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Star of the West Quilt Block Pattern

Author Photo
By Rebecca Martin | Dec 31, 2019

Photo by Allison Sarkesian

The Star of the West pattern is an old one — at least 150 years old. This striking, geometric design predates the Civil War, and is also known as “Clay’s Choice” and “Harry’s Star.” Quilt historians believe the latter names refer to politician Harry Clay, who ran unsuccessfully for U.S. president in three elections from the 1820s into the 1840s.

Cut the Pieces

This design is made up of 24 pieces in two different shapes, arranged in four rows. For every 12-inch block, you’ll need 8 “A” pieces and 16 “B” pieces.

Piece “A” is a 3-1/2-inch square (3 inches square finished). Cut 4 “A” pieces from a dark fabric and 4 from a light fabric. In the finished block (above), 4 “A” pieces are red patterned and 4 are plain beige.

Piece “B” is a triangle. You can create a cardboard or plastic template with the legs on either side of the right angle measuring 37⁄8 inches. If you use a template, you’ll have to trace and cut each triangle individually. A quicker way is to batch-cut the pieces: Start with a strip of fabric measuring 3-7/8 inches wide. Beginning at one end of the strip (making sure its edges are true), cut off 37⁄8-inch squares. Take up each square, and mark a diagonal line from corner to corner. Cut along the line to produce the triangular pieces. Repeat with the second color of fabric. In the finished block, 8 “B” pieces are red patterned and 8 are plain beige.

Photo by Amanda Barnwell Illustration

Assemble the Blocks

Step 1: Make the squares.

Sew a patterned “B” triangle to a plain “B” triangle along the long edge (see illustration at left). Be careful, because triangles are cut on the bias and will easily stretch out of shape. Repeat with remaining “B” pieces. Press seams open. You should have 8 pieced squares.

Step 2: Arrange the squares.

Pick up the 8 unpieced “A” squares and the 8 pieced “B” squares, and lay them out in a grid to match the illustration at right. Note that there are four rows, which we’ve labeled Units 1 through 4. 

Step 3: Assemble the rows.

Position, pin, and sew together the four squares that make up Unit 1. Press seams to the outside.

After Unit 1 is sewn together in a row with the pieces correctly positioned, sew together the individual squares that make up Units 2, 3, and 4.

Photo by Amanda Barnwell Illustration

Step 4: Complete the block.

Line up the seams of the squares on the assembled rows Units 1 through 4, pin, and sew the rows together. Press seams to the outside.

Step 5: Make the remaining blocks.

Repeat Steps 1 through 4 to create the desired number of quilt blocks for your project.

Make the Quilt Top

Now you’re ready to sew the blocks together to make a quilt top. You can either separate the blocks with lattice strips that are several inches wide (which is helpful for beginners, because lattice will disguise mismatched seams where points meet on the blocks), or you can leave out the lattice strips.

First, mark 1/4-inch seam allowances on the wrong (back) sides of the blocks. If adding lattice, measure and cut strips (typically 2 to 4 inches wide) in a contrasting color, and mark seam allowances on them. For a different effect, you can add a contrasting square at the point where the horizontal and vertical lattice
strips meet. Sew the blocks and lattice together to assemble the quilt top.

If you’d like to provide the quilt with a finished look, now is the time to add a border. Doing so also increases the size of the quilt top to drape over the sides of your bed. You can add a single, wide border or multiple borders of varying widths. Mark the borders with a 1⁄4-inch seam allowance before sewing them to the quilt top.

Next, assemble the layers of quilt top, batting, and backing. Smooth them out on a flat surface, taking care not to introduce any wrinkles as you work, layering them in this order: first the backing (right-side down), which should be larger than the top by several inches; then the batting (an ultra-thin polyester quilt batting is the easiest to quilt through); and finally the pieced quilt top (right-side up). Keep the layers together and lying flat by either basting through all layers, or pinning them with large safety pins.

Complete the Quilt

Finish the quilt by quilting through all the layers, or by sending the assemblage to your favorite local quilter-for-hire.

Tips & Tricks

The following instructions are for a finished 12-inch-square block. Measurements for each piece include a 1⁄4-inch seam allowance. The total number of blocks you’ll need to make a bed quilt will depend on how many borders you add (as well as their width), how far you want the quilt to extend over the edges of the mattress, and whether you frame the blocks with fabric strips in a style known as “lattice.” Typically, a quilt made of 30 blocks with no lattice will fit a queen-size bed with a drop of 10 inches over the edges of the mattress.

  • Wash and iron all fabric so it’s preshrunk before you begin cutting.
  • If you’re using up fabric from your scrap bag, make a cardboard or plastic template of each pattern piece. You’ll use these to trace and then cut your fabric pieces. Use a chalk marker or quilter’s marking pencil to mark the fabric on the wrong (back) side.
  • If you’re using purchased yardage, you’ll probably find it easier to use a rotary cutter and a clear plastic ruler marked with a grid to batch-cut pieces.
  • Before you sew, mark the 1/4-inch seam allowance on each piece, being careful not to stretch the fabric as you work. Pin pieces right-sides-together, and sew along the seam allowance either by hand or with a machine.

Rebecca Martin is a Capper’s Farmer editor. She enjoys quilting whenever she can, and has made multiple quilts of varying sizes, all of which get put to good use during Kansas winters.

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