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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.

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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.

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Supernova Quilt-Along: Finishing the Supernova Blocks

Welcome back to the Supernova Quilt-Along! Before we get started, let me say that this has been a ridiculous amount of fun for me. I love seeing the gorgeous Supernova blocks that you all have put together and posted in the Flickr group. There are some amazing quilts coming together, if I do say so myself! Here are just a FEW of my favorites:

1. “Landing Strip” Supernova 1, 2. supernova mosaic, 3. SuperNova, 4. Supernova subblocks, 5. supernova2, 6. IMG_3536, 7. Supernova block #1, 8. SN Design wall, 9. March 039, 10. Piecing Sub Blocks – Supernova Quilt Along 1-9, 11. Supernova Piecing, 12. Supernova blocks

And it’s not too late to join in. Click here to find links to all the posts. In fact, you can follow along with the series at any time later on, whenever the mood strikes you.

Anyway, it looks like you ladies participating in the Flickr group are itching to finish these blocks—if you haven’t done so already! So here we go:

1. Start with the four pieced sub-units for your first block, shown here.

2. Of the pieces you originally cut for your first block, you should have 13 3″ squares left—four each of three prints, and one of one additional print. Here are mine.

3. Lay out your remaining 3″ squares with the sub-units you pieced last week. The print square with no remaining mates will be at the center of your block. Arrange the remaining squares in rows between the sub-units, as shown in the photo above. You want the three remaining prints to work their way out, in the same order as the print progressions that you photographed during the planning and cutting phase.

4. You’re now seeing exactly what your completed block will look like when you finish piecing it. This is your last chance to evaluate the design and colors of your block, if you choose. I was planning to have you do some strip-piecing during this phase of the quilt-along, but I changed my mind about that, because I wanted to give you a small amount of design flexibility at this stage. So, if you like how your block looks, great! But if you want to tweak it, you can do that too—you could swap the order of your squares around, swap squares between blocks, or you could even cut a few new squares if you have the fabric and you’re really motivated.

I like to tweak, right up to the last minute. : ) So I decided I wanted a bit more contrast in the center of my block. I found a scrap of orange polka dots in my stash that I hadn’t originally planned on including in this quilt, and cut four more 3″ squares from that. Then I moved the orange/yellow squares toward the center, replacing the yellow lattice print, and ended up with the new layout shown above. Don’t worry, those yellow lattice-print squares won’t go to waste—in fact, I’m planning to incorporate them into the back of the quilt. Obviously I know changing out your fabric so late in the game isn’t doable for everyone. But this is a design-intensive quilt, and it can be difficult to make hard-and-fast fabric choices prior to seeing the block in this way.

In general, regardless of what type of quilt you’re working on or the fabric you’re using, I would encourage you to always keep evaluating your design and stay flexible with it right up to the point of no return—whatever that point may be with you. Sometimes the difference between an okay design and a great one is just a matter of a few small tweaks like the one I made above.

5. So now you’re ready to piece together your block! From here on out, it’s cake, I promise! Start by piecing together your 3″ squares as shown above. You’ll piece two units of three squares each, and one longer unit of 7 squares (including the center square).

6. Join each of the smaller three-square units in between two of the 8″ square sub-units, as shown above.

7. Join the top, middle strip, and bottom sections. There you have it, a completed Supernova block. Your block should measure 18″ square (14.5″ if you’re using a jelly roll). One block down, eight more to go!

And that’s it for this week—hope your Supernova blocks are coming together beautifully. Next week, we’ll be assembling our blocks and adding the borders for a completed quilt top. Those of you who would like to work ahead, please feel free to do so. I can’t wait to see what you come up with!

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Block Party Entry

I wasn’t going to enter the Block Party at Quilt Story – I didn’t think I had any existing blocks that fit the bill, and I had too many other things going on to make one just for this. But I’ve been seeing all your posts with the blocks you’re entering, and I decided I couldn’t sit this one out. I guess peer pressure still works on me. If you all jumped off a bridge wearing nothing but your Flea Market Fancy yardage, I’d probably do that too.

So anyway, here’s what I came up with. I’m calling it “Photo Corners” because that’s kind of what it reminds me of. It’s basically a log cabin, but the logs have some bias piecing. I just sewed strips together like you would do with bias binding (lay them perpendicular, right sides facing, and sew across them diagonally). Voila!

Now go look at all the other pretty blocks at Quilt Story. I wish I had time to do a traditional one.

Fresh Poppy Design