Radiant Star Part 4a, more about HSTs

I’m going to apologize right off the top:  there are no pictures in this post, and it’s another really technical post about a quilting technique…

First, I think I forgot to mention the title of the book that I’m using as my guide for making this Radiant Star:  it’s been mentioned previously, but I should have given it again.

The book is Quick Classic Quilts, by Marsha McCloskey.  While some of the quilts in the first part of the book are quick, I think the name is a bit of a misnomer, as many of the quilts are not what I’d call quick or simple – she has directions for an Ocean Wave quilt, a Storm at Sea quilt, 2 different feathered stars…and more…

I can’t remember where I originally learned the Bias Square technique that I shared in yesterday’s post, I think it might have been from an old Rodale quilting techniques book, but Marsha’s book uses this technique, and I’m following her cutting instructions for the size of the initial square, and the size of the strips.

Objections to other methods

I didn’t go into this much yesterday, but I thought I’d follow up on why I don’t like certain techniques, and why this particular technique seems to work so well for me.

I have never thought that my way was the only way, and I don’t mean to suggest that anyone who doesn’t do it my way is wrong, or that you would even like my methods.  I’ve gotten comments from a number of you that had either never heard of this technique, or had forgotten about it – maybe you will love it, maybe you won’t, but I’m glad to know that you are thinking about it, and maybe learning something new.

Why doesn’t she do it this way?

  • Cutting to size: ugh.  No matter how I hard I try, after cutting, piecing, pressing, I always wind up with wonky looking pieces.  Out of square, not the right size, ugh.  On a larger unit, it wouldn’t be as big a deal, but these 1 inchers really need to be perfect.
  • Easy Angle: you do have the nice blunted point, but again, these are cut to size, and I just can’t do it on small pieces.  I suppose if I starched the heck out of the pieces, I’d have better luck, but I don’t always think of that.
  • Paper methods: Thangles, etc.  After making 50-plus paper-pieced stars several years ago, I’m allergic to any method that involves paper-piecing.  Plus, I start to get flashbacks of whacking the tip of my ring finger off with the rotary cutter.
  • Cutting individual triangles or squares oversized, sewing, then trimming to size. As I mentioned yesterday, this is normally what I do, but for this small of a piece my objection is a time-issue. Consider:
  1. Cut 18 strips of each of the blue and white
  2. Cut squares (320 each of blue and white)
  3. Cut triangles (640 each of blue and white)
  4. Sew triangles together
  5. Finger press open 640 individual seams
  6. Press 640 individual seams with an iron
  7. Trim 640 HST units, along all 4 sides

Steps number 4 and 5:  wow.  Each individual unit would be handled…individually.

The bias square method:

  1. Cut 8 inch squares of blue and white
  2. Cut bias strips
  3. Sew bias strips into units, approx. 210 seams which are at least 4 inches long
  4. Press open 210 long seams
  5. Cut out 640 HST units

Trust me.  Those 210 long seams will be sewn and pressed MUCH MORE quickly than the 640 individual ones.  Yes, it’s the same AMOUNT of sewing, but I can zip those long pieces through the machine much more quickly, because, I don’t have to take time to stop and pick up the next one, get in place, sew it, etc.  And pressing. Oy, the pressing. Trust me again, from experience, I know that my way is going to be much faster for me.

New Ideas

In the comments, I did see a few ideas to pursue:  I’ve never heard of the WonderCut ruler – can anyone tell me more about that?

Also, someone suggested using my strip cut ruler to cut the HST units out of my sewn bias square combos.  I played with that a bit this morning…and the first time I made a complete hash, and only ended up with ONE actually usable unit.  LOL   I did it without really THINKING about what I was doing.

I tried again, a second time, and after using my noggin a bit, I still don’t think it will work, as the space you have to make the finished units doesn’t line up quite the right way to just stick a ruler over top, start slicing, and end up with HSTs that are actually HSTs, and not funny shaped squares with seams running in odd places.  I did wonder about using different strip sizes, or shifting the seams in the bias square unit, but that’s as far as I got before I had to get back to my chocolate chip cookies.

Is it scary that I’ve thought so much about this topic?  Possibly.  Don’t tell my husband.  He’d probably take away my rotary cutter.

If you haven’t already, be sure to visit yesterday’s post and add a comment, for your chance to win a Creative Grids ruler.  Only one person so far as commented with a joke (and it was a PUN, no less.  I ADORE puns.)

I really need to get quilting, so I’ll be back later with some photographs of house constructions progress, as well as a further update on the Radiant Star quilt: I spent most of Monday sewing, so I’ve got actual progress to share.




  1. Adam says:

    The wondercut ruler is great IF you start off with bias strips. I’m sure you’re familiar with bonnie at quiltville, she uses the WC ruler but all her strips are straight which result in HST on the bias (true bias on all four outside sides!) (can you imagine a whole quilt with those?)

    You’d be doing the same thing essentially, but you’d only be cutting two sides and then pressing afterwards which you might not like

  2. Mary says:

    I have that book too and while I love it, I agree many of the quilts are not exactly what I’d call quick!

    Here’s a link to the Wondercut ruler. You sew two strips together and then cut the half square triangles from them. As Adam mentioned, you’d probably want to start with bias strips.


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