April 25, 2016

Chart 48: Setting Triangles and Iris, Block #44 in the Farmer's Wife Sew Along

Iris is another block to which I made many construction technique adaptations. A little applique eliminated a lot of pieces. The methods I used are detailed on the PDF. I hope you will download it and find the instructions useful.

Looking for More 6-inch Blocks?

Someone emailed that she needs 126 blocks for the quilt size she is making and then she asked how many more alternate blocks I would be including. I thanked her for the compliment. The question implied that she thinks I am done! In fact, other than having determined the order of the blocks, I’m only a few blocks ahead of all of you!

But I’m guessing 8 or 10 maybe even 12 major modifications of blocks or complete substitutes are in my future. If you are also looking for substitutions or additions to make a bigger quilt, don’t forget that the instruction booklet that comes with Set S has 6 additional blocks included. I also checked the Index of Volume 1 of the Encyclopedia of Patchwork Blocks and it has 26 six-inch blocks, mostly made with Set A.

Don’t forget, it is your quilt. There is a certain interesting discipline to making a quilt stitch for stitch like someone else, but there is also a charm to personalizing the same quilt with some of your own choices.

Looking Ahead to the Setting Triangles

If you are using the setting included in the book, it is REALLY important to cut those large right triangles with the hypotenuse or long side on straight grain and preferably on straight lengthwise grain. That means you will cut strips parallel to the selvage and then cut the triangles.

There are three really easy and accurate ways to cut the setting triangles with From Marti Michell specialty rulers.

Pick from Three Tools for Cutting the Setting Triangles!
You may even already own one of them!

Click photo for a larger view.

Cut 12 or 15 and put them up on your design wall to make sure you like your fabric selection. Then you can start sewing the triangles in place as you finish each block. You'll be ready to arrange the blocks into a pleasing layout when you want to.

1. Back in August 2015 when I wrote the first list of potential tools, I recommended the Small No-flip Diagonal Set Triangle Ruler #8105 for cutting the setting triangles. It was the obvious tool to recommend — it is designed specifically for cutting setting triangles for blocks from 2-1/2  to 10 inches square.  (Click the diagrams for larger views.)

2. Later, I realized the Flying Geese Ruler also has a line that is perfect for the triangle. The line to align with the fabric is actually the seam line of the largest triangle. It has nothing to do with setting triangles, it just happens to be the right size triangle needed for setting this quilt.

3. Just recently I discovered that the outside dimension of one of our newest tools, the Multi-size Half-Square Triangle Ruler, is also the exact size needed for the setting triangle. Ignore the printed lines and place the hypotenuse on the straight edge of the strip to cut full size triangles.

No matter how you cut the triangles, remember to cut the strips on the lengthwise grain parallel to the selvage. The strips should be 4-3/4 inches wide when you cut the triangles with any of these tools. The engineered corners create a “dog-ear free zone” and make lining setting triangles up with 6-1/2 inch squares so easy. Just like this:

Both the Diagonal Set Setting Triangle and the Flying Geese Triangle also have instructions for the setting corner triangles that you need at the top and bottom of rows.

See directions in the book starting on page 260 for joining the blocks and making rows. Press seams toward the setting triangles.

Planning to Cut Triangles with Your Standard Ruler?

Please, please! Read the following carefully if you are using the quilt layout in the book and planning to ruler-cut the setting triangles.

It would be easy to just start cutting half-square right triangles from squares. BUT, if you do that both long edges of every strip will be on true bias, which means it will be almost impossible to get a nice flat quilt top.

 Some people recommend stay stitching the bias edges, but if the edge stretches while sewing (due to presser foot and feed dog pressure and/or finger resistance), the stay stitching will set the stretch. (Click the diagrams for larger views.)

You can cut a larger square and cut across it diagonally in both directions. In this case you would need to cut 9-3/4 inch squares. The reason I don’t recommend this method is that you end up with two setting triangles that have crosswise grain on the hypotenuse and two that have lengthwise grain, which results in varying amounts of stretch on those long seams.

Even more important to me is that if your background fabric has even the slightest directional design, some of the design "lines" will be horizontal and some vertical, which can be very disruptive visually. Sometimes even triangles of solid white fabric look different when cut that way and the quilt is assembled! Directional designs are obvious when they are stripes but many floral prints, etc., are also directional.

Testing is always good. If you plan to cut this way, cut a few and put them up on your design wall for a closer examination before you cut and sew all the triangles.

The goal is to always have the longest side of the triangle, or the hypotenuse, on the outside edges of your quilt rows on straight lengthwise grain.  It's not hard to do -- it just requires a little planning before you begin to cut them.  Your triangles won't stretch as they're added to the blocks.  Your rows won't stretch as they are joined so your quilt will be "square".  And the length of your quilt top will match from side to side and top to bottom.

P. S. All of the above suggestions also apply to setting triangles for any diagonal set quilt design, not just the zig-zag layout for the 1930s Farmer's Wife Sampler Quilt.

My Iris Block

Click the links below to download the Chart for cutting and making Iris:

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.

April 18, 2016

Chart 47: Quick 4-Patches and Mrs. Smith, Block #72 in the 1930s Farmer's Wife Sew Along

Mrs. Smith is a 6-inch block with 53 pieces. That could look impossible unless you break the block down into the smaller sub-units. That is one of the real benefits of making a quilt that has so many different designs like the Farmer’s Wife Sampler. You learn to recognize the smaller units you have already made and are comfortable making.

You’ve seen me talk about the design grid before, like graph paper that is divided into squares. Mrs. Smith is an 8 x 8 grid design. You could easily color in the shapes used in Mrs. Smith in 64 squares – 8 x 8 on graph paper. You would not be surprised to see an 8 x 8 block made with pieced units 2 x 2 or 4 x 4.

But you may be surprised to see the units or sub-units that you will piece in Mrs. Smith. They are actually 3 x 3, 2 x 3 and 2 x 2, but even though this is today’s new block, there is nothing new in this block.

You have just made 4 patches in Post #46, Tracy. In Post #45, Fanny, which was made on a very similar 8 x 8 grid, you framed a 2 x 2 unit with a square and 2 rectangles just like you will in Mrs. Smith. The final style of sub-unit you need to make is similar to the mirror image parallelograms in Post #25, Joy and Post #26, Lillian or Lily. These are even easier. They just have mirror image parallelograms with small triangles at each end.

Speaking of Four Patches

Special tricks for making 4-patch sub-units aren’t critical when you are making one 6” block but when you need dozens of 4-patch units it’s another story. After years of promoting strip methods for 4-patch units, I was tickled to discover a way to make 4 patches faster with acrylic templates than the old-fashioned strip technique way.

Here it is excerpted from 5 is Fabulous!, the fifth volume in the Encyclopedia of Patchwork Blocks. The instructions are from the quilt called Bean Counter’s Star. Even with only 16 four-patch units it is worth learning.

Making Four Patch Units

This fun way of layering fabric and cutting squares to size with a template is faster and more accurate than the well-known strip technique—but you have to try it to believe it.


1. From the background fabric B (white), cut a piece 13-1/2 inches (3/8 yard) long by the width of the fabric. (This is just the size needed for this project, it is not a magical size!)

2. Put fabrics B and C (blue dots) right sides together and fold fabrics in half, selvage to selvage. The wrong side of the white background fabric should show on the outside.

3. Trim off the selvages. Starting at the just-trimmed edge and using Q-93 to measure the strip width, cut four strips, 3″ wide, on the lengthwise grain. The fabrics should be correctly stacked light, dark, dark, light for the next step. (Of course, you would use the appropriate square template and measure the Marti Way.)

4. From the stacked strip sets (4 layers of fabric), cut 16 sets of square Q-93 = four sets from each strip.


1. Make 16 Four Patches. Chain piece stacked pairs of squares in order. The top piece of each pair will alternate light, dark, etc. When pressing, flip over every other pair so that all the dark squares are on top (see diagram below).  Open and press; the seam allowances will automatically be pressed toward the dark fabric.

2. Cut apart in pairs, leaving one thread between pairs, as shown.

3. Rotate and place the right pair on top of the left pair, right sides together as shown, and stitch the edges that are still connected by a thread to make a four-patch unit. Four Patches should be 5½″ square, including seam allowances. Confirm size with T-102.

Want Some More Practice?

If you really want to practice making 4-patches, I recommend our Queen/Double 4-Patch Mosaic Quilt. You will also get a great workout with any of our Diagonal Set Triangle Rulers when you make this quilt. The easiest one to use when making this quilt is the small no-flip Diagonal Set Triangle Ruler, #8105. That ruler is also very easy to use for cutting the setting triangles for the Farmer’s Wife setting that Laurie used. See next week's post when we talk about cutting the setting triangles and making sure the long edge is on straight grain, preferably (surely you know what I’m going to say!) straight lengthwise grain!

My Mrs. Smith Block

Click the links below to download the Chart for cutting and making Mrs. Smith.

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.

April 11, 2016

Chart 46: Tracy, Large and Small, Block 97 in the Farmer's Wife Sew Along

It has been awhile since we have converted any blocks to 8-1/2 inches for our 8-1/2 inch mystery quilt blocks, so this week we have 2 PDFs for you. 😊 After the PDF for the 6-inch Tracy block, you can download and print a second PDF for the 8-1/2 Tracy block. They will look almost identical, so please be careful!

Speaking of 8-1/2 Inch Blocks…

Now that we are doing only one block per week, if you miss making 2 blocks, you may want to start making the 8-1/2 inch blocks. Four were posted with Chart 11 on November 2, 2015. They were Caroline, Old Maid, Jenny and Addie.

In the November 11 post with Chart 14, we added Nancy.

And on December 16, with Chart 24, we added Ava and Cat.

Are you ready for Setting Triangles?

In two weeks, I'll be writing about cutting the setting triangles using regular and specialty rulers (our Multi-Size Half-Square Triangle Ruler happens to be the exact overall size; you can rotate it on the strip to get the correct grainline!)

My Tracy Block

Click on the image for a larger view. Click the links below to download the Chart for cutting and making Tracy:

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.

April 4, 2016

Chart 45: Fabric Key and Fanny, Block #32 in the Farmer's Wife Sew Along

Making a Fabric Key

When I look at the pictures of blocks posted in the Facebook group this sew along, it appears some people are trying to mimic the colors in the blocks and others, not at all. For example, my red, black, gray and white blocks are marching to their own drummer! (Red and black were my high school colors, but we did not have enough students for a marching band.)

When we do the instructions on the PDF pages, we try to mimic the colors in the book to make it easier to relate one to the other. However, if there are more than a dozen pieces as well as three colors, I almost always have made a color key similar to what we suggest at the beginning of the PDF for Fanny.

It seemed like I was always searching for the right size piece of paper for my key so I finally asked Patti, our graphic designer, to make me a page of fabric keys. I printed several and cut them to size and clipped them to the book so they would be handy. We thought you might like to do the same so we added a page of 4 fabric keys to the PDF Conversion Chart for Fanny. You can print them as needed and keep them handy, too.

My Fanny Block

Click on the image for a larger view. Click the link below to download the Chart for cutting and making Fanny, and blank fabric keys (page 2 of the PDF):

From Marti Michell Chart #45

After you click on the above link, if you get the message you see in the image below, just click the blue Download button and the file should automatically go into your Downloads folder. If you don't know where your Downloads folder is, you may have to do a search for it on your computer. Or if it's not working on your iPad, look in your iBooks folder; that's where ours go.

VIn 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.