Quilter's Academy - Volume 2 - Sophomore Year

Vol 3 - Junior Year

Monday, May 23, 2011

Vol 2 - Project 11 - Harriet's Navajo Dreams

I've skipped ahead a little here but don't worry, I'll go back to the 2 projects I've missed when this one is done.

As soon as I saw this quilt, I knew I wanted to make it using Aboriginal fabrics and started collecting fat quarters for it. 

Here's a selection of my collection.  The project requires 15 different fat quarters and I have a few extras as I want to make the quilt larger than the one in the book.  All of these fabrics have been designed by Indigenous Australians and feature the colours of the outback, the foods, wildlife and fauna, the people and the ceremonies they celebrate.

The fabrics are quite busy and some of the repeats are very large, however the colours and the dots/stripes which make up the designs will all work really well together when cut up into smaller pieces.

Harriet's been rather clever with this design.  The block is based on a design often known as the Album Block, or Roman Cross and numerous other names.  Normally it's made with templates and tiny triangles, but Harriet has found a way to make it using strip sets.  The good news is that it's much easier to sew strips than to fiddle around with templates, but the bad news is there is a fair amount of waste to get to the finished block.

There are 9 rows and 4 strip sets to make up the block.  The strips are cut into various sizes so to avoid mistakes I bagged them as I cut.

I used a Westalee Ruler to cut the strips.  I really like this ruler when there are lots of different sizes to cut.  The ruler can be set to the desired size, then locked into place so there can be no mistakes! 

Setting the ruler to 2.5 inches, it's then screwed into place.  I then cut all the 2.5" strips, before changing the setting to the next size.  I cut heaps of strips and not a single mistake!

As this is my first go at making this block, I decided to make a complete one first to see how it worked.

the nine rows

Sew the strips and cross-cut, then sew the block.  The seams need to be accurate or the block won't work.  Also, the seams are to be pressed open.  This is more time consuming (for me) than pressing to one side.  The book doesn't explain why the seams are pressed open.  It's a mystery!

Seams are pressed open - a little starch on the back helps them lie flat

Once the block is sewn together, it's time to make the magic happen.  In order to make this square block go 'on point' it needs to be trimmed.  That's where sewing accuracy comes into play.  If your 1/4" seams aren't spot on - it's not going to work!

The block ready for trimming

Measure 1/4" from the point and cut!

Those trimmed triangles are now waste.  If I was an art quilter I'd probably find a use for them!

The finished block.

Sadly for me, his block didn't trim to size - it's too small.  Despite taking all care with sewing, pressing, measuring and trimming the strips, I'm about a 1/4" off the correct size.  I'll have another shot, but I'm not quite sure what went wrong.  Up until I cut the waste off, it all seemed to be exactly the right size.  Maybe I'll figure it out with the next attempt.

I've moved rather quickly onto this project, leaving a growing pile of Un-Finished Projects.  I hate that! 

The red & white quilt has been ditched-stitched, and all the nine patches grid-quilted, but all the bird blocks still need quilting.

Krakatoa is still not finished!

The Michele Hill 'Bird' wall hanging still has some free motion quilting to finish (I ran out of thread).

The Tangled Web Quilter's 'Portrait' quilt is still waiting for a binding.

To top it all off, I started yet another NHP - the Alien's quilt for another grandson.  This one is promised for a September birthday, so I wanted to get started on it.

Like the Bug Quilt, this one is also designed by Amy Bradley - Planetary Party

I cut and fused all the aliens onto starry background fabric

I had an idea to applique these with Glow-In-The-Dark thread, just for some extra fun.  When searching for colours, I found this............

Metallic Glow-in-the-Dark

As the background fabric has little metallic stars, I thought this thread was perfect for the project.  I found I could only buy it as a set of 5 different colours.  At $50 a set it was pricey, especially as there's only 100 yards per reel.

I appliqued the first alien with it.  It sews horribly.  I fiddled with tension for ages, but I still got hideous loops in the blanket stitch.  The thread is also wiry, not soft at all.  It feels just awful on a bed quilt.

Loopy, split stitches. 

To top it off, the thread doesn't glow in the dark at all. Not a spark, not even a teeny glow.  The thread on the spool glows, but as a single thread, there is probably not enough of whatever it needs to make the thread fluorescent. The reel says luminous, but the ads say it glows in the dark.  An expensive mistake, I'm going to have to re-do this block.


  1. Those blocks are going to look fantastic with the indigenous prints. I can hardly wait to see the finished quilt.

  2. thanks quiltjane - They are great prints but can be difficult to use successfully. The sample block looks encouraging though!

  3. I love the fabrics you've chosen.

    It looks like your ruler might have slipped a hair while you were trimming the block as the top and bottom triangle points are not precisely centered and the seams look a hair smaller on the top left and bottom right. When I reach that quilt, which won't be for awhile, I'll have to remember this.

    I think the quilt will be fabulous when it is done.

    Cheers, K

  4. I love the aboriginal fabrics you have chosen, so I can understand why you skipped to it. How exciting to work with them!

  5. Lesley,

    Looks like the ruler slipped to me too ... there are several things availble to help, including some stick on dots of sandpaper like stuff which you place on the underside of the ruler. I haven't seen anything around for a while so I can't give you any suggestions for possible sources, but I haven't been looking either!

    Judy B

  6. PS

    Always keep part of the hand holding the ruler steady off the ruler .... rest the hand mostly on the ruler, but have part of it resting on the table.

  7. thanks for the tips ladies. Maybe the ruler slipped - I'm pretty sure I straightened it after taking the photo and before cutting....but
    the point is that no matter how careful I am to be precise - I can't seem to manage perfection on each and every seam. Check out the next entry for details.