A beautiful starburst art quilt “how to”

I recently created an enlarged design of a smaller quilt I had made several years ago.  All enlargements have challenges, especially as I’m usually working from a photo and I don’t make patterns.  This starburst design is a creation of “rays” with each having seven different fabrics in it, progressing from light to dark fabrics in teals and blues.  First there was the challenge of finding similar fabrics, made more difficult by the pandemic which limited my in person shopping and forced me to rely on internet shopping.  Lots of surprises when fabric arrived!!  Next I made a drawing on graph paper in order to determine how many “rays” to cut to fill a space about 40″ x 50″.  I made all of this more difficult by only ordering one yard of each color of fabric.  At the end I had a mere 7.5″ x 42″ of one color left!  I won’t make that mistake again! 

I made five different ray designs with different lengths of the 7 fabrics to create a more abstract and random final design.  To do this, I created five 42″ x 40″ pieces with the 7 strips of the different colors.  From each of these large strip collections, I cut the 60 rays in three different widths, also adding to the abstractness of the quilt. I organized the rays with a sense of randomness and varied design by a quarter of the starburst circle.  I made the four quarters and then sewed those together.  I long ago stopped trying to have all the rays meet at a single point so once the rays in a very large circle were sewn together, I made a hexagon which I top sewed onto the open point circle in the middle (with a small piece of fabric on the underside). 

These star quilts are challenging without patterns because some rays only need 4 fabrics, some 5, some 6 and some all seven because of where they are in the circle which I’m turning into a square/rectangle for the final quilt.  I end up cutting off some rays and using those fabrics to extend other rays.  And of course, making sure the whole design lays flat with all the rays sewn together always means I end up ripping one or more rays out at the end to make it all work.  Patience is an asset with a starburst quilt.

After all these steps for this very large wall quilt, the final result was very beautiful!  It did end up being slightly larger than planned which was acceptable to the customer, at 49″ x 57″.

I now faced quilting this very large quilt on my residential Bernina 750 machine.  First I stabilized the quilt by stitching in the ditch about every 3-4 rays from the center to the edge.  Then I embarked on a free motion fun fest!!  Whatever I decided to do, I did it from the center out to the edge and not around the design which would have been too difficult given the size of the quilt, my sewing machine and my sewing desk size.  I did some darker thread stipling for five sections of the light colored rays which really enhanced the overall star design.  Finally, I made the border out of the darkest of the 7 fabrics.  I had cut the strips for the binding BEFORE creating the quilt rays so I was sure to have enough.

I shared this quilt with some friends and one said it reminded her of the cosmic big bang….a teal blue big bang!!  I like it!!


4 Responses

    1. I’d love to see a picture! Every time I try a new design I feel like I’m flying by the seat of my pants though I always have lots of fabric since I buy mostly a full yard of fabrics in my stash. Thanks for sharing.

  1. Well, your starburst design brings back memories for me. About 8 years ago I designed a very similar pattern to make a quilt for a challenge I do for an international fireworks organization, I belong to. I had two very different fabrics I had to use. One was an orange, olive green, pale yellow and gold metallic stripe and the other was a brown print on a various valued dark mustard background. I had been percolating a design in my head for a couple years and decided to make it. I made stratas like you did, using a bunch of different fabrics. I only had FQ’s of the required fabrics so some stratas were much narrower than others and I had to piece parts of wedges together to get them long enough. I never used a wedge template, I just flew by the seat of my pants and figured it out as I went. I was amazed that it was flat when I sewed those last two halves together. A huge stumbling block for me was how to finish the edges. My spokes were uneven, like yours. I ended up making a giant facing. A friend helped me figure out how to hang a circular quilt. An acrylic rod (that could bend) was inserted thru looped straps that were hand sewn on the back, in an arc. My quilt is titled, “Orange to Green Chrysanthemum” By the way, my quilt won first place in the Quilt Challenge for the 2015 Pyrotechnics Guild International Art Show.

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