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Trip Around the Garden

Hi everyone!  I can’t believe it is October already.  Time seems to be flying by this year.  It’s already fall.  Fall is really my favorite season of the year because it is such a huge relief after the heat of the summer to have cool weather.  I love the crisp air and the changes in color and light during this season.  The evenings seem cozier because the sun is going down earlier.  I start to think about baking things all the time because the house is finally cool enough to turn on the oven.  However, that did not happen last week.  Last week, we had a heat wave in which temps around here in New England reached almost to the nineties and we had our air conditioners on every day.  That wasn’t very fall-like weather!  I think the heat got to me because when I remembered that October is the month for me to plan the quilt for my charity quilt, I turned to bright summery-springy colors instead of autumn.

This month, I really wanted to keep things simple because I just don’t have a lot of time right now to do anything too complicated.  I also wanted to try this technique of making trip around the world blocks.  Basically, you sew strips of fabric together in a tube, slice them, and then rip out one seam in each slice to create a block that has a diagonal pattern to it.  When you put them all together, they can make a nice all over repeating pattern.  If that didn’t make sense, I’ll show you step by step.

First, you will need 7 strips of fabric, each 2.5 inch by 18 inches long.  For my Aspire Circle friends, I am requesting:

1 strip of white

2 strips of pink

2 strips of green

2 strips of yellow

Arrange them like this: Pink, green, yellow, white, pink, green, yellow

Using a Scant 1/4 inch seam sew them together along their length.  The last seam, you will sew the first and last strips together to get a fabric tube.  Pay attention to your scant.  If you are off a little, the accumulation of all the seams will make your block too big or small if the seam allowance is not just shy of 1/4 inch.  Ask me how I know.

Now, line up a bottom seam with a line on your cutting mat and trim a little off the edge to make it nice and straight.  Then, you want to cut 2.5 inch strips.  You should end up with 7 identical strips, each in a tube and two little trimmings to just throw away.

Now, here’s where it can get a little tricky.    You’ll need to make sure you go in the same direction when opening up the seams for each strip.  Pick one strip and open up a seam next to the white block.  Lay it on your work surface so that the white block is at the top.  Then, look at color at the bottom of the strip (pink).  Rip the seam that will make that color the top of your next strip (between the pink and green).

Continue in this way until you have 7 nice strips making a diagonal pattern on your table.

Next, you should iron all your strips, one at a time, with seams alternating directions.  This is important for creating those nice nesting seams.  Basically, I took every other strip to my ironing board, ironed them all at once in the same direction, and then put them back in the proper sequence.  Next, I took the remaining strips and ironed them in the opposite direction.  Nesting seams are not only nicer for quilting.  They also make it easier to sew the strips together because your machine doesn’t have to sew through 4 layers at once.

Lastly, sew the strips together in the same order as your layout.  You should a have a nice diagonal sequence of white blocks on the center, with other colors forming diagonals on either side.  The block should measure 14.5 inches square.

The white blocks will create a nice diagonal effect when they are all together.  Friends in my sewing circle should make at least 2, but 3 would be awesome!  I think this will be a cheerful quilt and hope that it will brighten up the day of the person who gets it!



Triple Sawtooth Star Block

The past few years, I have been part of a charity quilting group called do.Good.Stitches.  It’s run by Rachel over at Stitched in Color.  There are multiple groups and they each have quilters and stitchers.  Everyone makes quilt blocks every month that the quilters organize.  This way of organizing allows anyone, even the most time pressed or beginner sewer to join a circle and sew for a good cause.  It was a great way for me to have something to sew on a regular basis without the pressure that comes with choosing colors, etc.  I have learned a lot being a sewer and have discovered some new and fun techniques in the process.

My group, the Aspire Circle just went through a little reorganization and I decided to try my hand at being a quilter this time, not because I feel especially skilled at quilting, but because they needed more quilters and I could use a little more help in developing my quilting skills.

Quilters are responsible for choosing the colors and design of their month’s quilt.  All other members make blocks and send them to the quilter of the month.  Then, the quilter assembles the top, quilts it, and sends it off to the group’s charity of choice.

October happens to be my month for organizing and it has been quite a learning process already!  My first idea was a total disaster and had to be scrapped.  Sometimes, I get myself in a situation where I try to reinvent something that doesn’t need to be redone.  Basically, I was trying to figure out how to regular piece a block that is normally paper pieced.  It’s not that I mind paper piecing (that much), but I wanted a different sized block.  Anyhow, after I basically made two blocks that didn’t quite fit together, I decided I had better do something simpler.

Then, this past week, I had two sources of inspiration for our October quilt.  First, on a quilting show on the telly, I saw a layout of a quilt with varying sizes of sawtooth star blocks, from small 4 inch ones to really big 16 in ones.  I liked the look of lots of big and little stars all in one quilt.

My second inspiration came from this leaf that I found on a walk.  I loved the vibrant veining and the color combination.  Fall colors are starting to show up everywhere now and I thought it would be appropriate for October to work with the shades of fall: oranges, greens, yellows, orangey reds, and deep purples.

I also liked how the green veins in the leaf were enclosed within the red orange perimeter and thought it would be fun to try to get a similar effect with the sawtooth stars.

What do you think?  It took me several tries, but I think I finally got the cutting list and sewing order right.  For the Aspire group, I would like two blocks.  One should be with a white background like the first picture above.  The second should be reversed, like the one below.

Please let me know if you have any trouble putting these together.  Each block should finish to a 16 1/2  inch square and use two fall colors in addition to white.  My directions below use the no waste way of making flying geese blocks, but you can use whatever method you prefer.  Also, if you want to make it scrappy, that would be fine as long as you stick with just two colors (plus white) in a block.  The photos are a bit dark as I was working on them at night and there aren’t as many as I would like.  I guess I must have gotten carried away with the sewing and forgot to take a picture of each step.  Still, I hope you can figure out the layout, but just ask if you have a question!

For clarity, the cutting list below is ordered beginning with the smallest star and ending with the largest.

For the 4 1/2 inch star 

Color A (or white for reverse):

One 2 1/2 inch square for the center

Four 1 7/8 inch squares for star points

White (or Color A for reverse):

One 3 1/4 inch square for geese

Four 1 1/2 inch squares for the corners

For the 8 1/2 inch star, you will need

One assembled 4 1/2 inch sawtooth star

White (Color A for reverse)

Four 2 7/8 inch squares for star points

Color B (White for reverse)

One 5 1/4 square for geese

Four 2 1/2 inch squares for corners

For the 16 1/2 inch star, you will need

One assembled 8 1/2 inch star in a star block

Color B (White for reverse):

Four 4 7/8 inch squares for star points

White (Color B for reverse):

One 9 1/4 inch square for geese

Four 4 1/2 inch squares for the corners.


Beginning with the pieces for the 4 1/2 inch star, make 4 flying geese blocks as follows.

Draw a diagonal line on the wrong side of each of the 1 7/8 in blocks.

Take the 3 1/4 inch square and lay two 1 7/8 inch blocks in opposite corners, lining up the drawn lines like this.

Sew a line 1/4 away on both sides of the drawn lines.

Cut on the line.

Press the seam towards the colored side.

Place another 1 7/8 inch square in the remaining corner of each piece, with the line going in the other direction.

Sew, cut, and press as before.  You will have 4 flying geese blocks that measure 1 1/2 inch by 2 1/2 inch.  Check this and do any necessary trimming before going on.  I like to trim those little triangles that stick out.

Sew the block together, trying to press towards the color side as much as possible, if you can.

Next, get your pieces for the 8 1/2 inch block.  Make four flying geese blocks in the same way as before but this time you will use the 5 1/4 inch block and the 2 7/8 inch blocks.  The finished geese should be 2 1/2 by 4 1/2 inches.

Assemble the 8 1/2 inch block as before.

Lastly, add the final layer by making four more flying geese blocks with the 9 1/4 inch square and the four 4 7/8 inch squares.  These blocks should measure 4 1/2 by 8 1/2 inches when done.

Assemble the final block together, press,  and admire.










For the last three years, we have gone away on vacation during the week of July 4th. So, last week, when I found myself at home, it felt a bit strange. Where was all the packing stress and the bags strewn all over the floor? Why wasn’t I doing laundry like a crazy person and planning for a week’s worth of meals away from home in a strange kitchen? Other than a funny urge to just get in the car and Drive, anywhere far, far away, I got over the strange feelings quite quickly.

Instead, I declared that the week would be a staycation week for me. When I said this to the husband (who still had to go to work), his first question was, ” Does this mean you’re not cooking dinner?” Well, yes and no. It turns out that, other than our big Independence Day dinner, I did not do a lot of cooking, partly because our dishwasher broke. It broke 5 hours before our guests were coming for dinner on Thursday. Fortunately, we are well stocked in paper and plastic goods and were able to make do quite nicely. It doesn’t look like the dishwasher is going to get fixed anytime in the next week, so cooking might still be on the backburner for awhile.

So, if I didn’t cook much during my staycation week, what did I do? The first day, there was a lot of shuffling of papers and running up and down the stairs while the boys and I put last year’s school papers, books, and supplies away. Then, I spent a lot of time ordering all the new stuff for the fall. With all the school business taken care of, I went on to what I really wanted to do on my staycation.



Pillows first. The pieces for these have been sitting on the table for what feels like months. It was really nice to finally get them done and on the sofa to admire.


My skill at sewing in a straight line does not seem to be getting any better, but oh well. They do brighten up the room a little, and I am pretty happy with them.


I even like the backs.

After finishing all the pillows, I had to do some sewing for our Vacation Bible School crafts, and then I was finally able to work on the June block of my quilting group.


It’s a fussy block with lots and lots of pieces, but pretty fun to do. I can tell that I have been away from the sewing machine for awhile, though. Apparently, not only do I have trouble sewing in a straight line, I also have trouble sewing along a line. Still, my points are mostly pointy, so I am pleased enough.

In addition to all the sewing, I also did some knitting– enough to finally show a little progress. Since I have so many different things that I am working on at the same time, it’s difficult to see the progress sometimes, but after a few weeks or so, there is usually enough progress made to merit mentioning.

There are socks, plain…


…and fancy,


most of a sweater sleeve,


part of a sweater back,


most of the lace edging of a shawl,


and the top part of a top down sweater.


It turns out that if I stay at home, don’t cook much, and don’t have school to teach, I can get a lot done! This week will be a little busier with VBS, but that will be its own kind of fun. Hopefully, I will still get some good sewing or knitting time in the afternoons or evenings. After all, the dishwasher is still broken. I can’t be expected to cook much, can I?

Paper Precision

Last year, (or was it two?) I tried paper piecing for the first time and I found it terribly fiddly. Then, the blocks I made didn’t seem to turn out right. They were too small or didn’t match up as well as I had hoped. Something was wrong, and I decided to put it aside.

Last fall, I had to revisit paper piecing again for a project for do.good.stitches.


This time, I had much better success with the sizing and everything turned out as it should have.


Still, I found it again to be fiddly, and I have trouble with the amount of waste fabric it produces. Basically, you have to cut your pieces of fabric way bigger than you need to. Then, after you sew them onto the paper and fabric, you trim off the excess. It can be significant.


The reward, though, is usually a perfectly pieced block that has pointy points and looks really crisp and precise. I say usually because sometimes, I have been known to sew on the wrong piece or sew a piece in the wrong place. Paper piecing seams are notoriously difficult to rip out because your stitch length is really tiny.


On the other hand, one of the great things about paper piecing is that your fabric stays nice and stabilized by the paper, so there is less stretching or distorting of fabric and seams. And, of course, since you are using bits of fabric that are bigger than you need, your seam allowances are always just right because you trim them to be so.


The last part of paper piecing, the removing of the paper, is also fiddly because you’ve got all those seams and sometimes that paper just likes to stay attached to the fabric. It’s a time consuming process but, it’s hard to argue with the results. These blocks were made for this month’s do.good.stitches project, and I think they turned out rather nicely. So nicely, in fact, that I am planning a few more of my own.


This is a good example of how trying things just once is not enough to determine whether something is going to work for you. Third time is the charm, they say, and it was for me here. What have you been trying lately?

Keeping a Toe in

Lately, there hasn’t been much sewing in my life. Once I finished the Swoon quilt, I had a lot of ideas to start another one or finish that duvet cover project that I started last winter, but I just haven’t been able to get in the groove. However, last year I joined a charity quilt group. Each month, everyone in the group makes a couple of blocks and sends them to a designated quilter to assemble and quilt. This has been a great way for me to keep a toe in the sewing room while I gather some mojo for my own projects. It’s also a great way to try some new skills.

Here are some of the blocks we have done.



These were my first real experience with paper piecing. It was fussy, but I have to say, a good way to get precise blocks!


This one was a huge 24 inch block.


With these blocks, I learned how to make flying geese blocks without creating any waste fabric. Love that!


These were fun improvisational blocks. No measuring, just sewing and squaring up as needed. I very rarely do this kind of thing, so it was both challenging in a good way and fun to play with it.


Whee! Windmill blocks! These 12 inch blocks were super easy. It was tempting to keep going.


These are this month’s blocks. It was fun to play with a couple of different methods of making a lot of half square triangles at once. I am not sure I love any of the methods I have tried yet because there is that trimming step that I always find annoying, but I do love how you can do all kinds of fun designs and shapes with HSTs.

I think I must have missed taking pictures of one or two months of blocks, but you get the idea. The group I am a part of is the Imagine Circle, which is a part of do. Good Stitches, a charity quilting group started by Rachel at Stitched in Color. All the quilts we make go to underprivileged kids through Threading Hope. I know it’s a small thing, making these quilt blocks, but I think it is not insignificant to give something handmade to child who has very little. We stitch our love and prayers and hopes into these quilts, and that, I think, makes these blocks very significant indeed.