Block of the Whenever #9

I was originally going to make a Friendship Star for this block, but a traditional Friendship Star only uses one fabric (other than the background), and I wanted to include at least one solid along with each print.  So I decided to make it a Double Friendship Star instead.

For this block, unlike all the others so far, you have to cut out more fabric than you’re actually going to use, because you end up with quarter-square triangles with opposite handedness, so you have to make twice as many as you actually need.  Well, actually, I think you could make it without the extra QSTs, by cutting individual little triangles to make them from, instead of starting from squares, but that would be really fiddly and involve a lot of bias edges, so I decided to just waste a bit of fabric and do it the easy way.

Because of needing the extra fabric, I couldn’t get the whole block out of one 10-inch square.  Luckily a lot of the fabrics in the layer cake are repeated, so it was easy to find two squares of the same fabric.

For this block you’ll need:

Print: one 3 1/2 inch square and four 4 inch squares
Solid: two 4 1/2 inch squares
Background: two 4 1/2 inch squares and four 3 1/2 inch squares

Pair the solid and background 4 1/2 inch squares to make four half-square triangles, using the same technique as for the Shoofly block.

Trim the HSTs to 4 inch squares.

Draw another diagonal line from corner to corner across each HST, in the opposite direction to the seam, and pair each one with a print 4 inch square.

Because I was using a striped fabric, and wanted to make sure all the stripes ended up facing the same way, before I sewed the seams I folded the fabric over to double-check I had it oriented correctly (obviously, if you do this, unfold it again before you sew).

Sew either side of the marked line, cut apart, and press open.

This is where the handedness comes in. Each pair of QSTs will have one that goes anticlockwise print-solid-background, and another that goes clockwise print-solid-background.

Sort the QSTs into the two types, and pick one set to use. In theory you could just chuck the other set away (and in fact, you don’t technically even need to sew the second seam), but I kept them in case I want to make a second block out of them one day.

Trim the set of QSTs you’ve chosen to 3 1/2 inch squares.

Lay out the block and sew together as a nine-patch.

(I’m so impressed that I didn’t mess up the stripes. Despite all the checking I did, I was sure I’d still manage to sew them the wrong way round and end up with half of them pointing the wrong way…)

Block of the Whenever #8

Yet again, apologies for the lighting in the photos – even though it’s stopped raining (for now), the sky was still pretty overcast today, so it was pretty dark in my sewing room.  I really should put a decent lamp in there…  Anyway, the colours are way out in these photos.  The “red” is actually quite pink in real life, and the blues are much brighter.

Block number 8 is quite a complex one.  I’ve seen it called a Morning Star, but there’s a few other blocks that also get called Morning Star, so I’m not sure that’s actually the name.

To make it you’ll need:

Print: one 4 1/4 inch square, one 3 1/2 inch square, and four 3 1/2 x 2 inch rectangles
Solid: one 5 inch square and four 2 inch squares
Background: one 5 inch square, four 2 3/8 inch squares, and four 2 inch squares

(I originally made a mistake with my calculations and made the 2 3/8 inch background squares 2 7/8 inches square, which is why they look a bit big below. Luckily, I was able to trim the resulting units down to the correct size once I realised my mistake).

I used yet another method for making half-square triangles, this time one which makes eight at a time. (Actually, it’s not strictly a new method – it’s technically just applying the two-at-a-time method to four squares at once, without cutting them up first. But it feels like a different method).

To make them, place the 5 inch solid and background squares right sides together, and draw diagonal lines from corner to corner in both directions.

Stitch quarter of an inch on either side of each line.

Cut the square in half horizontally and vertically, and along the marked lines.

Press each piece open, to get eight HSTs.

Cut off the dog ears, and trim to 2 inches square.

Combine two HSTs with a small solid and background block in a four-patch.

Repeat with the rest of the HSTs.

Now use the 4 1/4 inch print square with the other four background squares to make flying geese, using the same technique as in the Flying Dutchman block.

(This is about when I began to suspect I’d messed up the measurements, because the overlap between the two background squares was so huge. But I decided to continue anyway, and hopefully be able to trim them down later.)

Sure enough, my flying geese turned out way too big. But I was able to trim them down to 3 1/2 by 2 inch, so it worked out ok. (The trick to trimming them down, if you’re ever faced with the same problem, is to first trim the pointy end of the goose so that the point is quarter of an inch from the edge. Then trim the other sides to fit the required size, making sure the goose stays symmetrical.)

Sew each flying goose unit to a print rectangle.

Now lay out the complete block, and sew together as a nine-patch.

Block of the Whenever #7

The second wet-weekend block I created is called the Sawtooth Star. This one has a much larger centre than the other blocks I’ve made so far, which was a nice opportunity to show off one of the large-scale fabrics from the layer cake.

To make a 9-inch finished block you’ll need:

Print: one 5 inch square (I fussy cut mine to centre on one of the big flowers)
Solid: four 3 1/8 inch squares
Background: one 5 3/4 inch square, and four 2 3/4 inch squares

I used the same flying geese technique as for the Flying Dutchman block, except this time the background fabric forms the geese.

Place a solid square on opposite corners of the large background square, draw a diagonal, and stitch quarter of an inch on either side.

Cut along the marked line, and press open.

Add another solid square to each, mark the diagonal and stitch on either side.

Cut along the marked lines, and press open.

Trim the flying geese units to 5 x 2 3/4 inches, and lay out the block.

Sew together to make your Sawtooth Star.

Definitely a very cheerful block for a grey day!

Block of the Whenever #6

It’s been a wet and miserable Queen’s Birthday weekend, so, apart from venturing out to buy baking supplies (so I could make muffins to take into work tomorrow – we’re having an all-day planning meeting, so I think treats will definitely be needed), and to go to Riccarton to see Solo (my first impressions verdict: it’s a fun enough movie that I can mostly ignore the bad bits), I’ve spent the long weekend at home.  Which meant lots of sewing time.  So two new Block of the Whenever blocks finished.

The first block is a pretty simple one, called a Shoofly.  It’s similar to the Churn Dash, but without the bars around the edges. I was even able to use the leftovers of the 10-inch square I used for that block to fussy-cut a centre again, but I paired it with a different solid fabric this time.

I used a different technique to make the half-square triangles, though, to avoid the problem of bias edges. So to make this block you’ll need:

Print: one 3 1/2 inch square
Solid: two 4 inch squares
Background: two 4 inch squares, and four 3 1/2 inch squares

Pair each solid square with one of the larger background squares, right sides together, and mark a line from corner to corner. This is the same technique I used to make the quarter-square triangles for the Ohio Star, but this time I’m stopping when I get to the half-square triangles.

Stitch quarter of an inch away from each side of the line.  (By the way, sorry about the poor lighting for these photos – I normally use the natural light from the window to take the in-progress shots, but it was such a grey day there wasn’t a lot of light coming in).

Cut along the marked lines, and press open.

Trim the HSTs to 3 1/2 inch squares, and cut off the dog ears.

And that’s all the components made.

Sew the squares together into a nine-patch, and you have a Shoofly block:

Block of the Whenever #5

This block is called a LeMoyne Star.  Well, sort of.  A proper LeMoyne Star uses a horribly complicated sounding technique called Y-seams, which I might try mastering one day, but not today.  So this is a cheat’s version, that (apart from the seams running through the diamonds) ends up looking exactly the same as a proper LeMoyne Star, but uses half-square triangles instead of scary Y-seams.

I used the same four-at-a-time method for making half-square triangles that I did for the Dutch Pinwheel. And just as for that block, all those bias edges made life a bit difficult, so I probably should have chosen a different method, but seeing as I needed four half-square triangles in each colour combination, it was the most convenient way of doing them.

What you need:

Print: two 4 1/2 inch squares

Solid: two 4 1/2 inch squares

Background: two 4 1/2 inch squares, and four 2 3/4 inch squares

Match one print square to a solid square, the other print square to a large background square, and the other solid square and large background square to each other. Stitch each pair right sides together with a quarter inch seam around the edges.

Cut along the diagonals.

And press open.

Cut off the dog ears, and trim to 2 3/4 inches square.

Lay out the block, and sew together as a sixteen patch, in the same way as the Dutch Pinwheel.

The final result gives a reasonably convincing illusion (as long as you don’t look too closely) of the block having been constructed with diamonds rather than half-square triangles.

I’m not 100% happy with my block – I didn’t think carefully enough about how the seams would lie, so a couple of the points ended up a bit bulky on the back, which could be annoying when I come to quilt it.  But I really like the overall effect of the block (and maybe one day I’ll get brave enough to experiment with Y-seams so I can sew one properly…)

You’re not going to believe this…

…but I’ve actually finished the Birds in Flight quilt!  I made the binding for it last weekend, and then took advantage of the fact that I have a cold and it was raining yesterday to spend the day doing as little as possible other than sitting watching videos while hand-stitching the binding down (yes, I’m a glutton for punishment, but it looks so much better when it’s hand sewn compared to just top-stitching it).

And here’s the result (with bonus Parsnips in the background – I didn’t notice her there while I was taking the photos):

Other than the fact that I really should have added an extra strip of background fabric around the edges so that the birds aren’t so close to the binding, I’m really happy with how it turned out. I had a few doubts about my choice to use a scrappy binding while I was sewing it on, but now that I see it as a whole I like it again. And I’m really pleased with how the quilting looks, especially the contrast between the background and the birds.


(The duck is definitely my favourite bird on the quilt – I’m not normally a fan of orange, but something about the way the different fabrics combined just works here)

I love the way the quilting around the birds makes them show up on the back, too:

And talking of the back, here’s the full effect of the rainbow stripe (which, yes, is a bit askew. It wasn’t supposed to be, and I thought I’d lined everything up correctly when I basted the quilt, but obviously not…)

Other than the slight slant, the back turned out exactly as I’d hoped. In fact, I think I almost like it more than the front.

Just as I was finishing taking the photos, the sun finally came out, so here’s a couple of shots to show off how bright those colours look:

Not bad for three year’s and two month’s work (I checked, and I started it in January 2015).

And finally, just for the pretty, an artistic-type shot of the back:

Block of the Whenever #4

Another very traditional block, the Ohio Star.  But unlike the other blocks I’ve made so far, which have just used two fabrics (plus the background), this time I’m adding a third fabric:


Technically you can make an Ohio Star with just two colours (or even one, if you kept the central square the same as the points), but I think it looks much better with three.

What you’ll need:

Print: one 3 1/2 inch square

Solid 1: one 4 1/4 inch square

Solid 2: two 4 1/4 inch squares

Background: four 3 1/2 inch squares and one 4 1/4 inch square

Pair one green* square with the pink* square, and the other with the large background square.

(*Obviously, you don’t have to use green and pink – I just can’t be bothered writing “solid 1” and “solid 2” every time.  If the fact that your colours are different than mine is too confusing for you, possibly quilting is not the craft for you…)

This is another way of making half-square triangles.  It only makes two at a time, which actually works out nicely for this block, and also doesn’t end up with bias edges on your block like the four-at-a-time method.

Draw a diagonal line across each pair (the line doesn’t show up very well in the photo, but I could see it pretty clearly in person), and stitch quarter of an inch either side of the line.

Cut along the drawn line and iron open, to get two half-square triangles of each colour combination.

Now take each green/pink HST, and pair with a green/background HST, with the diagonals running the same direction, and the green on opposite sides.

Draw a diagonal line in the opposite direction, and sew quarter of an inch on either side of the line.

Cut along the lines and iron open, and you’ll have four quarter-square triangles.

The quarter-square triangles should end up 3 1/2 inches square.  Trim off the dog ears, and lay out the block.

Sew together as a nine-patch, and you’ve got your Ohio Star.

A couple of my points didn’t line up perfectly (there’s a lot of fabric coming together in those corners), so I did consider unpicking that last seam and trying again, but it won’t really be noticeable once it’s part of a big quilt, so I decided to follow the most important quilting rule of all: “Finished is better than perfect”

The fridge magnet was a free gift thrown in with my last order from the Missouri Star** Quilt Company, and lives on the filing cabinet next to my cutting mat – it’s a useful reminder sometimes, when I feel the obsessive perfectionism gene I inherited from Granny trying to come out – luckily it’s nicely balanced by my inherent laziness :-)

(**There seems to be a star block named after every state in the USA (now there’s an idea for an overly-ambitious sampler quilt for someone!).  I’m sure a few more will end up in this quilt, though maybe not the Missouri Star – I think it might be a bit too complex to work well at this scale.  Maybe if I run out of simpler blocks…)

Block of the Whenever #3

Racing along here!  The third block is called a Dutch Pinwheel.  It has a lot of parts, but they’re all the same: half-square triangles. So the instructions are pretty short.

Now that I’m feeling a little more confident in my ability to sew a proper quarter-inch seam, I decided it was safe to start using some of my favourite fabrics from the layer cake.

I used the same four-at-a-time technique to make the half-square triangles as last time (mainly because the measurements fitted nicely into a 10-inch square). I think if I made this block again, I’d use a different method, because making them the four-at-a-time way means you end up with lots of bias edges, which makes it harder to sew all the parts together without anything stretching out of shape. These measurements are for that method, so if you use them, be warned it’s not the best approach.

You will need:

Print: four 4 1/2 inch squares

Solid: one 4 1/2 inch square

Background: three 4 1/2 inch squares

I won’t repeat the instructions on how to make the half-square triangles, seeing as I already did that yesterday, but you should end up with 16 of them, 12 with the background fabric on one side, and 4 with the solid.

Again, thanks to the edge being the hypotenuse of a isosceles right-angled triangle (sorry, the mathematician in me always comes out when I’m playing with shapes like this), there’s a fun √2 in the calculations, so the half-square triangles turn out a few millimetres bigger than needed. Trim them down to 2 3/4 inch squares, and lay out the block.

Sew each corner unit as a four patch, then sew those together into one big four-patch to get the finished block.

(Look! 9 1/2 inches again! It worked!!!)

Block of the Whenever #2

The second Block of the Whenever is a nice simple Churn Dash.  Nice and simple, but another block I’ve never tried before (possibly because of the whole “leap into the deep end before you try out the paddling pool” thing I’m so prone to…)

Because this block has a plain centre square, I picked out one of the fabrics with strong individual motifs so I could “fussy cut” one of the flowers to go in the centre.

For this block you’ll need:

Print: one 3 1/2 inch square
Solid: one 5 1/2 inch square, and four 2 inch by 3 1/2 inch rectangles
Background: one 5 1/2 inch square, and four 2 inch by 3 1/2 inch rectangles

The first step is to make half-square triangles. Everyone seems to have their own favourite method for doing this, each with its particular pros and cons. I haven’t settled on a favourite yet, so I think I’ll probably test out a few different methods over the course of this quilt, depending on how many I need to make.

The method I used for this one is another one of those slightly magic techniques that doesn’t quite make sense until you try it. First, place the two large squares right sides together, and sew all the way round, 1/4 inch from the edges.

Next, cut along each diagonal.

Iron the pieces open, and you’ll have four half-square triangles!

They come out just a millimetre or two larger than 3 1/2 inches square (because square roots), so you’ll need to trim them down to the correct size (and cut off the dog ears while you’re at it).

Next, the dash part of the Churn Dash. Pair the solid and background rectangles together, and sew along the long edge. When opened out, they should also measure 3 1/2 inches square.

And that’s all the components made. Again, there’s two possible ways to lay the block out:

Probably if I was just making this as a single block, I’d have chosen the second option, but I want to keep the background fabric actually as the background consistently across all the blocks (well, for now, anyway – I might change my mind once I’ve got more of them done and can see the overall effect).

Sew the pieces together as a nine-patch, and block two is complete:

And I can proudly say that this one turned out 9 1/2 inches square on my first try!  There’s something to be said for this whole being slow and accurate thing…

Let’s try that again

Not to keep you in suspense any longer, I made that block again, this time being a lot more careful about my quarter inch seams.  And it worked!

It’s still a tiny bit smaller than it should be (I actually think my sewing machine is slightly out of alignment, because the needle doesn’t come down exactly central in the foot, but I’m not sure how to adjust it), but it’s close enough to 9 1/2 inches to be usable.

The difference between the two blocks doesn’t look like much, but it’ll make a huge difference to the final quilt.

An important lesson in accuracy!