November 30, 2015

Chart 19, Template Cutting Tricks and Ava, Block #10 in the Farmer's Wife 1930s Sew Along

Teaching Your Templates Cutting Tricks

The more you use your From Marti Michell Perfect Patchwork Templates, the more you love them and when you spend enough time with them, you can actually teach them tricks. Typically, any time you use a size-specific template to cut a different shape, we call it a template trick.

Our latest book, More Bang for the Buck, published earlier this year, was written to help you get even more value from your From Marti Michell template sets. You may have owned templates before you started this project, or you may have just bought them for the Farmer’s Wife 1930s Sampler, but we want you to use them on future projects, too.

(Click the image to see a larger version or 
click the product number for more details.)

The book includes:
  • how to convert quilts with ruler cutting instructions to template cutting, 
  • clues for determining which template set is perfect for replicating an antique quilt you snapped a picture of at a show, 
  • why 1.414 should be a quilter’s favorite number 
  • and so much more. 
There are simple instructions for calculating yardage and yardage yield charts so you won’t have to calculate fabric requirements. You’ll discover that it rarely ever takes more fabric to cut strips on the lengthwise grain as opposed to crosswise strips…yes, really! The Patchwork Trio Charts have been my go-to pages as we have worked on the conversions for The Farmer’s Wife 1930s Sampler Quilt. The 48-page book is packed with information about the 16 From Marti Michell Perfect Patchwork template sets that include a square or make a square. It even includes a pattern for a queen size Toad in a Puddle quilt if you are looking for another project.

Ask for More Bang for the Buck! at your local quilt shop or visit our website. 

Probably my favorite part of the book is the section called Teaching Your Templates New Tricks. Here is a reminder of the great tricks we've covered so far in the Farmer's Wife 1930s sampler PDFs:

With Belle (Template Conversion Chart #5) we cut the house shape this way:

In Susannah (Chart #8) we cut this shape, and the same shape for Katherine in mirror image:

In Granny (Chart #9) we flipped the A-2 triangle to make a larger triangle:

In Jenny (Chart #10) we learned how to cut parallelograms with a triangle whether you're left- or right-handed (shown here: right-handed):

And, in Ava (Chart #19, download below), there are two cutting tricks. One, typically called the Honeycomb, is similar to the house. It only works with our square templates because of the engineered corners on our squares. They give an acrylic edge to align perfectly with the edge of the fabric square.
The second trick is how to cut a square with a triangle template.

It may not seem like a huge trick when the square you need to cut in Ava is a 1-1/2 inch square. It is easy to cut a 1-1/2 inch square with a ruler and if you own Set N, it includes a 1-1/2 inch square template to cut a 1-inch finished square.

However, we loved this trick when we recently needed to cut a 1-9/16 inch square to match the leg on triangle A-7 and a 1-9/16 inch acrylic-square does not appear in any of our template sets. So, it is rather like a trick play in football…you don’t need it very often, but when you need it, you need it!

My Ava Block

Click the link to download the Template Conversion Chart for Ava, Block #10:

In addition to our template conversion PDF download, you will want to read Gnome Angel's tutorials for these blocks.

November 25, 2015

Chart 18: Grainline and Grandma, Block #39 in the Farmer's Wife 1930s Sew Along

Every piece in this block is a 90° right angle triangle. There are two sizes. In order to follow the guidelines that ideally you want straight grain on:
  •     the outside edge of the piece
  •     the outside edge of the sub-unit
  •     the outside edge of the block
All of the small triangles are cut with the hypotenuse on straight grain, preferably on the lengthwise straight grain. Likewise, all of the large triangles are cut with the legs on straight grain.

For those of you who are used to ruler cutting, the most common way to cut 90-degree right angle triangles is to cut strips, cut the strips into squares and cut the squares in half diagonally once. The legs are on straight grain. 

Likewise, the most common way to cut 90° right angle triangles with the hypotenuse on straight grain is to cut a square in half diagonally twice.

That means that the hypotenuse of 2 of the triangles is on lengthwise grain but 2 of the triangles have the hypotenuse on the much more stretchy crosswise grain. The pieces will sew and press differently and in some cases, especially with a directional fabric, they will look different.

That will not happen when you cut with templates from strips as shown in our cutting diagrams in the conversion charts. When you see triangles in our diagrams that look like they are laying down it means the long side or hypotenuse of the triangles is on straight lengthwise grain. You will also know that we have cut the strips on the lengthwise grain, ‘cause that is what we do, unless we tell you otherwise : ).

Making the Block

For me, the pattern of this block was not memorable. I had to keep looking back at the book to make sure I was joining the correct pieces. The triangles are sewn into 4 distinct sub-units in Grandma and they are clearly diagrammed in the book. We have included specific directions for the small triangles on our template conversion chart PDF. The piecing needed for the 4 squares in the center is self-explanatory.
Look back at Old Maid (FMM Chart 7 in the Oct. 2015 archive at right) and you will be reminded of sewing three triangles into a trapezoid. The difference here is that there are three colors. Pay attention… the pieces fit together several ways but only one is the “right" way.

My Grandma Block

Click on the image for a larger view.  Click the link to download the Template Conversion Chart for Grandma:

In addition to our template conversion PDF download, you will want to read Gnome Angel's tutorials for these blocks.

November 23, 2015

Chart 17: Patience and Patricia, Blocks #79 and 80 in the Farmer's Wife 1930s Sew Along

Welcome to the first Farmer’s Wife 1930s Sampler Quilt block cut with From Marti Michell Template Set B. In the same spirit as the first blocks cut with Set A templates, we are starting with 2 very easy blocks.

Patience is the 19th block in our conversions and may be the easiest block in the entire book! I can’t resist saying, “It won’t take much patience to make Patience!” However, patience is a perfect ingredient to add to your Farmer’s Wife Sew-Along tool basket.

If your Patience block with only 7 pieces and 6 seams is not a perfect 6-1/2 inch square, maybe you need… more patience. Maybe it is time to slow down, be more careful as you cut, practice your quarter-inch seam, pay attention to the grainline of your fabric, etc. If you have questions about the templates or working with them, please go back and review the blog posts and videos. We are here to help.

Just for Fun

A question: Which phrase do you remember your Mother saying most?
    a. Patience is a virtue.
    b. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

You probably won’t be surprised that I chose to eliminate seams in Patience or that we recommend chain piecing strips and then cutting squares in Patricia instead of cutting 8 little strips and joining them to make squares.

The Patricia block is fun to play with and a good one to let children sew and arrange if you are lucky enough to have a youngster close by that wants to “help you.” With the very same sub-units you can make all of these blocks…

And then some -- hence, an empty block grid to encourage you to play with it! How many more designs can you make? For a fun rainy-day project with your favorite kid(s), let them arrange the sub-units, take digital pictures, and then go back and compare and pick a favorite.

My Patience Block

Click on the photos to see larger images.

And My Patricia Block

Click the link to download the Template Conversion Chart for these blocks:

for Blocks 79 Patience and 80 Patricia

In addition to our template conversion PDF download, you will want to read Gnome Angel's tutorials for these blocks.

The Farmer’s Wife 1930s Sampler Quilt: Inspiring Letters from Farm Women of the Great Depression and 99 Quilt Blocks That Honor Them by Laurie Aaron Hird for Fons & Porter/F+W

November 18, 2015

Chart 16: Diagonal Block Grid and Sara, Block #90 in the Farmer's Wife 1930s Sew Along

Please take a look at the picture of Sara (below, left) and Nancy together. Do you see what they have in common?

The grid they share is camouflaged almost completely by the designs and colors within the grid. If you look at the construction breakdowns in the book, it is easier to see. Sara gives you the opportunity to practice everything we talked about when we made Nancy regarding grainline and triangles, etc.

This is the diagonal grid they share:

The five equal-size squares in Nancy contain 4 Flying Geese-and-rectangle units and 1 full size square. In Sara there are 5-equal-size-four-patch units and the corner triangles are divided into 2 smaller triangles. Only the four A-4 triangles in the center of each side of the block are exactly the same.

We chose to construct Sara the same way we did Nancy, piecing the 5 squares and joining them into three sections to make the block instead of sewing the two center strips shown in the book.

The Four Patch Units and Swirl Pressing

This is also the first block with four-patch units. We encourage you to use strip techniques rather than cutting separate squares and sewing them together. It is faster and generally more accurate. Don’t forget you can check the size of the pieced squares with the A-3 square template.

1. Put the fabrics for the four patches right sides together and cut equal length strips. The strip width you need to cut is odd - 1 9/16”. We show you on the template conversion chart and the video below  how to measure the strip width with our template A-7.

2. Join the strips and press toward the darker fabric.

3. True-up one end of the strip. Lay the strip down as shown with the trued-up end to the right if you are right-handed - left, if left-handed. Now, use the Marti way to cut and measure the pieced segments for the four-patch units with A-7 triangle and a regular ruler.

4. Put newly-cut pairs of squares right sides together. The opposing seam allowances should nestle together and provide what I call “automatic pinning.” I like to sew the next seam with the dark square leading into the needle first and the seam allowance pointing toward the needle. That way you can control the seam allowance on top and the seam allowance on the bottom won’t need control.

5. Now comes the fun part, pressing the perfect four-patch swirl or spin. This time you press away from the dark fabric. Just give a gentle little tug and the couple of stitches in the seam allowance from the original seam that joined the strips will pop out and the seam allowances will  go flat so the center features a perfect miniature four patch.


Why This is Such a Nice Way to Press Four Patches

Fewer layers of fabric at intersections mean flatter quilts and fewer broken needles when quilting, not to mention less wear at this spot when the quilt is in use. These are only three of the reasons we love swirl pressing! Swirl pressing four patches means every little square visible in the seam allowances has just 4 layers of fabric, counting the seam allowances, that stack up.

If you press the second seam to one side, there are 7 layers of fabric stacked at the center.  If you press the second seam open, 2 of the little squares in the center are 6 layers high and 2 are only 2 layers of fabric high, creating an additional little bump.

My Sara Block

Click on the image for a larger view. Click the link to download the Template Conversion Chart for Sara:

In addition to our template conversion PDF download, you will want to read Gnome Angel's tutorials for these blocks.

The Farmer’s Wife 1930s Sampler Quilt: Inspiring Letters from Farm Women of the Great Depression and 99 Quilt Blocks That Honor Them by Laurie Aaron Hird for Fons & Porter/F+W

November 16, 2015

Chart 15: Paper Flowers and Jewel, Block 46 in the Farmer's Wife 1930s Sew Along

Jewel provides a little diversion. It is not a template-friendly block, but with only 16 pieces, it is quite easy to cut with a paper pattern that includes a 1/4-inch seam and sew as we would normally machine-piece a patchwork block. See the PDF Template Conversion Chart for my method of rotary cutting using the paper pattern printout from the disc with the book.

The yellow and gray pieces shown in the book are mirror image pairs of asymmetrical pieces. If your sewing experience includes making garments, you will immediately understand that cutting these pieces with the fabric folded wrong sides together is like cutting vest or shirt-fronts.

Another If

If your sewing experience includes making garments, the chances are around 90% that you have bought and ultimately saved patterns. That brings up a new issue — what to do with those patterns now!

I was enthused about a possible solution when someone suggested to me that you could trace a quilting design on an old dress pattern, pin that to a quilt and machine quilt right through the tissue because it was easy to tear away. I did it once and thought it was okay. Later, someone else told me the tissue would have been easier to remove if I had sprayed it with a fine mist of water. I'll try that next time.

So Another Diversion

Even though there is no expiration date on dress patterns, we thought it would be fun to share some things to do with dress patterns each time we just cut and sew a Farmer’s Wife block with a paper pattern. Today’s fun is an accordion pleated method for making tissue flowers. We loved the version we found on:

Here is one flower shown with my Jewel block. I made it with 4 layers of dress pattern tissue, cut 5 by 8 inches and accordion folded in about 3/4-inch wide folds. The ends were cut to a point and I also made tiny little “v” cuts at the center where I replaced the wire shown in the flower tutorial with a plastic twist-tie. I used the twist-tie to secure the flower to my red pen so it will be easier to find! Fun!

My Jewel Block

Click on the image for a larger view. Click the link to download the Template Conversion Chart for Jewel:

In addition to our template conversion PDF download, you will want to read Gnome Angel's tutorials for these blocks.

November 13, 2015

Make Aimee with Templates, Block #2 in the Farmer's Wife 1930s Sew Along

Some of the blocks in Gnome Angel's Farmer's Wife 1930s Sew Along will not be "template friendly" -- that means we don't have exact-size templates for the pieces needed. Aimee is one of those blocks. The foundation paper piecing pattern in the book is nicely divided, so Aimee is a great candidate for that technique. (We will have an alternate block for other blocks that are not template-friendly, too. Aimee's alternate block, Alta, is Chart #13.)

One Good Aimee Deserves Another

Over in the Sew Along's Facebook group, Richy Lainson, Jr. posted his beautiful Aimee block, which he'd made with templates. Richy's blocks are always beautiful! He makes everything with templates if it's possible to do so. I thought it was cool that several people in the Sew Along asked Richy how he cut Aimee with templates and, since he is so nice, he offered to make a tutorial soon. Well, we chatted on Facebook and I thought we should let Richy keep making beautiful blocks and I would do an Aimee template tutorial, which follows Richy's block shown below. :)

Richy's Aimee Block


Richy shoots his blocks on point on a background of Zen Chic Modern Backgrounds Inks by Moda.  His Farmer's Wife 1930s blocks also feature Zen Chic For You (colors) and Modern Backgrounds Paper (whites), with a little Tula Pink Eden and some BasicGrey Grunge thrown in.

My Aimee Block

If you love templates, too, and you want to use them to make your Aimee block, you can cut the pieces with Sets C or D and the New Set Q #8089. (Note the differences between my block and Richy's, like contrast, value, focal points, on point compared to straight set.)

Making the Pieced Center Unit

For the pieced center square (which should finish at a perfect 3-7/8 inches square, including seam allowances), use either C-16 and C-18 or D-22 and D-24.  Cut 2-1/4 inch strips or cut a 2-1/4 inch square as shown.

You must be dead on with the engineered corner on C-18 or D-24 being on a perfect square corner, and the blunt top of C-16 or D-22 at the top of the strip.

Join the pieces to make 4 pairs…

Join the pairs to make 2 block halves…

Join the halves to make the center square. Press seams in one direction and swirl press the center where all the pieces come together.

Cutting the Other Pieces

Use template Q-b for trapezoid 2C. It is actually about 1/16-inch too big. "Double-cut" Q-d for piece 2B.

I took a photo of the page in my book More Bang for the Buck! so you can see exactly how it's done. Click the image for a larger view.

Likewise, Q-94 its a scant 1/8" too big for piece 2A. But fudge a little, trim a little, hold your tongue just right!  Your block will end up a little big -- trim it down to 6-1/2 inches square.

Since I prefer to do conversions for blocks where you don't have to fudge, I substituted Alta, named for my mother, who was an Iowa Farmer's wife. I hope you see what I mean about Aimee -- she's a looker but she's not very [template] friendly.

November 11, 2015

Chart 14: Triangle Grainline and Nancy, Block #76 in the Farmer's Wife 1930s Sew Along

Making Right Triangles and Fabric Grainlines
Play Well Together

With just a little practice, you can train yourself to use fabric grainline advantageously and improve your patchwork blocks amazingly! It is especially important to learn and practice cutting right triangles appropriately, as they are the pieces most likely to sabotage your blocks! With careful cutting and awareness of grainline, you can eliminate rippled or stretched edges and sew flat, square, blocks that will make straight rows at quilt assembly time.

Anatomy of a Right Angle Triangle

A right angle triangle is a three-sided figure having one 90-degree or square corner. The most common right angle triangle used in patchwork has two equal length legs and is called a "half-square triangle" by quilters and an acute isosceles triangle by mathematicians.

x = Vertical leg
y = Horizontal leg
z = Hypotenuse (longest side of a triangle)

In quilting, right triangles are often made by cutting a square in half diagonally to make 2 right triangles, resulting in having the straight grain on the legs (indicated by arrows).

When squares are cut diagonally twice, you still get right triangles, but the straight grain is on the hypotenuse.

There will be appropriate times for both cuts; it depends on the position of the triangle in the patchwork design.  The sooner you learn which grainline is the appropriate grainline for the design you are making, the happier you will be with your finished blocks. Also, we don't recommend cutting squares in halves or into quarters to make triangles, because we have a more grainline friendly way to do it (described in later paragraphs).

Definitions of Grainline

Lengthwise grain of fabric identifies the threads that run parallel to the selvage. They are very firm with virtually no stretch or give.

Crosswise grain identifies the threads that go from one selvage to the other. They are quite stretchy and tend to create a small ripple when seamed.

Bias runs diagonally across perpendicular threads and is very stretchy.

True bias runs at a perfect 45-degree angle across perpendicular crosswise and lengthwise threads and is verrry stretchy.

Whenever possible, you want straight grain (either lengthwise or crosswise, but when there is a choice, lengthwise grain) of the fabric on the outside edges of a piece, on the outside edges of a sub-unit, on the outside edges of a block, and if there is a border, on the outside edges of the border.

Having said all of that, design overrides grainline. Showcasing stripes or fussy cutting directional prints overrides grainline preferences. In those cases, cut the pieces as needed and press carefully so the edge won't grow bigger.

Cutting Pieces

Squares are fairly easy -- as long as you cut strips on either the crosswise or lengthwise grain, a square cut from that strip will have 2 opposite sides on crosswise grain and the other 2 opposite sides on lengthwise grain.

Rectangles add another dimension. Whenever possible, you want the lengthwise grain of the fabric to be the longest vertical or horizontal dimension of a piece. Cut strips the narrow dimension of the rectangle on the lengthwise grain and then cut pieces as long as the long dimension of the rectangle.

But when you see right triangles, turn on your thought processor! They are frequently the shapes that are cut wrong and will create major problems in the block.

Look at the From Marti Michell templates and you will see that they include grainline arrows. Typically, when that arrow is placed on lengthwise grain of the fabric, it is the ideal cutting position. (This is not true on squares A-3 or B-10, but that is too long a story for right now!) At the top of every Farmer's Wife conversion chart, we identify any piece where the appropriate grainline for the block overrides the silk screened arrow on the template.

Playing Well With Nancy

Nancy is a perfect block for analyzing triangles, because for best results some of the A-6 triangles in this block should be cut with the legs on straight grain and some with the hypotenuse on straight grain. (NOTE: Specific cutting instructions for this block are on the PDF Template Conversion Chart, and the block also includes rectangles and a square.)

To follow the guideline that you want straight grain on the outside edges of the block, the triangles for the corners of the block should be cut with legs on straight grain from strips cut on the lengthwise grain.

Yet  in the Flying Geese sub-unit, to follow the guideline that you want straight grain on the outside of the sub-unit, the small triangles should be cut with the legs on straight grain (as shown above), and the large triangle should be cut with the hypotenuse on straight grain.

If you cut a square into quarters to yield 4 triangles with straight grain on the hypotenuse, 2 of the triangles will have the hypotenuse on the taut lengthwise straight grain and the other 2 will have the hypotenuse on the stretchier crosswise grain. Your blocks will be more accurate and square when all 4 triangles are cut so the hypotenuse is on the lengthwise grain. (Cutting template 6 with the hypotenuse on the straight grain is an example of a grainline override.)

To follow the guideline that the outside edges of the block should be on the straight grain, the largest triangles in the Nancy block should also be cut with the straight grain on the hypotenuse. (NOTE: Only one section of Nancy is shown below.)

Carefully follow the PDF instructions for cutting the pieces from strips and, like the Rambler block diagram shown earlier, Nancy will have straight grain on all edges -- lengthwise grain on 8 of the 12 edges and crosswise grain on the other 4.

My Nancy Block

Click on the photo to see a larger image.

Click the link to download the Template Conversion Chart for this block:

for Block #76 Nancy

In addition to our template conversion PDF download, you will want to read Gnome Angel's tutorials for these blocks.

8-1/2 inch Nancy for the Mystery Sampler

This is going to be an absolutely wonderful block for the 8-1/2 inch Blocks Mystery Sampler. I haven't decided on the fabrics for my 8-1/2 inch blocks, so while I ponder my fabric choice, I am trying to provide a little research on the blocks we will be using in the mystery sampler.

Block #2900 in Barbara Brackman's Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilts, credited to "Hearth and Home",  is called Aunt Nancy's Favorite. It is the same as Nancy in the Farmer's Wife 1930s Sampler Quilt, Nancy. Observe grainline overrides with both A-2 on the main fabric and A-4 on the accent fabric.

Nancy is also the same as a design called Centennial, pattern #158, from Ladies Art Circle. Both companies operated from around 1890-95 to the late 1930s. I say many thanks to the researchers who have done the hard work so we can provide this information!

To benefit future historians, we try to identify public domain blocks by known names when we use them in our books and patterns, but when we modify a traditional block and give it a new name, which we have done with some blocks in our Encyclopedia of Patchwork Blocks Volumes 1-4, we put the new name in italics to identify that this is our name and, in fact, we think it to be a unique block pattern.

Cutting the 8-1/2 inch Nancy Block

Main Fabric

1. From strips as wide as A-5 (2 inches cut) and approximately 13 inches long, cut 8 A-6 triangles for small triangles in Flying Geese units.

2. Cut 2 strips as wide as A-3 and approximately 13" long, and cut 4 each A-4 and A-2, as shown:

3.Cut one A-1 square.

Accent Fabric

1. Cut 2 strips as wide as A-5 (2 inches) and approximately 14 inches long.

2. Stack and cut 4 modified #1 rectangles and 4 #4 triangles.

Assemble the block as shown in the Farmer's Wife 1930s Sampler book.