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.
All these Log Cabin Quilts were hanging in a special vintage exhibit in a quilt show some years back, and I think I photographed them all. And while there are a lot of images here in this collage, I didn’t put them all in.
This Log Cabin quilt, above, was the second big quilt I ever made and it took me four years from start to finish. When the quilting was all done, I brought the backing fabric to the front, folded it over, stitched it down and called it a binding (the quilt police are gasping!). But it was what I knew how to do then. I quilted this by hand through the hot summers of my time in Texas, finishing it up in the mellow spring of the Bay Area in California.
So for our First Monday Sew-day group I chose the Log Cabin block. This group is geared toward new quilters, so I’m trying to figure out the basic blocks a quilter needs in their skills basket, and designing a monthly handout to match. You can get your PDF handout here:
It’s in a PDF form, two-sided. Trying to keep it simple, I only tackled two of the hundreds of variations of Log Cabin blocks. We’ve been doing this for a while, so search for First Monday Sew-day to get the rest of the handouts.
And variations of setting, too. I’ve made a few different kind of Log Cabin blocks. Here are a few:
A wonky Log Cabin quilt, given to my son.
A block for this quilt:
And even a funky round Log Cabin block, made by varying the sizes and lengths of the strips. Yes, Log Cabins are definitely in our heritage, especially our quilting heritage.
Barbara Brackman provides information on the origin of this name: “In June of 1866, an Iowa diarist known only as “Abbie” wrote that she “went to town, bought Delaine [wool blend] for my log cabin.” On the last day of July she “wrote a letter to Sis and worked on my log cabin.” If you don’t know about Barbara Brackman, a quilt historian, click over to her site and learn. She’s always my go-to source when I have a question.
So, even though we can’t meet together, that doesn’t mean we can’t have our First Monday Sew-day. If like me, you are stuck at home and you make a Log Cabin block, send me a photo!
I help teach a group of beginning quilters, and we call ourselves First Monday Sew-day, and yes, I know it’s not the First Monday today, but it’s COVID-19 season and nothing is normal anymore. For this First Monday Sew-day, I chose to teach the Economy block, also known as the Square-in-a-Square block.
I’ve made a little handout to go along with this, which includes a detailed chart of measurements. Click to download the PDF file:
(NOTE: I’ve also collected all my First Monday Posts and put them in their own page at the top of my blog, just in case you want to find them easily.)
I looked at Catbird Quilt Studios’ chart, but then decided I wanted to test out my own measurements. First I cut some sunny yellow fabric for the centers.
I pulled some neutrals from my stash, cut the triangles, then painstakingly went through each measurement, adjusting it to what I thought would work for teaching beginners, then went to work.
After getting the first set of triangles on, I squared it up, jotting down the measurements as I went through each size.
When you trim, do your best to leave a 1/4″ of seam allowance at each point, as shown above.
I love this color of blue, known around our house as painting-tape blue.
I’ve already put the triangles on the first two sides and pressed them. Now I’m starting on the second set, with the finish below:
Here are all the sizes, stacked up together. I’m thinking bordering the smallest sizes again to equal that large 15″ block in the lower left, and seeing what evolves.
This is a free pattern from the Robert Kaufman Fabric Company, and it uses the Economy block, but the quiltmaker fussy cut center blocks for more interest.
I added one more set of triangles on this economy block to get this quilt. Doing a search on “economy block” yields lots of images to scroll through.
I liked how this quilt maker had pinwheels inside their Economy blocks. Our beginners learned how to make pinwheels when they learned about Half-Square Triangles.
And I’m still making masks. I am making them for people I know, friends and family who need them as our particular county is a mask-wearing place.
So when two friends came by and I realized that these masks wouldn’t work for them, I went back to the Accordian-style mask, added a nosewire sleeve and turned the sides into plackets, through which I could slip some elastic.
I’d say this is the fourth or fifth iteration of cloth masks that I’ve made. I kept wondering why I couldn’t be like all the other mask-makers of our particular universe, and just settle into one kind? I was heartened by “Tear It Up and Start Again,” an article by Harry Guiness, that reminded me of things I used to teach my college students, back in the day. I reminded them never to turn in their first draft, as the really good writing starts to happen on the third or fourth rounds (inevitably the class would groan about this point). Guiness notes that “Too often, when it comes to self-improvement, we create idealized, top-down systems with unnatural rules and regulations. We naïvely assume that we will somehow stick to our rigid plans when life gets random and hard, throwing unavoidable chaos and crises into the mix.”
We’ve all had some unavoidable chaos recently. While this article dealt more with those self-improvement plans we all make for ourselves (I hope you have all torn yours up during this stay-at-home time), I did like his nuggets of truth, such as this one: “When a plan or resolution fails, the solution isn’t to dismiss it and try a new, equally rigid prescription next year or next time. It’s to build on what worked, ruthlessly cut what didn’t and start straight away on a much-improved second draft.” I like that I won’t have to discard what I learned in my first draft, but can carry forward the best parts.
“I never lose. I win or learn.” This phrase has been attributed to many, but whoever said it was on to something. Hopefully we won’t lose during this time of forced idleness (for some), crashing boredom (for some), an onslaught of toomuchtodo (for some). We can win at our tasks if everything goes smoothly. However, you can tell by my variety of masks that it doesn’t — usually — go smoothly for me, but we can still learn new things about others, or new things about ourselves.
I’ve learned I like to tinker to figure out which mask will fit which face. I’ve learned that I can’t read the news before I go to bed at night. I’ve learned that my current forced isolation and distraction (courtesy of the novel corona virus) is not the best working environment for getting my quilting projects done.
I’ve learned a million new science-y facts about peak dates and doubling rates and flattening the curve and so on (I am married to a scientist), which may or may not come in handy in the Life After COVID-19. But hopefully I’ve also learned that my first drafts can lead to successful subsequent drafts, no matter whether it’s writing, or quilting, or making masks.
We had our First Monday Sewday this week, and the little group grew by two new participants. For those who don’t know about how we started, it began because a young woman in our church wanted to learn how to quilt. Then we found out a couple of more wanted to learn also. I rounded up a couple of capable experienced quilters, and they agreed to teach and serve as a resource, and Beth offered up her home for us to congregate.
Above is Amber, who finished this month’s block. It’s called Tipsy Two-fer, and was designed by the fabulous Simone, shown below giving her little mini lesson.
We had eight children under the age of six here, and Beth was also getting new fences. Vanda’s mother (visiting from the Czech Republic) agreed to keep an eye on the chaos children.
And it was Beth’s birthday, shown here hoisting up her son to help blow out the candles.
Since I’m a record-keeper, here we all are together. I’m impressed that Vanda could smile as her son was trying to bolt off her lap to Grandma (who took our photo).
Since you know what I’ve been doing for weeks and weeks (house painting and trying to cram it all back in my sewing room), it gave me the opportunity to cull through some fabrics; I took four shopping bags of fabrics that quickly were sorted through and taken to new homes. I also brought some magazines, and remembered that I had a quilt published in the back of this Quilty issue. Amber jokingly requested my autograph, and we laughed together — but really it was all about the good mood present. Not a whole lot of quilting went on, but the young moms were able to talk and visit and we had cake and a Simone-block and a really great time.
Other First Monday Sew-day handouts are here:
This handout is about the basics: rotary cutting, accurate seams and pressing. Simone also talked about how to choose colors for a quilt. That day we sewed four patches together.
When I’m deep in the tired mind blahs, mindlessly wandering through my Feedly list can sometimes yield nuggets that flash in my brain and perk me up. I follow Zen Habits, and this week Leo Babauta’s words plonked into my brain with a spark.
What caught my eye was How to Have More Focused Hours in Your Day. I see a lot of these change-your-life-in-the-new-year articles. After having lived a few years on this planet, I usually just ignore their advice, but I did like this:
[Any] success I’ve had in increasing my focused time comes down to three habits:
• Asking myself what meaningful, impactful work I can get done today.
• Creating space for the meaningful work instead of just doing busywork or being distracted all day.
• Working in fullscreen mode and diving in.
So I was interested to see that he and I have the first thing in common. I’ve used something similar for years: after I’ve ditzed around for part of the day, I ask myself “What do you want to have done before you quit working today?” and after identifying that ONE thing, I get to work on it. It’s cured a lot of procrastination issues when I use it.
He expands by noting that “Most of us just dive into our inboxes, social media, favorite online sites, and busywork to start our day. We might have some bigger tasks on our lists, but they get lost in the woods of our day. It’s an incredible habit to take even a few moments at the beginning of your day (or the end of the day before) to give some thought to where you’d like to concentrate your attention. What is worth doing today? What is worth focusing on? What is worth spending the limited time you have in this life?” [italics are mine]
He approaches the second idea — of creating space — in a more roundabout way. It’s almost like we have to trick ourselves. He says “Set aside the next 20 minutes for writing, or getting moving on a big project. I don’t have to do the whole project in this time, but just the act of giving myself more space to focus is a huge shift. This is more of a mental act than a physical one: you just tell yourself that it’s time to focus on this important task. You breathe, and say, ‘This is worthy of my attention and effort right now. Let’s put aside everything else and give this some space.’ “But it’s also hard to get going when your sewing space looks like this.
Notice the chair is clear. I can still do some work. That’s what he means of working in the third idea, fullscreen mode: ignore everything else around the edges, and just focus in. I used to only be able to work in a very clean, very tidy sewing room. But I got over that. I still like to clean it up, and did leave it sort of clean when we went up to Utah to help Mom and Dad clear out their condo of 30 years, in preparation for moving to a senior community, but I brought back various sewing things, a small Viking sewing machine THAT WAS MADE IN SWEDEN (I know, I know!) and I just plopped them around.
I spent three days quilting My Small World, and now it’s ready for borders. I need to put a slim border around my Temperature Quilt before I move forward, and just like that…I am making a list in my mind about what I want to do first.
It’s also helped that the busyness that has been present in my life since — say, about September — culminated with our First Monday Sew Day this past week (pictures, above). It’s quite gratifying to see Hayley, a beginning quilter, turn out such pristinely perfect pinwheels (lower left corner). She’s only been sewing for about a month, and puts me to shame!
Here’s our flier from that day, where we covered snowball blocks and half-square triangles:
Still working on revising Home, Sweet, Home–there are lots of new illustrations to make — as I will be teaching this a lot this year and want a shiny new version to take with me when I visit Guilds. I also began new duties as VP of Communications for our local Modern Quilt Guild, and have my first board meeting next week. I’m impressed with all the service I hear that you give to your Guilds and wanted to do the same.
Finally, I always begin the new year by writing my thank you notes. These, from Quiltfolk, were perfect. I hope you all have good beginnings to your new year!
I could say to the moon and maybe to the stars, and back.
I could say Guatemala, but you already know I’ve returned home from there.
I could say sick, but now I’m better, and yes, I had a nice Thanksgiving at my daughter’s house. They even had a quilt shop in her tiny town in Arizona, but since I’d been in there several times and the fabric was all the same, every bolt every time, I didn’t think it warranted another stop.
It’s always good to begin with a finish, even if it is only a block. In this case, this finish went to my buddy Allison in the GridsterBee: a free online spider-web block, which we printed out onto paper and got to work with all those skinny litle scraps of fabric in that bin over there, next to the iron.
Above are scenes from my Thanksgiving (click on image to enlarge):
(from upper left, going down) 1)El Travatore, an old motel in Kingman AZ (the longest piece of extant Route 66 runs through this town), 2) the family just before enjoying the two turkeys and two kinds of sweet potatoes and salad, and multiple pies and then falling into food coma sometime later on, 3) teachers’ gifts my ever-talented daughter dreamed up and put together.
Sign at top right: a Truth.
Two views of storefronts across the bottom that my daughter designed: THE Farmhouse used to be her shop until last year, and West of 3rd is her friend’s shop. We went out Saturday for Small Shop Saturday, so I hope you visited yours.
Sunday morning, really early, heading out across the Mojave Desert. (Mojave is spelled with a “j” in California, but spelled with an “h” in Arizona, as in Mohave, and that’s just the way it is.)
and figured out we could draw our own lines on either side.
Monday, I launched into laundry, but later rooted out the pears we’d stuck in the fridge the week before and made a Pear-Almond Tart. I always know the routine is coming back when I start baking again. The recipe is over on my recipe-blog: ElizabethCooks.com.
Then fun-of-fun, we found a couple young women who wanted to learn to quilt, and so we rustled up a small group, calling it First Monday Sewday. (We’re missing a kid from the photo, and me, of course.) It was chaos, but really fun.
I made up a little handout for the newbies; click below on the link if you’d like to print it out:
All good suggestions from Grant Snider, except for the top right.
Many years ago we took our children to Italy, scraping together frequent flier miles, and saving for months before we showed up in Rome on Christmas Eve. Being in a different place for Christmas broke my “Overwhelm Them with Gifts” habit, well-formed after raising children for twenty years, helped along by American merchandising.
That night we walked down to Vatican City, walked through the newly opened Jubilee Door, and experienced a midnight mass where they placed the Christ Child back into the empty manger in Nativity Scenes everywhere.
Christmas Day we slept in a bit, then went out again to see the parade of the Pope’s Swiss Guards, listen to the service in Basilica of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva where, after the service, I stood to sing the Hallelujah chorus with everyone, but I did it in English. My family sat beside me in the church for all of about ten minutes, then ducked out to see the Pope bless the crowds gathered in front of St. Peter’s. No, we aren’t of that religion, but seeing the holiday from another perspective changed how I view Christmas.
I believe in gifts (I’ll show you what I made our families later) and celebrating, but I try to do it in a quieter way, enjoying hours of Christmas music, decorating with my husband’s nutcracker collection, baking up a few treats, while taking the incessant retail merchandising blast in much smaller doses.
Glad to see you all again! I hope you ease into the holidays, too.