BLOCK Friday: Log Cabin quilt block – Barn Raising setting

The Log Cabin quilt block is perhaps the most iconic block, and its endless piecing options and contrast play makes for a creative challenge any quilter is happy to take on. There are a variety of Log Cabin variations, some of which include: standard Log Cabin, Courthouse Steps, and Pineapple. Because there are so many varieties of this quilt block, I’m going to break up the Log Cabin block into a short series of settings and styles. The first of the series: a basic log cabin quilt block in the Barn Raising setting.

ISQC 2004.015.0001

Curtis, Fontier County, Nebraaska, c 1910. Cottons, 81″ x 75″.

Like other Log Cabin patterns, high contrast is the key to making this pattern pop. Construction of this quilt block consists of piecing fabric strips, or “logs”, of fabric around a square center, alternating light and dark fabrics from corner to corner. The Barn Raising layout was popular during the Civil War era. The quilt to the right, from made by Abba Jane Blackstone Johnson circa 1910, is a beautiful example of this setting. I love the flipped block at the top center that gives the illusion of a spiral.

According to Marin Hanson of the International Quilt Study Center & Museum and Patricia Crews of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the log cabin quilts from the late 1800’s to about 1950 exhibit stark differences in the construction of Barn Raising design. For example, the blocks are larger in later designs and a deep, traditional color scheme shifts to a more pastel palette.

This change might be a reflection of lifestyle changes for the makers of these quilts from domestic life to amusement found outside the home. Alternatively, it may be a preference for modern taste.¹

IQSC 1997.007.0891  IQSC 1997.007.7082

Many experienced quilters can take the Log Cabin quilt block and adjust the color placement or contrast, the sizes of blocks, etc. and create a quilt of their very own. This might be what makes the Log Cabin quilt block so popular and timeless. Mary Fons took creative license and made a variation of this setting in her quilt Curved Log Cabin. It’s a challenging, and visually graphic wonder!

Curved Log Cabin

For many quilters, Log Cabin is the first block they learn. However, if you’ve never created it and aren’t sure where to start, we have a class on making a Log Cabin quilt by expert Marti Michell. You’ll be learning from the best.

What have you done to create a quilt of your very own using the Log Cabin quilt block? Comment and post photos in the comments.

Happy Quilting!

¹ p114, “American Quilts in the Modern Age, 1870-1940: The International Quilt Study Center Collections”, by Marin F. Hanson (Editor), Patricia Cox Crews

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Tip Tuesday: 7 Quilting Tips

We love our craft. We love quilting, and while we have an idea of the best and easiest way to do things, sometimes we get a tip from a fellow crafter and think, “How did I not think of that?!” Some of the tips below are things you’ve been doing your whole quilting career, while others you’ve never thought of. Even if it’s something that makes you think duh!, remember someone else might not be thinking the same, so keep comments positive, please.

Tip #1: Organizing Needles
I keep all my sewing machine needles organized in pocket pages. The pages fit nicely in an expandable folder or three-ring binder. I note the type and size of needle in each pocket along with any general information I’ve collected about needles.
NeedleOrganization_250–Elaine Davis Fairmount, IL

Tip #2: Get Comfortable
A small pillow on your lap may help out your hand piecing or hand appliqué at a more comfortable level.

Tip #3: Keep Your Scissors Straight
Identify your good scissors with a red ribbon or yarn. Inform your family that this indicates that these scissors are off limits. Put a green ribbon on the scissors that are OK for general use.

Tip #4: Make a Larger Ironing Surface
Try placing a mattress pad atop your cutting table. This makes a great pressing surface for a large piece of fabric or just a seam.

Tip #5: Quicker Removal
Make removing your quilt from a Q-snap® frame easier by placing 6 – 8″-long strips of fabric on the quilt before you snap on the half-pipe. When it’s time to reposition the quilt, pull up on the strips to pop the half pipes off and release the quilt.

Tip #6: Make a Quilt Repair Kit
For every quilt you make, consider also creating a repair kit. Just place pieces of the quilt fabric, binding, and a square of batting in a plastic bag and give it to the person receiving the quilt.

Tip #7: Organize Patterns with Recycled Envelopes
Instead of discarding large used mailing envelopes, punch holes along one edge to fit a three-ring binder. Use the envelopes to store patterns and templates. Attach a photocopy or sketch of the block or project to the outside of the envelope so you can quickly identify the contents.

What other tips can you think of that have been the most helpful in your quilting career? Let me know in the comments below with your first name and location and I might just post it here for next week’s Tip Tuesday!

Can’t wait until next week for more tips? Get more tips at Fons & Porter’s website.

Happy Quilting!

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BLOCK Friday: Bear’s Paw quilt block

The sawtooth variation quilt block I have for you today has a mysterious history. Was it used to guide slaves? Possibly. Is there much dispute about the name of the block? Indeed. Regardless of the varied history behind this quilt block, one thing is certain – Bear’s Paw is a bold and versatile block in many beautiful quilts.


One particularly great thing about the Bear’s Paw quilt block is its scrappy nature. Because the “claw” part of the block is made up of small half-square triangles, it’s easy to use up even the most itty bitty scraps in your stash. In the above quilt, Scraps I Couldn’t Bear to Toss, designer Gina Thackara combined her quest to become the queen of half-square triangles with her year-long campaign to whittle down her scrap pile. The results are striking!

Another notable facet of this block is its versatility. Bear’s Paw is the type of quilt block that sparks your creativity because it lends itself to so many piecing options. You think, “I mean, what can I really do with a few half-square triangles, squares and sashing? Well, let’s see:

Bear's Paw Variations

Several Bear’s Paw designs from Brackman’s Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns.

We’ve got all the paws going in the same direction in the first drawing, a four-patch unit replacing the simple square in the second drawing and your “basic” Bear’s Paw in the third drawing. And don’t think that’s even close to where the variations end. Here’s a video by the McCall’s Quilting staff showing the Bear’s Paw variation below.

Bear's Paw Variation video

The quilt below, Prairie Blossoms, uses a Bear’s Paw variation with fewer points and shorter sashing to create little flowers across the white quilt.

Prairie Blossoms

Now for a little history – Many theorize this quilt block was used to guide escaped slaves to food or water. The block was a signal that they were on the right track and fo1-271llowing the block would lead them to shelter and resources. Unfortunately, there’s no definitive proof the block was used in this way, but it’s amazing to think about.

Another thing to note about this quilt block is its varying names. We call it the Bear’s Paw quilt block, but according to what I’ve read, the region you live in might dictate the name you give it. For example, if you’re from Long Island, you might call it Duck’s Foot in the Mud, where there are more ducks around than bears. If you’re a Quaker living in Philadelphia, you may call it Hand of Friendship. Have you ever made a quilt using Bear’s Paw or a variation?

What quilt block do you want me to write about next week? Let me know in the comments below.

Happy Quilting!

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Find Your Feather Style

Feathers can be quilt in many different ways, and no one style is better than another. Use the feather style that suits your quilt project and your skill level. With a little practice, you’ll soon be feathering every quilt in sight!

I reached into the Love of Quilting vault and came across this informing article on finding your feather style. Dawn Cavanaugh has a plethora of wisdom about quilting matters of all kinds and she knows what she’s talking about. This article from Love of Quilting Jan/Feb ’13 was just too good to keep to myself.

Practicing quilting is like reading your favorite novel again. It’s still the same story and you know what’s going to happen, but you’ll find yourself picking up new details and nuances you never noticed before. You think, “how could I have missed that before, it’s so obvious.” But you’re a more experienced reader (or quilter) now and you’re open to those subtleties. You’re not overwhelmed by the larger story anymore.

When you read this article, you’ll be thinking how much you love feathers, how much you don’t love them or how you’ve never committed to them because yours never turn out how you like. Let Dawn inspire you to get back on the longarm and feather every quilt in sight!

Click to read Find Your Feather Style. (PDF)

Find Your Feather Style 3

Happy Quilting!

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BLOCK Friday: Shoo Fly quilt block

“Shoo Fly, don’t bother me. Shoo Fly, don’t bother me” 

Does anyone else hear that melody in their heads when they hear the name of this week’s block? The Shoo Fly quilt block. This block is reminiscent of a tic-tac-toe board and is similar to the Churn Dash block we looked at a couple weeks ago. This quilt, Patchwork Blues, is a beautiful display of the Shoo Fly block.

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 3.11.47 PM

Legend has it, the simple nine-patch block was used to teach young girls the basics of piecing and sewing. Because of its simple square and half-square triangle construction, the block was easy enough for a beginner to practice quilt design and construction. In fact, the test block in this episode of “Quilty” was made by someone who had never pieced a thing in his life. Mary explains how to make a shoo fly block in her “Quilty” tutorial.

There is speculation as to where the name originates, but one theory cites clover img_20130726_160254_308broom (shoofly plant) as a source, which is said to drive off flies when the plant’s juices and root are mixed with milk and set on a nightstand.

Regardless what the origin is, this gorgeous, Depression-era block makes its statement in a variety of different forms. Depending on color arrangement, the primary design can appear as four arrows on the corners pointing to a center block or a circle with a hole in the center (kind of the way the flower is shaped). Check out some of those arrangements below.

Can you see the Shoo Fly blocks in Emily’s Wedding Quilt? This quilt was designed by Liz Porter.
Emily's Wedding Quilt digital pattern

Here’s a variation on the Shoo Fly quilt block. It’s called Shoo Shoo Fly. See how the half square triangles in the corners are just oversized compared to the center block? Cool!
Shoo Shoo Fly quilt kit

And of course my all-time favorite, With Help From Friends, by Liz Porter. This ultimate scrap quilt features 180 itty bitty Shoo Fly blocks. I love it! This quilt has all the charm of a vintage scrap quilt.
With a Little Help From Friends

Do you know anything else about the Shoo Fly block? Let me know in the comments below. Enjoy!

Happy Quilting

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Machine Binding vs. Hand Binding

I suppose the title of this blog isn’t exactly what I wanted to get at. I don’t want machine and hand binding to duke it out, and I don’t think one is necessarily better thaMachine vs Handn the other. The thing about quilting as an art and hobby is that there are numerous ways to practice a medley of techniques, and the quilt police don’t have a home in the cozy community at Fons & Porter. That said, there are advantages to each technique that should be considered when deciding which method fits your unique project, skills and time allowance.

Hand binding:

  • great for a relaxing evening project
  • the binding has your unique, “signature” hand stitch
  • you get bragging rights
  • you get to practice your hand sewing
  • it’s familiar/ it’s how you learned

Machine binding:

  • easier for those with arthritis or other mobility issues
  • you can be finished in a short time
  • gives binding a clean, consistent look
  • it gives you the chance to learn a new technique
  • fewer needle pricks

There are lots of other benefits to both methods. If you’ve never tried machine binding, it’s just the challenge that will expand your quilting repertoire. And a challenge it is. It’s something you’ll want to start on a small project like a placemat or a small wall quilt because, just like when you learned hand quilting, there will be bumps along the way. With a little practice and a little help from the Jenny Kae Quilts, you’ll be adding a new binding method to your skill set.

Here’s something you can pass along to your guild or your granddaughter. Jenny’s live webinar, Machine Quilt Binding Made Easy, takes place on February 17th, when she gives you all the information you need to learn machine binding, and have the confidence to try machine binding on your own quilt projects.

Happy Quilting!

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As quilters and sewists, we have the accolade of bragging about our exceptional color pairing skills, and we have lots of projects to prove it. We know mossy browns, taupes and cremes are reminiscent of a springtime forest retreat. We know that sprinkle of red in a black and white quilt gives it just the right splash of personality. We know you can change the entire feel of a quilt by choosing variegated quilting threads instead of coordinating. And we even know how to consider color value and contrast to make the right impact.

What we do is an art form, and we enjoy it. We have a passion for what we do and that’s what leads us to learn as much as we can. Mary Fons knows that so she put together a series of web seminars on using colors in your quilts. As one student says, she learned “a lot more information than I thought.  I didn’t even know there was that much to know about the color yellow.”

You’ll come away feeling the same. So far, Mary has presented on six colors. These webinars are available On Demand, so you can download and watch them immediately:

Color Me BLUE
This quilt is Hey, Blue

Hey Blue DP

“It was great to have both Mary and Marianne on the webinar.  Each offered their perspective which was very interesting.  Blue is a favorite color of mine as well.  I particularly enjoyed the history of blue.  Indigo is amazing!”

This quilt is Phoebe’s Flower Box

Phoebe's Flower Box DP

Color Me RED
This quilt is Cherry Pop

Cherry Pop DP

“The historical information about popular color combinations of the past was very interesting. The slides were well-chosen.”

Color Me PINK
This quilt is Pink Waves

Pink Waves DP

This quilt is Two-Toned Illusions

Two Toned Illusions DP

Color Me BLACK
This quilt is Black Arrow

Black Arrow QK

Changed how I look at the colour black – I usually think of it as a “non-color” to use when I can’t find anything else. Now I will look at Black as a key component of any color grouping

This quilt is Math Facts

Math Facts DP

Whether you’ve been wondering how to use a certain color in your quilts, have always stayed away from a color or want to know more about your favorite color, Mary’s webinars are there to help. Don’t take my word for it, though. Here’s what some past students have said:

  • I am fairly new to quilting; quilting courses are not easily available in my location so it is extremely beneficial to have an update on some of the basics – bindings, quilting techniques, appliqué etc.
  • Keep up the good work! I’m looking forward to the next program I participate in.
  • I downloaded the seminar so that I can go over it again. Usually, a second reading like going back through my magazines, I find something I missed. Reminds me of reading stories to my young children the 20th time.  Find those small details!
  • Mary’s an AWESOME presenter … very entertaining and motivating – a great teacher on quilting.

Of course it’s great that Mary’s webinars are available On Demand, but what if you have a question in the middle of your class? When you watch these webinars live, you get answers to your questions right away. Here are the webinars Mary has planned:

Color Me WHITE
January 28th, 2015
8PM ET (1 hour)

Color Me WHITE

Color Me AQUA
February 25, 2015
1PM ET (1 hour)

Color Me Aqua

Enjoy and Happy Quilting!

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BOM ’15: Christmas Joy

Have you ever done a Block of the Month? I bet you remember how rewarding it was to get to the end of it knowing you had put time and patience into each one of those quilt blocks. A Block of the Month is one of my favorite programs because whether you’re a beginner or career quilter, you can move along at your own pace, and be confident that you’ll have the quilt done by year end.

Maybe you want more of a challenge. Get two kits and have two of your Christmas presents covered. Of course the one thing I haven’t mentioned is the fun of getting a quilt block kit in the mail every month. It’s like a Christmas present to yourself every month for 7 months!


Christmas Joy will quickly become a Christmas tradition. With the holiday theme, you’ll enjoy each stage– You’ll make a little forest of trees, a few goody baskets, some holiday stars, a garden of red and green flowers, and lots of “Joy” to top it off. This quilt has you covered for jolly holiday spirit all year long.

This Block of the Month features the Classique collection by Paintbrush Studio.
Quilt by Marianne Fons and Liz Porter.
Quilt Size: 81″ x 95″

The kit will be automatically charged and shipped each month beginning in February 2015. Participation is limited so don’t delay! Order yours today.

Happy Quilting!

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BLOCK Friday: Ribbon Star quilt block

Today’s quilt block is versatile and delicate– an unlikely combination and the description I’d like to use to describe myself. It’s the Ribbon Star quilt block. The name of this simple block comes from the four V-shapes (the ribbons) at each corner.

Truthfully, it was a little tough for me to find the name of this block. Why? Because it’s a star block, and there are many star blocks. But it’s much more than just a star block. I knew there had to be a more specific name for this block than “star block”, so I researched it.

I’m really quite fond of this block for a few reasons. First, it’s an easy quilt block because it only requires half-square triangles and squares. Second, changing up the color patterns creates a completely different looking quilt. And third, when you put lots of these blocks together, you get a secondary diamond and square design.

Exhibit A:
Lil Bits quilt kit

You see it there? I like that. I might be a little biased since I have this quilt, Lil’ Bits, hanging out with me while I work. It’s true, I’m quite fond of it.

I do love the classic Ribbon Star block, but I also love its adaptations as well. For those looking for little more of a challenge, but wanting to keep the elegance of this quilt block, Katie Clark Blakesley’s Super Star wall hanging is the perfect choice. Better yet, Mary Fons and Ellen Graf get together for a video tutorial on how to make Super Star.

Super Star digital pattern

Throw in another half-square triangle block in place of the square and you’ve got yourself an envelope quilt block. That’s one’s pretty cool too. It’s called You’ve Got Mail.

You've Got Mail digital pattern

What are you picturing when you see the Ribbon Star quilt block? Do you like altering each “ribbon” color or would you make them all match for a real star-looking quilt block? Have you made a quilt with this block before? Share some of your inspiration!

Fons & Porter Sheyenne

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Free. Free. Free.

Free! It’s one of our favorite words, and we’re giving you 12 hours of it. December 18th is National Free Shipping Day, but we’re going to do one better with a Day of Free.

Every hour between 8am and 8pm CST, we will post one free product for you to enjoy. That means free patterns, free designs, free videos, and free tutorials. And because it’s National Free Shipping Day, of course we’ll have free shipping all day at We’ve never done something like this before, so join us and tell your guild about it. You won’t want to miss this!

Follow Fons & Porter on Facebook for your ticket to the Day of Free on Thursday, December 18.

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See you there!
Fons & Porter Sheyenne

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