Updated: Jan 22
Learn how to put together this mini octagonal star patchwork quilt that was inspired by old English tiles, using the foundation paper piecing method. Free patterns are provided for both foundation paper piecing and conventional piecing.
This quilt design is inspired by old ceramic English tiles, particularly, these ones seen in the halls and courtyard of the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion (a.k.a. Blue Mansion), Penang, Malaysia.
A Page from the Book Titled "The Blue Mansion - The Story of Mandarin Splendour Reborn" by Lin Lee Loh-Lim
This tutorial guides you through the cutting and piecing sequence using the foundation paper piecing method. If you do not wish to use foundation paper, I have also included a link to download the individual shapes’ templates so you can piece them using the conventional way, and you may still follow the piecing sequence described in this tutorial.
For those just starting to learn foundation paper piecing (like I was when I made this mini star quilt), I strongly recommend watching a video tutorial on foundation paper piecing like this one by Professor Pincushion, as the following tutorial does not go into as much detail.
To download the foundation paper patterns used in this tutorial, click here.
To download individual shapes’ templates for conventional piecing, click here.
In the images below, you will see that my paper patterns were printed with small squares of colours. The patterns in the download links, however, only have colour indicator numbers because I reckon my readers would be making this in their own choice of colours.
This tutorial results in a mini quilt top of 80 cm by 80 cm (31.5 inches by 31.5 inches). Seam allowance is a quarter inch.
STEP 1: SELECT FABRICS
The mini quilt is made of 9 blocks of stars, separated by grid borders made of rectangles and squares.
TIP: If you are making this in print fabrics or are going to fussy cut, the orientation of the prints should follow the orientation of the labels on the pattern. And of course, fussy cutting means more wastage, and therefore you may need more yardage.
STEP 2: CUT OUT FOUNDATION PAPER PATTERNS
STEP 2.1: Print out foundation paper patterns.
STEP 2.2: Cut out foundation paper patterns.
STEP 3: CUT OUT FABRICS FOR STAR BLOCKS
STEP 3.1: Group foundation paper patterns of the same shapes together and put together the bundle of fabrics to be cut. In the photo below, I will be cutting fabrics for Star Block “B”.
STEP 3.2: Cut out fabrics according to the foundation paper patterns. The fabric cuts need not be accurate but they should roughly assimilate their finished shapes for easy piecing, and be able to cover all seam allowance. Photos below show some examples.
STEP 3.3: Arrange fabric pieces with their corresponding paper patterns, ready for STEP 4.
STEP 4: FOUNDATION PAPER PIECING & TRIMMING
Note on Basting: In the following steps, “basting” means using the largest stitch length on your machine to sew fabric onto paper patterns, on the seam allowance only (except where this is not possible, like for the square in STEP 4.3). I could afford to do this because I used low-cost thread (as opposed to a finer quilting thread). I did continuous basting all around the shapes but you can also spot-baste. The goal is to prevent the fabrics from shifting against the paper when sewing.
ALTERNATIVELY, you may use washable fabric glue in place of basting – this could make removing the papers in STEP 7 easier. I didn’t do this because I did not have such glue. If you are confident, you could even do away with any basting or glue (i.e. the fabrics will only be attached to the foundation papers along sewn seams only).
STEP 4.1: Group the fabric pieces according to the following 4 types.
STEP 4.2: Piece together fabrics in Type 1.
STEP 4.3: Piece together fabrics in Type 2.
STEP 4.4: Piece together fabrics in Type 3.
STEP 4.5: For Type 4, simply baste the rectangular fabrics to the paper patterns, and they are ready for STEP 4.7.
STEP 4.6: You now have the following pieces.
STEP 4.7: Trim excess fabrics using the paper pattern as guide.
STEP 4.8: You now have the following trimmed pieces, ready for STEP 5.
STEP 5: SEW PIECES TOGETHER TO FORM STAR BLOCKS
Note: In the following steps, it should be understood that every pieced-together component should be pressed along the freshly-sewn seam before the next piece is sewn to it.
STEP 5.1: Arrange the component pieces according to how they will come together to make the complete block.
STEP 5.2: Sew cluster of pieces on the 4 corners together first, to form 4 “petals”.
STEP 5.3: Sew "petals" to the center square, one "petal" by one.
STEP 5.4: Sew adjacent "petals" together to make a finished star block.
STEP 5.5: Repeat for all the remaining 8 star-blocks.
STEP 6: CUT OUT BORDER FABRICS
The borders are made of 24 rectangles and 16 squares, as described in STEP 1. The finished dimensions of the squares are 5 cm x 5 cm, and the rectangles are 20 cm x 5 cm. So, add your quarter-inch allowance to all sides of the squares and rectangles to get the cutting dimensions, and then cut your fabrics.
STEP 7: SEW STAR BLOCKS & BORDERS TOGETHER TO FORM QUILT TOP
This step can be done in various sequence. I have chosen the following sequence:
STEP 7: REMOVE FOUNDATION PAPER
Here’s the downside of foundation paper piecing - you have to remove all that papers. Grab your seam ripper, get comfortable on the couch in front of your favourite show, and carefully rip all that basting from STEP 4, and the papers.
WARNING! This step is more tedious than it seems. Some patience will go a long way.
Once all the papers are removed, give the whole quilt top a good press with the steam iron.
STEP 8: QUILT TOP IS COMPLETE!
Now you can turn this patchwork into anything you like. Read on to see what I made out of it.
END PRODUCT AND LESSONS LEARNT
This being an experimental quilting project for me, I did not have any specific purpose for this quilt top. I quilted it with some light polyester batting and some remnant cotton fabric as backing. Although this quilt is laden with mistakes, pleats and puckers, it has taught me so many handy lessons and given my confidence a good boost.
Here are some lessons I learnt:
I should have invested in lighter-weight quilting threads. My finished mini star quilt felt so rough to the touch.
I should have started with a lower-loft batting and then move on to higher-loft ones when my quilting skills improve. Either that, or I should have hand-quilted this mini quilt.
The backing fabric should have been cut in generous excess of the quilt top’s dimensions because quilting (especially since I was so bad at it) shrank it quite substantially!
I have read about different schools of thoughts when it comes to starching fabrics for patchworks and quilts. I think I am now leaning towards pro-starching. It would have eased piecing and prevented all that diabolical quilting.
I should not give up even though I feel a project is heading towards disaster. I almost did with this mini star quilt midway through quilting, because I thought my bad quilting had ruined it beyond salvation. It turned out not as bad as I thought, in the end.
Now, on to my next quilt!