Winter Star: Making Feather Squares with Bias-Strip Piecing

WSScrappy fabrics

Fabric Choices for the Winter Star:

Don’t feel you need to go out and buy fabric to make this block. When I made my Winter Star quilt, I used scraps from my fabric collection. I chose light, medium, and dark prints in brown, red and green. I just pulled a lot of different prints that fit my color recipe and started making blocks.

The first cutting and sewing on a Feathered Star block is making the feather squares with Bias-Strip Piecing. Generally, I choose the lightest light and the darkest dark fabrics for these small triangles. It’s important to have good high contrast here so the shapes show up and “sparkle.”

Supplies for Bias-Strip Piecing
• Large square ruler, 12-1/2” – 15″
• Long ruler: 18 “ or longer
• Precision Trimmer 6 or Feathered Star Ruler (or other square ruler
with a diagonal line and the correct markings for the size of square you want to cut)
• Rotary Cutter with sharp blade
• Cutting mat
• Sewing machine, Iron and board

NOTE ON RULERS: When I teach the Winter Star Class, the Precision Trimmer 6 ruler is on the materials list. The markings are clear, simple, and work for many of the cutting dimensions in the block. To learn more about the PT6 ruler, go to: http://www.marshamccloskey.com/prectrim6.html

PT6-2

The Feathered Star Ruler has a lot more square sizes and is more complex, but works essentially the same way. You can learn about this ruler at: http://www.marshamccloskey.com/festru.html

FSR8 small

Making the Feather Squares for the Winter Star

1. Choose a light and a dark fabric; from each cut one square 8” x 8”. The 8″ squares are more than enough fabric to make all the feathers for one Winter Star block —-with a few cutting mistakes.  All the feather squares will be the same fabric combination. Layer the fabrics right sides together and cut both squares at the same time.WSBS1

2. Cut the layered squares diagonally corner to corner to establish the true bias (45 angle.)

WSBS2

NOTE: If you need fewer or more feather squares for a project, or you if want your feathers to be scrappy, use the YIELD CHART to see how many units can be cut from different sizes of Beginning Squares. You’ll see that the 8″ Beginning Squares will yield 21 feather squares (I know because I counted). We need 16 units for one Winter Star block.

Yield Chart

3.  Measuring from the center cut, cut 4 sets of bias strips 2” wide.
I layer the large triangles so I’m cutting 4 layers at at time — thus the 4 sets of strips plus triangles at the corner.

WSBSstrips

4. Pick up pairs of contrasting strips; they will be right sides together and ready to stitch. Sew them together on the long edge with 1/4” seam allowance. Be careful not to stretch this bias edge. If it is wavy after sewing, you’ll need to check the tension on your machine. A well adjusted sewing machine will make a seam that is nice and flat. Press seams open.

WSBSlongsideWSBSsewnstrips

5. Sew strip pairs together as shown. There will be pairs of varying lengths. Sew longest strip pairs together, then next longest, until all strips are connected. Alternate light and dark strips. Keep the Vs even along the lower edge. Press seams open.

WSBSseamsopen WSBSstripstogether WSBSstripsetWSBSpressing

Corner triangles left over after cutting the strips can be sewn together, but they will not be joined to the strips. Press seams open.

6. Using the Precision Trimmer 6, cut 16 square feather units, 1-1/2” x 1-1/2”.

Find the size of the square to cut by laying your ruler on top of a template in the book or the appropriate shape on your drafting to see where the lines line up.

WSBSsquaresize

I usually mark the dimension/square with blue painter’s tape so it will be easy to find over and over.

To cut the first feather square, place the diagonal line on the ruler on the first seam line. Cut the square slightly larger (a few threads to 1/8”) than it needs to be. Two cuts are needed to separate the square from the set-up. Let you rotary cutter go slightly beyond the seam line on each cut to cleanly separate it from the strip set-up.WSBSfirst cuts

To trim the square to the right size, turn the square around and align the diagonal line of the ruler with the seam line of the square and the desired dimension exactly lined up with the previously cut sides. Make the final 2 cuts.

WSBStrimtosize

Compare the square to the template to check the size.

You now have a perfectly pieced 2-triangle square with straight grain on the outside edges (this is why the strips were cut on the bias). It is already pressed. It has no “dog ears” to trim off and no paper to remove.

And you only need to cut 15 more!

NOTE:  There is a conversation among precision machine piecers about where to place the lines of the ruler when rotary cutting. Some cut with the edge of the fabric just on the ruler line, some with it slightly outside. The right way to do it is the way that will get you the most accurate results (i.e. sewn measurements), and will depend on how you sew your 1/4” seam allowance. Some people measure to the outside of the line and sew a full 1/4″ seam. I cut to the center of the line and use a slightly scant 1/4″ seam allowance. What’s important is to be consistent in your cutting and stitching, and measure the sewn-in units as you go along.

7. Cut squares from alternate seam lines working across the strips from one side to the other.  After cutting the from first set of seams (the lowest points), go back and cut from the skipped seam lines. Repeat until you have all the squares you need.

WSBScutting1 WSBScutting2

To help manage all the little pieces, I keep them in labeled plastic resealable bags until I’m ready to piece my block.

BSWSziplock

In the next post, we’ll be making the 3″ Ohio Star for the center of the Winter Star.

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One thought on “Winter Star: Making Feather Squares with Bias-Strip Piecing

  1. This is my favorite way to make feather squares! It works very well. A few years ago, I demoed this technique at a guild meeting and everyone was amazed at how easy it was to do this using your method!

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