Category Archives: snowball blocks

A Late Bloomer

Off to the longarm quilter’s one day and ready for pick-up the next! I certainly landed in her queue at just the right time. Here’s a great in-process shot of the quilting Karlee of SewInspired2Day did on my 12-year-old UFO, newly named Lilacs in September:

I was surprised and delighted that Karlee was able to do an edge-to-edge design over the flange on this quilt top. I was sure that folded strip of fabric would get flipped back on itself when the needle traveled over it from the center of the quilt. Turns out Karlee’s longarm has a special foot for sewing over flanges. And she also basted the flange down first, removing the basting stitches after quilting.

The quilting motif is called Abundant Feathers. I was going for a traditional look for this very traditional nine-patch and snowball block design. Here’s a look at the finished front:


A couple of close-ups:


The thread is a pale grey, which blends with all the fabrics. The quilted feathers enhance the quilt without overpowering it.

Here’s a look at the back . . .

. . . including a detail of the singleton Quatrefoil block:


After trimming the quilt, I laid it on the floor to measure it (51″ x 57″) and take photos. Guess who appeared out of nowhere? Yep. Princess Cordelia, aka Coco.

If she’s not on the quilt, she’s under it:


Oh, about the name Lilacs in September. I was inspired by a 1995 British film called Daisies in December, starring Jean Simmons and Josh Ackland. Filmed in Cornwall, it tells the story of a grumpy senior citizen dumped at a seaside retirement home for two weeks by his vacationing family. He’s determined to have a rotten time. Of course he meets someone interesting . . . but there’s a complication. I had a copy of this film on VHS back in the day. It’s never been released as a DVD in the U.S. but it can be seen on Amazon Prime via the Hallmark Channel. I actually signed up the other day for a free seven-day subscription to the Hallmark Channel just so I could watch the movie again.

If daisies can bloom in December, I wondered, can lilacs bloom in September? (I pulled this quilt out of my sewing room closet on the last day of September.) The answer is yes: although many varieties bloom in spring, there are some later-blooming varieties. You could say this quilt is a late bloomer, given the number of years it’s been in my closet.

Now on to the binding. My first fabric of choice would be the medium dark blue fabric of the inner border. It would make a nice frame for the quilt. Second choice would be the light cornflower blue print of the outer border. After 12 years I didn’t have much hope that I’d find either fabric still in my stash. Oh, happy day! After looking just now I found a 16″ strip of the outer border fabric, more than enough for the binding strips. How perfectly providential!

 

 

 

Posted in cats, Quatrefoil, snowball blocks, update | 10 Comments

Quatrefoil

Isn’t that a lovely block design? It’s called “Quatrefoil,” which means four leaves, and it’s been around a long time. I’ve had my eye on this block ever since a student pointed me to Jenny Doan’s tutorial on the Missouri Star Company’s website. Jenny’s demo features a charming quilt made from precut 10″ squares from a single line of fabric.

I made one 12″ block — dressed up with a fussycut center — to add a little pizzazz to a quilt backing:


The block really deserves to be showcased in a full quilt because the four-patches in the corners form a secondary pattern. If you search for “quatrefoil quilts” on Instagram or Pinterest you’ll see some wonderful examples. My singleton quatrefoil really doesn’t do the quilt block design justice.

The backing you see above was made for the the quilt top I showed you in my last post, the one with snowball blocks and nine-patches that languished in my sewing room closet for a good dozen years. It was sandwiched and partially quilted but I never got very far with it. When I decided to have it quilted by a professional longarm quilter I knew I’d have to make a new backing because longarmers require four extra inches of batting and backing on all four sides to make sure the layers of the quilt can be loaded properly on the frames of their quilting machines. Quilters using their domestic sewing machines typically don’t need to do that.

Even if I had wanted to finish the original quilt sandwich myself I would have needed a new backing because there were two fade lines in the backing fabric where the quilt was folded. I have no idea how those fade lines got there because as far as I recall the backing was never exposed to sunlight. Can fadelines occur in dark closets?? Inquiring minds want to know.

In any case, I was able to salvage part of the original backing fabric and added a couple of other pieces from my stash that work well with the fabrics on the front. The quilt top and back were delivered today to Karlee Sandell of Sewinspired2Day to work her magic. I expect I will have something to show you very soon.

 

 

 

Posted in Quatrefoil, snowball blocks, update | 2 Comments

September Song

Can you picture Frank Sinatra crooning the lyrics to September Song?

“Oh it’s a long long while from May to December . . .”

[never truer than in the time of COVID!]

“But the days grow short when you reach September. . .”

We’ve actually reached the end of September. And until today I hadn’t worked on a single quilt the entire month. Can you believe that? Oh, I did some sewing in September: a few face masks, a pair of pillowcases, a bucket hat. I also worked on a fun home decorating project over the weekend that I’ll tell you about in a bit.

But a quilt? Not until today, when I pulled out this throw-sized quilt top I pieced a dozen years ago:

This little quilt came into being because I had a stack of 9-patch blocks left over from another project. (That’s a lot of leftover blocks, right? A confession: I had pressed the seams in the wrong direction while strip-sewing.) I combined the 9-patches with some snowball blocks, set them all on point, and created this 52″ x 58″ throw.

This project was ready to quilt back in 2008. I had pin-basted it to the batting and backing and had actually sewn a single line of stitching. One line! I have no memory of why I didn’t continue but I have no desire to finish quilting it myself now. My “quiltmaking” today consisted of removing all the basting pins and getting the layers ready to deliver to a longarm quilter.

My plan was to have it quilted with a simple edge-to-edge design. Then I realized that because I added a flange to the interior, the quilt will probably need to be custom quilted. Here’s a close-up of the flange:


Some of the fabrics are ones I would probably not buy now but I like the top well enough to want to finish it.

Now about that home dec project:

My husband and I took our first trip since the pandemic arrived on our shores, driving from Portland to Bend last Thursday to spend a delightful long weekend with my stepmother Shirley. While there I made two tailored bedskirts for her extra-long twin beds. Shirley recently bought new bedspreads with a nautical theme featuring navy and aqua images on a white background. We decided on a solid navy fabric for the bedskirts.

Here’s a look at the pattern I made on graph paper along with the fabric, a navy blender (almost a solid) called “Shadowplay” by Maywood that I like so much I buy it by the bolt:

You may be able to tell from my pattern that the bedskirts have one inverted pleat along the end and two on each side. Because of the dark fabric and the lighting in Shirley’s bedroom I wasn’t able to get good pictures of the completed bedskirts but they did turn out beautifully. You’ll just have to take my word for it!

 

 

 

Posted in bedskirt, family, home dec, snowball blocks, update | 5 Comments

Throwback Thursday: Square Dance (2014)

Throwback Thursday already?? It seems impossible but we are in the final week of January, Week 5 (and Year 5) of my 10-year-lookback at quilts. I started with 2010 at the beginning of the month and now I’m up to 2014.

In Square Dance you see my interpretation of the classic Twist block. Every Twist quilt I’ve ever seen features a solid fabric in the center of each block and two fabrics for the lattice. My version incorporates a lovely folk art floral in the center of each block and 12 fabrics in the lattice — four each of rose, green, and purple:

Square Dance, 55½” x 64½” (2014)

It was quite a challenge getting the balance of fabrics just right but I was very pleased with the outcome.

The beautiful quilting by Melissa Hoffman of Fiddlestitches is hard to see so here’s a close-up:

I remember Melissa telling me she had to wear a headlamp to stitch the free-motion filigree design in the interior of the quilt. Black thread on solid black fabric: what a challenge that must have been!

Square Dance is one of my quilts in rotation on the back of the couch in our living room. In fact, it’s there right now, and I managed to get a shot just now while the sun was briefly shining:

 

 

 

 

Posted in free motion quilting, home dec, snowball blocks, Throwback Thursday, update | 4 Comments

A Slight Miscalculation. . .

Have you ever made a block that didn’t turn out quite like you expected? Perhaps you were surprised by one of the elements but kept on making the block, not realizing you had made an error. That’s what happened to me a few days ago when I made a test block of Star Drops, designed by Margot Languedoc of the Pattern Basket.

Before I bought the pattern I had studied the design, guessing (correctly) that the outer star points were made from hourglass units that were trimmed on one long side. When I made my test block I resized it from 6″ to 12″ finished, adding an additional design element at the last minute. I wrote about that in my last post.

When I trimmed the hourglass units using the calculations I had made for a block that was double in size, I was surprised that the small triangle in the center wasn’t larger. And when I converted the center square into a snowball block by adding a triangle at each corner, I was surprised that the triangles were larger than the ones in the hourglass blocks. I concluded it was because the center square is larger than the other blocks.

I was wrong.

I had cut a quarter-inch too much off the hourglass units. That’s why the blue triangles were smaller than I expected. Oops! And then I cut the four corner squares a quarter of an inch too small. Oops again. My block was supposed to measure 12½” unfinished but it’s a half-inch shy of that.

To illustrate the difference, I drew the blocks in the software program EQ7:

The one on the left is a mock-up of the block I made. You can see that four of the triangles are larger than the other four. This block measures 12″ unfinished, 11½” finished.

The block on the right is a mock-up of what my block would have looked like had I trimmed the hourglass blocks properly and made the corner squares the correct size. It measures 12½” unfinished, 12″ finished. (I’m sure this star block has been made many times before and has a name but I haven’t actively searched for it yet. If you happen to know, kindly leave a comment.)

What to do about my oddly sized block? Well, if it were destined for a quilt of 12″ finished blocks, I’d have a real problem. Happily, I am planning to incorporate this block into a Junior Billie Bag panel that finishes at 14″ x 17″ so I’ll simply cut the sashing strips a bit wider to compensate.

So my block is actually a mistake. But you know what? I love it anyway!

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Billie Bag, Junior Billie Bag, snowball blocks, stitch-and-flip, update | 6 Comments

The Perfect Excuse

I’m teaching a Junior Billie Bag workshop next month so I had the perfect excuse to make a 12″ test block for one of the front/back panels. I’ve been wanting to try Margot Languedoc’s Star Drops pattern since first seeing her charming design on Instagram last year. She has several patterns I want to make, all of which are pictured on her website, the Pattern Basket.

I bought the pattern and studied the construction. Her block finishes at 6″ so I resized it to finish at 12″. Here are the components of my block ready to sew together:


Just as I was getting ready to pin the rows, a thought occurred to me. What would the block look like with eight blue points instead of four? I made a snowball block from the center square using the stitch-and-flip method and wound up with this:


I have double Star Drops! The blue triangles are larger around the center square because the center block is larger than all the other blocks.

As good as the block looks as a square, look at it on point:

Is that not sensational??

It appears my next Junior Billie Bag will be black and blue and white. The floral print in the center of the block is one of several pieces I bought last April in a fit of fabric lust and wrote about here. I think I will make a kaleidoscope block out of that floral for the other front/back panel of my Junior Billie Bag.

 

 

 

Posted in Billie Bag, Junior Billie Bag, snowball blocks, stitch-and-flip, update | 6 Comments

4-Patch Twist Bed Runner

I finished piecing the bed runner I started a couple of weeks ago. (I wrote about it here and here.) When last you saw it, it looked like this, measuring about 34½” x 68″:

Olivia Twist 1

The plan was to increase the length so it would drop over the sides of a queen-size bed. I had very little of the background fabric left, though. (It’s hard to see from the photo that the background fabric is an inky blue and black batik print. I had only a yard to begin with — and I used every bit of it.) I inserted a 1½”-wide decorative strip at each end, working with the two fabrics used as lattice strips around the 4-Patch Wonder blocks in the interior.

Now the bed runner looks like this:

Olivia Twist vert OS

The inserts and end pieces added 10″ to the length. I trimmed a bit from the sides so now the bed runner measures 32″ x 78″.

My quilt already has a name: Olivia Twist. (Yes, that’s a nod to Charles Dickens.) The reasons behind the name? First, the focus fabric is from a line called A Garden for Olivia by In the Beginning Fabrics. Second, the quilt is based on the twist block that produces the wonderful interlocking design you see above. The twist block dates back to 1870, which by coincidence is the very year Charles Dickens died.

Now it’s on to the backing for this quilt. I have a good-sized piece of the focus fabric on hand for the back. People always want to know that the fabric looked like before it was cut up!

 

 

 

Posted in 4-Patch Wonder, bed runners, faux-kaleido quilts, kaleidoscope quilts, snowball blocks, update | 6 Comments

4-Patch Twist Update

It’s still in progress but here’s a shot of the bed runner quilt I’m working on:

Olivia Twist 1
Dawn’s Variation on 4-Patch Wonder with a Twist

Can you believe all the blocks came from the same focus fabric? I never tire of making these faux-kaleidoscope blocks. It’s so much fun to see the amazing variety of images created by stacking four repeats and cutting them into squares. For more information on the fabrics I used and the two simple blocks that created the interlocking twist design, see my previous post.

Right now my quilt top measures 34½” x 68″ but it’s going to be a little bit longer because I want more of a drop over the sides of the bed. I haven’t decided yet whether to simply add strips of background fabric to the short ends or incorporate a pieced element with color.

Hmmm. Maybe I should sleep on it.

 

 

 

Posted in 4-Patch Wonder, bed runners, faux-kaleido quilts, kaleidoscope quilts, snowball blocks, update | 4 Comments

Updating an Old Favorite

Recognize this quilt?

2011-9, It's All in the Twist, 57x65
It’s All in the Twist, 57″ x 65″ (2011)

 

It’s one of my favorites: It’s All in the Twist, made from my 4-Patch Wonder with a Twist pattern. The original quilt has been on display at the Pine Needle Quilt Shop for quite a spell. It was high time, I decided recently, to make a new version, so I started on one last week using these fabrics I showed you a couple of weeks ago:

fabrics
Pleasing Fabric Combo

 

The floral focus fabric is from a line called A Garden for Olivia designed by Lida Enche for In the Beginning Fabrics. I thought it would serve up some interesting and beautiful four-patch kaleidoscope blocks (I call them 4-Patch Wonder blocks) — and I was right. I paired the focus fabric with an aqua blender, also from In the Beginning Fabrics, and two batiks from my stash. The dark batik may look solid black in the photo but it’s actually a navy and black print.

The quilt design is deceptively simple: it starts with a snowball block and an alternating block, both finishing at 6″ square. When the blocks are joined together, you see snowballs surrounded by interlocking ribbons. Take a look at this 4-Patch Wonder snowball block between two alternating blocks:

4-Patch Wonder 1
Two Simple Blocks

 

Now see what happens when the blocks are butted up against each other:

4-Patch Wonder 2
Making the Connection

 

The illusion is complete when rows are sewn together. This is how far I’ve gotten doing just that:

4-Patch Twist in progress 800
4-Patch Twist in Progress

 

Isn’t that pretty?

This is my favorite part of quiltmaking: when you start sewing the rows together and can finally see if the reality matches the picture you had in your head when you chose the fabrics and settled on a design.

I’m departing from the original quilt in one other respect: instead of a throw, I’m making a bed runner. It seems to me the quilt world has been very slow to embrace the concept of bed runners. In 2014 I stayed in hotels seven times, ranging from my home state of Oregon to as far away as New York and Florida, and in every single one the beds were accented with bed runners.

It’s an idea whose time has come. I’m jumping on board! How about you?

 

 

 

Posted in bed runners, faux-kaleido quilts, kaleidoscope quilts, snowball blocks, update | 4 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 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 | 30 Comments