March 23, 2016

Easter is almost here

Easter Basket quilt block
The Easter Basket quilt block is a relatively easy five patch block with half square triangles and a couple of rectangles thrown in for good measure.

The fun part of using some of the basket style blocks is that the motif is usually pointing at a 45 degree angle and therefore this leads to opportunites in your quilt. What is that you say?

By rotating the blocks by 90 degrees, they then work together creating a secondary pattern. This is usually a surprise because at first glance, that would not be evident.

So, download the free quilt block pattern and see what I am talking about.

An Easter thought for you

  • Easter is meant to be a symbol of hope, renewal, and new life.
    ~ Janine di Giovanni

March 17, 2016

It's All About the Green Today

Image © W. Russell
I'm a little late in getting started on this blog post today, because I was already out and about today joining in the festivities of celebrating St. Patrick's Day. Judging by this picture, all ages enjoy a good time.

Well what could be more Irish (in terms of quilting) than blocks called Irish Puzzle and Danny Boy? So, I thought I would present you with both, and of course, I went with making them in the obvious varieties of green.

Danny Boy is a simple nine patch block using mostly half square triangles, but the centre patch is the square in a square -- adding to the interest.

Irish Puzzle is a four patch block that is more of an intermediate level, due only to the number of pieces in the quilt block.

Time now to get out your green and start searching for some gold (at the end of that rainbow) and celebrate your own version of these blocks.

A salute to St. Paddy's Day

Irish Sayings

( ... how interesting that all of the authors are unknown)
  • "It's no use carrying an umbrella if your shoes are leaking."
    ~ Author Unknown

  • "There are only two kinds of people in the world. The Irish and those who wish they were."
    ~ Author Unknown

  • "Irish diplomacy is the ability to tell a man to go to hell so that he looks forward to making the trip."
    ~ Author Unknown

  • "May those who love us, love us; and those who don't love us, may God turn their hearts; and if He doesn't turn their hearts, may He turn their ankles so we'll know them by their limping."
    ~ Author Unknown

  • "If you're lucky enough to be Irish, you're lucky enough!"
    ~ Author Unknown

All images © W. Russell,

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March 10, 2016

X marks the spot!

X and Square quilt block
Thanks to my great friend Monika for giving me the (obvious) title to this blog post. (For some reason, I did not think of it!)

X and Square is the block. From this image shown, you can see where it gets its name. However, while playing around with the block, I made a version with four colours as well, and it looks quite different. You will have to check out the free pattern to see that variation.

I was having fun playing with this block (which at first glance looks rather boring). It always surprises me when those boring blocks make interesting quilts.

So, fun often leads to funny.

Mark Twain image courtesy of public domain
Mark Twain

Quotes to make you laugh today

'X and Square' quilt block image © W. Russell,
'Mark Twain' image courtesy of public domain

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March 02, 2016

It's a Black Hole Out There

Black Hole quilt block image © W. Russell,
Black Hole quilt block
Today's featured block looks like it should have a fun name. It's a pinwheel and is an easy block to construct, made with only squares and flying geese patches.

So, why would this quilt block have the name Black Hole? That sounds ominous, but there you have it. Still, a black hole is a pretty thing out there is space.

So let's talk about space ...

Black Hole in Space image courtesy
Black hole in space
  • "Space is to place as eternity is to time."
    ~ Joseph Joubert

  • "Nothing exists except atoms and empty space; everything else is opinion."
    ~ Democritus

  • "Of all things visible, the highest is the heaven of the fixed stars."
    ~ Nicolaus Copernicus

  • "I don't think the human race will survive the next thousand years, unless we spread into space."
    ~ Stephen Hawking

and finally, I found these ...

10 Amazing Facts About Black Holes

'Black Hole' quilt block image © W. Russell,
'Black Hole in Space' image courtesy

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February 24, 2016

Springtime --- where are you?

Winter photo © W. Russell,
Winter, go away ...
Well, I can certainly say, that while looking out my window today, springtime can't come soon enough. Oh, I know -- my view is spectacular, but I've had enough of winter.

So, here is a bright and cheery start to a new quilting project -- the Springtime quilt block.

Springtime quilt block image © W. Russell,
Springtime quilt block
This nine patch block will give you some excellent practice sewing your quarter inch seam allowance as there are quite a few pieces. Now, having said that, there is nothing difficult in making this block. Squares, rectangles, half square triangles and flying geese units -- all basic quilt patches -- are all that are used.

I stuck with the obvious colours, derived from the block name, but you can change up those colours for a an original and totally different look.

And speaking of springtime ...

  • "The beautiful spring came; and when nature resumes her loveliness, the human soul is apt to revive also."
    ~ Harriet Ann Jacobs

  • "It's easy to understand why the most beautiful poems about England in the spring were written by poets living in Italy at the time."
    ~ Philip Dunne

  • "The first day of spring is one thing, and the first spring day is another. The difference between them is sometimes as great as a month."
    ~ Henry Van Dyke

  • "No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn."
    ~ Hal Borland

  • "Spring is nature's way of saying, 'Let's party!' "
    ~ Robin Williams

"Springtime' quilt block image and "Winter" image © W. Russell,

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February 17, 2016

Blackford's Beauty

Blackford's Beauty quilt block image © W. Russell,
Blackford's Beauty quilt block
I was trying to find out the what or who was the inspiration for the quilt block Blackford's Beauty and so far, I have not found it. So, I'm throwing this out there for anyone to give me the details. Any helpers?

Blackford's Beauty is one of those interesting blocks (at least to me) as it creates secondary patterns when you place it in your quilt in different ways. I just love secondary patterns. You get a surprise when you start playing around with placement of your blocks. This sample quilt illustration shows you what I mean.

This nine patch quilt block has lots of parts, but none of them are difficult. Squares, rectangles and a few flying geese units are all the parts.

And speaking of beauty ...

Blackford's Beauty quilt image © W. Russell,
Blackford's Beauty quilt

  • "People are like stained glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is light from within."
    ~ Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

  • "The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart."
    ~ Helen Keller

  • "Beauty is simply reality seen with the eyes of love."
    ~ Rabindranath Tagore

    and then there is the conceit of some people ...

  • "I am a thing of beauty."
    ~ Frank Sinatra

February 09, 2016

Jawhawks or Jayhawks?

Jayhawk image courtesy
Kansas University Jayhawk
I found this quilt block called Jawhawks -- a simple one to construct -- but the name was one I had never heard before. In fact, I can't seem to even find a definition of the word "Jawhawk". All searches point to "Jayhawk". So, if anyone has any information to further this conundrum, please let me know.

My personal opinion is that Jawhawk became Jayhawk because it was easier to say. Maybe those quilters in Kansas can enlighten me. YourDictionary says that the origin of the word jayhawk is "the name of a fictional bird, half bluejay and half sparrowhawk, mascot of the University of Kansas." And here is his picture. He's kinda cute!

Jawhawks quilt block image © W. Russell,
Jawhawks quilt block
Now back to the quilt block. This simple nine patch is a good starting place for a beginner quilter. The corners are made using half square triangles, the second most commonly used patch in quilt making, and there are also a few flying geese units to add a little pizzazz. Now, since this is not a common block (at least under this name), you are in the driver's seat to create a unique quilt to impress your friends!

Download the free quilt block pattern.

It's for the birds

  • "I have to remind myself that some birds aren't meant to be caged. Their feathers are just too bright."
    ~ Stephen King

  • "Did you ever see an unhappy horse? Did you ever see a bird that had the blues? One reason why birds and horses are not unhappy is because they are not trying to impress other birds and horses."
    ~ Dale Carnegie

  • "A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song."
    ~ Chinese Proverb

    but let's not forget about Kansas

  • "When I write, I aim in my mind not toward New York but toward a vague spot a little to the east of Kansas."
    ~ John Updike

'Jawhawks' quilt block image © W. Russell,
'Jayhawk' image courtesy

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February 05, 2016

Who doesn't love a day at the beach?

Brighton Beach quilt block image © W. Russell,
Brighton Beach quilt block
Brighton Beach will get you thinking of summer days and fun in the sand -- at least I will be thinking about this. (Winter can just take a hike, if that was possible.)

This quilt block is a five patch, and an easy one at that, so is a great choice for beginner quilters. The added surprise -- (if you choose to set the blocks side by side in your quilt) -- is that a secondary pattern emerges -- pinwheels. And coincidentally, pinwheels are just the thing to entrance the kids while enjoying a day at the beach. A win-win situation.

So now it is time to dream of beaches and sunshine

Image courtesy James Barker at
Brighton Beach and pier

  • "If there is a heaven for me, I'm sure it has a beach attached to it."
    ~ Jimmy Buffett

  • "I could never stay long enough on the shore; the tang of the untainted, fresh, and free sea air was like a cool, quieting thought."
    ~ Helen Keller

  • "The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea."
    ~ Isak Dinesen

'Brighton Beach' quilt block image © W. Russell,
'Brighton Beach and pier image courtesy James Barker

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January 26, 2016

Starry, starry night ....

Once again, I took some liberties with the construction of this latest block -- all in the plan to make it easier to construct. My theory is, why have more seams when you don't need to?

Star of Luxor quilt block
The Star of Luxor is another block you can construct in a larger size -- a 16" block -- which means, in the end you make fewer blocks and your quilt can go together a little faster.

My version is constructed as an uneven nine patch, featuring half square triangles and flying geese units. The centre star features a square in a square patch, so there is some variety in your patches for this block. And finally, since this block is about stars, I went the easy route in choosing colours to match a night sky.

What others have to say about stars

  • "Stretching his hand up to reach the stars, too often man forgets the flowers at his feet."
    ~ Jeremy Bentham

  • "For my part I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream."
    ~ Vincent van Gogh

  • "A man gazing on the stars is proverbially at the mercy of the puddles in the road."
    ~ Alexander Smith

  • "No pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new doorway for the human spirit."
    ~ Helen Keller

  • "If the stars should appear but one night every thousand years, how man would marvel and stare."
    ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

'Star of Luxor' quilt block image © W. Russell,

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January 17, 2016

Are you up for a challenge?

Today I am thinking about those quilters who would like a bit more of a challenge. The Divided Cross quilt block could be the one you are looking for. Now, having said this, actually there is nothing at all difficult in the making of this block, except that there are lots of pieces to sew. But, why not cut your sewing down by making it a 16" block?  (Bigger block, less blocks for a quilt).

Divided Cross quilt block image © W. Russell,
Divided Cross quilt block
By now, you are familiar with the most commonly used quilt patch (after the square) -- the half square triangle. The next step is using the quarter square triangle -- another frequent patch used in quilt blocks. From there, it is only taking care to use an accurate quarter inch seam allowance and your block will go together without a hitch.

Download the free quilt block pattern.

Now, as an aside, I'm looking outside my window, and I see the beginning of a snowfall, (which is quite common in my area), so I need some "feel good" quotes for the day. (No snow lover here, which begs the question "Why do I live where I do?") <Sigh>

Today's Inspirational Quotes

  • "If you have good thoughts, they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely."
    ~ Roald Dahl

  • "With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come."
    ~ William Shakespeare

  • "Our attitude toward life determines life's attitude towards us."
    ~ Earl Nightingale

  • "We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give."
    ~ Winston Churchill

  • "A smile is a curve that sets everything straight."
    ~ Phyllis Diller

'Divided Cross' quilt block image © W. Russell,

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January 10, 2016


Tonganoxie quilt block image © W. Russell,
Tonganoxie quilt block
How could I come up with a catchier name for a blog post than Tonganoxie? And ... as it happens there is a quilt block by this name.

Upon further research, I discovered that it is named for a city in Kansas (I think it is obvious now, that geography is not my forté or I would have known this already.)

This seven patch quilt block is an easy one to construct because it contains only squares and rectangles, hence easier sewing. To make the construction even simpler (in my opinion), I have laid out the construction process as an uneven nine patch because I prefer to work with "chunks" rather than sewing in rows. Additionally, this block can be made as a 14" block so that the process of making your quilt is speeded up. A win-win situation.

And speaking of Kansas, did you know ... ?

  • Kansas is known as the Sunflower state.

  • There are 27 Walnut Creeks in the state of Kansas.

  • The "prairie chicken" has its largest population in all of North American in Kansas. You might know a prairie chicken as a wild grouse.

  • The Pizza Hut restaurant chain opened its first store in Wichita.

  • Fire Station No. 4 in Lawrence, originally a stone barn constructed in 1858, was a station site on the Underground Railroad.

  • Wyatt Earp, "Wild Bill" Hickok and "Bat" Masterson were three of the legendary lawmen who ruled frontier towns like Abilene, Dodge City, Ellsworth, Hays, and Wichita.

  • The state name comes from the Kansas Indian word kansa or kanza which means "south wind".

  • A museum in Piqua, Kansas is dedicated to silent film comedian, Buster Keaton, who was a native son.

'Tonganoxie' quilt block image © W. Russell,

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January 04, 2016

Clay's Choice II

'Clay's Choice II' quilt block image © W. Russell,
Clay's Choice II quilt block
For those new quilters it is sometimes helpful to sew larger blocks and therefore there are less blocks to make to create your quilt. This Clay's Choice II quilt block does have quite a few pieces, but I have taken liberties with the pattern to simplify it. Where there were many identical squares sewn together, I made rectangles instead. Where there were two half square triangle patches sewn together, I used flying geese units. (I can't resist those flying geese patches, and if you are a steady reader of this website, you will know those are my favourites.) By simply taking your time, the block goes together quickly.

Many of you will know of Clay's Choice as a different block. And ... you would be right. However, as is quite common in the quilting world, you might find more than one block with the same name. So, to avoid confusion, I have named this one Clay's Choice II.

If you are at all interested in the history of Clay's Choice, the original block was designed by Nancy Cabot for her daily column in the Chicago Tribune in 1933 under the heading "Henry Clay's Efforts to Maintain Union Inspired Interesting Quilt". However, that was in reference to the original Clay's Choice block. I cannot find any information on today's featured block with the same name, so would be pleased if anyone does know and would like to contact me.

Interesting Quotes from Henry Clay

  • Statistics are no substitute for judgment.

  • Courtesies of a small and trivial character are the ones which strike deepest in the grateful and appreciating heart.

  • Of all the properties which belong to honorable men, not one is so highly prized as that of character.

  • Of all human powers operating on the affairs of mankind, none is greater than that of competition.

  • There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured with what is right in America.

  • Sir, I would rather be right than be President.

'Clay's Choice II' quilt block image © W. Russell,

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