Looking for an easy button for those amazing star quilt blocks that require so much detailed piecing? When I found this technique for slash and turn star blocks in a BluPrint class, “Quick Techniques for Classic Blocks” with Anita Grossman, I had to try it. The process seemed much easier and wasted much less material than other tutorials I have seen.
I wanted to learn and perfect the technique but didn’t really want to make a whole quilt so once again I planned to make placemats as a way to learn this new skill.
Cut Fabric Squares in Pairs
In Anita’s class, the template provided completed as finished slash and turn star blocks less than 6 inches square. For my placemats, I like a finished 6-inch block. My placemats finish at 12” x 18” so the math is easy. I resized the template to get the finished block size I wanted. It wasn’t that hard; I ended up with the initial square cut at 8.5” with a 5.5” square on point in the center. I traced six copies of the template onto freezer paper so I could iron the template to the fabric to ensure the template didn’t move during cutting.
The trick to getting the stars is to cut pairs of fabrics. I had a layer cake that I sorted and paired fabrics for this project. Then I stacked three pairs, six 10” squares, together and ironed a template on the top fabric. Each stack would make six blocks, enough for one placemat.
I have marked the cutting order on this template. The outside square is cut first. Then the triangles with the long diagonal are cut first, and the triangles with the side points removed are cut second. Be sure to move the first triangles out of the way after you cut them so they aren’t accidentally trimmed when the second set of triangles are cut.
Swap and Sew
Once cut, the pairs are laid out as in the photo below. Simply swap the center square between the pairs and you are ready to start sewing. Attach the triangles with the short diagonal first. The first triangles will exactly match the side of the square so the seam is an easy fit.
Attach the two triangles with the long (untrimmed) diagonal side next. The edge of the triangle will not match the side of the square so you will have to match the centers first. The easiest way to do that is to fold the square in half and pinch the fold, then fold the diagonal side of the triangle in half and pinch the fold. Pin the two center creases together then pin both ends if you want to. There are no seams to match so the center is the only important match to make sure the point of the triangle falls in the correct place.
Several of my fabrics were so dark it was hard to see the creases. I made a chalk mark at the centerline of the square then lined the point of the triangle up with the chalk mark. That worked well also.
Slash and Swap, Round 2
Once the square on point block is done, trim it to a 7.5” square. Now comes the fun part! Cut 2” from each side of each block. Don’t move the block or any of the pieces while you do this cutting. In the photo below, I have moved the pieces apart so you can see the end result of this cutting.
To get the final star, swap and flip the outside center rectangles between the blocks. These rectangles are essentially ‘flying geese’ without cutting and sewing separate pieces to get them. Below is a photo of what the layout of the blocks should look like before the final sewing of the block.
Completing the slash and turn star blocks is straightforward from here. Sew each row together, then sew the rows together. You will end up with paired stars that have the same fabrics. The next step for the placemats is to trim the star blocks to 6.5”, then sew six blocks together as shown in the top image for this post. Finishing the placemats will be done as described in my “Quilt to Placemat” post.
In looking at the placemat, if I were to make a quilt with these slash and turn start blocks, I would put sashing between the squares. Or make this with solid fabrics. It is a detailed block and the busy fabric distracts from the detail to my eye. The technique works very well and resulted in accurately sized blocks.