Shooting Star #78

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A few years ago, I was invited to a photography retreat.  For less than $100, I pitched in for gas, had FABULOUS meals each day, slept in a 1930s CCC camp dormitory, and, best of all, I got to hang out with some of the best photographers anywhere and learn from them and just enjoy being up in the gorgeous Wasatch Mountains.  My own camera gear at the time was old and was somewhat limited after dark.  Some of the others, though, set up their tripods and starting taking time-delay shots of the Milky Way.  Suzanne, with Jeremy’s help, left her shutter open for about 5 minutes.  In looking at the image, she had captured a shooting star.  Jeremy had been so busy helping her, he hadn’t set up his camera.  Suzanne took another long shot, and captured another shooting star!  Jeremy made several attempts, but didn’t get any.  In a moment of desperation – and extreme silliness – he set up his camera for a long exposure, then grabbed a penlight from somewhere and streaked it across the lens.  It was hysterical and did not have the desired effect.  Great memory, though.

This block has2014-02-05 23.24.12 11 different templates and is tricky.  In fact, my son, Nate, in his Golum voice, would call it “tricksy”.  Pay attention, peeps, this one requires lots of attention.






2014-02-05 23.33.17There are essentially 4 corner units which attach to the two triangles in the center.  The first thing I did was sew the long side of the #13 triangle to the short sides of the #23 and #23R triangles.  I then sewed the #79R to the remaining angled side of the #23 triangles and the number #79 to the remaining angled side of the #23R triangles.  Press well and set aside for now.





2014-02-05 23.42.48Next up, attach the short side of the #83 or the #83R to the short side of the #84 triangles.  Once these are pressed, sew the units with the #83 to the #80 triangles.  Attach the units with the #83R to the #80R triangles.







2014-02-05 23.48.01While there aren’t any seams to match, you may want to consider using pins to hold the units you just completed to the the rectangle units you made previously.  There are some great points here and it would be a shame to lose them if you don’t have to.  You will end up with 4 five-sided units.  They are not pentagon shaped.  In fact, they look a little wonky.  Have faith, have courage, it’ll turn out find in the end.





2014-02-05 23.51.01Holy cow!  Do you ever have one of those epiphany moments AFTER you’ve just done something hard?  Yep, having that right now.  Wishing I’d had it when I was sewing this silly block together!  COMPLETELY ignore the last step.  INSTEAD sew the 13-23-79R units to the 13-23R-79 units so that the short ends of the #79/#79R match up.  NEXT, sew the #80/#80R units to either side of the #54 center triangles.  When you complete this step, you should have four rows, two narrow at the top and bottom, and two fat in the center.  OY!  That certainly would have saved me all the agony of the Y-seams I made myself do.

Match the center seam of the narrow row to line up with the point of the triangle on the fat row.  Sew together and press that nice seam in whatever method works best for you.


2014-02-06 00.06.49Now that you have two halves of your block, you’re in the home stretch!  Carefully match the seams, pin them in place, and sew them together.  Press the seam, then thoroughly press your block and carefully square it up.






2014-02-06 00.15.26This is a really striking block, sure to evoke awe and wonder.  Just like the real shooting stars.


Note to self:  spend more time thinking these things through and save yourself some agony!


Seasons #77

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My entire life, I have always loved the changing of the seasons.  That first day that’s so hot there’s no doubt it’s summer and time to go run through sprinklers.  The first splotches of red on the Wasatch mountains heralding the beginning of autumn.  The first snowflake that let’s you know winter and the magical holiday season is right around the corner.  My favorite, though, has always been spring.  Crocus pushing up through the snow.  Daffodils bright and cheerful.  Birdsong welcoming the morning.  All of it.  April showers, May flowers.  New life!  It’s fantastic and I never tire of it.

2014-02-05 22.54.37This block couldn’t be simpler to make.  In fact, I got so carried away making it, I forgot to take pictures along the way.  Sorry, gang.

Using 1 fabric, cut four # 72 house shapes.  Sew a #12 triangle to either side of two of the houses, like wings.  Or, to continue the house theme, turn your traditional house into an A-Frame.

Take the other two houses and sew them to either side of the center #73 square.  Press all the seams so they can be nested.  Example:  press the seams of the 72-73-72 strip toward the center and press the seams of the winged houses to the outside.



2014-02-05 23.01.04Using pins to hold everything in place, match up the seams and sew the winged houses to either side of the center strip.  A thorough pressing, a moment to square it up, and it’s all done.

If I were more clever with color layout, it might be fun to make a four seasons quilt with this block, using graduated colors from winters greys and blues all the way through to autumns reds, golds, plums and browns.  Would love to see how that would turn out.

Sawtooth #76

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Last July, I had surgery to repair a torn Achilles tendon.  My sweet, former Army Medic husband came up with this GREAT plan to save money.  It went something like this:

“You should buy me a 12″, dual bevel, laser guided, radial arm compound miter saw.  They have one on sale at Harbor Freight.  Then what we’ll do is lay you face down on the kitchen island, use the saw for the fine cuts.  I’ve got sutures in my army medic bag that I can use, then we’ll use a cordless drill and grabber screws to secure your tendon.  Once you’re all stitched up, I’ll use duct tape to hold everything in place.”

At my pre-op appointment, we ran this past my surgeon.  I thought he’d e mildly amused.  He leaned back, thought about it for a minute, then started giving Jim pointers.  “You’ll need to use a fine toothed saw blade, and there’s going to be a lot of blood, so you’ll want to get that cleaned up right away so it doesn’t ruin your saw.  But other than that, it sounds like a great plan.”  Really?!?

I’m happy to report we went the conventional method and my foot has healed up nicely.  No saws of any kind were used in the repair of my foot.  But at least I got a fun story out of the deal.


2014-02-03 21.27.29This block is all about triangles.  Big ones, little ones, and in between ones.

There are 9 HST units made from our favorite #13.  Sew together light and dark until you have all 9.  You will have 2 #13 darks leftover.  When it comes to pressing these HSTs, I’ve found that pressing the seams open, rather than to one side or the other, helps prevent distortion of the unit itself.





2014-02-03 21.39.57Be sure to lay these out in the correct alignment before you start sewing them together.  They should all end up with the dark pointing to the upper left, but if you’re like me, you’ll sew them all together in pairs, then in strips, all exactly the same way, and then wonder why some of them are wonky.  Sew the leftover #13 dark triangles to the ends of the HST strips.




2014-02-05 22.46.48One of your HST strips should have 4 HST units, the other should have 5.  Start with the shorter one and sew it to one side of the light #14 triangle.  Once you’ve pressed the seam, sew the longer HST unit strip to the other side, taking care to match the seam where the two strips meet.  Press well.

Next, sew the #71 dark triangle to the piece you’ve just been working on.  The #71 is literally half the block.  Press the seam and then give the entire block a really good pressing.  And this is how you get a sawtooth block.

NOTE:  This block should be used for quilting applications only.  It is not recommended for medical use.

Rosebud #75

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My parents have a corner lot with a split rail fence around the yard.  Years ago, mom planted trailing roses at each fence post, and worked hard to train the roses to follow the rails, with mixed results.  Most of them cooperated, some of them never really have.  On May 2, 2004, I got engaged.  After a few days of consulting calendars, Jim and I realized if we wanted to get married that year, it had to be before the month ended!  We tossed out a few dates to the family and settled on the 28th.  A few more discussions and I convinced him to have the ceremony in my parents’ yard.  I knew all those roses would be in bloom and it would be perfect!  I know 26 days is not very long to plan any sort of major event, much less a wedding, but everything fell into place.  Everything!  My dad had concerns that the roses would have bloomed and done before then, but they held off and held off and held off until about 2 days before the wedding, when they suddenly started to burst out all over.  The timing was impeccable.  The day before, I was at the house, and thanked them both for all their hard work to make the yard look so outstanding.  It really was gorgeous.  The day of the wedding dawned bright and clear.  By noon, there were clouds on the horizon.  By 3, dad was glued to watching a tremendously huge storm cell form right over Provo, Utah, with the rain expected at 6, just as the ceremony was about to start.  We hastily pulled together Plan B, which was to use the large pavilion at the nearby park.  A poster was made and strategically placed, everything needed for the ceremony was moved, phone calls were made to key players (his parents, immediate family, the clergy).  And my mother did something I’ll never forget.  She grabbed a couple of plastic grocery bags, walked the perimeter of the yard, and harvested petals from her trailing roses for the flower girl and flower boy (Jim’s 3 year old nephew called 10 days before the wedding and asked if he could be the flower boy) to scatter down the makeshift aisle at the pavilion.  I can never think about my wedding day without remembering all those rosebuds that waited until the perfect moment to burst into bloom.

I had to look at this block a looooooong time until I could see the rosebud.  Then I had to lay it all out before I could see the separate components that made it up, and realized it’s a modified pinwheel.

2014-02-01 00.09.24Being a pinwheel, I really wanted to start in the middle and work my way out.  It soon became apparent, however, that first I would need to sew the 8 HST units needed to make the tips of the rosebuds.  Using two contrasting fabrics, I sewed long sides together and pressed the seams open.  Next, I sewed them together in pairs, side by side, with the leaf part of the bud to the left side.  Finally, I attached a background triangle to the left end of the rectangle.




2014-02-01 00.30.35I had decided to be “artistic” and use a lighter shade of green for the tips of the rosebud.  Wish I hadn’t, because they kind of fade into the background fabric.  I sewed the tip sections to side of each of the dark green triangles in order to make the 4 rosebuds.  This effectively created 1/2 of a HST unit.  The other half is made of background fabric.

It just took a couple of minutes to sew together the large HST units and to press the seams.  This yielded the four corner sections of the block, and the basis for our pinwheel.


2014-02-01 00.37.52I sewed the top two pieces together and pressed the seam one direction, then sewed the other two pieces together and made sure the seam pressed the opposite direction.  When I laid the two halves together with right sides facing, the center seam nested beautifully together and it was quick work to sew the two halves together before giving the finished block a really good pressing.

I really do like this block.  But the more I look at it, the more I realize I need to make it again, and make sure the colors don’t merge with the background.  Good thing I need extra blocks for my king-sized quilt!

Ribbons #74

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Ribbons.  I have nothing at all to say about ribbons.  No witty anecdotes, no life experiences.  Nothing.  So we’ll jump right into construction, then, shall we?

2014-01-31 23.17.13This block has 8 diamond shapes (4 of each ribbon color) and 16 triangle pieces in a background color.  To keep myself from screwing it up (unheard of, I know), I laid it all out.  I chose to use two shades green for the ribbons.





2014-01-31 23.34.43I sewed the background triangles to either side of each ribbon piece, long side of triangle to long side of ribbon.  By adding these little wings, I ended up with 8 rectangles.

After pressing the seams (I pressed them open to avoid distorting the fabric), I matched the seams and sewed them together in pairs, light to dark, and pressed them well.  This created four quarters of the block.  I then sewed these together in pairs and gave them a good press.  Watch those seams, peeps!  They’re tricky!



2014-01-31 23.47.53Now take the two halves and match them up so that the zigzags go opposite each other, with the center points meeting in the middle.  One more really good press and there you are.  One finished ribbon block.  I may remake this one with different colors.  It’s kind of fun!

Rainbow Flowers #73

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My mother always had the most amazing garden!  Rhubarb and leaf lettuce in the summer, hundreds of tulips in the early spring, and in the back corner, a large area she called her “English Country Garden.”  Snapdragons, columbines, sweet william and a host of other flowering plants living together in a happy, chaotic jumble, all under the shade of a large weeping willow.  The rest of my mother’s garden, yard, house, and life were all so carefully organized, with everything in it’s place.  But I know she enjoyed the randomness of the back corner.  How do I know this?  She confided to me one day.  To be honest, it’s my favorite part of the yard as well.  The colors of the flowers are all soft and range from pinks to blues to purples to yellows.  I’ve tried to photograph it, but it is truly something that must be experienced.  Even though the overall affect is that of complete randomness, I know that there is a method to the madness, and that that kind of jumble still has to have a plan in order for it to work.

That’s important to remember with this block.  Just because the selected colors go together doesn’t mean they will work well together if they’re in the wrong order.  I discovered this when I made my block.  I laid out four colors and arranged them in color order and was pleased with the result.  Until I sewed it together, and realized I really, REALLY didn’t like the results.  I quickly rearranged the colors and stitched it again.  Much better.  Also, in the interest of full disclosure, except for the starting squares, I didn’t use the templates.  Instead, here’s what I did.

2014-01-31 09.08.39Choosing the first to colors, I used the #4 template to cut two squares, one from color 1 (center) and one from color 2.  I sewed them together and pressed the seam.  Then I measured the length and cut a piece of #2 to length and sewed it across the top edge, and pressed.





2014-01-31 09.11.53I repeated this process for colors 3 and 4, until I had a completed block.






2014-01-31 09.22.59And realized I wanted the yellow I’d used for color #4 to really be the starting point.  So I made it again.






2014-01-31 09.34.18Someday (soon) I’ll have my own house and yard and garden.  And I’m totally going to make my own English Country Garden with a rainbow of flowers.

Railroad #72

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“The Underground Railroad was a network of secret routes and safe houses used by 19th-century slaves of African descent in the United States to escape to free states and Canada with the aid of abolitionists and allies who were sympathetic to their cause.[1] The term is also applied to the abolitionists, both black and white, free and enslaved, who aided the fugitives.”  (wikipedia)

Some of my ancestors were slave owners (something I didn’t learn until I was in my 30s) and some fought in the Confederate army.   Growing up in a small, rural Southern town within a stone’s throw of Andersonville, I had a somewhat skewed historical education about what happened during “The War of Northern Oppression.”  As a teenager, I lived in Utah and heard a somewhat less romanticized version.  And probably more accurate.

One thing I didn’t learn about in school was the theory of the Underground Railroad quilts.  The idea is that safe houses along the Underground Railroad hung quilts with specific blocks or patterns from their windows so the fugitives would know which house to go to.  There is no evidence this really happened, and there are experts who argue both that this did take place and that it didn’t.  Since everyone involved has passed away, there’s no way we’ll know for certain.  But I love the idea of it.  The sight of a quilt in a window, offering the promise of a meal, of comfort.  Of Hope.

Every stitch of this block had me thinking about those slaves and the conductors and untold bravery.

2014-01-31 08.19.49To make the HST units, I cut two strips of contrasting colors, 2 1/2″ wide and 12″ long.  I sewed a 1/4″ seam along both sides.  I then used a small 4 1/2″ square ruler and placed the diagonal line along the bottom seam and trimmed away the right side.  Then I slid the ruler up and matched the line with the top seam, and trimmed along the right edge of the ruler.  I repeated this all the way down the strip, leaving me with my 4 HST units, just waiting to have their seams pressed.




2014-01-31 08.21.57Before I pressed them, though, I took my #3 template, laid it on top of the triangles and trimmed them down to size.  My quilting math skills are still very much in their infancy.  Still, I quite like this method.





2014-01-31 08.40.58To make the 4-patches, I sewed two strips 1 1/2″ wide by 20″ long, then I pressed the whole strip to the dark side  Once pressed, I cut my strip-set into 1 1/2″ segments.  This gave me 10 segments that just needed to be paired up and have their seams nested together to match them up.  A quick bit of chain stitching, a good press, and all my four patches were done.

2014-01-31 08.55.41The block gets laid out with the top and bottom rows going 4-patch/HST/4-patch, and the center row going HST/4-patch/HST.  The light points of the HSTs all point toward the center.  The upper right/center/lower left 4-patches all have the dark fabric pointing to the upper right and lower left.  The two remaining 4-patches point the opposite direction.

Sew the mini blocks together in rows and press the seams.  Then sew the rows together, matching the seam lines, and give it a good press.

2014-01-31 09.00.27I don’t know why I didn’t realize this before, but if you made a bunch of these, you’d have a Jacob’s Ladder quilt.  Ladder, Railroad, no matter what you call it, it’s a striking block.

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