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


  1. I would be lost in this quilt along with out my MM templates and your wonderful tutorials. Thank you so much!

  2. Thank you so much for the tutorials and the conversion charts. I am loving using my MM templates. I did, want to mention one (little) typo I noticed on this week's conversion chart for Sara. The 9/16" is an imaginary line between 1/2" (8/16") and 5/8" (10/16"), not 3/4" as typed. Thanks again for all you and your staff are doing for our quilting enjoyment!!

    1. Hi Judi -- Thanks for letting us know, that's been corrected. :)