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How to Make A Really Scrappy Lone Star Quilt

Really Scrappy Lone Star TuturialTraditional Lone Star Overview
The Lone Star is a traditional diamond shaped block – traditionally you do planned colors so it makes a cool radiating star pattern. For an example of that, here is a cool tutorial! It requires really careful piecing, because if all your bias cut seams don’t match up just right, you lose some of the effect. The strips are all the same length and width and you have to carefully calculate your strip piecing and color placement to get the perfect effect.

Another option is the slightly scrappy lone star, which Better Off Thread has a nice tutorial  with examples for that effect! While her version uses a variety of colors with random placement, the strips are all the same length and width.

HOWEVER, I didn’t use either of these wonderful tutorials, because what I wanted to  do was to make a lonestar with different width strips, for an effect that is truly, madly, deeply scrappy.  So far my quilt looks like this – it has about 33 pieces per block which means it has about 2,770 pieces so far! Here is before I added the blue strips along the outside edge to square it up.Scrappy Lonestar

And one block looks like this – a strip pieced diamond with 45 degree bias cut edges. Using my math below, you’ll create a diamond block. You can certainly use smaller measurements for a smaller block!

Scrappy Lone Star Tutorial
So this tutorial is going to be how to turn a pile of string scraps of a million different lengths like this:
Scrappy Lone Star Tutorial

Into the quilt above! The quilt isn’t done yet, but I have made enough of these things to explain the process!

Ok! Some intro on the project in general:

So many scraps!
First off, I have some kind of hoarding issue, I have saved scraps as small as 1 inch. Just kidding, I save them smaller than that! I have a many, many ¾ inch string scraps in this quilt. I’m ashamed and proud! I have a small quilting business and save even my smallest pieces from that (sorted by color), and I also have collected string scraps from people tossing out their scraps at retreats and from on-line swaps. So anyway, yeah, this whole queen sized quilt is small scraps and mostly strip scraps.

Background on Lonestar Math Logic (feel free to skip!)
So, normally for a Lone Star, you would take strips of even widths – say 2.5 inches – and strip piece them into a long block. For example, if you strip pieced 5 2.5 inch strips, it would create a stripped block 10.5 inches high x WOF (width of fabric).  You then flip that long stripped piece on it’s end, and cut off  2.5 inch wide 45 degree angled strips, then sew 5 of these back together again to make your 5×5 diamonds.   Similarly, if you used 7 2-inch strips, you’d get an 11-inch high block, flip that over, and cut off 2 inch diamonds at a 45 degree angle., then sew 7 of these back together to make your 7×7 diamonds. You could do a lone star diamond block by piecing together 100 1 inch strips, or whatever, the point is, if you piece 1 inch strips, you cut off 1 inch strips from that, and if you start with a 100 strips in your block, you’ll make 100×100 diamonds.

The tricky part for this block is I am using strips of all widths to make my stripped block, I had to arbitrarily decide a width for my strips, then piece together a block that corresponded, so the math would work and my diamonds would be diamond shaped! So, I chose to do a diamond block that would correspond to if I was using 5 2.5 inch strips. Therefore, I needed to make a stripped block that was 10.5 inches high x WOF.

This tutorial assumes you are using the same measurements. You could re-work the math and do any size you want though! If this makes no sense, just ignore it for now.

How many should I make?
If you are doing 2.5 inch strips, a 10.5 x 42 inch long block will make about 10-11 diamond strips. There are 5 strips per diamond, so you get about 2 diamonds per 10.5×42 inch stripped block. How many diamonds you want to make is up to you! If you want to make a basic star, like below, you need 8 diamonds, or 40 diamond strips, which means you need 4 10.5×42 inch stripped blocks. (Trust me, I’m an English major!)
string scrap rainbow center block

A note on color theory:
I wanted my quilt to be a rainbow and wanted the lightest color (yellow) to be in the middle, so it is not only going through the rainbow but light to dark. Looking closely at the blocks though, you’ll see, for example, the orange has a lot of coral, pink, and yellow and red tones in it. I wanted the layers to blend together and have a lot of color movement, so I used a wide variety of tones and depths. The blocks aren’t actually monochromatic.

Whenever I had leftover strips from one layer, I used it in the next layer. So the orange layer has all the leftover yellow strips, and the red layer has the leftover orange.

If you want it to blend more, when strip piecing, place medium tones next to dark tones, as opposed to light next to dark. Not that you can totally avoid any two colors touching in this block, but it does make a subtle difference; the more similar colors are touching, the smoother the effect.

Sorting scraps for strip piecing.
First I sorted my strips and scraps by color, since I knew I was making a rainbow quilt. Then I picked a color (below is orange). I sorted my strips out by width – I used strips varying from .75 inches to 2.75 inches.  I put all my two inch orange/coral/pink strips in one pile and the 1 inch or less in a pile, and so on. Scrappy Lone Star Tutorial

I then sewed them together to make 42 inch long pieces. Press and trim so that the height (ex: 2 inches) is perfectly consistent along the entire length. This process takes FOREVER.

I don’t mind a lot of piecing on my strips, because it creates more variation in the final block, but it also creates more seams, so if that bothers you, you might keep it in mind.

Sometimes I take a big pile of strips that were around say, 1.5 inches and chain piece them all together to create an enormously long strip, say 5-6 feet long, then cut off 42 inch long pieces. There are many ways to create your 42 inch strips (and your WOF fabric pieces are happily already this length).

Essentially, you want all your strips to be an consistent height (between .75 and 2.75 inches) and at least 42 inches long, using whatever voodoo that you do (also, I don’t stress if they end up longer).

Strip piece those bad boys
Now comes a slightly tricky part. Strip piece the strips you have just made, but you’ll want to join them so the ends are staggered. You are going to cut the end off at a 45 degree angle, so this reduces waste. I use a 45 degree mark on my ruler to judge where the next strip should line up. You can barely see it, but the 45 angle mark cuts across – not perfectly, but close enough so I’m not wasting too much fabric in the next step.
Scrappy Lone Star Tutorial

So after your block is stripped, it will look like sorta this on the end.Scrappy Lone Star Tutorial
I actually stripped together 11 inch high blocks. After the long stripped blocks are ready, press carefully (I iron the back first, and lay down the seams all in one direction). I use LOTS OF STARCH (my homemade starch recipe!) because this is your last chance to iron for a while (after this stage you’ll have exposed bias seams). After it is ironed, trim to 10.5 inches high x WOF and trimmed them down to 10.5 inches high.

Scrappy Lone Star Tutorial

(Note you can see in this photo where I have pieced together my strips).

Cutting off 45 degree angle strips

Now turn the 10.5 inch high block on it’s end and cut off  the staggered ends at a 45 degree angle. Do this by aligning the 45 degree angle mark on your ruler with the top edge of your block, and cut across. You’re now exposing the stretchy bias seams, so try not to handle these diamond strips too much! I don’t iron them until many diamonds are sewn together.

Scrappy Lonestar - Cutting Strips
Then cut off 2.5 inch strips from the 45 degree angled end. You should get 10-11 angled strips per 10.5×42 inch piece.
Scrappy Lonestar - Cutting Strips


Depending on the size of your cutting board, you can cut off multiple strips before readjusting. Scrappy Lonestar - Cutting Strips
Make your Diamonds

Then reassemble 5 strips to create 5×5  diamond blocks. I think it looks better if you have lots of variation. I wait till all my strips are cut and then assemble them to make each diamond as scrappy as possible.

To assemble two strips together, line them up so that there is a quarter inch triangle sticking out like so. I put a pin in the top and the bottom, making sure that there is a quarter inch triangle overhand at each end.
Scrappy Lone Star Tutorial

Scrappy Lone Star Tutorial

Because the quilting gods are fickle, they don’t always line up perfectly – bias cut seams are stretchy! If they don’t line up, I use a ton of pins to ease in any difference. The main thing is you need the end to line up right, otherwise you’re diamonds will be wonky.

Assemble 5 of these strips to make a diamond. As stated above, don’t iron the diamond until you have the quilt top together – the stretchy bias edges can easily distort.

Put the diamonds together! 

Of course your layout is up to you. You can make an 8 diamond star and applique that or add pieces to finish it into a square (the traditional way most lone stars are finished in my experience).

I want my star to be spilling off the quilt, so I haven’t bothered with any background piecing. I laid out my star and made a plan so I can put it all together without Y seams – by creating the wedges of the star separately.

I made 84 diamond blocks to make my rainbow – though a number of them ended up cut in half when I cut the star down to a square.  8 yellow, 14 orange, 22 red, 24 purple, 16 blue.

I’m currently working away at the back and still puzzling over how to quilt it. Since it’s actually Wednesday, and I actually blogged, I’m linking up to Freshly Pieced for Work in Progress Wednesday. 

I’m also linking up with this link-up  with tips from different bloggers for using scraps! What a great idea! 


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