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: http://www.utahquiltguild.org/annual/

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: GetawayGirlsRetreats@gmail.com                 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.

Winter Star Tutorial: Cutting for 3″ Ohio Star

Making the 3″ Ohio Star block for the center of the Winter Star is a lot of fun. I liked it so much, I went on to develop a whole library of 3″ block designs using similar techniques. But that’s another tutorial.

(Click on any image to make it large enough to see details.)

WSScrappy fabricsIn my Winter Star Quilt, each block has a slightly different version of the 3″ Ohio Star both in fabrics (scrappy) and the location of light and dark values. I’m going to show you three versions.

If we look at a drafting of a 3″ Ohio Star, we see only 2 shapes: a 1″ finished square for the center and corners, and a triangle for the 4-triangle square units that make the star points.3The square is easy: it will be cut at 1-1/2″.

The triangle needs some work before we know how to cut it. First, following the rule of straight grain (straight grain should fall on the outside edge of the pieced unit), it should be on the long side of the triangle. In rotary cutting, these triangles are called Quarter-Square triangles. Essentially, you cut a square and cut it on the diagonal twice to get 4 triangles with straight grain on the long side. The formula for getting the size of the square to cut is to add 1-1-/4″ to the finished long side of the triangle: 1″ + 1-1/4″ = 2-1/4″.  Or, you can simply measure the long side of the triangle  including seam allowances and you will get the same measurement.

QSTFor our Ohio Star, if we cut the squares 2-1/4″, we will get triangles that are exactly the right size. BUT, if our sewing isn’t absolutely accurate the resulting finished dimension could easily be off. I prefer to OVERCUT the squares by 1/4″: cut 2-1/2″ squares instead of 2-1/4″. This will make the 4-triangle star point units too large, but they can easily be cut down to the correct size using the Precision Trimmer 6. My Feathered Star Ruler also has appropriate markings. You can order these rulers on the website: http://www.marshamccloskey.com/rulandnot.html

Here’s how I do it:


1. To make the four 4-triangle units needed for the 3″ Ohio Star, start by choosing 2 fabrics: a light and a dark. From each, cut 2 squares 2-1/2″ x 2-1/2″.

2. Place the light and dark squares right sides together and cut diagonally once. This set-up will make 4 star point units.

33. Stitch the 4 triangle pairs together on the long sides. Press the seams to the dark. At this point, I like to trim the seam allowance down to a little more that 1/8″. If you trim too much, the seam won’t lie flat. I use a very sharp pair of scissors for this: I like Karen Kay Buckley’s 7-1/2″ Perfect Scissors because they are sharp all the way to the tips and are slightly serrated to grip the fabric. You can buy Karen’s scissors on my website: http://www.marshamccloskey.com/pesc.html

3 33

4. Place the 2-triangle-square units together with right sides facing, seams butting and colors opposite. Cut the square pairs diagonally (across the seam line) to make 4 new triangle pairs


5. Pin. and then stitch the pairs together, to make 4 four triangle square units (two are shown). Press the seam open, then trim.

3336. Using the Precision Trimmer 6 ruler, center the 1-1/2″ marked square on the pieced unit. The diagonal ruler lines in the square should line up with the seam lines. Essentially, you’re measuring from the center of the square. Trim off two edges as shown. Turn the pieced unit around and trim the other 2 sides.

3 3

37. Now, you should have 4 perfectly sized star point units for your 3″ Ohio Star. With these, you can choose to make a light star on a dark ground OR a dark star on a light ground. The center (1) and corner squares (4) are cut 1-1/2″ x 1-1/2″.

3 3

If you want to add a third color (a medium) to the star point units, do this:

1. Cut four 2-1/2″ squares: 2 dark, 1 light and 1 medium. Place a dark and a light square right sides together. Place a dark and a medium square right sides together. Go to step #2 above and follow the same directions.

3 33


In the next post, I’ll show you how I set up my sewing machine for accurate piecing and how to stitch the Ohio Star parts together to get great points and the correct finished size.

Getting on a Jet Plane


I leave tomorrow for Golden , CO, to film a series of online lessons of my Radiant Feathered Star Workshop. It’s been like preparing for a cooking show — you have to have all the steps ready to demonstrate. I’ve made the project multiple times, but stopped at a different point on each one — over and over. It’s pretty much done now and I’m packing the suitcases.


The online class will be available in September, and when I have information on how to sign up, I will let you know. I do know there will be a kit available for the 21″ x 21″ wall hanging I’ll be teaching in the video. (The fabrics are from my Everything Blue collection from Clothworks and are also available on my website by the yard.)



I won’t be posting here for a few weeks: the tiny Ohio Star will have to wait until I’m back and recovered from the trip:)

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


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.)


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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