Author Archives: Dawn

Reach for the Stars: Block 9 (Modified)

As Yogi Berra would say, “It’s deja vu all over again.” Block 9 of Reach for the Stars is finished, but not without a last minute change – just like Block 8, which I wrote about in my last post. I’ve been working on this sampler quilt since last fall, when Quilter’s Newsletter began a seven-part series with the Oct./Nov. 2013 issue.

As soon as I saw the original Block 9 (shown below) I knew I would be tweaking it a bit.

Block 9 photo from QNM
Designer Terry Krysan’s Block 9
Copyright Quilter’s Newsletter. Used with permission. Photo by Melissa Karlin Mahoney.

I liked the fussy-cut corners and center nine-patch but the asymmetry of the block bothered me. Since the quilt features stars in its center medallion and among its 14 blocks, I decided to include a star in this block.

Here is my revised Block 9 up on the design wall, with the nine units ready to sew together:

Block 9, ready to sew-001
Ready to Sew — But Wait!


I wasn’t quite ready to move the units to my sewing machine, however. There was something about that block I wasn’t loving. On a hunch I cut a little square of black fabric and stuck it the middle of the center nine-patch. I liked the effect so much that I remade the nine-patch. Then I sewed the units together.

Now take a look at my block:

Block 9 after
The Final Version (Finishes at 12″)

It needed that, yes?

And here it is on point, as it will be in the finished quilt:

Block 9 on point
Block 9 on Point


An overview of my progress so far:

2014-4 RFTS so far
Dawn’s Blocks to Date


Next up: sashing strips around each block and a second sashing strip around the center medallion. I should be able to get that done before the next issue of Quilter’s Newsletter arrives with information on Blocks 10, 11, and 12.






Posted in Reach for the Stars sampler quilt, update | 3 Comments

Reach for the Stars: Block 8 (Before and After)

I’m making headway (albeit slowly) on my version of Reach for the Stars, the queen-size sampler quilt featured in Quilter’s Newsletter magazine. Directions for the quilt, which contains a center medallion and 14 blocks, are unfolding over the course of seven issues.

If you’ve been following my progress you’ve already seen my center medallion flanked by my first seven blocks:

RFTS with 7 blocks
One Medallion, Seven Blocks


This morning I was ready to sew the segments of Block 8 together. There they were, up on my design wall:

Block 8 before
Block 8, Ready to Sew — But Wait!


I had followed designer Terry Krysan’s original block design shown here:

Block 8 photo from QNM
Terry Krysan’s Block 8
Copyright Quilter’s Newsletter. Used with permission. Photo by Melissa Karlin Mahoney.

My thought was that the four rectangles on the outside of the block would look good made from one of my two focus fabrics, the one that features a border stripe. But the more I looked at my block components, the more I thought something wasn’t quite right. Hmmm. How would it look if I extended the stripe to the outside edges of the white triangles? I folded a piece of the striped fabric across the top part of the block . . .

Block 8 auditioning change
Auditioning a Change

. . . and I liked what I saw. I’m so glad I made the decision to make new flying geese units before I sewed the block together.

Now Block 8 is done:

Block 8 after
Dawn’s Block 8 (Sashing to Come)


Here it is on point, as it will be in the finished quilt:

Block 8 on point
Block 8, in Proper Position on Point


I really like the way the striped fabric looks on the diagonal. Sometimes a quilt just tells you what it wants!




Posted in Reach for the Stars sampler quilt, update | 6 Comments

Template Tool for Triangles: A Tutorial

Last August I posted a tutorial about using template plastic as a sewing guide when making snowball blocks (you can see the post here). I noted that the template could be used with just about any block that calls for a triangle to be made from a square or rectangle.

Using a template eliminates the need to draw lines marking the diagonal — for snowball or square-in-a-square blocks, for example – or ¼” inch on either side of the diagonal, as you might for Half-Square Triangles made from two squares of fabric. Drawing lines on fabric may not seem like a big deal but it takes a surprising amount of time, especially if you are working on a big project.

The template I made back in August measured 2½” x 4½”, the perfect size for the 6″ snowball blocks I was working on at the time. When I started working earlier this year on my version of Reach for the Stars, a medallion sampler quilt with triangles of all sizes in every single block, I made a larger plastic template with a couple of modifications.

I’ll show you how I used it in Block 7 of my Reach for the Stars project:

2014-4 RFTS Block 7

See the five square-in-a-square components in the center of the block? They’re the blue and green ones and the one in the very middle of the block.

For each square-in-a-square, I first sewed two squares on opposite corners, trimmed the seam, and pressed the seam toward the corners. Now I’m getting ready to sew the third square on:

template tool 1

I lay the template on top of the fabric with the right edge of the template lined up with the diagonal of the square:

template tool 2

Because I can see through the plastic, I can easily see that my template is positioned correctly. Did you notice that the right edge of the template is marked with black ink? That helps me see the edge of the tool on light fabric. When I’m sewing on dark fabric, I used the other edge.

Now I’m ready to sew. With the needle down I position the fabric right next to the edge of the template . . .

template tool 3

. . . and start sewing. As I stitch I can see that the edge of my template is in position along the diagonal of the square. My left hand on the template keeps it firmly in place:

template tool 4

On bigger pieces I use both hands to keep the fabric and template in place.

Here is my square-in-a-square, with the two edges ready to be trimmed and pressed:

template tool 5

(Every now and then as I am sewing next to the template I let the needle get too close to the template and it takes tiny bites out of it. That’s why you see what looks like perforation marks on the edge. I can still use the template for quite a while but eventually I will make need to make a new one. And change my needle.)

Now what about those lines on the inside of the template, you ask? They are exactly ¼” and ½” in from the edge on both sides. When I am sewing Half-Square Triangles (HSTs) made from two squares, the ¼” line is on the diagonal and the edge of the template is right where it needs to be. To illustrate, I have two 5″ squares, right sides together, ready for the first line of stitching:

template a

See how the ¼” line is on the diagonal of the squares?

Stitching the first line:

template b

When I flip the block around to sew the second line, that ½” line on the template is directly on top of my first stitching line. I am lifting up a corner to show you what I mean:

template c

Strictly speaking, that ½” marking isn’t necessary but I like it because it gives me one more way to test the accuracy of my stitching.

Would you like to make your own template? Here’s what you  need:

– a strip of template plastic (frosted or clear) about 2¼” x 10″
– a piece of scratch paper (8 1/2″ x 11″ is perfect)
– a clear acrylic ruler (my favorite size for this purpose is 4″ x 14″)
– an Ultra Fine-Point Sharpie (or other fine point permanent marking pen) in black

1. Lay the strip of plastic on the scratch paper and, using a ruler and Ultra Fine-Point Sharpie, draw a scant ¼” line from one long edge:

template 1

The measurement needs to be scant  because 1) the line you draw with the pen will add to the measurement and 2) when using the template you will be stitching right next to the edge of it.

2. Draw a line exactly 1/4″ away from the first one:

template 2

3. Repeat for the other side:

template 3

4. Lay the ruler very close to one edge and draw a solid line. You shouldn’t be able to see the edge of the plastic at all:

template 4

The reason for working on top of scratch paper:

template 5

Wasn’t that easy?

If you decide to make this template tool, please leave a comment to let me know how it’s working for you. Happy sewing!




Posted in Reach for the Stars sampler quilt, snowball blocks, stitch-and-flip, update | 3 Comments

Reach for the Stars: Halfway There!

With the completion of Block 7, I am halfway through my sampler quilt Reach for the Stars, featured in a seven-part series in Quilter’s Newsletter magazine. Here is my Block 7:

2014-4 RFTS Block 7
Block 7, 12 1/2″ Unfinished


Here it is on point, as it will be in the finished quilt:

2014-4 RFTS Block 7 on point
On Point, with Fussy-Cut Center


And now for a full progress report: the first seven (of what will be 14) blocks surrounding my center medallion:

RFTS with 7 blocks
Sashing to Come

The center medallion will have a strip of blue sashing next to the black that’s already there, and the individual blocks will have black or green sashing, depending on their final placement in the quilt. The sashing will greatly enhance the finished look of the quilt, as you can see by looking at Terry Krysan’s original quilt:


Copyright Quilter’s Newsletter. Used with permission. Photo by Melissa Karlin Mahoney.

If you take a close look at the picture above, you’ll see that many of the blocks contain half-square triangles or square-in-a-square components. I used to spend a lot of time and effort marking sewing lines on my fabric pieces to make units like these. Not any more! In my next post, I’ll show you a little sewing aid I made out of template plastic that eliminates the need to mark sewing lines on my fabric pieces, speeding up block construction considerably. (You would think I’d get my blocks done faster but I still spend way too much time auditioning fabrics — and then second-guessing my choices. Time to start that process now for Block 8!)

Speaking of Block 8, Jennifer Gwyn of has already finished Block 8 and Block 9. Check out her site to see pictures of her lovely work in progress.

Thanks for stopping by!




Posted in Reach for the Stars sampler quilt, update | 4 Comments

Reach for the Stars: Jennifer V’s Blocks 5-7

More Reach for the Stars Show and Tell, this time from Jennifer Varney of Hudson, New Hampshire. Reach for the Stars is a queen-size sampler quilt with directions coming in seven consecutive issues of Quilter’s Newsletter magazine. Designed by Terry Krysan, the quilt features a center medallion and 14 blocks, all set on point.

Jennifer V (one of four Jennifers I know of currently making this quilt) has chosen to arrange her blocks in straight sets because she wants a smaller quilt with fewer blocks. You can see her center medallion and first five blocks in this post from March, which also shows the original quilt made by Terry Krysan.

Jennifer decided to remake Block 5, not because of a cutting error that would have been cleverly disguised with the sashing that goes around the block but because she wasn’t happy with one of her fabric choices. Here is her new Block 5:

Jennifer Varney's Block 5 (redone)
Jennifer Varney’s Block 5

Love that touch of sparkle from the metallics!

And here are her two latest blocks:

Jennifer Varney's Block 6
Jennifer Varney’s Block 6
Jennifer Varney's Block 7
Jennifer Varney’s Block 7

Terry Krysan’s design for Block 7 includes five fussy-cut circles appliquéd in the 3″ squares that make up the centers of the five stars. Jennifer V has opted not to add the circles and I may not either. There’s already a lot going on in this block. I’ll decide when I get to that point.

By the way, we have two new official converts to Reach for the Stars! My friend Colleen is almost done with her center medallion (her feature fabrics are from the Morris Apprentice line by Barbara Brackman for Moda) and our mutual friend Linda is jumping on board with Barbara Brackman’s latest line of Arts and Crafts-inspired fabric, Morris Modernized, featuring the designs of C.F.A. Voysey, the “informal successor” to William Morris. Rest assured I will post pictures when Colleen’s and Linda’s blocks are ready to be revealed!

In the meantime, if my sewing plans for this weekend are realized, I’ll be ready to reveal my own Block 7 very soon.




Posted in Reach for the Stars sampler quilt, update | 2 Comments

Reach for the Stars: Sherri’s Blocks 5 and 6

Oh boy! I get to show you two new blocks in Sherri Crisp’s version of Reach for the Stars, the series sampler quilt unfolding in consecutive issues of Quilter’s Newsletter magazine. Sherri, who’s from Knoxville, Tennessee, is one of a small but growing group of quilters whose progress is being charted here and on Jennifer Gwyn’s website/blog,

First, behold Sherri’s  Block 5 . . .

Sherri's Block 5
Block 5 by Sherri Crisp

. . . and now look at it on point, as it will be in her finished quilt:

Sherri's block 5 on point
Sherri’s Block 5 on Point

Don’t you love the pinwheel effect?

Here is Block 6 as a square . . .

Sherri's Block 6
Block 6 by Sherri Crisp

. . . and here it is on point:

Block 6 on point (2)
Block 6 on Point


And here are all of Sherri’s blocks to date in position around the center medallion:

RFTS Sherri's medallion and blocks 1-6
Sherri Crisp’s medallion and blocks

Simply spectacular, Sherri!





Posted in Reach for the Stars sampler quilt, update | 4 Comments

Reach for the Stars: Block 6

Well, it’s about time! Recent events have conspired to keep me out of my sewing room but I am happy to report that I am back in it and working on Reach for the Stars, the series sampler quilt currently featured in Quilter’s Newsletter magazine. I just finished Block 6:

RFTS Block 6
Block 6, Finishes at 12″ Square


The pattern as designed by Terry Krysan calls for the center block to be an hourglass but I substituted a faux-kaleido 4-Patch Wonder block (my name for a block made of four identical layers of fabric that are cut in squares and then rotated to make a pleasing symmetrical design).

Here is the block on point, as it will be in the finished quilt:

RFTS Block 6 on point
So Pretty on Point


Here are my first six blocks:

RFTS 1st six blocks
Do You Have a Favorite?


I’ve decided to incorporate some fussy-cutting into each block. With eight more blocks to go, I have plenty of time to change my mind but for now I’m liking the added visual interest the fussy-cut images bring.

By the way, fellow Portlander Jennifer of the quilted cat has joined the merry band of quilters (which includes three other Jennifers) making Reach for the Stars! Check out her palette and great fabric choices here.




Posted in 4-Patch Wonder quilt, faux-kaleido quilts, Reach for the Stars sampler quilt, update | 6 Comments

Sous le Ciel de Paris

That’s French for “Under Paris Skies.” It’s the name of a song I bet you’d recognize if I hummed a few bars. It’s also the name of my newly finished little quilt:

2014-03-04 23.28.23

Under Paris Skies measures about 18″ x 55″. I used eight different fabrics in the octagons, five of them fussy-cut. No matter which way you turn the quilt, you see vignettes of Parisians young and old enjoying a spring day in the City of Light. There’s an Eiffel Tower in each block, too.

The quilt below, which I finished a few weeks ago, is the same size and design but has a completely different look, more like a real kaleidoscope viewed through a tube made of bits of colored glass or paper. When the tube is rotated, the reflections produce changing patterns that are visible through an eyehole.

Fall Kaleido horizontal

This quilt is named Autumn Reflections. The focus fabric, from the Autumn Harvest line by Jason Yenter for In the Beginning Fabrics, has pumpkins on it, big leaves, and grapes or berries. You’d never know it from looking at the finished blocks, though. Interesting how cutting up the focus fabric into 45 degree wedges completely changes what you see.

I’m going to be teaching a class in June on this design. Students can make their quilt with eight repeats of fabric, as in the autumn version, or eight different fabrics, as in the spring version. Vive le différence!







Posted in kaleidoscope quilts, update | 3 Comments

The Fabric Fairy

Every now and then I get to play the Fabric Fairy. With just a wave of my virtual wand, I can make a quilter very happy. How, you ask? Well, every week or two I visit a website called It was started sometime in the 1990s by Tricia Knox of Escondido, California, who had the brilliant idea of using the power of the Internet to help people locate fabric they need for a quilt or sewing project. Fabric seekers post images and descriptions in the Gallery of Missing Fabric (one of the links on the home page) and people from all over the world respond if they can help. Isn’t that wonderful?

I discovered the website about three years ago when searching myself for a particular fabric. Seeing that a quilter was looking for two blue and white Timeless Treasures prints that I happened to have in my stash, I dashed off a reply. Thus started a lovely email correspondence with Janke from the Netherlands, who was so very happy to get the fabric she needed for a quilt she was working on with her daughter, Liselotte.

Imagine my pleasure when Janke sent me a photo the following year of the finished quilt top:

Janke and Liselotte's quilt front

Isn’t that stunning? Liselotte used the leftover fabric to piece the back:

Janke and Liselotte's quilt back

Liselotte is hand-quilting this beauty. She has a baby on the way, so it may be some time before we see the finished quilt. When we do, though, it will be spectacular!

Since my first experience as the Fabric Fairy, I have sent fabric to several other quilters. It’s a great way to do a bit of de-stashing, and the recipients are overjoyed that their searches yielded results. Just last week I checked the Gallery of Missing Fabric and saw that someone was looking for this fabric:

Sue Beevers fabric

Isn’t it pretty? It’s from the Surrey Footpaths line by Sue Beevers for RJR Fabrics. I remember buying this fabric at a quilt show about five years ago. Turns out that a quilter named Josslyn in Texas needs a yard of it, so it’s on its way to her now.










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Reach for the Stars: Block 4 Do-Over

In my last post I showed you my center medallion and first five blocks of Reach for the Stars, the series sampler quilt currently featured in Quilter’s Newsletter magazine. Here’s another look at my blocks:

Center medallion and blocks 1-5

You may remember that I departed from Terry Krysan’s original design and inserted a circle in the middle of my Block 4. I liked the effect very much but the more I looked at my blocks together on the design wall, the more convinced I was that Block 4 needed an overhaul. The circle needed to be bigger for the block to holds its own next to its neighbors.

I took the block apart and added a new center block, choosing a different fussy-cut image to fill the larger circle. Here’s the old Block 4 . . .

2014-2 RFTS Block 4
Out with the Old

. . . and the new Block 4:

New block 4
In with the New


That’s an inset circle, by the way, not an appliqué. Here’s the new block on point, its proper orientation in the quilt:

RFTS new block 4 on point
New Block 4, On Point


Now take a look at my center medallion and first five blocks:

Center medallion and blocks 1-5 with new 4

Better, yes? It just feels more balanced to me.




Posted in Reach for the Stars sampler quilt, update | 8 Comments