Needlework, Finishing, Designing, Quilting, Some Discoveries and Adventures in Stitching from Windy Ridge Designs

Friday, May 18, 2012

Path to the Civil War Update

Lately in the shop I've been working on the Path to the Civil War quilt commission.  I've managed to complete six blocks now.  Well, maybe only five.  I'll explain that in a minute.  First, I'm going to review the book/pattern.  This is not something that I normally do, but this book/pattern has really got me burning to spout off my opinion.

First of all, it is well photographed and the historical text is amazing.  It would be a good book to teach ages 10 to 12 about the Civil War and what led up to it.  The quilt blocks are striking which is what, I think, got my client interested in having a quilt just like it.  It's the directions that make my brain hurt.  Some of these pieces are to be cut at 16ths of an inch.  As someone I was recently talking to pointed out, that's a scissor width.  Even with our rotary cutters and fabulous rulers, that is a pain in the ass to cut out - especially since most quilting rulers only go down to 1/8 inch.  I have spent a great deal of time redrafting all of the blocks I've stitched so far to eliminate that fussy cutting.  That's time I may or may not get paid for since I've already committed myself to an estimate which I cannot exceed by more than 10%.  Kinda sucks.  So, anyway, be warned.  If you are looking for a challenge, by all means, this might be the book for you.  If not, move on to something with directions that are more well written.

The first block I did was by-the-book.  The block is called North and South; two pieces were to be cut to 16ths.  And I did that.  The block ended up being smaller than the 9.5 called for.  I left the corner pieces off (I later realized).  Probably because my mind was so numb from trying to piece this thing - there are 41 pieces in the block.  Nuf said.  I added "cheddar" around the outside which will blend in with the sashing and hopefully the block will not stand out like a sore thumb because then I will have to stitch it again. 

Next came Bow Tie which was fairly straight forward.

Then Ohio Star.  Generally the directions in this book tell you to cut triangles.  There is none of that "save time by"... kind of sewing in this book.  So I used Fons & Porter's method for making half square triangles and modified it to make the Ohio Star block.  They say if you want a bunch of half square trianges, you take 2 times the finished size of the square you need and then add 1.75 inches.  So, basically you take a big block - I think that this one ended up being about 8 inches and you mark it up and sew this way and that like this . . . .

Here you can see how the lines are drawn on the square, from each corner and at the horizontal and vertical midlines.  Then I had to bisect from the corners, each of the four quadrants that had been drawn.  Finally, I stitched 1/4 inch away from the lines, twice making an on-point square within a square.  You have to remember, my goal was not to achieve half triangle squares, just something easier than cutting up a bunch of little triangles.  This method helped me in two ways - first of all, when you put triangles through your machine, it can often get a little chewy on the tips of the triangles and mess stuff up a bit.  Also, it's just a lot of fiddly work.  This way, I'm just working with one big square, sewing two lines. 

Then I pressed the square and then I cut on all the marked lines.  Ended up with these:

 Which are triangles in two colors.  Then all I needed to do was stitch them together into square patches that looked like these:
 Which were then very easy to unite with background fabric into the Ohio Star block.

 Now this block is supposed to be repeated twice in the quilt; and I had to do the above method with two different sets of fabric.  And I did, rendering this block:

 Spot the difference?  Patches are placed wrong.  This one will have to be taken apart and reunited again.

Then I moved on to the Crossways block.  Used the Fons & Porter half triangle square method for these and it was a breeze.

 The book is written in sections of five blocks per chapter and each chapter is named after a year.  The first five came from the 1820 chapter. 

Next up is 1832 and that was started off with the Devil's Claw block.

I really love this block.  I like the graphic image and I also really like the fabric combination.  I did not love putting it together.  There are five rows and the instructions were to cut squares, rectangles and triangles.  And I'm sitting there looking at it going, those are flying geese!  So, had to figure out an easy method for flying geese.  I could not find an easy math method in any of my Fons and Porter back issues.  I am not completely incapable of figuring out math myself - it's just that it makes my head hurt.  I did finally come up with a flying geese pattern in a magazine and calculated the ratio of the square to the rectangle and how to resize the square to go with any size rectangle.  Once that was accomplished, I cut out squares and rectangles and had at sewing them together.  Now, the instructions said that the patches with the white background blocks in the middle were supposed to be four blue triangles sewn around a white square.  I chose to change that and used two flying goose units sewn together.  If I were to do it again, I'd use the square and triangles because the two flying geese together left a seam that I had to deal with by snipping on the back - and a lot of pressing.  Hopefully my quilter will not hate me later.  In the end, though, I got a really nice looking block. 

This current chapter has four fairly simple blocks left in it that I hope to tackle today.  By the end of the weekend I'm hoping to have at least this chapter and another done. 

Here are all the blocks (so far) together out in the noon sun the other day -

Here's an update on Opus Magnusson.  You can now see the outer border that I'm going to give it.  Stitching this border is mind-numbingly boring.  I keep wanting to stop and work on something else.  So, that means I have to keep slogging away; 'cause if I stop, I know it'll be difficult to go back to.

Hope you enjoyed! 


  1. I love your blocks. I'm going to have to look up that book, although the thought of working in 1/16 increments for the blocks makes my head spin somewhat. I had to do that with the Farmer's Wife and I quickly learned to make my blocks a little larger and cut them down. I don't like it if instructions make my head hurt though.

    Opus is a truly remarkable piece. Really stunning and a lot of stitching!

  2. The quilt blocks are beautiful and your stitching is fabulous.

  3. Such lovely quilting, and your stitching, WOW it's looking fab! That boarder does look like hard work but it will all be worth it for such a lovely piece.

    have a good weekend x

  4. Umm, 1/16 increments?! Jiminy crickets!! I want to do the Farmer's Wife quilt but all those pieces and so on and so forth... I just go back to the easy stuff! Your blocks look great.

    Opus is gorgeous--good luck getting through the border!


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