Saturday, July 26, 2014

This post is part of the "Anatomy of a Block" series where we deconstruct and reconstruct a traditional quilt block to figure out what it's all about.

One of the first quilting books I purchased was Maggie Malone's 5,500 Quilt Block Designs.  The title says it all.  There are no quilts, no instructions, just block after block.  I love flipping through the pages, studying the block designs and thinking of all the possibilities.   Some of the attraction is figuring out all the parts and pieces of these blocks and how they fit together. 

For this series of blog posts, I thought it would be fun to take a closer look at a few of my favorites.
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Many traditional blocks are based upon an underlying square grid.  Identifying this grid is often the key to constructing a block that doesn't come with cutting and piecing instructions. 

Quilt math works best when the finished block size is easily divisible by the defining grid!  

The grid size relates to a finished square within the block.  It is determined by dividing the finished block size by the number in the grid.   For example, a 12" block based on a four x four grid has a grid size of three.  Knowing the grid size becomes important when calculating fabric to cut.   For the basic square, it's grid size + (seam allowance x 2).  Now, this square might comprise of several individual fabric pieces or a single fabric might encompass more than square, but this basic square is the foundation behind many of the traditional blocks I'll be featuring.
Arrowhead.
First things first.
The underlying grid to this block is 8 x 8.  I found it by starting with the smallest square and projecting its size equally across the entire block.   The result is 64 squares, each measuring the finished block size / 8.
This is what I'll refer to as the grid size (GS).
Next, divide and conquer.
Like many traditional blocks, Arrowhead consists of repetitive "sub-blocks".  These can typically be found by locating the main seams that track full width of the block and divide the block into distinct sections.  There are two in each direction, creating nine sections and three sub-block types.
The center block (C) is a simple square,  taking up two grids square. This unfinished fabric piece will measure  [(2 x GS) + 1/2"] per side (assuming a standard 1/4" seam allowance).
Block A is pretty simple too.  A nine-patch.  3 squares x 3 squares.
Or three rows of three squares each.
In a two-color scheme, strip piecing is the most efficient.  For each nine-patch there are two rows with the color scheme a-a-b and one row of a-b-a.    Multiply these by the four A-blocks for 8 rows of a-a-b and four rows of a-b-a.  To size each strip:
Width = [GS + 1/2"] and Length = [(GS + 1/2") x (# rows)]
For a scrappy version, four A-blocks need 24 squares (6x4) of background fabric(s), and 12 squares (3x4) of contrasting fabrics.   Since these pieces are the basic square of the block, fabric for each square measures [GS + 1/2"].
That just leaves block B.  Not so simple.  Pulling it apart on the original lines in the diagram yields a whole mess of triangles and a square on point.  Yikes.  If working with a solid or small-scale fabric, I could most likely get away with breaking this block into a few classic patchwork units:
Option 1:  quarter square triangle / flying geese (goose?)
Option 2:  flying goose / square in a square
Option 3:  three flying geese (or a rectangle sandwiched by two geese)

Each of these classic units have specific sizing rules for their fabric pieces, which I won't go into here - but once assembled each unit still needs to fit within the underlying grid.   Looking back at the original gridded block, the unfinished geese, for example, would be [(2 x GS) + 1/2"] wide by [GS+ 1/2"] tall.

But what's purist to do?  How would block B be constructed with seam lines exactly as shown on the diagram?  Here's one way mapped out:
1.  Create a partial square in a square block, using just two corner squares.
2.  Attach a rectangle to a top corner using a similar method and trim the top half of the block at a 45 degree angle starting at the top of the small bottom left triangle.
3.  Since adding the last two triangles one at a time would mean grappling with a Y-seam, attach the remaining two triangles as a single unit instead.

Sizing these fabric pieces can get a little tricky, but returning to the basic square will help.  Using the original grid again as a guide, the large starting square in step 1 is [(2 x grid size) + 1/2"] per side.  The small triangles are a square with [GS + 1/2"] per side.  This works because the stitch line divides the square in half equally.  It follows that the rectangle is  [(2 x GS) + 1/2"] wide by [GS+ 1/2"] tall.
And the last two triangles?  They get into the realm of half-square triangles and quarter-square triangles, with the math harkening back to high school geometry and the good 'ol pythagorean theorem.
As a rule of thumb, add 3/8" to the unfinished starting square for a HST and 7/8" for a QST.  Because these units are half of a half square triangle (making them akin to quarter-square triangles) unfinished squares need to be [(2 x grid size) + 1/2" + 7/8"] per side.

Two contrasting squares will make four of these half blocks - which is exactly what we need for four B-blocks. There's a catch though - two will be mirrored, which means that two of the B-blocks will need the rectangle in step 2 sewn onto the other side!

Of course, with all those points to line up, the fail-safe method may be to paper-piece!

Now that that I've pulled this block apart, I'm off to see if I can stitch this baby back together and will hopefully be back soon with the full tutorial!




Sunday, July 6, 2014



Let me start out by saying that I am not a purse person.  Something about all the straps, pockets, zippers, and snaps is just too complicated for me.  Especially as a bike commuter, when I also have a cycling backpack to manage.  But I do appreciate the need for something to corral those few essentials that I seem to take everywhere.

Enter the simple tote.  The first project in our Summer of Sewing series - dedicated to small projects that require minimal fabric and time to complete.

I made my first tote last year and immediately started getting compliments on it.  (Who doesn't love cute sheep!)  But I also quickly discovered how useful it was.  And how nice to have just one spot for everything.  No rummaging around to find the right pocket I put my keys in, or that pen, or my wallet.  There were just in the bag.

The tote can also be easily upsized or downsized depending your needs.  Library tote?  No problem.  Lunch sack?  Check.  Gift Bag?  Yep.

I've since made a few more.   One to gift, and another to keep as a backup for myself when the sheep need to make a trip through the wash.

Need one (or several) for yourself?  Find the full tutorial over at the annex!


Friday, July 4, 2014




Bee blocks.  A finished top. And XO blocks.

And some quilty trivia:
The Granny Square quilt block has been historically called both Grandmother's Pride and Courthouse Square.

Happy Fourth everyone!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

A little paper piecing and winners!

First off, I am amazed, completely amazed, by all the people who took the time to visit my little space and leave a comment.  Over 400 comments! Thank you all!  I loved reading about everyone's scrappy projects.  Log cabins, string quilts, paper piecing, english paper piecing, zipper pouches...were just a few of the many projects of choice for using up scraps.

I was motivated to do a little paper piecing myself and unearthed the Peace Quilt pattern by Margaret Rolfe.  I purchased this pattern many years ago when I was relatively new to quilting and still a bit unrealistic over how much time it took compared to how much time I actually had!  However, the individual cranes come together fairly quickly.  There are only 17 fabric pieces divided between 5 paper piecing sections.  The hardest part for me was the small size - this block finishes at 4 3/4" square! - and aligning the sections.  Pins through the corner points were a must.  Will I make all 98 needed for the quilt?  Probably not.  But I could easily see myself grouping a small flock together for a pillow.  Or maybe placing one as an accent block on a quilt back.



And now on to the giveaway winners!

I let random number generator do its thing.  You'll notice there are different totals for each prize, which also differ from the total number of comments.  There were a few that noted a preference to be included in only one giveaway, so those names were removed from the other list.  There were also a handful of duplicates, and those were pared down to just one entry per person. As a result, the number of the winning comment does not correspond to the exact placement of that comment in the overall sequence, but it was all mapped out in an excel document and triple checked!  So with that said...

Bundle One - Sunny Pastels - goes to:

Alicia, who wrote:  "I want to try a scrappy X plus quilt!"

and Bundle Two - Scrap Pack - goes to:

Kristen, who wrote: "Since I haven't really been quilting all that long, I haven't built up quite enough stash of scraps to do a scrappy project yet. Can't wait for that day to come, because it means there will be many more trips to the fabric shops!"

Congratulations Alicia and Kristen!  I will be sending you both an email shortly for your addresses.

For those that didn't win this time, I've set up a discount code for the shop, in case you'd still like to get a little something for yourself:  15% off all fabric (excluding remnants) thought Tuesday 5/20 midnight PT, with coupon code mayday14.  Please note that the coupon code is case-sensitive and must be entered on the shopping cart page - don't go directly to checkout - there's no spot for it there!   A few of the Sunny Pastels bundles can be found in the "precuts and bundles" sections.  If they sell out, I'll post more as availability allows.  (Click through to the individual page for an option to be notified when they're back in stock).

Thanks again to everyone for participating in Giveaway Day!  It was great fun!

Monday, May 12, 2014



It's giveaway day!  With two chances to win!

First up is a fat quarter bundle of 14 sunny pastels:

Second is a "scrap pack" featuring fabrics from Bonnie and Camille, Sweetwater, and Sandy Gervais, a charm pack of Athill Range, and Naptime Pre-cut Hexies:
To enter, leave a comment sharing your favorite scrappy quilt block or project! 

Edited to Add:  Please, only one entry per person. Duplicates will be removed from the giveaway allowing everyone an equal chance to win.  Thank you!

Also, if you prefer to be entered in just one of the giveaways, let me know that too. 

Comments will close on the 16th.  Winners will be chosen by a random number generator. Please make sure there is a way for me to contact you and check back here on the 18th when I'll announce the winners.

Be sure to visit Sew Mama Sew's site for chances to win more great supplies and handmade items!

Sunday, May 11, 2014


Bee Blocks.  I was able to join a circle of do.good.stitches this past month and as luck would have it, April was my month as quilter!   I had two weeks to come up with a quilt idea, make my blocks, and post instructions.  No pressure there!   I spent a lot of time reviewing my favorites on flickr and pinterest and finally landed on the scrappy granny square.  This was the perfect opportunity to test out a block I'd admired for so long!


I followed the tutorial at Blue Elephant Stitches, but made a few modifications:  I used 3" squares for the colored "rings" and 3" x 3 3/4" rectangles for the border.  This yielded a block that finished just under 11 1/2" with wiggle room for trimming.  

I just received the last of the blocks from my bee mates last week and need to get started on the quilt top soon!

But first, I stitched up my May blocks.  Scrappy plusses in aqua.  I might have gotten a little carried away.  I have four to send away and a few more on my sewing table to keep for myself and add to my list of wips!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


little white log cabin.
My first finish of 2014!  And while this wasn't on my Q1 finish-a-long list (which I may forgotten to post - oops), I committed to this little piece a few months back for an employee art gallery show at work.  We were required to create our piece on a provided 20" x 20" wood art frame with the theme "Man and Nature."  Don't ask me how this relates to the theme, but I'm sure when the time comes I'll be able to come up with a good story!

Made with Essex Linen in white, Kaffe Fassett shot cottons, prints from Carolyn Friedlander's Botanics collection and a teeny smidge of Pastry Line Voile in water.  Other than the courthouse steps part, it was pretty much improv.  Quilted in a all-over spiral.  A first for me, but it definitely won't be the last.

I didn't think about shrinkage when I trimmed the quilt down, and it lost about an inch in each direction once washed and dried - yikes!  Finished size, roughly 19" x 19".