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Ribbon Star Block Tutorial

My 4×5 Modern Quilt Bee blocks really grew on me as I worked on them—I think the ones with the white backgrounds look especially fab. So thanks to everyone who weighed in and gave me some encouragement about this block. Without it, I probably would have moved on to yet another design! And since people seemed to like it, how about a tutorial?

This is my take on a traditional Christmas Star block. It would look pretty great in holiday fabric, but I would hate to see it pigeon-holed as strictly that, so I’m calling it Ribbon Star. The tutorial makes a 12.5″ block.


Background (white):
• Cut four 3″ squares
• Cut eight 2.5″ squares
• Cut eight 2″ squares

Star (yellow):
• Cut one 4.5″ square
• Cut eight 2.5″ squares

Color A (pink):
• Cut four pieces, 2.5″ x 4.5″
• Cut four pieces, 2″ x 4.5″

Color B (orange):
• Cut four pieces, 2.5″ x 4.5″
• Cut four pieces, 2″ x 3″

To make the block:

1. Mark the wrong side of all of your 2.5″ and 2″ squares with a diagonal line from corner to corner.

2. Lay out your pieces before you start sewing. I find it helpful to work from this layout as I sew—you’ll be far less likely to get your colors and directions mixed up! Start with the 4.5″ square in the center, and then lay out the 2.5″ x 4.5″ pieces in a cross shape, alternating colors as shown.

3. Now add the 3″ background squares in each corner, and the 2″ strips around those squares, as shown.

4. Next, lay out the squares that will be your star points. I put these squares face down, so I can see the marked diagonal (this is also exactly how the pieces will be sewn together). Note that to create the star points, the marked diagonals should always go from the center out.

5. Sew each pair together on the marked diagonal.

6. Trim off the excess 1/4″ from the seam and press. I always press diagonal seams open—I find it to be more accurate than pressing to the side.

7. Add your 2.5″ background squares in the same way you did with the star points. Note that the marked diagonal should always go the same direction as the star-point diagonal that you previously sewed.

8. Add your final set of 2″ marked squares in the same way as you did the previous squares. This time, make sure the marked diagonals are angled so that they form the outer star points.
9. Your units should now look like this. Sew the block together, starting with the 2″ x 3″ orange units to the 3″ background squares. Take care as you sew to make sure those points are lined up!
10. Done!
As always, if you make this block (or anything else inspired by my blog), I would love to see it! Please join my Flickr group and add your photos!
Since I made five of these blocks for my 4×5 hive, here it is in other colors:
Aqua, gray, and yellow for Lindsay
Aqua, teal, white and gray for Lyanna
Yellow, spring green, and blue for Elizabeth
Orange, gold, and plum for Deb
And the orange, yellow, and pink block featured in the tutorial is for Wendy. Enjoy, ladies!
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July Bee Blocks

Megan asked for an x and + block in these Innocent Crush prints and solids. When she assigned this block, I thought, “Oh good, easy and fun!” I guess that thought jinxed me, because for some reason I had issues with this block. Sometimes you just can’t predict what’s going to cause problems, can you? I’ve even made this block before! But somehow I cut the dark brown slightly too small, and of course I didn’t have enough to re-cut all four pieces. But in the words of Tim Gunn, I made it work. I think. (You’ll see that the dark brown piece on top is slightly too short. Hopefully Megan’s okay with that.)

Ah, applique. It’s really just not my thing. So when Rachel asked for this Bubble block in blues and greens and grays, with circles appliqued to a Kona background, I was a little nervous. I hoped putting it together would change my mind about applique. Nope, it still isn’t my thing. But I do love how this block looks.

I’m linking up to Sew Modern Monday. Have a great week!

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Farmer’s Wife—Week 6

Buckwheat: I think this is my favorite block yet. But not because of the piecing, that’s for sure. I kept screwing up on this block—careless mistakes, like using the wrong size template for some of the triangle pieces, sewing the wrong sides together, etc. But once I buckled down and put some concentration into it, it came out fine. And I’m just so happy with my fabric selections for this one. How cool is that Anthology Fabrics squiggly zig-zag print? It manages to be both vintage/retro and a little exotic, all at the same time.

Butterfly at the Crossing: Another one I’m quite happy with. I just love that yellow print, I guess it makes me happy no matter what block it’s in. Although I don’t know why this block looks so frayed around the edges. It looks like it needs a haircut.

All together now: Looking good. Although, at the moment, I think red is a little more dominant than I would like it to be. Note to self: Scale back on the red for a few weeks.

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Summer Sampler Series: Mosaic Block

Welcome to our third block in the Summer Sampler Series quilt-along! I’m so thrilled to be sharing another fun traditional-to-modern block with all of you. Feel free to join in any time—a complete list of the posts is here.

Today we’re making a Mosaic block, block #2475 in the Encyclopedia Of Pieced Quilt Patterns. (It is officially known as “Mosaic #6,” “Mosaic #4,” or a “Zig Zag Tile” block.) This block is from the book’s “Square In a Square” pattern category, meaning it has a center square which is then built up into a larger square with the addition of triangles, strips, or other shapes.

Mod Mosaic 15 blocks on design wall
Incredible Mod Mosaic blocks by capitolaquilter, via Flickr

“Mosaic” might be one of the most popular names for traditional quilt blocks, with no less than 46 mentions in the index of the Encyclopedia alone. However, the term “mosaic” applies to huge variety of block designs, from the square-in-square style shown here to hexagons and stars. So while there is no common denominator among mosaic designs, the usefulness of the term extends right down to modern day quilting. Just witness the popularity of Elizabeth Hartman’s “Mod Mosaic” design—a modern spin on a traditional concept.

Photo courtesy of the Illinois Quilt History website

This particular mosaic block is attributed to, among others, Nancy Cabot. Nancy was the Needlework Editor for the Chicago Tribune and wrote a syndicated daily quilting column in the 1930s. As a quilt blogger and a former newspaper reporter, I found Nancy to be very interesting—not only was she an early career women, she was a forerunner of the modern quilt blogger. Her columns were written in a casual, conversational format called “kitchen table style,” which I’m guessing would sound familiar to most blog readers. Over the years, she designed at least 200 quilt blocks, and no doubt inspired thousands of quilters. And in another nice parallel to modern times, Nancy Cabot wasn’t even her real name (it was actually Loretta Leitner). I guess she wanted a little anonymity, something else that probably strikes a chord with modern bloggers. I bet if Nancy were still around today, she’d dig blogland as much as I do. : )

Now here’s how to pay tribute to Nancy Cabot by making your own Mosaic block. There are at least three ways that I can think of to piece this block, but I’ll take you through the method that I think is easiest and wastes the least amount of fabric. As is often the case with traditional blocks, switching up your colors and contrast can dramatically change the look of the block. For example, you could swap the background and colored pieces, or you could give this block more of a circular movement by making the inner ring one color and the outer ring another color.

1. Start with 16 – 4″ squares. You’ll need 8 background squares (I’m using white) and 8 colored squares (my prints).

2. Using a pencil, mark the diagonal on the back of your colored squares.

3. Pair up each colored square with a background square, right sides facing. Sew 1/4″ away from the marked diagonal, on each side of the line.

4. Cut on the marked lines. You should now have a total of 16 half-square triangle units (HSTs).

5. Press the HSTs open. I always press bias seam allowances open.

6. Trim your HSTs down to 3.5″ square, using the 45-degree angle on your ruler or cutting mat.

7. Pair up your HSTs, and sew each pair together so that you have 8 sewn pairs. Make sure all of your HSTs angle in the same direction, as shown above. I accidentally reversed the blue HSTs when I originally sewed this block, and had to tear them out and re-do. The block won’t come together correctly if you mix it up!

8. Now pair up your newly-sewn double-HST units. Lay them right-sides facing. Sew your pairs together so that you have four 4-patch units that look like the one above.

9. Now arrange your completed 4-patches as shown above and sew, to complete your Mosaic block. Your block should finish at 12.5″ square.

Here are my previous two blocks—you can find the tutorials at Swim, Bike, Quilt and Fresh Lemons Quilts. And don’t forget to add photos of your own blocks to the Flickr group. I’ve been blown away by all the gorgeous blocks showing up there—you guys rock, as always!

Join us on Monday on Kate’s blog, Swim, Bike, Quilt, for our next block in the Summer Sampler Series.

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Farmer’s Wife—Lessons Learned In Week 6

Didn’t I say I was going to stick with templating these blocks, rather than trying to piece them on my own? Didn’t I say that just last week?

Then along came the Broken Dishes block, resulting in unpleasant flashbacks to Birds In the Air. And I thought, no, I simply cannot and will not template another 32 triangles. So I pieced them like I usually do with HSTs. And you know what? Birds In the Air (templated) came together a lot better and more easily than Broken Dishes (not templated). My points just aren’t aligned as well as they could be in this most recent block. And I’m not sure my method resulted in much time savings anyway, since I still had to trim the HSTs.

So once again, I’m convinced that the templates really are the way to go. This block is a pain no matter which way you do it—I might as well do it the “real” way, right? In the future, I really will stick to templating. Cross my heart this time. No more short-cuts.

I used the templates on this week’s other block, Broken Sugar Bowl (what’s with all the broken things this week?), and I’m really happy with this one.

Here’s the thing (and it only took me 6 weeks to figure this out): When I use the templates, I’ve found that the vast majority of the work is in the cutting. These blocks generally don’t take more than 15 or 20 minutes to piece, once the cutting is done. Something I have to keep in mind when I’m tempted to get lazy about those darn templates.

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Harlequin Pillow

You didn’t think I’d miss out on the Accuquilt craze, did you? : )

Yes, along with the rest of blogland, I too have spent the last few weeks playing around with an AccuQuilt GO! Baby Fabric Cutter. I have to admit, prior to using it, I wasn’t convinced of the necessity of this thing. But now that I’ve spent some time getting to know this little Baby, I’m a convert! Especially when it comes to cutting some of the more unusual shapes like circles and diamonds.

The GO! Baby is a lot smaller, more compact, and lightweight than I expected, and it’s amazingly easy to set up and use. I completed a simple four-patch Drunkard’s Path block within 30 minutes of taking the cutter out of the box! In addition to the Drunkard’s Path die, I requested the Tumbler and Diamond dies. All three dies cut cleanly and accurately through multiple layers of fabric in my tests. My only complaint is that threads sometimes get stuck in the crevices of the die, causing some fraying along the fabric’s cut edges. But that’s a minor issue that hasn’t caused any problems with my piecing.

Blocks from all three dies sewed up fairly accurately. I needed to do a little squaring up on my Drunkard’s Path block, but that particular die allows for some trimming space along the edges of the block, so it wasn’t a problem.

And as busy as I’ve been this past week, I even managed to complete a project using my GO! Baby—this harlequin pillow for the bench in my mud room. With my GO! Baby, the whole thing took about three hours from start to finish. Here’s how to make it:

1. For the background diamonds, you’ll need a piece of solid fabric at least 18″ by 24″. (I used a half-yard cut.) Accordian-fold your fabric in 4″ sections across the wider side, so that you end up with a folded section at least six layers thick, and measuring about 4″ by 18″.

2. Lay your folded fabric across the AccuQuilt GO! 4-inch Diamond die. Make sure your fabric covers the edges of the die. (One tip I just read is to outline the die with a Sharpie so that you can see the edges better.)

3. Put your cutting mat over the top of the folded fabric and run the whole thing through the cutter. (Make sure your excess fabric is positioned so that it will go through the cutter last.) I was able to run 10 layers through the cutter without a problem. With that many layers, it did take a little arm strength, but no more than I’m accustomed to as a mother who carries around small children!

4. Ta da! Diamonds.

5. Now take your excess fabric and move that into position on the die. The cut edge from the previous set of diamonds matches up perfectly with the edge of the die for cut #2, as shown above. Turn the die around and run it through—again with the excess fabric at the back. With careful planning and positioning, you should be able to get another complete set of diamonds out of this fabric—that’s 40 diamonds per half-yard, cut in less than 10 minutes! (You’ll only need 24 solid diamonds for this pillow.)

6. And here’s the waste generated after cutting a half-yard worth of diamonds. Nice!

7. In addition to the solid diamonds, you’ll need 18 print diamonds for this project. I cut 4″ wide strips from my prints, layered the strips on top of each other, and rolled them through together.

8. Lay out your diamonds, alternating solids and prints, according to the diagram above.

9. Now sew the diamonds together, working in rows diagonally across the pillow. So, you’ll start by sewing together diamonds A1 and A2 in the diagram above. Line up the diamonds so that the edges intersect 1/4″ from each point (right where your seam will be). This results in little triangles sticking out on each side called dog ears—see them up there? Make sure those dog ears are showing, and that they’re roughly even on each side, or your rows won’t be straight!

Here’s what they look like sewn together.

10. Now sew together the next row, numbers B1, B2, B3, and B4. Continue through the rows—sew together all the C diamonds, all the Ds, etc.—until you have 9 angled rows. Press your seam allowances open, using a dry iron. I press my seam allowances whichever way gives me the most accuracy. That can vary depending on the type of piecing—or at least for me it does. In this case, I think open is best.

11. To sew the rows together, put two rows together, right sides facing. (Some rows are longer than others, so check the diagram to see which seams should line up with each other.) To match up the diamond points, flip down the top layer, as shown above, folding it down at the place your 1/4″ seam will fall. You’re looking for those angled seams to line up at that 1/4″ point, as they do in the photo above.

12. Once you’ve determined the seams are lined up, put a pin through the seam, exactly 1/4″ from the raw edge, as shown.

13. The pin should come out through the seam on the other side as well. (If it doesn’t, just wiggle the pin as it goes through until you hit the right spot.) Then push the pin back through to the front side, as usual. Now you’ve not only marked exactly where your 1/4″ seam should fall, you’ve pinned the two pieces in a way that they should align neatly!

14. Sew directly over your pins. I sometimes remove my pins as I sew, but I found my diamonds lined up better when I left the pins in.

15. When all of your rows are sewn together, you should have something that looks like this. Trim your pillow top down to 18.5″ square by cutting off the excess points at the edges.

16. I quilted my pillow with straight angled lines, 1/4″ from the seams, then finished with a simple envelope closure. (Here’s a good tutorial for finishing a pillow.)

The bottom line: I’ve found the GO! Baby to be a gigantic time-saver. I don’t really see myself using it for squares, strips, or the like, but I can’t imagine cutting more complex shapes without my GO! Baby! I’m also very interested in giving the Half Square Triangle die a try. Although, then again, maybe I shouldn’t, considering the amount of time I just put in making HSTs the hard way for my Warm/Cool quilt!

How about you? Want a GO! Baby of your own? You probably know the drill by now—I’ll be giving away one of these, plus three dies of the winner’s choice, in the next few weeks. So stay tuned!

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Farmer’s Wife—a Challenging Week 4

Okay. This week’s blocks pushed me a little!

First, “Birds In the Air.” The piecing wasn’t terribly challenging here, but all those tiny pieces and the insane amount of seam bulk on the back did cause problems for me. Even pressing seams open, my block isn’t lying totally flat and some of the seams are a bit wavy. Also, I wish I would have picked more contrasting fabrics. Note to self: Next week’s blocks should really pop!

Second, “Bouquet.” Definitely the toughest block I’ve tackled so far. Has anybody been rating the difficulty of these? Because I would love to know how this one stacks up. It really doesn’t look like it should be that hard, and there are plenty of blocks that appear to be much more complicated than this one! In the end, I think my block looks pretty good—corners are relatively lined up, nice straight seams, etc., right? Well, it better be, because this was the second one I did! The first one is so eye-searingly bad, for a variety of reasons, that I debated not posting it at all, but in the interest of keeping it real, I’ll go ahead and show you. Are you ready?

Yeah, I know, right? This has to be one of the worst things I’ve made in a long while. And I wish I could tell you what went wrong here so you could avoid it, but I have no idea myself! This block actually turned out too large, so I seriously debated just trimming it down, but the fabric choices are pretty poor also, so I decided to scrap it and just start over, LOL. The second time around, the block came together beautifully—no clue how or why it turned out so much better, but I’m not complaining!

Fortunately next week’s blocks look much easier. : ) Whew!

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Farmer’s Wife QA, Week 3

I’m going to follow Elizabeth‘s lead and post my Farmer’s Wife Quilt Along blocks every Tuesday. Like Elizabeth, I’m doing the blocks in order, and like Elizabeth, I appreciate the idea of a weekly schedule for them. Ah, it’s nice not to be the only order freak in blogland. : ) This week’s blocks: Bat Wing and Big Dipper.

I like how the Bat Wing block turned out, but what’s up with the corners of the block being rounded? I know the rounded corners on the templates are supposed to be helpful, but I’m not used to that, so it just seems to be screwing me up. But the block still turned out to be the right size, so I guess I can’t complain.

Big Dipper is okay, although I do wish I had chosen fabrics with a little more contrast. They looked good next to each other, but in the completed block they’re getting lost in each other a bit. Oh well—I suppose it won’t hurt to have some blocks like this once the entire quilt is put together.

Next week’s blocks look a bit more challenging, especially when it comes to choosing the right fabric. Looking forward to it though!

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Farmer’s Wife Quilt-Along Underway

So, this Farmer’s Wife Quilt-Along. You know how everybody’s saying that these blocks are so addictive? Believe it. It’s all true!

If you’re on the fence about this QA, I’m here to tip you over, because this is going to be a fun one. Long, but fun. : ) I think I’m in love with my first four blocks! Don’t let the template situation scare you off. It’s actually not nearly as much of a pain as I expected. I’m just printing the templates I need as I go. Not a big deal at all.

And having made all four of them this afternoon (from start to finish, including making the templates), I’m now very confident I can keep up with the two-blocks-per-week schedule. Who knows, I might even get ahead (gasp).

I’ve never done anything remotely this traditional, but I enjoyed putting a modern spin on the blocks with my fabric choices. And since I’ve done so little traditional piecing, I have a feeling I’ll learn a lot from this project.


Mosaic Squares Shower Curtain

I finished this up last night—a fresh, fun shower curtain for our guest bathroom.

I basically duplicated this beautiful curtain, made by Rachel of Stitched in Color. This one was all her idea, so thank you, Rachel! I love how the teeny patchwork squares almost look like glass tile. I decided to make mine in a softer color palette, in keeping with the color on the walls.

The strip sets from last week’s WIP Wednesday post became these teeny random patchwork squares that finish at 1″ by 1″. You can find out more about how to make it in Rachel’s post. The biggest change I made to Rachel’s instructions was, instead of sewing the shower curtain, I bought a basic white shower curtain from Target, cut a 6.5″ strip out of it, and set the squares right into it. Easy peasy. No scary buttonholes required. : )

I am rapidly becoming a convert to open-pressed seams. But for this project, I was all about side-pressing. I alternate the directions of my seam allowances (as shown above), so that they can nest up against each other as I’m piecing. Lines them up like a dream, with minimal effort—it’s hard to give that up! I love the nice flat look of open-pressed seams, and they definitely seem to be the way to go with bias seams, but for a project like this, I couldn’t resist going back to side-pressing.

And I was hoping this project would cure me of my desire to make a postage stamp quilt. Strangely enough, now that it’s done, I want to make a postage stamp quilt even more. What is wrong with me??

(Edited to add: Per Angela’s request, the paint is Valspar from Lowe’s, and the color is “Silver Sea.”)

Linking up to Sew Modern Monday.