Today I’m sharing a tutorial for one of my all-time favorite quilt blocks – the classic Eight-pointed star – sometimes called the Sawtooth Star quilt block (and probably many other names.)
You may remember the little star mini-quilt I shared last week. I had multiple people ask for instructions for making these stars. It’s been something I’ve wanted to write a tutorial about for years and I figured now was the time.
This classic 8-pointed star is probably one of the most traditional quilt motifs there is. I think the reason it has so much staying power is that it always looks sharp. Plus, depending on the variety of fabric and color choices, it can be so versatile!
This quilt using these sawtooth star quilt blocks is one of the first quilts I ever made. I made it 16 years ago – I even hand quilted it! – and it has hung above my bedroom dresser ever since. I still love it (which I can’t say about every quilt I made that long ago.)
As you can see in this sawtooth star quilt block version, I made the stars “solid” using the same fabric for all of the pieces of the star. If you look at the mini version at the top of the post, you can see where I used different fabric for the star centers. So obviously this block gives you a lot of variations.
This sawtooth star quilt block can be constructed using half-square triangles for the points. But I personally prefer to use Flying Geese units for the points as it eliminates an unnecessary seam (between the points), reducing extra bulk and leaving larger pieces of fabric design intact.
I also love this method because there is a GREAT no-waste method for creating four flying geese units at the same time – perfect for the Sawtooth Star block.
Here’s the basics of the Flying Geese units: you will need one large square that will always be your “goose” (middle triangle) and four smaller squares that will always be your “sky”. Or, when making these blocks to use as star points, the “sky” triangles become the points of the star. Are you with me still?
FINISHED Flying Geese blocks are always twice as wide as they are tall. (i.e. 2″ wide and 1″ tall, or 5″ wide and 2 1/2″ tall.)
Let’s walk through the steps to get from the 1 large + 4 smaller squares to the four finished Flying Geese blocks. Don’t worry about the measurements at this point. I have two free printable charts for you to use to make these blocks (both Flying Geese and Sawtooth Stars) in 9-10 different sizes below.
The first step is to cut out all of the coordinating pieces for your block. I like to do all the cutting at once for multiple blocks. Then I can play with the variety of colors and combinations while all the fabric is out. I put each set in a pile and take them all to my machine at once. Just keep track of which pieces are what.
Next, draw a diagonal line on the back of the four “sky” or “point” squares.
With the large “goose” square (or background square) right sides up, place two “sky” squares (or points squares) face down (remember, right sides together) in opposite corners, lining up the diagonal lines. The two squares will overlap corners in the middle. This is good.
Pin the squares to hold them in place and sew a scant 1/4″ seam on both sides of the drawn diagonal line.
Cut this unit in half right on the drawn diagonal line. Press the seam allowance toward the smaller triangles. You will have two units that look like this.
Place another “sky” square in the corner of each “goose” unit and sew scant 1/4″ seams again on both sides of the drawn line. Cut on the line and press seams toward the smaller triangles.
You will now have four Flying Geese units. But you’re not done. Because of sewing and cutting on diagonal/bias edges, they can be a little mis-shapen. It’s important to square-up your blocks. (Also, with the measurements I’ve given you in the printable guide, you have a little extra fabric built in so you can have excess to give you a nice square edge.)
I really like to use a ruler like this Pineapple Ruler (or this Flying Geese Ruler) that has a 90 degree angle on point with a 1/4″ above for squaring-up the goose “point”. Place that guide right on top your point to square-off the excess. This will give you a nice clean, straight edge with a perfect 1/4″ seam allowance. Then square up the rest of the block to the appropriate unfinished size. (Post Edit: sadly, I think that specific Pineapple ruler is out of production. I have since seen this Flying Geese Specialty Ruler from Creative Grids that is useful for squaring up multiple sizes of Flying Geese blocks.)
(You don’t have to use a specialty ruler – just make sure there is 1/4″ of seam allowance at the top of the point so that you don’t cut off the point when you sew it to something else.)
I know that squaring-up seems like a lot of extra work, but in the long run it’s so much easier to assemble blocks with clean, square edges.
Once your four “Geese” units are finished, lay them out with the coordinating center and corner squares. Sew the units into three rows. Press seams away from the “goose” unit. This will help seams to nest when you sew the three rows together to finish the block.
And there you go! I make no claims of coming up with this sawtooth star quilt block method on my own. Minds far superior to mine figured this stuff out and have shared it before. I just love passing it on to others who might not have heard the word yet. Especially the part about saving time and no-fabric-waste. Because I’m kind of OCD about those two things.
As I mentioned, this sawtooth star quilt block is SO versatile and easy to scale to mini or make nice and big for a larger quilt. Once you know the technique, you just plug-in the piece sizes and you can make this block in many common sizes.
(FYI: the stars in my mini quilt featured here are 4″ x 4″ finished – 4 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ unfinished. Sashing strips are 1 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ and the cornerstone blocks are 1 1/2″ x 1 1/2″.)
I’ve created a free printable with the measurements for piecing a variety of star sizes:
I’ve done the same if you just want to make Flying Geese. Flying Geese themselves are also SO versatile. Here’s a pinboard of Flying Geese quilts for your inspiration.
Thanks for stopping by!