Century of Progress


The Century of Progress block really intrigued me, both because of it’s name and also because it looks so different from the other blocks in this sampler quilt.  So I did a little checking — gotta love the internet! — and found out some very interesting things.

The theme for the 1933 World’s Fair, held in Chicago, IL, was “Century of Progress.”  The Sears Roebuck Company had a HUGE display there and, as you can imagine, it covered many different areas of interest, from farm implements to quilts and all points in between.  Sears placed a small 2×3″ ad for a Century of Progress Quilting Competition in their January catalog.  The winning quilt was to receive $1000, plus an additional $200 if it used the Century of Progress theme.  In addition to the monetary prize, the winning quilt was to be given to First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt!  The response to this challenge was overwhelming.  The deadline was May 15, and nearly 25,000 entries were received!!!  The winning quilt won not becausWorld's Faire of the fabric or pattern used — both were considered somewhat plain — but because of the intricate stitching.  It was called the “Unknown Star” and later renamed the “Bluegrass Star” and was presented by Miss Margaret Rogers Caden.  It was, indeed, given to “The First Lady of all the Land” and went to the White House.  No one knows what happened to it after that.  The winning quilt also didn’t seem to embody the Century of Progress theme.  Our quilt block, however, does.  Especially when you compare it to the advertisements for the Sears Roebuck illustrations.

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This is the trickiest block I’ve tackled so far, and the absolute key to making this one work is to lay it all out and then work on it in sections.  I’m a big fan of chain stitching, but I knew if I did that with this block, I would screw it up.  Since I do that easily enough on the simpler blocks, I wasn’t going to test my luck.


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All the pieces are wedge-shaped triangles, and I chose to use red, cream, and green.  I worked my way around the block, sewing the red and green pieces to the cream pieces.  By the time I was done, I had 8 triangle pieces: four pointing in and four pointing out.  So far, so good.


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Next step was to sew the triangle units together in pairs: one pointing out to one pointing in.  It’s critical at this point to make sure the seams match up.  I wasn’t as careful as I thought I was, but I didn’t notice it till I was all done.  By sewing the triangle units together, I ended up with four squares.  From here, it’s a simple matter of sewing them into pairs, then  sewed the pairs together to make the block complete.

I took this photo before I gave it a final pressing, and it wasn’t lying flat.  I was considering redoing the block, but the red is vintage 1920s and I had just enough for this block.  Once I pressed it, using some Best Press, it laid nice and flat.  Even flatter once I squared it up.  I wasn’t too sure about this block in the beginning, but having learned more about it’s origins, I find it’s growing on me.

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Cats & Mice


Last summer, I left the patio door open for a few minutes while I went downstairs.  When I came back, I could hear my husband talking to the cat and saying things like, “Don’t drop it.”  Since he’d been on a campaign to teach the cat to be a dog, I assumed hubby had moved onto “fetch” and was trying to get the cat to hold a stick in its mouth.  When I entered the room, it was to see my husband in his bathrobe looking down at the cat, and the cat looking up at him with a small bundle of wet leaves sticking out of his mouth.  And then the bundle moved.  And squeaked!  In the 2 minutes it had taken me to go downstairs and back, the cat had gone outside, caught a mouse, and happily brought it back to my husband, and laid it at his feet.  The mouse had scurried away, only to be recaptured by the cat.

Now, if you have a cat, you know that the greatest compliment in the cat world is to bring lunch to your human.  Greater still is to bring it still alive and kicking so that you can teach your human to provide for himself.  The preferred “lunch” is a mouse, and cats LOVE to play with them, toss them up in the air, bat them with their paws, and generally play them to death.  Morbid game, from a mousie point of view, but lots of fun for the cat.

This block is not morbid at all, and has a lot of movement in it, making it somewhat playful.  It uses two contrasting fabrics.

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I laid out all my pieces and had all those tiny triangles that needed to be sewn together, so I decided to chain stitch them, and you can see them here, all arranged together beautifully, almost like a necklace.  See how they’re sewn along the long edge?  Yeah.  THIS IS WRONG!!!  Don’t do this.  Sadly, I didn’t realize my mistake until I’d pressed all the seams and tried to put them back in place.


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With my trusty seam ripper, I patiently took them all apart, pressed them flat, laid them back out so I could see them in their proper places, then paired them up again and sewed them all along the short edge.  Surprisingly, following the instructions seems to make a difference.  Who knew?  Once this mistake was corrected, I sewed the pairs together, creating small hourglasses.  A little pressing and it was onto the next phase.

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The next thing I did was sew the four remaining small triangles located at the outside corners to the dark squares that are located just below them.  To these I sewed the small hourglasses.  This left the four large light triangles and the center dark square unattached.  Starting in the top right, I sewed the hourglass segment to the center square, then sewed that whole piece to the lower left hourglass.  Once pressed, this gave me a nice long strip.

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Starting in the top left, I sewed the large triangles to either side of the hourglass segment.  I repeated this process in the lower right.  This left me with two large triangle units and the center strip.  From here, it was easy enough to attach the triangle units to the center strip.  I used pins to line up the seams, and had to ease the fabric a little here and there to make sure they fit properly.

And here they are, my lovely Cats and Mice.  I wouldn’t mind a whole quilt of this block.

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Calico Puzzle

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This one kind of reminds me of the Box Block.  I decided to do a little bit of fussy cutting with this one.  I like the way it turned out in the end, though I do wish my fabrics had contrasted more.  I swear they loose pigment when I cut them! lol  One thing this quilt is teaching me is how to choose colors.  Maybe by the time I’m done I’ll have it down.

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I have a charm pack that I’m slowly pulling fabrics from to use in this quilt.  So many of them lend themselves well to the feel I’m going for.  The block itself is made up of 2 1/2″ squares and 2 1/2″ HSTs.  Rather than cutting out triangles, I took two charm squares, placed them right sides together, and sewed around all four sides, then cut it in half diagonally, just once.  I needed four charms for this.


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Using a squaring up ruler, I placed the diagonal line on the center seam, lined up the 2 1/2″ mark on the lower corner, and cut away the excess.  One of these days I’ll figure out the math without so much waste.  But not today, obviously.


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When laying out the block, I but the squares in place, forming a “+” sign, and put the HSTs in the four corners, arranged in such a way that they form a sort of exploded pinwheel, if that makes sense.

Once I had all the pieces laid out, I placed the three center pieces face down on the left pieces, then chain stitched them together.  Once the seams were pressed, I repeated the process with the right pieces, attaching them to the three strips.  Then it was just a simple matter of sewing the three rows together to complete the blocks.

I didn’t press the seams open on this one, but rather pressed them so that the seams nested from one row to the next.

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Buzzard’s Roost Block

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Buzzards.  Roosting.  When I think of buzzards, I think about vultures.  They’re synonymous in my head.  And if they’re roosting near my house, I’m pretty sure they’re just lying in wait, waiting for the moment when they think I’m dead so they can  swoop in and —  Well, you get the idea.

Ok, I know I’m being morbid, and I’m not trying to be.  I’m just trying to think why someone would watch buzzards roosting and then turn it into a quilt block.  In case you hadn’t noticed, this is not my favorite block.  It’s easy enough — just triangles and squares — but it just doesn’t have any pizzazz.  Maybe if I used different fabrics?  I don’t know.

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This block consists of a center square surrounded by 6 flying geese.  To get started, I sewed one dark triangle to the side of each light triangle, feeding them all through in a chain piecing technique.  I repeated this until the triangle units for each side were assembled.

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Next I sewed the top and bottom geese to the center square.  You’ll note the center square looks bigger in this picture?  It’s because I miss-cut the first one.  Took me awhile to figure it out.  I’m not always the sharpest tool in the shed.

Can you guess what happens next?  Yep, the sides go on.

It goes without saying that the seams got pressed to the dark side.

And when you’ve done that, you’re done!

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Butterfly at Crossroads

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I REALLY like this one!  I love the colors and the movement and can easily see the butterfly.  It’s great and I’ve been looking forward making it since I first saw it.  It uses just two colors, and one triangle (34), one rectangle (35) and one square (38).  Here’s how it plays out,

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I cut 8 triangles from both fabrics, 4 squares from the background fabric, 5 squares from the butterfly fabric, and 4 rectangles from the background fabric.  I used two charms to cut out the butterfly fabric.  There was a lot of waste, unfortunately, and no scraps big enough to do anything else with, which is a shame.


2013-02-03 18.25.34I started by sewing all the HSTs together.  Then I paired up one square with one HST, right sides together, and chain stitched the pairs.  Then being careful to nest the seams, I laid the top pair on top of the lower pair, sewed them together to make the four corner segments.


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Here you can see I sewed the background rectangles on the right and left sides of center to the bottom corner pieces.  Next, I sewed the top and bottom rectangles to the center square.  Finally, I sewed the top corner pieces to the lower corner segments.  This gave me three columns.  Being careful to match the seams, I sewed the left to the center segment, then the right segment to the center segment.

Et voila!  C’est un papillon.

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Most of the time I can look at a block, look at it’s name and can see the connection.  This one, however, completely throws me for a loop.  Why it’s called what it is is beyond me.  Curiosity got the better of me and led me to wikipedia.  Did you know that the buckwheat plant, while once being grown for it’s grain-like seed, is actually more closely related to rhubarb?  It’s no longer widely cultivated in the US.  Well, even reading up on the plant didn’t help me figure out why this block is named what it is, but it kept me entertained for a minute.

2013-02-03 16.10.16For this block, I used templates 20 and 21 and three fabrics; light, medium and dark.  I cut two squares (21) from both the light and the medium.  I cut 8 triangles (20) each of the light and medium, and 12 triangles of the dark.

I highly recommend referring to the finished photo to see the layout.


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First I sewed together the little four patch in the center.  On both halves of it, I pressed the seam toward the medium fabric.  This allowed me to nest the seams together when I sewed the last seam together to make the four patch.

Next I chain stitched all the HST units together, pressed the seams toward the darker fabric, and laid them back in place  Next I sewed the medium/dark HSTs together in pairs.

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I decided to start in the middle and work my way out for this one. I sewed one pair of HSTs to either side of the four patch, pressed the seams.

Next, I sewed light triangles to the right and left sides of the top and bottom pairs of HSTs.  This leaves the light/dark triangles that make the corners of the block.  I sewed these to the top and bottom HST assemblies, as well as to the four patch/HST unit.

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This left me with basically three rows, which I sewed together, creating the finished blocks.

Because of all the little seams in this block, I used a combination of pressing to the dark side and pressing the seams open.  This makes it less bulky.

And here we are, all done.  I like the way this block turned out, and I can see how using different colors could make this more subtle or incredibly dramatic.  What’s your take on it?

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Broken Sugar Bowl

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WOW!  Lots of broken dishes around here lately!

This block takes 3 templates and 3 fabrics.  Ah, symmetry.  And as with all things symmetrical, placement is key.

In reality, this block breaks down into three components:  2 large squares, 3 – 4 patches, and 4 HST units.  And it goes together like this…

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I decided the first thing to tackle would be the triangles.  Get those out of the way.  I chain stitched all four, pressed toward the dark, and laid them back in place.  Next I made the 4 patches by laying right pieces on top of left, right sides together, and then chain pieced the lot.  I pressed all the seams toward the darker fabric.  I laid them back out, with top pair face down on bottom pair, nested the seams, and chain pieced.  A little ironing and they were good to go.  After that, it really was just a matter of sewing each row together and then attaching them.  I know, I know, there are usually more photos than this.  The thing is, I got so wrapped up in sewing that I forgot to take pictures!  Wish I could convince my husband to come stand behind me and take pictures as I go.  It would certainly speed up the process!

Anyway, here is a larger picture of the finished Broken Sugar Bowl block.  Hopefully we’re done breaking dishes for awhile.

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