By Edie McGinnis
Lone Star quilts are some of the most striking quilts ever made. It is easily one of the most recognized quilt patterns and goes by many names.
Hearth and Home titled the pattern An Aesthetic Quilt. Ruby Short McKim had more than a little trouble deciding what the quilt should be called. She published the pattern under three names: Lone Star, Star of the East and Star of Bethlehem. Blazing Star, Rising Star, Pride of Texas, Star of Stars and Overall Star Pattern are a few more names this quilt pattern travels under.
Quilts made from this pattern are lovely if they are made well. Accuracy in cutting and piecing are essential. Each point is made up of many diamonds that radiate from the center.
Before the advent of the rotary cutter, each of the diamonds was cut with scissors. Often, the template the quilter used was made from cardboard. Each time the pattern was traced onto the fabric, the template wore just a little thinner. It didn’t take much for the whole top to go completely awry
Another issue quilters encountered when cutting their pieces with scissors is that at least two sides of each piece was cut on the bias. A little pulling while marking or sewing could wreak havoc.
One of the most discouraging aspects of having problems with this quilt pattern is that the quilter doesn’t really know until the whole quilt has been put together that she has a mess on her hands. Each star point may lie flat as a flitter but when sewn together with the triangles and squares that finish it off, wads and wrinkles and waves appear. No amount of smoothing, pulling or tugging will make the top lie flat.
It is clear to even the most casual of observers that nothing is going to “quilt out” or “quilt down.” I’m sure that is why we find so many Lone Star tops for sale on eBay.
I was an inexperienced quilter when I bought a red and white quilt top many years ago in a crowded antique mall. The top was folded, and there was no place to spread it out. The price was within my budget, and that alone should have set off warning bells and sirens.
When I got the top home, I spread it out on the bed and saw the faded pieces and became more than just a little heartsick. I also discovered all the bulges and bumps. I put it away with the intention of fixing it. After all, it couldn’t be that hard, could it?
As you can see, fixing that quilt has never risen to the top of my priority list.
After shoving the quilt top into a bin and letting it mature for years on end, I eventually forgot all about it. And when I forgot about the top, I also forgot about the important lessons I had thought I had learned. Not too long ago, I bought another Lone Star top.
The top was folded and hanging on a hanger. But it was made from a riot of feedsack fabrics. It wasn’t laid out in regimented shades of color, and I loved that about it. I didn’t love the ugly orange and green feedsack fabric that was used for the setting triangles and squares. It looks as though there is a war going on between the center and the background.
But, hey, I could replace the background squares and triangles and keep the scrappy star in the center. I was all excited to bring this home.
Then I laid it out on the bed. I was quickly reminded of the red and white top. Bubbles, bumps, wrinkles and pleats stared me in the face. And, even though I knew it was fruitless, I pulled and tugged and smoothed it with the hope of getting it to behave.
I am determined to figure out how to fix this one. Even though the workmanship leaves much to be desired, I am still drawn to that center star. My first step will be to remove the background pieces. Then I will separate each star point and press them. Only after I do those things will I be able to determine what to do next.
I think I might draw the line at taking each diamond apart. There’s got to be an easier fix, right?
And in the future, if anyone sees me fondling a Lone Star quilt top, please tell me to step away, just step away. If you do that, I promise to buy you a cup of coffee. Shoot, I’ll even add a piece of pie to your order.
Edie McGinnis is an author and editor for Kansas City Star Quilts. She writes every Friday.