What would you do if someone handed you a quilt pattern with one of Moda Fabrics’ fat quarter bundles and just said, “Here—go make this quilt and have fun?” That is, after you stopped pinching yourself to make sure you weren’t dreaming?
That’s the situation Eileen Fowler found herself in a few months ago when we asked her to remake Sherri’s Scrappy Stars by Sherri Bain Driver as part of McCall’s Quilting’s 30th anniversary celebration this year for the May/June 2018 issue. Originally published in 2010, Sherri’s Scrappy Stars was made with a traditional selection of fabrics in a variety of colors. The Moda bundle Eileen got to take home and play with is in a more controlled palette of yellows, blues and grays. So how did she set about making the most of it?
“I first sorted the lights and the darks and the yellows,” she says. “There were some that didn’t fit any of those categories; I set them aside along with the prints that were also used in the borders. That gave me enough fat quarters to work with to make the blocks.”
Eileen didn’t just jump into cutting up the fat quarters. First, she took a little time to think about her options and a plan of attack.
She decided to use as many yellow prints as possible in place of the light prints originally used in the star block backgrounds and filled in the rest with low volume prints. Once she’d designated where those fabrics would go, she cut the all dark and light patches for the star points and block backgrounds.
Once that was done, she cut and assembled the small squares for the nine-patches that go in the centers of the blocks from the scraps. “I tried to mix up a variety of fabrics for the nine patches,” she says. “They could be really scrappy as long as there was some amount of value contrast.”
With all the nine-patches made, she returned to the star points and background patches she’d already cut and started auditioning combinations to find a good variety of fabrics within each block. She had two goals: to maintain as much contrast as possible in each block, and to make no identical blocks, which is no small task when you have 63 blocks to make from a limited number of prints.
Eileen is a really fast piecer thanks to experience with quick techniques like chain piecing, but with this quilt she worked on only a few blocks at a time. “I was trying to keep all the patches straight and I think it would have been too confusing to work on all the blocks at once.”
Did she achieve her two goals? Mostly, she says. “Obviously some of the stars really pop out because of the strong contrast and others are more low volume.” As for no duplicates? “I thought I succeeded until I got it all sewn together and realized, ‘Hey, those two blocks are the same.’ But I placed them far enough away from each other that you can’t see them.” (If you spot the matching blocks, let me know–she wouldn’t tell me which ones they are.)
All of Eileen’s careful attention to placement and contrast yielded a sparkling, scrappy look from a controlled selection of prints. She added what was originally a scrap quilt design to McCall’s library of fat quarter patterns and provided a lesson on how to use color and value to maximize your fabrics.