New to Quilting?

If you are brand new to quilting and don't know where to begin, start with the posts in September 2011 (look in the blog archive). The first four posts cover basics such as choosing equipment, choosing colors, how to sew 1/4" seams, how to use a rotary cutter, and how to press (not iron) your block during construction.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Mistake Star - Quilt Block Tutorial

Mistake Star? You've never heard of it before? That's because I made a mistake in the original pattern and ended up with a different star than I planned!

Crystal and my niece decided that they liked the accidental version and voted that I leave it as is instead of ripping it out and starting again. So the tutorial is for the Mistake Star instead of Hope of Hartford, which is what I was planning.

Hope of Hartford (or in this tutorial: Mistake Star) is a block that is relatively easy. A few skills you will build while sewing this block include:
  • reading 1/8" marks on your ruler 
  • sewing on the bias (a little Magic Sizing helps) 
  • and one partial seam (just follow the photos and it will be easy!)

Since I've never seen this block before I thought I'd name it. I couldn't think of a better than Mistake Star, which is a cousin of Hope of Hartford! However, if you've seen it before, please let me know it's real name and I'll post it!

Mistake Star
12" finished block, 12 1/2" unfinished.

Hope of Hartford (the block I was planning on sewing): directions can be found at Delaware Quilts
Delaware Quilts also has a great Block of the Month photo index if you are interested in finding more of their tutorial but want to see a photo of the block, not just a list of block names, which is usually what you find at other sites.

Before you cut the pieces on the diagonal, press the square of fabric with Magic Sizing to give the fabric more body and help reduce or prevent the bias edge from stretching during sewing.

Cut from background fabric
(A1) four 2 7/8"  x 5 1/4" rectangles
(A2) one 6" x 6" square (cut in half diagonally twice)

Cut from medium fabric (mine is red)
(B1) one 6" x 6" square (cut in half diagonally twice)
(B2) one 2 7/8" square

Cut from dark fabric (mine is green)
(C) two 5 5/8" squares (cut each square in half diagonally once)

I pressed all the pieces with Magic Sizing because I'll be sewing on bias edges on (A2), (B1), and (C). The Magic Sizing gives enough body to the fabric that it is easier to work with and less likely to stretch while I'm sewing it. I buy Magic Sizing at my local grocery store right next to the starch (which I don't use in quilting). Press with Magic Sizing *before* cutting each piece along the diagonal.

(A2) cut in half diagonally twice, (B1) cut in half diagonally twice, and two (C) cut in half diagonally once.
Ready to sew!

Here's where my mistake started! I lined everything up just right for Hope of Hartford, but I when I placed the pieces right sides together I forgot to pin the edge that I was sewing......
.... and sewed the wrong edge! After I sewed the first seam the sub-units looked like this. I just kept going because I hadn't noticed something was wrong, yet! Follow *this photo* to line up your triangles, pin along the edge you should sew, then sew and press towards the dark side. Make sure all four sub-units turn out the same!
Lay (C) on top of (A2+B1) sub-unit and sew along the long edge of the triangle. Be careful, this is a bias edge and if you stretch it while you are sewing, your block won't turn out well. The top two units have (C) laid over the top, the bottom two show what the first triangle sub-units look like underneath.
Sew each (C) to a (A2+B1) sub-unit, press open with the seam towards (C).

Pin and sew one (A1) piece to each triangle sub-unit as shown in the photo.

Press towards the rectangle (A1) to reduce bulk.
Here's where we sew a partial seam. Don't worry, it isn't hard, just different.

Pin (B2) to one unit as shown. (The rectangle piece (A1) is at the bottom.) Match the center (B2) to the red (B1) corner. Sew along the yellow dotted line leaving about 1" of the square unsewn.
During each step you will be lining up the red triangle (B1) with the red center square (B2).

You can see the white seam and how much is left unsewn. Yep! I started off at the top a little wonky. I fixed it after I took the photo.
You can finger press the seam open, but don't press it with the iron yet.

Next, lay the piece that you just sewed on top of another unit with the reds (fabric B) matching in the corner. The pink dotted line shows the first partial seam sewn. Pin and sew along the yellow arrow.

Finger press open. The arrow is pointing to the partial seam.

Lay another unit on top of the part of the block that is already sewn. In the photo above, I left the orientation of the block from the previous photo and laid another unit on top with the (A1) rectangle to the left. Pin and sew along the yellow arrow.

Finger press open. The blue arrow shows the last seam sewn, the yellow arrow shows the partial seam that is still open.
Lay the final piece on top of the previously sewn block. Sew along the yellow line. It's usually easier to flip the block over and sew as shown in the next photo.

If you sew from this side you can lift the block away from the partial seam so you don't accidentally sew it.
This is what your block should look like now. You should have one seam left that will include the partial seam on the center square (B2). This is the last seam you will sew in the block.
Place right sides together, matching the unsewn edges of the block. The blue arrow shows the partial seam that was sewn first. The yellow arrow shows where you will sew the final seam to finish the block.

Press the block with a hot iron. Here's a photo of the finished block: Mistake Star.
If you have any questions, *please* leave me a comment. This block is probably easier to show in a video than step-by-step photos and I'm not sure if my directions are clear enough.

If they aren't, chances are you aren't the only one that's confused!

Sharing this post at Not Just a Housewife

Update: 8 February 2015
I just read a post on Barbara Brackman's block that has this same block. The link will give you the history of the block and a little more about it.

It's name was published as "Hope of Hartford" by the Farm Journal in 1945.


  1. Thank you for the step-by-step pictures and directions! Can you please tell me the size of the finished square?

    1. It should measure 12" in the finished quilt, 12 1/2" before you sew it into the quilt.
      Thanks for reading!

  2. It's more than 2 years since you posted this. It was a happy accident that I came across it. Thank you for sharing. I would love to add this to one of my quilts -- or maybe make the entire quilt with Mistake Stars.

  3. Muchisimas gracias! Cada paso fotografiado muy bien explicado! Todo muy claro, me preparo a hacerlo! Gracias.

  4. I love your mistake star I will definately be making some


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