April 18, 2017

Week 6: Long Time Gone Sew Along | Plus A Star

Tools Used

  • Use Perfect Patchwork Template Set A #8251, square template #5, for measuring strip widths the Marti Way and cutting the squares.
  • Use template triangle A-6 for the half-square triangles.
  • The From Marti Michell 6½” Squaring Up Ruler #8973 was handy for cutting the strips to length.  

Making Plus A Star

Plus A Star is a really easy block…and at the same time, it is really easy to mess up on! My recommendation is don’t even think of making this without some kind of design wall. Unfortunately for me, while I have multiple design walls, they aren’t conveniently close to my machine, so I also made good use of my batting-covered, non-slip portable tray to carry sections between the design wall and the machine sewing and confirming the arrangement.

1. To me the star is the focal point of the block, so I started picking fabric for it that would emphasize my general color scheme and I planned right away to make plus signs of both these “theme” fabrics:

You may remember my talking about them in the fabric selection blog. The pieces in this block let them shine. For the same reason, I have already planned (looking way ahead) that I will have lots of these fabrics in my border.

2. After the star was done, I picked fabrics around it and worked my way up. Because each fabric is in contact with 4 to 6 surrounding fabrics, I thought I would lay out the entire thing and “audition all the actors” before sewing. But after a while I forced myself to commit and join some sections!

I photocopied Jen’s layout diagram and put it on the design wall to keep track of the tessellating plus signs – especially helpful since I was not using the same values as the illustration.

3. As Jen says, “Join the vertical rows.” My sewing system was much like Trip Around The World, except there are very few intersections that have to butt together, which is good and bad! Good, because there is less bulk and easier pressing decisions. Bad, because there were not obvious seams that line up.

I chose to complete the sewing on each vertical row and press every other row in opposite directions, except the Nine Patch and around the star. There I let the triangles control direction.

When joining the vertical rows, pin the ends of the rows and the 2 or 3 opposing seam allowances in each vertical seam to confirm the rows match before sewing. Check that you have pinned the correct edges together before you sew.

Obvious Statement!

In spite of the number of years I’ve sewn patchwork and the hundreds of times I’ve already said this, I can’t help myself— “Isn’t it neat how much better it looks when it is sewn and pressed than when it was just loose pieces on the design wall?”

Having said that, Let’s Look Ahead

Now that Plus a Star is done, if I do just a couple more rounds on one set of 4 Pineapple blocks, I can join the pieces for Section 4; see page 29 in the book.

If you haven't read ahead about Making the Quilt Top, please read page 25 and my next few sentences will make more sense.  I don’t think I mentioned that I had selected a small gray on white print for my checkerboard neutral and had made a small sample. I’ve also decided I’m not using the same fabric for the sashing and the neutral in the checkerboard. They are close, but not the same.

Putting one unit (Section 4) together now is another way of auditioning my choice. With just one section, it isn’t too late to change my mind.

Tune in next week for a picture of that section!

More About the Plus A Star Section

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Long Time Gone by Jen Kingwell. Copyright 2016 by Jen Kingwell Designs. Available on From Marti Michell website, www.frommarti.com


April 11, 2017

Week 5: Long Time Gone Sew Along | Trip Around the World Patchwork

Take advantage of strip piecing to avoid handling 169 individual squares repeatedly while cutting, piecing and pressing. Just because it is scrappy doesn’t mean it has to be piece-by-piece. 😊

I picked the 3 center fabrics from 1-1/2 inch strips I had previously cut and laid them out on my portable design wall. Since it was such a focal point, I did strip piece 6-1/2 inch strips of #2 and #3 fabrics, cut 4 pairs and then sewed them into rows to make sure I liked the center.

Next I picked 4 more fabrics from the group I selected for this quilt. After a few false starts I settled on these. Here they are laid out to see how they progress from the center out. It’s a go. Love that green!

(Click on photos for a larger view).

As I got ready to cut the strips I realized I wanted to center one of the “Y” shapes in the 1 ½” strip. See the pen on the fabric? That is the line I’m talking about.

I loved the effect, but quickly realized I had turned the fabric into a directional print. You can see in this photo that if I only make one strip set, one side of the Y’s go up and one down.

I know most people don’t care, but I’ll sew two different strip sets long enough to cut 8 1-1/2 inch squares (15 inches or so). Press the strips in one direction but remember you will need to repress every other row when you complete the block.

This is the exact number of inches you need for fabric positions 4, 5, 6 and 7. Make strip sets of two, three or four of the fabrics and cross cut into 1-1/2 inch units. Then position those units into rows on your design board. I saw that Jen used two fabrics each in positions 6 and 7. I love the crispness of a defined Trip Around the World and I chose to make the all of the pieces in each position match.

I actually use the 1-inch Log Cabin Ruler to measure and make the cross cut pieces. You can see in this photo how nicely the markings for a, b, and c identify that the finished strips are a perfect 1-inch wide.

Arrange all of the strip units on your design board. (We ran out of space for the last 2 #7 pieces.) You could sew these pieces into complete rows now, but we chose to wait to join the units until the background pieces were added.

Background Pieces

There are 84 background squares, 21 in each corner of the block. We pulled a few appropriate pieces from the fabric strip stockpile and picked 10 new neutrals and cut strips 1-1/2 inch wide by at least 12 inches long. The first thing we did was cut one 1-1/2 inch square from the stack of strips. We will need some single squares. Then we sewed some strips in pairs and one set of three strips together. After pressing, those strips were cross cut into 1-1/2 inch units and arranged randomly on the background corners. Here the units are ready to sew:


Joining the Units and Rows

Work one half at a time. There are different numbers of units in each row so just pick up the first 2 units in each row, going from top to bottom and chain piece. Press them in order and put them back into rows in order.

Do it again from top to bottom, as needed. Not all rows will need a seam. When all of the units are joined on one half, rotate the design board and complete the other half of the block.

Here the rows are ready to be joined.

Every other row needs to have the seam allowances pressed to the right and every other row pressed to the left.

Pairs of rows...

then pairs of pairs..

and finally the completed block, a perfect 13-1/2 inch square, including seam allowances.

More About the Trip Around the World Section

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Long Time Gone by Jen Kingwell. Copyright 2016 by Jen Kingwell Designs. Available on From Marti Michell website, www.frommarti.com

April 4, 2017

Week 4: Long Time Gone Sew Along | Jacob's Ladder Blocks

Make 9 Blocks

4 inches square, finished

Each block has 2 each of 2 units. All of mine are made with two fabrics, but I noticed some of Jen’s have more. The simplest unit is a four-patch. The other unit, sometimes called Honeycomb, is a B-12 square with two contrasting opposite D-29 corners.

Most of the fabrics in my blocks are new to the quilt because I did not have any already-cut 2-1/2 inch strips needed for the squares. It also seemed a good time to add more fabrics to the mix!

Selecting Fabrics

I’ve selected 9 pairs of contrasting fabrics and plan to cut and make 3 blocks at a time. The fabrics are assorted sizes, but none are longer than 18 inches. Since I measure from the right (see “the Marti way to Cut”) I’ve lined up 3 combinations – each pair right sides together – matching the upper right corner and right edge. I’ve turned back a corner of the stack so you can see 6 fabrics – if you look closely, sorry!

Cutting Strips

1. If you kept the Strip Chart from week 3 (U.K. Crosses) you know we need lots of 1 ½” strips so for the Four Patch units in this block, I’m cutting a strip from the stack of 6 fabrics 1 ½ wide and full length. That means some are 10” long, some are 18”, etc.
2. Cut at least 1 strip set 2 ½” wide for the second unit in each block.
3.While you are cutting, cut extra strips. In the next 3 weeks we need 1”, 1 ½” and 2” strips.

Making the Four Patches

1. Cut a section 6 ½” long from each pair of strips.  Sew then together lengthwise, press to the dark and then cross-cut into four 1 1/2” segments.
2. Sew into two 4-patches.

3.Finish off with swirl pressing. As you press all seams in the same direction, you may need to pop a couple of stitches or they may do it on their own to make a nice flat center.

Making the Honeycomb Units

1.Separate the leftover 1 ½” strips. Put the dark strips in the stockpile.
Stack the light fabrics and cut 4 D-29 triangles from each fabric. (Don’ forget to nip the corners!)
2. Separate the 2 ½” strips. Put the light strips in the stockpile. From the dark strips cut 2 B-12 squares.
3. Center the D-28 and trim 2 opposite corners as we did with the Bow Ties.

4. Chain piece D-29 light corners to altered B12 squares. Press toward triangles.

5. Join matching units to make blocks shown.
6. Repeat with two remaining groups of 3 sets of fabrics.

Jacob's Ladder: One Name, Many Ladders

When I got my four quarters of the first 3 blocks put together and looked more closely, I had rotated the 4 patches differently than shown in the pattern.

If it had been just one block, I would have probably taken it apart. But having been so pleased with my chain piecing, I decided it wasn’t a mistake but a new design opportunity! Fortunately there are lots of variations of Jacobs Ladder. Here are my nine.

Oh no! My favorite block…the one in the center…It is too strong…Sometimes your favorite block just has to be turned into a “mug rug” for the sake of the quilt. Ah yes, much better!


Download a PDF for a Jacob's Ladder quilt layout that you can use with almost any size square and half-square triangle combination. You might be surprised by how different the quilt design looks when the blocks are rotated!

We've also got a PDF for you on quick cutting and sewing four-patch units using From Marti Michell templates and strips. You might also be surprised to know there are 21 sizes of square templates in the From Marti Michell product line -- with matching half-square triangles -- and you probably have a lot of them! Click here to visit our website for a list of sizes and download that PDF for future reference.

More About Jacob's Ladder Blocks for Long Time Gone

Visit these other Long Time Gone Sew Along blogs, too, for tutorials and other info:



Long Time Gone by Jen Kingwell. Copyright 2016 by Jen Kingwell Designs. Available on From Marti Michell website, www.frommarti.com

March 28, 2017

Week 3: Long Time Gone Sew Along | Crosses of the UK Blocks

Most of you know that Jen Kingwell is from Australia, one of the commonwealth nations. How neat for her to design and include this block. The From Marti Michell tool we'll be using to make these blocks is the 6-1/2 inch Squaring Up Ruler.

Fabric Selection

Remember the pile of fabrics I pulled before we started?

Think of making a scrappy quilt like this as producing and directing a movie. Selecting your pile of fabric was the open call for casting. Even though you have picked a theme, it isn’t until you start cutting and sewing that certain fabrics begin to excel. Some become stars, others get small speaking parts, a few are extras and others get put away to wait their turn in another quilt. As the director, you have the opportunity to audition the same fabric as a lead in one design and only a speaking part in the next. And it is practically a rule to introduce new cast members in each scene.

Because I had cut extra 1- and 1-1/2 inch strips from all of the fabrics I’ve already used, I was able to select fabrics for the Crosses of the UK strips from my strip stockpile and just needed to cut them to length.

I did that and cut the 2-1/4 inch squares I needed with the 6-1/2 inch Squaring Up Ruler. Later, when it was time to trim the pieced squares to 2 inches square, it was so easy to center the diagonal line of the ruler on the diagonal strip. 

Making the Blocks

Just follow the instructions in Jen Kingwell's pattern. Don’t let the illustration of the block on page 7 confuse you, just cut pieces the sizes given. The measurements and instructions result in finished blocks that look like the picture of the quilt blocks. In real life and in the quilt, the vertical and horizontal strips are much chunkier than the illustration in the book.

I love the idea of teaming a few fabrics I have used in the first two blocks with new fabrics being cut for the first time. For this this block I chose to cut and chain piece 3 blocks at a time. Here is one group of squares being trimmed to size.

Sets of three blocks are used in two different places in the quilt so while I expect them to look good together, I have not sewn them together yet.

More Strategy for Cutting Extra Strips

I’ve made a little chart that lists what size strips are needed for each block and in the finishing. (Click here to download the PDF.) Because they are all scrappy, it will be much easier to get variety if you cut extra strips every time you have fabric on your cutting table. Most blocks need approximately the same amount of both light and dark fabrics. However in the checkerboards used in the final assembly, Jen used the solid gray for all of the light fabric squares. This chart is intended as a helpful guide for more efficient cutting. Actual directions are with each tutorial as they are posted here on the blog.

Now Let's Do a Bit on the Pineapple Blocks

You should be able to start adding a round or two to your 16 Pineapple blocks. To get the same look as Jen’s, make sure that the first round of trapezoids (numbers 6, 7, 8 & 9 in the diagram on page 40) are dark fabrics. (See page 5 in the 1/2-inch Pineapple Templates instruction book for diagrams that show how different the blocks look when the first round starts out light.)

Naturally, the engineered corners on the Pineapple strips are the “magic” that makes this so easy to piece with no scraps and no trimming. But please don’t miss the tip mentioned first on page 14 and illustrated on page 18 of the template booklet, where we like to use the standard double-blunt cut on the first two trapezoid pieces being added to the Square Within a Square center.

I’m working on my Pineapple blocks in sets of four, a round or two at a time. That way there will always be new fabrics in the strip stockpile and I can maximize the variety of fabrics in the Pineapple Blocks. You can see they are at different stages of completion, but looking so cute!

More About the Crosses of the UK Section

Visit these other Long Time Gone Sew Along blogs, too, for tutorials, contests and other info:



Use the hash tag #LongTimeGoneSAL to share photos on Instagram.

Long Time Gone by Jen Kingwell. Copyright 2016 by Jen Kingwell Designs. Available on From Marti Michell website, www.frommarti.com


March 23, 2017

Week 2: Long Time Gone SAL | Pressing Square Within a Square Blocks

Javajean asked a great question about pressing Square Within a Square: "Do we press all of those seams open?" I love it when people care about pressing -- It is so important! The short answer is yes, or no! The best pressing plan is to plan ahead as you begin sewing.

It would be great if every patchwork design had an ideal and obvious way to press. Square Within a Square does not.

This is the back of the block for my Long Time Gone quilt:

I joined the Square Within a Square units into rows and pressed the rows in alternating directions to create opposing vertical seam allowances. Opposing seam allowances abutt each other for "automatic pinning" (no pins required), which makes joining the rows easier and more accurate.  When the rows were joined, I pressed those seams open. Click on the photo if you'd like to take a closer look.

"On the other hand"... Here is an example of a larger size Square Within a Square piece where we pressed all of the seams open.

Regardless of your pressing decision, this is the perfect time to be thankful for the engineered corners on our Perfect Patchwork Templates that allow you to eliminate all the dog ears before you sew. It's amazing how much of a difference it makes when you quilt not having those extra bits of fabric at all the seam intersections!

In recent years, I've been pressing more seams open, but if you quilt in the ditch (on the seam line), pressing open really isn't a great plan -- you aren't always securing the top layer of fabric to the backing.

If you want to press seams open and quilt in the ditch, make sure you are sewing the block pieces using no less than 12 stitches per inch or 2 on a metric machine, or even 18 per inch or a 1.5 metric stitch length.

P.S. Yesterday's blog post includes a link to download a free pattern for making a 62-inch Square Within a Square quilt with Set B. 😊

Visit these other Long Time Gone Sew Along blogs, too, for tutorials, contests and other info:



Use the hash tag #LongTimeGoneSAL to share photos on Instagram.

Long Time Gone by Jen Kingwell. Copyright 2016 by Jen Kingwell Designs. Available on the From Marti Michell website, www.frommarti.com

Long Time Gone by Jen Kingwell. Copyright 2016 by Jen Kingwell Designs. Available on the From Marti Michell website, www.frommarti.com

March 21, 2017

Week 2: Long Time Gone Sew Along | Square Within a Square Blocks -- No Waste!

Square Within a Square is one of the units people who use our templates love to make because there is no waste. We actually cut the center square and 4 triangles instead of adding squares to every corner of a bigger square and creating so much scrap when cutting off the corners.

Our template sets for rotary cutting feature special engineered corners that automatically reduce bulk. No going back after sewing to trim excess bulk ~ it's trimmed away at the same time the pieces are cut. But even better than no waste, when you cut the pieces with the templates with the engineered corners, the pieces fit together perfectly!

For this 12-inch finished block, use Set A pieces 1, 3, 4, 5 and 6. If you are thinking that the template sizes are not even close to the piece sizes listed in the book you are correct. That is why we call it “No Waste.”

My block shows a slight modification where I cut 4 rectangles that replace 4 Flying Geese units.

If you are interested in some of my strategies for efficient cutting of scrap quilts, skip down and read "A Scrappy Cutting Strategy" before cutting. But first you need a list of the pieces required because our cut sizes are so much smaller than those in the book.

The 9 Square Within a Square units will require:
  • 5 dark A-3 squares with sides on straight grain 
  • 4 light A-3 squares with sides on straight grain

  • 16 dark A-6 triangles
  • 20 light A-6 triangles
The outside rows (using my variation**see below) will require:
  • 4 medium A-5 squares for the corners
  • 8 light A-4 triangles
  • 16 dark A-6 triangles
  • 4 light rectangles 2 x 3-1/2 inches (If you prefer making the outer edges of the block as shown in Jen’s book, replace these 4 rectangles with 8 light A-6 triangles and 4 dark A-4 triangles)

A Scrappy Cutting Strategy

Using Jen’s fabric selection as a cue, I decided to select 5 dark and 4 light fabrics for the block plus a contrasting fabric for the four corner squares. To cut as efficiently as possible, I wanted to press and stack the dark fabrics and cut all the necessary dark pieces and then repeat with the light fabrics.

Cutting the Dark Pieces

Four of the 5 dark fabrics I picked happened to be fat quarters or half yards – too big to work with easily. The fifth was 9 x 18 inches, so I arbitrarily stacked all 5 fabrics matching the right edge and top of each and putting the smallest piece on top. Then I cut the stack down to 9 x 18 inches.  I don’t know how much I actually need, but I know this size is both plenty of fabric and a convenient size.

Your fabric sizes will be different…the point is try to work with easy to handle sizes and then cut multiple layers at the same time, in this case 5 layers. Mix the pieces as you sew to give a random scrappy look. If you try to select and cut one piece at a time, this quilt will have to be called “Long Time Never Done” instead of Long Time Gone!

To determine how many pieces to cut from the stack of five fabrics, I divided the number of dark triangles and dark squares needed (see list above) by the number of dark fabrics and cut that number of pieces from each stack.

From the dark fabrics we need 5 dark A-3 squares and have 5 fabrics, so we will cut 1 stack of A-3 squares. We need a total of 32 dark A-6 triangles. 32 divided by 5 fabrics is more than 6 so cut 7 stacks of A-6 triangles from a 2-inch wide strip stack.

Cut extra strips for later -- After cutting the pieces I needed for this block, and while the fabrics were still neatly arranged, I cut several sets of strips 1, 1-1/2 and 2 inches wide by the length of the fabric and added another 20 strips to my stockpile of pre-cut strips. I will be able to sprinkle these 5 fabrics throughout the quilt without finding, pressing, layering and putting them away again!

Cutting the Light Pieces 

As it happened, my light fabrics were all small enough that I just pressed and layered them right side up aligning the upper right corner of all four pieces.

We need 4 A-3 squares and have 4 fabrics. Cut one A-3 square from the stack.

All of the remaining pieces to be cut from light fabrics are easily cut from 2-inch strips that are cut on the lengthwise grain. Cut stacks of strips 2 inches wide until you have four fabrics approximately 20 inches long. Cut extra strips for later -- Because these were smaller pieces of fabric to begin with, I cut the entire remaining stack of fabrics into 1-, 1 1/2- and 2-inch wide strips on the lengthwise grain.

We need 20 A-6 triangles and have 4 fabrics. Cut 5 A-6 triangles from the stacked strips. We need 8 A-4 triangles and have 4 fabrics. Cut 2 stacks of A-4 triangles. Align one edge of square A-1 on the edge of the strips and cut at both sides to cut a stack of four 2 x 3 1/2-inch rectangles.

From a contrasting medium fabric cut 4 A-5 squares for corners.

Making the Block

Make 9 Square Within a Square units, 4 with light centers and 5 with dark centers. 

1. Chain piece A-6 triangles to one side of the A-3 squares. Nip apart and press seams toward the triangles. Make 9:
2. Then chain piece triangles to the opposite side of the squares to complete the Square Within a Square units. They should be 3-1/2 inches square, including seam allowances. Isn’t it wonderful that there are no dog ears? Make 9.

Make 8 Flying Geese Units with light A-4 triangles and dark A-6 triangles. 

1. Place a small A-6 triangle and a large A-4 triangle right sides together and stitch. Chain piece additional pairs until all the large triangles are used. Press seam allowances toward small triangle; this makes it easier to stitch the other small triangle in place and reduces bulk at the point of the Flying Geese unit. Clip units apart. Make 8 (4 are illustrated).

2. Add the remaining A-6 triangles to the opposite side. You will now be sewing across the first seam allowance and it will be held in the position in which it is pressed. It is more likely to be smooth and flat if it is pointing in the same direction as the presser foot. The corners line up perfectly on every step. There are no dog ears, shadowing or extra bulk. Press toward small triangle and clip apart. Each Flying Geese unit should measure 2 by 3-1/2 inches, including seam allowances. Make 8.

Complete the block.

Arrange the units and join into rows, as shown. Then join rows to complete the block.

We call this block arrangement Evening Stars and it is one of our favorite scrap patterns. It is simply made by alternating positive/negative Square Within a Square units. That is, squares with light centers and dark corners alternate with squares with dark centers and light corners.

The stars occur when many rows of alternating light and dark centers are joined.

Click here for a downloadable PDF of a larger Evening Star wallhanging or lap quilt made with Set B. You can see that we feel that replacing some of the Flying Geese units on the outside edges with rectangles accentuates the star points. Once you see the star points on the edge, your eyes see them more clearly in the quilt or block.

Look Way Ahead in Long Time Gone!

In fact, look at the 5-inch finished size Pineapple block paper-piecing diagram on page 40 in Jen's book. (We, of course, will not be paper-piecing.) Look at the pieces numbered 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 in the center of the block. Sure enough, they make a Square Within a Square Unit. It is just smaller than the ones in this block.

In the last week of blocks in the Sew Along, right before we start putting the blocks together, we are going to need 16 of those Pineapple blocks. If you do the math -- 16 blocks times 37 pieces -- you will understand my next question. Why not get a head start on the 16 blocks needed and make the center units now?

Even if you don’t have your 1/2-inch Pineapple Ruler (#8262) yet, if you have Set N, you can use square N-79 and triangle N-81 to cut and make the center for the 16 five-inch Pineapple blocks needed later. In fact, in the Pineapple set, those shapes are part of a multi-sized template, so many people prefer the individual pieces in Set N. Instructions are given below.

As soon as you have the 1/2-inch Pineapple Ruler Set you will be so happy that you actually have both light and dark 1-inch strips. You can cut the exact size pieces and add a few rounds.

Making 16 Pineapple Center Units

1. Cut 16 N-79 squares. They should be either a medium or dark value. Nip off the corners. I made all 16 Square Within a Square centers from the same fabrics. I like to put a “drop” of consistency here and there in a scrap quilt, and it also makes it efficient to cut and chain piece.

2. Cut 64 N-81 corner triangles with legs on straight grain. Again, I chose to use one fabric for all of the triangles; it needs to be a light value. Cut 4 strips 1 1/4 inches wide by 18 inches long and stack them. Cut 16 sets of 4 triangles from the stacked strips. Nip off the corners. When the dog ears are gone, the triangle corners should line up perfectly with the corners on the square.

3. Join as in Making the Square Within a Square units, above.

4. True up and make sure you have a square. The finished size of the center unit should be just a sliver smaller than 2 inches square (1.914 inches exactly). It is worth it to make corrections, if necessary, as every strip is eventually added to this square. If it isn’t square, your finished block won’t be square.

I remember spending hours one weekend to cut the strips I would need for the 9 blocks (1-inch finished strip width) in this quilt.

Cut a few 1-inch strip sets every time you have fabric out and it will seem like you did it in minutes or spare time…You also need a lot of 1-1/2 and 2-inch strips in several blocks and when putting the quilt together. Part of the charm of a scrap quilt like this is that many of the same fabrics are sprinkled all over the quilt.

Visit these other Long Time Gone Sew Along blogs, too, for tutorials, contests and other info:



Use the hash tag #LongTimeGoneSAL to share photos on Instagram.

Long Time Gone by Jen Kingwell. Copyright 2016 by Jen Kingwell Designs. Available on the From Marti Michell website, www.frommarti.com

Long Time Gone by Jen Kingwell. Copyright 2016 by Jen Kingwell Designs. Available on the From Marti Michell website, www.frommarti.com