Paper Somerset Star Quilt | Inside Quilters Newsletter


A lot of quilters hold onto all of their scraps and try to use every bit of fabric, no matter how small. When I first started at Quilters Newsletter, one of the final editing stages on each of our patterns and articles involved a “sign-off sheet for each page of our issues that was two pieces of paper, one of them cut 2″ shorter than the other. We’ve since combined the sign-off sheet to just be one piece of paper, eliminating both an excess use of paper and the need for those 2″ strips, but in the meantime I gathered quite a few colors (a different color for each issue) of 2″ wide strips of paper, 8 1/2″ long (the width of a standard sheet of copy paper). The woman who was the editorial assistant before me told me “I wish there was something we could do with those strips” but she hadn’t come up with anything, so she just threw them in the recycling. As both a quilter and collector of scrapbooking supplies I never actually use, I figured there must be something I can do with those and kept them.

FullFoldedStar Paper Somerset Star Quilt

My finished paper somerset star quilt. I haven’t actually come up with a “real” name for it yet, so if you have suggestions, let me know!

Not long after I started collecting those strips, I became fascinated with somerset star quilts (or folded star quilts). A bit of time passed, and I started wondering if those 2″ strips of paper I was saving wouldn’t work great for a paper version. It was yet a few months after that when I started actually making my paper quilt, but considering how it turned out, I think it was worth all the time planning and the 2-3 months or so of “a minute here, a minute there” building that went into it.

FoldedStarinProgress Paper Somerset Star Quilt

My paper somerset star in progress.

The basic method for making a somerset star or folded star quilt is to start by making a bunch of prairie points. There are two different methods of making prairie points, both of which start with a square of fabric. The first way involves folding the square of fabric in half from corner to corner, then in half again so that all the raw edges are on the same side. Quiltmaker has a great tutorial for this method on their website. This method of making a prairie point is wonderful for use on the edges of quilts or for the dimensional prairie points in the August/September 2014 issue of Quilters Newsletter‘s “Quiltmaker’s Workshop,” but it doesn’t work so well for somerset star quilts.

SmallPointsPapers Paper Somerset Star Quilt

Paper prairie points in progress.

The second method of making prairie points is the one used in Serenity, the cover quilt from Quilters Newsletter April/May 2013. There’s a free PDF showing how to make this style of prairie points as well as 3-Dimensional Flowers available on the QN website. Basically, you fold your square in half edge-to-edge, then fold down the top corners (the ones made from the fold) into the bottom edge’s center so that all the raw edges are on the bottom. Check out tutorials for both styles of prairie points in the prairie points edging lesson on the McCall’s Quilting website.

If you’d prefer to watch a video on making and using prairie points (using the first method), you’re in luck because there’s a Sew Easy Lesson on Prairie Points over at Fons & Porter’s Love of Quilting website. There’s also a handy and practical tool to help you create quick, easy and accurate prairie points called, you guessed it, the Prairie Pointer Tool, available from Quilt and Sew Shop. Want to make your prairie points with uneven stripes? Check out the Easy Lesson from Quilters Newsletter October/November 2012.

Now that you’ve made your prairie points, the next step in a somerset star quilt is to put four of them in the center of your backing fabric, folded edges touching.SomersetStarCenter 296x300 Paper Somerset Star Quilt In my paper star, I folded four more of them towards the center again to create another dimensional layer. I also started with rectangles for my prairie points since the edges of the paper wouldn’t fray, which I got by cutting (tearing) my 2″ x 8 1/2″ strips in half to get 2″ by 4 1/4″ strips. The second folded side of the prairie point generally stuck out 1/4″ or so past the bottom edge since I hadn’t bothered trimming them to the perfect 2″ x 4″ size, but since that edge was going to be hidden, I didn’t worry about it.

After the center prairie points are in place, you can space your next set of prairie points (faced the same directions as the first set) any distance you want from the first set, and so on with the third set. Different effects can easily be achieved with different spacing and different levels of color contrast in the rows. In my paper version, I spaced them by eye at about 1/4″ or so apart. Since my paper version just kept getting bigger and bigger (I hadn’t originally planned how large I was going to make it and thus added more cardstock backing to the first sheet), there came a point when the corners of the new sets of prairie points no longer touched, which is why there are many rows with 8 prairie points and many with 16 as well.

BindingReadyToJoin Paper Somerset Star Quilt

The back of the paper somerset star quilt with the first step of sewing on the binding almost complete.

CatHoldingDownProject 159x300 Paper Somerset Star Quilt

Enter my cat, who decided to be helpful and hold down the project for me while I was photographing it.

Once I had reached a point where I was done adding prairie points, I decided that I wanted the full quilt to be round rather than framing it to make it square, so the next step was to trim both the cardstock backing and the edges of the outer row of prairie points into a circle. Once my circle was marked (in pencil, just in case) and trimmed, I started the search for some sort of edging or binding. I decided to do a fabric binding and bound it the same way you would any other circular quilt (using the by machine method since there’s nothing to hand-sew to on cardstock). QNNtv has a handful of videos about quilt binding — check out “Bias Binding with Patrick Lose” or “Learn How to Handle Binding With Irregular Edges” if you’d like to learn about applying binding around curves.

If you’ve never sewn through cardstock before, it’s a bit of an adjustment, but so long as your needle is sharp (smaller size needles are better) and you work slowly so that you don’t have to rip anything out (the cardstock has those needle holes in it permanently), it works rather well. The better quality your cardstock, the less you’ll have to worry about your thread being stronger than the rest of your project. You can also do hand or machine embroidery on cardstock for unique gifts or decorations.

RippedStitches 300x156 Paper Somerset Star Quilt

The binding ready to be joined, minus the segment of binding I removed since I’d initially sewn more of it together than I would need (just in case).

The photo to the left is a little blurry, but if you click on it for the enlarged image, you’ll be able to see I did un-sew a little ways since I noticed that I could take a whole seamed segment off the binding and have one less seam to worry about when sewing it to the front side of the quilt. I wasn’t too worried about these holes showing since they’d be covered up by the binding anyway. Note that I would highly advise you to leave more room between the two binding ends that need joined than I did if doing this on cardstock, because getting this allowance folded around the machine in order to not sew the cardstock while seaming the ends together was a bit tricky.

You’ll notice I did not press the folds into my binding. I used the single-fold style of binding because I was only covering paper and cardstock, not layers of quilts and batting that would need a stronger double-fold. One of the advantages to working with a circular shape (and something as stiff as cardstock) is that it curls around the front nicely once you have it seamed to the back. Also, since I was working with a medium where the edges of the prairie points didn’t all just magically match up to the edge of the circle, I needed to be able to make the binding just a little bit wider in some places than others to make sure the edges of the prairie points were all covered.

BindingCurledToFront1 Paper Somerset Star Quilt

See how the binding curls around the edge of the front?

BindingReadyToSewOn Paper Somerset Star Quilt

Here you can see the binding cut and seamed together, ready to sew on (a stage it stayed in for about a week). To the right side of the photo you can also see what I meant about not all the prairie points touching the edge of the circle.

FinishedBindingFrontCloseUp Paper Somerset Star Quilt

A close up of the finished binding on the front.

FinishedBindingBackCloseUp Paper Somerset Star Quilt

A close up of the finished binding on the back. You can really see what I meant about the holes from the needle staying in the cardstock permanently here.

One final thing I should mention if you’re going to attempt to make your own paper somerset star quilt: I used either transparent office tape or double-stick tape to hold down the prairie points depending on where they were located on the quilt. While sewing on the binding, sometimes the needle went through the tape, and when this happens, the needle gets sticky. This same principal applies if you’re sewing fabric that has glued on sequins or other embellishments. You will need to replace your needle directly after sewing on anything that gets it sticky. Since it didn’t go through too much tape, I could get by with just running my fingers over the needle a few times to transfer the stickiness to my fingers. If you’re working with something more sticky, a tiny dab of baby oil or sewing machine oil on the needle will also work — just make sure the oil you use won’t stain your fabric first.

And so, after a bit over a year from “mind’s eye” to “on the wall,” my Paper Somerset Star Quilt is complete. To celebrate me finally finishing a quilting project, let’s have a giveaway. Two lucky randomly selected winners will each receive one of two similar prizes:

Prairie Points Prize 1 Paper Somerset Star Quilt Prairie Points Prize 2 Paper Somerset Star Quilt

Both prizes include Prairie Point Pizzazz by Karen Sievert from That Patchwork Place and Color for Quilters by Lauri Linch-Zadel and the editors of Quilters Newsletter and Quiltmaker. Prize 1 also includes a Makin’ it Cute Heart’s Delight templates set by Me and My Sister Designs and a Grammy’s Scrap Basket intermediate quilt pattern from Prairie Grass Patterns. Prize 2 alternatively also includes a Makin’ it Cute Butterfly Bliss templates set by Me and My Sister Designs and a He Zigs She Zags intermediate quilt pattern from Prairie Grass Patterns.

To enter for your chance to win one of the two identical prizes, leave a comment on this post by 11:59 pm Mountain Time, Sunday June 14, 2015 telling us either about a project you’re working on now or one you’ve recently finished. Open to anyone worldwide who has not won anything from Quilters Newsletter in the past 90 days. If you are randomly selected as a winner, the email will come from with “Quilters Newsletter blog giveaway” in the subject line.

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