From our Free Quilt Block Patterns Library
The Variable Star is quick to make with just quarter square triangles and cut squares.
There's bound to be other names for a patchwork design as popular as this one.
And there are. You may know it by one of these:
On this page you'll find:
No time to quilt right now? Click here to pin this tutorial for later.
It's to to cut up and sew!
These abbreviations are used in this tutorial:
All seam allowances (SA) are 1/4".
When instructed to press, first press the patches in the closed position just as they came off your sewing machine. This sets the seam, melding the fibers of the threads into the fibers of the fabric.
Pressing instructions are highlighted in yellow.
Sample Block Size:
To create this block, we cut patches for our QST that are oversized by 1/2", stitch the units and then trim down for perfectly sized patches.
You'll need a background fabric plus a light, medium and dark.
Good contrast helps showcase your piecing skills!
Mark your patches with their #'s. We'll refer to them throughout the tutorial.
Click here to download a copy of the block design and cutting chart to use at your cutting table.
Cutting Chart for a~Traditional Piecing ~
|Patch||Fabric||Qty||Finished Block Size|
|1||BAC||1||3¾" x 3¾"||4¼" x 4¼"||4¾" x 4¾"||5¾" x 5¾"|
|2||Med||1||3¾" x 3¾"||4¼" x 4¼"||4¾" x 4¾"||5¾" x 5¾"|
|3||Dark||2||3¾" x 3¾"||4¼" x 4¼"||4¾" x 4¾"||5¾" x 5¾"|
|4||BAC||4||2½" x 2½"||3'' x 3''||3½" x 3½"||4½" x 4½"|
|5||Light||1||2½" x 2½"||3'' x 3''||3½" x 3½"||4½" x 4½"|
|Unfinished Block Size||6 1/2"||8''||9 1/2"||12 1/2"|
|Grid Size||2"||2 1/2"||3"||4''|
My go-to thread for all my piecing is...
Learn more about my favorite, new quilting tool, the Magic Pressing Mat. A valuable addition to your quilting tools—regardless of the piecing technique you use.
To make our 3-fabric QSTs, we'll first make HST's using the quick pieced method, then join them together to create the QSTs.
There are two different ways to mark these units.
#1: On the backsides of 2 of your #1, #2 and/or #3 squares, draw a single diagonal line from corner to corner, below left. (On the ones it's easiest to see on.)
#2: Use a Quick Quarter ruler (or other 1/2" ruler) to mark 1/4" away from the center diagonal, below right.
With RST, sandwich #1 with a #3 and #2 with a #3.
For the single line marking, with your favorite quarter inch foot installed, stitch 1/4" away from both sides of both lines on both pairs. (Click here to see it.)
For the double line marking use your open toe applique foot to stitch on the lines. (Click here to see it.)
You'll notice in the photos below that I used Method #2 and both my favorite Bohin Mechanical Chalk Pencil and a plain ol'mechanical pencil to mark the lines (black arrows).
Use whichever marking method works best for you and is easiest to see with the tools you have at hand.
Mark only as dark as YOU need to be able to see them at your sewing machine.
Here's the stitching with my open toe applique foot, first the #1 and #3 pair.
And now the #2 and #3 pairing.
Cut each sewn pair in half between the stitching lines for a total of four oversized HSTs.
Press all four HST with the SA towards your #3 dark fabric.
Once again draw a diagonal line from corner to corner on the #2/#3 HSTs or use a quick-quarter ruler to draw a pair of diagonal lines 1/4" (white arrows) as I did in the sample below.
While these markings are pretty light in the photos, they were dark enough to see for stitching.
The important thing to remember is that for accurate QSTs, these markings should be perpendicular to the stitching line. Sometimes that means they won't be evenly stitched from the corners.
That's the biggest reason why I like to work with oversized units for QSTs.
With RST layer a marked #2/#3 with an unmarked #1/#3. The seams nest in the center.
Pinning can help you hold the HSTs together for a nice match in the center. Use them as needed. (I need them.)
If you drew a single line, stitch 1/4" away from both sides. If you drew two lines, stitch on each one.
Before anything else, open the patches to check your match in the center of the QST.
This one is good.
But that's not always the case. Click here to see my Rut-Roh!
After checking (and any needed re-sewing) cut the QSTs in half between the last pair of stitched lines.
Press. SA can be toward one side, open or twirled/fanned around the center. For the sample I pressed to one side.
Use the chart below to trim your QSTs to the size that corresponds with your chosen Finished Block Size.
|Center of QST||Trim QST to…|
|6"||1 1/4"||2 1/2"|
|7 1/2"||1 1/2"||3"|
|9"||1 3/4"||3 1/2"|
|12"||2 1/4"||4 1/2"|
At your cutting mat, with a QST right side up using a quilt ruler align the Center measurement from the chart with center of the QST.
For our 9" finished sample, the center of our QSTs is at 1-3/4".
Trim the top the exposed edges.
Turn the QST 180° and line up the ruler again. This time the diagonal is on the seam line. The freshly trimmed edge are even with the 3-1/2" lines on the ruler.
The seams should all cut the corners exactly in half.
Trim the remaining three QSTs.
Arrange the patches into the Variable Star design. The background fabric is always at the outside edge of the block.
With RST, sew the units together into rows. Press the SA toward the cut squares (#4s or #5) in each row.
Sew the rows together to form the block, pinning as needed to insure a good match at the seams.
This is our Variable Star from the backside.
And finally. Our Variable Star quilt block from the front.