The Busy Bean

How To: Somerset Star

I finished up my pillow for the Pillow Talk Swap. I’m so very excited at how it turned out I just had to share. Lots of people were asking how I did the star, so here’s a little tutorial to walk you through it.

The Somerset Star is very traditional. In fact, you may have grown up seeing it used as things like trivets or Christmas ornaments. Things that just scream “grandma” at you. Not that there is anything wrong with grandmas. In fact, I quite love grandmas. However, this is not your grandma’s Somerset star.

Cut a square of muslin, or any old cheap fabric, just a little bigger than you want your finished star. Then start cutting your 1.5″ x 2.5″ rectangles. A lot of them. How many you  need will be determined by how many rows you want in your star. Here’s a breakdown of how many per row, and a rough idea of how big your finished star will be:

1st row: 4 rectangles
Rows 2-4: 8 rectangles (approx 4.5″)
Rows 5-10: 16 rectangles (approx 9″)
Rows 11-14: 32 rectangles (approx. 12″)

Somerset Star Tutorial 7

number of triangle per row

Figure out how many rows you need and what colors you will use. It’s important to remember to alternate value between your rows. If you’re using all dark fabrics or all light fabrics, you won’t be able to see the definition of the points. See how the yellow portion of my star isn’t as defined as the rest? It’s because there isn’t much difference in value between the yellow and my neutrals. It’s ok here (at least it is in my opinion) because the rest of the rings are clearly defined in the rainbow. I just wouldn’t want my whole star to be this undefined.

Now that you have a billion rectangles cut, it’s time to fold them into triangles. Start by folding one long edge under 1/4″ and pressing (this will be the top edge). Next, fold the rectangle in half to mark your center and fold both top corners down to meet at the center point at the bottom. Your nice pressed edge is now the center line of your triangle. Repeat. And again, and again, and again… Really, this is the most time consuming part of the whole process. Throw on a good movie and you’ll be done before you know it.

While the iron’s hot, grab your scrap muslin and fold it in half. Press this seam. Fold in half again the other way and press. Now fold it into a triangle and press again. Unfold it and you’ve got nice lines marked at the center for you to line up the triangles with.

It’s finally time to start putting the star together. Grab the four triangles for your first ring and line them up with the lines on your muslin. The tips should all meet in the center. The folded line in the middle of the triangle will follow the horizontal and vertical lines you pressed. The edges will line up with the diagonal lines. I like to use a little bit of lapel stick, or my sewline glue pen, to hold the triangles in place while I start tacking them down.

The good news here is that you only need to hand sew one stitch on each triangle. Unless you really like to hand sew, then you can do it all by hand. No big deal. Anyway, you just start at the back in the center and bring your needle up through the tip of one triangle. Go back down in the middle, then up and down through the tip of each triangle. Before I go back down through the last one, I take it to my machine and sew around the outside edges. Just so I don’t have to start my thread again each round, and I don’t have to worry about sewing over it.

Now we add the next row. Grab a ruler and line up your points 1/4″ below the tips of the last triangles. Start by placing one triangle directly over the first four you sewed. The next four are going to be placed between those. Line them up with 1/4″ between all the triangle tips.

And just keep tacking them down and adding rows until you get to row 5. At row 5 you’ll have to add another triangle between the eight you place first, for a total of 16 triangles on this row. You can go up to row 10 with 16 triangles, but you’ll have to double it again at row 11. You’ll see how the unfinished edges will start to show between your triangles as you go farther out.You can keep going, making your star as big as you want, just by doubling the number of triangles per row when it looks like you need it.

So, that’s how to form the star.

Click here for my easy inset circle tutorial

And here for a handy tutorial for inserting a zipper in a pillow back

Or here for an invisible zipper with an invisible zipper foot or with your regular zipper foot

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23 Thoughts on “How To: Somerset Star

  1. I DO remember these ‘folded’ stars as we called them. I was quite into them for a while, but never ever made one as cool and beautiful as yours!!

  2. I agree with Debbie. I used to love making pot holders and such out of these stars. This pillow, however, is in a class of it’s own. A real treasure.

  3. Colleen Gray on October 30, 2012 at 10:57 am said:

    Hi there! Just found your site via Pinterest. I’m also “Colleen the Bean!” AND I love to sew and craft. I’ll be following…you do beautiful work;-)

  4. Wish I could do this for some Christmas presents. Maybe with your help? Cernatinly glad you have nothing against grandmas, I think your kids have some pretty cool ones.

  5. This is fabulous, Colleen! I love it: the design, the fabrics… LOVE!

  6. Gorgeous! Thank you for sharing the technique! :)

  7. This is a great tutorial. I’m inspired to use up some of my scraps and make something that looks beautiful!

  8. Oh My! About *ahem cough* 20 years ago I did an Art and Design course at school, my final project was a wicker basket with a lid made of these stars. I hadn’t thought about that project until I saw your pillow and it bought all the memories back of spending forever making thousands of little triangles. Thanks for the memory and the tutorial, I think I’m going to try it again…..Karen

  9. This is just utterly fabulous! Seriously, I’m swooning!
    I love it and I’ve pinned it to my “Quilty Goodness” board on Pinterest (with proper credit, of course!). Feel free to follow me if you’d like: http://pinterest.com/lipglass/quilty-goodness/

  10. Stephanie on December 17, 2012 at 7:16 pm said:

    I have made a pot holder like this and love your tutorial…
    Stephanie

  11. Dianne Hiller on December 28, 2012 at 6:26 am said:

    Love your pillow – colors are striking – enjoyed reading your tut. Will put this in my to do file.

  12. Micheline on January 3, 2013 at 8:06 am said:

    This is the most beautiful pillow ever. Thanks for the tutorial.

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  14. Chantay Heidenthal on March 6, 2013 at 9:17 am said:

    I love this and I am going to attempt this. I love your nickname also.
    I have a Bean too – when we saw her ultrasound picture that is what she looked like. And we could not tell if she was a pork n’ bean or a jelly bean. But she turned out to be our sweet little jelly bean Lily.

  15. Karen on March 6, 2013 at 9:56 am said:

    I also did a simular pattern on a styro foam egg to make beautiful, colorful easter eggs and placed them in a basket!

  16. Kaye Smith on March 6, 2013 at 1:26 pm said:

    Thank you for this tutorial, I have benn obsessed with this design for months.. Now I can sit down and go step by and do it right..

  17. Rhiannon on July 17, 2013 at 3:32 pm said:

    I absolutely love how this turned out. It is so pretty and it made me decide to try it for myself. I also recently found a jar of modge podge in with my craft stuff and I am doing a somerset star design on the top of a side table my brother abandoned at my house. It’s not quite the same, as I am using triangles to start with instead of folding them from rectangles, but it looks cool so far. Thank you so much for the tutorial :)

  18. Diane on July 30, 2013 at 6:45 am said:

    What a fantastic scrap idea! And here’s me sorting through 18 years worth of scraps even as I read this! Can’t wait to try it! Thank you!

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  21. pat volk on January 16, 2014 at 7:30 am said:

    Question? I’m sure I’m the only one but….. I think I understand that each point on each row gets hand tacked in place. Do you also sew around the outside edge of each row the same way you did for the first row. If so, after you get a couple of rows started, how do you keep 16 pieces of pointed fabric from popping up all over the place, even if they are pressed, while you get ready to sew them in place? I made a Christmas ornament with this technique but each piece of fabric had a pin holding every corner in place as soon as you put it on the ball. I am interested because I love the decoration on your pillow.
    If you don’t explain how it’s done, it’s almost magical. (Ok. You have explained it and it’s still magical.)

    • Pat, it really is magical, I agree! I keep them in place with a little dab of glue, just a regular washable elmer’s glue stick will work, or there’s the sewline glue pen or lapel stick made specially for sewing. First I glue them in place, then do the hand tacking of the tips, then sew around the outside edge. All edges of all rounds, so it lays more flat and is easier to deal with.

      Hope this helps!

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