On Stitching the Christmas Star

About a year ago I confessed to having fallen hopelessly in love with kantha stitching and wrote that I hoped to make a kantha sampler for each month of 2020. Well I stuck to my declaration and think it is safe to say that the love affair developed into a long term relationship over the year as I experimented with different ways to use this versatile stitch form.

Kantha sampler for December 2020. 43 x cm (17 x 14.5 inches)

The twelfth sampler for the year was inspired by the bright Christmas star that appeared in the skies on 21 December when Jupiter and Saturn formed a “great conjunction”. I started stitching it on Christmas Eve and finished it this week. It is one of the larger samplers in the set and the pattern is fairly complicated. Before I started I thought long and hard about how best to stitch a star shape using the kantha stitch called “stepping” (where each new row of running stitches are placed at the halfway point of the previous row of stitches to create a diagonal pattern, or steps).

This is more or less how my thoughts went: there are 360 degrees in a circle, therefore the five lines that form the base of each point of the star should be 72 degrees apart. If I stitch along these lines as a starting point, the star will unfold. And it did. I did have to use my pencil to draw more lines and fill in the spaces with stitching at later stages to create the star shape. After I had finished the sampler I sketched the pattern roughly so that I have a diagram to follow if I ever want to make another star.

Despite my best efforts I did not manage to stitch perfectly straight lines and my Christmas star started to look like a starfish with curly ends. So I again did some filling in, as shown in the photograph below.

The white spaces inside the solid edge were filled in with more rows of stepped stitches.

To get the solid edge to the star I wove the thread through a row of running stitches, sewn in a straight line with the help of a ruled pencil line. Once the star was completed I stitched around the edge to make a border, using the same thread (hand dyed perle no. 12). To echo the points of the star I stitched rows of the blocking pattern, but decreased the stitch length on the third to sixth rows. Then I added three small running stitches, just to make a fine point. Finally, the background was filled in with seed stitch. All the kantha samplers have been finished in this way and so I have developed a rhythm to the stitching which I do in rows with one stitch sideways, one stitch slantways, with the pattern staggered in the next row. (Hope that makes sense.)

Background nearly done. A close-up to show the worthwhile effect of the laborious seed stitching.

A few people have asked what I am going to do with these samplers. (That two-letter word !!) For now I am happy to know that the project is done and that I enjoyed the doing (making) of it. But these month by month samplers are a personal record of a strange year and perhaps I will sew them all onto a backing to make a scroll or a hanging. The samplers are all different sizes, but are all stitched onto a white background.

Starting block

This week I also started a big project — to make a large quilt from a collection of travel fabrics. The cloths were not collected by me, so it was quite hard to make that first cut!

18 thoughts on “On Stitching the Christmas Star

  1. The kantha star is lovely in its beautiful simplicity, and well done for achieving your goal of kantha stitching a block for each month of 2020. I’m sure you’ll think of what to do with them in time, when they tell you πŸ™‚ Your new project looks fascinating – the first cut is the deepest, yes?

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  2. I like the inside star particularly. If one looks at a star through binoculars they are not regular or static and I like the movement that starfishy shape creates. It is beautiful. Would give a lot to be able to stitch so well and devotedly.

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    1. Thanks Tierney. Yes, the stitching of the star was a kind of meditation that went well with the between-time that happens between Christmas and New Year. It was a happy accident that the samplers ended up recording the strange year of 2020. Thanks for the encouragement to collate the samplers into one piece.

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  3. I’m a bit behind with blogs (issues with me) – When I looked at the first picture of the finished star and I didn’t really see the kind of inner look. Until I scrolled down and you basically said the stitching wasn’t straight and yes I could see that – but then looking again at the first picture, somehow I couldn’t truly see those curves. Probably because of the outline stitch and then of course the whole finished sampler.

    I did a number of projects during our first lockdown but then I got side tracked with other things in my art supplies.And then of late, I’ve not been able too. Maybe soon I will get back on track.

    I now have to take a lot of my small supplies of my cubby cube shelving as the heat pump is to be installed next Monday, right above the dam shelving unit. This exercise might well show me what I need to “make”… and I know the beads I planned for the short wool shawl are in one of the cube spaces…

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    1. Thanks for reading the post and taking time to really look at the star. I like the forgiving nature of kantha stitching and the way it hides the irregularities. Have fun unpacking your supplies and a I hope you find some inspiration in the process

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