Block 20 Caroline Tutorial - Farmer's Wife QAL

Today it's my turn as guest blogger in the Farmer's Wife 1930's Sampler Quilt-along, and I will be showing you how to make the Caroline block (block #20).

The blocks we have made so far in this quilt-along have been fairly simple. Caroline consists of two hour-glass blocks and two pin-wheel blocks, laid out in a 2 x 2 formation. It has a lot more pieces (and points!) than the previous blocks, and getting those aligned precisely could be a challenge for some. At the end of the tutorial I am sharing a few tips and tricks that I use to get precise points.


I was intending to make this block using the traditional rotary cutting method, until my From Marti Michell (FMM) templates arrived a few weeks ago and I used them to make Aunt and Betty... aaaand I am a convert. If you don't have the templates and are rotary cutting your pieces you can still follow this tutorial, using the rotary cutting instructions on your book's CD. If you are using the FMM templates you need Set A for this block, specifically the two triangle templates A4 and A6. You can also download the From Marti Michell conversion chart for this block here (which also explains how to use the templates to make this block - as I do in this tutorial).


It is definitely tempting to throw in a fourth colour into this block. However looking at the finished block I am really glad I stuck with the original design, as I would have lost that large stretchy floral pinwheel in the centre of the block. Whatever style or colour of fabrics you are going for, my one recommendation is to use a bold fabric for the pinwheels, so they stand out and not get lost in the busy-ness of the block - I used a bold orange. To accentuate the effect my other two fabrics are quite low-volume so there is lots of contrast to make those pinwheels really 'pop' (and because I am going for quite a low volume quilt overall). You can also use two or even three bold colours for this block - just make sure they aren't too close to each other on the colour wheel so each piece stands out.

The fabrics I am using are as follows: the orange floral is from Elea Lutz's Milk, Sugar & Flower line, the cream floral came from a scrap bundle from a shop in Taiwan so I am not sure what it's called (if you do please let me know cause I would like some more!), and the dots are Riley Blake Le Creme Swiss Dots, my main choice of low volume coordinate for this quilt. Orange is such an underused colour in patchwork in general and I really need to incorporate it into my work more - I was pleasantly surprised by how much I love the colours of this block!


Before cutting, I always starch my fabric using spray starch - I spray it onto the fabric generously but without soaking, then press it with a dry iron until the starch sets. I make sure the iron is not too hot or it scorches the starch, leaving brown marks. The starch lends stiffness to the fabric which makes cutting easier and more precise, and the finished block looks a lot sharper than it would have been without starch. You can also use products such as Best Press and Flatter to get similar results.

When working with small pieces such as the ones we have in this block, a rotary cutting mat helps HEAPS. I absolutely love my pink personalised one from Sue Daley Designs. It's super helpful with normal rotary cutting, and almost an absolute must-have if you are using the From Marti Michell templates as you have two extra cuts to make on each corner, and that little template slides off so easily if you are trying to rotate the piece by hand. I filmed the cutting process to show you how much easier it is with a rotary mat.

There are a lot of pieces to cut in this block. To make the process quicker, pair up your fabrics, put them right sides together and cut them into large pieces or strips. Then cut your triangles out using the templates, cutting through both fabrics. DO NOT SEPARATE THE TRIANGLES - they are now ready to sew together.


Step 1. Take your triangle pairs to the sewing machine. The four large triangles need to be sewn along one short leg (Caution: Pay attention to which leg, or your fabrics will end up in the wrong place in the finished block!). The small triangles all need to be sewn along their long edge, creating a half square triangle (HST). Whilst sewing do not stop to snip off your thread between each set - simply feed the next triangle pair into the sewing machine and keep going until you have sewn all the pieces. This is called chain-piecing and you will end up with a long chain of sewn triangles, looking like this.

Now just snip off the thread between each piece to separate them.

Step 2. First we make the hourglass blocks. Press the seam on the large triangles towards the darker fabric (doesn't matter which direction, as long as all triangles are pressed the same way - I pressed mine towards the cream floral). Pressing the seam towards one side (as opposed to pressing it open) will give a more precise intersection when we sew these triangles together in the next step.

Step 3 - Put two large triangles together, right sides facing, and the seams we pressed in step 2 nicely butted against each other without any overlap or gap between them. Pin. Sew along the long side of the triangle, and press the centre seam open. This is what your block should look like (front and back view). Make two.

Step 4 - Next we make the pinwheel blocks. Take four HSTs (two of each of the colour pairs) and press the seams towards the darker fabric (I pressed towards the orange). Lay them out in the correct formation, as shown below.

Step 5 - Sew the two HSTs in the first row together, press the seam towards the dark fabric. Repeat for row 2.

Step 6 - Put the two rows together right sides facing, butt the seams, pin. Sew together. Press the centre seam open. This is what your pinwheel block should like. Make two.

Step 7- Lay out your two hourglass blocks and two pinwheel blocks in the correct formation. First sew each row together, then press the seam in either direction (I pressed towards the hourglass).

Step 8 - Put the two rows together right sides facing, butt the seams, pin, sew together. Press the centre seam open. This is what your finished block should look like. It should measure 6.5" square.


- Starch your fabric before you cut (I use spray starch and a dry iron (ie no steam) on medium-high heat).
- Make sure your rotary blade is sharp so it doesn't chew and stretch your fabric as you cut.
- I highly recommend investing in a few basic sets of FMM templates - those engineered corners makes it so much easier to line up the pieces and make sure everything fits together perfectly.
- Pin blocks together before sewing. The pieces we are working with are very small so it's easy to be tempted to skip this step - don't.
- Press seams that will intersect in opposite directions so you can 'butt the seams' when you are sewing the two pieces together. I pin the butting seams together using a single pin placed at a slight angle - push the pin down through one seam, and back up again through the other seam.
- Check sizes of pieced blocks before continuing on to the next step.
- If you do a lot of patchwork, invest in a 1/4 inch foot, which makes it so much easier to get that precise quarter inch seam.


This week we are making blocks #14 Betty and #20 Caroline. The other bloggers sharing tutorials this week are:

06/10/2015: Angie @ (#14 Betty)

07/10/2015: Alyce @ Blossom Heart Quilts (#14 Betty)

08/10/2015: Angie @ (#20 Caroline)

09/10/2015: Jess @ Elven Garden Quilts (#20 Caroline)


Here are the other blocks I have made so far - I am loving the feminine-vintage-peasanty vibe! It is SO much fun to mix and match fabrics from all sorts of different lines, and scraps even - the fabric auditioning process for each block takes me over an hour! If you would like to follow my progress you can do so on my Instagram feed where I share my block photos as soon as I make them, or here on the blog where I will be posting updates every month or so.

If you aren't currently sewing along but would like to join the 4200+ quilters worldwide taking part in this mega-quilt-athlon it's not too late! In fact we are only just getting started - this is week 2! You can find all the information you need on how to join up and key links in my previous blog post. This is the book you will need.


** The Farmer’s Wife 1930s Sampler Quilt: Inspiring Letters from Farm Women of the Great Depression and 99 Quilt Blocks That Honor Them by Laurie Aaron Hird for Fons & Porter/F+W; RRP $28.99 – Click here to purchase. **

Happy quilting!

Farmer's Wife 1930s Sampler Quilt Sew-Along

The biggest quilting event of the year is just about to kick off! And I am super pumped that I have been invited to be one of the official guest bloggers for this awesome quilt-along!

This is the book that we will be quilting along to: The Farmer's Wife 1930s Sampler Quilt by Laurie Aaron Hird. This quilt along is being hosted by Gnome Angel in conjunction with Fat Quarter Shop and From Marti Michell. A super-impressive list of bloggers have been asked to join the party, you can see them all here.

As we make our final preparations to start the sew-along, I am absolutely flabbergasted by the sheer number of quilters from all around the world getting ready to take on this challenge. The official Facebook group for the quilt-along has over 3300 members already. It's mind boggling to try to imagine all the quilts that will be made during the course of this QAL!

My preparations are complete, and here's my fabric pull. Yes, I do have a rather large collection of repro 30s fabrics as you can see (I actually have quite a bit more in my stash, but was embarrassed to show all of it in case you think I am a fabric obsessed nutter my husband reads this post).

Ever since I started to quilt I wanted to make a Farmer's Wife sampler quilt with repro 30s fabrics, so they seemed like the obvious choice for this quilt along. I did briefly consider using Tilda (another obsession of mine) but my heart pulled me back to the repro 30s fabrics. I hope you like my fabric choices and will visit soon to see my blocks. I want the overall effect of the quilt to be quite muted so I may mix in more low volume fabrics along the way too - we shall see.

Here is a list of some of the fabrics I will be using for my quilt. Some of these are out of print and may be hard to find but most are still available as bundles at Fat Quarter Shop and other fabric stores.

30s Playtime by Chloe's Closet for Moda
Old New 30's by Atsuko Matsuyama for Lecien
Aunt Grace by Judie Rothermel for Marcus Brothers Fabrics
Pretty Posies by Darlene Zimmerman for Robert Kaufman Fabrics
30's Minis by Erin Turner for Penny Rose Fabrics
Hope Chest by Erin Turner for Penny Rose Fabrics
Everything But the Kitchen Sink by Yuko Hasegawa for RJR Fabrics
Walk in The Park by Maywood Studio
Storybook Vacation by Whistler Studio for Windham Fabrics
Spring Showers by Kaye England for Wilmington Prints
Retro 30s Child Smile by Lecien
and many many more!

One of the reasons this sew-along is so exciting is not only the awesome blocks but also the opportunity to practice new techniques that you may not have used before, as the book has so much scope! You can machine piece all the blocks, or hand-piece them all, or foundation piece them, or use a mix of techniques (which is what I am going to do). I will rotary cut and machine piece the simple blocks, for the ones with more tricky maths I will use my templates by Marti Michell. I will also foundation paper piece and EPP hand-piece some blocks. I am really looking forward to mixing and matching all the different techniques in this quilt along. Lots of quilty sewing practice!

Important Links

For those intending to sew along with us, here are some key links for you:

Official sew-along page: Click here to visit the official sew-along page at Gnome Angel

Facebook group:  Join the Farmer’s Wife 1930’s Sampler Quilt Facebook Group by clicking here.

FAQs: You can find answers to common questions here.

Book: The Farmer’s Wife 1930s Sampler Quilt: Inspiring Letters from Farm Women of the Great Depression and 99 Quilt Blocks That Honor Them by Laurie Aaron Hird for Fons & Porter/F+W, order it here.

From Marti Michell Perfect Patchwork Templates: Find information about the templates and a list of templates that you can use to make the blocks by clicking here.

Techniques: Brush up (or learn!) some of the quilting techniques we will be using by following the You Tube links below.

   English Paper Piecing : Sue Daley's English Paper Piecing school
   Foundation Paper PiecingSew Easy: Paper Foundation Piecing by Fons and Porter
   Using Marti Michell templates: Introductory video on Perfect Patchwork Templates

I will be sharing my progress on Instagram, with only periodic updates here on the blog, so if you want to see my blocks as soon as I have made them make sure you are following my IG feed. Please use the hashtag #FQS1930FarmersWife for your Instagram photos so we can see your progress too.

Two sleeps to go before we start! Are you ready?

'Down The Rabbit Hole' Pillow Sham

Have you guys seen the amazing work of my friend Sarah from Ric-Rac & Retro? She is a free motion applique master, also known as 'drawing with thread' or 'sewing illustration'. Sarah herself hand-draws each of her designs and her hand-made goodies are extremely sought after with huge waitlists. Luckily for us sewists she has recently started selling patterns, so we can make our very own Ric-Rac & Retro sewing art. This is the pattern I picked.

It's called 'Down the Rabbit Hole' and as soon as I saw it I knew I had to pair it with my lovely bundle of Curiosities, courtesy of Polka Dot Tea Fabrics (one of my fave Aussie fabric stores).To follow my exact thought process: 'Down the Rabbit Hole' = Alice in Wonderland = 'Curiouser and Curiouser' = Curiosities (my mind works in strange ways sometimes). This gorgeous line was designed by Jeni Baker for Art Gallery Fabrics.

I love the smooth finish of Art Gallery fabrics which I think is perfect for quilts and bedding in general. So I decided to make a pillow sham for my own Alice.

Each stripe in the patchwork is 1" wide (1.5" cut). I quilted the patchwork in the ditch, and hand-quilted around 'Alice'.

For fellow collectors of classic book titles, these gorgeous books are from the Puffin in Bloom range, illustrated by Rifle Paper Co.'s principal artist, Anna Bond. There is an Alice in Wonderland edition coming out soon!

If you would like to try free motion applique go grab the pattern from Ric-Rac & Retro. It contains detailed step by step instructions on the technique. Sarah is literally giving away trade secrets people!! I won't lie and say I found it a breeze, it takes quite a bit of practice to get the fluid sewing motion right, my first few attempts were quite laughable. Black thread is so unforgiving, every mistake shows. In the end I switched from the open toe foot to my regular foot (I know it's weird, but I am more experienced with it). I also used a pair of quilting gloves which gave me better control and grip. Do give it a go, it's quite addictive actually! I am going to make more, and hopefully figure out the open toe foot eventually. If you like the technique also be sure to check out Minki Kim's amazing work over on her Instagram account @zeriano and also her website. These girls make it look so easy.

Petit Fleur 'Liberty Belle' Quilt

When I first started sewing in 2012, one of my first fabric purchases was some yardage from Lecien's Petit Fleur range which was in print at the time. This beautiful classic line is a timeless collection of dainty florals and coordinates, with muted colours that are suitable for 'grown-up' projects as well as a more understated pretty look for a little girl's room. So I was super excited when Lecien sent me a sushi roll of the new Petit Fleur 2015 Basics to play with (by the way I really love Lecien's terminology for these rolls - so Japanese, and they do look like sushi, don't they?).

I decided upon this  jelly-roll sushi-roll friendly quilt pattern by the lovely Jemima from Tied With A Ribbon, which had been on my 'must-make' list ever since I saw it on the cover of Homespun magazine's November 2014 issue (which incidentally also had my Alice in Wonderland hoop art project in it).

Instead of the full size quilt per the pattern, I decided to make a lap quilt for myself, as the nights are still quite chilly here in South Australia where we live at the edge of a desert and I needed a new couch quilt to snuggle under whilst watching TV (and crocheting, of course).  I found the pattern very easy to follow and the quilt top came together really quickly. I normally plan the exact placement of my fabrics before I sew anything, but I was in a foolhardy mood when I started sewing this (could have been the two glasses of wine I had earlier that night? Ha!). So I just started randomly picking colours from the sushi roll that looked good together, and paired them with some Robert Kaufman Essex Yarn Dyed Linen Blend in Flax.

Jemima hand-quilted her original 'Liberty Belle' quilt, but not having her stamina (or patience) with hand-quilting I opted for machine quilting it in a simple grid pattern.

For the backing and binding I used some of my precious 'old' Petit Fleur that I was talking about earlier.

If you would like to make this quilt, Jemima has kindly offered to give my readers 15% off this pattern and everything else on her website and Etsy stores until the end of September. Just use the code 'DOWNGRAPEVINELANE' during checkout.

Meanwhile in South Australia spring has arrived (finally - it's been a long and cold winter!). People are going around in t-shirts and shorts already, but I am a bit of a wuss so I'm still wrapped up warmly in my jumpers. Our lavender and native daisies are in full bloom, and one of my rose bushes has buds on it, about to burst open. I can't wait for the warmer weather, even though it will give me less of an excuse to make quilts!

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