Snack Mat Secrets
The Holiday Hexie, er, STAR SNACK MAT is out!! You may notice a small name change, which was driven by the realization that "not-square" does not a hexagon make. Embarrassing. Anyway, whatever shape it is (octagon. It's an octagon), this pattern is definitely beginner-friendly, but there are a few basic things that I know took me forever or chance to learn when I was starting out.
Have you ever quilted over a four-way intersection of seams and had your machine thunderously growl as it tried to make it through a gnarly bump of stacked seams? The trick to avoiding that, and a trick that I hold above all others, is nesting and spinning your seams.
You see, when you press seams to one side or the other, you are adding a certain amount of bulk, and that bulk is double at a four-way stop, like the one above, where you're stacking one pressed-to-the-side seam over the other. If I were to have pressed seams above towards the dark side, which is a often a good practice, I would be sewing through six layers of fabric. When I nest my seams, those layers offset each other which 1) reduces the bulk at those corners, and 2) makes it super easy to line up corners without using pins. Let me show you what I mean!
Notice to the left how I've pressed my seams (these pressing directions are included in the pattern). By pressing the top and bottom unit seams towards the outside (tan arrows) and pressing the middle unit seams towards the inside (chartreuse arrows), they will sit perfectly next to each other when I pair them up and stitch them together. See, when you alternate your seams like this, the teeny bit of bulk works in your favor and lets you butt the seams up against each other, like I try to show below.
You can see above how the seams line up nicely, even without pins. In the picture on the left below, you can see what that seam will look like when you go to sew them together. They lock together, and you can see how, instead of stacking on top of each other in a bulky mess that will make your machine sad, they nest nicely side by side.
After sewing the pieces together, you get to the "spinning" part of the seam, which is what actually allows these corners to be pressed nice and flat. You can see that in the right picture above, one hand is pulling one side of the corner intersection up and the other is pulling it down. This pops the little stitches there (sometimes a scissors is handy if the seams are reluctant), and actually allows you to press each side of the corner the opposite way.
In the picture above, you can see the two spun corners that look like little four-patches, and you can see that on the top and bottom, the seam is pressed to the right, but in the middle, the seam is pressed to the left. When you flip it over, you'll find that you have beautiful, smooth seams at those corners.
When I make my patchwork quilts, I set up my whole piecing process in such a way that I can spin every single seam like this. It saves so much time that I would have otherwise spent pinning every corner, and makes quilting a total, non-bumpy dream.
One other trick specific to this pattern to help get your star units nicely lined up- when you are trimming down your template units in Step 2, place your ruler so that the point lines up with 1.75" marking, as shown to the right. This will line up your left-hand side at 3.5", which is right where you want it to be, and will help you trim your star end so that your diagonals line up with the corners. Once you've trimmed that way, flip it over and square up like normal. Voila!