March 28, 2017

Week 3: Long Time Gone Sew Along | Crosses of the UK Blocks

Most of you know that Jen Kingwell is from Australia, one of the commonwealth nations. How neat for her to design and include this block. The From Marti Michell tool we'll be using to make these blocks is the 6-1/2 inch Squaring Up Ruler.

Fabric Selection

Remember the pile of fabrics I pulled before we started?

Think of making a scrappy quilt like this as producing and directing a movie. Selecting your pile of fabric was the open call for casting. Even though you have picked a theme, it isn’t until you start cutting and sewing that certain fabrics begin to excel. Some become stars, others get small speaking parts, a few are extras and others get put away to wait their turn in another quilt. As the director, you have the opportunity to audition the same fabric as a lead in one design and only a speaking part in the next. And it is practically a rule to introduce new cast members in each scene.

Because I had cut extra 1- and 1-1/2 inch strips from all of the fabrics I’ve already used, I was able to select fabrics for the Crosses of the UK strips from my strip stockpile and just needed to cut them to length.

I did that and cut the 2-1/4 inch squares I needed with the 6-1/2 inch Squaring Up Ruler. Later, when it was time to trim the pieced squares to 2 inches square, it was so easy to center the diagonal line of the ruler on the diagonal strip. 

Making the Blocks

Just follow the instructions in Jen Kingwell's pattern. Don’t let the illustration of the block on page 7 confuse you, just cut pieces the sizes given. The measurements and instructions result in finished blocks that look like the picture of the quilt blocks. In real life and in the quilt, the vertical and horizontal strips are much chunkier than the illustration in the book.

I love the idea of teaming a few fabrics I have used in the first two blocks with new fabrics being cut for the first time. For this this block I chose to cut and chain piece 3 blocks at a time. Here is one group of squares being trimmed to size.

Sets of three blocks are used in two different places in the quilt so while I expect them to look good together, I have not sewn them together yet.

More Strategy for Cutting Extra Strips

I’ve made a little chart that lists what size strips are needed for each block and in the finishing. (Click here to download the PDF.) Because they are all scrappy, it will be much easier to get variety if you cut extra strips every time you have fabric on your cutting table. Most blocks need approximately the same amount of both light and dark fabrics. However in the checkerboards used in the final assembly, Jen used the solid gray for all of the light fabric squares. This chart is intended as a helpful guide for more efficient cutting. Actual directions are with each tutorial as they are posted here on the blog.

Now Let's Do a Bit on the Pineapple Blocks

You should be able to start adding a round or two to your 16 Pineapple blocks. To get the same look as Jen’s, make sure that the first round of trapezoids (numbers 6, 7, 8 & 9 in the diagram on page 40) are dark fabrics. (See page 5 in the 1/2-inch Pineapple Templates instruction book for diagrams that show how different the blocks look when the first round starts out light.)

Naturally, the engineered corners on the Pineapple strips are the “magic” that makes this so easy to piece with no scraps and no trimming. But please don’t miss the tip mentioned first on page 14 and illustrated on page 18 of the template booklet, where we like to use the standard double-blunt cut on the first two trapezoid pieces being added to the Square Within a Square center.

I’m working on my Pineapple blocks in sets of four, a round or two at a time. That way there will always be new fabrics in the strip stockpile and I can maximize the variety of fabrics in the Pineapple Blocks. You can see they are at different stages of completion, but looking so cute!

More About the Crosses of the UK Section

Visit these other Long Time Gone Sew Along blogs, too, for tutorials, contests and other info:

Use the hash tag #LongTimeGoneSAL to share photos on Instagram.

Long Time Gone by Jen Kingwell. Copyright 2016 by Jen Kingwell Designs. Available on From Marti Michell website,


March 23, 2017

Week 2: Long Time Gone SAL | Pressing Square Within a Square Blocks

Javajean asked a great question about pressing Square Within a Square: "Do we press all of those seams open?" I love it when people care about pressing -- It is so important! The short answer is yes, or no! The best pressing plan is to plan ahead as you begin sewing.

It would be great if every patchwork design had an ideal and obvious way to press. Square Within a Square does not.

This is the back of the block for my Long Time Gone quilt:

I joined the Square Within a Square units into rows and pressed the rows in alternating directions to create opposing vertical seam allowances. Opposing seam allowances abutt each other for "automatic pinning" (no pins required), which makes joining the rows easier and more accurate.  When the rows were joined, I pressed those seams open. Click on the photo if you'd like to take a closer look.

"On the other hand"... Here is an example of a larger size Square Within a Square piece where we pressed all of the seams open.

Regardless of your pressing decision, this is the perfect time to be thankful for the engineered corners on our Perfect Patchwork Templates that allow you to eliminate all the dog ears before you sew. It's amazing how much of a difference it makes when you quilt not having those extra bits of fabric at all the seam intersections!

In recent years, I've been pressing more seams open, but if you quilt in the ditch (on the seam line), pressing open really isn't a great plan -- you aren't always securing the top layer of fabric to the backing.

If you want to press seams open and quilt in the ditch, make sure you are sewing the block pieces using no less than 12 stitches per inch or 2 on a metric machine, or even 18 per inch or a 1.5 metric stitch length.

P.S. Yesterday's blog post includes a link to download a free pattern for making a 62-inch Square Within a Square quilt with Set B. 😊

Visit these other Long Time Gone Sew Along blogs, too, for tutorials, contests and other info:

Use the hash tag #LongTimeGoneSAL to share photos on Instagram.

Long Time Gone by Jen Kingwell. Copyright 2016 by Jen Kingwell Designs. Available on the From Marti Michell website,

Long Time Gone by Jen Kingwell. Copyright 2016 by Jen Kingwell Designs. Available on the From Marti Michell website,

March 21, 2017

Week 2: Long Time Gone Sew Along | Square Within a Square Blocks -- No Waste!

Square Within a Square is one of the units people who use our templates love to make because there is no waste. We actually cut the center square and 4 triangles instead of adding squares to every corner of a bigger square and creating so much scrap when cutting off the corners.

Our template sets for rotary cutting feature special engineered corners that automatically reduce bulk. No going back after sewing to trim excess bulk ~ it's trimmed away at the same time the pieces are cut. But even better than no waste, when you cut the pieces with the templates with the engineered corners, the pieces fit together perfectly!

For this 12-inch finished block, use Set A pieces 1, 3, 4, 5 and 6. If you are thinking that the template sizes are not even close to the piece sizes listed in the book you are correct. That is why we call it “No Waste.”

My block shows a slight modification where I cut 4 rectangles that replace 4 Flying Geese units.

If you are interested in some of my strategies for efficient cutting of scrap quilts, skip down and read "A Scrappy Cutting Strategy" before cutting. But first you need a list of the pieces required because our cut sizes are so much smaller than those in the book.

The 9 Square Within a Square units will require:
  • 5 dark A-3 squares with sides on straight grain 
  • 4 light A-3 squares with sides on straight grain

  • 16 dark A-6 triangles
  • 20 light A-6 triangles
The outside rows (using my variation**see below) will require:
  • 4 medium A-5 squares for the corners
  • 8 light A-4 triangles
  • 16 dark A-6 triangles
  • 4 light rectangles 2 x 3-1/2 inches (If you prefer making the outer edges of the block as shown in Jen’s book, replace these 4 rectangles with 8 light A-6 triangles and 4 dark A-4 triangles)

A Scrappy Cutting Strategy

Using Jen’s fabric selection as a cue, I decided to select 5 dark and 4 light fabrics for the block plus a contrasting fabric for the four corner squares. To cut as efficiently as possible, I wanted to press and stack the dark fabrics and cut all the necessary dark pieces and then repeat with the light fabrics.

Cutting the Dark Pieces

Four of the 5 dark fabrics I picked happened to be fat quarters or half yards – too big to work with easily. The fifth was 9 x 18 inches, so I arbitrarily stacked all 5 fabrics matching the right edge and top of each and putting the smallest piece on top. Then I cut the stack down to 9 x 18 inches.  I don’t know how much I actually need, but I know this size is both plenty of fabric and a convenient size.

Your fabric sizes will be different…the point is try to work with easy to handle sizes and then cut multiple layers at the same time, in this case 5 layers. Mix the pieces as you sew to give a random scrappy look. If you try to select and cut one piece at a time, this quilt will have to be called “Long Time Never Done” instead of Long Time Gone!

To determine how many pieces to cut from the stack of five fabrics, I divided the number of dark triangles and dark squares needed (see list above) by the number of dark fabrics and cut that number of pieces from each stack.

From the dark fabrics we need 5 dark A-3 squares and have 5 fabrics, so we will cut 1 stack of A-3 squares. We need a total of 32 dark A-6 triangles. 32 divided by 5 fabrics is more than 6 so cut 7 stacks of A-6 triangles from a 2-inch wide strip stack.

Cut extra strips for later -- After cutting the pieces I needed for this block, and while the fabrics were still neatly arranged, I cut several sets of strips 1, 1-1/2 and 2 inches wide by the length of the fabric and added another 20 strips to my stockpile of pre-cut strips. I will be able to sprinkle these 5 fabrics throughout the quilt without finding, pressing, layering and putting them away again!

Cutting the Light Pieces 

As it happened, my light fabrics were all small enough that I just pressed and layered them right side up aligning the upper right corner of all four pieces.

We need 4 A-3 squares and have 4 fabrics. Cut one A-3 square from the stack.

All of the remaining pieces to be cut from light fabrics are easily cut from 2-inch strips that are cut on the lengthwise grain. Cut stacks of strips 2 inches wide until you have four fabrics approximately 20 inches long. Cut extra strips for later -- Because these were smaller pieces of fabric to begin with, I cut the entire remaining stack of fabrics into 1-, 1 1/2- and 2-inch wide strips on the lengthwise grain.

We need 20 A-6 triangles and have 4 fabrics. Cut 5 A-6 triangles from the stacked strips. We need 8 A-4 triangles and have 4 fabrics. Cut 2 stacks of A-4 triangles. Align one edge of square A-1 on the edge of the strips and cut at both sides to cut a stack of four 2 x 3 1/2-inch rectangles.

From a contrasting medium fabric cut 4 A-5 squares for corners.

Making the Block

Make 9 Square Within a Square units, 4 with light centers and 5 with dark centers. 

1. Chain piece A-6 triangles to one side of the A-3 squares. Nip apart and press seams toward the triangles. Make 9:
2. Then chain piece triangles to the opposite side of the squares to complete the Square Within a Square units. They should be 3-1/2 inches square, including seam allowances. Isn’t it wonderful that there are no dog ears? Make 9.

Make 8 Flying Geese Units with light A-4 triangles and dark A-6 triangles. 

1. Place a small A-6 triangle and a large A-4 triangle right sides together and stitch. Chain piece additional pairs until all the large triangles are used. Press seam allowances toward small triangle; this makes it easier to stitch the other small triangle in place and reduces bulk at the point of the Flying Geese unit. Clip units apart. Make 8 (4 are illustrated).

2. Add the remaining A-6 triangles to the opposite side. You will now be sewing across the first seam allowance and it will be held in the position in which it is pressed. It is more likely to be smooth and flat if it is pointing in the same direction as the presser foot. The corners line up perfectly on every step. There are no dog ears, shadowing or extra bulk. Press toward small triangle and clip apart. Each Flying Geese unit should measure 2 by 3-1/2 inches, including seam allowances. Make 8.

Complete the block.

Arrange the units and join into rows, as shown. Then join rows to complete the block.

We call this block arrangement Evening Stars and it is one of our favorite scrap patterns. It is simply made by alternating positive/negative Square Within a Square units. That is, squares with light centers and dark corners alternate with squares with dark centers and light corners.

The stars occur when many rows of alternating light and dark centers are joined.

Click here for a downloadable PDF of a larger Evening Star wallhanging or lap quilt made with Set B. You can see that we feel that replacing some of the Flying Geese units on the outside edges with rectangles accentuates the star points. Once you see the star points on the edge, your eyes see them more clearly in the quilt or block.

Look Way Ahead in Long Time Gone!

In fact, look at the 5-inch finished size Pineapple block paper-piecing diagram on page 40 in Jen's book. (We, of course, will not be paper-piecing.) Look at the pieces numbered 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 in the center of the block. Sure enough, they make a Square Within a Square Unit. It is just smaller than the ones in this block.

In the last week of blocks in the Sew Along, right before we start putting the blocks together, we are going to need 16 of those Pineapple blocks. If you do the math -- 16 blocks times 37 pieces -- you will understand my next question. Why not get a head start on the 16 blocks needed and make the center units now?

Even if you don’t have your 1/2-inch Pineapple Ruler (#8262) yet, if you have Set N, you can use square N-79 and triangle N-81 to cut and make the center for the 16 five-inch Pineapple blocks needed later. In fact, in the Pineapple set, those shapes are part of a multi-sized template, so many people prefer the individual pieces in Set N. Instructions are given below.

As soon as you have the 1/2-inch Pineapple Ruler Set you will be so happy that you actually have both light and dark 1-inch strips. You can cut the exact size pieces and add a few rounds.

Making 16 Pineapple Center Units

1. Cut 16 N-79 squares. They should be either a medium or dark value. Nip off the corners. I made all 16 Square Within a Square centers from the same fabrics. I like to put a “drop” of consistency here and there in a scrap quilt, and it also makes it efficient to cut and chain piece.

2. Cut 64 N-81 corner triangles with legs on straight grain. Again, I chose to use one fabric for all of the triangles; it needs to be a light value. Cut 4 strips 1 1/4 inches wide by 18 inches long and stack them. Cut 16 sets of 4 triangles from the stacked strips. Nip off the corners. When the dog ears are gone, the triangle corners should line up perfectly with the corners on the square.

3. Join as in Making the Square Within a Square units, above.

4. True up and make sure you have a square. The finished size of the center unit should be just a sliver smaller than 2 inches square (1.914 inches exactly). It is worth it to make corrections, if necessary, as every strip is eventually added to this square. If it isn’t square, your finished block won’t be square.

I remember spending hours one weekend to cut the strips I would need for the 9 blocks (1-inch finished strip width) in this quilt.

Cut a few 1-inch strip sets every time you have fabric out and it will seem like you did it in minutes or spare time…You also need a lot of 1-1/2 and 2-inch strips in several blocks and when putting the quilt together. Part of the charm of a scrap quilt like this is that many of the same fabrics are sprinkled all over the quilt.

Visit these other Long Time Gone Sew Along blogs, too, for tutorials, contests and other info:

Use the hash tag #LongTimeGoneSAL to share photos on Instagram.

Long Time Gone by Jen Kingwell. Copyright 2016 by Jen Kingwell Designs. Available on the From Marti Michell website,

Long Time Gone by Jen Kingwell. Copyright 2016 by Jen Kingwell Designs. Available on the From Marti Michell website,

March 20, 2017

Post #94: Flora, Block #35 in the Farmer's Wife 1930s Sampler Quilt Sew Along

We've come to the end of the Farmer's Wife 1930s Sew Along! Thank you so much for participating. If you missed the blog on December 5, 2016, I wrote that there were still 7 blocks for which template conversions aren’t appropriate. Because we have already offered between 8 and 12 substitute or bonus blocks, we are not offering another today.

We've started a new quilting adventure (info below) and hope you'll join us -- you've probably already got most of the tools we'll be using!

The 8-1/2 inch Block Mystery Quilt

In case you missed Post 89 (February 13, 2017) Sonnie (Block #92), Sonnie was the 12th block we converted to 8-1/2 inches for you. Post #89 also includes the unveiling of the mystery quilt wallhanging.

Flora, Block #35

Adopt some strip techniques to parts of this block or paper-piece.

Visit these other Farmer's Wife Sew Along blogs, too, for sewing tutorials and other info about making Flora:

We're Doing a new Sew Along!

Gnome Angel invited us to participate in a three-month sew along to make Jen Kingwell's Long Time Gone quilt -- you can use the same templates you used for the Farmer's Wife blocks!  Click here for more information.

March 14, 2017

My Machine Quilting in Sections Craftsy Class is live today!

Many people have asked for a video "to go along with" my book, Machine Quilting in Sections, and I'm thrilled to be able to tell you my new Craftsy class by the same title is now available!

It's always great to see techniques in action. But I'm most excited about sharing new tricks and techniques that aren't even in the book!

This is one of my Scrappy Sedona Stars quilts. It's a big quilt!
Entirely quilted on my Pfaff home sewing machine. You can do it, too.
(You can see a variety of Scrappy Sedona Star quilts here on our website.)
The pieced back is fun, isn't it?

For example, I'll share a great way to turn a ashing strip into a twin finish strip and how to use an encased seam border to enlarge a quilt!

I'm happy to be able to offer a special discount for my new Craftsy class for a limited time. I'm even happier that this link now works! 😊. Click here to visit our website and use "my special link" to save 50% off the regular price. (Coupon cannot be combined with other discounts and expires June 12, 2017.)

I hope you'll take advantage of the introductory sale and share my enthusiasm for Machine Quilting in Sections!

Week 1: Long Time Gone Sew Along | Bow Tie Quit Blocks

You Have to Love a Guy Who Wears Bow Ties

The first blocks are 10-inch Bow Ties. They are easily made with Set Q, the Basic 2-1/2 inch square and it’s most common component parts. This is the only block where I will use Set Q, but it is a really useful set that includes a very nice “how-to” booklet with dozens of blocks to make and quiltmaking tips. The Set Q pieces are generally considered petite — lovely for smaller wallhangings, tote bags and table décor. Having said that, “Did you notice these are the biggest pieces in the entire quilt?”

Marti and Bow Ties

For some reason, I’m quite drawn to Bow Tie quilts. Here is a picture of my favorite Bow Tie quilt. It is the epitome of the “make do or do without” philosophy that many people associate with the origins of patchwork. Both the embroidered date (closeup outlined in pink, below) and the fabrics suggest it was a quilt completed in 1888. (Click the images for larger views.)

Yet on closer examination, we see it was a top that was probably completed in 1888 and made into a quilt during the Depression in the 1930s. The telltale pink, green and blue fabrics in the backing that was brought to the front for binding tell that story. But now, the rest of the story -- It is tied, not quilted and where a seam in the patchwork has broken loose, you can peek in and see that a worn out quilt is what is being used as batting! I can't see enough to identify the pattern.

Here is a top I bought 10 years ago. It has 640 2-1/2 inch Bow Tie blocks. You could make it with Set Q. I paid less than 10 cents apiece! The Bow Ties are hand-pieced and were joined by machine with the alternating white squares.

Here is a snapshot of the well-used quilt made around 1910 or so that we use as a throw on a couch at home. Each bow tie is 4 inches square; you could use Set B to make this one.

There are 4 or 5 more in our antique and vintage quilt collection—like a little subset collection of Bow Tie quilts. Funny thing is, if you asked me, I would claim I’m not really fond of Bow Tie quilts!

Cutting 8 Bow Tie Units for Two 10-inch Blocks

Each block is made of 4 Bow Tie units. Use templates Q-93 and Q-d to cut and Q-a to remove one corner from Q-93:

1. Pick 8 combinations of contrasting background and Bow Tie fabrics. Make sure you are happy with the mix.

2. Cut 2 stacks of 3-inch wide strips, keeping the Bow Tie fabrics in the same order as their corresponding backgrounds (see diagram). Stack as many layers as you feel comfortable cutting; I usually cut in sets of 4. You can cut as many layers as you like, but more importantly, you will have the stacks in the same order to carry to your machine and chain piece. (Strips are shown offset for illustration purposes only; stack your strips evenly.)

From each stack of background fabrics, cut 2 Q-93 squares. Center Q-a on the Q-93 background squares and trim off one corner. (Again, strips are shown offset for illustrations only.)

From each stack of Bow Tie fabric, cut 2 Q-93 squares and 2 Q-d triangles. (The small triangles replace the small 2 inch squares in the pattern.)


Before Putting Your Fabrics Away

Cut a few extra strips for your stash of scrappy fabrics to use later on. You don’t need any strips for these blocks, but cutting a few strips while you have fabrics out will keep the mix of fabrics interesting in upcoming blocks.

Each time you have fabric pressed and flat and your rotary cutter in your hand, cut some nice 1-inch wide strips as long as the length of the fabric, and some strips 1-1/2 inches wide by length of fabric before you put the fabrics away. Do this with fat quarters and Layer Cakes, too. "File" them in an orderly manner so they won't get wrinkled or lost.

This is an easy way to create a nice scrappy stockpile of strips, and you will be happy to have some already cut when we get to blocks that need a lot of strips. There are other widths you will need that I will talk about as we go along.

Making the Bow Tie Blocks

1. Chain piece Q-d triangles to altered Q-93 background squares. Press toward triangles.

2. Cut apart -- keep pairs together and in order.

3. Chain piece Q-93 bow tie squares to matching Q-d triangles from Step 2. Keep pairs together.

4. Continue chain piecing pairs as on page 4 of the Long Time Gone pattern. Press toward unpieced squares. The seam allowances will nestle as you sew halves of the block together.

5. Join matching pairs and finish with a nice swirl press.

My Bow Tie blocks

Here are my blocks and a few 1-inch strips for my stash, both light and dark.

More About Bow Tie Blocks

Click here to see my blog post that featured a 6-inch Bow Tie block made with Set Q in the Farmer’s Wife 1930s Sew Along. We included a bonus 8-1/2 inch block and a PDF for a 6-inch Dimensional Bow Tie. You can also see that block in Volume 2 of our Encyclopedia of Patchwork Blocks.

Visit these other Long Time Gone Sew Along blogs, too, for tutorials, contests and other info:

Use the hash tag #LongTimeGoneSAL to share photos on Instagram.

Long Time Gone by Jen Kingwell. Copyright 2016 by Jen Kingwell Designs. Available on the From Marti Michell website,