Block 77 Nellie Tutorial - Farmer's Wife QAL

Welcome! It's my turn again today as an official blogger on the Farmer's Wife 1930s Sampler quilt-along, and I will be showing you how to make the 'Nellie' block (block #77).


I rotary cut the pieces for the block following the the cutting instructions on the CD that accompanies the book, and then machine pieced them.


The two fabrics I have used in my block are both out of print alas - the pink one is a no-brand cotton that I bought two years ago from a Korean Etsy shop, and the green bows are from an old Lecien line and now pretty much impossible to find (if you do find some by a miracle, let me know, as I have used my last scraps in 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. Starching is especially important when you are working with teeny tiny pieces such as in this block!!

Take extra care when cutting your block pieces, as any errors are magnified when working with such small pieces. Follow the rotary cutting instructions in the book's CD, or if you are using the Marti Michell templates you can download the conversion chart here, which has detailed cutting instructions for the templates.


In explaining the steps I will refer to my pieces using the colours in my block i.e. pink and green. Replace these with your own colours when you are following the steps below. Use a scant 1/4 inch seam allowance.

Step 1. Sew two small pink squares to either side of a green rectangle piece. Press seams to the left. Make two.

Step 2. Sew two green rectangles to either side of a large pink square. Press seams to the right. Make two.

Step 3. Sew a small pink square to the left of a green rectangle. Sew a green square on the other side of the rectangle. Press seams to the left. Make two.

Step 4. Take one of each unit you made in the first three steps and lay out as shown below. Then sew the rows together. As we pressed the seams in alternating directions they should 'nest' nicely at each intersection. Make sure you pin these well before sewing.

Your finished unit should look like this. Make two.

Step 5. Sew two green and two pink squares together, alternating the colours as shown. Press seams to the left (make sure each unit is pressed identically!). Make 8.

Step 6. Take four units we assembled in the previous step and sew together as shown below. As we pressed the seams of each unit in the same direction they should nestle together nicely at each intersection. Press seams open. Make two.

Step 7. Sew two pieced units from steps 4 and 6 together. Press seam to the left. Make two.

Step 8. Sew the two units from the previous step together, nesting the seam at the intersection. Press this final seam open. And your block is finished!


- 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.
- 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.

If you aren't currently sewing along but would like to join the 7500 quilters worldwide taking part in this mega-quilt-athlon it's not too late! 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!

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