Country Path


A few years ago I was invited to go on a photography retreat with some amazingly accomplished photographers.  Three days, fabulous food, great photographic opportunities, and long, winding paths through the woods.  It was heaven!  The last night we were there, some of the photogs set up their cameras to take time lapse photos of the night sky.  One of the photographers captured a shooting star.  Twice!  This Country Path block reminds me of a very unusual and special star.

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Template 104 is kind of a diamond-shaped or crystal shaped piece.  When I laid it out and started looking at it I realized it’s basically a square with the corners snow-balled.   So I decided to do just that!



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Here you can see where I laid two squares on top of the large green square and pruned the edges.  After I pressed the seams open, I lined up a ruler along the green piece and trimmed the white pieces down to size.  I know my description might not make much sense, so look at the rest of the pictures.

For those of you playing at home, I recommend using the templates instead of this method.  Technically it worked fine, but I think it would have been better otherwise.

2013-02-24 22.40.54The center square is surrounded by small blocks. Starting in the top left corner and working in a circle, the placement is as follows:  Dark, Medium, Light, Dark, Light, Medium, Dark, Medium, Light, Dark, Light, Medium.  I started on the left and right sides, sewed the center two pieces together in pairs and pressed the seams open.  I sewed a pair to opposite sides of the center block.

2013-02-24 22.53.46Then I sewed the four squares along the top and bottom into strips.  I used pins to line up and hold the seams in place and sewed the top strip and bottom strip to the center piece.



2013-02-24 23.03.22Now it’s time to make the corner units. I chose to sew the triangles together back to back and press the seams open.  Then I sewed the long side of the light triangles to the either side of the lower half of the square.


2013-02-24 23.11.28Now that the corner units are complete, it’s time to attach them to the center.  Again, I used pins to hold everything in place and match up the seams.  The nice thing about fabric is that it’s forgiving so don’t feel bad if you need to ease it a little bit.  I sewed corner units to the right and left side of the block, pressed, then sewed the remaining corner units to the top and bottom.

And here’s our lovely Country Path block, which still reminds me of a star.  I like it.  I like it a lot.

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Country Farm

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My oldest and best friend grew up on a farm.  Being a City Girl, I couldn’t imagine a better, more exciting and adventurous place to be!  Her family was so far out in the country that the dirt road to their house is named after them and will likely never be paved.  They raised cattle, alfalfa, and cotton.  Down the road a ways was a pond where she and I would pretend we were part of the crew of the Calypso, working with Jacques Cousteau to save the whales!  And even though the pond was incredibly shallow, we needed a scuba mask, at very least, to try to see through the murk!  Honestly, there could have been rare, as-yet-undiscovered jelly-fish in that pond and no one would ever know it, that’s how dark brown the water was.  The best part of the farm, though, was Little Britches.

Britches was a gelded Quarter Horse and while he was used on the farm for this and that, he was HER horse, and he let everyone know it.  He was gentle, patient, easy to ride, and loved apples.  The weekends and summers I spent there remain the brightest memories of my youth.  And I knew I wanted to spend my life living on a farm.

God, it seems, had other plans, and I am well and truly ensconced in suburbia.  My memories, though, are untarnished, if a bit romanticized.

I don’t know if it’s the memories, or the colors, or the shape, but I LOVE this block!  This block makes me happy just to look at.  None of the others, so far, have evoked that feeling.  Maybe someday I’ll make a whole quilt of these.  Time will tell.

This block only uses three templates:  1, 3, and 20, and four fabrics, which I’m going to refer to as red, cream, yellow, and blue.

2013-02-23 22.26.34The center of the block is an hourglass.  Rather than cutting two red and two cream #3 triangles, I grabbed two charms, placed them right sides together and traced a diagonal line from one corner to the other.  Using that line as a guide, and using a couple of pins to hold things together, I sewed 1/4″ to either side of the line.  Then I cut along the line and pressed the seams toward the red fabric.

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I know I’ve been pressing seams open quite a bit lately, but for this to work, pressing to the dark allowed me to take my two halves, place them right sides together, and nest the seams so that my center points match up perfectly.  Another good press, then I set it down in the center of my work area.

2013-02-23 23.03.37 Ok, now it’s getting a little dicey.  We have 8 yellow #20 triangles, 4 blue #20 triangles, and 4 blue #1 squares.  Start with the squares positioned on point  and place two yellow triangles to either side of the bottom point, with the long side the yellow triangle along the side of the square.  I chain stitched one triangle to each square and pressed the seams, then I repeated the process with the triangle on the other side.  I set all the corner units back on the layout board.  Then I took the blue #20 triangles and laid them next to the yellow triangles on the upper left and lower right corner units.  I laid the blue triangles on top of their yellow counterparts and sewed them in place, one at a time, then pressed the seams toward the blue.

2013-02-23 23.06.54From this point on, it’s really straightforward.  I sewed the smaller corner units to opposite sides of the center hourglass.  Then, using pins at the seams to match them up and hold them in place, I sewed first the right corner unit then the left corner unit.  I pressed the seams away from the hourglass.

And here’s the finished block, all squared up to 6 1/2″.  I LOVE this block!!!  Yep, I can see a whole quilt made out of this block, each one slightly different, maybe from lighter to darker, one corner to the other.  Time will tell.

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Corn and Beans

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It’s coming up on the end of a long, cold, hard winter in the Midwest.  The cattle have all died due to exposure, and you’ve worked your way through all your canned goods because you were feeding the family from the neighboring farm who lost everything in a tornado.  The snows have finally melted and soon you can start planting.  In fact, tomorrow you can finally go into town and buy more supplies.  But tonight you have to make dinner for 12.  And when you look in the root cellar you realize all you have left are bottled corn and bottled beans.  Not very exciting, but it’s filling.

Well, that’s my take on the origins of this  block name, anyway.  Hey, I’ve got an active imagination.  Unlike a dinner of corn and beans, this block is a little complex.  So follow along closely.  You need three colors for this one: yellow, green, and nondescript background color.

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This block is made entirely of triangles, three different sizes: 3, 13, and 20.  Because there are so many triangles, it’s essential to make sure everything’s in the right place.  The center is a large hourglass made of two greens and two background.  Place the greens on top of the background fabric, right sides together, and then sew along the short side.  Press the seams to the dark side.  Then place the halves of the hourglass on top of each other, nesting the seams.  I put a pin at the seam to hold it in place, then stitched  the seam and pressed it open.  I placed it back in the center and moved onto other things.

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Now that the center “beans” are done, it’s time to turn our attention to the “corn”.  For the first set of corn, they’re laid out as background/corn/background.    Because I knew I would mess this up if I weren’t careful, I did each of the four sides individually.  It’s tedious, but I would stitch a background to a yellow, press the seam open, then press the background color to the other side of the yellow.  I pressed that seam open, then moved onto the next side.  Once these wedge segments were completed, I sewed them to the hourglass.  This left me with an octagonal shape, so I took four green triangles and sewed them to the sides that don’t have any yellow.  take moment to press everything flat.

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The next section is more corn and background wedge shapes, but they’re made up of 5 pieces rather than 3.  I assembled them the same way, then sewed one to each side of the center piece.  This creates another octagon.  Sew a background triangle to each corner, press well and you’re done.

I used Best Press liberally while I was working on this block, and it helped immensely.

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Contrary Wife

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In England and Australia, there is something called Rhyming Slang. Rhyming slang involves replacing a common word with a rhyming phrase of 2 or 3 words, then dropping some of those words.  For example:  “Apples and Pears” = stairs.  To use it in speech, the “and pears” portion would be dropped, and you could end up saying something like, “I’m going up the apples.”  My former husband and his family were from Australia, and my father-in-law excelled at rhyming slang.  I frequently heard him construct whole sentences that made no sense unless you knew about the slang.  For instance, “I wanted to go to town, so I hopped on me Mad Mike, put me plates on the pedals, and away I went.”  Mad Mike = push bike (bicycle). “Plates” is short for “Plates of Meat” = feet.  What I heard most often, though, was “Trouble and Strife.”  Obviously your marriage isn’t going well if your husband refers to you this way! LOL  I kept thinking of that phrase as I was making the Contrary Wife block.  It made me laugh.

For this you simply need templates 1 and 3, and three contrasting fabrics.

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I got on a roll one night and just made block after block after block.  I got so excited about making blocks, I forgot to take pictures of some of them.  This is one of those.  But, it’s pretty straight forward, so I’m sure you can follow along.

Using two contrasting colors, and template #3, make 4 HSTs.  These go in the north, south, east and west positions around the center square.  The four corners are just squares, so nothing fancy there.

With everything all laid out, place the center column of squares on top of the left column, right sides together, and sew the seams.  Then sew the pieces from the right column onto the right side of the center blocks.  For this block, I chose to press the seams on the top row to the left, the center row to the right, and the bottom row to the left.  It’s critical with this block to be able to nest the seams so that the diagonal lines are straight.

And here’s what your finished block should look like.

So, ladies, tell your husbands they should let you buy all the quilting supplies you like.  Because if they don’t, they’re liable to end up with a Contrary Wife!

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Churn Dash and Wrench Blocks

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One look at  these blocks and you realize they’re almost identical.  The only difference is the Churn Dash uses three fabrics while Wrench uses two.

Since learning so much about the Century of Progress quilt block, I wondered if there was any historical data about the Churn Dash.  I couldn’t find anything.  Then I started looking for the Wrench.  It is most often called the Monkey Wrench, and I found some interesting theories about it’s origins.  The one I liked best is that it was used during the Civil War as a code to slaves using the underground railroad.  It meant “gather your tools for the journey ahead.”  The monkey wrench was a common tool on the plantations and something the slaves would have been familiar with.  Apparently this block is known by roughly 30 different names!  Regardless of it’s origins, or what it’s called, it’s a quick, fun, easy block to make.

Both blocks call to use templates 1, 3, and 25.

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The first thing I noticed is that the 4 sides of the block consist of a 2 fabric strip set, with each piece of fabric measuring 1 1/2″ x 2 1/2″.  I took two pieces of fabric, 1 1/2″ x 12″, placed them right sides together, and sewed down one side.  Once the seams were pressed, I subcut my strip set into 2 1/2″ segments.


2013-02-20 16.51.36The corners of the block are made up of HSTs.  I laid the light and dark pieces right-sides together and chain pieced them, pressed them open, and set them back in place.



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From here on out, it’s smooth sailing.  Create three rows by sewing the right and left pieces to the center piece of each row.  Then sew the three rows together.  And that’s how you make a Churn Dash and/or Wrench block.


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Here’s my finished Churn Dash.  I liked all the fabrics together, because each pulls in tones from the others.  Note that two different fabrics that make up the Churn Dash, portion of the block.





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Here’s my finished Wrench block.  You can see just one fabric is used to make the wrench.  For this, rather than using yardage, I pulled from a quickly diminishing charm pack, and fussy cut the center.  It’s amazing to me how just changing the fabrics can change the look of a block.

A couple weeks after I finished both these blocks, I was looking at Churn Dash and decided I didn’t like it.  I just didn’t.  Still don’t.  So I looked around at my fabrics and decided to go a completely different direction.  It wasn’t until I was completely done, and had laid out all my blocks, that I realized what I’d done.  Check it out!


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Yep, I used more of the same charm pack and fussy cut the center piece.  I’m such a dork!  Even still, putting these side by side, you can see what a difference changing one little fabric can make.

Checkerboard Block

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I was so excited to make this block.  1) because it was simple and 2) because it gave me an opportunity to use my vintage fabrics.  I took the time to fussy cut them a bit, so that I could really highlight them.  I chose to offset them with some of my mom’s fabric stash.  All in all, I think it turned out to be bright and cheerful, which is the mood I was in when I made it!

This block uses just three templates:  13, 20, and 21.  You could easily use just two fabrics, or a different fabric for each piece, which would give it a very different feel.  I chose to use a background fabric and then different fabrics for each of the focus squares.

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Like all blocks, I laid out all the pieces.  My background fabric is blue/white ticking, and I truly did intend to have the stripes radiating out from the center.  It was a great idea, but I quickly became distracted by the vintage fabrics and making sure they were where I wanted them to be.

I started in the center and essentially created a 9 patch.  I took care to press the seams open on this one.  Seemed like it would cut down on the bulk later.  The downside to this is it makes it a bit trickier to match up the seams because you can’t nest them.

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Now it’s time to work on the corner units.  There are two ways to do this:

1)  Sew the outer background corners to the feature fabric, then sew the larger triangles to each side

2)  Sew the side triangles to either side of the feature fabric, then sew the small triangle to the top of each feature fabric.

I chose option 2, but I honestly think option 1 would work better for alignment purposes.

Last but not least, sew the corner units to each side of the 9 patch and your block is done!  If I were to do this again, I would not use stripes.  Or, if I did, I’d make sure they’re perfectly straight and radiate out from the center.  Oh, like I meant to do in the beginning! lol

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