Tiger Lily and a Cherished Quilt.

This hexie block, like many quilts, grew from a happy convergence of ideas and circumstances. A request from my sister-in-law to make quilts for their beds, my current obsession with anything with a 60 degree angle, and a bundle of Tiger Lily by Heather Ross, a whimsical purchase last year that I immediately felt guilty for. I had no plans for this fabric, I had just wanted the "Small Roses" in Yellow and this bundle ended up being the best way to get it.

I've pulled the bundle out a few times over the past six months and sat uneasily with it. It's such a warm collection, with no relief from aqua or blue. It's almost too sunny for my usual taste.

When I saw this block on Pinterest, it struck me as a great one for fussy cutting big prints, like these forest designs in Tiger Lily. I already had 2" diamonds and hexagons (which I cut in half), that meant the centre hexagon sides needed to be 4". So I asked Tim if he could cut me some 4" hexagons (hexies seems too small a word for these monsters!) on his newly completed laser cutter. Too easy!

The excitement surrounding a laser cutter that can cut EPP shapes for me warranted diving back into my stash and giving Tiger Lily another go. I decided to fill it out with other prints and solids, within the same colour palette. There's something about adding solids to this line that helps it breathe a little for me. I don't really need another hand piecing project at the moment, but writing it on a list just didn't get it out of my head. I just needed to make one block. And then I could put it aside. Promise.

4" hexies are a huge 8" across. Big for English Paper Piecing, but not so huge by normal quilting standards, and certainly not too big for this print. Those girls in the tree fit inside the hexie perfectly, don't you think? Each finished block is 8" along each edge. It's nice having an English Paper Piecing quilt where the fabric does half the work for you!

I sat auditioning border prints until I was happy with these ones above. And then, as you'll see below, I swapped out the low volume print. It needed something with a different scale. All the flowers were the same size, and, well, floral. The crosshatch I eventually settled with gives it a nice balance.

I love 2" diamonds, mostly because they so nicely fit in a 2.5" strip. I fit 6 diamonds almost perfectly along a strip cut from the short edge of my fat quarter. 

I stitched the border together in sections, first attaching the brown inside border to the top two sides of the pink diamond, and then joining the pink and white crosshatch. 

 And then I stitched the border to each side of the 4" hexagon. Because my stitching isn't perfect, it was great to have some clover clips to hold the edge of each seam evenly so I didn't accidentally push the border right over the edges. Once the hexagon was stitched around, I just had the six corner seams to do.

I called this quilt-to-be "Cherished" because I thought it would be perfect for any much loved kids line with beautiful illustrations, or those big, elaborate prints we find so hard to cut into. For a single (twin) sized quilt, I need 28 blocks and 4 half blocks. I hope to make these slowly (very slowly!) over the next year or so. That's if I can stop myself from designing a million other fun quilts that only a laser can cut! 

Spanish Moss - Red Sky at Night Quilt

In our adventurous, pre-children years, Tim and I traveled to Europe to study in Russia, visit friends, and walk the Camino de Santiago, a 1000 year old Catholic pilgrimage through the north of Spain. We walked 25 kilometres a day (around 15 miles) for two weeks straight, a total of 300 kilometres. It was so challenging, but also the most rewarding and relaxing leg of our five month trip. Each day we woke up, bought a chocolate pastry and a coffee, and started walking. When we got tired, we stopped for a break, when old ladies stopped us on the side of the road to sell their homemade cheese, we bought it. It was a journey you could drive in an afternoon, but taking two weeks meant we ate afternoon tea overlooking purple hills of Spanish heather, we took in creeks and farms and German tourists. We watched bread bake in an old woodfire oven, and then ate it for lunch. It's amazing what you can see and taste and feel when you go slowly.

Last year I made a hexagon quilt while I waited for my baby girl to grow inside me. A friend once asked why I chose a pattern with such small pieces that had to be hand-stitched. Surely a blanket could be made in an afternoon? I can't remember my words exactly, but I remember a conversation following about taking our time. About making slowly being an important part of the experience. Choosing the little colours, basting them over the hexagon paper, stitching them together piece by piece. This was a quilt that would express part of who I am. It would be part of my memories of being pregnant, part of my hopes for this little girl, an expression of my love for her, that I would be willing to take my time.

When I found Spanish Moss in a random quilt book earlier this year, I immediately loved it. I can't find it anywhere in Barbara Brackman's Quilt Block Encyclopaedia in the nine-patch section, and when you google it, you get nothing. So if you know this block by another name, let us know!
For the star points I used the method where you lay the small square over the large one and sew diagonally across it, wasting a small triangle. I've always felt uncomfortable with this method for sewing triangles, prefering half square triangles. But we've sewn a lot of those this year, and I'm learning that they're not always the most efficient choice. All that cutting and pressing and trimming and sewing back together again. I'll be using this method more often, believe me! Even if just to shake things up a bit! ;)


You will need:

Red: Three 4.5" squares, eight 2.5" squares, two 3 3/8" squares.

White: Seven 4.5" squares, four 2.5" squares, one 3 3/8" squares.

1. Sew three of the 4.5" red squares to three of the white squares, around each side. These will be the half square triangles. Cut through the square diagonally, and then in half again. Press and trim to 2.5"

2. Cut the two red 3 3/8" squares in half diagonally. Sew the opposite sides on first, Press towards the red, and then sew the other corners.

3. For the star points, sit a red 2.5" square in the corner of a white 4.5" square. Sew through the red square diagonally across the corner. Trim the excess little triangle 1/4" from the seam and press toward the red.

4. Repeat on the next corner, then repeat on three other white 4.5" squares.

5. Arrange each of your 2.5" half square triangles around a 2.5" square as pictured below.

6. Sew together in pairs and press open. Sew those pairs together to make 4.5" squares.

7. Arrange your block as pictured with the little triangles pointing towards the star. Sew together in rows of three. Press.

8. Sew your rows together and voila! Another pretty star for your collection!

I had another friend, an artist, once say to me that she could never quilt, because she couldn't cope with losing all that fabric in the seams. What a waste! But quilting reminds me that life isn't just about conserving energy or time or the odd quarter inch of fabric. It's not about taking the fastest route or the easiest option. There is great value in stitches done by hand, in sewing red corners to a square to make a star, in cutting up beautiful prints and sewing them back together again. It's not waste. It's experience and beauty and effort and love. And these are worth far more than economy.

Underground Railroad - Red Sky at Night Quilt

When I first embarked on this year long quilt block history project, this is one of the blocks I especially had in mind. I'd heard stories over the years about quilts being used in the Underground Railroad to help free slaves. Incredible! Imagine if I could find similar kinds of stories about other traditional quilt blocks!
Those of you who have been following this quilt along know the road hasn't been so straight forward.  Many quilt blocks were made because they were pretty or interesting or inspired by nature or everyday household items or Bible stories. The interesting history has not come with the individual blocks, but with the way quilt patterns were shared, first published in farm journals, then later in books. Before the 1890s, women would know a collection of patterns that were handed down from their mothers or shared with neighbours. Newspapers brought about an explosion in quilting, quilt block design, and shared patterns, and quilt names. The names and symbols we know so well in traditional quilt blocks only became important with the advent of published journals. Even though quilt making has been common in America since the 1800s, I've been surprised to learn that much of quilt block history comes from the twentieth century, not the Civil War period, as I imagined.

Underground Railroad was published under the name Jacob's Ladder, in the first known quilt book Quilts: Their Story and How to Make Them, by Marie Webster in 1915. Ruth Finley, another quilt book author, named it the Underground Railroad in 1930, and claimed the block to be 'pre-revolutionary', though there is no evidence that the block was made at all before 1900. Other names include "Road to California", "Off to Chicago", and "Under the Covered Wagon".

In 1987, the first mention of a 'quilt code' appeared briefly in an unsubstantiated comment in a feminist film. It asserted that quilts were made specifically for the underground railroad which helped slaves escape north to freedom. Later, the story developed that ten different blocks, like the churn dash, and log cabin, held special meaning, communicating secretly to slaves the location of a safe house, or to 'carry tools,' 'prepare food,' or wait for a ride north. An explosion in slave quilt myths, tourism and business, and historical study followed. I even found educational literature for primary schools! It's a great story. But unfortunately, it has no historical basis. According to Betty Ross, over 300 first hand accounts of slave escapes along the Underground Railroad have been preserved, yet not one mention of quilts or quilt blocks! Sigh. I would have enjoyed telling my kids that one.

If you'd like to read more, check out The Underground Railroad Quilt Code by Betty Ross, or Facts and Fabrications by Barbara Brackman.


You will need:

Red: Two 5" squares cut in half diagonally, ten 2.5" squares.

White: Two 5" squares cut in half diagonally, ten 2.5" squares.

1. Sew all the red 2.5" squares to the white ones.

2. Sew the red triangles to the white triangles. Press seams open and trim to 4.5"

3. Lay out your block as pictured below. Interestingly, this block is exactly half white, half red. So you can flip the blocks to make it look 'red on white' rather than 'white on red.'

4. Sew the blocks together in rows, and then those rows together.

Our quilt blocks tell stories, but not in the way I expected. We like things to be old. I like to think of women stitching the same quilts as me on the Oregon Trail or the Underground Railroad. I like to read Laura Ingalls Wilder to the kids before bed and wonder which patterns they used. But most of these blocks don't come from these women telling their stories. They come from their daughters and granddaughters telling these stories. American quilt block history is not the story of pioneer women shaping a nation. It's the story of telling stories. They are about connecting across borders, making friends, sharing ideas, being inspired, and reminding themselves of who they are, what they believe, and where they come from, all in the context of the wars and depression of the early 1900s. It's a wonderful history. And I hope we don't feel it needs adding to.

Rosebud - Red Sky at Night Quilt

The Rose! It's such a long time, significant cultural symbol. We can quote references from Shakespeare and the Bible, we've associated it with passion and romance since the Ancient Greeks, we've used it to represent states and nations, revolution and peace, football and space programs. So it's little wonder it became a popular motif for applique and patchwork as early as the 1800s. In Barbara Brackman's Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns, there are nearly 30 blocks with the name Rose in it, and that doesn't include applique!

This block was first published in the Ladies Art Company Catalogue #17 in the 1920s, the only edition of which I couldn't find a copy online! But I did find this collection of the quilt pattern catalogues up to #16. It's so fun to see them set out like they were. Just send 10c in an envelope to the address, and receive the full pattern. I wonder how many just figured it out themselves from the catalogue? That's what I would have done!

Today on my Google adventure, I clicked on a link to a brief bio of Rose Kennedy, mother to the Kennedy boys, and social and political extraordinaire. She lived to 104 (!) through an incredible century of wars, depression, wealth, and change. And at her funeral, her son Ted said this,

"She sustained us in the saddest times—by her faith in God, which was the greatest gift she gave us—and by the strength of her character, which was a combination of the sweetest gentleness and the most tempered steel."

Gentleness and strength, passion and peace, they are the things I'll be reminded of this week when I look at my Rosebud in it's place on the design wall.

I had a real win with quilt maths this week! I'm understanding more, as I make these blocks, what's required for seam allowances, and how to break a block down. I spent so much time enjoying this block coming together (look at me! I can do triangles in triangles!), that I fell completely short taking photos. Sorry! You can't hit all the goals at once, apparently.


You will need:

Red: Two 7" squares cut in half diagonally, two 3" squares cut in half diagonally, two 4.5" squares.

White: Two 5" squares cut in half diagonally, two 4.5" squares.

1. Sew each of the red 4.5" squares to each of the white 4.5" squares, around each edge.

2. Cut in half diagonally, and in half again. Press seams open or towards the red and trim to 2.5".

3. Lay out your pieces as below. It will help you keep in mind which side of which triangle to sew. A simple rule is that the long sides of each triangle face the middle of each bud.

4. Sew your trimmed 2.5" HST next to each other for each bud.

5. Sew the white triangle to this piece, first lining up the straight edges together as below. In the picture below, you'll sew your seam across the top.

6. Next, attach your small red triangle to complete that bud. Start by lining up the straight edges together, then stitching along the top.

7. Sew this triangle made of triangles (woohoo!) to the red half square triangle to make a 6.5" square. Check its size. Trim to 6.5" if you need to.

8. Lay your squares back out again as above. Sew them together by two, then those two together to complete your block.

It's a sweet flower, don't you think? Doing this series is giving me such an appreciation for these everyday things represented in squares and triangles. The modern version on foundation paper piecing is admirable, and often amazing, but the simplicity of these blocks are so striking and timeless, don't you agree?

Star Crossed Sew Along

The first thing that crossed my mind, when I was sent this Star Crossed pattern to try, was how fun it would look in scraps, little scraps. I'd had in mind for a while that I wanted to make a quilt featuring Maureen Cracknell's Luminous Field Print, a delicious low volume floral, made of beautiful warm colours. And I knew this would be just perfect! I pulled a bunch of matching prints from my stash and started to cut.  In usual fashion, I immediately altered the pattern, and got so excited about the design that I ran straight for the single (twin) bed option.

Unfortunately 20 blocks worth of star points quickly ate up my stash of Luminous Field. It was then that this Catnap print by Lizzy House made its debut. As much as I would have loved Maureen's floral art to be a feature in this quilt, those cats, fitting perfectly in a 4.5" square, a perfect colour match, and pretty challenging to use anywhere else, became a very fun change of direction. I'm pretty excited with the result. It's everything I love about scrappy postage stamp quilts but sparkly! I love that the eye has somewhere to rest and move. It's like fireworks, don't you think?

This turned out to be the quilt that broke the camel's back, mechanically speaking. My machine, long in desperate need for a service, starting groaning and breaking needles. I managed to coax it along gently for this finish. And my iron died a messy, spluttering death on the home stretch! It felt like the perfect opportunity to try out Jeannette from Gone Aussie Quilting's quilting service. I can't wait to see the result! What kind of edge to edge design would you try out on these sparkles?

So, after pushing myself to get some hard-won finishes the last month, being without my machine for a few weeks actually feels like an exciting creative challenge! I'm thinking hexies. I'm thinking appliqué. I'm even thinking Broderie Perse. Ooh!

Thanks so much Fat Quarter Shop for inviting me to make this pattern! Check out these other blogs and #starcrossedsewalong in Instagram for other interpretations of the design.

Daisy of Ants to Sugar
Lucy of Charm About You
Julie of the Crafty Quilter
Angie of Gnome Angel
Dana of Old Red Barn Co.
Natalia of Piece N Quilt
Heather and Megan of Quilt Story
Amy of Sew Incredible Crazy