangular grid paper can be printed. It can also be found in some stores. In Eugene, I would look at an art supply store or the University of Oregon book store.Screen Shot 2016-01-23 at 1.47.16 PM

You can draft a hexagon with regular graph paper. The graph paper I use has 8 squares to the inch and has a heavy line at the 1″ increments. You can draft this on unlined paper as well.

  1. Choose a dimension for the finished side of the 60 degree diamond. I chose 2″ and using that setting on my compass, drew a circle with a 2″ radius. Then I drew a midline through the circle dividing it in half. It helped that when I drew the circle, the compass point was placed at the intersection of the heavy lines.


2. Now, I need to locate 6 points on the circle that are the same distance apart. Using the compass again with the same 2″ setting, put the compass point where the midline intersects the circle and make a mark on the circle.


Now, move the point of the compass to the mark you just made, and repeat the process to make another mark. Continue until you have 6 points located on the circle (2 are created with the midline and the other 4 are made with compass markings).



3. Connect the 6 points as shown to draw a hexagon with 2″ finished sides.


4. Connect every other point on the circle with the center, to make three 60 degree diamonds with 2″ finished sides. (I can also see a set of equilateral triangles.)


5. To make a template, color in one of the diamonds and add a 1/4″ seam allowance.


Have Fun!

My Online Feathered Star Workshop at Craft University

CraftUpromoMy Craft University course on Feathered Stars starts September 29!
I’m so excited! I went to Golden, Colorado, in June to do the taping. There’s even a video to promote it. Here’s the link:

Feathered Star Quilting Techniques with Marsha McCloskey

In the meantime, I’m working on the last post on the Winter Star — the one about sewing the block together. We had a few setbacks in August (a funeral to go to and my husband was in the hospital for a week) and it has thrown my schedule off somewhat. Thankfully, things have settled some and I’m back to my studio and getting ready to teach for the Utah Quilt Guild’s Quilt Fest 2015 in mid September. This is the last conference I have scheduled that I have to fly to. I had already agreed to do it last year when I decided to limit my travel to just the Northwest. I’ve been to this event before and they put on a really fun show:

If you are interested in taking a class IN PERSON, I have scheduled some classes locally in the Eugene area and a retreat in Washington State next year.


ENGLISH IVY QUILT,  Saturday, October 3, 2015 

At “Our Sewing Room” in Springfield, OR

I’ll be teaching my English Ivy quilt, which can be made in a miniature 3” block, or in a standard 6” block. You will learn some “cut it larger, true it down” sewing techniques and bias-strip piecing to make ½” scale triangles (for the miniature version). This is a very sweet two-color quilt. Cost is $55.

Radiant Blue1

2-DAY RADIANT FEATHERED STAR, Mon., Oct. 5 & Tues., Oct. 6, 2015

At “Our Sewing Room” in Springfield, OR

This 2-day class will include drafting instruction for the Radiant Feathered Star, color placement, and accurate rotary cutting and machine piecing. Lunch and snacks are included both days. Cost is $295 for the 2-Day workshop.

Chamblie Sampler1



Session I: June 3-7, 2016

Session II: June 8-12, 2016

If Feathered Stars are on your bucket list, this is your chance to learn from the quilting world’s Feathered Star expert! Enjoy 5 days of total Feathered Star immersion at The Wild Rose Quilt Shop and Retreat Center in Orting, Washington. The registration fee of $995 includes 4 nights double occupancy lodging, most meals, and daily classroom instruction with Marsha. The class agenda includes a trunk show, drafting and design, rotary cutting and machine piecing. You will have plenty of free sewing time and individual help from Marsha during this 5-day retreat!


Email:                 Phone: 541-554-9537


Winter Star Tutorial: Cutting the Rest of the Pieces

To finish the cutting for the 11″ Winter Star, we will need to cut some squares and triangles. The 3″ Ohio Star for the center and the 16 feather squares were made earlier. Going back to the drafting, there are small squares (S3) that fill in where the feather rows turn, and large squares for the block corners (S13). There are also three triangles: TT10, T9 and T3. These template designations match those found in the cutting chart on page 46 of the Feathered Star Quilt Blocks II book.

Cutting instructions here include Trimming Points for Easy Matching

Trimming points on triangles and other shapes takes the guesswork out of matching cut parches before they are sewn together. Once you’ve trimmed points, patches will fit flush with one another when correctly aligned. I know many quilters skip this step in preparing their pieces, but I really encourage you to try it. My piecing is just better when I trim points.

The templates in the book and on my drafting include both points and trim lines. You need the points drawn for measuring cutting dimensions.

Triangle points can be trimmed in two ways: perpendicular to the long side or to the short side of the triangle. The direction of the trim line depends on how the triangle will be sewn to the next shape. the amount you trim will always be 3/8″ on 45° angles. There are other point trimmers on the market, but I designed the point trimmer function into the Precision Trimmer 3 ruler and the Precision Trimmer 6. Mostly, I use the PT3.


Here is my drafting and a drawing of the block with template placement.



• S3: Cut 4 squares 1-1/2″ x 1-1/2″. I like to choose a fabric here that contrasts with the dark-side of the feather squares.

•  S13: Cut 4 squares, 3-1/2″ x 3-1/2″, of the background fabric.

• TT10: Cut 1 square, 6-1/2″ x 6-1/2″, of the background fabric. Cut diagonally twice to make 4 quarter-square triangles.

QSTTrim points for match using the PT3 as shown. Line up the dashed center line of the ruler with the long side of the triangle and the solid diagonal line with the short side. Trim off the 3/8″ triangle that sticks out beyond the ruler. Repeat for the opposite side.


• T9: Four of these triangles fit around the center Ohio Star and eight are used for the  star points. Following the rule of straight grain placement (it needs to be on the outside edge of the pieced unit), these will be cut as half square triangles.

HST— For the T9 triangles that fit around the Ohio Star center, cut 2 squares, 3″ x 3″, of a medium value print. Cut diagonally once to make 4 half square triangles. Before moving the triangles, use the PT3 ruler as shown to trim the triangle points for matching. Line up the ruler’s center dashed line with the diagonal cut and the solid diagonal line of the ruler with the side of the square (short side of the triangle.) What sticks out will be 3/8″ triangles for both triangles. Trim them off. (If you forget to trim points before moving the triangles, they can be trimmed using the method used for the TT10 triangle above, only start with the center line lined up with the long bias edge.)



— For the T9 triangles that are the star points, cut 4 squares, 3″ x 3″, of a dark value print. Cut diagonally once to make 8 half square triangles. Use the PT3 ruler as shown above  to trim the triangle points for matching.


• T3: This is the single triangle at the end of the feather row. Cut 4 squares 1-7/8″ x 1-7/8″ from the same fabric that is the dark side of the feather squares. Cut each square in half to make 8 half-square triangles. Trimming these points for matching is done differently than for the previous two triangles. Instead of the PT3 ruler, use the square ruler that you used to cut the 1-1/2″ feather squares and place the ruler as shown. The 90° angle of the triangle is placed on the 1-1/2″ square marking and the points that extend beyond the ruler are trimmed off. The trimmed part is 3/8″, leaving the short side of the triangle at 1-1/2″, the same dimension as the feather triangles.


With all the pieces cut, the next step is to lay them out on a Portable Design Board in preparation for sewing.


Notice in the photos for this post, a lot of different fabric are used. In my quilt, I played around some with a variety of prints and values to make each block look different.

WSScrappy fabrics

Next time, I’ll show you the piecing.

Winter Star Tutorial: Accuracy

WinterBlueSetting Up to Sew the 3″ Ohio Star

When piecing at this small scale, precision is really important. Being just a few threads off can make a difference, so I’m going to spend a little time here talking about how I set up my work area for piecing and how to find an accurate seam allowance.

Sewing set-upIt helps to have the right tools. Every quilter has favorites. This is my list.

• Good light is essential. I strive to keep my work area neat. A portable design board (see earlier post) keeps the pieces from wandering.

• Sewing machine. I have two: a Bernina 1530 and a Singer Featherweight. Both have reliable straight stitches. I’ve been warned by the service guy that the Bernina might be on its last legs, but the Featherweight will probably outlive me. When I use the little machine, I often use doorstops to angle the machine for better visibility.IMG_1172• Thread. For small-scale piecing I use a fine cotton thread — 50 or 60 wt. Presencia is the brand I carry on my website. It is a 3-ply, long staple Egyptian cotton made in It Italy. Harriet Hargrave recommends this thread and I like it. Finer thread creates less bulk in the seam lines.

IMG_2263• 70/10 Schmetz Microtex (sharp) Needles. I’ve been using these machine needles for small-scale piecing. I think if they got much finer, I wouldn’t be able to thread them. “Sharp” needles (as opposed to “universal”) are recommended for straight stitching on cotton. The smaller size makes a smaller hole in the fabric. For needle sizes, the lower number, the finer the needle. (NOTE: If you depend an a needle threader on your sewing machine, I’m told it may not work with this needle.) Needles need to be changed more often than you think. My Singer manual says to change the needle after every 8 hours of sewing! Also, change the face plate on the machine to one with a small round hole for straight stitching. (If your machine does other stitches, be sure to change it back before zig-zagging again!)

IMG_2264• Presser foot for piecing. My favorite is the straight stitching foot for the Singer or the #13 foot for the Bernina. A #53 foot is available for newer Berninas. They all have an open toe so I can see the needle as it enters the fabric. The narrow inner toe allows me to see the edge of the fabric as I sew. The shorter inner toe gives me room to guide the fabric with my finger closer to the needle. Some people use a stylus for this.


• Stitch length. Short and strong, but not so short that you can’t use a seam ripper: 11 stitches to the inch on the Featherweight and about 2 mm on the Bernina (a little shorter than the default setting).

• Scissors. I keep Karen Kay Buckley’s 7-1/2″ Perfect scissors next to my sewing machine. They are sharp all the way to the tip and good for clipping threads and trimming seams. The large handles make them easy to grab.

KKB SCISSORS• Seam ripper with a fine tip. No kidding, I use it a lot.

• Precision Trimmer 3 ruler. I often trim points on triangles for matching as I go along, so I keep this point trimmer, a rotary cutter, and a small cutting mat by the sewing machine.

PT3-2• Ruler to check for accuracy. The C-thru B-85 ruler we used for drafting is good for this, or I often use a 4″ x 8″ Omnigrid with a 1/8″ grid.

• Pins: My current favorites are the Clover Patchwork Pins. Fine, short, with a glass head.

IMG_2270• Leader strip. I use a leader strip to control threads and save time when machine piecing. A leader strip is a strip of fabric about 8″ long and 2″ wide. It can be a scrap or something you cut for this purpose. Fold the strip in half lengthwise and stitch over one end of it at the beginning and end of each row of chain piecing.

• Pressing board. I needed a pressing board next to my sewing machine, so I made one. It’s a small piece of plywood (10″ x 18″) covered with a layer of batting, then a piece of fabric — all attached with a staple gun. Works for me.

• Small Iron. I have a truly wonderful travel iron that must be more than 15 years old, that I picked up at a drugstore somewhere in the Midwest. It’s not as if I could ever go back and get another one. If it ever dies, I will be bereft. It gets hot enough, has a nice point on it and is a perfect size for pressing tiny seams

Accuracy Test

BEFORE you sew your cut patches together, please, please, please, do an accuracy test on your 1/4” seam allowance! When we were doing Bias-Strip Piecing and making the 4-triangle squares for the Ohio Stars with the cut-larger-true-it-down method,  the seams were sewn before the final shapes were cut, so if the seam allowance was a little off, it really didn’t matter. From now on in piecing the Winters Star block, the seam allowance matters.

• To find the 1/4” seam allowance, I use a piece of my 1/8” graph paper cut on
one of the solid lines. I lower my needle into the second line in (1/4” from the edge ). The edge of the paper is where the edge of my fabric patches need to be. On the Featherweight, I lay a tape. On the Bernina, tape would cover part of the feed dogs, so I depend on the line etched on the plate just before the feed dog holes.


• Stitch two of your perfectly cut 1-1/2” feather squares together with your best 1/4” seam allowance. Press the seam open and MEASURE the results. The unit should be 2-1/2”. If it isn’t, then adjust until you get the proper measurement.


3″ Ohio Star Piecing

1. The Ohio Star is constructed in 3 rows. Stitch the squares together with exact 1/4″ seams and measure the results. Each row should be 3-1/2″ long. Press seam allowances away from the pieced squares: this will result in opposing seams row to row. Trim seams.


OSp2 OSp3 OSp4

2. Sew the rows together. Pin carefully, using a positioning pin to match the triangle points. A positioning pin is a pin placed perpendicular to the fabric to match two points. You can’t sew over it, so another pin is placed just in front of  it the keep the matching point from slipping.


Leave each positioning pin in place as long as possible, removing it just before stitching. For the best matching, stitch right over the pinhole (where the positioning pin used to be).

OSp6 OSp7

Once the rows are together, press the seams open to distribute the bulk. Measure the sewn block to make sure it is 3-1/2″ square.

Osp9 OSp8

Next, we’ll cut the rest of the pieces for the Winter Star.