April 25, 2017

Week 7: Long Time Gone Sew Along | Churn Dash Blocks

Templates Used

From Marti Michell Template Set N, Product #8956, pieces #79 and #80

Selecting Fabrics

Select 21 contrasting fabric pairs for the  Churn Dash blocks. You only need a 2-1/2 by 7-inch strip of each fabric to cut all of the pieces for the 3-inch finished Churn Dash blocks, but working with 42 pieces of fabric gives you a great opportunity to cut additional strips for the rest of the quilt.

Look at our strip chart from UK Flag blocks (week 3) and check your strip stockpile to get an idea what additional widths you will need.


1. For each block, put the fabric pairs right sides together. I found it easy to cut 6 layers (3 blocks) at a time. Press and line up the fabrics at one edge and one adjacent corner of the fabric pieces.

2. Cut 2-1/2 by 7-inch strip sets. Cut the strip sets into two strips: 1 inch wide and 1-1/2 inches wide by 7 inches. (My strips are 10 inches long because I had several layer cake fabrics in the sets photographed. No problem, the extra 1 by 3-inch and 1-1/2 by 3-inch strips go in the stockpile.)

3. From the stack of 1-1/2 inch strips, cut 4 N-80 triangle pairs and 1 N-79 square.

Sewing and Pressing

1. Take cut units to machine and chain piece triangle pairs into squares and strip sets along the length.

2. Press toward the dark triangles and toward the dark strips. They are shown on my “Steady Betty” at the ironing board. If you haven’t tried the Steady Betty products we recommend them. They provide an excellent foam surface for pressing that prevents fabric from slipping or more importantly from stretching while pressing. Great for anything, but you will love it for small pieces.

3. Use template N-79 to measure and cut 4 squares from each strip set.

4. Arrange the pieced units and center squares into blocks. I stacked all 3 blocks to make the chain piecing easy. You will have one extra dark square from each combination. It is the correct size for the checkerboard strips in the finishing sections.

5. I like to chain piece the second vertical row to the first vertical row. Leave them connected. Press toward the squares with two strips.

6. Then add the third vertical row. Press toward the squares with strips. The seam allowances in each row will go in opposite directions and butt together. Leave the rows connected.

In the photo below you can see that the third vertical row is being added to the first Churn Dash block and the second block is ready to have its third row added.

The pressing is a little awkward but when the rows are connected it should prevent your from accidentally making this block:

7. Finally take advantage of the opposing seam allowances in the rows, (I call it automatic pinning), as you join the horizontal rows to complete the blocks.

When the rows are joined, press toward the top and bottom rows toward center row.

Unfortunately, every block does not have a perfect pressing plan that creates opposing seam allowances on EVERY seam. When you get ready to join the blocks, you no longer have opposing seam allowances. Be careful as you stitch across the stacked seam allowances while you join the blocks.

TIP: In another project, you might try joining Churn Dash or similar blocks with narrow sashing strips and pressing toward the strips. They frame the blocks nicely and reduce bulk. (See the bonus PDF at the end of this article.)

8. Here are my first 9 Churn Dash blocks. Aren't they cute?

Looking Ahead

I promised a picture of Section 4 from the finishing section (page 29 in the book) and here it is! I’m really happy with the way it is looking and it feels good to have some of the units joined! (This is called Psych Yourself Up…you can finish this quilt and it will be your happy quilt!)

I made a couple of small changes. I like the UK Flags touching, not separated with the gray sashing strips as in Jen's quilt. I joined the flags and then added a 1-1/2 by 4-1/2-inch strip of my checkerboard gray (not quite the same fabric as my sashing gray fabric) to the right end of the flags. Then I extended the sashing strip on the right end of the Trip Around the World block to go the entire height of that block. Those two changes meant my size was still correct.

Next week we are making Courthouse Steps blocks. Then, in next week’s Looking Ahead I’m including tips for chain piecing checkerboard pieces. Jen tells us about making the checkerboards on page 25. The #1 tip: Remember that the gray squares in the diagrams are gray fabric or whatever you chose for sashing. The white squares are prints and for most of us, the prints will be darker than the gray, not lighter. So keep that reversal in mind!


In case you like Churn Dash blocks as much as we do, we are including a PDF to make a fun Churn Dash Checkerboard quilt with Set Q that we used for the Bow Tie blocks. You will see that the method we used for cutting and piecing the Long Time Gone Churn Dash blocks was adapted from this pattern.

Click here to download the PDF.

More About the Churn Dash 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 From Marti Michell website, www.frommarti.com

April 18, 2017

Week 6: Long Time Gone Sew Along | Plus A Star

Tools Used

  • Use Perfect Patchwork Template Set A #8251, square template #5, for measuring strip widths the Marti Way and cutting the squares.
  • Use template triangle A-6 for the half-square triangles.
  • The From Marti Michell 6½” Squaring Up Ruler #8973 was handy for cutting the strips to length.  

Making Plus A Star

Plus A Star is a really easy block…and at the same time, it is really easy to mess up on! My recommendation is don’t even think of making this without some kind of design wall. Unfortunately for me, while I have multiple design walls, they aren’t conveniently close to my machine, so I also made good use of my batting-covered, non-slip portable tray to carry sections between the design wall and the machine sewing and confirming the arrangement.

1. To me the star is the focal point of the block, so I started picking fabric for it that would emphasize my general color scheme and I planned right away to make plus signs of both these “theme” fabrics:

You may remember my talking about them in the fabric selection blog. The pieces in this block let them shine. For the same reason, I have already planned (looking way ahead) that I will have lots of these fabrics in my border.

2. After the star was done, I picked fabrics around it and worked my way up. Because each fabric is in contact with 4 to 6 surrounding fabrics, I thought I would lay out the entire thing and “audition all the actors” before sewing. But after a while I forced myself to commit and join some sections!

I photocopied Jen’s layout diagram and put it on the design wall to keep track of the tessellating plus signs – especially helpful since I was not using the same values as the illustration.

3. As Jen says, “Join the vertical rows.” My sewing system was much like Trip Around The World, except there are very few intersections that have to butt together, which is good and bad! Good, because there is less bulk and easier pressing decisions. Bad, because there were not obvious seams that line up.

I chose to complete the sewing on each vertical row and press every other row in opposite directions, except the Nine Patch and around the star. There I let the triangles control direction.

When joining the vertical rows, pin the ends of the rows and the 2 or 3 opposing seam allowances in each vertical seam to confirm the rows match before sewing. Check that you have pinned the correct edges together before you sew.

Obvious Statement!

In spite of the number of years I’ve sewn patchwork and the hundreds of times I’ve already said this, I can’t help myself— “Isn’t it neat how much better it looks when it is sewn and pressed than when it was just loose pieces on the design wall?”

Having said that, Let’s Look Ahead

Now that Plus a Star is done, if I do just a couple more rounds on one set of 4 Pineapple blocks, I can join the pieces for Section 4; see page 29 in the book.

If you haven't read ahead about Making the Quilt Top, please read page 25 and my next few sentences will make more sense.  I don’t think I mentioned that I had selected a small gray on white print for my checkerboard neutral and had made a small sample. I’ve also decided I’m not using the same fabric for the sashing and the neutral in the checkerboard. They are close, but not the same.

Putting one unit (Section 4) together now is another way of auditioning my choice. With just one section, it isn’t too late to change my mind.

Tune in next week for a picture of that section!

More About the Plus A Star 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, www.frommarti.com


April 11, 2017

Week 5: Long Time Gone Sew Along | Trip Around the World Patchwork

Take advantage of strip piecing to avoid handling 169 individual squares repeatedly while cutting, piecing and pressing. Just because it is scrappy doesn’t mean it has to be piece-by-piece. 😊

I picked the 3 center fabrics from 1-1/2 inch strips I had previously cut and laid them out on my portable design wall. Since it was such a focal point, I did strip piece 6-1/2 inch strips of #2 and #3 fabrics, cut 4 pairs and then sewed them into rows to make sure I liked the center.

Next I picked 4 more fabrics from the group I selected for this quilt. After a few false starts I settled on these. Here they are laid out to see how they progress from the center out. It’s a go. Love that green!

(Click on photos for a larger view).

As I got ready to cut the strips I realized I wanted to center one of the “Y” shapes in the 1 ½” strip. See the pen on the fabric? That is the line I’m talking about.

I loved the effect, but quickly realized I had turned the fabric into a directional print. You can see in this photo that if I only make one strip set, one side of the Y’s go up and one down.

I know most people don’t care, but I’ll sew two different strip sets long enough to cut 8 1-1/2 inch squares (15 inches or so). Press the strips in one direction but remember you will need to repress every other row when you complete the block.

This is the exact number of inches you need for fabric positions 4, 5, 6 and 7. Make strip sets of two, three or four of the fabrics and cross cut into 1-1/2 inch units. Then position those units into rows on your design board. I saw that Jen used two fabrics each in positions 6 and 7. I love the crispness of a defined Trip Around the World and I chose to make the all of the pieces in each position match.

I actually use the 1-inch Log Cabin Ruler to measure and make the cross cut pieces. You can see in this photo how nicely the markings for a, b, and c identify that the finished strips are a perfect 1-inch wide.

Arrange all of the strip units on your design board. (We ran out of space for the last 2 #7 pieces.) You could sew these pieces into complete rows now, but we chose to wait to join the units until the background pieces were added.

Background Pieces

There are 84 background squares, 21 in each corner of the block. We pulled a few appropriate pieces from the fabric strip stockpile and picked 10 new neutrals and cut strips 1-1/2 inch wide by at least 12 inches long. The first thing we did was cut one 1-1/2 inch square from the stack of strips. We will need some single squares. Then we sewed some strips in pairs and one set of three strips together. After pressing, those strips were cross cut into 1-1/2 inch units and arranged randomly on the background corners. Here the units are ready to sew:


Joining the Units and Rows

Work one half at a time. There are different numbers of units in each row so just pick up the first 2 units in each row, going from top to bottom and chain piece. Press them in order and put them back into rows in order.

Do it again from top to bottom, as needed. Not all rows will need a seam. When all of the units are joined on one half, rotate the design board and complete the other half of the block.

Here the rows are ready to be joined.

Every other row needs to have the seam allowances pressed to the right and every other row pressed to the left.

Pairs of rows...

then pairs of pairs..

and finally the completed block, a perfect 13-1/2 inch square, including seam allowances.

More About the Trip Around the World 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, www.frommarti.com

April 4, 2017

Week 4: Long Time Gone Sew Along | Jacob's Ladder Blocks

Make 9 Blocks

4 inches square, finished

Each block has 2 each of 2 units. All of mine are made with two fabrics, but I noticed some of Jen’s have more. The simplest unit is a four-patch. The other unit, sometimes called Honeycomb, is a B-12 square with two contrasting opposite D-29 corners.

Most of the fabrics in my blocks are new to the quilt because I did not have any already-cut 2-1/2 inch strips needed for the squares. It also seemed a good time to add more fabrics to the mix!

Selecting Fabrics

I’ve selected 9 pairs of contrasting fabrics and plan to cut and make 3 blocks at a time. The fabrics are assorted sizes, but none are longer than 18 inches. Since I measure from the right (see “the Marti way to Cut”) I’ve lined up 3 combinations – each pair right sides together – matching the upper right corner and right edge. I’ve turned back a corner of the stack so you can see 6 fabrics – if you look closely, sorry!

Cutting Strips

1. If you kept the Strip Chart from week 3 (U.K. Crosses) you know we need lots of 1 ½” strips so for the Four Patch units in this block, I’m cutting a strip from the stack of 6 fabrics 1 ½ wide and full length. That means some are 10” long, some are 18”, etc.
2. Cut at least 1 strip set 2 ½” wide for the second unit in each block.
3.While you are cutting, cut extra strips. In the next 3 weeks we need 1”, 1 ½” and 2” strips.

Making the Four Patches

1. Cut a section 6 ½” long from each pair of strips.  Sew then together lengthwise, press to the dark and then cross-cut into four 1 1/2” segments.
2. Sew into two 4-patches.

3.Finish off with swirl pressing. As you press all seams in the same direction, you may need to pop a couple of stitches or they may do it on their own to make a nice flat center.

Making the Honeycomb Units

1.Separate the leftover 1 ½” strips. Put the dark strips in the stockpile.
Stack the light fabrics and cut 4 D-29 triangles from each fabric. (Don’ forget to nip the corners!)
2. Separate the 2 ½” strips. Put the light strips in the stockpile. From the dark strips cut 2 B-12 squares.
3. Center the D-28 and trim 2 opposite corners as we did with the Bow Ties.

4. Chain piece D-29 light corners to altered B12 squares. Press toward triangles.

5. Join matching units to make blocks shown.
6. Repeat with two remaining groups of 3 sets of fabrics.

Jacob's Ladder: One Name, Many Ladders

When I got my four quarters of the first 3 blocks put together and looked more closely, I had rotated the 4 patches differently than shown in the pattern.

If it had been just one block, I would have probably taken it apart. But having been so pleased with my chain piecing, I decided it wasn’t a mistake but a new design opportunity! Fortunately there are lots of variations of Jacobs Ladder. Here are my nine.

Oh no! My favorite block…the one in the center…It is too strong…Sometimes your favorite block just has to be turned into a “mug rug” for the sake of the quilt. Ah yes, much better!


Download a PDF for a Jacob's Ladder quilt layout that you can use with almost any size square and half-square triangle combination. You might be surprised by how different the quilt design looks when the blocks are rotated!

We've also got a PDF for you on quick cutting and sewing four-patch units using From Marti Michell templates and strips. You might also be surprised to know there are 21 sizes of square templates in the From Marti Michell product line -- with matching half-square triangles -- and you probably have a lot of them! Click here to visit our website for a list of sizes and download that PDF for future reference.

More About Jacob's Ladder Blocks for Long Time Gone

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



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