So what if you were trying to think of the basic blocks for beginning quilters? What would you choose? So far in our First Monday Sew-Day series, we’ve done four-patches and square-in-square and half-square triangles and flying geese and a few others (Log Cabin was last month), so I thought I’d take a look at another basic: nine-patch blocks. Above is a version of this block, colored a little differently than what we usually see.
For the handout for the nine-patch/churn dash blocks, click to download a PDF file:
I recently made some churn dash blocks for the #dungeonofcute quilt I’m making, and yes, I did fix the problem in the upper left. For this beginning class handout, however, I chose to make the churn dash blocks more like nine-patches, rather than the adjusted proportions, seen above.
Here’s another variation of proportions: large corner squares, and smaller centers.
This is one of those Frivols quilts that I did in 2018, which frankly seems like it was about a century ago. All churn dashes, cozied up to each other.
This quilt is the result of a bee; Linda asked us for small churn dashes, with skinny sides and big, fat centers, in these colors. It’s a really fun way to work with churn dashes.
While I’ve never done a large quilt with churn dashes, more bee-mates at the time asked for them, in two more different styles. The blending of value and color in the bottom really makes it interesting.
Here were my two blocks that I made for Carla T, and the finished quilt, with giant churn dashes interspersed in among the smaller ones.
Here’s a nine-patch “quilt” done by an artist I follow. He works in paint. He told me his mother was a quilter and I can see her influence.
And here’s Quilt Frolic, a series of nine-patches, set in a an off-set white block, with tons of Amy Butler large-scale prints.
I started with the heart pieces. I layered up seven pieces of different pink and red fabrics, pinned on the heart pieces and placing my ruler along their outer edge, I cut around them with a rotary cutter: it wouldn’t really matter if I was hyper-accurate…close enough would do. I repeated this nine times.
Then I did the same thing with the background pieces, but was careful with my directional fabrics: I kept the pieces oriented as they would sew into the heart block.
Everything’s stacked up.
I shuffled the fabrics so no two fabrics would be together, and made a sample heart (at the top of the post). I pinned it next to the quilt of words I’d been working on, closed up the machine, turned off the iron, and enjoyed the sunset:
When I woke up in the morning, I decided to try a digital mock-up of the quilt with the hearts as a border, as I wondered if the hearts were too big. I sent the photo to my two of my quilting buddies and they gave me two thumbs’ up. I’ll probably try to sneak in a narrow red/pink border between the quilt center and the outer border of hearts.
I’ve become braver about being wonky and improv-like, skewing seams, overlapping, cutting off points, generally going at it easy, instead of pristine.
I have a few more hearts, now, and while the widths vary from 5 1/4″ to 5 1/2″ (I just trim them where it feels right), I’m forcing them to 7 1/2″ tall (that’s before seaming). Because I am tired of cutting off the points, I’ll now be cutting about 1/2″ off the bottom heart section before I seam it to the top part.
This is one of two long-term UFOs that haunt me in my dreams. The other one is Small World, which I keep in parts in a basket in my shelves. I do have hopes on finishing that one, too. I signed up for a Jen Kingwell class at Road to California in January; I suppose one goal would be to have it finished so she could sign it? Right.
In other sewing news, I finished July’s Gridster Bee blocks for my beemate Linda and sent them off.
And I’m trying this new type of tomato, developed for scorching temperatures. This year we were almost chilly and foggy until June, then the temps shot up high. I haven’t had good luck with my garden in three years, after a stunning first year of beginner’s luck. But hope is a thing with feathers, said Emily Dickensen, or my case, tomatoes.
I’ve also started quilting City Streets, a quilt of my own design.
I’d picked up this Magnifico-cousin (same type of thread) when I visited Superior Threads last time. It’s color 101, and it looks like a gold thread, but isn’t a metallic thread:
I hope I don’t run out before I finish this quilt.
Finally, in my discussion about how the internet irritated me, I read a ton of blogs, some of which I can’t quite remember. But I did take a screen shot of this gem, a featured quilter on a truly dedicated quilter’s blog. (Given what he says about his favorite fabric color, I don’t think he would like my gold thread.) However, I leave you with the hope that you, too, have started quilting several times, as well as the ability to make the quilts in your head.
I am the Queen Bee this month for the Gridsters Bee, and thought and thought and thought of what I could do. I happened on this design while surfing the blogs, and something about it just made me smile. Since I am one month post-op on my interminable rotator cuff repair recovery, I realize that it’s probably because I just needed some happy-cheery-goofy-fun in my life.
Yes, I made the tutorial and wrote it all up before I went in to surgery, perhaps anticipating the need for something happy-cheery-goofy-fun. To start us off, here’s something to get you in the mood for making my block this month (stop it about 3:00):
Yep. Somehow little piggies have gotten in my heart and under my skin and I want a whole quilt of them, although I may add a barn or tree to break things up. I first found them on Gayle’s blog, Mangofeet, where it says she is a bonafide farmer. She found them on Sally’s blog, The Object of Design, which is where I found a tutorial for littler guys. And I found Gayle, by following a link from Bonnie Hunter’s Quiltville’s Linky Party for her En Provence mystery quilt. Connections everywhere!
Before I leave all the attributions, please visit Sally’s tutorial page, where she has other tutorials for bunnies and fish and all sorts of creatures.
But mine are slightly different, both in size and in style, so I wrote up atutorial for what I want. Since they are small, I’d like you to make me two, if you wouldn’t mind. I used Gayle’s post for inspiration (also look *here.*). To make it easier on yourself, make them both the same, but if you get adventurous, it’s okay to flip the orientation of the piglets, or make one going up and one coming down. But really, keep it simple so you aren’t calling me names in the middle of this process.
Again, while Sally has a tutorial (linked above) and she is the designer of this block, I changed up a few things (like the dimensions), so please follow along and make my piglet according to my tutorial. The piggies are all scrappy, but I do need:
sky–a consistent low-volume or “background–no need to make them the same fabric, but the do need to be the same lightness: pale blue, cream, white, tan, low-volume with grey/tan/etc. prints. Avoid prints with too dark of text or design so that it throws it to a muddy tonality. Some background prints are fun and will make the quilt more sparkly. It’s okay to mix up the borders, but I’d probably stick to the same fabric around the piglet.
body–a medium value fabric: small print or geometric, floral, Kaffe, but avoid fabrics that look “splotchy” when cut this small (such as cutting a giant polka dot in half)–generally anything in your stash. Have fun. Make me some colorful piglets.
ears, feet, snout–a darker-toned fabric that stands out from the body fabric
tail–embroidery floss/Perle cotton to match your piglet, to embroider the tail. Pattern is not given for this, but below are some piglet tail ideas. Please use a back stitch. More info in the tutorial.
Gayle showed hers on a tilting grassy hill, which I like quite well, so that’s what I’m asking you to make for me. Copious amounts of photography and images and text follow, but really it isn’t too hard. The following directions yield one piggie, so cut everything out double, out of two different piles of scrappiness.
Lastly, I follow standard print journalism standards: the caption in UNDERNEATH the image (MQG had theirs backwards on their award-winners page and I was so confused!)
Cut the background (sky).
Cut the body fabric.
Cut the accent pieces of snout, ear and feet.
Step one is to snowball body fabric onto the background fabric, using the 2- 1/2″ square pieces of background and the 1 -1/2″ square pieces of body fabric. Then the last snowball is a double: use one 2- 1/2″ square of accent fabric and snowball on one 1 -1/2″ square of background and one 1- 1/2″ square of body fabric. Press the snowball corners to the dark side, and trim after pressing. With the double-snowball, you’ll press one square’s seam allowance toward the accent fabric and the other toward the body fabric.
Step two is to gather the other pieces together: Line up the 1 -1/2″ x 4″ pieces in body and background, AND the 1- 1/2″ x 3″ pieces in body and accent. Place on the front accent piece (snout) and the back background piece on the large body piece (lowest piece).
Step three: sew the strips together and then press to the dark side on the top one. I don’t care which way you press the bottom one, but I went towards the dark as well.
Now cut those strips in half. Exactly. The top strip set (A) will yield two with body and background fabric that will measure 2″ across. The bottom set (B) will yield body and accent fabric that will measure 1 1/2″ across.
Step Five is to lay them all out. If you were going to make a reverse-direction pig, you’d need to fiddle with that ear (double-snowball) piece to sew that up differently, otherwise, everything else is the same/can be moved around. (See second pig at the end.)
Sew the top row together, then the middle and yes…sew the bottom row of pieces together. Pressing instructions are in a minute, but generally press towards the dark. PLEASE DO NOT PRESS THE SEAMS OPEN.
This is how I pressed the seams. I just realized I pressed the legs the wrong way. Oh well. Either way is fine, but just not open. [NOTE: I show it correctly in the second pig, at the end.]
Time to tilt this little guy. Start by sewing on a 2- 1/2″ strip of ground–can be green for grass, or flowery for a meadow, or brown for forest floor or purple for Outer Space. It just has to have contrast to the background and side strips.
Sew on three side strips, by FIRST sewing on the top, then the two sides, all 2 -1/2″ wide strips.
UPDATE FOR MY BEE MEMBERS:
Please do not trim. After sewing on borders, just send untrimmed, untilted.
Now back to our regular programming.
Now to cut. Please check the areas in those red circles to make sure you are leaving 1/4″ seam allowances (one above the line, one below the line). Lay your ruler with the edge along the black line, above. Cut.
Now lay a square ruler at the bottom (newly cut) edge. Now play with the adjacent side it a bit, making sure to leave that 1/4″ in the circled area. Cut.
Now think about it as a beginning rectangle. Turn the piglet 1/4 turn clockwise so that the newly cut green line is at the bottom of the mat and the black line is to your left. Measure over 7 3/4″ from the black line; cut.
Measure 9 1/4″ up from the green line; cut.
Tilt the pig back to a proper vertical and it should look like this:
The piglet’s rectangle will measure as shown above: 7-3/4″ high by 9-1/4″ wide..
Again, this is the most important corner when you cut for the tilt. It’s so the ground will look merged together when seamed.
I made you an overlay, if you are nervous. Download the PDF file: piglet-tilt-overlay1 and print it out on vellum paper, or make a template out of this (too much trouble, I think). It will help you get the right angles.
Please print it at 100% or you will again find yourself cursing.
If you are really truly too nervous to cut this pig, send it back to me untrimmed and when I get better, I’ll be happy to trim it up.
Now let’s add the pigtail. Draw on a squiggle, originating from the pig’s backside edge. My drawn line is really faint, above because I don’t want to have to figure out how to get the pencil off. Sometimes I’ve just eyeballed it. Sometimes I’ve just scratched it in. See the picture at the top of the post for pigtail ideas.
Tie a knot in your perle cotton (I used size 8, but 5 or 12 is fine, too) and bring it out at the fold, at the beginning of your drawn line, hiding the knot in the seam.
Take one stitch (#1) and then skip a stitch, coming out as shown in the photo on the left. Now put your needle in the same hole as where you came out on your starting stitch (#2) and backtrack and stitch that empty place, which will put you on the road to backstitching the piglet’s tail on.
Insert the needle in the last stitch and pull it to the wrong side.
On the wrong side, weave your thread down from the top , then make a knot (below) by making a loop and drawing your needle through it. Continue weaving your thread for one or two more stitches, then cut it off.
Okay, let’s do it again, but with the pig flipped to the other side.
You can see how the ear needs the double-snowballed corners switched.
And the back, showing the pressing, this time with the correct pressing for the legs.
You have to think on this step: do you want your piggie going uphill? Or downhill?
I voted for downhill since I already have an uphill.
Here’s how I laid my ruler, keeping an eye on those 1/4-inch seam allowances.
Now you can see how I use my square ruler to find the next edge.
It’s really straight, even though the photo doesn’t look like it.
I put the ruler on as I described above, and worked it until I had the correct measurements of 7-3/4″ by 9-1/4.” I ended up trimming off a slice of a previous cut to get those dimensions. Then I do the tail.
Here they are together, but not sewn together.
That’ll do, Pig.
Thank you everyone! I look forward to a whole farmyard of little piggies, running around my design wall. While I attribute all these ideas to two very fine quilters: Gayle, of Mangofeet (she is hilarious to read) and Sally of The Objects of Design (who has made a stunner of an En Provence Mystery Quilt), all the photographs and instructions above are my own. Please do visit their blogs to see all the fun piglets that are running around there.
She suggested we scroll through Jackie’s IG feed until we found the tutorial, which really helped me understand how we put these together (that’s a screen shot of her image above), as the pattern is a bit sketchy on details. Click on the tutorial link to head over there.
What confused me was that the pattern calls for cutting all the blocks the same size, different than what I would do if making half-square trianges (HST). After reading the IG tutorial, I see that Jackie sort of “snowballs” on the white corners, instead of making HSTs. She marks the line, and sews just inside of it–to the seam allowance side. She then cuts off the excess. One advantage of this method: there are no dog ears to trim!
Yellows sewn: check. Green pineapple crown sewn: check.
One other difference in the construction of this block is that the low-volume white is added to the corners of the yellow block after it’s all sewn together, then sliced off and pressed.
And here it is with its signature block–with yellow on one corner and green on the other–albeit a bit blurry.
If you want to make a bunch and exchange them, Elaine’s Quilt Block Quilt Shop in Salt Lake City is having a swap of pineapple blocks–both in the yellow and in a range of colors. Click here to go their IG page where they announced it.
Susan of PatchworknPlay starts off our new year of our Gridsters Bee with having us make her some New York Beauty blocks.
She sent us to a webpage (Ulas Quiltseite–it’s German) that had ten different New York Beauty blocks on it, and we could pick two different ones (if we were making two).
There was even a block for beginners. I chose Block #1 and Block #6.
Helpful tip: These words mean that she split them to get them printed. You may want to join the outer pieces together so there is no seam. You’ll see what I mean.
I always remember Leann’s tips for sewing curved edges together (her quick video *here*): it’s best to put the concave piece on top, and the convex piece on the bottom. But since I had a curved shape with gazillions of pieces, I reversed it. Don’t know if that made it harder or easier.
The second block had another challenge. If you go and look at it, you can see I was using striped material, and I didn’t want that stripe to tilt. First piece on (above), and I don’t glue my foundation paper piecing, I pin.
I marked the center of the lower edge of the piece (opposite its point). I folded my fabric scrap in half lengthwise and line it up with both centers.
Keeping it in place, I fold back one side, mimicking the slanted edge that needs to be sewn. I finger-press it.
Then using all my skills, I move this carefully to the other side of the unit, holding it up to the light to line up that folded edge where it needs to go. Sometimes it’s easiest to note where the edges are and adjust from there.
Unfold it, being careful not to move it.
Stitch on that line, trim seam allowances and continue on. They all line up nice and vertical.
We make each other signature blocks, using a white 3 1/2″ square and snowball on two 2-1/2″ squares on either corner, using fabric from the blocks we made. (Click on the link to see a how-to, as well as how we’ve used our signature blocks: sometimes on the back and sometimes on the front of the quilt!)
The key to success: IRON ON A SCRAP OF FREEZER PAPER to the back before writing, as it stabilizes the fabric. I use a Pigma 08 to write.
We always write our name, but other things to write could be:
name of the bee or why you made the quilt
Looking forward to the rest of year with my Gridster Beemates!
Last year I had this idea that I wanted to try, and so I rounded up some willing participants and we made ourselves a Spelling Bee.
I started it by creating a blog that was dedicated to free tutorials to make these free-form letters, without the use of patterns or papers. Some were pretty wild, but it was a great challenge. And then we all started by choosing a phrase or a poem or a group of words and entered them into a Google Spreadsheet (we were all tired of trying to use Flickr). This is the wrap-up post, showing our collective work of The Spelling Bee ( found as #spellingbeequilt on Instagram, where we posted our photos).
This is my phrase, done in reds, creams and pinks. I do have plans for it.
Lisa (aka Nymblefyngers on IG), a first-time bee participant, decided on lots of bug words for her quilt, and people carried out the theme by making them in bug fabrics.
Mary, who writes the Needled Mom blog, made fun sewing-themed blocks to add to the words in her quilt.
Carla, of Grace and Favor, recently opened a yarn shop in her town, and requested knitting terms.
Susan finished her quilt the first, showing it off here and on her blog, PatchworknPlay. This truly typifies Susan’s attitude towards life!
Just to keep us on our toes, Kerry of PennyDog Patchwork, decided she wanted us to try her “digital” alphabet, and we made up the names of the provinces of Canada, her new country. While the how-to’s for the regular alphabet are free on the blog Quilt Abecedary, this style is Kerry’s own.
Simone, of Quiltalicious, tried to make us all go crazy by asking for color names, but in different shades. A couple of us dutifully cranked out our word, only to realize that we sewn it up in the wrong color. We were all getting pretty good at this point.
Since bee-keeping was a new passion for Rachel (The Life of Riley), we all sent bee-words to her.
Brenda (aka brendaandblue on IG), requested words that describe all those things that make her happy: “comfort words.”
Cindy of LiveAColorfulLife, is doing the words to one of her favorite songs; unlike her name, she went with black, white, cream and grays to put together her phrase.
Hope you’ve enjoyed this wrap-up of our word adventure! If you ever jump in and make a word or two, drop me a note as I’d love to see them.
Coming soon: a new bee!
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